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