Thursday, December 6, 2012

A.P.Durai's response to Selvanayagam's lecture

Following is Mr. A.P.Durai's response to the 11th Stanley Samartha Memorial lecture

Thank you very much for forwarding the thought provoking and well researched talk by Rev.Dr.Selvanayagam. I record below some thoughts on the subject that arose in my mind as I read the text. Please do convey the following to the distinguished speaker as feedback. I am open to correction if I have wrongly understood the subject or the speech. Theology, as far as my experience goes, is irrelevant in the larger context of humanity and the problems it faces in inter faith relations. Any contribution to the sum total of human integration and unity is to be applauded.

1. I agree with the conclusions of Selvanayagam.The topic itself is ambiguous. Commitment to what? - is the question that arises. Not being able to answer this precisely, the speaker has opted to amend it. That is agreeable to me.

2. I do not endorse all the theological affirmations and questions raised. They are irrelevant to developing an openness to other peoples' faith(s). My heart says, "Of, God, when will you liberate us from theologians and enable us to feel Your presence within me?"

3. Is it necessary to talk about trinity and other assorted doctrines while talking about inter faith dialogue? Is it necessary to insist that the Old Testament be part of the new Christianity (it was called "The Way" initially) unveiled by Jesus? It is rather strange that those who swear by their Indian-ness fail to ask this question -- why should I believe in the laws of Moses and why should I read and believe in the Old Testament which is a chronicle of a race far removed from our native country and this chronicle records genocide, territorial aggression, incest and murder? These chapters were initially adopted by the nascent church only to ensure that the Jewish followers were made comfortable in the new dispensation.

4. What is the aim of this dialogue? Is it for achieving inter faith peace and communal amity (law and order)? Is it for promoting secularism which means peaceful coexistence and mutual respect for one another's faith (political intent) ? Or is it for bringing about understanding of the commonality of teachings of other religions which would liberate men from the labels and shackles imposed upon them by religions (spiritual purpose) ?

5. Definitely, the power centres in religions would not want this to materialise and that is why, as Selvanayagam has pointed out , the dialogue is yet to begin. It has been only talked about by only a small group of clergy - most parish priests are not part of this - but the flock is kept reined in through fears and temptations and perhaps a false sense of security by being part of the fold. The mother bird does not want to push the chicks out of the nest so that they could take flight. The chicks thus remain underdeveloped for ever. BIRD must give this their serious consideration - the pun is intended!

6. It is mentioned that God is a word not understood by Jains and Buddhists, but they do talk about meditation as the means for liberation/transformation. Why not look for such common platforms instead of blocking the efforts to develop a common frequency?

7. How many of us are really geared to carry on the dialogue? How many priests and bishops or laymen have read the Upanishads and the Bhagawad Gita or studied the teachings of other masters? Or, are we still talking about dialogue from the ivory tower of moral and spiritual superiority and infallibility? My feeling is that if we approach the truth of other religions as humble pilgrims , we might find priceless gems and will be blessed with a new understanding of Jesus' spiritual /ethical/ moral teachings .

8. All said and done, dialogues can be hijacked or driven astray from the spiritual purpose by vested interests in religions- unless it is taken to the grass root level. The spiritual purpose is not only to know that all men are God's children ( no group can call itself as the Chosen One, and therefore, all of us are brothers and sisters), but to feel this unity in our hearts and to allow it to manifest in our thoughts, actions and attitudes. Are our clerics and theologians stimulating our hearts to feel this love or are they trying to divide humanity on the pretence of faith and beliefs, doctrines and dogmas, is the question to be confronted with commitment and openness.

9. Commitment should be for finding and experiencing the Ultimate in our own hearts , call it a mystery (vide Samartha) or mysticism, and this is the cause that religions must advance among "aam aadmi" and not only among the creamy layer! After all, the aim of all religions is "re ligare" , to bind or unite man with God, the Jivatma with the Paramatma. Have religions been actively pursuing this goal? I have serious doubts about this.

10. The solution which we refuse to face is openness to spirituality - wherever we might find it . Did not Jesus say that the time will come when God will be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth? A relentless search for this Truth and Spirit alone will bring humanity together - not all this disputation and arguments to secure our stated positions on theology, cosmology , doctrines and dogma. The commitment and openness are warranted at the individual level and cannot be expected to develop all at once among nominal / conservative /fundamentalist practitioners of religions so beautifully described by Selvanayagam. The leaders of religions face the stupendous task of awakening this majority that is yet uncommitted to the Spirit and Truth and still lack the required openness to realise the truth that God is one and that all men are equal members of His family.

10. I have learnt from my spiritual teacher (Master) that true faith is faith in the Ultimate and further that any faith placed on anything less than that will not help our spiritual evolution. The Ultimate is the nameless, formless and the attribute-less and it cannot brook any theological interpretation, He is what He is. But as Rev.Selvanayagam has pointed out, He (She or It) can be experienced within oneself. And one's inner experience may not agree with the other's. But it is sufficient if it ignites our hearts with love for Him and for our fellowmen and cleanses us of our self righteousness as well as guilt - the two major blocks for spirituality.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year in anticipation,

With salutations,


1 comment:

Eric S. Morris FCA, DISA(ICA) said...

Isaiah 55:8-9New International Version (NIV)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.