How many of you are aware that World over, Universal Brotherhood Day is observed on 11th September every year. It marks the commemoration of Swami Vivekananda’s famous speech delivered on 11th September 1893 in Chicago to the delegates of the World Parliament of Religions. That speech is popularly remembered for its opening words – ‘Brothers and Sisters of America.’ It was believed to be rather a short speech of five hundred words only. But its impact was instantaneous. It is said that after hearing those opening words, the entire assembly gave him an extended standing ovation. In a way it was a divine act, in the sense that he was the chosen medium to deliver the IDEA whose time had come. And that idea was “the idea of FATHERHOOD OF GOD AND BROTHERHOOD OF MEN” and that concept of UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD is believed to have originated from our Masonic Preachings.
We, however, celebrate the “Masonic” Universal Brotherhood Day on 24th June every year to commemorate the formation of the Grand Lodge of England, when Freemasonry in its present form took shape 303 years ago on this date in the year 1717. It was at the VII World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges held at Santiago, Chile in June 2004, the then present GRAND LODGES unanimously decided to designate 24th June, each year (day of Summer Solstice) as the “UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD DAY”. From then onwards, this day is being celebrated every year all over the Masonic world, as a mark of proof to the Brethren that brotherhood is beyond all barriers of language, constitution, creed, state or country. The Masonic celebrations have ranged from entertainment and dinner meetings to charities to some serious seminars, symposium and Divine Service. Different Lodges in different Countries celebrate this day differently, but with the sole Aim of agreeing and reiterating the concept of “Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Men.”
Freemasons also celebrate the Feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24th, which is rather a curious thing for a non-sectarian group to do. Freemasons historically acknowledges St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist as their patron Saints, revere their memory, point to their exemplary lives in its ritualistic work and dedicate their Lodges to both those Saints. St. John the Baptist was zealous, while St. John the Evangelist was learned and by picking both of them as Patron Saints, Masons symbolically unite both passion and reason. This is basically the lesson, which needs to be learned and promoted today and then every day. This day reminds us to be passionate and reasonable in our day to day conduct. Brethren, based on the lives of these Saints, Universal Brotherhood Day mainly aims to spread the message of peace and harmony amongst all.
Brethren, Freemasonry as you all are aware has no dogma or theology. It offers no sacraments. It teaches that it is important for every man to have a religion of his own choice and to be faithful to it, in thoughts, words and deeds. As a result, men of different religions meet in “fellowship and brotherhood” under the fatherhood of God. A good Mason is made even more faithful to the tenets of his faith by his membership in the Lodge. This basic concept, we acknowledge and strengthen again this day. Universal brotherhood is a concept to think the whole world as your own family. It teaches us to Help others, love others, save others and empathise with them, without thinking what benefit we will get from others. Do all those good things for others, that you expect others should do for you. Brethren, think for the betterment of the society today and every day.
Masons believe in the concept that all people all over the world are related to each other as a family, and are basically the same at the basic human level. When our differences in language, religion, politics, race, colour, wealth, et al are stripped away, we are all in reality bothers (and sisters) to each other. As such we owe each other mutual respect, love and help. Similarly each of us deserves mutual recognition from every other person on Earth. We learn that we are equals and every one of us deserves the same basic human rights. Today on this day, we reiterate that philosophy.
Though sociable by nature, human beings often stand completely divided. They do not mix up with each other freely due to narrow prejudices. As a result, there is often a lack of mutual love and sympathy, hence no reciprocal respect. Lack of respect breeds distrust, which ultimately culminates in hatred and consequent violence all around, alienating man from man. We all observe that Loss of love and respect is, therefore, the root cause of shocking crash of human values and eventually erupts into the ugly form of tension, discord and suffering. To arrest all the human maladies, our Masonic Mission says, that we have to reverse the gear from violence to love and peace, from distrust to respect, by further realizing that the Fatherhood of God is at the core of our teaching, the by-products of which is, of course, the spontaneous brother-hood of mankind.
My Brethren, though God is invisible, yet it is all concrete, a cosmic force unifying the whole universe. Our teaching vouchsafes that it is possible to realize the prospect of a WORLD FAMILY (VASUDHEV KUTUMBHAKAM) with the unifying bond of love and unity amongst its members in the wake of Realisation of Fatherhood of God only. The Apostles laboured hard, the Martyrs died in torment, the Scholars and the Scientists proclaimed the beauties of higher life, the Sociologists untiringly inculcated the sense of duties of good citizen, the Philosophers pioneered sublime thoughts, and all of them have agreed that God is One and that man’s first duty is to realize that fact and be One with Him. This is the key to what we describe as the concept of the Universal Brotherhood. With this firmly in view, we realise that Universal Brotherhood is not a hollow slogan, but for each one of us is a way of life. It is not a Gospel merely to be preached by word, it is an essential part of our daily conduct and behaviour.
My brethren, following the philosophy of the Great Sage Swami Vivekananda we the masons believe that all religions, caste, creed and societies are one; that there is primarily only one FACT-THAT OF LOVE AND UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD. His ADVAITIK experience enabled him to teach us that the one Cosmic Consciousness is the ATMAN, pervading every living being and even every LIFELESS thing. This Vedantic Vision gives a new meaning to our life. All of us must realise that we are born equal and will remain equal through out our life, irrespective of our acquired or inherited riches and achievements. This is what we should reiterate on this day. This will be our true homage to one of the greatest freemason belonging to our Institution.
We in Freemasonry firmly believe in the concept of “Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Man”. Having said so, a question arises as to what does one mean by “Universal Brotherhood”? A true Freemason is not creed bound, nor he is caste bound nor is he religion bound. It has been said that a Freemason believes only in the Supreme Light and not who carries the light. When he bows at the altar inside the Masonic temple, he bows at all the religions that the religious books represent. At that juncture I don’t think that anybody would think that he is bowing only at the Shrimad Bhagwat Gita or only at the holy Quran or only the Bible. For a Freemason, it is the thought, not the theatre that is important. Thus, Universal brotherhood is a Divine Thought and we all act physically in the earthly theatre in promoting that thought.
My Brethren, the altar of Freemasonry brings together all kinds of people. Inside the Masonic temple we all are Freemasons, not a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or a Sikh or a Parsi. Having accepted that fact within the Lodge, it is but logical that outside the Lodge also, we should behave so. But unfortunately, sometimes we do not. Outside the temple we again become a caste and creed bound human being. I always wonder as to why is it so? The obvious answer is that the concept of Universal Brotherhood as contemplated in Freemasonry has not fully percolated into our narrow dogmatic mind. Today is the time to do a self evaluation and bring out the best of our Masonic Teachings in our conduct.
Brethren, What else should we do? In the first place, we must transcend the divisiveness of sectarian religion and search for a higher truth, which is based on a perfect understanding that we are children of one God and therefore we have to live in peace, love and harmony. Once we agree to the concept of PHYSICAL UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD, then we should also agree upon the concept of SPIRITUAL UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD because “Universal Brotherhood” has no creeds or dogmas. It is built on the basis of common sense. It teaches us that that man is perishable, but the soul of man is imperishable, and that Universal Brotherhood is a fact in Nature, and consequently encompasses all humanity”. Brethren, let us take an Oath today to start believing in this concept in all earnestness and restart our lives on these principles.
Lastly Brethren, the concept of Universal Brotherhood teaches us the principles of Mutual Dependence and reliance on each other during our Good and Bad times. I am so proud of you all brethren who started practicing the concept of Universal brotherhood starting from March 2020 in actively doing so much work in the field of relief and rehabilitation of the COVID 19 affected. For me, the UBD started the day you undertook the first of the projects in March itself. My Dear Brethren, during these testing times you all have shown the true Spirit of Brotherhood by reaching out to thousands of the needy and have done wonderfully well in COVID 19 related Relief work.. The way you have risen as one to alienate the sufferings of your fellow human beings, without even knowing them, their names, caste or creed and in most times without having never met them in your life, is a True Testimonial to the tremendous spirit of brotherhood that is imbibed in each one of you. You have performed your task while it is yet day by continuing to listen to the voice of the nature. I am also proud to see that the Charge in the North East has been so deeply rooted in each one of you and in the true spirit of brotherhood that you have adequately exhibited the principles of Freemasonry in these extra ordinary times. You have truly remembered the peculiar moment you were received in Freemasonry and have cheerfully embraced the opportunity `to practice the pious Virtue of Charity and Benevolence, amply described as the Truly Masonic Virtues. The Grand Lodge is enormously proud of you all, and nothing less was ever expected from you.
On this happy occasion, I greet you my Brethren with an open-heart, Friendship and Brotherly Love. Take care of yourself and your families in these testing times. I wish you HAPPY UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD DAY 2020.