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TEXAS FAITH 19: How can we have a real interfaith dialogue?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

We had a meeting of Texas Faith panelists last week, and the discussion was so good that some of us stayed around for an extra hour. The after-conversation that Joe Clifford, Lillian Pinkus, Amy Martin, Ric Dexter and I had led to this topic for the week:

In a world filled with too much religious tension, we often hear calls for more interfaith dialogue. Unfortunately, such discussions can lead to people suggesting that all religions are the same, which they are not. Or they can lead to one group shouting down the other. Neither is satisfactory nor gets us very far.

So, here's the question for this week:

How can we have an interfaith dialogue without it diluting the essentials of each faith and without it ending up in a Dallas Cowboys/Washington Redskins-type standoff?

Here are the responses from our Texas Faith panelists

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

All people are not all equal, that is myth. Bodies are different, cultures are different, characteristics based in gender, race, age, time, religion, circumstance and so on are all different.

I feel that our only common ground is that we have the same father, God, and that we all have a lost eternal loving relationship with God. For religion means to develop one's loving relationship with God.

In illusion we identify with the temporary: gender designations, political designations, national designations, sexual designations, religions designations. But all these upadis, temporary bodily designations, must be given up by one who is a sincere spiritual seeker.

We are not this body but rather we are eternal soul encased in this temporary material body. As souls we have an eternal relationship with God based on Bhakti, loving devotional service. Any dialogue that is along this line of increasing and deepening devotion is surely progressive. Religion is taught according to time place and circumstance but essential ingredient is this Bhakti.

Hare Krishna :)

Your humble servant,

Nityananda Chandra Das

To see all the responses from the Texas Faith Panel click here

  • NityānandaChandra's blog
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Comments

Sat, 11/07/2009 - 20:21 — bhaktincarol

very nice

I think this is a very nice answer.

Hare Krsna :-)

bhaktincarol

Sat, 11/07/2009 - 22:23 — NityānandaChandra

:) thank you for your

:) thank you for your encouragement

Wed, 11/04/2009 - 14:27 — NityānandaChandra

This is a post by a William Glick

posted by William Glick @ 7:35 PM Tue, Nov 03, 2009

Historically Christian and Muslim faiths have their roots in Judaism,

so at their core concepts about the soul, creation and God are all the same.

I would like to address certain linguistic and philosophical similarities common to both Jews and Hindus, which may open up a broader discussion.

1. Names of God,

a. The most holy of all names of God for a Jew is KNA or KANA, Rabbi's have slapped my face when I have said this name out loud.

This is considered to be the most intimate name for God in the Old Testament. Where it is translated, "I am a jealous God,

have no other gods before you", the literal Hebrew translation is, "My name is EL KNA, have no other gods before you."

This name expands to KRE ShTN as Rabbi Aryeh Kapln,in Meditation and the Kabbalah explains

"On Monday, you must intertwine the associated name "KRE ShTN""

b, From a Vedic (Hindu) view point, Kana is also an affectionate name of Krishna, The pronunciation used above "KRE ShTN" is very similar to

the way south Indians pronounce Krishna.

2. Abraham and Brahma: Very few know that there are two Abrahams in Jewish philosophy

a. There is a description of how the universe was in chaos until Abraham appeared. It is said, "Over the whole, there hovered Tohu (chaos)

and as long as Tohu dominated,the whole world was not in being or existence. When did that key open the gates and make the world fruitful?

It was when Abraham appeared." [Genesis II 4] As explained in the introduction to the Zohar The Soncino Press LTD--London New York

There is also this reference one needs to ponder It is said, "Angels are supposed to have no back and four faces, so always to be able to behold God."

[Talmud, cf. Ezek i. 6]

b. In the First Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, there is a long description of how Brahma created the planets, stars etc. It is well know that the Brahma

of this universe has 4 heads.

3. DEMIGODS AND ANGELS have the same function in both traditions.

a. The Midrash teaches, "There is no blade of grass that does not have a constellation (Mazal) over it, telling it to grow." [Sefer Yetzirah 4.6]

"As commentaries explain, 'God's providence works through the angels, but the angels, in turn, work through the stars and planets. As some authorities put it,

the angels are, in a sense, like souls to the stars. Thus, for example, some sources speak of the stars as having intelligence, but the commentaries note

that this is actually speaking of the angels that are associated with them.'" [Sefer Yetrzirah 4.6]

b. The Vedic conception is that there are many specially empowered demigods who help manage the affairs of the universe including the planets of our solar system.

The controlling demigods, although not eternal them selves, function within various posts that exist as long as the universe exists. For example,

one of the principle demigods is Lord Indra. Indra is the name of the post, but the particular demigod who occupies that post during a given period

has his own personal name. Just like President of the United States is a post, but there have been many presidents throughout history.

4. Durga in the Bible?

a. "He summoned to issue from the side of Darkness a kind of female moon, which rules over the night, and is associated with Adonai, the Lord of all the

earth. In his days, the moon was magnified and reached her fullness. A thousand mountains rose before her, and she blew them away with a puff. A thousand

mighty rivers flowed before her, and she swallowed them at a draught. Her nails reached out in a thousand and seventy directions and her hands in twenty-

four thousand, so that nothing could escape her. Thousands of bucklers clung to her hair. From between her feet went forth a youth who stretched from one

end of the world to the other with sixty clubs of fire..." [Zohar]

b. The Vedas describe the ghastly form of Goddess Kali, another name for the Goddess Durga. There is a reference of Goddess Kali in the Srimad-

Bhagavatam in the history of Jada Bharata, when she manifested herself to protect him. It is stated, "Intolerant of the

offenses committed, the infuriated goddess Kali flashed her eyes and displayed her fierce, curved teeth. Her reddish eyes glowed, and she displayed her

fearsome features. She assumed a frightening body, as if she were prepared to destroy the entire creation. Leaping violently from the altar, she

immediately decapitated all the rogues and thieves with the very sword with which they had intended to kill Jada Bharata. She then began to drink the hot

blood that flowed from the necks of the beheaded rogues and thieves, as if this blood were liquor.

5. (BRAHMAN) EFFULGENCE

a. "The Most Recondite is beyond cognition, but reveals of Himself a tenuous and veiled brightness shining only along a narrow path which extends from

Him, and this is the brightness that irradiates all. This is the starting point of all esoteric mysteries, itself being unknowable." [Zohar IV 146b]

b. The Absolute Truth is expressed as Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan." [Srimad Bhagavatam.1.2.11] Brahman refers to the impersonal all-pervasive spirit.

That is the same as the brahmajyoti, the effulgence of the Lord.

6. METATRON AND MAHA-VISHNU

a. It is said that a personality named Metatron cooperates with God to teach the young. While God devotes the last three hours of the day to this work,

Metatron is in charge during the remainder of the day. (A.Z. 3b) [Everyman's Talmud, II, III] Regarding the revolving sword or flaming sword that

revolves, it is said "the manner in which the sword rotates depends on the readiness of the individual attempting to enter. If he is worthy, it becomes the

mirror through which he perceives, while if he is not worthy, he is burned out and cut off by the fire of this sword. The one who oversees the sword,

preventing the unworthy from entering, is the angel Metatron." [Meditation and Kabbalah p 80 Chapter 4, Teachings of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia]

"Metatron is therefore not a proper name at all but a designation for the whole category of celestial powers performing a mission."

[Origins of the Kabbalah, III, 6]

b. In the creative process,it is from Maha-Vishnu that all of the universes emanate, Sudarshan Cakra (flaming sword that revolves) controlled by Visnu similarly

punishes and grants liberation. "Without illumination,nothing can be seen, especially in this material world.

The illumination in this world emanates from the effulgence of Sudarshan, the original vision of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The illuminating principles of the sun, the moon and fire emanate from Sudarshan.

Similarly, illumination by knowledge also comes from Sudarshan." [Srimad Bhag. 9.5.7, Purport]

Also there is a series of Visnu expansions each with a chakra.

7. THE LORD IN THE HEART

a. When the soul is about to descend to this world, it first goes down to the terrestrial Garden of Eden and sees there the glory

of the souls of the righteous, and then goes down to Gehinnom and sees the wicked who cry "Woe, woe", and find no compassion. That holy form (God)

stands by him until he emerges into the world, after which it keeps him company and grows up with him." [The Zohar 43b] [KI TAZRIA (LEVITICUS)]

b. In the Bhagavad-gita "Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer, who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as

the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul, Paramatma." [Bg. 13.23]

8. GURU AND RABBI

a. In Judaism, knowledge is also passed from the rabbi to his students, but not everyone is qualified to become a student. "As a matter of law, the

sages state that these mysteries 'cannot even be taught to a single individual, unless he is wise enough to understand with his own knowledge.' Even in

such a case, the complete tradition was only given over to the head of the group, and he would then only instruct those whom he saw fit. Only individuals

possessing the highest qualities of scholarship and piety would be admitted to the circle of initiates." [Introduction to the Bahir, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan]

It is also stated that "One who reaches the highest level cannot reveal it to anyone. All he can do is give over the keys, so that the enlightened individual

can open the gates which are sealed to exclude the unworthy."

[Meditation and Kabbalah, p 79]

b. In Vedic culture, although a guru would speak to whoever wanted to learn the Vedic science, he was traditionally very selective whom he would

initiate as his disciple. He would only accept those persons who qualified themselves by humble submission and service. Lord Krishna states in the

Bhagavad-gita, "Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master, inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized

soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth."

9. VEDIC AND JEWISH CALENDARS

a. The current Hebrew year is 5767. In this calendar, the year in which Adam was created is counted as year one. If we then count the Biblical

genealogies from the time of Adam, we find that over 5,000 years have elapsed since the time he was formed. However, the Kabbalists clearly say that other

human beings existed before Adam, and this is even supported in scripture [Drush Or HaChaim] The fifth cycle was the one that brought life, and this took

place around two and a half billion years ago. Around 974 generations before Adam, or some 25,000 years ago, man developed all of the physical and mental

capabilities that we possess today...but he still lacked the divine soul that would make him a spiritual being. God then created Adam, the first true human

being with a soul, 'and He blew in his nostrils a soul of life'. [Genesis 2.7] [Sefer Yetzirah 4.15]

b. The Vedic calendar states that Kali-yuga lasts 432,000 years, out of which we have passed about 5,000 years.

10.The Ecstasy of Chanting The Names Of God

a. People who have dedicated their lives to the service of God may at times feel unlimited joy or ecstasy while engaged in prayer. It is said, "Permute

the letters back and forth, and in this manner, you will reach the first level. As a result of the activity and your concentration on the letters, your

mind will become bound to them. The hairs on your head will stand on end and tremble. Your lifeblood is in your heart, and regarding this it is written,

"the blood is the soul" [Deuteronomy 12:23]. It is likewise written, "The blood in the soul will atone" [Leviticus 17:11]. This blood within you will begin

to vibrate because of the permutations that loosen it. Your entire body will then begin to tremble, and all your limbs will be seized with shuddering. You

will experience the terror of God and will be enveloped with fear of Him. You will then feel as if an additional spirit is within you, arousing you and

strengthening you, passing through your entire body and giving you leisure. It will seem as you have been anointed with perfumed oil, from head to foot.

You will rejoice and have great pleasure. You will experience ecstasy and trembling--ecstasy for the soul, and trembling for the body.

[Meditation and Kabbalah, Treasury of the Hidden Eden p85-86]

b. The stage of bhava, love of God, is manifested by eight transcendental symptoms, namely inertness, perspiration, standing of hairs on end, failing in

the voice, trembling, paleness of the body, tears in the eyes, and finally trance. [Srimad Bhag. 2:3:24 Purport]

11. GOD'S BEAUTY

a.The Jewish scriptures describe a vision of God. "His head is a treasure of fine gold. His locks are hanging, black like the raven." In both

Talmudic and Kabbalistic traditions, one of the interpretations is that it relates to a vision of God; "when He is visualized in battle, He is seen as a

young man with black hair." [Sefer Yetzirah Ch 6.1]

b.The Vedas refer to the form of the Lord. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated, "the Lord is super excellently beautiful on account of His

open and merciful smile and His sidelong glance upon His devotees. His black hair is curly, and His garments, waving in the wind, appear like flying

saffron pollen from lotus flowers. His glittering earrings, shining helmet, bangles, garland, ankle bells, waist belt and various other bodily ornaments

combine with the conch shell, disc, club, and lotus flower to increase the natural beauty of the Kaustubha pearl on His chest." [Srimad Bhag. 2.24.47-48]

Wed, 11/04/2009 - 14:21 — NityānandaChandra

A comment that I left in the Dallasnews site

Bob Dean- I really liked that you mentioned "humility, respect, love, self-control, and honesty."

There is a German saying that pride and stupidity grow on the same tree. Only in humility and respect can one learn. Love also, our conversations are best served when motivated by love of our neighbor and our love for the Lord. If ego is our motivator than it is not possible to have a helpful conversation.

Self control, if one is addicted to sinful habits then their sense of self control is hampered. Therefore one must live and honest life and be honest with others

Thanks