本系列最后一篇,访谈主角为兴都教长老 Shri Balachander Sivachariar, 45, studied at the Dharmapura Aathinam Vedic School in India. He is chief priest of the Sri Mariamman Temple and the Hindu Endowments Board.

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IT IS a strange world we live in today. One the one hand, we have a world which is interconnected — one linked by economic ties, business and education. On the other hand, we have a world which is torn apart by strife and problems, examples being Iraq and Sri Lanka.

It gives me great sadness to see this.

The reason why conflicts and strife take place is the increasing lack of respect we accord our fellow human beings. We belittle each other.

HUman beings are also becoming more selfish and more self-centred. When they want something, they go all out to get it — they fight, they destroy and they fan the fires of discontent instead of putting them out.

In Hinduism and all other religions, destruction of people or of things is never mentioned.

In our Vedas — the Hindu scriptures — peace is paramount. It is what we work and pray for. One particular line in the vedas embodies the importance we place on world peace… we pray for everyone to be happy and live prosperous lives.

How do we find peace? We seek peace in the prayers we offer to the Gods in this temple, we pray to them everyday. Weekly, we have mass prayers, too.

I am joyful when I see devotees coming to the temple and joining me in prayers for world peace and happiness.

I also receive a lot of joy when I solemnise events like weddings or ceremonies to mark the start of education for children, who come to the temple and write their first letters on unpolished rice. These events signify the promise of new beginnings.

I receive joy too when I go out and bless new business or see someone moving up the professional ladder and achieving success. When someone starts a business, he is not the only one who benefits. His employees do too.

Seeing inter-faith prayers take place in Singapore also gives me great hope. This inter-faith activity is unique to Singapore. There are not many places where people of different faiths come together and pray for peace and harmony.

Of course, some events in the past year have given me a heavy heart. These include railway accidents and disasters like floods and earthquakes in India, The situation in Sri Lanka, and calamities like the typhoon which swept through the Philippines and other countries in the region.

I also felt sad about Pluto losing its status as a planet. Pluto had a key role in the Hindu astrological calendar. Its loss of power may have had some effects on the overall astrological balance.

How does one find solace in the face of all these conflicts and natural disasters? This is where devotion comes in. More time spent on meditation and prayer will give you the strength and resilience to survive.

On a brighter note, I was happy to see how education is developing in all countries and how international trade continues to grow.

Seeing bigger and richer countries help their poorer counterparts in times of disasters also gave me a lot of hope.

I would be very happy if man could come together and work for the common good. When you do that, you can rest assured that a divine power will help and guide you.

~ By Wong Kim Hoh, The Straits Times, 23-12-2006