Our friend, leader, and inspiration
Glen T. Martin
I first met Swami Agnivesh when we were both guest speakers at Aligarh Islamic University near New Delhi on 17 December 2015. He said some things that inspired me very much and, when my turn came, I spoke about the Earth Constitution in relation to Islam. I gave him my business card. The next day, I received an email from him inviting me to come to his apartments and talk about the Earth Constitution. He soon became a major supporter of our work and the following year in India my wife and I stayed with him in his apartments in New Delhi, as we have every year since that time, and sometimes we stayed with him at his ashram just south of New Delhi.
Swamiji not only began speaking to audiences about the Earth Constitution, he secured for us complementary venues of our WCPA Conferences in India for the next four years, first at the World Peace Center of MIT Pune and then at O.P. Jindal Global University near New Delhi. He paid to have one of the buildings in his office compound at 7 Jantar-Mantar Road renovated to be a home for the WCPA Global Communications Center and allowed us to use that address as our main India office. He invited me to speak at his events that were happening while I was in India and he often served as a keynote speaker for WCPA events. We soon added him to our WCPA Board of Trustees as our most special “Distinguished Advisor.”
As the illness related to his liver advanced over the past year or so, he had to make a decision of whether to risk surgery, a decision I learned about in May of this year. It seems to me, in this memorial, that the best honor I can do for Swami’s memory is not to recite his many accomplishments and contributions to our common human project, but to make public the personal letter I sent to him on 28 May. It speaks directly about the impact that Swami had on my own life.
28 May 2020
Dear Swami Agnivesh,
Phyllis and I are deeply distraught that you are faced with this terrible decision which threatens your life. We love you, and our hearts and prayers are with you.
I want to tell you how much knowing you has impacted my own life and thought. Since I entered into the struggle for human liberation decades ago, I have met many extraordinary people, some of whom, such as Dr. Terence P. Amerasinghe from Sri Lanka, I have gotten to know very well. But getting to know you has been one of the greatest honors of my life.
It is not that you have taught me something I did not previously know. It is rather that you have given me great hope for humanity by showing what is possible for all of us—that God can live within us and through us in such a way that tolerance, love, compassion, and justice can become manifest in our lives. And that our public lives and private lives are not two different things. If love is there it will be revolutionary love, directed to transforming society.
There are many who may advocate such ideas through promoting some religious or ideological formulas. But you are free of all that, and that is the truth and beauty that I have experienced from you. The actualization of the divine within our lives will manifest itself directly in love and justice apart from dogmas or formulas.
As you have said from the beginning, we need to create the conditions on this Earth in which each person can live within a political, economic, and cultural framework that make this possible for him or her. If we create a world in which the horrors of exploitation and injustice are gone, then we are simultaneously creating a world in which God can and will be present.
And God can be present in this world without even being named, for love and compassion and justice are God. If people live as the brothers and sisters on this planet that we really are, then the divine will be everywhere and nowhere, and human life will come to fulfillment.
Knowing you has confirmed by faith and my understanding of these truths, and for that I am deeply grateful that you took us into your circle of those who know you well and allowed us to be your friends.
I know that your work for the Bonded Labor Liberation Front and the renewed Arya Samaj is not finished, and even though I am now also in older age, my own work on behalf of the Earth Constitution is far from finished. I hope with all my heart that you live through this to continue your work and that we will work together for years to come.
But I want you to know here and now the honor it has been for me to be your friend, and how much knowing you has re-inspired my own hope and vision for humanity.