A Flashback of the Awards Over the Years
“It is our faith in the Divine that permits us to freely embrace the whole of humanity in a warm embrace of love and respect for their dignity and freedom”
– Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios
It is this vision that defines a man. And great men leave behind a legacy of their vision which continues to inspire millions in eons to come. Widely respected as one of the world’s greatest scholars of all religions and a tireless champion of inter-faith understanding, Metropolitan Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios was blessed with many gifts, which he shared abundantly with the world. His most substantial gift was one of vision and foresight. In a world increasingly bereft of love and compassion, Dr. Gregorios’ vision of accepting and respecting differences of faith continue to lead many towards greater understanding.
Continuing the legacy of his spiritual, theological and philosophical insights to the world, the Indian Orthodox Church honours those exceptional people who are firmly rooted in their beliefs and principles, yet have transcended their culture and their personalities to work for the fulfilment of the will of God for all humanity. In its very heart, the award is intended to honour those who contributed to peace, justice and wisdom-ideals for which Mar Gregorios lived and worked for. In their work and commitment, the awardees have echoed Dr. Gregorios’ vision “to serve others and not to seek one’s own interest. Live for the good of others and pursue not perishable gold or worldly glory.”
The fields chosen for this international award in the past were: inter-faith dialogue and cooperation, education, holistic health practices and community self-renewal. The theme and the award are in the spirit of the celebration of the oneness of the human family as well as a call to persons of goodwill to express their spirituality through individual and collective ethical action. The previous year’s awardees are:
FOR INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE AND CO-OPERATION
His Holiness the Dalai Lama was presented the Paulos Mar Gregorios Award in 1997 for his exemplary contribution to inter-faith dialogue and religious harmony. His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Mathews II, the Catholicos of the East, head of the Indian Orthodox Church, presented the award to the Buddhist spiritual leader.
His Holiness has emerged as one of the greatest men of our time, a world leader and a figure of great moral authority, who has been a rare example in launching a non-violent struggle for the rights of the Tibetan people.
A dear friend of Mar Gregorios, the Dalai Lama has devoted his entire life to the furthering of the well-being of humanity. He has travelled all over the world sharing his message of universal responsibility and compassion. A spokesman for peace and a champion of human values, his message of compassion has touched the hearts of countless men and women, for whom he is a source of hope and courage.
One of His Holiness’ great contributions to the world has been his dedication to non-violence, during the long struggle of the Tibetan people for their rights and freedom. He has been greatly inspired by the life-long struggles of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. Acknowledging that we live in a period of great crisis, his message is that of hope, without which it is not possible to find security and harmony between people. And his example has inspired people in every part of the globe in their own aspirations for freedom. In his view of the world, the Dalai Lama has always emphasised the inter-dependence of all the elements of the universe: how we are all deeply connected with one another and with our environment. The heart of His Holiness’ message is how we can train our mind-that is, transforming our attitudes and ways of thinking by training the mind to discover inner peace.
Accepting the Paulos Mar Gregorios Award, The Dalai Lama in his speech underlined the importance of promoting spirituality in this technological era for the inner peace and holistic sanctity of humanity. He stressed that religion, by nurturing values such as love, tolerance and compassion, should strive to eliminate divisions and conflicts in society. A living example of tolerance and forbearance, the Dalai Lama’s message of plurality and diversity grows more important and relevant as each day goes by. In many ways, the award honoured not just the man but also the sincere motivation of altruism that his very being embodies.
FOR COMMUNITY SELF-RENEWAL
Acknowledging his extraordinary and dynamic leadership in being the architect of the ‘White Revolution’ in India, Dr. Verghese Kurien was awarded the Paulos Mar Gregorios Award in 1999 by His Excellency Shri. K. R. Narayanan, the late President of India.
A recipient of the 1989 World Food Prize, Dr. Kurien is credited with designing ‘Operation Flood’- the largest dairy development programme in the world. Dr. Kurien evolved a model of cooperative dairy development and engineered the White Revolution in India, making India the largest producer of milk in the world.
The innovation for which Dr. Verghese Kurien received international acclaim was not a mere scientific discovery but was his foresight in recognising that feeding the world’s citizens includes breakthroughs in effective management of production and distribution strategies. In collaboration with farmers, cooperative managers, and public officials, Dr. Kurien successfully established a dairy programme across India known as ‘Operation Flood’ that, between 1970 and 1996, allowed dairy farmers to own and operate milk production, processing and marketing for the urban areas of the country. Dr. Kurien’s entire career has been dedicated to streamlining these strategies with the skills and knowledge of rural and small-scale producers, for which he has been lauded as “one of the world’s great agricultural leaders of this century.”
Dr. Kurien’s greatest achievement lay in the way in which he revived Amul, a failing organization when he started his journey, to a company that has spiralled as one of the largest and most successful institutions in India. The Amul pattern of cooperatives had been so successful that Dr. Kurien set up NDDB (National Dairy Development Board) to replicate it across India.
For his tireless efforts in the sphere of dairy production, Dr. Kurien has been honoured with numerous national and international awards. The most notable are India’s highest civilian awards-the Padmashri (1965) and the Padma Bhushan (1966), the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (1963), the Krishi Ratna Award (1986), the Wateler Peace Prize Award of Carnegie Foundation (1986), the World Food Prize Award (1989), the International Person of the Year by the World Dairy Expo (1993), Ordre du Merite Agricole by the Government of France (1997), and the Padma Vibhushan (1999). Known as the ‘Father of the White Revolution’ and also as the ‘Milkman of India’, Dr. Kurien has received over 15 honourary degrees from universities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and India.
In Dr. Kurien, the Paulos Mar Gregorios Award honoured 60 years of ongoing dedication of a man in his dream of improving the practice and teaching of effective food distribution. Through his path-breaking foresight and invaluable contribution to the society, Dr. Kurien continued to educate and inspire food producers around the world till he breathed his last on 9 September 2012 due to brief illness at Anand. Dr. Verghese Kurien will always be remembered as the person who redefined the meaning of milk as a powerful tool for economic development.
FOR HOLISTIC MEDICINE
Dr. P. K. Warrier, the chief physician of the Kottakkal Arya Vaidyasala of Kerala, was selected for the third Paulos Mar Gregorios Award in 2001 for his outstanding contribution to indigenous systems of medicines, especially Ayurveda. The award was presented by His Excellency Shri. K. R. Narayanan, the late President of India.
A man of vision and action, Panniyampilly Krishna Warrier is an exponent of holistic medicine. His life-ling personal goal has been to take Ayurveda to the status of principal health care system all over the world. And his success lies in his steadfast focus on research, development and holistic health care that has made Kottackal a synonym for authentic Ayurveda. Under his able stewardship, the Arya Vaidya Sala (AVS) in Kottackal has evolved as India’s premier Ayurvedic treatment and research centre. Dr. Warrier has nurtured it as a vigorous, scientific system of health care that is capable of meeting all challenges emerging in the field of advanced medicine.
As the head of India’s foremost Ayurvedic institution and as a person actively engaged in the study of science, Dr. Warrier’s aim has been to further his mission of popularising Ayurveda and reaching out to those suffering from all kinds of health problems. An ardent advocate of medical ethics, he strongly disapproves all tendencies for medical practitioners to transgress their legally permitted fields of practice and ethics. He has opposed all trends to commercialise Ayurveda, never compromising his principles.
While practicing and propagating Ayurveda as a scientific system of healthcare, Dr. Warrier has also been a strong supporter of the World health Organisation’s Alma Ata Declaration, which advocates the importance of Co-operative efforts in the field of medicine. His committed support for the Alma Ata Declaration has won him universal respect and acclaim. In recognition of his unique academic achievements, the University of Calicut conferred the degree of D. Litt on him. He is also the recipient of the coveted ‘Padmashri’ instituted by the Government of India, the International Bhoopalman Singh Award from Nepal, the prestigious Dhanvanthari Award and the ‘Management Leadership Award’ instituted by Kerala Management Association (KMA).
The Paulos Mar Gregorios award celebrated the extraordinary success of Dr. P. K. Warrier, achieved through his dynamic action and stimulated by an almost missionary zeal to reach out to the ailing and suffering millions. The altruistic journey of this single man, spanning almost half century, has transformed the way the world perceived medicine at large and understood Ayurveda in particular.
FOR CREATIVE COMPASSION
The fourth Paulos Mar Gregorios Award was conferred upon a man whom Gandhi described as a “fearless warrior”. For his courageous optimism and selfless serving of the poor people suffering from leprosy, Dr. Baba Amte was the recipient of the award in 2005. Presented by the Honourable Vice President of India, Shri. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the award was accepted by Dr. Amte’s son on his behalf.
Murlidhar Devdas Amte, popularly known as Baba Amte was a social activist who dedicated his entire life for the rehabilitation and empowerment of the needy. Born into a wealthy family, Dr. Amte renounced all the pleasures that he could get at his beck and call, including a lucrative profession, to accept a spartan life of selfless service to the poor and helpless. A trained lawyer, Amte’s social conscience was moulded by his active involvement in India’s freedom movement. Acting as a defense lawyer for the Indian leaders whom the British authorities had imprisoned in the 1942 Quit India Movement, Amte came in contact those exemplary men and women who dared to dream of an independent and sovereign India. Deeply influenced by the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Amte imbibed the aspects of Gandhism in the various aspects of his worthy life. He believed that those who want to bring about a creative revolution must fully understand the root phenomenon of the power of the youth in bringing about a change in the world.
Living in a time when leprosy was considered as an incurable disease, there was a great deal of social stigma associated with those suffering from this disease. There was also a widespread misbelief that leprosy was contagious. A young Amte embarked on a singular social crusade against such disowning of its people by the society. Dr. Amte’s life-long efforts have been to dispel these beliefs and demand respect for these patients in the society. People touched by the love of this great man will recall how once allowed bacilli from a leprosy patient to be injected into him while participating in an experimental test aimed at proving that leprosy was not contagious. Baba Amte formed Anandvan (Forest of Joy), to serve and lice with the people struck by leprosy. For his unparalleled spirit of fighting against leprosy, Gandhi had conferred on Amte the title of Abhayasadhak (A Fearless Aspirant).
Recognising his message of universal love and compassion Baba Amte was conferred with numerous national as well as international awards. These included the United Nations Human Rights Prize, the Padma Shri (1971), the Krishi Ratna (1981), the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1985), the Padma Vibhusahn (1986), the Templeton Prize (1990), the Gandhi Peace Prize (1999) among the many other humanitarian and environmental awards.
In a journey that spanned several decades, Amte founded three ashrams for the treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients, disabled people and those people from marginalised sections of the society in the state of Maharashtra. Two years after receiving the Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios Award, Dr. Amte left for his heavenly abode in 2008.
The entire Amte family, including his wife Sadhana Guleshastri, sons Vikas and Prakash and two daughters-in-laws Mandakini and Bharati, have been supporting Dr. Amte’s social work with equal dedication. They continue to steadfastly carry forward his legacy of love, with his philosophy of compassion in its heart:
“I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see;
I sought my God, but my god eluded me;
I sought my sisters and brothers and found all three.”
A crusader of social issues, a fearless fighter and an unassuming leader-words are insufficient to describe the incredible journey of this man. The Paulos Mar Gregorios Award was a gesture to honour the untiring spirit of this one man, whose legacy of love continues to echo in the hearts of many thousands whom his compassion has touched.
Each Paulos Mar Gregorios Award is a milestone in the journey that the world takes in honouring the blessed memory of Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios, the Gifted.
FOR INTERFAITH DIALOGUE AND CULTURE
The fifth Paulos Mar Gregorios Award was conferred upon Dr. Karan Singh Inder Mahendra Bahadur on 23rd April 2010 by the President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. Dr Karan Singh is recognized as an outstanding thinker and leader as well as an acclaimed author on political science, philosophy, travel and poetry.
He was born on March 9, 1931 to the then ruler of J & K. He did his schooling from Doon School in Dehra Dun, his B.A. from Sri Pratap Singh College, Srinagar and his M.A. in political Science from Delhi University. He received his Ph.D. from Delhi University for his thesis on Sri Aurobindo, “Prophet of Indian Nationalism”.
In 1949, at the age of 18, he was appointed as the regent of J & K after his father stepped down as the king, following the state’s accession to India. He served successfully as regent, Sadr-i-Riyasat and governor from 1965-67. Dr Singh was the youngest Cabinet Minister when he joined the Union Government in 1967 as the minister for tourism and civil aviation from 1967-73. He was then minister of health and family planning from 1973-77 and minister of education and culture in 1979-80. He served as ambassador to the US in 1990-91. From 1967-80, and in 1990, Karan Singh served as a Lok Sabha MP. Since 1996, he had been an MP in the Rajya Sabha. He served as chancellor of Banaras Hindu University, Jammu and Kashmir University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. He was the Chairman of the Central Sanskrit Board, President of the Authors Guild of India, the Commonwealth Society of India and the Delhi Music Society. He was President of the India International Centre, is Chairman of the Auroville Foundation and member of the UNESCO International Commission on Education for the twenty-first Century. He is Vice Chairman of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, Chairman of the Temple of Understanding, a major global Inter-faith association.
Dr Karan Singh has received honorary doctorates from the Banaras Hindu University, Aligarh Muslim University and Soka University, Tokyo. He is member of the prestigious Club of Rome and the Club of Budapest and is a lifelong conservationist, having been Chairman of the Indian Board of Wildlife and head of “Project Tiger” and many other environmental institutions. He is Co-Chairman of the World Commission on Global Consciousness & Spirituality.
Since 2005, he has been the President of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations and he is keen to open several new cultural centres worldwide, in addition to the existing 20 abroad.
His scholarly statesmanship has distinguished him in the national and international arena too. Drawing inspirations from Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, he emerged as a devotee of the rich heritage of our country and Vedic literature.
His fascinating Autobiography, his book on Sri Aurobindo entitled Prophet of Indian Nationalism, important collections of his writings entitled One Man’s World and India and the World and his Essays on Hinduism have been widely acclaimed. He has composed and recited devotional songs in his mother tongue, Dogri, and is a connoisseur of Indian classical music. He has represented India at many international conferences.
His outstanding achievements have brought him many national and international awards. Singh received the Padma Vibhushan in 2005, the second highest civilian award in India. The Paulos Mar Gregorios Award 2010 for outstanding contribution in the fields of Public life, inter-faith dialogue and culture is the latest.
FOR COMMUNITY UPLIFTMENT
Ms. Aruna Roy and the MKSS were honoured by conferring the sixth Paulos Mar Gregorios Award on 28 July 2019 by Shri. Pranab Mukherjee, the former President of India.
Aruna Roy, is a socio-political activist and Founder-Member MKSS and NCPRI, and the School for Democracy. She was with the IAS from 1968-1975. In 1975 she came to Ajmer District, Rajasthan to work with the rural poor. In 1987 she moved to live with the poor in a village in Devdungri, Rajsamand District in Rajasthan. In 1990 she was part of the group that set up the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). She has worked for accessing constitutional rights for the poor – Right to Information, Employment, food Security etc. She was a member of the National Advisory Council from 2004-06, 2010-13 and 2014. She was a member of the steering committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) till 2014. She is President of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW). She was the 2016 Professor of Practice at McGill University ISID, Montreal, Canada, and the 2016 George Soros Visiting Practitioner Chair in CEU, Budapest. Awards include the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2000, the Nani Palkiwala Award and the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award. She was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by the TIME Magazine for 2011.
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, (MKSS) is a People’s Organisation and part of the growing Non-party political process in India. The MKSS works with workers and peasants in the villages of Central Rajasthan. It was set up by the people of the area in 1990 to strengthen participatory democratic processes, so that ordinary citizens could live their lives with dignity and justice. The organisation was born out of a struggle for community land held illegally by a feudal landlord. The subsequent struggle for minimum wages made it evident to the people, that transparency and accountability of systems of governance are basic to access any right. It became clear that access to relevant information is a fundamental tool for ensuring transparency and accountability of the government, and of all bodies that affect public interest.In 1987, Aruna Roy along with Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh and others founded the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan. The MKSS began by attempting to understand root causes and reasons for the non-payment of wages to workers employed by the government on works under departments including the public works department. In the search for these reasons, the MKSS found that any information they asked for was denied to them. Thus, the demand for transparency, accountability, and redressal through social audit (physical audit by the people), began to take shape. The first Public Hearing the MKSS organised in December 1994 established the importance of information for the people, and exposed the official opposition to disclosure of records. This flagged off the struggle for the people’s Right to Information.
Thought for the Month
The Silver Lining in the Cloud
“Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those
that tell of saddest thought.”
-Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to a Skylark
As we anxiously labour under the cloud of COVID-19, we wonder when this virus will be eradicated, and what precisely is God’s intend in all this. And with the infection showing no signs of abatement, the situation becomes a fertile ground for all kinds of doomsday predictions. Amidst all this, when we raise our eyes to God for answers, we are reminded that there are no accidents with God; in fact, for those who trust and have faith in Him, all things work for good. As St. Paul writes,” We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Therefore, we have faith that God’s purpose which we cannot understand is working even in the midst of this viral infection to bring about a transformed heaven and a transformed earth. So, we ask ourselves the question: can any good come out of all this? For those with an abiding trust in God’s love, the response will surely be a categorical “Yes”! And so, while the cloud still hovers over us, we look for the proverbial silver lining that points to God continuing to work in these troubled times. Let us look at some of them.
- A Closer Walk with God: At no other point in the liturgical calendar of the Church is there the awareness of God’s proximity than during the Lent. The fast, the selected readings from the Holy Scriptures, the special services and meditations, all create in us an experience that we are walking closer with God. In fact, for some members the Lent is like a spiritual dry cell, for they appear to store up a divine energy, for we never see them in the Church for the rest of the year! The viral infection has only intensified this experience, for we are at one stroke impressed with our mortality and sense that God alone can remove this sickness, a theme that is reiterated in the hymns and prayers of this period. Burdened as we are with a deep sense of helplessness, we have now turned to God with the conviction that He alone can save us from this situation. It is true that we have been deprived of our freedom to worship God in our churches. But that too deeply impresses upon us what we took for granted, that the joy of our Christian fellowship that follows our corporate worship on Sundays is also a gift from God. All this has only made profound our prayers as we raise up our feeble hands to God for salvation, not only from this virus, but also from the disease of sin. Yes, our prayers become more poignant because we now pray with a conviction that God alone can save us from our dreadful situation. Now in the confines of our homes and out of sight of others, we now raise our spiritual worship (Rom 12:1) to God, in a way finding truth in the promise of Christ that when we pray in secret, our heavenly Father will see us in secret and reward our prayers (St Mt 6:6). In a way, the loss of public worship in our churches has been ameliorated by a deep personal proximity to God, an experience we would not have attained without the presence of this virus. Truly, our sense that our entire being is being permeated by the love and presence of God is a blessed outcome of our predicament.
- Retrieving the Tradition of Family Prayers: But that is not all! What about a tradition that all but disappeared from our homes, what with its fast-changing social mores. For once the veracity of the old adage, that a family that prays together, stays together is driven home with a strong conviction. The deprivation of church services now serves to bring the family together around the feet of God and there as a family we begin to renew a closeness that was rarely seen before. The family is truly the undergirding unit of the parish, the place where God is first experienced, where prayer life is taught and a new generation finds its roots in God and the Church. Devoid of this foundational spiritual bedrock, our young men and women become easy prey to new-found spiritual groups who teach instant spirituality. Now that tradition that had been consigned to oblivion has once more become a feature our family life as they gather together to pray, or even just to view the services on the YouTube. Somewhere in that process I am sure the family will find the chance to pray together. Perhaps, this enforced quarantine will have the salutary consequence of retrieving the tradition of family prayers so that it will become a perduring feature of our families.
An observation that will be made is that most of these services are in Malayalam and so remain unintelligible to many of our young men and women. Allow me to share my experience. I too grew up with little knowledge of my mother tongue. But that was not an impediment for my participation in the family prayers in my grandparents’ home. Even though I couldn’t understand them, the deep sense of being in prayer was always present. And I learned most of these prayers by heart as a result of these daily prayers. Today, they have become meaningful, as they are a rich source of my own prayer life. That, too, I pray will result from this coerced family prayer meetings. And it is when families experience difficulties that they draw closer together, a bond that will preserve their unity and cohesiveness well into the future.
- Regaining the Joy of Family Communications: Surely, there will come a time during this period when we tire of staring at the TV or being engaged with our handsets. And so, we will be forced to engage in talk with family members. Family members talking to each other is another casualty of our communication technological explosion. The paradox is that even as we spend more time in talking to friends and being engaged on social media sites, we rarely talk to family members, even at home. Now out of necessity we indulge in talking to one another. As the days pass, our conversation progresses from small talk to sharing our life stories, so that the bonds that keep a family together are strengthened. Fathers are able to spend quality time with their children and it is my hope that husbands and wives will also talk to each other. In fact, I hope that family members will put aside their handsets so that they can all come together to spend time in talking and sharing their life experiences.
One certain outcome of this lockdown is that families are compelled to have meals together. This used to be a welcome part of growing up in a family. But with the fractured life we lead, families are not always able to come together for meals. Now for a change all come together to share meals as a family. And the experience of sharing a meal as a family now become once more a happy occasion for all to talk and laugh over a good and delicious meal. Our nostalgic recollections should include such reminiscences of the family in later times, so that they can bring a wistful smile of delight to our faces.
- Managing with What We Have: The virtual curfew imposed all over the country has disrupted supply channels so that we have had to curtail our consumption to what is necessary or essential. Because we cannot avail of all what we wish for we are learning to manage with what is essential. What is prepared at home is carefully done so that we have cut down the waste. I recall my childhood days when every part of a pumpkin was served as some dish or other, without diminishing its taste. And there was little to waste, considering the food chain that was a regular feature of our homes in Kerala. Here in the NCR a whole new generation has grown up experiencing a life-style that minimises sacrifice and sharing. Most families enjoy a comfortable financial situation here in the NCR (this can be contested, but I offer this as a relative statement) which allows for a wider range of spending by the upcoming generation. In our changed circumstances there are the demands now for a changed pattern of living which places limits on what is spent, the food eaten and so forth. If nothing else, this upcoming generation will learn that controlling consumption is a virtue that needs to be cultivated. It is also a valuable experience for parents to impose some control, all aimed at enabling the family to become a happy, enriching and valuable learning experience for all.
- Sharing What We Have: The fasts of the Lenten season are not meant to be a goal in Itself, but an exercise in sharing what we have. Thus, the money saved by abstaining from food is to be collected and donated for the relief of those who are financially disadvantaged. Thereby, we learn the art of sacrificing and sharing what we have with others. This is an important lesson of the Lenten season. The onus is on the believer to find out those in need and to share a part of what God has given us with others. We live in a context where our unlimited consumption creates no compunctions in us. At least for a time, the sense that we have extravagantly utilised our assets should compel us to evaluate our life-style and see where we can sacrifice and share our assets with others. We should recall the observation of St. Paul, “In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus , for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to giver than to receive’ (Acts 20.35).”
If at the end of all this lockdown we could all so benefit from our difficulties, would that not be a welcome experience? Then, we could surely share the sentiments of Shelley which appears at the beginning of this article. Let us pray that this period will be a time of healing and learning to see the silver lining in the cloud of COVID-19.
Met. Dr. Youhanon Mar Demetrios