"Today’s function is unique in many respects. Pujya Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamiji has completed 50 years as Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peeth. On this occasion, I pay my respects to him.
The Kanchi Kamakoti establishment occupies an honoured place in the religious and national history of India. It was established by Adi Shankaracharya himself. Over the centuries, many Acharyas have enhanced its prestige.
Today it is natural for us to remember Paramacharya Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati. He gave such an attractive exposition of sanatana dharma that it not only created pride in our ancient culture but also helped us understand the challenges and needs of modern India.
Today as we pay our respects to Sri Jayendra Saraswatiji, we also honour the Kanchi Kamakoti establishment. When any institution has such a long and unbroken tradition of highly evolved religious leaders, it acquires extra-ordinary spiritual power.
The Kanchi Matt today is not only engaged in the promotion of studies in Vedas, Upanishads and other religious scriptures, but is also making an important contribution in taking modern education to the masses. Many educational institutions are being run with Swamiji’s inspiration. What is truly remarkable is that, while popularizing Sanskrit language and literature, he is also promoting with equal enthusiasm the knowledge and wisdom contained in Tamil literature.
Equally remarkable is Swamiji’s endeavour to promote social justice for dalits and social harmony among the people of different castes.
Swamiji is the 69th Shankaracharya of Kanchi Matt. His successor Sri Vijayendra Saraswati Swamiji, who is with us this evening, will be the 70th Shankarachara. It is natural for us to ask: What kind of a religious institution is this, which has continued, generation after generation, in such an unbroken manner? What is the secret behind its longevity and continuity?
We see different kinds of institutions in the society. Political parties, professional organizations, business houses, voluntary agencies etc. Each of these, serves society in its own way. Yet, why do these institutions get washed away in the flow of time? Why do they lose their relevance and utility with change in circumstances?
On the other hand, we see many religious institutions which have been in existence for centuries. What explains this contrast?
The reason for this is that religious institutions, in India or else where, are linked to that Truth which is permanent and timeless. It is that Truth which connects this world to the world beyond, which connects the individual to the universe, which explains the meaning of death and which helps human beings in taking to the path of mukti or liberation.
Which is why, man reposes his faith in such Truth, or the symbols of that Truth. It is this popular faith which provides continuity and permanence to religious establishments.
The secular institutions of society, by their very nature, cannot be permanent. Yet, they can live longer and become more effective if they connect themselves to a higher Truth, to some larger purpose.
Therefore, is it not possible to connect politics to some larger purpose which flows from some higher spiritual Truths ? Yes, it is possible. It is necessary too.
When we think of Kanchi Kamakoti Matt, it is natural for us to recall its great contribution to the strengthening of India’s unity and integrity. Adi Shankaracharya, who was born in Kaladi in Kerala, went to Kedarnath in the North, Cuttack in the East and Dwarka in the West. He established four matts in four corners of India and thereby infused new life in the bonds of our national unity.
Adi Shankaracharya’s work of promotion of Dharma and re-awakening of the national spirit, was continued by Sri Paramacharya. And the same is now being continued by Sri Jayendra Saraswatiji.
Swamiji’s efforts at finding the solution to Ayodhya problem are in keeping with this tradition of strengthening Indian’s unity and integrity.
Today, India’s prestige is growing around the world. There are many reasons for this. One of them is that we have taken India into what can be called a "problem solving phase". Slowly but steadily, we have been trying to resolve the problems that have come to us as a legacy of the past.
We have been trying to improve our relationship with our neighbours. We have taken steps to establish peace and normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir, and to promote all round development in the State. We are already seeing some positive outcome of these efforts.
Efforts to resolve the Ayodhya issue are a link in the same chain. We wish to see an early resolution of this vexed problem. For how many more years can we afford to see it lingering ?
We have been saying right from the beginning that the solution to this problem lies either in dialogue leading to a mutually acceptable agreement, or in a verdict of the judiciary. However, these two options are not mutually exclusive. They can be made complementary.
Today, the matter is before the judiciary. And all of us expect that the judiciary gives its verdict soon.
At the same time, it is necessary that the representatives of Hindus and Muslims begin to talk to each other to find an amicable and mutually acceptable solution. These talks should be focused both on Ayodhya as well as on such other matters that will promote goodwill and harmony between the two communities. The more we create goodwill and mutual trust, the easier it becomes to solve this contentious issue.
It seems difficult that such fruitful talks can take place between political parties and their leaders. It is also clear that the Ayodhya issue can be resolved only when it is freed from politics and when political parties stop looking at it from the point of view of who gains and who loses.
Swamiji made a sincere effort in this direction last year. It is true that he faced some difficulties and roadblocks. But he did not lose faith in his effort. He has been meeting Muslim leaders wherever he goes. He has earned the respect and trust of people belonging to other religions. And such trust is always the most precious capital, which helps us in resolving the gravest of problems.
It is not difficult to see how he has managed to earn the trust of others. The Kanchi Matt practices secularism in its true sense of the term. For some secularism is a slogan. But the true meaning of "sarvapantha samabhav" can be seen in action in Kanchi.
There is a masjid beside the Kanchi Matt. Both puja and namaz take place at the same time. This has been going on for several centuries. It is a beautiful example of peaceful and harmonious co-existence. Perhaps, such a picture can be seen only in India.
Someone, once asked Swamiji "Doesn’t this masjid disturb you ? Would you not like it to be shifted?"
Swamiji replied "No, the mandir and masjid have been together and will remain together. This is our tradition."
Swamiji has been not only trying to resolve the Ayodhya issue but he is also doing a lot to promote developmental activities in Ayodhya. He has established a Trust for this purpose. This Trust has been working for meeting the needs of education, health care and self-employment among the local people.
Swamiji has recently written to me a letter urging that the Union Government launch a special project for all round development of Ayodhya. Ayodhya is the birth place of Lord Rama. There are many temples and religious places here. Lakhs of pilgrims come there. But the facilities for them are highly inadequate.
When I think of the present condition at this important centre of pilgrimage, I often ask myself "How was Ayodhya of the past, the capital of Dasharath? And how is Ayodhya of today?"
We should make Ayodhya an ideal pilgrimage centre. It is also necessary to improve the conditions at other pilgrimage centers, belonging to different religions. We seek the guidance of religious leaders like Swamiji in this endeavour.
On this auspicious occasion, I pray for a long and healthy life for Swamiji and seek his blessings for all our people".