It was a beautiful open air setting at the Sarva Dharma Kendra. Though there was an initial apprehension of rain, this quickly disappeared as the skies cleared up and the moon and the stars became visible. The evening started with the screening of the film ‘The Padayatra Begins’ and the Walk of Hope Anthem – Chal Chalein. A new film on the progress of the padayatra until now was also screened.
After a long break of three days, the evening saw more than 300 people come to Sarva Dharma Kendra for an interfaith panel discussion amongst the heads of diverse religious communities of Karnataka.An invocation by ‘Sunaad’ with prayers from all major religions set the tone for the event.
After the guests were duly felicitated on the dais, the moderator, Dr. Chiranjeevi Singh, introducing the topic for the panel discussion ‘How to maintain a balance between the exterior material world and the inner spiritual world – Insights from different religions’, spoke about the need for the internal journey while in the external world.
He also laid down the norms for the discussion.
Dignitaries present were:
Dr. Dharmasthala Veerendra Heggade - Born as the 25th Heggade (Head) of Shri Kshethra Dharmasthala, Veerendra took the mantle as Dharmasthala Heggade in the year 1968 at a tender age of twenty. Ever since Dr. Veerendra Heggade has remained a keen student of humanity, understanding complex nature of human behavior.
Venerable Bhikkhu Ananda - Born in North Karnataka in 1967, he took ordination as Buddhist monk under the most Venerable Acharya Buddharakkhita in 1986. He is one of the main teachers at the Mahabodhi Monastic Institute and conducts Sutta, Pali and Abhidhamma classes.
Dr. Charan Singh – Dr. Singh is a RBI Chair Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India. Earlier, he was a Senior Economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Washington DC from August 2009 to November 2012. Singh earned his doctorate in Economics from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
Rev Dr Vincent Rajkumar - Rev Dr Vincent Rajkumar is a senior priest of church of South india till recently he was the priest of St. Marks Cathedral Bangalore. Currently he is the Executive Director of Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, an institute that involves in interfaith activities.
Swami Shantimayananda - Swami Shantimayananda is from Ramakrishna Math, Bangalore. He joined the organisation in 1987. Swamiji belongs to Ramakrishna Monastic Order which was started by Swami Vivekananda. The motto of the organisation is ‘Atmano Moksha, Jagat Hita’ i.e. for the liberation of oneself and for the good of the world.
Shereyar D. Vakil - In his long stint at GE (54 years), Sherry has gained immense cross-functional experience and an in-depth understanding of the GE way. Having held positions ranging from a manager to a managing director in different countries, Sherry is adept at balancing business imperatives with the practical difficulties that all managers face. Further, he was instrumental in setting up and managing a GE joint venture in India, and then transitioning its ownership to GE completely.
Fr Ronald Noronha Prabhu - Fr Ronald Noronha Prabhu (generally known as Fr Ronnie Prabhu) hails from Mangalore. During his education at St Aloysius College he felt called to consecrate his life to God, and he joined the Society of Jesus. Fr Ronnie has long had an interest in different religions and is an ardent promoter of inter-faith harmony and understanding, and is intimately associated with the Inter- religious Harmony Group at Ashirvad in Bangalore.
The first speaker was Dr. Veerendra Heggade, the Dharmadhikari of Sree Manjunath Temple of Dharmasthala. He initiated his discussion speaking in a lighter vein on his inability to ‘define’ Sri M or fit him into a ‘box’. Dr. Heggade said he belonged to the Jain faith, and his Jain forefathers were given the responsibility of maintaining the sanctity and administration of a Hindu Shaiva temple, for the last 600 years. He thus said there were many distinctions in the external sense but none of this comes in the way of ‘worship’ in the temple. It is the internal which guides the external. He also said that they have been organizing a Sarva Dharma Sammelana in Dharmasthala for the last thirty years with the objective of educating people on the oneness of all religions.
The next person to voice his opinion was Dr. Charan Singh, RBI chair Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. He was earlier a Senior Economist at the IMF. A practicing Sikh, Dr Charan Singh spoke about the Sikh religion. Father Vincent Prabhu, representing the Protestant wing of Christianity spoke about how religion is being exploited to move away from the essence. He also stressed on the fact that Jesus was not a ‘Christian’ and did not profess any religion.
Sri Shantimayananda, representing Ramakrishna Math, added the Math’s views on religion, again stressing on the oneness of all religions. Venerable Bhikku Ananda, representing Mahabodhi Society, spoke about the importance of meditation and demonstrated and engaged the audience with a practical technique of meditation. Dr. Mohammed Taha Mateen, a medical doctor also running a Quran Study Circle, spoke about Islam’s views and the importance of ethics and values in everyday life.
Fr. Ronald Noronha Prabhu, also known as Fr. Ronnie Prabhu representing the Catholic views of Christianity spoke about how the essence has been forgotten and most people only stick to the outer facets of religion.
Mr. Sheriyar D Vakil, a successful corporate professional representing the Zoroastrian faith, kept the audience entertained with his humourous interjections while enlightening people about his faith. Lastly, Sri M spoke briefly about the universality of religions – ‘Lokah Samasta Sukinoh Bhavantu’ – Let the entire universe be happy. He narrated the story of St. Francis Assisi who used to wander with his disciples. Once while wandering, his disciples requested him to address them with a few words. He said he would do that later and they walked on. At the end of the day, when they rested at a place after a long walk, the disciples again reminded him about his talk. St. Francis replied –‘ My walk is my talk’.”It was then the audience’s turn to ask questions.
Q – While I am able to appreciate the learned panel members’ talks, why am I not able to follow it? I too go to Ashrams and temples, why do I get thoughts that are not relevant at that time? Why am I not able to imbibe and action your words in life?
Father Ronnie Prabhu answered this with a view that we are only hanging on to the peripherals of religion and not going to the core – in fact, missing the core completely.
Then, Sri M said he would like to answer the question and said, “I feel it is because we end up worshipping the people who teach and not listen to and follow the teachings. Please examine this. It is like this… I am at the gate and you come and ask me to show you how to reach Bangalore. I give you the directions to reach Bangalore. What do you have to do? You yourself will have to follow the directions and reach Bangalore. Instead of that, you stand there and garland me, do ‘arathi’ to me and keep saying what a great teacher you are; is not going to help you reach Bangalore. I think this is what is happening!’
With this, the moderator thanked all the panelists and ended the session.
Walk of Hope 2015-16 in Karnataka | Dialogue of Hope | April 1, 2015 | Episode 1
Walk of Hope 2015-16 in Karnataka | Dialogue of Hope | April 2, 2015 | Episode 2