Seminar on Righteous Work

“The rich are not ready to help the poor”— Baba Virsa Sing

Conference photos

New Delhi, 21 February, 2004:

“So many people are dying these days for lack of medical care, since they cannot afford it. Many people do not have enough food. But the rich are not ready to help the poor. These great difficulties will not be solved until dharmic principles of hard work and sharing are restored. And they will not be restored until we meditate.” Thus speaking, Baba Virsa Singh, revered preceptor of Gobind Sadan, opened an international seminar on the subject of “Righteous Work (“Kirat”): Its Spiritual Roots and Social Effects.” The seminar was held at the Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religion in New Delhi from 18 to 20 February. It brought together renowned educators, government leaders, religious leaders, business people, scholars, scientists, and social workers from India, United States, Russia, Germany, and England to study the relationships between hard work and religion, in an effort to encourage people to work diligently and honestly and at the same time, mitigate the greed and exploitation which are increasing the gap between rich and poor worldwide, bringing unemployment, despair, and social unrest rather than harmony and prosperity.

The seminar was inaugurated by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Union Minister for Human Resources Development, who pointed out that one-sixth of the world’s population controls eighty percent of the global wealth. “In this imbalance,” he asserted, “there is no righteousness, no spirituality. This deep social division has arisen because we have forgotten the spirit of righteous work.” Other illustrious speakers at the inaugural session included Dr. Rostislav Rybakov, Director of Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow and President of International Association for Peace through Culture, Sri Vachaspati Upadhaya, Vice Chancellor, Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, Tarlochan Singh, Chairman of Minorities Commission, Government of India, Akhtar-ul-Wasey, Director of Zakir Hussain Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Milia University, and Svetlana Smirnova, DUMA Deputy from Udmurt Republic, Russia. Dr. Rybakov praised “the same message that India has been sending since time immemorial, by Buddha, Mahavir, Gandhi, Guru Nanak, and so forth. The message is simple in words and extremely difficult to live by: non-violence, tolerance, and unity in diversity. It seems to me that this short formula was coined for the twenty-first century for all countries.”

On the occasion, His Holiness Baba Virsa Singh also presented “Kirat Awards” to four luminaries of Indian society: Dr. Khem Singh Gill, former Vice Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University and one of the leading scientists of the Green Revolution, Dr. Tirath Singh, a renowned homeopathic doctor who has devoted much of his life to serving the poor, D. S. Brar, CEO of Ranbaxy Laboratories, and Former Chief Justice of India B. N. Kirpal (in absentia). The citations on the plaques honour them for their “continuous, selfless, dedicated work for humanity with deep spiritual devotion to God.”

In his address, Baba Virsa Singh drew on the practical experience of Gobind Sadan, in which he has for decades emphasized the importance of hard work linked to faith in God as the proper basis for development. He has thus developed thousands of acres of barren wastelands in India into flourishing farms to support Gobind Sadan’s charitable work, providing employment, medical services, food, shelter, clothing, education, and access to government services to the hardworking poor.

In the seminar panels held on 19th and 20th February, international delegates explored the religious roots of righteous work, the effects of righteous work on the individual and on society, the question of whether businesspeople and government officials can maintain righteousness in their work, and the importance of inculcating work ethic with spirituality for the young. Speaking from their own religious traditions, cultures, and professional experiences, all agreed on the necessity for teaching the dignity of honest labour and incorruptible service to society.