“Equality and Tolerance. The Masonic Values that may Fundamentally Define the 21st Century, a Century of Dramatic Changes."
M. W. Bro. Vasudev _Masurekar
Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of India
Freemasonry arrived in India in 1730 and in Romania in 1734. Thus both countries Freemasonry is practiced since more than 275 years. India has strong connection with ancient Freemasonry in as much as Ships of King Solomon landed in port in Kerala in 1036 BC. The Kashmiris called Kashmir as Bagh-i-Sulaiman or the Garden of Solomon. Mullha Ahmed the Kashmiri historian says that King Solomon flew in a aircraft which rested on the Takht-i-Sulaiman in Kashmir. The old testament of the Jews informs that the Kash or Kush was the son of Ham or the grandson of Noah. These historical facts suggest that the Kashmiris are in reality a division of the Jewish tribes. Many scholars have referred to the Jewish origin of the Kashmiris. To many , while Palestine is the Holy Land , the valley of Kashmir is the promised land.
Each country has its code word or key word in its ethos. Eg. India the key word is Dharma i.e. righteousness or moral well being. For America it is Liberty and for Romania it is Equality.
There is a tale in Indian Mythology.
A sage asked his disciples - When does a night end?
The disciple says, “ At dawn, of course”.
The sage says, “ I know that. But when does the night end and the dawn begin? “
The first disciple who is from tropical south of India replies, “ When the first glimmer of light across the sky reveals the palm fronds on the coconut tree swaying in the breeze, that is when the night ends and the dawn begins.”
The sage says NO.
So the second disciple who is from the cold North ventures. “When the first streaks of sunshine make the snow and ice gleam white on the mountain tops of the Himalayas, that is when the night ends and the dawn begins.”
Thee sage says, “NO my sons when two travelers from opposite ends of our land meet and embrace each other as brothers and when they realize they sleep under the same sky and see the same stars and dream the same dreams that is when the night ends and the day begins.”
This story represents equality in the firmament of masonry.
There have been many a terrible night in the century that has past. Let us preserve the divinity of the human spirit to ensure that we will have a new dawn in the 21st century .
Indian Masons proudly proclaim that Swami Vivekanand was a Freemason. It is also no secret that Swamiji was an active mason before he became a monk. Even after becoming a monk he was in touch with his Masonic brethren. His expenses for the conference of World religions in 1893 was borne by Freemasons of India and his stay in Chicago was taken care of by a Masonic brother in Chicago. His views on tolerance are worth a quote, “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration but we accept all religions as true. The grand idea of universal toleration would be a great acquisition to civilization. Nay, no civilization can long exist unless this idea enters into it. No civilization can grow unless fanaticism, blood shed and brutality stop. No civilization can begin to lift up its head until we look charitably upon one another and the first step towards that much needed charity is to look kindly upon the religious conviction of others , however different our religion ideas and convictions may be.”
Material well being is the hallmark of the 21st century, while Moral well being is the Ethos of Freemasonry. If an awareness can be created to blend the two, humanity may easily sail through the century of dramatic changes . The Freemasons and Freemasonry have to adopt and adapt to these sweeping changes and stay in control. Like any good sailor can vouch and tell you that when caught in the midst of stormy sea, we cannot control the winds but we can control the sails.
The pace of life and its stresses will get even more frenetic than at present and that while we may be able to cope with this intellectually, it is questionable if many can cope with it emotionally. In the next decade the work place will not offer fellowship and camaraderie sufficient to satisfy the social instincts that people have. Many people will work at home, linked to the office by computer and telephone. Others will work in an office with complex but nevertheless inanimate equipment. The irony of the Age of Communication is that people spend, and will spend, more time by themselves". "People may have enough to live, but nothing to live for; they may have the means but not the meaning.“
Freemasonry has survived and even become stronger through all the whirl of chance and change. No institution formed purely for the practice of secret rituals could have thus survived so long. The Egyptian Mysteries of Isis and Osiris are now lost in the sands of the desert and the Eleusian Mysteries have passed away with the glory that was Greece. Yet Freemasonry remains, for, though the secrets of Freemasonry are its signs and symbols and its periodic observance is its rituals, its strength lies in its teachings. These teachings embody truths which are immutable and imperishable. Freemasonry has survived through the dust of history. Freemasons may be few, Freemasonry is universal. The Temple of Freemasonry is open only to one community, it is the community of Man. Freemasonry speaks only one language it is the language of Humanity. Its teachings embody truths and principles universally recognized as those which ennoble men. These truths are not new truths nor are they the discovery or monopoly of Freemasonry but the more known truth has been, the more often has it been ignored and neglected.
There is an old Indian Story about Truth. It seems that in ancient times a brash young warrior sought the hand of a beautiful princess. The king, her father told him that he could only marry the princess once he had found Truth. So the young warrior set out on a quest for Truth. He went to temples and monasteries, to mountain tops where sages meditated and to forest and river banks where holy men lived a reclusive life. But nowhere could he find truth.One day while during his travails in the forest he found a dark cave. There in the darkness was an old woman- fragile , disheveled hairs , skin hanging in folds, teeth broken and breath heavy. She greeted him and said I know what you are looking for. They talked all night and with each word she spoke, the warrior realized he had come to the end of his quest. She was Truth. With the break of dawn the young man prepared to return to claim his bride said to the old lady, “Now that I have found the truth , what should I tell the King about you.?” She smiled , “ Tell them that I am young and beautiful.” So Truth is not always true. But that does not mean Truth does not exist.
We live in an age of change, an age of experiment. We are no more satisfied with what we have but must forever be seeking something new, something different – ever restless, ever discontent. We want a short-cut to everything to knowledge , to culture, to success. We have therefore, substituted computerized data for knowledge, capsule information for culture and we want to get to the top of the ladder of success in a helicopter; as climbing it rung by rung appears to us too slow and laborious. To do this we have jettisoned our moral values as so much useless ballast. The first casualties have been integrity and a moral conscience. The cynical attitude displayed everywhere today fills one with alarm. The old virtues are despised as old-fashioned and out-dated , and an honest man is looked upon as an object of pity for being an unpractical fool, unacquainted with the ways of the world, deserving to be a failure in life. More than ever are these lines of the poet T.S. Elliot written in 1934 i.e. 80 years ago true today:
Endless invention, endless experiment
Bring knowledge of motion, but not of stillness,
Knowledge of speech but not of silence
Knowledge of words but ignorance of theworld
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance
Where is the life that we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
Being a Mason means much more than simply belonging to another organization that is respected in the community. Freemasonry is much, much more than just another association where you hear fine sounding lectures and forget them. Each of us is responsible for sharing our time , not only in the Lodge but beyond it. Each of us is responsible for the use of our abilities and possessions for the benefit of the Lodge, the Craft and the world at large. If the fundamental principles of Freemasonry are observed , our abilities, time and possessions will be expended for the benefit of mankind and our masonry will be meaningful. Herein lies the challenge of Freemasonry in the midst of changing society in the 21st century. Let us accept the challenge and let our Masonic principles live.
Each one of us individually is like a drop in the ocean of Freemasonry. If that little drop is removed from that ocean it simply evaporates. It looses its identity but that little drop in the ocean is a part of the mighty ocean and is respected as such.
Freemasonry is the friend of peace. It believes that the seeds of justice are sown in peace and that concord, harmony and peace, not only among individual but also among lodges, constitutions, nations, countries, indeed the whole world is the basic tenet of masonry. It has always exercised its influence for ending discord and restoring peace and harmony.
Life is governed by options and choices. We have become Freemasons by choice. So let us honor the spirit of Freemasonry in us. Embrace the Freemason within us. To paraphrase the famous statement of Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet “Grapple the Freemason in us to our souls with hoops of steel”
Doing things effectively is the natural way of doing things. If you see nature at work , you will see least effort is expended. Grass does not try to grow, it grows. Fish don’t try to swim, they just swim. Flowers don’t try to bloom, they bloom, they blossom. This is their intrinsic nature. Natures intelligence functions effortlessly, frictionlessly, spontaneously. You are in harmony with nature when your actions are motivated by values.
When your actions are motivated by values, your energy multiplies and accumulates. When you seek power and control over other people, You waste energy.
Values and only values can help us to withstand the chaos -political, social and economical turbulence that are inevitable. To learn and live with the chaos and uncertainty, to try to be comfortable with it and not look for certainty where we wont get it. The great and more satisfying thing in life is a sense of purpose beyond one’s self. Our journey is towards the calm eye of the centre which represents the values we stand for.
The Grand Master of the Universe has entrusted to us the principles of Masonry as working tools. These belong to the lodge of the world. We are to use them that He may have pleasure and the Craft of humanity may profit thereby.
There is a beautiful poem by Pablo Neruda, a world famous Chilean poet , a Nobel Laureate having won the Nobel prize in Literature in 1971.
You have given me brotherhood towards the man I do not know;
You have given me the added strength of all those living (in brotherhood);
You showed me how one man’s pain could die in the victory of all;
You have made me indestructible, for I no longer end in myself.