Excerpts from the book ‘Ignited Minds‘ Written By A.P.J. Abdul Kalamji
I was at Christ College, Rajkot, getting ready for a function there when there was a call from Swami Nikhileswarananda of the Ramakrishna Mission. Swamiji requested me to visit his ashram and I had to agree. After the function at Christ College, I rushed to the ashram. It was the time for the evening bhajan and so touched was I by the singers’serene invocation that I sat down with them for nearly fifteen minutes, lost in meditation. Here too I felt the same vibrations as I did while meditating at Swami Vivekananda Hall, Porbandar, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi.
On 6 October 2001, the Sankaracharyas of Kanchi organized a very important gathering of farmers from hundreds of villages to launch integrated development through the concept of knowledge- empowered rural development. I was invited to participate. Panchayat heads belonging to various political parties converged at Kanchi to discuss development under a project designed to Provide Urban facilities in Rural Areas (PURA). I was struck by the fact that spiritual leaders were helping focus programmes for development.
When the meeting ended both Acharyas called me for a private meeting. Swami Jayendra Saraswathigal inquired about the crashlanding of the helicopter and blessed me. Swami Vijayendra Saraswathigal conveyed to me that the maulvi of a very famous 300- year-old mosque was waiting in the mutt to take me to the mosque. Swamiji suggested that I visit the mosque.
His message brought to my mind an incident in Paramacharya’s time, a decade ago, as told by the former President, R. Venkataraman. Mr Venkataraman showed me the mosque very close to the Kanchi mutt. A few years ago, the mosque jamayath (authorities) and the district authorities decided to relocate the mosque to some other suitable place as its present location was inconvenient both for the mutt and mosque. As a large number of people visit the historic mosque and there are huge gatherings at the mutt too, the traffic was becoming difficult to manage. The mutt would rebuild the mosque in its new location. Somehow this message reached the Paramacharya. He vehemently opposed the whole idea. He said, ‘In fact, when at 4.30 a.m. the call for namaz comes from the mosque, it acts as a wake-up call for my divine duties.’ And also for many other reasons he was opposed to the relocation of the mosque. He made this clear to both the district authorities and the mutt. The Paramacharya went into mouna vridham– deep silence. Finally, shifting of the mosque was stopped.
I later went to the mosque and met the maulvi and kazi and offered namaz there. About fifty students were learning the Holy Quran. I sat with them and asked them to recite the Alhamthu, the sura that embodies the Quran. In Kanchi, I was privileged to see vedic recitation and recitations from the Quran proceeding side by side. Therein lies the greatness and essence of India. Can Kanchi’s integrated approach towards learning become a beacon for us and later for the world?
During the discussion in the Sankara College of Engineering among Sanskrit professors, students and teachers, presided over by the Sankaracharyas, it became clear that ancient Sanskrit literature is a storehouse of scientific principles and methodology, even to the extent of there being texts about how to build a viman (aeroplane). Subjects like physics, chemistry, medicine and ayurveda are, of course, well documented. There was a consensus that the work of our ancient scholars and scientists should be thoroughly examined and where possible integrated with modern science.
An invitation came from the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning at Whitefield for Prof. Rama Rao and me. The day began with a morning prayer at 7.00 followed by a discourse rendered in poetic form. Its subject was how to remove hatred from our hearts–by sacrificing the ego and substituting love in its place. When Sai Baba moved amidst the devotees, the effect of his healing presence on people’s pain, difficulties and problems was immediately apparent.
In January 2002, I attended a conference on Medical Technology and Healthcare at Whitefield. All through the conference, which began at 9.30 in the morning and ended at 8 in the evening, Sri Sathya Sai Baba was present. He blessed every presentation and when I finished my five- minute presentation on how technology would transform human life–an example being the cardiac stent that we had made– he got up and blessed me, to the cheers of participants.
I was impressed to see his interest in the conference, as I had been impressed by the speciality hospital at Whitefield that I had visited earlier. He had been told that Chennai was facing a water problem. So, when he announced that he would ensure water flowed to the city, it was more heartening still.