Address by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Honourable Vice President of India after presenting 21st Mahaveer Awards organized by Bhagwan Mahaveer Foundation, in Chennai on December 02, 2018.

Chennai | December 2, 2018

"I am very happy to be a part of this ceremony which celebrates the spirit of service to humanity. I congratulate the Founder of the Bhagwan Mahaveer Foundation, Shri N Sugalchand Jain, and the trustees of the Foundation for having come up with this wonderful thought of honouring individuals and institutions who are undertaking activities of selfless service for the welfare of the society. I am confident that this will inspire many others to emulate such endeavours.

I understand that the Foundation, a public charitable trust, right from its inception in 1994 has been inspiring people to dedicate themselves to the cause of service to mankind.

I congratulate the Awardees who are receiving the 21st Mahaveer awards here today. I would like to express my deep appreciation for their work. People like them who are working silently, selflessly for the advancement of the society, reaffirm our faith in humanity. Your work ensures that the motto of ‘service before self’ that is enshrined in the Indian value tradition is preserved and protected.

The fact that the number of awards instituted by the Foundation grew from one to four since its inception stands testament to the crucial role played by these awards in promoting the spirit of community service.

I am told that the awards are presented for excellence in human endeavor in the fields of Non-Violence & Vegetarianism, Education, Medicine, Community & Social Service and Women entrepreneurship.

The awardees have been chosen through a rigorous procedure and each one of them deserve to be honoured for their dedication, moral courage and their outstanding contributions towards improving the plight of humanity.

I commend the eminent Selection Jury and the short listing committee for their sincere and dedicated efforts to achieve the goal of identifying individuals and institutions that work to improve the lives of the weaker sections of our society. I congratulate the awardees and commend them for their efforts and achievements.

Sisters and brothers,

India has been blessed with a rich civilization that is thousands of years old. The ancient Indian civilization was a hub of knowledge and wisdom. India is the birth place of the most ancient system of medicine known to man, the Ayurveda.

The concept of ‘Zero’ and the number system is said to have been invented in India, the former by the great Mathematician Aryabhata. The temples of learning, the ancient universities of Taxila and Nalanda were India’s pride. They attracted students and scholars from all over the world.

From water harvesting to complicated surgeries, from aeronautics and aerodynamics to metallurgy, the Indian civilization excelled in several fields of human endeavour. The ancient Indian society is said to have been much more egalitarian and progressive. It is said that women were held in high esteem and they took an active interest in matters of the state.

The observation that there seemed to be no slavery in India was made in the accounts of several Greek philosophers and historians who visited India.

Mark Twain famously said that “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition.” He often spoke about the unique philosophical and spiritual characteristics of India’s civilization.

India was the cultural capital of the world, the seat of the highest of human values of love, peace, tolerance and brotherhood and the source of profound knowledge and wisdom, the Vishwaguru to the world.

India is also the birth place of a religion which is firmly rooted in the ideals of love, sacrifice, non violence and peace, Jainism which was founded by Vardhamana Mahaveer, the 24th Thirthankara, around 500 BC, was created on firm foundations. It has remained unchanged for nearly 25 Centuries. It is in memory of this great visionary, this pious soul that we are gathered here today.

Bhagwan Mahaveer taught that the way to liberation and bliss is to live lives of harmlessness and renunciation. The essence of Jainism is the undying concern for the welfare of every being in the universe and for the health of the universe itself.

It propounds that animals and plants, as well as human beings, contain living souls. Every soul is considered of equal value and is to be treated with respect and compassion. The Jain lifestyle itself is the epitome of peace and piety and emphasizes upon judicious use of world’s scarce resources.

The three guiding principles of Jainism, the 'three jewels', right belief, right knowledge and right conduct were conceived by its founder, the great Bhagwan Mahaveer. The principle of ahimsa ,"non-violence" or "non-injury" is fundamental to Jain Philosophy.

Jainism also propounds equanimity and balance, the cultivation of the ability to treat sufferings and happiness on equal planks. Jainism is also highly tolerant of differences and is accommodative by its very nature. One of its fundamental beliefs is ‘Anekantavada’, the doctrine that states that truth and reality are complex and always has multiple aspects.

The life of Bhagwan Mahaveer and the philosophy of Jainism hold many crucial lessons for contemporary world. We live in times of great turmoil. On one hand we are fighting violence in several forms, from terrorism to insurgency to civil wars. On the other hand we are facing the consequences of unchecked exploitation of resources and unbalanced and poorly planned developmental activities.

Friends, our civilization is at cross roads today. We have to either change the way we live or prepare to face the inevitable consequences of our actions. At this juncture, some of the answers to the pressing questions of our time can be found in the philosophy, principles and teachings of Lord Mahaveer.

It is time we undertake an introspection of what makes us Indian. We take a re-look at our ancient values, identify the best of them, the ones most suited to our times and incorporate them in our lives. We were a glorious civilization, a leader to the world in many aspects. We have to reclaim our rightful position in the world, as a nucleus of human values and wisdom.

We are mere trustees of whatever we have inherited in terms of social order and natural resources. It is our sacred duty to hand them over to our posterity in the best of conditions so that continuity of life is not interrupted.

It is in celebration of this spirit of peaceful coexistence and service that Bhagwan Mahaveer Awards are being presented here today.

I understand that the winners of the Awards are those individuals who have gone above and beyond their call of duty to serve humanity.

I understand that Dr.Shiranee Pereira, winner of the Excellence in Non-Violence and Vegetarianism Award is one of the founders of ‘People for Animals’, working for animal welfare and protection. She is an ardent advocate for ethical treatment and protection of animals and has rescued and rehabilitated hundreds of animals till date.

Bhagwan Mahavir Jain Relief Foundation Trust, Hyderabad, the winner of the award for excellence in Medicine has been providing dialysis treatment free of cost to those who require treatment but cannot afford it. It is noteworthy that they also provide, at a subsidy, other things necessary for a dialysis patient, such as medicines and other equipments.

I compliment Rural Health Organisation, Imphal on being conferred “The Award for Excellence in Community & Social Service”. It is heartening to learn that this NGO’s welfare services, especially in healthcare and education in the remote hilly areas of Manipur, have largely benefitted the tribal poor, SC & ST populations

Along with congratulating each one of you, I would like to reiterate that your service is of paramount importance. I wish you all the very best and hope that you will continue your good work and make a difference in the world.

I wish the Bhagwan Mahaveer Foundation all the very best. You are the inheritors and the custodians of a way of life, a philosophy which can serve as a guiding light to the world, especially in times of crises.

Jai Hind!"