"I am grateful for all our religious traditions," His Holiness told the prayer meeting, "because, despite their differing philosophical views, they all convey the same message of love and compassion and counsel us to live a simple life. In a world of seven billion human beings with different ways of life, these different traditions are necessary for humanity. Realistically speaking, we need these different approaches to achieve inner peace and peace in the community."
He went on to say that, while prayer is good on a personal level, he has come to the conclusion that it is not always effective in the wider world - that violence and war persist in many places and prayer seems insufficient to stop it. "What we need to do is to take action," he said. He also advised that, "If religious teaching remains in a book that we only read occasionally, while we lead our lives in another direction, there is something wrong and it does not serve much purpose."
His Holiness also praised India for its longstanding tradition of religious harmony, saying, "Occasional outbreaks of religious friction may take place, but these are understandable and of minor significance compared to the example of harmony and respect that otherwise prevails."
The World Meet for Peace and Harmony formed part of the Ramakrishna Mission's celebrations of the impending 150th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda's birth. Former of Indian president, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, was chief guest at the inaugural session.
Guest of honour Srimat Swami Smaranananda Maharaj was unable to attend for health reasons and was represented by Swami Vagishananda, who said that, although we have a dream of peace and harmony, division persists. He quoted Swami Vivekananda, saying, "If you want peace of mind, don't find fault with others."
His Holiness expressed his admiration for his friend Dr AJP Abdul Kalam, saying, "He comes from a Muslim family, trained as scientist and became president of the most populous democratic country in the world - in fact the country where the most sophisticated philosophical views have developed."
He continued, "As I mentioned earlier, all the world's religions are found in this country - both homegrown religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism and others from outside like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Bahá'í. They all flourish and live together in harmony, so in India this harmony is not just an idea or an aspiration, but a reality.
"Swami Vivekananda is no longer with us, but the spirit of what he achieved is alive and growing. He had great foresight and I feel I am a follower, trying to implement his dream of creating inter-religious harmony in the world. However, while respecting Swami-ji's vision, I would like to say something about the Parliament of World Religions, which I have attended in Cape Town and Melbourne. I think there is a risk of these meetings just becoming occasions for religious leaders to exchange calling cards. I feel we need to make more effort if we are to actively foster harmony among our traditions. In Melbourne I said that effects come from actions not mere talk.
"As a Buddhist monk, I pray, and it is of some help for my own peace of mind, but as for world peace, it has little effect. A couple of years ago in Patna I was invited to attend the inauguration of a Buddhist park, during which the chief minister asked that, by the Buddha's blessings, his state might prosper.
"When my turn came to speak, I said that if the state's prosperity depended on the Buddha's blessings it should have happened long ago and that what was really needed was for a capable chief minister to take action. Action is the meaning of karma, while prayer is a little like wishful thinking. For example, climate change is a reality that I think probably cannot be affected by prayer."
His Holiness commended the Ramakrishna Mission's emphasis on education, saying it is the way to achieve far-reaching results and the proper way to promote compassion and tolerance in society.
"Compassion and peace of mind bring a sense of confidence that reduce stress and anxiety," he said, "whereas anger and hatred come from frustration and undermine our sense of trust."
His Holiness described many of our problems as being of our own creation. "Why? Because of ignorance. Education, however, is the instrument that increases our ability to employ our own intelligence.
His Holiness also asked the Ramakrishna Mission to consider how to introduce moral ethics into the modern curriculum. He said he thought it was possible to talk about warm-heartedness without needing to talk about God or Buddha.
Finally, he mentioned the increasing gap between rich and poor and the problem of corruption, saying, "When so many people are still poor, how can you let corruption go on? In this country people are very religious minded...and yet in their daily lives it seems to make little difference when it comes to issues like corruption. If you believe in God and karma, how can you not care when this kind of behaviour goes on? If I have been too frank today, or have offended anyone with what I've said, I apologise."
During his address to the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders, His Holiness observed that as human beings we are all the same, physically, mentally and emotionally.
"Violence seems to be part of human history," he said, "but it does not arise because of the things that unite us. Rather it arises because we make too much of the differences between us. These become exaggerated to the point where we divide people into "them" and "us," and it is this division that leads to bullying, cheating, lying and war."
On September 14, during his four-day visit to Dehradun, His Holiness will visit local monasteries and other institutions in Norling Park, Dekyiling Tibetan Settlement, and teach the first chapter of Nagarjuna's Precious Garland.
On September 17, he will participate in the celebrations for the 50th founding anniversary the Tibetan Homes Foundation in Happy Valley, Mussoorie.