Ladies and gentlemen, I am most grateful and deeply touched by your generous gesture in giving me this award. Ahimsa is clearly a sacred principle which we should all try to follow as a matter of course, but if I have earned it at all, I can only imagine it may be something to do with my inadequate efforts to help curb the harm we do to the one and only precious Earth that sustains us all.

I am enormously flattered that you have invited me here to open your newly refurbished Assembly Halls and to tour your magnificent temple.  It was particularly fascinating to learn the meaning behind the many carved patterns and the structure of the Derasar, even down to why it is aligned on its North Easterly axis.  It is as if every inch of the building reflects the meaning of those universal principles which underpin all of the world’s great sacred traditions.   It is worth remembering, perhaps, that before the advent of the modern era, every culture around the world - and for thousands, if not tens of thousands of years - found that the same patterns and geometric relationships express the same principles that are universally considered sacred to life which is a warning to us, surely, not to ignore them...

I was particularly struck by the fact that each carved stone or section of the building arrived here from Central India like bits of a giant jigsaw, and they fitted together so precisely and perfectly that the pieces themselves hold up the entire structure.  Not only is this a wonderful example of the sort of enduring excellence in engineering found in traditional architecture and traditional craftsmanship, but it is, of course, also profoundly symbolic of the truth about the very nature of the world in which we live. Every aspect of your remarkable temple serves to emphasize the fact that we live in an intricately interconnected and inter-dependent, living universe, where no one thing exists separately from all of the rest.  Being Jains, of course, you know this, but I am afraid it is a fact only too often ignored, or even rejected, by the current mainstream approach, with all the terrifying environmental consequences that such denial is visiting upon us.  How important, then, that in this corner of the English countryside you have created such a very special beacon of truth...

And because of the extraordinary inclusiveness of Jains, this is a place accessible to all; from visiting school groups to faith representatives of various creeds, all are welcomed and received so graciously.

So, at a particularly heightened time of anxiety for us all, when horrific violence is being inflicted upon so many innocent people around the world, supposedly in the name of a particular faith, and by people who have so monstrously distorted the original message of its founder,  it is of even greater importance to recognize your ancient, but constant message of reverence to what is sacred and to appeal for greater understanding and tolerance between those of different faiths, or of none at all.   We all have a duty to work for greater harmony between the religions of the world, especially when, as now, tolerance is being so severely tested.  In this sense I was struck by the images in your temple that demonstrate so clearly how Nature, herself, depends upon diversity.  So, to have a diversity of faith traditions requires that very diversity to be informed by the imperatives of civility and of courtesy because, ultimately, as your own practice shows, each tradition is an expression of the same Divine truth.

If I may say so, this is Jainism’s great contribution.  You demonstrate clearly that, rather than reject, we must embrace the “otherness” of the other.  After all, in truth, there is no exclusion, given that everything is bound by the benevolence of the Divine.

So thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for welcoming me here today and for showing me such civility and courtesy.