I recently learned that on August 26th this year (2010), Father Raimon (Raimundo) Panikkar passed away at his home in Tavertet in Spain at the age of 91. Although I never met the man, I found his writing and ideas to be truly inspirational.
The son of a Hindu father and a Spanish Catholic mother, Father Panikkar was committed to interfaith dialogue in a manner beyond the mere studying of other forms of belief, believing that “the encounter between religions must be a religious act”. Living between two of the world’s great religious traditions, Panikkar suggested that the proper attitude of a Christian towards Hinduism was not to try and “bring Christ to the Hindu” but rather for the Christian to recognise the unknown aspects of Christ that were already there. He insisted that “no particular ritual or set of means can claim exclusivity and absoluteness.”
Panikkar viewed himself equally as a Hindu, Buddhist and a postmodern secularist as well as being an ordained Roman Catholic Priest, all without a trace of contradiction. His scholarship was animated by a desire to build (rather than burn) bridges between different forms of belief, a spirit that also sustains my own writing on religious topics. I will not say that he will be missed, since I rather suspect that most of us have only just begun to find him.
Father Raimundo Panikkar, November 3, 1918 – August 26, 2010.