My Friend, Abe San

Published By : Admin | July 8, 2022 | 19:27 IST

Shinzo Abe - an outstanding leader of Japan, a towering global statesman, and a great champion of India-Japan friendship - is not among us anymore. Japan and the world have lost a great visionary. And, I have lost a dear friend.

I first met him in 2007, during my visit to Japan as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Right from that first meeting, our friendship went beyond the trappings of office and the shackles of official protocol.

Our visit to Toji temple in Kyoto, our train journey on the Shinkansen, our visit to the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, the Ganga Aarati in Kashi, the elaborate tea ceremony in Tokyo, the list of our memorable interactions is indeed long.

 

 

And, I will always cherish the singular honour of having been invited to his family home in Yamanashi prefecture, nestled among the foothills of Mt. Fuji.

Even when he was not the Prime Minister of Japan between 2007 and 2012, and more recently after 2020, our personal bond remained as strong as ever.

Every meeting with Abe San was intellectually stimulating. He was always full of new ideas and invaluable insights on governance, economy, culture, foreign policy, and various other subjects.

His counsel inspired me in my economic choices for Gujarat. And, his support was instrumental in building Gujarat’s vibrant partnership with Japan.

Later on, it was my privilege to work with him to bring about an unprecedented transformation of the strategic partnership between India and Japan. From a largely narrow, bilateral economic relationship, Abe San helped turn it into a broad, comprehensive one, which not only covered every field of national endeavour, but became pivotal for our two countries’ and the region’s security. For him, this was one of the most consequential relationships for the people of our two countries and the world. He was resolute in pursuing the civil nuclear agreement with India – a most difficult one for his country – and decisive in offering the most generous terms for the High Speed Rail in India. As in most important milestones in independent India’s journey, he ensured that Japan is there side by side as New India accelerates its growth.

His contribution to India-Japan relations was richly recognised by the conferment upon him of the prestigious Padma Vibhushan in 2021.

Abe San had a deep insight into the complex and multiple transitions taking place in the world, the vision to be ahead of his time to see its impact on politics, society, economy and international relations, the wisdom to know the choices that were to be made, the capacity to make clear and bold decisions even in the face of conventions and the rare ability to carry his people and the world with him. His far-reaching policies - Abenomics - reinvigorated the Japanese economy and re-ignited the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship of his people.

Among his greatest gifts to us and his most enduring legacy, and one for which the world will always be indebted, is his foresight in recognising the changing tides and gathering storm of our time and his leadership in responding to it. Long before others, he, in his seminal speech to the Indian Parliament in 2007, laid the ground for the emergence of the Indo Pacific region as a contemporary political, strategic and economic reality - a region that will also shape the world in this century.

And, he led from the front in building a framework and architecture for its stable and secure, peaceful and prosperous future, based on values that he deeply cherished – respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, adherence to international law and rules, peaceful conduct of international relations in a spirit of equality and shared prosperity through deeper economic engagement.

The Quad, the ASEAN-led forums, the Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative, the India-Japan Development Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, including Africa and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure all benefited from his contributions. Quietly and without fanfare, and overcoming hesitation at home and scepticism abroad, he transformed Japan’s strategic engagement, including in defence, connectivity, infrastructure and sustainability, across the Indo Pacific region. For that, the region is more optimistic about its destiny and the world more confident about its future.

During my Japan visit in May this year, I had the opportunity to meet Abe San, who had just taken over as the Chair of the Japan-India Association. He was his usual self - energetic, captivating, charismatic and very witty. He had innovative ideas on how to further strengthen the India-Japan friendship. When I said goodbye to him that day, little did I imagine that it would be our final meeting. 

I will always be indebted for his warmth and wisdom, grace and generosity, friendship and guidance, and I will miss him dearly.

We in India mourn his passing as one of our own, just as he embraced us with an open heart. He died doing what he loved the most – inspiring his people. His life may have been cut short tragically, but his legacy will endure forever.

I extend heart-felt condolences on behalf of the people of India and on my own behalf to the people of Japan, especially to Mrs. Akie Abe and his family. Om Shanti.

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A tribute to Sant Shiromani Acharya Shri 108 Vidhyasagar Ji Maharaj Ji
February 21, 2024

Sant Shiromani Acharya Shri 108 Vidhyasagar Ji Maharaj Ji attained Samadhi and left us all saddened. His life is a spiritually rich epoch graced with profound wisdom, boundless compassion and an unwavering commitment to uplift humanity. I have had the honour of receiving his blessings on numerous occasions. Thus, I feel a deep sense of loss, akin to losing a guiding light that has illuminated the path for countless souls, including myself. His warmth, affection and blessings were not just gestures of goodwill but profound transmissions of spiritual energy, empowering and inspiring all those fortunate enough to have come in contact with him.

Pujya Acharya Ji will always be remembered as a Triveni of wisdom, compassion and service. He was a true Tapasvi, whose life epitomised the ideals of Bhagwan Mahavir. His life exemplified the core principles of Jainism, embodying its ideals through his own actions and teachings. His care towards all living beings mirrored Jainism's profound respect for life. He lived a life of truthfulness, reflecting Jainism's emphasis on honesty in thought, word, and deed. He also led a very simple lifestyle. It is due to stalwarts like him that the world continues to be inspired by Jainism and the life of Bhagwan Mahavir. He stood tall among the Jain community but his impact and influence were not limited to only one community. People across faiths, regions and cultures came to him and he worked tirelessly towards spiritual awakening, particularly among the youth.

Education was an area very close to his heart. His journey from Vidhyadhar (his childhood name) to Vidhyasagar was one of deep commitment to acquiring and imparting knowledge. It was his firm belief that education is the cornerstone of a just and enlightened society. He championed the cause of knowledge as a means to empower individuals, enabling them to lead lives of purpose and contribution. His teachings emphasised the importance of self-study and self-awareness as the pathways to true wisdom, urging his followers to engage in lifelong learning and spiritual growth.

At the same time, Sant Shiromani Acharya Vidhyasagar Ji Maharaj Ji wanted our youngsters to get an education that is also rooted in our cultural ethos. He often said that it was because we drifted away from the learnings of the past that we were not able to find solutions to key challenges like water scarcity. He also believed that a holistic education is one that focusses on skilling and innovating. He took immense pride in India’s linguistic diversity and encouraged youngsters to learn Indian languages.

Pujya Acharya Ji himself wrote extensively in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Hindi. The heights he reached as a saint, and how grounded he was on the earth, is seen clearly in his iconic work Mookmati. Through his works, he gave a voice to the downtrodden.

In the domain of healthcare too, Pujya Acharya Ji’s contributions were transformative. He was associated with several efforts, especially in underserved areas. His approach to healthcare was holistic, integrating physical well-being with spiritual wellness, thereby addressing the needs of the person as a whole.

I would especially urge the coming generations to study extensively about Sant Shiromani Acharya Shri Vidhyasagar Ji Maharaj Ji’s commitment to nation building. He would always urge people to rise above any partisan considerations and instead focus on national interest. He was one of the strongest votaries of voting because he saw it as an expression of participation in democratic processes. He advocated healthy as well as clean politics, even saying that policy making has to be about people’s welfare, not self interest (Lokneeti is about Loksangrah not Lobhsangrah).

He believed that a strong nation is built on the foundation of its citizens' commitment to their duties—towards themselves, their families, society, and the country. He encouraged individuals to cultivate virtues such as honesty, integrity and self-reliance, which he saw as essential for the creation of a just, compassionate, and thriving society. This emphasis on duties is of great importance as we work towards building a Viksit Bharat.

In an era where environmental degradation is rampant world over, Pujya Acharya Ji called for a way of life which would minimise the harm being inflicted on nature. Likewise, he saw a paramount role for agriculture in our economy, also stressing on making agriculture modern as well as sustainable. His work towards reforming jail inmates was also noteworthy.

The beauty of our land is that for thousands of years, our soil has produced greats who have shown light to others and made our society better. Pujya Acharya Ji stands as a towering figure in this illustrious lineage of saints and social reformers. Whatever he did, he did not just for the present but also the future. In November last year, I had the opportunity to visit the Chandragiri Jain Mandir in Dongargarh in Chhattisgarh. Little did I know that this visit would be my last meeting with Pujya Acharya Ji. Those moments were very special. He spoke to me for a long time, blessing me for my efforts in serving the nation. He expressed joy on the direction our nation is taking and the respect India is getting on the world stage. He was filled with enthusiasm while talking about the work he was doing. Then and always, his gentle gaze and serene smile were enough to instill a sense of peace and purpose. His blessings felt like a soothing balm on the soul, a reminder of the divine presence within and around us.

Sant Shiromani Acharya Shri 108 Vidhyasagar Ji Maharaj Ji’s void is deeply felt by all who knew him and were touched by his teachings and his life. However, he lives on in the hearts and minds of those he inspired. In honouring his memory, we commit to embodying the values he espoused. In this way, we not only pay tribute to a great soul but also take forward his mission for our country and people.