This is just a short post. I am in Patiala, Punjab. Only about 220 kilometers from Haridwar. Swami Veda sent me to speak on his behalf at a conference on interfaith dialogue and world peace. Actually this is a subject dear to Swamiji's heart, as he is a great believer in the essential unity of religions.
I had been preparing a talk, which one day you will see on this blog, backdated. Suffice it to say that I did not say ANYTHING that I had written.
In fact, the context gave me something of an opportunity to merge two of my identities... The previous speakers gave pretty standard scholarly talks on the necessity of dialogue and how it can be done.
After my mangalacharan (a great move, by the way, it nicely sets the mood), I began by speaking about Swami Veda's being a cosponsor of the event, through.the Center for Meditation and Interfaith Studies, one of the many institutions under the Ahymsin umbrella.
I talked about his new book (which is being discussed on that as yet unpublished post) and the Sufi-Yogi dialogue that was held in Rishikesh last month, while I was in Keshi Ghat dancing.
After that I spoke about my background as a member of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya and the apparent conflict that this identity has with the advaita-vada of Swami Veda Bharati. I noted that the process of dialogue in Hinduism had been going on for a thousand years at least, if not more, and that the conflict between the theistic and non-theistic religions had been conducted within the Hindu universe for all that time. So, it gave us some experience of the different parameters of the debate that was now being universalized.
I quoted Bhagavata 1.2.11, vadanti tat tattva-vidas, etc. The same one, non-dual truth is known as Brahman to some, as Bhagavan to others.
But I said that I had come to the conclusion that we are obliged to accept the via negativa, i.e., the negation of all material upadhis, if we even want to understand the individual, personal way that God is manifesting to us. If we experience God according to the revelation of a particular school without the experience Brahman realization, the revelation itself will be touched by the upadhis.
And I quoted Gita 18.55. You become brahma-bhuta, then you obtain para bhakti.
Then I led Swami's patented one-fits-all meditation and said, like him, that this is the starting point of all religious dialogue, the experiential sense of oneness. I did it a bit hastily as I have not the habit of doing that in public and had to keep it short, but afterwards several people came and expressed a kind of amazement about the experience. I was myself pretty surprised.
At any rate, I am good with it. You chant Hare Krishna and immediately you have to explain the newness and the difference, i.e., overcome resistance. You tell people to meditate on the name of God according to their own tradition, and you can lead them into a deeper state of consciousness where they feel a sense of universal unity. Then they are automatically predisposed to transcend rational argument and a positive emotional feeling. It is only the beginning, but this is the only point where both the nirgun and sagun aspects can be harmonized.
A bit jumbled here, but that is what I done today. I will be here a couple more days, then I go to another conference at JNU in Delhi. That should be interesting. I will try to find the time to comment on the people I meet here, probably over on Jagat Jindagi.