[A Divine Service was conducted by M.W.Bro. Justice
Devinder Gupta O.S.M , the M.W. Grand Master, Grand Lodge of India, on 22 nd
July 2007 in Chennai, under the auspices of Sri Brahadeeswara Lodge (No.150).
Hon’ble Justice. Ajit Prakash Shah, Hon’ble Chief Justice, High Court of
Judicature, Chennai, was the Chief Guest, in which capacity, he delivered a
thought provoking and beautiful address. That address is posted here. Please
read on . . . .]
Justice Devinder Gupta, Mr.Ratnaswami, Freemasons, their family members and Ladies and Gentlemen :
First, let me thank the organizers for inviting me for the meet of Freemasons. This is the first time, I am meeting
so many Freemasons. In our school days, Freemasonry was conceived to be some sort of a secret society, that they meet in secret and that their purpose is secret. But, later I learnt that this is far from truth.
Masonry is definitely not a secret society. But, one may call it as a society with secrets. Freemasonry does have some secrets , it attempts to preserve e.g., its secret modes of recognition, which enable its members to quickly recognize each other as masons upon their first meeting and its secret ritual, for instance, its mode of instructing new members in the
three symbolic degrees. I learnt that these secrets, the mode of recognition and the mode of instruction, are the only secrets Masonry has.
Many years ago Masonry was defined as , “ a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”. However, the modern definition is , “ Freemasonry is an organized society of men, symbolically applying the principle of Operative Masonry and Architecture to the Science and Art of Character Building.” In other words, Masonry uses ageless methods and
lessons to make each Mason a better person.
Freemasons have followed three great principles :-
Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow creatures.
Freemasons are taught to practice charity and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.
Freemasons strive for truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives.
Masonry is religious and spiritual, while not belonging to or being a part of any one religion. Therefore, in today’s Divine Service, there are recitations from the scriptures of all major religions like Srimad Bhagavad Gita , Holy Bible, Holy Koran, Shri Guru Granth Sahib and Zend Avestha, followed by a prayer for the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the very object of religion is the pathway to God. All religions, whether major or minor preach compassion and only compassionate living by believers of all religions can lead to Universal Peace and Harmony.
Lucretius, the first century B.C. Latin Poet and Philosopher said,
"Religion does not consist in turning unceasingly toward the veiled stone, nor in approaching all the Altars, nor in throwing oneself prostrate on the ground, nor in raising the hands before the habitations of Gods, nor in deluging the Temples with the blood of beasts, nor in heaping vows upon vows; but in beholding all with a peaceful soul".
Swami Vivekananda said,
"Religion is realization, not talk, not doctrine, not theories, however beautiful they may be, it is being and becoming , not hearing and acknowledging; it is the whole soul becoming changed into what it believes (i.e) religion"
Ladies and Gentlemen, every student of religion agrees almost unanimously that all religions have a common base and the evidence that emerges from the far past as also from the recent present clearly shows the common links, that bind together all religions, their doctrines, their founders and their symbolism.
Dr. Anne Besant said that,
" All religions have one basis and that basis is the Divine Wisdom and not the human ignorance; it is the knowledge given by the sages, who are the spiritual guardians of mankind"
She says and I quote,
" Take the Classic purity from China, which they say, came from far off Atlantis and ask if modern China can produce a gem of spiritual and philosophical thought fit to place side by side with it ? Take the teachings of India, the glorious Upanishads and say what modern writer, can write with that sublimity, with that depth of philosophical thought, of the
Supreme and Universal Self ? Take the Gathas of Zoroastrianism, mangled and fragmentary as they are; can you read them without finding there a knowledge, which no modern can match ? Take the book of the Dead of Egypt and read
its sublime utterances, its deep philosophy, its mystic yearnings and say whether in your modern writings, you will find such a thought as that ? Can the loftiest flights of morality in the literature of today be put beside the ethical
teachings of the Lord Buddha and does the world find in it the same inspiration to
noble living that his words have exercised for more than two thousand years? The
evidence is overwhelming that every religion looks back to its Founder for its
highest teachings. Can an Archbishop of today rival the teachings of Christ ?
Can todays Muslim Moulvi rival the teachings of the Prophet? Can the
Zoroastrian Mobed speak such words as are found in own ancient literature ?
Where is the modern Brahmana, who can speak as Sri Krishna and Ramachandra
spoke, or give us the noble morality, that we find in the ancient literature ? The proof is clear that Divine Wisdom underlies all religions . . . "
Thus, all great religions have similar origins, experiences and encounters with God. The object of religion is to provide tranquility and peace. However, historically religion has also produced violence.
Charles Kimball in his famous work ‘When Religion Becomes Evil’ said,
" Religion is arguably the most powerful and pervasive force on Earth. Throughout history, religious ideas and commitments have inspired Individuals and communities of faith to transcend narrow self interest
To pursuit of higher values and truths. The record of history shows that noble acts of love, self sacrifice and service to others are frequently rooted in deeply held religious world views. At the same time, history clearly shows that religion has often been linked directly to the worst examples of human behaviour. It is some what trite, but nevertheless sadly true, to say that more wars have been waged, more people killed and these days more evil perpetrated in the name of religion than by any other institutional force in human history".
Today we are witnessing indiscriminate violence against innocent people in the name of religion. Unfortunately, religion supplied the ideology, motivation and the organizational structure for violence. Strangely, they claim that the goal of all these religious violence is peace. The recent acts of terrorism in London, Glasgow, Delhi, Mumbai and many other places are
acts of violence against innocent people in the name of religion. Similarly, hundreds of people were killed in communal riots in Gujarat and other places in the name of religion. Dr. T.S.Ramaswamy, a distinguished lawyer in his book
"Your God My God" has said that, in the midst of rituals, myths, dogmas, doctrinal view points, subtle philosophical variations, we are groping in the dark trying to find the needle of life in the haystack of the conflicting claims
of religions. Dr.Ramaswamy concludes that the essence of all religions is compassion. He quotes Lord Basveshwar, a Saiva Saint"
"Compassion is the essence of religion. Is there any religion without compassion-tell me".
Dalai Lama said that, "Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them Humanity can not survive".
Vivekananda said that all religions are true and are inclined towards evolutionary universalism. He says, " The idea of an objective God is not untrue, in fact every idea of God and hence, every religion is true, as each is, but a different
stage in the journey. The aim of which is the perfect conception of the Vedas. Hence, too, we are not only to tolerate, but we Hindus accept every religion. .. knowing that all he religions, from the lowest fetishism to the highest
absolution, mean so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realize the infinite, each determined by the conditions of its birth and association and each of them marking a stage of progress".
It is not religion, bur religious dogmas, rituals, myths, etc, that have led to the so many conflicts around the world. The wars and the violence are result of religious fanaticism. Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam said that religion should graduate into spirituality to bring peace to the world and peace is essential for the progress, development, prosperity and happiness,
which would all make the world wonderful.
There is another very significant area, where the religion can play a major role and that is to save humanity from the
environmental crisis, which the world is facing today.
Today, the human race has become the most dominant species on the Earth. There are now nearly 6 billion of us and our numbers grow by the equivalent of the population of China every decade. We have subdued the other animals and the planets. We have domesticated many organisms and made them do our bidding. And at almost every step, we have emphasized the local over the global, the short over the long. We have destroyed the forests, eroded the top soil, changed the composition of the atmosphere, depleted the protective ozone layer, tampered with the climate, poisoned the air and the waters and made the
poorest people suffer most from the deteriorating environment. We have become predators on the biosphere, full of arrogant entitlement, always taking and never giving back. And so, we are now a danger to ourselves and the other beings
with whom we share the planet.
In April 1988 an extraordinary gathering took place at Oxford. The leaders of the planet’s religions met with the scientists and legislators from many nations to try to deal with the rapidly worsening world environmental crisis. Representatives of nearly 100 nations were present at the "Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders" Conference at Oxford and thereafter at Moscow in January 1990. At the Moscow Conference, an appeal signed by a number of distinguished scientists was presented to the world religious leaders. The excerpts of the said appeal goes like this,
" The Earth is the birthplace of our species and so far as we know, our only home. When our members were small and our technology feeble, we were powerless to influence the environment of our world. But, today suddenly, almost without anyone noticing, our numbers have become immense and our technology has achieved vast, even awesome powers. Intentionally or inadvertently, we are now able to make devastating changes in the global environment, an environment to which
we and all the other beings with which we share the Earth are meticulously and exquisitely adapted.
We are now threatened by self inflicted, swiftly moving environmental alterations about
whose long term biological and ecological consequences we are still painfully
ignorant- depletion of the protective Ozone layer ; a global warming
unprecedented in the last 150 millennia; the obliteration of an acre of
forest every second; the rapid extinction of species and the prospect of a
global nuclear was, that would put at risk most of the population of the
Earth. There may well be other such dangers of which in our ignorance, we
are still unaware. Individually and cumulatively they represent a trap
being set for the human species, a trap we are setting for ourselves.
However principles and lofty (or naive and shortsighted) the
justifications may have been for the activities that brought forth these
dangers, separately and together they now imperil our species and many
others. We are close to committing-many would argue we are already
committing- what in religious language is sometimes called
Crimes against Creation.
Problems of such magnitude and solutions demanding so broad a perspective, must be
recognized from the outset as having a religious as well as a
scientific dimension. Mindful of our common responsibility, we
scientists-many of us long engaged in combating the environmental crisis- urgently
appeal to the world religious community to commit, in word and deed and
so boldly as is required to preserve the environment of the Earth.
The environmental crisis requires radical changes not only in public policy, bur also in
individual behaviour. The historical record makes it clear that
religious teaching, example and leadership are powerfully able to
influence personal conduct and commitment".
The response of the
religious leaders was overwhelmingly positive. The response to the scientists’ appeal on
the environment was signed by hundreds of religious leaders from 83 countries,
including 37 heads of National and International bodies. The response goes like
" We are moved by the
Appeal’s spirit and challenged by its substance. We share its sense of
urgency. This invitation to collaboration marks a unique moment and
opportunity in the relationship of science and religion.
Many in the religious
community have followed with growing alarm reports of threats to the well
being of our planet’s environment such as those set forth in the
Appeal. The scientific community has done humankind a great service by
bringing forth evidence of these perils. We encourage continued scrupulous
investigation and must take account of its results in all our
deliberations and declarations regarding the human condition.
We believe the
environmental crisis is intrinsically religious. All faith traditions and
teachings firmly instruct us to reverse and care for the natural world. Yet
sacred creation is being violated and is in ultimate jeopardy as a
result of long standing human behaviour. A religious response is essential
to reverse such long standing patterns of neglect and exploitation.
For these reasons, we welcome the Scientists’ Appeal and are eager to explore as soon as
possible concrete, specific forms of collaboration and action. The Earth
itself calls us to nes levels of joint commitment
The present world
environmental crisis is not yet a disaster, but as in other crisis, it has the potential to
draw forth previously untapped and even unimagined powers of cooperation and
commitment. Science and Religion may differ about how the Earth was
made, but they agree that its protection merits our profound attention
and loving care.