Witnesses of Mercy for Peace and Reconciliation

21 There is a beautiful Indian song which became the favourite of Mahatma Gandhi. He asked: “Who is the real devotee, who is the true devotee, what is the true devotion?” The true devotee is one who can feel the pain of others, who can feel others as his own. When you feel the pain and suffering of others, these are not American, Asian, African or Australian pains and sufferings. Pain is pain, suffering is suffering and these are what we have in common and therefore the means by which we can connect to each other. If we can remove each other’s pain and suffering then we attain a feeling of oneness and “familiness”. I want to share my personal story with you. I spent almost ten years in the forest, in fasting, deep meditation and solitude. I practiced intense yoga and endured many things. When I returned, it occurred to me that it was time that I should ask my Guru for the advanced course, so I went to him and said: “Now the beginner’s course is over, let me take the advanced course.” I’ll not sing the beautiful poem with which he replied because time is very short here, but he said: “The greatest prayer you can make is to remove the suffering of all. Be ready and go out into the world.” The first step is to remove the suffering and to have a merciful heart. When you have mercy, you don’t have to look for anything else. As you have the Ten Commandments in Judeo- Christian society, there are three things in India that create the divine recipe for mercy – non-violence, for- giveness and compassion. If you don’t have compassion your heart cannot be merciful. If you don’t have forgive- ness to forgive yourself, you cannot forgive others. We pray to the divine, we pray to God: “Oh God forgive me”, but when it comes to others we become unsure. When we consider ourselves, we become the advocate, when we consider others we become the judge. Whereas when we forgive ourselves we should forgive others. When I met the honourable Pope today I could see that he gives us hope. I request that we, all religions, ask for mercy to be shown to us all. I also think that the time has come in which we should ask for mercy on behalf of Mother Earth. How we are using and abusing the Earth. How the rivers, lakes, ponds, trees and all of nature are being abused. The time has come in our churches, in our synagogues, in our temples, in our gurdwaras, to edu- cate our everyday congregations with the idea that we have worshipped The Creator for so long that it is now time to preserve, protect and serve The Creation itself. His Holiness Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji His Holiness Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji left his home for the Himalayan jungles in early child- hood to live a life devoted to God and the service of humanity. He spent his youth in silence and meditation, practicing yoga and living in austerity. He is now president of Parmarth Niketan, based in Rishikesh, one of the largest interfaith spiritual institu- tions in India. He is also co-founder and co-chairman of the Global Interfaith Wash Alliance (GIWA), an inter- national group of interfaith leaders working for water, sanitation and hygiene, launched by UNICEF.   Pujya Swamiji is founder of Ganga Action Parivar, leading the Clean GangaMovement, and is founder of the Divine Shakti Foundation and India Heritage Research Foundation (IHRF), both nonprofit organizations dedi- cated to education, women’s empowerment, healthcare, rural development and other projects including the pro- duction of an 11-volume Encyclopedia of Hinduism . His religion is unity and he has been a leading voice at numerous international, interfaith summits including United Nations, Parliament of Religions, World Bank, World Economic Forum, Religions for Peace, and more. THE FOUNDAT IONS OF MERCY