Mayor welcomes Hindu pontiff
Shree Shree Sugunendra Teertha Swamiji is hosted in Keysborough, NIKITA KULKARNI and MOHAN THITE report
Mick Morland, Mayor of the City of Casey, was so taken by Hindu pontiff Shree Shree Sugunendra Teertha Swamiji when they met at Keysborough a few months ago, that he promised to throw a function in his honour when he next visited Australia.
True to his word, he accorded the much-loved Swamiji a mayoral reception when he returned to Melbourne in early October.
Swamiji was recognised for his efforts towards world peace and his achievements through the years, in the Council Chambers of the City of Casey Civic Centre.
In attendance were Councillors of the City of Casey and many from the Indian community, for whom it was an honour to be in the presence of the head of the Puttige matha (monastic establishment) in Udupi, Karnataka.
His Holiness attended in full traditional attire, wearing the saffron robes, the wooden paduka as sandals, and gopi-chandan (sandalwood paste) on his person.
He also carried the tridanda in his hand – a wooden staff covered in holy cloth and made up of three components, one each for kama, krodha and lobha (passion, anger and greed, representing the three vices that monks of his stature are said to have gained control over.)
It is not often that the head of a Hindu matha comes visiting. In fact, it is actually frowned upon for Hindus to ‘cross the oceans’.
With over 30 million NRIs and many more millions visiting abroad regularly, this edict is perhaps practiced more in breach than in adherence; yet, it is still the case that Swamijis from very old religious institutions rarely, if at all, go overseas.
Swami Sugunendra however, has always thought otherwise: he believes that his primary mission in life is to go where the devotees are, and offer spiritual advice and support.
Amidst stiff opposition from fellow Swamijis and some in the community, he started making regular overseas visits many years ago.
Today, he is the President of the World Conference on Religion and Peace; has spoken at the UN and met every major head of state; has interacted with university students in many countries, and leads some 35 religious and spiritual institutions in India and abroad.
In line with his belief that the whole world, not just India, is a holy land and that devotees, no matter where they are, deserve to be served, he has set up three Krishna temples in the USA and one in Canada and has kindly agreed to start a religious and spiritual centre in Melbourne.
Thanks to the valiant efforts of Sri Raghavendra Seva Samiti (SRSS) in Melbourne, SS Sugunendra Theertha Swamiji has visited Australia regularly in recent years, meeting devotees in Perth, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne.
Described as a “moving encyclopaedia” of Indian philosophy and religious texts, Swamiji has been a promoter and teacher of non-violence for long.
For him, spirituality is a tool which can be used positively to overcome personal or societal problems.
As he talks and writes about current world predicaments whether in security, in economics, in governance or in ecology, he asks for our lives to be imbued with a Spiritual Quotient (SQ) over and above an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and an Emotional Quotient.
At the mayoral reception, he said, “My message of Universal Brotherhood is better understood when we feel the presence of the Almighty in every creature.
This therefore calls for mutual respect and concern among living beings beyond frontiers.”
“Swamiji’s visit benefits Australia as we here in Victoria alone have more than 120 different cultures and religions,” the Mayor said on the occasion.
“These cultures and religions enlighten us and we are able to learn about them further. We, as a community, are able to celebrate our diversity. By honouring Swamiji, we are able to honour and celebrate the diversity between us.”
The experience left all those present, humbled and blessed.