The theme of this afternoon meet hosted by our Ahmediya friends is Peace. I respect their deep sense of piety and admire their quest for peace in a world that seems so intent on staying conflicted.

The Sikh Gurus also spoke intensely about the suffering of the innocent caught in the midst of wars and invasions. They felt deeply for the weak and the vulnerable. They cried at anguish of the woman waiting for the return of her husband who never did make it back because some arrow or bullet had his name written on it.

They also felt that the cause of most conflicts lay in the degradation of our moral values and that God chooses to punish those who fall in their conduct. True, but then they asked of the forgiving, kind and loving God ‘Did the wails of the suffering innocent, who got caught in the cross fire not kindle compassion in Thine heart?

Aiti maar paiyee karlaanai tain kee dard neh ayyaa

What can we do for peace? We can talk. Talking always helps. At least as long as we are talking we will not kill or maim somebody. But if we talk wrong we can hurt and if that hurt does not go away we can end up in a fight. So let our talk be in love – sweet, gentle and reassuring.

Mithat neevee naanakaa gun changyayan tat

Let us also try and control our own exclusionary propensities. Let us try and include and get included, more involved where we live – with people around us. Let us try and help these small circles of harmony expand, and grow. These are the nuclei of Guru Arjan’s vision of halemi raj – all inspired by a shared desire to catalyze little changes for the better – within and around us.

Let us also remember and keep reminding the powerful that the real victory is in averting conflict, not in subduing the enemy.

In a rambling conversation when representatives of our hosts who graciously visited with me to invite me to this evening, I mentioned about the itinerancy of varying interests that had characterized my life, they thought I should share that in some way. I agonized but could not think how except to say that in every case God helped me to stop when I felt I was still doing good and move on before I could shatter the dream that I thought I was living.

Societal harmony too is like a fragile dream. It is so easy to snap out of it. I have seen it happen – perhaps too often. So cherish it. Tend it. Protect it and seek God’s divine kirpa – mercy and grace – to guide how to keep it going. The old paradigms may not work – think afresh of new, simpler, direct ways that touch rather than teach. Do your best. And if you can not change the world, do not worry. At least you did not shatter any dreams!

Remember too that people like me do get carried away by inanities. Now that is not what is expected of an invited speaker but as the poet Ghalib said

bak raha hoon  janoon main kya kya kuchh, kuchh neh samjhai khuda karai koee

I don’t know in my passion what insanities I am uttering. Pray God none can make head or tail of my raving!

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