Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Texas Faith 5: How does a faith adapt without losing its meaning?

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.
This weeks question:In his new book, "God's Continent, Christianity, Islam and Europe's Religious Crisis," Philip Jenkins argues that Europe is really not being Islamized, that Christians from Africa and Asia also are pouring into Europe. And both Muslims and Third World Christians are running full-square into Europe's secular culture, says Jenkins, who also has written the acclaimed Next Christendom and New Faces of Christianity books.

What's interesting, the Penn State professor reports, is that the great faiths aren't fading away. Instead, Islam and Christianity are adapting to the culture around them.

This leads me to this week's question, which we have discussed in various ways over the last few weeks:

How does a faith adapt without losing its essential meaning?

See what our panelists have to say about this topic, which mirrors the larger discussion about how Sonia Sotomayor or any Supreme Court justice interprets the Constitution. Like the Constitution, faith has to apply to the times in which it lives. But, also like the Constitution, a religion loses its meaning when it becomes too malleable.

and here was the response:

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

Every religion must adapt according to time, place, circumstance and individual. The principle of religion -- to develop love for God -- must always remain the same. Strategies, or details, may change but the principle must remain the same.

For example: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura (1874 -1937) was one of the first sannyasis (a renounced monk) in India to use an automobile. One of the primary principles of religion is simplicity and therefore the sannyasis used to travel only by foot.

As an educator in the principle of developing Love of God, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura saw that the automobile was a useful instrument to serve that ultimate purpose. He could visit people over long distances and thus expand his efforts. Thus, despite criticisms, he adopted the use of the automobile.

Adaptations can be properly applied when one considers or consults the authority of Guru, Sastra, and Sanga. Guru is the exemplary teacher, Sastra are the revealed scriptures, and Sanga refers to the association of saintly practitioners. Adaptations should be validated by this three-point check system. If the scriptures, the exemplary teacher, and the saintly practitioners all support the adaptation, then it can be accepted as a good course of action.

Hare Krishna :)
Your humble servant,
Nityananda Chandra Das
To see all the responses from the Texas Faith Panel click here

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