As a part of Incorporation Day celebrations, the Bhaktivedanta Manor hosted esteemed members of various religious organisations for a discussion about devotion (bhakti) in Vaishnavism and Christianity.
On Thursday 14th July, individuals from BAPS Swaminarayan, the Interfaith Network UK, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and various churches from around the region, gathered at Srila Prabhupada theatre to hear guest speakers Rev Kumar Rajagopalan, from the London Baptist Association and Saunaka Rsi Das from the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. The event was co-chaired by the Bishop of Bedford, Richard Atkinson and Nitin Palan of Hindu Matters in Britain.
Reverend Kumar spoke in depth about his journey into Christianity from a devoid Hindu background. He elaborated on the life experiences that led to his identification with the church and Jesus Christ. Reverent Kumar also shared the lessons he had learned from the Bible and the manner in which his devotion to God had progressed from a simple “transactional” relationship, in which he prayed for certain material benedictions and God delivered them, to a desire to abandon himself to God and be “consumed” by God.
Saunaka Rsi Das too spoke about the desire to become fully immersed in love of Godhead, or Bhakti and the path by which one develops this, as detailed in the Srimad Bhagvatam. He informed attendees about the basis of Vaishnava philosophy, which is to accept that true happiness and satisfaction can only be achieved, by giving up material happiness and devoting ourselves to God, in order to realise that each of us has a unique, blissful and intimate relationship with Lord Shri Krishna.
An important aspect of the Reverend’s talk, was about how he has often been told he has forgone his Indian culture and heritage, and sometimes finds himself wrestling to unite his Asian background with his Christianity. Saunaka Rsi Das addressed the issue by sharing his experience of coming from a Caucasian, Christian background to identify with Krishna Consciousness. He said his pursuit of perfection in Christianity had led him to Vaishnavism.
In the question-answer session that followed, guests asked the speakers where they stood on matters such as the importance of the body in spiritual life and whether they believed their God’s were ultimately one and the same.
In the words of David Hampshire, the leader of the Interfaith Network UK; “events such as this are important, especially given current world events, because religious people can create a space for dialogue that gives others hope. It is important that we stand up for each other especially when the number of people in each faith, increases today.”
The event concluded with a wonderful vegetarian feast and lots of personal sharing about the shining lamp of devotion in our lives.[ oxford center for hindu studies ] [ interfaith ] [ UK ] [ BHaktivedanta Manor ]