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April 2015

What We Can Learn from the Same-Sex Seating Controversy

What We Can Learn from the Same-Sex Seating Controversy
A recent New York Times story on the tension caused when Orthodox Jewish men request same-sex seating on airlines for religious reasons generated over 3,000 reader responses. The scenario as described in the story generally unfolds something like this: the individual reaches his assigned seat and finds that the seat next to him is occupied by a woman. He shifts uncomfortably in the aisle until the flight attendant or an alert passenger recognizes what’s going on and asks the woman to switch seats with a male so the Orthodox Jew may have his religious views accommodated. Often the woman is offended; sometimes she refuses to move. This has made for many challenging situations and some flight delays.

Learning to Appreciate South Asian Religion

What the Middle East is to Abrahamic traditions (particularly Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), South Asia is to Dharmic traditions (particularly Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism). And while life is a messy mix of the good and the bad for all of us, historically the Dharmic religions have a much better record of interreligious tolerance and mutual respect and appreciation than do the Abrahamic traditions.

Empowering Grassroots Interfaith in India

Recent major media stories about religion in India have focused mostly on tensions between Hindus and both Christians and Muslims over issues of conversion and diet. Flying under the media horizon are 180 United Religion Initiative (URI) Cooperation Circles in India, referred to as CCs, self-governing groups which support URI’s commitment to daily interfaith cooperation, ending religiously motivated violence, and promoting peace, justice, and healing. CCs in India have four coordinators working in the nation’s north, south, east and western regions. They are particularly active in youth projects, women in interfaith, cross-cultural dialogue, and environmental issues.

Living the Gandhi Dream in Ahmedabad

The Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, in the west Indian state of Gujarat, was a bold experiment initiated by Mahatma Gandhi to find a way to make the spiritual practical. How does one take spiritual principles, apply them genuinely to everyday life, and then convey those principles to the neediest of children, so that the next generation might grow up with an innate sense of what it means to “love all and serve all.”

Visiting India, the Motherland

I first became intoxicated by India as a college student in the 1960s, through the movies of Satyajit Ray, the music of Ravi Shankar and, most of all, the revelations of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. My first exposure to those sacred texts came second-hand, through the work of interpreters like Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley and the fiction of Herman Hesse, Somerset Maugham, and J.D. Salinger. The Beatles put me over the top when they took up Transcendental Meditation and made their landmark pilgrimage to Rishikesh. The total effect of those cross-cultural hinges was to turn this existentialist/atheist/social activist into a dedicated spiritual seeker. I’ve been immersed in yogic practices and Hindu texts ever since.

Revisioning Nepal as an Interfaith-Friendly Hindu State

With a current population of around 30 million, Nepal used to be the only constitutionally declared Hindu nation in the world. The now-defunct constitution of 1990, in effect until January 15, 2007, described the country as a “Hindu Kingdom,” whilst not establishing Hinduism as the state religion. Then came the Communist Party of Nepal and its secular “Republic.”

Ramakrishna and Vivekananda: Midwives of the Interfaith Movement

Although no single person, group of persons, or religious tradition can be solely credited with the emergence of the interfaith movement – a vast and complex movement to which many hands and minds have contributed – it is certainly true that the interfaith movement as it exists today would be inconceivable without the contributions of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.

Scriptural Gathering Celebrates U.N. Interfaith Harmony Week

The 6th International Interfaith Conference on Holy Books was held the first week of February at the Sarvodaya Institute of Higher Learning in Sri Lanka. About 125 delegates from different parts of the world attended the four-day program, held in celebration of this year’s U.N. Interfaith Harmony Week.

Raised in India, Living in America

While growing up as a kid in northern India in the early 1980s, I fondly remember one of my best friends in high school, Sher Ali Khan. He was a devout Muslim.

Conversion and Reconversion in India

Over the past few months, Indian and U.S. media have reported widely about right-wing Hindu groups’ plans to “re-convert” Muslim and Christians to Hinduism (and in some cases, Sikhism).

Interfaith Network is Responding to Religious Violence

URI CCs encourage one another, pray for one another, share feelings and actions. A recent response shows actions of solidarity arising…

June 4-7: Calling for an Ecological Civilization

I have two of the most beautiful, intelligent, and lovable great-grandchildren in the world. At 90 years of age, I know I won’t have the chance to see them much longer.