Category Archives: Events

An Interfaith dialogue with Islam

== An interfaith dialogue on Hinduism and Islam ==
On 2nd may, we had an invitation at the [ Salaam center] which is a center for Islamic studies in Jayanagar, Bangalore. ABTN members Mr Vijay Venugopal and Mr Narasimha Rao along with four other members received a warm welcome exactly at 10:30 a.m. Mr Wahid invited the guests Mr Vijay Venugopal , Mr Omer Sheriff and speakers Mr Narasimha Rao and Mr Khrushid on the dias. The event began with a recitation from the Holy Quran. Then the host introduced the speakers and guests. And called upon Mr Vijay Venugopal to speak.

== ABTN chief guest speaks ==
Mr Vijay Venugopal recalled his stay in Oman where he had many such discussions with his Islamic colleagues. He put forward a strong case for mutual friendly co-existence based on tolerance and mutual respect. He said that there could be differences and we need to learn to tolerate the differences to live harmoniously. Each person is an individual spirit soul. We are accustomed to identifying every person with the label that is attached to him, like Hindu, Muslim, Indian and Pakistani etc. We need to come out of these labels and identify ourselves with the individual spirit soul a servant of God.

There are various similarities that exist in the both religions. There is one God and that we need to serve him. There are regulative principles like no intoxication, no illicit sex, no gambling. Meat eating is regulated in both the religions. In Hinduism, one can offer a goat and not any other animal if he desperately wants to [ eat meat]. In Islam, there is the concept of halal.

Various differences exist among the two religious sects. The major differences that exist are in related to reincarnation and cow killing. He also explained how cow killing as an evil In Hinduism. Cow feeds all humans with her milk and so it is given the position of a mother. So once she stops giving milk she should not be slaughtered. And there are various quotations from the holy vedas that prohibit [ cow slaughter].

We should learn to accept these differences and learn to develop harmony on this basis and we should not let the extremists elements use us. In fact we should focus on other people outside who are not even following the any of these basic regulative principles. The differences between us and atheistic people are more severe than the differences among ourselves and so we need to arrive at a harmony. With this he created a perfect setting for an honest interfaith dialogue.

== Muslim scholar speaks ==
After Mr Vijay Venugopal ended his talk, the host introduced Mr Umer Sheriff (in picture) and invited him to talk. Mr Omer Sheriff spoke on the following points:

We should agree to disagree on certain points. In essence we should accept that there are differences and we disagree on certain points. He also mentioned that there is only one God and that is Allah. Also He spoke on Prophet Muhammad as the last Prophet who has come to deliver the Holy Quran. So he stressed the acceptance of Quran as a book for mankind.

Talking on cow killing. He referred to Mohandas Gandhi’s book and the works of Swami Vivekananda, He tried to establish that cow killing was common in Hinduism and since the spread of Buddhism and Jainism, the killing of cows has been reduced and now Hinduism doesn’t accept killing of cows. (This was later answered by Mr Narasimha Rao that all such misconceptions are due to lack of proper understanding of Vedas. The vedas clearly [ prohibit] cow slaughter). He also pointed out that there are thousands and thousands of sects in Hinduism and all of them have their cultural differences. So its difficult to take any one particular sect as reference for Hinduism. He also said this country has never been ruled by same people he said the Aryans once invaded and colonized and it is they who brought the Vedic scriptures. (This Aryan Invasion theory was later refuted by Mr Rao).So quite in contrast to the earlier speaker the tone and tenor was not in favor of finding a common ground .

== Fundamentals of Hinduism ==
by ”Mr Narasimha Rao”

Then the host invited Mr Narasimha Rao who was speaking on behalf of Hinduism. Mr Rao put forward the following points:
* Hinduism is the most misinterpreted religion. He explained the origin of the word Hindu which was coined by the Persians when they first came to India. They referred the people on the other side of the river Indus as Indu and from that came the word Hindu. Actually there is one Sanatana Dharma that is the eternal religion for all.
*Veda means knowledge and so the Vedas are essentially knowledge coming from the Supreme Lord Vishnu Himself. He said that the most important scriptures in Sanatana Dharma apart from the Vedas are the Upanishads, the Vedanta Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita they are called as ”Prashtana trya” and explained that anyone proposing a new philosophy based on vedas must comment on these three to establish their view and reconcile it with these scriptures. And by far only four personalities namely [[Shankaracharya|Shankara]], [[wikipedia:Ramanuja|Ramanuja]], [[wikipedia:Madhvacharya|Madhvacharya]] and [[wikipedia:Baladeva_Vidyabhushana|Baladeva]] have achieved this feat. All views purportedly from Vedic scriptures should be reconciled with entire Vedas otherwise the interpretation is void. Not that someone takes some verse that says that you can eat meat and establish that meat eating is permitted. He quoted from Sastras on how meat eating is regulated in sastras and cow killing is strictly [ prohibited].
* He clearly established the hierarchy of scriptures in Vedas. The itihasas and puranas are integral part of the vedas as mentioned in upanishads. He also established Bhagavad Gita to be the essence of all upanishads hence the srutis and Bhagavatha Purana as the proper commentry on Vedanta Sutras, Mahabharata and Puranas. Hence that is the supreme authority especially in ths age of Kali yuga where we have only very few vedic scriptures extent.
*He explained atma-jnana or identity of the self is the first lesson in Hinduism. And all living entities have souls and are transmigrating different bodies. We have to learn about our self as atma and Krishna is paramatma who is ultimate all knowing all pervading supreme atma or paramatma who is a person as well.
*Then he explained about the concept of [ reincarnation], [ free will] and the [ laws of Karma]. He explained about the differences that exist in living entities, how one is rich, one is poor, one is born with diseases etc. The reason for this is the Karmas they do and the merits and demerits they acquire. Based on that, they are rewarded and punished in subsequent lifetimes. He explained the Koran and Bible has no answers for such questions.
* Then explained about the different types of yoga, i.e. Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. said, Karma Yoga meant doing activities and offering the results to God. Jnana yoga means developing knowledge of God by reading the scriptures. But above all these is Bhakti Yoga which is performing devotional service to the Supreme Lord.
* The Vedas present a [ scientific approach] towards life and reality as [ opposed] to Quran which is just a bunch of do’s and don’ts that people need to follow which is anyway part of vedic metaphysics. And he also stated that Islam couldn’t explain the [ philosophical intricacies] that are explained in the Vedas. We believe that the [ Prophet Muhammad] although aware didn’t mention about these because the circumstances and the audience were not ready for it. The Prophets come at different times according to desa, kala, patra and spread message according to the situation. For example Prophet Muhammad had to explain that no one should not have sexual relationship with one’s mother and sister. Such was the consciousness of the people in Arabia at that time. But Vedas are the eternal message of God coming from the breath of the Supreme Lord Mahavishnu’s breath as mentioned in the upanishads.
* Also he talked about the [ Vedic culture] was present all over the globe at least till the satya yuga but they moved out of Bharata varsha because of Lord Parasurama’s threat to Ksatriyas and after being cut off from the main stream they later evolved into some corrupted cultures in west asia, africa, america and other parts of the world. And in-order to reestablish sanity in society the Lord sent forth Jesus and Mohammad.To bring them to at least to the platform of humans from platform of animals. That was their primary role they gave an opportunity for those who were sub human to come to the level of humans. They may be able to promote themselves to heaven but salvation can be given only by Lord Mukunda the giver of liberation.
* He also exposed the myth of [ Aryan Invasion theory]. The British had invented this theory to create a division between North and South Indians. It has no truth in it. he questioned Mr Umer who hails from Tamil Nadu if he knew the history of Sri Vaishnavas who have a history of more than 5000 years of existence in South India and they were worshippers of Vishnu who is an Aryan God.
* The best part of his presentation was the he presented four books of [[Islam_and_Vedas|Dr Akif Manaf Jabir]] which established that God has [ form] in Islam and the prophet’s emphasis on following [ vegetarianism]. Later in the Q&A Muslim scholars acknowledged that there is a possibility that Allah has a form.
Explaining these, Mr Narasimha Rao ended his talk. Mr Narasimha Rao explained the basics of Sanatana Dharma as explained in vedic scriptures at the same time giving due respects to the [ Prophet] who was a genius misunderstood.

== ”Fundamentals of Islam” ==
”by Mr Khurshid ”

Then Mr Khurshid spoke about Islam. He explained quoting various references from Quran to establish the following points. He quoted ”isolated” references from Vedas apparently derived from talks of [ Dr Zakir Naik] to establish concurrence with Islam. We also present our views and reasoning most of which were presented later in the Q&A of the program.

*No mortal being can become God.
*He mentioned that Vedas never propagate Idol worship. He said that Vedas are the original supreme revelation and that other scriptures like the Upanishads, the Puranas are the works of various sages and so cannot be considered as an original reference.
** This was later refuted by Mr Narasimha Rao by qouting the vedic statements to prove that itihasas and puranas are also vedic pramanas. The puranas encourage [ deity worship] but condemn idol worship and the upanishads like Gopal Tapani upanishads also mention about the word [ Krishna] and that he is the supreme person and he has a form.
**Mr Rao also quoted Bhagavatha Purana to prove that the Supreme Lord Krishna can be realized in three stages namely ”Brahman” or nirakara, nirvisesa formless which is inferior to ”Paramatma” or as an all pervading person with limited attributes and the ultimate being ”Bhagavan” or the Lord with all qualities and attributes. How can the Lord not have a form when mortal humans the he created have a form? He must have most beautiful of all forms hence the name ”Krishna” the ”all attractive”.
**Also it is interesting to note that Mr Khurshid who had earlier considered Puranas to be inferior qouted from the same to advocate similarities with Islam for example to prove existence of 21 hellish planets.
*The concept of life after death was not mentioned in Vedas either. It was later brought forward by various sages in the Puranas and Upanishads.
** Mr Rao later refuted this by saying all the Vedic quotations have multiple meanings that are comprehensible only to acaryas in parampara not for anyone to interpret. Also we can’t speak for entire Vedas because no one has access to entire Vedas as it is said only 6% is extant . He said this argument is invalid because reincarnation is described all over the scriptures and this approach is mischievous and far from truth. Puranas are valid sources they are said to be panchama veda in the upanishads.
He also spoke of the basic beliefs of Islam that are :
*Belief in monotheism
*Belief in the prophet hood of Prophet Muhammed(peace be upon Him) and
*Belief in the Life after death and the Day of Judgment.He explained about the concept of life after death. He explained that Islam believes that after death, a living entity needs to wait till the Day of Judgment. Then, the living entity is rewarded or punished based on the pious and impious activities.
** This came to serious question in Q&A as ABTN member asked that reincarnation is required to answer differences at time of birth, which Mr Khurshid answered this by saying it was just by chance and a test for individuals if they can believe in God in spite of all odds.
**ABTN members countered that it was illogical and [ untenable] because it goes to say that all our suffering and happiness in this world has no cause but random tests by God.
He also quoted from the Quran and also from other pseudo vedic scholars to conveniently suit his arguments.
** This was refuted by Mr Rao because he argued neither they are from a parampara or a disciplic succession which alone could ensure proper vedic understanding nor have they commented on prashtana traya as explained above to prove their point.
*Mr Khurshid said Islam teaches only one God, Allah and anyone who accepts Islam alone can be liberated. He clarified at this point that Islam means submission to the will of the Lord and anyone who submits to the will of the Lord is a muslim and so is entitled for liberation.
**ABTN members mentioned Vedas also describe [ one God]. The Vedas are ultimate truth for all time to come past, present and future. So in principle, the followers of Sanatana Dharma are better Muslims than the so called muslims. Because in [ Bhagavad Gita] also Lord Krishna concludes that the prime duty of the soul is to surrender to Lord abandoning all varieties of religion.
*Belief that Quran is the final revelation and that Prophet Mohammad was the last prophet.
**ABTN members said perhaps it could be the final revelation in terms of time but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a complete revelation for all times to come.
** ABTN members said the Lord descends once in every yuga and other times he sends his selected representatives to deliver people. Many times such teachings are temporal subject to the time and situation. Prophet Mohammad had to mentioned few things like this this because people of his times were prone to concoct the teachings. It could have been said to prevent any change in the teachings or the followers taking to deviations. And there have been great saints after him like Ramanuja, Madhvacharya and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who have established clearly that the Supreme person is Krishna who also couls be called as Allah or Jehovah it doesn’t matter.
So in summary although some of the qoutations from Vedas were acceptable but rest of Mr Khurshid’s quotations from Vedas were misrepresented due its nature of being taken out of context and there are proper explanations for those from the above mentioned saints. And his quotations were actually taken out of context and hence not reconcilable with other part of Vedas. So it is just ”ardha kukutti nyaya” or half hen fallacy[1] just take some portions and reject other portions.

== Question and Answer session ==
After Mr Khurshid’s talk, there was a gap for half an hour and then at 1:30 PM there was a question and answer session.

The question and answer session began with ABTN members asking questions to Mr Khurshid. Mr Khurshid tried to defend from the Islamic point of view. The questions were mostly on the personal nature of Allah in Koran, the concept of rebirth and differences at the time of birth etc, Mr Khurshid tried to answer the questions quoting references from both the Quran and the Vedas. He attempted to sideline the Upanishads and the Puranas and tried to establish that Vedas alone are authoritative and that deity worship, personalism and rebirth are not mentioned in Vedas but were written in Upanishads and Puranas later by various sages and hence thet are not valid. But Mr Rao was able to establish that Upanishads and Puranas are as authoritative as the Vedas as they form the fifth veda. also said such gross misinterpretation is just half hen logic and hence he can’t pick up a shloka from the scriptures and use it to suit our purpose. He also cautioned of using the translation of vedic scriptures of western indologists which are not always authentic. In the end Mr Khurshid acknowledged that there was a possibility of Allah having a form and he doesn’t know.

Mr Narasimha Rao also faced various questions related to caste system; if Krishna means black, how can black be beautiful; how can God become a chariot driver etc. answered the questions convincingly. On the question on caste system he explained that one’s [[Varnashrama|”varna” and ”ashrama”]] system doesn’t come by birth there is a natural division in a factory like someone is a manager, someone manages accounts, and someone works on machines. All can’t be given the same job. We cannot nullify these differences irrespective of our attempts. also explained about the meaning of Krishna which also means “All Attractive”. All these had an excellent impact on the audience. He also made a point that Quran doesn’t explain in much detail as does the Vedas.

At the end both the speakers exchanged good wishes and decided to continue the discussion in future. Mr Rao requested the Islamic followers to understand Hinduism from the [ four authentic parampara] which has unbroken connection with Supreme Lord Krishna.

Many other questions on Hinduism in Islamic perspective perspective answered [ here].

However the most important part of it was that many people got access to ”The Hidden Treasure of Al Qur’an” by [[Islam_and_Vedas|Dr Akif Manf Jabir]] who is a muslim by birth and a disciple of Srila Prabhupada founder acharya of ISKCON.

Also many people received a copy of Bhagavad Gita as it is by [[wikipedia:A._C._Bhaktivedanta_Swami_Prabhupada|A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada]] who is a authentic teacher coming in the disciplic succession of Brahma. The guests of the function received a gift copy of the Qur’an along with a few CDs of lectures by [ Dr Zakir Naik].


== Conclusion ==
*Vedas are complete teachings of God.
*Vedic knowledge from scriptures can be understood only from a proper parampara system.
*The itihasas and puranas constitutes the fifth veda and they are valid sources of knowledge.

== Observation ==
*The timeless vedic scriptures should be learnt in a proper way to understand truth, it is being utilised by people with ulterior motives to mislead or convert people as it was attempted by [ British Indologists]. The people sympathetic to Sanatan Dharma should strongly object to prevent its misuse.

== References ==
[1] There was a hen which used to lay golden egg. But the farmer just wanted to have the egg everyday but not feed it so he cut the hen into half. Alas! the hen died and no more eggs. So one cannot selectively take from Vedic scriptures and ignore the rest.

Lecture tour of Dr Ravi Gupta

== A Trip Report ==
A recent lecture tour of India of Dr. Ravi Gupta a renowned scholar in Theology from USA was organised by ABTN and its partners.During the whirlwind three week lecture tour—from December 20th through January 14th—Dr Ravi Gupta visited forty-two educational institutions, governmental organizations and private corporations in nine cities, speaking to over 5,000 people.

“He wanted to impress upon his fellow Indians that their tradition was not just a collection of outdated ideas and myths, but had something to contribute to today’s world and the lives of even contemporary engineers or computer programmers,” says Dr Ravi Gupta, who was accepted into Boise State University at thirteen years old after following a homeschooling curriculum based primarily on the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other books of ancient Vedic wisdom. “And he wanted to show them that whether or not they were interested in their own tradition, people all over the world were fascinated by it and studying it seriously.”

For Dr Ravi Gupta, the first Indian American participant in this program in the a series of lecture tours organised by ABTN in association with its partners. The nationwide tour started from Mumbai and went on to Pune, Goa, Jaipur, Bangalore, Kolkata, Kharagpur, Jamshedpur, and Delhi, ensuring a more widespread inspiration amongst Indian students in their ancient culture.

But Dr Ravi Gupta says that once the Bombay part of the tour was underway, he realized that such inspiration could go as far as sparking a change in the Indian educational system.

“The same debate that’s going on in the Western World about introducing religious education in schools is going on at all levels, including the University level, in India,” he explains. “Although historically it’s one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world—and has a fairly good history of religious tolerance—the fear is that such academic study might in some way compromise India’s secularism, which it holds very dear as a way to protect itself from conflict, misunderstanding, and oppression of minority religious groups.”

Thus religious education in India so far has meant simply hearing from a priest or Imam at the temple or mosque. “There’s still very little concept of what it means to study religion academically,” says Dr Ravi Gupta, who has worked as a religious studies teacher since graduating from Oxford with a PhD at only twenty-one. “And as a result, there’s a great need amongst students to learn about their own religious traditions as well as those of others. But for now, there’s no facility in their country for such study, and no opportunity for jobs if there was.”

== The topics ==
Dr Ravi Gupta learned of this need from his audience while touring three lectures that presented Vedic culture and philosophy in a universally appreciable and practically applicable way.

=== Six and half traits of an effective leader ===
Organizations could select which one of these they felt would be most relevant to their staff or students’ needs. Dr Ravi Gupta’s first talk, 6 ½ Traits of Effective Leadership, for example, was a popular choice amongst corporations, such as Indofil Chemicals and Times Foundation; as well as amongst the high profile government organizations he spoke at, such as its premier defense research organization, DRDO. And many management educational institutions like Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,

“In 6 ½ Traits of Effective Leadership, I took the different qualities that help or hinder good leadership from various verses of Rupa Goswami’s Nectar of Instruction—and combined them in the form of paradoxes,” Dr Ravi Gupta says. “For example, a leader is enthusiastic, but at the same time patient; a leader is determined, but at the same time not foolhardy; a leader is confident, but at the same time humble. Then, to give them contemporary relevance, I added plenty of statistics and studies from the management world.”

6 ½ Traits of Effective Leadership concluded with an explanation of the mysterious ½. “I said that although we all try to be the perfect 7, there is a part of leadership which is beyond our control,” Dr Ravi Gupta smiles. “A part beyond the human being. Some call it luck, some call it faith, others karma. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna Himself, I explained, calls it “daivam,” or God’s grace.”

=== Head, Hearts and Hands ===
Ravi’s second talk, Head, Heart and Hands: Finding the Right Balance in Life, was preferred by some corporates like Delphi Automotive which recorded the highest attendance of about 250 attendants which is more than a quarter of its employees. In it, he described three essential components to our lives: what the Bhagavad-gita calls Karma (action), Jnana (knowledge), and Bhakti (devotion). All are important, Dr Ravi Gupta explained, but if we emphasise one at the expense of the others, then this can lead to stress and an imbalanced life.

=== God and Google ===
Institutions like IISC Indian Institute of Science that were more comfortable with broaching the topic of religion chose Ravi’s third talk, God and Google: Human Relationships in the Internet Age. This took a humorous approach at first, citing the website, wherein “proofs” that Google is God are given: for instance that the search engine is the closest thing to a scientifically verifiable omniscient entity, or that people can ask it for an answer about any question or problem that plagues them and their prayers will be answered.

“This, however, leads to a serious question very relevant in India, one of the most technologically savvy countries in the world,” Dr Ravi Gupta says. “What is the role of technology in our lives today?”

To answer this question, Ravi first discussed the nature of God as defined in the Upanishads, and then the role of science, suggesting that we cannot replace one with the other. “The most popular Google searches and websites—all social networking sites—show that people are not looking for knowledge, but for relationships,” he says. “Technology and science cannot directly give that to us, but God can. In fact, the whole definition of God from the Vedic tradition is centered on relationships.”

Interestingly, it was this religious part of Ravi’s talks that people wanted to hear more about. “The way you drew leadership from the Nectar of Instruction was amazing!” students wrote in their evaluation forms. “I learned so much, and I want to learn more!” Yet due to the taboo associated with religious discourse in any public sphere in India, they were afraid to express this in front of their peers and colleagues.

These kind of reactions were enlightening for Dr Ravi Gupta. “Although I’d been to India many times before, have family there and have lectured at various places here,” he says, “This time I really got a feel for the pulse of India. I met so many different sectors of society and different types of audiences, and gained an understanding of their concerns, needs, hopes and aspirations—especially in the area of education.”

== Meeting with the Education Minister ==
A major positive move in this direction was Dr Ravi Gupta’s meeting with Kapil Sibal, India’s Human Resources minister for education, in which Ravi made the case for religious studies in India. “We met at the end of the tour, when I had gotten an understanding of what Indian students are looking for,” he says. “And although Sibal was understandably very hesitant about anything below university level, he was favorable to the idea of university level religious study.”

Keep tuned for more.

Stephen Knapp’s Visit

ABTN is hosting Dr Stephen Knapp in Bangalore. All are invited.

== Profile ==

Stephen Knapp is a well known speaker, writer, author, philosopher, spiritual practitioner, traveler and photographer. For years now he has been an independent researcher and an honest and bold writer of spiritual truth as he has discovered it. The main purpose of Stephen’s work is to offer simple ways and explanations to comprehend the lofty insights found within the spiritual philosophy and Vedic culture of India.

Stephen Knapp has dedicated himself to spreading the deepest and most practical levels of spiritual knowledge of the soul–our real identity. It is his strongest realization that our existence on this earthly plane becomes much easier and more vibrant the more we expand our spiritual awareness to perceive the higher dimensions and purpose of things around us.

Stephen Knapp grew up in a Christian family, during which time he seriously studied the Bible to understand its teachings. In his late teenage years, however, he sought solutions to many unanswered questions for which he read through many philosophies from around the world, studied a variety of occult sciences, ancient mythology, mysticism, yoga, and the spiritual teachings of the East. The reading of the Bhagavad-gita increased his understanding of everything else he had been studying. Therefore, he continued to research all of the major Vedic texts of India to gain a better understanding of the Vedic science. Now he also tirelessly works to protect, preserve and promote the deep spiritual knowledge of Vedic philosophy and its traditions. An introduction to his research, writing, and projects can be found at his website.

Stephen has been to India numerous times and traveled extensively throughout the country gaining a wide variety of spiritual experiences. His knowledge of India and familiarity with traveling in such a diverse country has made him an advisor for those who would like information concerning their own journeys to India. Stephen is also a free-lance photographer and does what he calls cultural photojournalism, capturing the essence of India and spiritual life in practice, which can help explain and show the depth of the culture. You can see samples of his photography on his website.

Stephen continues to travel to India on a regular basis, giving lectures on the benefits and glories of the Vedic tradition. He has traveled on lecture tours through Northeast India a few times to enthuse people to follow their indigenous traditions. He has also traveled a few times through Central India to lecture at schools and colleges, and intellectual groups about the profound nature of the Vedic culture. He has also spoken by invitation in front of 25,000 people at Madison Square Garden in New York City at a gathering of the Swadyaya Movement, and at numerous other events. He continues to speak, on television and radio shows, and give presentations at conferences where invited.

Stephen is also the founder of the World Relief Network. Its goal is to help relieve the sorrow, suffering and confusion on the planet by the dissemination of genuine spiritual knowledge and the means for individual and social enlightenment, and to work with others who feel the same. Many of his books are published through the World Relief Network.

== Itinerary ==
Here is [ itinerary] for Poona, Bangalore, Calicut, Goa and Bombay.