Introduction and award presentation8

DR. NATHAN KATZ (Chairman, Department of Religious Studies): Good evening, and welcome for this truly wonderful occasion. First I should welcome you on behalf of Florida International University, which is one of the most dynamic and robust universities to be found anywhere. Recently, FIU has been ranked among the top one hundred public universities in America, and having just celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary, we are the youngest university in that company.

I would also like to welcome you on behalf of the Department of Religious Studies, which although it is just three years old, offers both BA and MA programmes. Our eight faculty teach some 1,800 students each year about the religions of India, Japan, Africa, the Caribbean and America; about ethics, about Western scripture, about environmental studies, and about Judaism. We welcome your enquiries. We hope this will not be your last encounter with our Department.

Our Department also presents annually a lecture series, often provocative, but on evenings such as this one, I think, inspirational. We believe, as a public university, that we have an obligation for education beyond our classroom. In this light we regularly bring leading scholars of religion into this series, as well as religious leaders who we believe have a message that is important and timely. In this latter category we have had such people as Imam Warith Din Mohammed, President of the American Muslim Mission, and the Hasidic rabbi and psychiatrist Rabbi Abraham Twersky. One year from now we will be welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In the past, the Pope has been a speaker at this university. And this evening we are so happy and honoured to have with us Sri Chinmoy.

It has been a pleasure, Guru-ji, to work with the people from the Sri Chinmoy Centre here. Working with them, I get a sense of boundless energy enveloped in a cloak of serenity. And from what I know of your work, I think that typifies your teaching. I am very proud to have you with us. I attended one of your Peace Concerts, of which you have given more than 500. At that concert I was deeply struck by many things, but one in particular I will ask those of you in the audience to watch for. I was struck by the very deep meditation out of which the music emerged. So tonight I invite you to watch Sri Chinmoy very closely. Watch him with your mind's eye, and perhaps you will see what I think I saw.

Sri Chinmoy is a world-renowned meditation teacher and peace activist, and we will be honouring him for his work in this latter area shortly. As part of his efforts to promote peace around the world, he has begun a programme of designating certain landmarks as Peace-Blossoms. I was very happy to learn that our State of Florida has been blessed by that designation as a Peace-Blossom. May it be so!

In order to inspire that peace which begins only in the heart and in the mind, Sri Chinmoy has offered the "U Thant Peace Award" to a number of world leaders, including Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Pope. It seems that Sri Chinmoy and Secretary-General U Thant were close friends, sharing a love of meditation and a hope for world peace. It is a significant coincidence, I think, that U Thant preceded Sri Chinmoy to FIU by more than 25 years. You see, U Thant was present on this campus at its groundbreaking ceremony in 1971.

Now, Guru-ji, if I may, I have three things to present to you, in increasing order of importance. The first, just so you will know something of our programmes in religious studies at FIU: our newsletter. We also publish an academic journal here, the Journal of Indo-Judaic studies, which is quite unique in the world. And I am very happy to give you this plaque.

[The plaque reads: "India's Peace-Service-Tree Award is presented to Sri Chinmoy in recognition of his tireless efforts to offer India's timeless wisdom to the cause of world peace."]

SRI CHINMOY: I bow and bow and bow to the ever-illumining soul and the ever-blossoming heart of Florida International University.

My highly esteemed Brother-Friend, Professor Nathan Katz, I wish to offer you gratitude from the inmost recesses of my heart for so kindly and compassionately inviting me to visit your august university. Professor Katz, you have just blessed me with the title "India's Peace-Service-Tree." I shall treasure this blessingful award most prayerfully and most soulfully. I shall try to be worthy of your compassionate award, "India's Peace-Service-Tree." May my life grow into a true peace-service-tree so that I can be of prayerful and soulful service to humanity.

Professor Katz and members of Florida International University, each individual is serving God in a unique, unique way. Each individual is a choice instrument of God to love Him, to serve Him and to fulfil Him. Here I have come to be of service to the Supreme in you all, and may my service be kindly and affectionately accepted by you all.

I would like to give a short talk on philosophy: "Indian Philosophy: A Glimpse."

Wertheim Performing Arts Center, Florida International University, Miami, 26 May 1998.