Five ISKCON devotees were invited to attend the All India Ahimsa Paramo Dharma Awareness Campaign launch in Delhi on September 21st.
The launch was held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official home of the President of India Shri Pranab Mukherji.
The Ahimsa Paramo Dharma campaign is run by the Brahma Kumaris spiritual group, which was established in Hyderabad, Sindh (now part of Pakistan) in 1936, and studies self-realization, karma, reincarnation, and our relationship with God.
With their Ahimsa campaign, the Brahma Kumaris are working towards the establishment of a violence-free society.
On their website, they point out that “society is witnessing an alarming increase in violence at all levels,” and that “the recent spurt in incidents of sexual assault on women [in India] is particularly a matter of great shame and grave concern for all.”
Their campaign involves reaching out to interfaith leaders, politicians, educators, sociologists, and leaders of women’s organizations to find ways to curb this violence. They also hope to liason with UNESCO and other U.N. agencies.
Director of ISKCON Communications India Vrajendranandan Das, who attended the launch event, said ISKCON supported the campaign and would “use this platform to raise awareness of Srila Prabhupada’s vision on Ahimsa.”
For example, in Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 4 chapter 22, Srila Prabhupada writes, “The first qualification of a sadhu, or devotee, is ahimsa, or nonviolence. Persons interested in the path of devotional service, or in going back home, back to Godhead, must first practice ahimsa. A devotee should be tolerant and should be very much compassionate toward others. For example, if he suffers personal injury, he should tolerate it, but if someone else suffers injury, the devotee need not tolerate it.”
Explaining how to become nonviolent, Prabhupada commented in a December 1970 conversation in Surat, “Unless one is prideless, unless one is humble, it is not possible to become nonviolent.”
And in Bhagavad-gita 13.12, he explains the deeper meaning of the word ahimsa: “Nonviolence is generally taken to mean not killing or destroying the body, but actually nonviolence means not to put others into distress. People in general are trapped by ignorance in the material concept of life, and they perpetually suffer material pangs. So unless one elevates people to spiritual knowledge, one is practicing violence. One should try his best to distribute real knowledge to the people, so that they may become enlightened and leave this material entanglement. That is nonviolence.”
ISKCON also attended the campaign launch as a gesture of solidarity to other religious groups, who lent their support during ISKCON’s 2011 campaign to stop the Bhagavad-gita being banned in Russia.
Religious leaders attending the Ahimsa Paramo Dharma Campaign along with ISKCON included leaders from: the Brahma Kumaris; the Bahai Community of India; Jamaat-e-Islami Hind; the Catholic Archdiocese, the Maha Bodhi Society; the Ramakrishna Mission; Judah Hyam Synagogue, Ahimsa Vishwa Bharati; and Delhi Shiromani Gurdwara.
All these spiritual leaders and other VIPs, numbering 150 altogether, arrived at the President’s home at 11:00am. After a security check, they entered the grand hall and were seated.
At 12 noon, all stood as President Shri Pranab Mukherji entered. A welcome speech was then given by Brahma Kumaris leader Rajyogini Dadi Janki.
Speeches followed by other religious leaders, including Dr. A.K. Merchant from the Bahai's Community of India, and Dr Dominic Emmanuel of the Catholic Archdiocese.
In his Hindi speech, ISKCON’s Vrajendranandan Das quoted Bhagavad-gita 16.2, in which Lord Krishna cites non-violence as one of the “transcendental qualities” belonging to “godly men endowed with divine nature.”
“According to Srila Prabhupada, Ahimsa means not arresting the progressive life of any living entity,” Vrajendranandan said. “Every living entity has the right to live and progress. Lord Krishna himself incarnated as Lord Buddha on Earth and preached Ahimsa, taking pity on the poor animals. Lord Buddha promoted the quote 'Ahimsa Paramo Dharma'. In this way, should all spread the divine qualities of Ahimsa, truthfulness, freedom from anger, renunciation, tranquility and mercy to the whole world so that humanity can live a progressive life.”
He concluded: “We all together should make this world free from meat eating; intoxication; gambling and illicit sex, and build a society that’s peaceful and pleasant to live in. Hare Krishna.”
Vrajendranandan’s speech was well-received and appreciated by the attendees.
The Honorable President of India followed, addressing the distinguished leaders and guests.
No religion has ever taught hatred and violence, Mr Mukherjee said -- all religious prophets have always practiced and preached love, compassion and selfless service.
“No civilization is safe when the daughters, mothers and sisters in family and society are not protected,” he continued. “We have to reset our compass and bring back sanity to our life and society to end the current spate of violence in India.”
Mere governance and enforcement of laws couldn’t put an end to violence, he said. But cultivating and spreading the spiritual values of peace, understanding, tolerance, self-control, discipline and determination could contain it.
The President commended the All India Ahimsa Paramo Dharma Awareness Campaign and said it was time that all religious, spiritual and interfaith leaders, along with other governmental and non-governmental organizations, join hands to end the evils of violence.
The President’s address was followed by a photo session and lunch, concluding this historic event -- the first time an interfaith gathering has been held at the President’s home.[ ahimsa ] [ delhi ] [ india ] [ non-violence ] [ president ]