Symposium On Unity Of Faiths – A Report…

As part of the Guru Purnima 2012 celebrations, a symposium on Unity of Faiths was held on 2nd July in Prasanthi Nilayam. Representing four major religions eminent personalities of spiritual status attended this one-day symposium.

In the inaugural session, Sri Srirangarajan, Controller of Examinations, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning introduced the speakers for the session. The speakers for the morning were Prof. Akhtarul Wasey and His Holiness Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

Sri Srirangarajan began with placing his reverential salutations at the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan. A notable feature of his talk was he interspersed with clips from Bhagawan’s Divine Discourses. Before the talk of Prof. Wasey, a poem of Bhagawan from the Discourse delivered on 25th December 1990 on the subject “Unity of Faiths” was played on the Public Address system:

He who is worshipped as Allah by Muslims,
As Jehovah by Christian aspirants,
As the Lotus-eyed Lord by the worshippers of Vishnu,
As Sambhu by those who revere Siva,
In whatever way He is worshipped, He gladly responds,
Grants the grace of fame and fortune,
And showers happiness and joy.
He is the One,
The Supreme Self. Know Him as Paramatma. (Telugu Poem)

If you know who you are, you will understand what religion is.” Bhagawan said, “True spirituality means the spirit in you is present in everyone. Realisation is religion. On account of distorted interpretation, people of many religions are misguided. The outcome is violence and bloodshed. If you know who you are, you will understand what religion is.” Continuing further, He said, “True spirituality means the spirit in you is present in everyone. Realisation is religion. To know thyself is spirituality.” Where there are differences, there is a possibility of conflicts. In order to see there are no conflicts, you should remain united. Entire humanity is one. Religions are many, but path is one.

Srirangarajan, referring to the interpretation of Holy Cross by Bhagawan said, the vertical line in cross signifies ego (I) and the horizontal line refers to vanquishing our ego. Bhagawan always emphasised on love and said love should be the undercurrent of all activities. Introducing Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, Sri Srirangarajan said the erudite speaker is the Head of Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. He is currently engaged in teaching and guided a number of students in research work. He is also the editor of a number of journals.

Prof. Wasey, in his speech, said that it was his privilege and pleasure to be at Prasanthi Nilayam as a pilgrim. A true Muslim will respect all religions. Many people think Mohammad initiated Islam. In fact, Mohammad is the last messenger. To profess, to confess that Allah is One and Mohammad is His messenger; I have faith in Allah, Iswar and His angels. It is obligatory for all Muslims to respect all religions, all prophets and all mankind. Echoing a lofty statement, the learned speaker said, “Whoever is born is born for doing service.” Giving the true meaning of Jihad, the speaker said, Jihad does not mean ‘holy war’ but supreme struggle against evil desires and other evil tendencies. We have built walls around us. We should unite through religion. There is no compulsion in religion. Prof Wasey expressed his happiness since this divine abode was holding such a conference for the second time.

Airing his views on the status of women in Islam, Prof Wasey said that they are differentiated on the basis of dress. The prevalent ill-treatment of women is because of inherent male chauvinism. All creatures belong to the family of God. Prof Wasey concluded his speech by exhorting everyone to make this earth a heavenly place.

After the talk of Prof Wasey, Srirangarajan requested for another audio clip from Bhagawan’s Discourse to be played. In this Discourse delivered on 23rd July 1989, Bhagawan said all religions advocated peace, no religion propagated violence. Islam in Persian language means surrender and peace. Giving the meaning of Zakat and Salat in Islamic parlance, Bhagawan said, Salat meant to worship God with all faith and devotion and Zakat meant to help the fellow human beings with what they need.

Giving the meaning of Hindu, Sri Srirangarajan said being distant from Himsa (violence) is Hindu. Be it a Vaisnavite or a Saivite, Shia or Sunni, Catholic or Protestants, there should be no differences. If one causes pain or injury to other, it will come back to the same person.

Introducing H.H. Dayananda Saraswati as the traditional teacher of Vedanta, Sri Srirangarajan said that H.H. Dayananda Saraswati has been teaching Vedanta, both to the public and to resident students, in short and long-term courses in India for more than four decades, and around the world since 1976. Swami Dayananda also designed and taught ten resident in-depth Vedanta courses, each spanning 30 to 36 months.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati opined that he was happy to be here because he is at the Abode of the Person who has inspired not only people of this country but people of all cultures and religions. The speaker expressed what goes under the name Hinduism is one Sanathana Dharma, never founded by anybody; a Dharma which produced in every generation great people. When a philosopher was asked about Hinduism, he said, it is the view and way of life.

There is no one greater than you. You are the Poorna. You have a judgement of yourself. You are the whole and you do experience the wholeness. Swami Dayananda Saraswati further said that one can never say that I never had a moment of happiness. These moments are few and far between. You accept your colour, weight, your star, your Sukra, Shani, your knowledge, your limitations, but you are not at all mindful of all limitations.

Narrating a beautiful anecdote of a sculptor and his friend, Swami Dayananda Saraswati said perceptions are different. The sculptor was observing a monolithic rock. The other person was surprised seeing the sculptor gazing at the rock. When asked, the sculptor said that he would tell later. After a month, when the person met the sculptor, he saw a beautiful idol of Lord Krishna in standing posture. The person was dazed seeing the beauty of the idol. Now the sculptor said, the other day you asked me as to why I was looking at the rock. I was looking at Krishna, I only unfolded Krishna, I did not shape Krishna. The speaker said that one should manifest wholeness in every situation. Ramo Vigrahavan Dharmah. Dharma is the manifestation of God.

A cow will remain vegetarian whether it is in India or America. Every animal lives by sheer programming. What one does should not hurt the other person and vice versa. This is a matrix of values – a universal value. This is Samanya Dharma. When you ask somebody, where is your daughter, the person says he is in Texas, where is your son, he is in California, and where is God, He is up (pointing the finger upward). We don’t give address to God. Isavasyam Idam Sarvam (the entire universe is permeated by God). We don’t say, there is one God, many gods, we say, there is only God. Every manifestation is God. You hold a pot, there is Poorna (whole) – space inside and outside too. You take it to sea and dip, there is water inside and outside, again it is Poorna. You are Poorna. God is to be understood.

H.H. Dayananda Saraswati concluded his talk by saying that Baba validated all forms of prayer and worship. God understands all languages, any form of prayer.

Expressing vote of thanks on behalf of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust Sri Srirangarajan expressed grateful thanks to both the eminent speakers. Morning session came to a close after couple of Bhajans followed by Mangala Arathi.

When the session continued post lunch session, the first speaker was Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, Spokesman and Director, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese and the second speaker was Dhammachari Dr. B.V. Rajaram of Mahabodhi Society, Bangalore. Sri Srirangarajan introduced the two speakers. An excerpt from Bhagawan’s Divine Discourse delivered on 14th February 1999 on the concept of Unity Of Faiths was aired in the public address system. Bhagawan said, “He is a true Christian who cultivates the crop of love in the field of heart. A true Sikh is not the one who wears a turban or sword, but who is full of love.” Giving the acronym of Hindu, Bhagawan said, H stands for Humanity, I – Individuality, N – Nationality, D – Divinity and U – Unity. The one with these five qualities is a true Hindu. A Muslim calls Allah, which means God. Allah Ho Akbar means God is greatest. Islam means one who leads a life of peace. When the heart is full of love, you will be peaceful.

Sri Srirangarajan said unless love manifests in us, we cannot be called religious. Love reaching out to others is Sri Sathya Sai Grama Seva. This unique is activity is conducted not only by students of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning but also by others. Referring to an incident that happened in the Mandir in the Divine Presence, Sri Srirangarajan said, a devotee once told Swami that His hospital is doing wonderful service to humanity. It is a fit subject for case study. Bhagawan said, it is not meant for case study in the worldly sense, it is a case study of love.

Rev. Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, an erudite scholar from Delhi Catholic Diocese is a Bachelor in Philosophy and Theology. In 1991, he completed his Ph.D. He then worked on various capacities in India and abroad including being a freelancer in BBC. From 1998 onwards, he has been a spokesperson for Delhi Catholic Diocese. He has written nearly 200 articles in Indian dailies. Paying his obeisance to the respected spirit of Bhagawan and thanking the Trustees for the opportunity, the learned speaker said it was indeed a great honour for being invited to the Unity Of Faith symposium.

Fr. Dominic said that such symposiums were being celebrated even in England. Amartya Sen said in his book, ‘The Argumentative Indian,’ that India has given birth to greatest religions in the world. Winston Churchill predicted that independent India would not survive because of its various religions, cultures and races. Amartya Sen says, Churchill has been proved wrong. He refers to the word ‘heterodoxy.’ Whoever tries to break the unity of India will not succeed now or future. It always stands for unity in diversity for the rest of the world. The learned speaker was enamoured with the concept of unity of religions in this place. Right from the throne of Bhagawan to the museum in Chaitanya Jyoti to His Samadhi, every place in Prasanthi Nilayam is filled with the idea of unity of religions. Did He mean Unity Of Faiths of unity of faithful? In other words, he wanted unity of hearts. The learned speaker quoted many sayings from Bhagawan’s Discourses. Bhagawan’s Name itself is Truth (Sathya), said the speaker. Jesus spoke about truth. Mahatma Gandhi experimented with truth. God is Truth and Truth is God. Speaking on Saint Paul’s letter to Corinthians, he said, “Love is patient, is kind, it does not dishonour others. Serve others, love ever. It does not keep records of wrongs. Love never fails.” God’s love is manifested in Jesus Christ.

Speaking on the parable of the prodigal son, Fr. Emmanuel said, the youngest son asked for a share of property, spent all his money in evil ways. When he was left with nothing, he worked in a farm. Then a thought came to him that his father has much more. So, he returns to his father, totally not recognisable. His father does not even listen to his pleadings for forgiveness. He welcomes his son with open arms and calls for a festival to be celebrated.

When the speaker visited the Chaitanya Jyoti museum, the museum in charge said, “Sathya Sai Baba accepted everybody in His embrace like Jesus Christ.” Jesus never looked at the sins of others. Jesus said, “Forgive seventy times seven.” Dilating on the sayings of Bhagawan, the speaker quoted, “Love lives by giving and forgiving, self lives by getting and forgetting.” He said, “When I read Sathya Sai Baba, I feel like I am reading a commentary on the Bible.” Ramakrishna founded his mission on 24th December, a day prior to Jesus’ Birthday. He had a vision of Jesus. Yogada Paramahamsa has also written two volumes on the revelations of Jesus Christ. The speaker was appreciative of the Seva rendered in the Super Speciality Hospital and the foundations of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation in India and abroad. He concluded his speech saying, “Let the words of great men and women be imprinted in our hearts so that we translate them into service.”

Before the speech of Dhammachari Dr. B.V. Rajaram, there was another extract from a Discourse of Bhagawan delivered on 25th December 1991, Bhagawan said Christianity speaks on brotherhood of humanity. In every step in Indian culture, in every human being, there is only one Atma. Bhagawan said the inner significance of Namaskar is bringing about unity in diversity.
Sri Srirangarajan introduced the next speaker Dhammachari Dr. B.V. Rajaram as an eminent theatre personality, actor, director, all rolled in one. He is a well-known speaker in Buddhism. He is a guest faculty in the Department of Performing Arts. He has also translated the essence of Dhammapada into Kannada language. Paying his homage to Bhagawan and thanking the Trustees for the opportunity, Dr. Rajaram said that he had the privilege of having Bhagawan’s Darshan in Puttaparthi many times.

The speaker opined that Buddha came into the world as a human being to serve. Describing the predicament of a lady whose child was lying dead, Dr. Rajaram said that she was advised by an old man to go to Buddha. When she met Buddha, he asked her to get a handful of seeds from a house where death has not entered. She went to house after house, but everyone said that they had death of their near and dear ones sometime or the other. This is the world. When we are born, we are bound to die. The speaker said even in the Sarva Dharma emblem of Bhagawan, there was the wheel of Buddha. Buddha set in motion the wheel of truth. He was there in this world 2,500 years ago. He got enlightenment under a tree. Speaking on the significance of Guru Purnima, the speaker said, whoever gives the truth, there are thousands of saints and sages, we pray to them. That is Guru Purnima.

Buddha was a prince in Kapilavastu. He saw a sick man, a dead body, a monk. All these made him think of the purpose of life and gave him detachment. He left the palace. On his 35th year, he got enlightenment. Till his 80th year, he wandered. Speaking on what is Buddhism, the speaker said Buddhism teaches to avoid all evil, cultivate the good to cleanse one’s mind. He said Buddhism is a religion of the mind. It says, if you act with an impure mind, then impure deeds will follow. If we do good then goodness will follow as a never departing shadow. Buddhism advocates the Middle Path. Buddha has given very simple truths. Lobha, Dosa and Moha (greed, hatred and delusion) are the undesirable traits. Buddha has taught 5 precepts to practise – Don’t kill, don’t steal, no sexual misconduct, no lying and no drinking. This is called Panchasheel. We go to many places for excitement, just go to Satsang which gives positive vibrations. Dr. Rajaram concluded by saying that we should give to every human being our goodness, that is Maitri.

At the end, there was a clip of another Divine Discourse of Bhagawan delivered on 23rd July 1989. The crux of the clip was to respect all religions. If each one respects and follows one’s religion, that is good. Islam preaches to treat everyone as brothers. Christianity teaches forbearance. If a person slaps one side of the cheek, show the other side. If you don’t want to respect your religion, don’t criticise.

After Bhajan and Mangala Arati, the one-day Symposium came to a close.

II Samasta Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II