Morari Bapu, a Hindu preacher from India, wrapped up a nine-day visit to Jerusalem on Wednesday, during which he taught his central mantra of truth, love and compassion to the hundreds of his followers who traveled to Israel to hear him.
A hugely popular leader in his native India as well as in the Indian diaspora, Bapu conducted a series of daily discourses, or Katha, in Zedekiah’s Cave under the Old City of Jerusalem, for the 400 devotees who came from around the world to listen to his message.
Perched cross-legged atop an exposed rock in a large cavern deep inside the cave, Bapu exhorted his followers, as well as mankind in general, to overcome the doctrinal differences of religion and embrace the love of God shared by all faiths.
Jerusalem, as a central locus for three major religions, is the perfect place from which to preach such ideas, he said.
The daily addresses, lasting four hours each, were interspersed with musical interludes in which the entire congregation sang and chanted prayers and excerpts from the Hindu liturgy.
Led by the preacher and accompanied by the serene, entrancing sounds of classical Indian music, the faithful regularly broke into ecstatic song, with musicians playing the Samvadini harmonium and tabla drums, filling the cavern with the rhythms of the subcontinent.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Bapu explained that Jerusalem, as a focal center for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is an important site from which to preach his foundational principles of truth, love and compassion.
Truth, he said, must be upheld in speech and action, but followers of different religions must not claim exclusive rights to it, as there is a higher truth than that derived from scripture.
Love is a life force, dependent on charity and giving; and compassion, expressed through our actions, means an openness to and acceptance of others, he explained.
In addressing the importance of respect for the other, Bapu also spoke about the causes of religious conflict.
“It is religious communities which have created religious divisions, not the founders of the religions,” he told the Post, speaking through a translator. “We have created these problems, so to make the world a more beautiful place there needs to be dialogue.
“As Hindus we believe that there is more than one route to truth,” he continued. “Just like there is always more than one way to get to the top of a mountain, there is always more than one route to reach spiritual truth.”
But, he added, this is not to say that people should not follow their own religious traditions.
The devotees came to Israel from India, the US, UK and East Africa for Bapu’s series of discourses, which were broadcast around the world on India’s Aastha spiritual TV network. His orations in India draw crowds numbering in the tens of thousands.
The preacher’s recent series of sermons in his native state of Gujarat in western India attracted more than 150,000 people, one devotee said.
Dhi Rej Solanki, a supplier of healthcare products living in New Jersey, came to Israel with his wife.
“Bapu touches your heart when you hear him preach,” he said. “He is the first to say that all religions are one and that we must show compassion for each other. We can pray differently, worship differently, but our soul is the same, the light is the same, because we are all created by God,” Solanki explained, relating the content of Bapu’s discourse from Tuesday morning. “So, if you love God, you have to you love the other too.”
For Ricky Pankhania from London, the message of universal spirituality is particularly appealing.
Modern life in the UK is financially and physically secure, he said, but there is also a hunger to find spiritual enlightenment, which is achieved to a much greater extent with the help of a great spiritual leader, he said.
And it is this spiritual, fulfilled existence that Bapu teaches.
“Life is in God’s hands, but taking life as a gift from God and living with joy and to the fullest, that is in my hands,” he said.
(Courtsy: The Jerusalem Post NewsPaper) Support: Aniruddh Purohit, Delhi