Mission: Social harmony
Times Of India[Sunday, January 25, 2004 20:52]
One has dedicated his life to the upliftment of the marginalised sections of society. The other is the head of state in exile and the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. A world in perfect accord is their mission.

Baba Amte and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama . Two kindred spirits, who recently met, after a gap of 14 years, at Anandwan in Maharashtra . Sudeshna Chatterjee gets a rare peek into the minds of the charismatic men who have the world on their mind.

It is January 9, 2004 . A historic day. A day when two apostles of peace are meeting at Anandwan, a community living abode of leprosy patients, the deaf and mute, the visually impaired and the mentally challenged.

About 100 kms from Nagpur , Maharashtra , the two living saints are meeting after a hiatus of 14 years.

His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet is planning to spend a night at Baba Amte's "sanctuary of love", Anandwan. But, at the moment, the present beckons. The Dalai Lama takes stock of the developments at the commune.

Suitably impressed, he hands over a cheque of Rs 5 lakh to Baba Amte's organisation, the Maharogi Sewa Samiti.

Meanwhile, some preparations are afoot. Children staying at Anandwan rehearse their repertoire for the entertainment programme arranged for the evening.

Come dusk, and they bring the stage alive with their talent as they sing and dance to popular Bollywood numbers. Baba Amte watches the show while reclining on his bed (as he can't sit due to a debilitating spinal ailment, which has been troubling him since the last three decades).

The Dalai Lama sits next to him. A perfect photo opportunity. A moment for posterity. The duo personifies happiness. Many smiles are strewn around.

The twinkle in their eyes, which have seen the world in all its misery, is unmistakable. Every now and then, the Dalai Lama's child-like laughter rends the air.

Earlier in the day, the 68-year-old spiritual leader was telling the 89-year-old social activist how a Gandhian had once divulged his desire of opening a club for those over 75.

"I told him, I am too young to join his club now," laughed the Dalai Lama, who is making his second trip to the commune.

As the conversation progressed and meandered into more serious topics, Baba Amte made a quiet observation, "In the second part of this century, people will eschew violence and hence the ideals of Gandhiji and the Dalai Lama will be more relevant than they are today."

Though he is a man known for his lofty ideals, the Dalai Lama is as down to earth and grounded to reality as any one of us. A fact that is more than evident when one witnesses him cajoling and coaxing Baba to drink his juice and fortify himself with some dry fruit.

Baba is more than overwhelmed with the Tibetan leader's concern for his health – the latter actually sent his personal physician all the way from Dharamsala to Anandwan earlier in the year.

However, he still gently chides the Dalai Lama and tells him not to be so concerned about his health.

It's truly a sight to behold when Baba takes the Dalai Lama to the memorial of the anonymous tree, which is built in the memory of countless trees that have been mowed down the world over.

Baba whispers softly, "I experience the drowsiness of every autumn and the passion of every spring. Hence I do not seek dust in shame and loneliness. Such seasons visit you also, such seasons visit the nation, such seasons visit the world, so why do you (feel lonely and desolate)?"

Baba tells the Dalai Lama that this is what the memorial whispers to him, and this is what he has shared with many people, including the likes of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Baba Amte and the Dalai Lama. Two enlightened souls. Two buddies. Two kindred spirits.


What is that one thing that gives you a lot of happiness?

There is nothing in particular. I define happiness as a continuous, creative activity.

Any unfulfilled dreams?

Quite a few. I believe if you are through with dreams, then progress halts.

Who is your hero?

My mother. In her old age, she became insane and had to be institutionalised. She is my heroine. In spite of her insane stupor, she taught me how to remain sane in this insane world. When you lead a life of so much pain, penury and misery, you understand the needs of other people.

What is the solution to the Ayodhya conflict?

Neither a mandir, nor a masjid. Please build an orphanage of love for the children of those who have been affected by the conflict.

Whom does the future belong to?

The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination.


Dalai Lama: Humanity is facing a lot of problems due to religion...

Baba Amte: There is only one religion now – creative humanity.

DL: If you look at it more critically, why did God create this problem? If there is any God, then He should not create any problem.

BA: That's why He is afraid to look back. He has created people like you and me, who have created a mess in the world.

DL: Therefore, what is the source of God?

BA: Love is God… unlimited, infinite.

DL: I agree.

BA: You can't prove there is God. Even scientists have failed. They say God is a concealed object.

DL: Scientific explanation cannot prove the non-existence of God. Whether He exists or not is beyond science… Yesterday, somebody mentioned your plan to visit Pakistan ?

BA: Without security they will not allow me to go. I don't believe in security. I believe His arm will never harm. I want direct interaction with people. Let Pakistan be there and India be there. I don't want any union between Pakistan and India . Rather, let there be a common currency between the two nations, like the euro.

DL: Religion preaches righteousness. What do you think? Of course, Buddhists have no concept of God as creator. We believe in self-creation. That's why Buddhists believe in the Four Noble Truths.

BA: I am so happy that we are having this talk here. Look at the sky, it is cloudless, very clear.

DL: And your spirit is always fresh and very clear too.


What is that one thing that gives you a lot of happiness?

The fact that there is always a positive side to life. This world is not perfect. There are problems. But things like happiness and unhappiness are relative. Realising this gives you hope.

What is it that makes you cry?

When I talk or think about altruism, I am often in tears. Why? Because it is really precious and wonderful…

Is there something you miss because you are a monk?

Obviously marriage! Sometimes when I look at beautiful women, there is a certain curiosity... (laughs aloud)

What's your recurring dream?

A beautiful garden. Oh yes, I love flowers.

Do you think we need religion?

One may not adhere to any religious faith and can still be compassionate. We have set up this organisation, the Foundation for Universal Responsibility (of which Baba is one of the trusteees) for the promotion of human values without any religious sect.

In any case, a majority of humanity is not religious minded. But no, I don't see a world without religion. At least for the next few centuries, religious faith will remain and some conflicts in the name of religion will also remain.

Unlike science, the religious tradition teaches the concept of forgiveness, tolerance and compassion. Scientists cannot help you change your emotion, only religion can.

What is the need of the day?

A warm heart and some sense of humanity.