Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering Raimon Pannikkar

Raimon Panikkar, Catholic Theologian, Is Dead at 91

Mr. Panikkar was a Roman Catholic whose embrace of Hindu
scriptures and Buddhism made him an influential voice for
promoting dialogue between the world's religions.

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In the Sept. 5th New York Times, there was an obituary of the distinguished Roman Catholic theologian Raimundo Panikker which is worth reading, especially with regard to Panikker's discovery of the value of delving into the scriptures of eastern religions.

Panikker was born in Spain to a Spanish mother and an Indian father. He became a Catholic monk and then went to India to study eastern religions. An 0ft-quoted comment of his is, "I left Europe as a Christian, I discovered I was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be Christian". That is the great contribution that a study of eastern religions imparts on any serious student of religions. Professor Diana Eck discovered likewise in her "Encountering God: A spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Benares".

And, yet one finds that most theologians of monotheism see little or no value in either studying eastern faiths or engaging in any serious dialog with followers of eastern religions. It is most pronounced among Islamic theologians, Christian proselytizers in that order, and least prevalent among the Jewish Rabbis.

Panikkar also averred that "if the Church wishes to live, it should not be afraid of assimilating elements that come from other religious traditions, whose existence it can today no longer ignore".

C. Alex Alexander

Raimon Panikkar who was and is a hero of Indian Christian Theology. All Indian Christians should read his position on the approach to Hinduism while remaining a true Christian. Mr. Panikkar has amazingly brought up the truth of Christ whom Christians simply say, " He is the light of the world" but would not mean anything to
the world. Christians must be able to know Christ an THE example of representation of HUMANS who can penetrate through the human history without any barriers of religion or even denominations. That is also the Christ who penetrates through genders, cultures, politics, language etc. that divide humanity foolishly. Christians' inability to understand and uphold that Christ who can enlighten the
entire world has become the biggest obstruction for Christ to be seen through the Church to the rest of the world. But it is still possible for Christians to come out of its petiness and see Christ 'AS HE IS' and the world would say, "we need HIM".

Fr. M .K Kuriakose, Philadelphia

Pannikar and Kaaj Baago

Raimon Panikkar averred that "if the Church wishes to live, it should not be afraid of assimilating elements that come from other religious traditions, whose existence it can today no longer ignore".

Almost in the same vein, a brilliant Danish Professor, Dr. Kaaj Baago, in the United Theological College, Bangalore, made history when he said in the 1960s: “Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists should never give up their religion to join the Christian Church”. On the other hand the Church should humble itself and find ways of identifying itself with other groups, taking Christ with them. Christ, he said, was not the chairman of the Christian party. If God is the Lord of the universe he will work through every culture and religion. We must give up the crusading spirit of the colonial era and stop singing weird hymns like “Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war”. This will lead to Hindu Christianity or Buddhist Christianity.

It must involve the disappearance of the Indian Christian community, but he reminded us: “a grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls to the ground and dies”. Needless to say, the Indian Christians were furious. He left the College, the Church and the mission and took refuge with the Danish Foreign Service!!

He later returned to India as his country’s Ambassador and died in harness in 1988.


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