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Thursday, April 20, 2006

 

Vedic Culture Plays a Strong Part in Recent Mexican Religious Conference

The Institute of Philosophical Studies of Saltillo, Mexico held a two day conference on March30-31st 2006. The First International Congress on the Philosophy of Religion in a Postmodern andGlobalized World convened at UPN, The National Pedagogical University of Mexico, Saltillo,Coahuila branch. Attendees from Mexico, USA, India, Columbia and the UK presented papers on manykey and relevant issues. Some of the Papers included “Religion and Bioethics,' 'Religious Systems and Globalization,''Religion and Human Rights,' 'Hindu and Buddhist Contributions to the World,' 'Magic andReligion,' 'Eastern Religion and Medicine,' 'Hindu-Mexico: An Authentic and Ancient CulturalNexus,' 'Indian Historical Paradoxes,' 'The Need for a Code of Ethics in Religious Studies,''Studies into the Antiquity of the Ramayana,' 'In the Footsteps of Lord Krishna,' 'Religion andHealth Recovery' and 'Benefits of Religion in Overcoming Addictions.”Professor Elio Masferrer Kant, permanent secretary of the Latin American Association for theStudy of the Religions, emphasized that the great challenge for Catholicism in the 21st century isfor the Church leadership to approach the parishioners in order to understand and satisfy theirspiritual needs. Recognizing that not only in Mexico but throughout Latin America, people areturning from Catholicism he stated,” "The statistics verify it. In the last 60 years, thenumber of Catholics in Mexico has dropped from 98% to 80%." Professor Kant affirmed that sections of the Mexican population are looking for other religious options, mainly due to thestructure of Catholicism. It is very centered on the clergy while the Evangelical groups have moreadvantages, "Because their structures are much more participative, the laymen have more ability tostand up for their needs and this allows a much more efficient development. More and more peopleare going to voluntarily choose their own religious paths. The Catholic Church should look intoall the possibilities of becoming more diversified and adapt with changes in its practices andculture".Author of the book, “Imprints of the Bhagavat Purana in the Works of Chanakya,”HoracioFrancisco Arganis Juárez, a Professor in Theology, Philosophy and Religion of Ancient India spokeon “The Need for a Code of Ethics in the Study of Religion and Culture.” Hehighlighted various instances where religion, spirituality and culture have been analyticallystudied without any thought or recognition for cultural and religious sensitivities. Using theexample of the recent State of California's Board of Education Textbook issue, hesaid,”While great strides have been made regarding the ethical treatment of animals, I findit puzzling that no similar ethical approach is taken in regards to religious studies. Withoutpractitioners, religion is just a concept. Yet while studying the concepts of religion no ethicalapproach is applied when dealing with the sensitivities of the practitioners of the faith inquestion. This is a violation of a basic Human right” Dr. Arganis thus urged the application of a code of ethics in the study of religion. In this way religious studies can becomea tool for social development rather than an antagonistic field used to discredit religion.Swami Amarnathananda of the Bharat Seva Ashram Sangh gave a talk on the integral role of SriKrishna's Bhagavad Gita in Hindu life. He stated,”Krishna spoke the Gita on a battlefieldbecause life is like a battle. So in the battle of life, Krishna's Gita is there. It is not justfor Indians but it is for the benefit of the whole world.” Swamiji was pleased to see thepublics great interest in Hinduism and Buddhism in Mexico and appreciated the honor he was givenas a visiting Hindu monk.Independent Researcher Mohini Sarin's paper ' Hindu-Mexico: An Authentic and Ancient CulturalNexus' was well received and generated much curiosity. She pointed out the similarity between theHindu Trinity - Brahma-Visnu-Shiva and the Mexican Trinity - Ho-Huizilopochtli-Tlaloc as well asthe likeness between South Indian temples and American pyramids. She quoted Donald A. Mackenzie's book, Myths of Pre-Columbian America: Tezcatlipoca, was like the Hindu god Kubera, was also a godof the north. The story of Yappan appears to be of Indian origin. The story of the temptation andfall of Yappan is too like that of the temptation and fall of his Indian prototype to be ofspontaneous origin in the New World. The conclusion drawn from the evidence of the Yappan myththat Hindu cultural influences reached America is greatly strengthened when we find Acostainforming us that certain Mexican ascetics, who assisted the priests, "dressed in white robes andlived by begging." The wandering Brahmin and Buddhist pilgrims in India similarly begged theirfood." Games such as the pachisi of India and the Mexican patolli, the valador game, mirror ofpyrite, betel and coco-chewing, with lime and tobacco, as well as gourd containers for the lime;shell money; birchbark shelters and canoes; and the identical containers of birchbark withcurvilinear scraped design from Siberia; string crosses as prayers from Tibet, India, Assam,Mexico, and Peru; and last, but not the least - the cultivation of cotton, practiced since earlytimes in Asia. Many Mexican Indian words are the same in Tamil and Sanskrit such as Catamaran.Other examples included chinkat (jaguar) sinha (lion) mita (time)mita (step passage of time) nana (sister)nanda (sister) paksa (the moon)paksa (the full moon) kakarpa (tent)k'arpara (parasol) chirau (resplendent)sura (to shine)huakra (horn)vakra (curved)Monsignor Jose Raul Side Lopez, Bishop of the Diocese of Saltillo, Mexico and Human rightsactivist presented a paper entitled,”Religion and Human rights.” The Bishop urgedReligious leaders to seriously apply the built-in standards of human rights that is a part of allauthentic religious traditions. “No longer should people be forced to fit into the letter ofreligious doctrine but religion must adapt itself to the needs and spiritual necessities of thepeople. It is unacceptable for religions to remain neutral to the sufferings of humanity.” WAVES, World Association for Vedic Studies committee member and Independent researcher, RamenNandi's paper,”Studies into the Antiquity of the Ramayana” posed serious questionsregarding the ability of researchers to accurately date the Ramayana. Despite vast evidences,including geological, linguistic and textual, scholars have not yet been able to confirm the exactdate of the Ramayana. However, there are many key scientific findings that seem to confirm a veryancient date for the Ramayana and its vast influence on Indian civilization since antiquity.Vrndavan Brannon Parker, International Co-coordinator for the VFA, the Vedic Friend's Associationand member of WAVES attended as well. His paper entitled 'Indian Historical Paradoxes' concludedthat only through modern scientific investigative techniques combined with traditional culturaldata can a researcher find conclusive results. Parker said,”It is a paradox that despite thefact that Indian civilization represents the ancient world’s most voluminous source ofscholarly research into science, religion, philosophy etc. this treasure house of knowledge isnot considered as an authentic source for information regarding humanities’ ancient past. On the other hand, stray artifacts from random discoveries have become the foundation of theoriesthat contradict most evidences validated by the traditional Hindu perspective.” Mr Parkerpointed out that one of the world's leading experts on South Asian Archeology, Professor Jim GShaffer an American archaeologist and Professor of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve Universityfound evidence of extemely ancient cultural continuity in India. He stated that the traditionalHindu perspective on Indian history fits better into the archaeological evidence. ProfessorShaffer was quoted as saying that by including traditional views and cultural belief systems intoscientific research, one can develop a more accurate and complete picture of the ancient past.Parker concluded by praising the inclusiveness of Indian civilization. Throughout history, Indiahas welcomed Jews, Parsis and other oppressed minorities. In modern times, India is preserving theancient Tibetan culture and is the only country in the world to host all 72 schools of Islamicthought. No Muslim nation can boast of such Islamic diversity. It is India's Vedic Hindu idealsthat have allowed India to be the home of over a billion people yet still have plenty of room fora variety of wildlife, including the world's last remaining Asian lions. Professor Heber Ramos from IBCH of Cali Colombia had a presentation entitled, “In theFootsteps of Lord Krishna.” Tracing all the various evidences confirming the antiquity ofthe worship of Lord Krishna, Professor Ramos concluded,”There is vast scientific evidenceregarding the life and times of Krishna that correlates with the traditional Hindu perspective. Awealth of archaeological, textual, astronomical, geological and historical evidence is availableto the honest and unbiased researcher. No longer should academia treat Krishna as just a meremythological figure. The imprint of Lord Krishna on the history of the world is an obvious,authentic and tremendous one.”William Henricks, a lecturer on Eastern religions and Director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute for Science and the Humanities presented a paper called 'Hindu andBuddhist Contributions to the World.' He spoke on the development of Buddhism within theVedic-Hindu framework. Rather than presenting Buddhism as a separate religion, Henricks clarifiedthat Buddhism developed in India in the fertile ground of Vedic India. Buddha simplifiedspirituality for the ancient Indians and never claimed to be founding a new religion. He alsospoke on the development of modern Hinduism, clarified the difference between the modern Castesystem and the ancient Vedic Varna and Ashram system. “Throughout ancient Indian history,Varna was decided by qualification and carachter and not by birth. Only as time progressed didbirth become the main prerequisite. But the application of Varna based on birth is not trueHinduism.” He stated. The conference audience was a diverse group consisting of Scholars, Catholic Priests and Nuns,Evangelical Christians, Hindus of India, Mexico, USA and UK and local University students, amongothers. All found interest in each other's perspectives and called for respect, tolerance andunderstanding amongst the various religions. A common call for an ethical approach in the studiesand practices of religion and science was issued.The two day conference was closed with a presentation of traditional Hindu music and song. Theentire audience joined togheter in the chanting of Hindu-Vedic hymns and enjoyed the Hindu musicaldemonstration. During the closing ceremonies, the Institute of Philosophical Studies of Saltillo,Coahuila, Mexico honored all Presentors with Certificates of Appreciation and Recognition.

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