Elisha Pulivarti pulled off a great event last night. It was a joy to hear every speaker on the subject of unconditional love.
Washington Conference on World Religions and Peace
Topic: Unconditional Love
Speakers: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Dr. Subodh Pandit, Dr. Weymouth Spence, Bhante Katugastota, Jean Ricot Dormeus, Dr. Mike Ghouse
First, our gratitude goes to Elisha Pulivarti for organizing this timely event bringing us together on Unconditional Love. Dr. Subodh Pandit, our moderator, is appreciated for setting the tone for the conference and mentioning how all religions teach about unconditional love. I am so glad Gurudev Sri Sri has honored us with his presence. Let’s give a round of applause for them.
Everyone spoke about Mother Teresa; she is the definition of unconditional love. Indeed, her statement is my guidepost, “If you want to make peace with your enemies, talk with them. I have spoken with people on the extreme from different parts of society, including Fox News’s Sean Hannity, and have achieved some success. Mother Teresa is one of my mentors.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was answering questions about charity and unconditional love for fellow humans. He kept answering them. Finally, one of them asked, What if we have nothing to give, then the Prophet said, Give a smile; it gives hope, and it is an expression of Unconditional love.
Now, I am pleased to share about unconditional love in three applications.
2. Unconditional love for all life forms
3. Love between a couple
The Quran says God’s love is unconditional. Every chapter of the Quran begins with Bismillah Hir Rahma Nir Rahim– that God is merciful, kind, and benevolent. It also says there is no match for God’s love. Let me unpack this.
Let me share a story – Once, Prophet Solomon asked God, you have given me all the powers in the world, but you have not given me the power over food. God tells him, Solomon, you love the people alright, but your love is conditional. Mine is unconditional; I cannot give you the power over food. Solomon begs and tells him that he proves his love is unconditional. God agrees to give him that power.
Next week, several people die of hunger. God calls Solomon on the carpet to account for the deaths. Solomon says they were evil people, they did not care about you, and I held the food from them. God says I told you do not have the capacity for unconditional love. I am taking that power back from you.
There is an old Indian song,
Danay danay pe likha hai khane waley ka naam
Khane wale hain crore dene wala ek Raam.
Every grain of food has the name of the consumer written on it
There are billions of recipients, but only Ram gives them all.
2. Unconditional love for all life forms
Here is a short story about unconditional love for all life forms. An Atheist woman (at that time, they were not considered good people- not anymore) was passing in the streets of Madinah and spotted a dog dying out of thirst. She could not stand it and walked about half a mile to get some water and brought it to the dog; the dog felt refreshed and ran. Prophet Muhammad’s associates ask him what will happen to her for such an act of kindness and love for God’s creation – the Prophet says God will forgive her sins for she cared about God’s creation. Indeed, the power of love for all life forms is the basis of being a Muslim.
Is Mahatma Gandhi going to Paradise? My Muslim response is that no one else can if he can’t. You are a Muslim if you subscribe to the following three values. 1) A belief in the creator (God or any name you want to call), 2) accountability for your actions, and 3) caring for everything in the universe, life, and matter (Quran 2:62). I will be happy to speak about this soon, all that God wants is peace and harmony in his creation. He created everything in balance and wants us to preserve that harmony (Chapter 55, verses 1-11).
A request came to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to compare two men; one prays all day long, and the other does not, but when the night falls, he walks up to his neighbor and offers to share the little food he has. The answer is obvious.
The Jews talk about Tikkun Olam, and I am writing a seminal article called Islah al Alam, which means constantly repairing the world to restore harmony. Lord Vishnu represents the preservation aspect of God. Indeed, Lord Krishna, the 8th representative of that aspect of Vishnu, says whenever a society falls apart (adharma), which is chaotic, he will emerge from among the people to restore Dharma or righteousness. It is the unconditional love of Krishna for humanity that he wanted to regain justice so people can feel secure. The Hindu philosophy guides us to respect every living being as all other religions do.
3. Love between a couple
Mother’s love is legendary; she may get angry, but she is always there to protect her offspring. When two people work or go to school together, they fall in love, their compatibility binds them, and marriage is the ultimate step in their relationship. Those in love know no filters like religion, culture, language, ethnicity, or nationality. They bond due to their compatibility.
Hinduism teaches that not even a blade of grass moves without the creators’ plan, and Islam strengthens it with a verse (30:21) from the Quran: “And among His signs is that He created mates for you from among yourselves so that you may find tranquility in them, and He placed between you love and compassion. In these are signs for people who reflect.”
Finally, my unconditional love
My love for humanity makes me do my share of work in opening people’s hearts, minds, and souls toward each other. I attain that by conducting workshops on religions, all the beautiful religions. Indeed, the essence is the same, but rituals differ. Similarly, I give talks about cultures and races.
Finally, I love to see two different people from different faiths and cultures fall in love and marry each other. I have officiated 301 marriages between people of all religions and am waiting to officiate weddings In Bahai and Zoroastrian traditions. That will complete my ability to officiate weddings with people from almost all faiths, ethnicities, and cultures. I love doing that. If we can learn to respect the otherness of others and accept the God-given uniqueness of each of us, then conflicts fade, and solutions emerge.
Ultimately, I want to work on creating cohesive societies where every human feels secure about their faith, race, ethnicity, culture, or any other uniqueness. We have ways to go, but go, we will. Say, Amen!
Some may not like the following statement. “Almighty God does not discriminate against any of his creation; he appreciates those who constantly work on creating harmony in his universe and asks others to guide the ones who go astray.” The responsibility is on our shoulders to create harmony around us, as it brings peace to us. Our peace and happiness hinges on the peace and joy of others around us.
Our Mantras at www.CenterforPluralism.com
· If we can learn to respect the otherness of the other and accept the God-given (or given) uniqueness of each other, then conflicts fade, and solutions emerge. We have the systems and programs to accomplish our mission, and we bring good things to fellow Americans.
· We are about Conflict Mitigation and goodwill nurturance (R).
· We do condemn what is wrong and appreciate what is good.
· We follow Mother Teresa’s wisdom: If you want to make peace with your enemies, she said, talk with them, and we do. We reach out to the people on the extreme right and left in faith and politics.
· Our work focuses on opening people’s hearts and minds toward fellow humans.
Wedding Officiant – www.InterfaithMarriages.org
President – www.CenterforPluralism.com