Pannikar on Spirituality

Ghandi on Unity

Mohandas Ghandi, writing in a political pamphlet, speaking through the voice of the Editor in one of his dialogues:

Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads so long as we reach the same goal? Wherein is the cause for quarrelling?

Hind Swaraj (Indian Home Rule), 1908


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For a minute I thought Ghandi was going to opine on the awesomeness of the Unity engine.

Ghandi had precious little to say on the subject of integrated authoring tools. :)

And what is this shared goal? Does Gandhi reveal that?

It is not worth telling the goal if you don't find it yourself ;)

How utterly vague.

Isegoria: I believe the previous quote by Pannikar directly bears on this question. :)

Did Gandhi agree with Pannikar?

I would say that Gandhis quote was based on his intuition of the situation expressed in these two references.

Most people dont know that Gandhi once had a Jain Spiritual Master who taught that everything arises in the One Consciousness.

Isegoria: we can't know for certain, since Gandhi died before Pannikar published most of his work, but reading between the lines I feel confident the two were working in similar spaces. Both came from Hindu backgrounds, but were influenced by Christianity (Pannikar had a Hindu parent and a Catholic parent; Ghandi was a Hindu but flirted with converting to Christianity before concluding that all of its teachings were already embedded within the Vedic traditions).

This perspective of the unity between religions is ancient, but it is rarely aired today. I fear the current "culture wars" have entrenched the camps too much for the middle ground to gain notice.

If the notion of unity between religions is aired less today — which I'm not at all sure is the case — then it's likely because those holding such views have moved away from traditional religions and toward the secular religion of modern progressivism — which looks a lot like the progressive Christianity of a century ago, with a more abstract "higher power" replacing the old bearded father figure.

But another commenter already made the more damning point: What does it even mean to agree on something so vague? If you can't spell out the shared goal, what does shared mean?

Isegoria: It's certainly the case that the media lens picks up on more extreme expressions of religion in culture, and that moderate positions become thus invisible, whether or not its the case that people have dropped from a religious belief system to a politically metaphysical belief system.

"What does it even mean to agree on something so vague? If you can't spell out the shared goal, what does shared mean?"

I confess to not really understanding why this seems vague to you (and others) - the Pannikar quote to me is pretty explicit - but one certainly doesn't need rigid definitions to share a common goal.

One assumes that people from the same nation share common goals at some level, but these common goals are never successfully spelled out explicitly - in fact, when they are it is just as likely to produce discord as accord. This doesn't mean that people who are citizens of the same nation don't have common goals, just that the process of identifying and agreeing to those common goals (in that case, the activity of politics) detracts from the sense of national unity. This is perhaps why national unity is strongest in the wake of tragedy and weakest when trying to establish the meaning of national identity publicly (e.g. in an election).

In the desire to achieve precision in comprehending the common goals of religion, one falls prey of attempting to interpret spirituality in rational terms. In this regard, one of my favourite quotes is from Count Zinzendorf, who noted: "Whoso wishes to grasp God with his intellect becomes an atheist." :)

I will also note that in 1993 more than 200 leaders from more than 20 different faith groups met to identify principles of common ethical ground between religions. Here are the four points they agreed upon:

1. Commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life
2. Commitment to a culture of solidarity and a just economic order
3. Commitment to a culture of tolerance and a life of truthfulness
4. Commitment to a culture of equal rights and partnership between men and women

Of course, this only speaks of common ethical goals, while the goals of religions may also be interpreted in spiritual terms. At this point, however, one moves into a deeply personal space. Ghandi recognised this, and thus spoke out against the idea of "converting" from one religion to another as being in essence a pointless exercise. The proper expression of religion in Ghandi's eyes was in the relationship of the individual to their own faith, not in "recruiting" others to own's own faith.

Hope this adds some clarity! :)

I would not assume that people from the same nation share many goals at all, but they could easily articulate their few shared goals: national defense, etc.

(Certainly in a democracy it is politically expedient to argue for massive shared goals — how else do you expand power? — but there very few truly shared goals.)

As far as vague religious goals go, I don't know why something as vague as "relinking" with people, nature, and the divine means anything to Pannikar or to anyone else.

When was I previously linked to people? When was I delinked? What does it mean to relink? Is throwing a block party a step toward or away from this religious goal?

Similarly, if we all agree that we're for Good and against Evil, have we agreed to anything? Only to the degree to which we agree on what Good and Evil mean — which might be not at all.

Lastly, any ecumenical council that agrees to those shared values across religions does not represent the traditional branches of those religions, which explicitly do not believe in most of those values.

Isegoria: your comment here expands your position rather well, but your position seems to preclude harmonising with my own to a great extent! :)

Re: Pannikar, I believe he chooses "relinking" because "linking" implies it has never been done before. (There's a Hindu metaphysical hermeneutic at work here that I don't have time to go into).

However, as long as you approach spiritual matters within a purely rational perspective you will get a disconnect which will exclude you and you'll be left scratching your head or, perhaps, throwing your hands up in the air in frustration (c.f. my Count Zinzendorf quote, above). I simply can't help you with this, except to say that you are far from alone in this regard.

(Oh, and I don't agree to be for Good and against Evil, incidentally; I am against both Good and Evil, since one readily transforms into another in my view, but I am in support of some people who are for Good and against Evil, so perhaps I lend support tangentially!)

Finally, I am curious as to how you distinguish between "traditional" and "non-traditional" branches in your final paragraph. (This distinction is implied here, it seems). I think you are expressly tilting at the orthodox Abrahamic faiths, and to suggest that (say) traditional Christianity does not uphold these four values is to take a very specific stance on the notion of tradition.

That there are vocal branches of various religions (principally within the Abrahamic faiths) opposed to some of the values listed whose self-identity is conservative (and thus claim to be "tradition-focussed") does not grant those sects any prior status of having a stronger claim to be "traditional" as far as I'm concerned.

This is especially true in the US where many so-called "traditional" religious views within Christianity wildly contradict the ministry of Jesus and thus, to my mind at least, have a very strange claim to tradition. At best, they adhere to traditional views from a few hundred years ago, but in a religion that is two millennia old this is wildly insufficient. (I could make a similar claim in the context of conservative Islam and the teachings of Muhammad).

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that one misjudges the religious traditions if one evaluates them solely by the outpourings of bigotry the media focusses upon; the same misjudgement happens on the other side of the coin when the prejudice of the "New Atheists" is mistaken for the views of all those who have no need of a god-concept. In this, and in so many other matters, our capacity to generalise often obscures the deeper and wider nuances.

Hope that *something* in this response is of use to you. :)

If spiritual matters are non-rational and deeply personal, how are religious goals in any way shared?

Spirituality and religion, while overlapping domains, are still distinct. There are people who connect with spirituality and not religion, and people who practice a religion but show no signs of spirituality.

Religions, as the formalised partner to personal spirituality, attempt to open some or all of the spiritual paths to their practictioners (at least, when not falling into fossilised dogma). Collectively, this endeavour displays commonalities that run through all the faith traditions.

Yet still, at the individual level, every spiritual path is distinct and unique.

Hope this clarifies.

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