On Building Peace - In Memory of Dr. Shantilal Karamshi Somaiya


1st January 2022

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year to all of you.

It is the first of January 2022.  Dr. S. K. Somaiya passed away on this day, in 2010 in Australia where he had gone to speak at the Parliament of World Religions.  The Title of the lecture he was going to deliver was 'Sharing Wisdom in Search of Inner and Outer Peace'.  He led the Somaiya Trusts from 1999 till 2010.

He was ahead of his time.  He pioneered the manufacture of ethanol from sugar and the use of ethanol (renewable feedstock) as a feedstock to make biochemicals, way back in the early 1960s.  The idea of manufacturing chemicals based on renewable feedstock as a basis of sustainable development is only now finding place in the world as a means to address climate change.

In business, he is was an industrialist.  What would be considered as a 'Capitalist'.  But amongst his friends were people who would be Socialists.  he firmly believed that good capitalism implied being agents of social change and that organisations must live in and give back to the societies they serve.   Again, we hear about Corporate Social Responsibility now.  What he spoke about and did, was the responsibility of the Private Sector in working towards building a stronger and more inclusive society.

Among the many things he did, I would like to speak about his emphasis on dialogue.  He always believed that one must speak to all shades of opinion with full respect even if and especially if they had different opinions from you.  He said it was easy to retreat in one's own cosy corner, criticise and make assumptions about others whom we believe to have differing opinions.  (In today's age of social media, this is even more real - with news feeds based on one's 'preferences' automatically comes to one's mobile device.)

When I would ask him as to why he 'entertained' discussions with people with radically different and opposing opinions, he would answer that to have meaningful change, in pursuit of a society we wish to create, a dialogue, a संवाद ( as opposed to विवाद) is necessary.  And so he engaged with people across the spectrum, (not the divide) knowing fully well that we were not all followers of the same faith or ideologies.  But we all had some common purpose.  And that dialogue was a way to find that common purpose, and bridge differences gently.

In dialogue, his great contribution was to interfaith dialogue.  He believed that religions, in their true message and spirit, have much to contribute to society and the world.  And that progress towards a more harmonious society can be achieved with the working together of religions and by finding common purpose between religions.

As a Hindu, he believed in strengthening the religion from within.  To work against the inequities of the caste system.  To spread the true message of सनातन धर्म.  To build a more inclusive society.  He also reached out to members of other religions.  He felt that it was 'religion that binds the individual to Divinity and to other fellow beings'. He believed that people of different faiths had to come together to build a world where there is harmony and to 'Build Peace Based on Tolerance, Mutual Respect, and Cooperation'.

It is written in the Vedas - 
संगच्छध्वं संवदध्वं सं वो मनांसि जानताम्।
Let us walk together, Let us Speak with one another, Let us be of one mind.

Let us work towards building that more beautiful and peaceful world!!


Samir Somaiya

The picture below shows a few of his pictures with:
Swami Prabhupadji 
Swami Tadrupanandji
Grand Mufti of Kazakhstan
Ravishankar Maharaj 
Swami Chinmayanandji
Sant Shri Morari Bapu
Pandurang Shastriji
Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswatiji
Acharya Mahapragyaji
Pope John Paul
The Dalai Lama
Pramukh Swami Maharaj

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