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Archbishop reflects on dialogue with Indian Swamis

Professor Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad with the Archbishop

Monday 21st February 2011

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, recently met with members of the Hindu community in the UK to reflect upon his dialogue with Hindu Swamis in Bangalore last October.

Professor Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad chaired a discussion with the Archbishop, and Dr Sharada Sugirtharajah and the Ven Richard Atkinson and Dr Jessica Frazier responded. Over 70 guests attended the event including Hindu and Christian religious and political leaders.

The Archbishop began by speaking of a debate between two schools of Vaishnava Hinduism. According to one school, prayer must grasp onto God's grace as a monkey holds its mother. According to the other, prayer should be more like a kitten in the mouth of its mother. 

The Archbishop observed that Hindu traditions ask similar questions about the level of human dependence on God as Christian traditions. He also observed that there was a similar tension in both traditions between individual freedom and obedience to God's will. 

The Archbishop argued that inter religious dialogue should aim at collaborative comparison for the benefit of all involved: 'What questions are the different spiritual traditions asking? Can we work on them together?'.

He outlined three themes for future conversations: freedom, grace, transcendence. He stated: 'What happens in conversation is a certain act of faith. Faith that at a certain moment we will find convergence. My faith is that all truth converges on Jesus Christ. But during a conversation with someone from another faith I don't know how it will converge. It is important not to begin with a sense of superiority... but instead to trust the seriousness of the person you are talking to; to trust that they want something you can recognise.'

In later portions of the discussion Prof Ram-Prasad and the Archbishop spoke about societal aspects of faith including different forms of pluralism, women's rights and Cameron's recent statements on multi-culturalism.

Click download on the right to listen to the discussion between Prof Ram-Prasad and the Archbishop [28Mb]

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