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High Commissioner Mr. Ranjan Mathai's Remarks at Conference on Relevance of Bhagvad Gita at The Nehru Centre

Remarks by High Commissioner at International Conference on Bhagvad Gita
24 September 2015 at The Nehru Centre

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Learned academics,
Ambassador Suryakanthi Tripathi,
Director of The Nehru Centre,

It gives me great pleasure to be here at the Opening Session of this Conference on the Bhagavad Gita and its contemporary relevance. I am delighted to see so many scholars from around the world who will be speaking to us over the course of the today and tomorrow to share their understanding of the contemporary relevance of the Bhagavad Gita.

The Bhagavad Gita, the Song Celestial, is a timeless, universal text that inspired many great thinkers both in India and in the outside world down the ages.  Each of them had their own unique way of connecting to this great masterpiece of spiritual insights; I am sure we will today hear many quotations.   The one I find compelling is by Emerson as it highlights the fact that the Gita dealt with the issues with which many has struggled from time immemorial.   Emerson described it as "the voice of an old intelligence which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the same questions which exercise us".   Mahatma Gandhi considered the Gita to be his spiritual dictionary. He was a great believer in its continued relevance to every era. Swami Vivekananda felt that the Gita was the essence of the philosophy of the Vedanta. To him, the understanding and clarity of Vedanta enabled us to see fear as unbecoming, even a sin.   And "real activity is combined with eternal calmness, ….., the balance of mind which is never disturbed". 

This Conference aims at placing the Bhagavad Gita in this context, as a source of that balance of mind in the midst of activity.  Which is why people from different walks of life, different parts of the world and varied professions can bring differing perspectives on the Gita to bear on our common understanding.   And thus encourage a wider appreciation of this ancient yet timeless wisdom imparted by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. The Bhagavad Gita itself says that the offering of wisdom is better than any material offering.

In a sense that is India's own message.   Throughout the millennia of history India's conquests have not been physical.   India's influence has spread to some extent through commerce but it has made a worldwide impact mainly through the strength of its culture and as a messenger of paths to realization and understanding.

For this reason we in the High Commission feel privileged that the Nehru Centre is hosting this Conference with the support of the ICCR.   It is part of our project of enhancing knowledge and appreciation of best that India has to offer.

Here in the UK there has long been a tradition of study of India's spiritual foundations, though the study of Sanskrit and other ancient languages and through study of the sacred Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and other texts of India.  Some of the studies has been extended even to the young.  I have been privileged to hear British children, some as young as 6 or 7, recite passages from the Upanishads in Sanskrit at the St. James School (I am happy they are being associated with the Conference).  The large, and well integrated Indian community is yet another source of knowledge of the Gita for people from varying backgrounds living here. 

Yet the overall impact could be more widespread; as we are living in a world in which the need for answers to "the same questions that exercise us" (as Emerson put it) remains constant.    I look forward to deliberations which are to come during the course of the day and tomorrow. I would also like to wish the conference all the success conference and hope that all the participants would find it both enriching and engaging.  And we wish to learn more from you about how best the contemporary relevance of the Gita can be manifested more widely.  We would like more to experience what Mahatma Gandhi said, "Those who meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day".  Thank you.

Oct 5, 2015
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