All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga

Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute's Participation in an
Inter-Religious Dialogue on Spirituality in Hinduism & Islam - A Report

Prepared by: Sumangala Devi Dasi, Ph.D.

December 24, 2017

Inaugural Session at India International Center, New Delhi, India.
Inaugural Session at India International Center, New Delhi, India.
 

Inaugural Ceremony

October 25, 2017

The Indian Council of Philosophical Research in collaboration with Iran Culture House, New Delhi jointly organized a two day conference on "Inter-Religious Dialogue on Spirituality in Hinduism & Islam" on October 25-26, 2017 at the India International Center, New Delhi, India.

Prof. S.R. Bhatt
Prof. S.R. Bhatt, Chairman, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi
 
Professor S.R. Bhatt, Chairman, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, delivered the Introductory remarks. Professor Bhatt explained that the main purpose of the Inter-Religious Conference is to emphasize that Indian thoughts are not materialistic but are holistic in which the welfare of not only the citizens of a state or members of a community is involved but the whole of humanity and entire cosmos is taken into consideration. Professor S. R. Bhatt said that it is also explained in the Upanishads that:

"AUM! MAY GOD PROTECT US TOGETHER; MAY GOD NOURISH US TOGETHER; MAY WE WORK CONJOINTLY WITH GREAT ENERGY, MAY OUR STUDY BE VIGOROUS AND EFFECTIVE; MAY WE NOT MUTUALLY DISPUTE (OR MAY WE NOT HATE ANY). AUM! LET THERE BE PEACE IN ME! LET THERE BE PEACE IN MY ENVIRONMENT! LET THERE BE PEACE IN THE FORCES THAT ACT ON ME!"

Dr. Ali Dehgahi, Cultural Counsellor, Iran

Dr. Ali Dehgahi, Cultural Counsellor, Iran

Dr. Abuzar Ibrahimi Turkaman, President ICRO

Dr. Abuzar Ibrahimi Turkaman, President ICRO

Message from Honorable Prime Minister of India His Excellency Sri Narendra Modi

His Excellency Sri Narendra Modi, the Honorable Prime Minister of India also sent his 'message' for the success of Inter-Religious Dialogue on Spirituality in Hinduism & Islam.

H.H. Gurusharananadaji Maharaj with Prof. S.R. Bhatt, Chairman, ICPR New Delhi

H.H. Gurusharananadaji Maharaja with Prof. S.R. Bhatt, Chairman, ICPR New Delhi
 

After this auspicious invocation by Professor S.R. Bhatt, Dr. Ali Dehgahi, Cultural Counsellor, Iran delivered his welcome address.

As a distinguished Guest of the conference Dr. Abuzar Ibrahimi TurkamanPresident Islamic Culture and Relations Organization and Chairman of the Council of Policy making and Coordination among Religions, said that a man with a superficial approach accepts whatever is visible in the arena of his physical sight, but a man with a semantic approach turns to intuition which is the task of heart. He said that in Islamic texts, the understanding of true self, which is self-knowledge, indicates that a person who has achieved self-knowledge has already known his God. He also said that spiritual education is important, but if such an education does not lead to faith and faith in turn does not lead to action, the end result will be what we witness in the world today, and unfortunately, negligence is the main cause of all problems. He said that negligence or ignorance is a disease whose treatment is not in the hands of the sick person, and since the negligent person is not aware of his own negligence, how can he seek its treatment? Hence, its treatment is in the hands of the religious scholars. Dr. Abuzar Ibrahimi told that, spirituality cannot be taught, it must be tasted by human beings, and this is the job of those who have experienced it. At the end of his speech, he thanked the organizers for the First Round of Dialogue between Islam and Hinduism expressing a hope that "such dialogues would provide us with a deeper and mutual understanding of each others in future." He also announced that his organization is ready to host the second round of such dialogues in Tehran in 2018.

Dr. Mohsen QomiDpty. Inter. in Office of Supreme Leader, I.R. Iran, said that Iran and India have been two centers of world civilization to promote the world's cultural architecture and doctrine. And the followers of Islam and Hinduism constitute over one-third of the world population and this dialogue can be a foundation for a better world. He discussed four components of spirituality and said that Islam introduces itself as a religion of all-encompassing mercy to all the creatures on earth, "Unquestionably, to Allah do [all] matters evolve." [Surah Shura:53] Therefore, man should understand the meaning behind spirituality, the reality of being, and the meaning of his life and should try to explore it in different ways. He also said that, there are many similarities in the Holy Koran and the Upanishads and this proximity of religious texts will pave ground for more joint cooperation between the followers of scholars of the two religions.

The Inaugural Address was delivered by the H.H. Gurusharananadaji Maharaja (Head of Sri Udasin Karshni Ashram, Ramanreti, Vrindavan). He said that love is the only feeling by which we can connect with the other intimately. Although, we don't know the languages of each other in this conference but we are feeling a kind of loving relationship and that is why we can understand the real meaning of the dialogues because we are spiritually connected. There is a higher stage in Spirituality where all religion merges in the one. And India is a country where we respect all religions.

Mr. Ghulam Reza AnsariAmbassador of Iran in India and Guests of Honors Swami Vishnu Hari PrasadVishnu Foundation, ChennaiSri Yodhister Govinda DasDpty. Director, ISKCONDr. Srivats GoswamiVrindavanProfessor K.D. Tripathi, Emeritus BHU, Sri Suresh Soni attended the Inter-Religious Dialogue.

Interviews at the end of Inaugural Session

Academic Session, October 26, 2017


A brief recording of this dialogue can be found at the end of the talk of Swami Agnivesh
 

In the 1stAcademic session of the Inter-Religious conference at New Delhi, Swami Agniveshan Indian politician and a former Member of Legislative Assembly from the Indian state of Haryana, who is an Arya Samaj scholar, and a social activist,delivered his talk. Sripad Bhakti Niskama Shanta Maharaja, Ph.D., challenged Swami Agnivesh's point that "God cannot have form" by the argument that "If God can't do something then that is not the true concept of God." According to the Vedic view, the Supreme can do-undo anything and everything 'kartum akartum anyatha kartum samarthaha'.

Sripad Shanta Maharaja explained that Reality is personal and it is only the false ego of misconceived souls that forces them to see reality as impersonal, and thus some are busy in finding a mechanistic explanation of reality. Hence, matter is an experience of such misconceived souls who have not yet realized that everything [including themselves] is meant for the service of Absolute. Hegel, a German philosopher, has given an idea of the Absolute as the Prime Cause of everything, must have two qualifications. What are they? It must be by itself and for itself. He is His own cause, and He exists only to satisfy Himself, to fulfill His own purpose. Everything-every incident, and whatever happens-must have to be for His satisfaction. [Home Comfort 6th ed., 1998 by B.R Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaja] Absolute can be approached only by the cultivation of love for the Absolute (through loving service - bhakti). He also said that Bhakti is not a mental imagination and one can only attain true love (bhakti) for the Absolute by engaging in loving devotional services under a devotee who has already awakened that love for the Supreme. In this way, Bhakti comes from Bhakti. Everyone in the conference was convinced by this argument of Dr. Shanta, and all of them together said: "Yes, if God cannot do something then He cannot be called God." 

Hamid Parasania with Sripad Bhakti Niskama Shanta, Ph.D., General Secretary, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute, Bangaluru, India and other delegates
Hamid Parasania with other delegates
Dr. Kala Dhananjay Acharya, delivered his talk as Keynote speaker. Next talks of this session were delivered by the Professor Janak Dave and Dr. Ahmad Moballeghi respectively.

Dr. Hamid Parsania said that the various scholastic movements within the Islamic world had offered diverse views on the description of the sacred being. He said that every living creature has conditioned signs and symbols. And it is only true unlimited existence which is free from all conditions and limitations. Unlimited existence (Absolute) which is boundless and immeasurable, encompasses the outwards, the inwards, the alpha, and the omega of all other conditioned and limited beings. And with this encompassment and presence It manifests and discloses them. Despite this, it itself is not conditioned by any of their limitations. As we know, the gap between unlimited existence and limited affairs is always unlimited. In other words, even though it is present in all things, and even though all things in all their dimensions are in its presence and manifest its presence, it still transcends all of them. Dr. Hamid said that the noble Koran speaks about God's omnipresence and encompassing nature, "He is the First and the last and the outward and the inward" [57:3] and "He is with you wherever you may be" [57:4]. We see the same idea of God being with all things and yet distinct from them expressed in the speech of the master words, Ali ('a) when he states: "He is with all things, without being bound to them; and He is other than all things, without being detached from them."
Sripad Bhakti Niskama Shanta Maharaja, Ph.D. (General Secretary, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute, Bengaluru, India) delivering the talk.
Sripad Bhakti Niskama Shanta Maharaja, Ph.D. (General Secretary, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute, Bengaluru, India) delivering the talk.


This talk has been published on YouTube by IRAN CULTURE HOUSE - NEW DELHI:

In the 2nd academic session Sripad Bhakti Niskama Shanta Maharaja, Ph.D., General Secretary, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute, Bengaluru, India explained that teacher teaches the same topic to all his students, but every student understands that teaching differently. In the same way, from Vedic tradition we know that Lord has given the divine message to the first living entity (Brahma) but when it is passed on in a chain of disciplic succession, different disciples understood that knowledge according to the their consciousness. In this way, a jungle of religions becomes manifest. He said that different religions provide us with different paths, which influence our thoughts and thoughts direct our actions and our actions designs our destiny. So there are so many paths to follow, but in the midst of all religions, we should not forget the real purpose of religion. The 'real purpose of religion' is to establish the connection of the living entity with the Supreme Lord. He said that originally we never find 'Hindu' word in Vedic Scriptures. This word 'Hindu' came very late, in scriptures this ancient religion is known as 'Sanatan Dharma' meaning 'eternal religion,' 'neither beginning, nor end'

Sripad Shanta Maharaja said that the Islam accepts that the living entity is the 'servant of God' and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has also explained the same to Srila Sanatan Goswami, when Srila Sanatan Goswami asked Mahaprabhu 'ke ami - Who am I?' Mahaprabhu answered him that 'Jivera Svarupa haya Krsnera nityadasa - by nature the living entity is the eternal servant of God'. The followers of impersonal philosophy of Sankaracharya believe that multiplicity is an illusion and that everything is one - 'Brahman'. But that concept has been challenged by many Vedantic philosophers like Srila Madhavacharya, Srila Ramanujacharya, and other Vaisnava Acharayas.

Sripad Shanta Maharaja said that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, had a dialogue with a Muslim Scholar during his visit to Vrindavana. Sriman Mahaprabhu said that Koran discusses the form of the Absolute. The Koran says that you are made from the colour of Allah and Allah is extremely merciful. Koran also says that Allah listens to our prayers and so many aspects of the personality of Allah have been expressed in the Koran. And it is also mentioned in the Koran that, 'How do we know that Allah loves you?' Shanta Maharaja said in his answer that, if Allah loves you, you will also feel love for Allah, and you will develop the same qualities as Allah (Allah loves both who follows Him and also who do not follow Him. Therefore, a true Muslim who has cultivated love for Allah will love both Muslims and non Muslims equally.), and his nearest and dearest will also love you, i.e., his associates. When Allah loves someone the He brings that soul close to Him and makes the soul sit beside Him. This indicates that Allah has an abode where there are many good souls living with Allah and who are lovingly serving Allah in that abode. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said that the "Koran accepts the fact that ultimately there is only one God. He is full of opulence, and His bodily complexion is blackish." [Holy Koran 2.138][CC Madhya 18.190]'. The Koran also discusses karmajnana and describes that the 'Ultimate goal of life' is to develop the loving relations with God. Mahaprabhu [CC Madhya 18.191-194] also says the same thing and Jesus Christ also teaches us the same. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur explained in one of his published article [To Love God, 1871] that, it was Christ Jesus who first said "Love God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and love man as thy brother." This is an absolute truth indeed, but different men put different interpretations to this noble expression. So all the bonafide religions teach us the same message, how to cultivate our love for the "Absolute" and this is the real purpose of all religion.

Professor Hasan Bolkhari Ghehi, Professor, University of Tehran, Chief of Society for the Appreciation of cultural Works and Dignitaries.
Professor Hasan Bolkhari Ghehi, Professor, University of Tehran, Chief of Society for the Appreciation of cultural Works and Dignitaries.

Professor Hasan Bolkhari Ghehi, University of Tehran, Chief of Society for the Appreciation of cultural Works and Dignitaries, explained about Srimad Bhagavad Gita in a profound way. He said that Srimad Bhagavad Gita explains truth which is so clear, lucid and sublime that sounds so familiar to a Muslim who is an addressee of holy Koran, Prophet of Islam and the impeccable Imams. He said that prince Darashikoh translated the Upanishads into Persian language and he mentioned in the Introduction of his book, Al-Wagia Surah in Koran [:77-79] that Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita are sacred books. He also expressed the amazing relationship between Hinduism and Islamic mysticism in his other works like Majma ol Bahrein.

Professor Ghehi also quoted some verses from Srimad Bhagavad Gita like "Only the ignorant speak of devotional service [karma-yoga] as being different from the analytical study of the material world [Sankhya]. Those who are actually learned say that he who applies himself well to one of these paths achieves the results of both."[BG 5.4] "One who knows that the position reached by means of analytical study can also be attained by devotional service, and who therefore sees analytical study and devotional service to be on the same level, sees things as they are."[BG 5.5] He also quoted from Srimad Bhagavad Gita, where Arjuna asked Sri Krishna that "O descendant of Vrshni, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?" [BG 3.36] then Supreme Lord Sri Krishna replied that "it is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material mode of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world"[BG 3.37] and "the senses, the mind and the intelligence are the sitting places of this lust. Through them lust covers the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him." [BG 3.40] "Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization." [BG 3.41]

Professor Ghehi further said that all these teachings given by Lord Sri Krishna is similar to the teachings of [Nahj ol Balagheh, Sermon 42] Imam Ali (Pbuh): "O people! What I fear most about you, are two things; acting according to desires and extending of hopes. Desires prevent us from truth and extending hope makes us forget the higher world."

Professor Ghehi also quoted some more verses from the Srimad Bhagavad Gita like Chapter 6.29-32. He said that all verses of Srimad Bhagavad Gita emphasized a journey from ignorance to Knowledge, Knowledge to wisdom and wisdom leads us towards the elevation. Here he also mentioned about the divine nature of a godly man from Srimad Bhagavad Gita chapter 16.1-3. He said that all these characteristics are also emphasized in the Islamic teachings. According to the Al-baqara-The Caw:112, "Indeed, whoever submits his face to Allah and does good works shall be rewarded by his Lord; they shall have nothing to fear nor shall they be saddened." "Remember when he came to his Lord with a pure heart" [Al-Saffat:84] He said that when Ibrahim Khavas visited to Shebli, he saw 'a Sheikh' sitting in meditation without any movement of the body, even no blinks and all doors were closed for strangers, Ibrahim thought that he is dead. But after a while, he looked him. Ibrahim said, "O Sheikh! What is this state?" then he answered: "I am watching my soul."

Professor Ghehi further said that the existence of such concepts in both Islamic and Hinduism cultures indicate that there are the same meanings of higher concepts. Human nature is always seeking a way to go back to his original self. At the end of his long speech he again quoted some more verses from Srimad Bhagavad Gita [BG 18.61-66,68].

ripad Bhakti Vijnana Muni Maharaja, Ph.D. (President, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute, Bengaluru, India) delivering his talk.
Sripad Bhakti Vijnana Muni Maharaja, Ph.D. (President, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute, Bengaluru, India) delivering his talk.


This talk can be found at:

Sripad Bhakti Vijnana Muni Maharaja, Ph.D., President, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Institute, Bengaluru, India, said that the main point is that Absolute is sentient and He is The Supreme Personality of Godhead and can be approached only through loving devotional service, which is called bhakti in the Vedantic system. Therefore bhakti becomes fundamental. He explained that the concept, the idea and the form are being ignored in modern materialistic perspective. But this approach of modern times is defective and it is impersonal. The Gaudiyas follow the teaching of Sriman Mahaprabhu and they teach that to everyone. Religion has been preached all over the two worlds in two ways. They are the indic religions (such as Gaudiya-Vedanta) and the non-indic religions (such as Islam). Both these forms of religions are strictly monotheistic. This monotheism is called advaya jnana tattva in Vedanta and tawheed in the Islamic teachings, Islam stresses the line of Prophets and Vedanta puts emphasis on the unbroken chain of Acharyas in disciplic succession. For example In Al-Koran, it is mentioned, 'We make no distinction between any of His messengers,' they say, 'We hear and obey. Grant us your forgiveness, our Lord. To You we all return!' (Al-Baqara, 2:285) "Just as Islam teaches loving servitude to the Supreme Lord as the goal of Religion, the same is also taught in Vedantic religions, in terms of the realization of one's spiritual relation with the Lord, and the gradual development of loving service attitude within one's own heart by the association of higher vaisnavas. The question of loving service is well recognized in Islam also. E.g. Prophet Mohammad had a well known title, Habib-Ullah, which means a beloved of the Lord. Further both Vedanta as well as Islam have given importance to inculcating good nature such as kindness, empathy and pridelessness, as they are favourable to cultivating the necessary goal of Religion, which is the loving devotional service.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu harmonized all the different schools of Vedanta by his contribution which is well known as 'Achintya-bheda-abheda-vada-tattva.' Sriman Mahaprabhu is regarded as the Great Harmonizer. Mahaprabhu and Muslim scholars had several dialogues about the concept of God and love of God in which they were all convinced that the goal of Indic Religions and the Holy Koran were convergent. Mahaprabhu also foretold that in future even the Muslims will get the higher mercy, and they will also develop such a love of Godhead, that they will cry in great humility calling out the Lord's Holy Name. In past also many Muslims in India got such mercy from Sriman Nityananda Prabhu that even Brahmanas considered themselves less fortunate than those fortunate Muslims, when they saw the symptoms of love of Godhead manifest in their personalities. Thus anyone who develops such pure love of Godhead is most fortunate and his different background does not matter. The whole world can become a garden simply when everyone can cooperatively serve the instructions of great devotees of the Lord.

Sripad Muni Maharaja reffered to the conclusion of all Vedic literature that Krishna is the Supreme personality of Godhead. Krishna is the central point of attraction, and His service is our main activity and to attain love of Krishna is the ultimate goal of human life. Therefore Krishna, His service, and love for Krishna are the three great assets of human life. When one accepts Vedic literature by interpretation or through a dictionary meaning, directly or indirectly, the ultimate declaration of Vedic knowledge points to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a leading authority of Gaudiya Vaishnavism had witten in the Sajjana Toshani (4/3) that "Gradually, when the offensive portions of the established religions are destroyed, there will be no more differences in the bhajana performed by the various Sampradayas nor any quarrel between them. Then as brothers, the people of all varnas, castes, and countries will spontaneously chant the Holy Names of the Supreme Lord together. At that time, no one will hate anyone or consider others dogeaters; nor will anyone be overwhelmed by the pride of high birth. The living entities will not forget the principle of natural brotherhood."

Sripad Muni Maharaja told that when we look into history, we find that India and Iran were in good relation since pre-historic period. For example, the language of Rig Veda and the Zendavesta have many profound commonalities. Iranians originally belong to the Aryan stock. India, Persia and other central Asian people are also from the same background. Therefore, we have a common history and civilization. At the end of his speech, Sripad Muni Maharaja said that India is a country of harmony, cooperation, lasting peace and spiritual progress among all religions, all over the world. It believes in the concept of the world being one family, where all can live and co-exist peacefully and meaningfully. He said that true knowledge liberates us from entanglement and we hope that the 'Indo-Iranian' ties which is our commonwealth since antiquity will be able to help contribute towards more peace and progress for the world.

Professor Shamsollah Mariji, Professor, Department of Social Sciences, University of Bagher al-ulum
Professor Shamsollah Mariji, Professor, Department of Social Sciences, University of Bagher al-ulum

Next talks of this session delivered by the Professor S.A.M. Naqvi, Professor Shakuntala Bora, Dr. Sahebi and Professor Balaganapathy Devarakonda, University of Delhi, Delhi respectively.

In the 3rd Academic session Professor Shamsollah Mariji, Department of Social Sciences, University of Bagher al-ulum, said that in the modern and technological age with all other advancement, the human community suffered from the lack of true peace because of the missing link and that missing link is Spirituality i.e. attainment of inner strength. He said that the term spirituality is not in the original sources of Islam but the concepts that refer to this fact can be traced into the Holy Koran. He said that whatever is done with the name of God and with divine motivation is included in spirituality. According to Saba/46 it is said that "I only advise you of one [thing] - that you stand for Allah, [seeking truth] in pairs and individually..." and "Purity." In Maedeh/30 it is said that "Indeed Allah only accepts from the righteous."

Professor Mariji also discussed about the 'Nobility of Soul', and the Authenticity of Shari'a, meaning a series of beliefs, morals, divine rules and collection of religious and juridical Do's and don'ts. [Jasiyeh/18] [Hashr/7][Anfal/24] He said that the spirituality is the need of the soul in order to achieve the highest level of perfection, therefore the soul must proceed in a 'moderated and balanced way' to attain harmonious advancement. Neither the social systems could be sacrificed for the sake of spirituality nor could the spirituality be sacrificed for the sake of socials only. He said that we need both the light to the eyes and insight for the soul. Professor Mariji also emphasized the spirit of religion is to be "Servitude to God" is called thralldom-ism, serving the God and His creation individually or collectively. According to martyr master Motahhari, "praying is a mean to get closer to Allah, for each abstemious person and connecting with unlimited source."

A vote of thanks and summing up of the Inter-Religious Dialogue on the Spirituality in Hinduism & Islam was honored by the Dr. Sushim Dubey and Professor Rajneesh Kumar Shuklamember secretary, ICPR, New Delhi. Some more photos of the event can be found here.
 

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