Ahimsa – the ultimate winner



[Speech at the Plenary Session of the Parliamentary Earth Summit at Rio, June 8, 1992]

The dialogue on Religion and Environment has been very thought provoking. It is a welcome sign that the approach to link Religion and Environment is at once dynamic and not dogma ridden. It is not a question of bringing the church and the state together. It is more the issue of applying the lofty principles of religion in the policy-making process, which would influence the future of humanity on this planet. Both thinking and action on the part of individuals, society or state must be inspired by deeper considerations of humanitarianism, compassion and cooperative peaceful coexistence.

One of the panelists put it very beautifully that ‘no religion is an island.’ Let a message go out of this Parliamentary Earth Summit that all religious leaders will unite to work together for a better ecology both inner as well as outer. There may be nuances of difference in religious theory, perceptions, customs and traditions, but in the field of arousing awareness among human beings, let them work together. We have heard of the proposal to launch an International Green Cross. Indeed, it is to be adopted at tomorrow’s concluding plenary session. President Mikhail Gorbachev has consented to be its first Chairman. The mission of the L.G.C. is to be two- fold.

1. To create a global disaster relief program of volunteer and expert service that can respond to environmental disasters in much the same way as the International Red Cross does when humans are endangered.

2. To mobilize global volunteer corps of citizens banded together through Green Cross Chapters who are trained to be environmentally astute, and who are alert and ready to solve local problems and monitor community programs.

It is intended to be a grass-rooted movement-populist and democratic. Let us wish success to the new venture. I would, however, like to propose simultaneous formation of a Global Saints’ Brigade that could bring priest, preachers and monks from different religions on a single platform of active service to the cause of constructive service for social welfare.

Let the preachers and the priests, monk and Bhikshus go out to streets and homes where social evils are to be eradicated by inculcating spiritual culture and conviction. God lives in the hearts of the abused and abandoned children and the poorest of the poor. We were all deeply moved when some of them came to this assembly and spoke of their pathetic condition – human pollution of the most degraded type.

Priests must develop a new active social role to help solve problems concerning killing of animals, destruction of forest or abuse of nature. As volunteers of God they would carry more conviction with the people because they have renounced material life and possessions.

It is time that preachers should not merely preach or teach, but take the lead in providing the direction of ‘Right Conduct’ to the masses of people.

Let them share their alms compulsively with the hungry and the poor everyday. Let them exhort the society to adopt abandoned children and feed the poor. Every religion teaches human beings who are more affluent to become trustees of the Society and not remain its cruel exploiters.

slaughterhouses, absence of animal care clinics are issues that can no longer be ignored. It is violence of the worst order, full of hypocrisy when we at the same time bring up some animals as our pets. The world is not made only for the dominant living species, the humans to survive and prosper. Others have an equal democratic right as they breathe, live and have a soul.

In fact priests need to take an interreligious initiative to prepare a Charter for animal rights, a Charter on Earth and take it to the United Nations for adoption and later to the humanity for implementation.

Mahatma Gandhi set a very worthy example. He was not only a great political leader, but even a greater spiritually inspired social leader of our times, who led India’s non-violent struggle for independence to its successful fruition. Whenever, in whatever city or village he went, he always stayed in the colony of the untouchables. He gave them the name of “HARIJANS” (Sons of God) .He dressed like the poorest of the poor and lived a life style full of utter simplicity, frugality and high thinking. That is the kind of example our monks and priests need to follow. They must become active volunteers to serve the society.

Priests have done some wonderful work in the field of education and public health. Now it is time for them to consider expanding their activities to cover the comprehensive field of ecology and social welfare.

Jain Monk Acharya Sushil Kumarji Maharaja who is with us and who has been the founding member and one-time director of the Global Forum has initiated many such projects in India and USA. What is more he has been trying to negotiate with terrorists in Punjab (India) to take to the path of peace and non-violence. These are tasks full of challenges and complexities. But initiatives by holy men can enthuse the entire society and bring about basic attitudinal change for the better.

Spiritual leaders have been servants of God. Let them become servant of the people because through practice their preaching will become more effective and convincing.

Let religious leaders lead us not merely to light but also to social changes and ethical reformation. Let their deep wisdom come to the streets to serve the people. That would make religion truly democratic in its impact and would bring it closer to life.


Our starting point is that the world needs a healthy society and a healthy individual. As long as violence remains a medium for the solution of problems, the society and the individuals will remain sick with distorted vision and misguided perceptions”.

- Acharya Mahaprajna

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