Rediff Logo News Find/Feedback/Site Index
December 22, 1999


Search Rediff

'One World -- One Future'

E-Mail this report to a friend

R S Shankar

From the exploration of Hindu identity in the diaspora to Hindu-Christian dialogue, from the discussion about the abuse of human rights in Punjab to the importance of Sanskrit in the present day, the three-day Southeast Regional Conference at Emory University offers stimulating topics for debate and discussion.

The conference, on the theme 'One World -- One Future', also offers a slew of cultural activities, including a garba on its opening night. It is being held between January 21 and 23.

Organized by the Hindu Students Council of Emory University, it will have two keynote speakers:

Dr K L Seshagiri Rao will deliver the first keynote speech during the opening ceremony, focusing thoughts on the goals of HSC2000.

Swami Sharanananda will serve the closing keynote address, in a speech entitled The Power of Interfaith Interaction.

Dr Rao, a renowned scholar and an expert on interfaith dialogue, will encourage conference attendees to explore the diversity and simultaneous unity in their daily lives. He will challenge attendees to think about our religious identities as humanity moves into the new millennium. He will also be a part of the interfaith panel discussion.

Swami Sharanananda is leader of the Chinmaya Mission in Chicago. He has spent the last several years becoming devoted to the lifestyle of one who has renounced the world. His speech will discuss methods with which one can apply Hindu philosophies to the daily life of a college student in a practical manner. He will also serve on the Interfaith Panel to offer greater insight into Hinduism and its relation with other religions.

Interfaith discussion has grown to dominate the goals set forth for the HSC2000 Conference, the organizers say. While HSC2000 exists to aid the development of pride and appreciation for Hinduism, what use is this pride if not constructively practised and shared within the diverse communities of our society, they ask.

At this point in the history of Hindu Americans, the organizers note, the time has come when a conference with singular topics isn't appropriate. "That tradition no longer reflects the complex and diverse society we live within. While we will strive to continue reaffirming Hindu identity, the time has come to move a step further," one of them said.

"We must relate the Hindu identity to the beliefs and traditions of others," another organizer said. "We must not merely seek strong Hindus, but rather strong Hindus within even stronger communities."

The Interfaith Panel includes two moderators, Dr Purushottama Bilimoria, an experienced interfaith discussion advocate, and a student moderator.

There will be six panelists, including Dr Rao, Swami Sharanananda and Dr Thomas Thangaraj, will each conduct a short introduction to their experiences with faith. After this, an hour-long period will be devoted to the discussion of questions addressing major themes within each faith, such as the representation of God, death/post-death, and the meaning of spirituality.

In addition, questions will be explored regarding how each faith has influenced or has been influenced by other faiths.

Workshops at HSC2000 Conference

Some top South Asian experts at Emory University, including a visiting professor from Australia, will lead the workshops at a three-day conference discussing a wide variety of issues, such as the Hindu identity in the Diaspora and human rights abuse in Punjab.

The conference, organized by the Hindu Students Council, will be held between January 21 and 23.

The workshops are designed, organizers of the conference say, to foster thoughts and discussion along avenues relating to exploration of conference theme -- 'One World, One Future: Hindu Identities in the New Millennium'. Consequently, HSC2000 participants will attend a workshop in each of three categories:

Hindi: Language of Identity and Unity: Dr Rakesh Ranjan will explore the history and significance of Hindi as it rose up in the Deccan after India's independence. He will give an unexplored background and developmental history of Hindi as it emerged out of several regional dialects and languages not often recognized in their own rights.

Dr Ranjan received a Bachelor of Science degree from Bihar University before moving to New Delhi. There, he earned a Master of Arts degree in linguistics as well as a Master of Philosophy with a thesis focused on The standardization and modernization of Hindi and the role of print media.

In addition, he completed a Ph D, with a dissertation entitled Some morphological and syntactic features of Mauritian Bhojpuri from Delhi University.

In 1993, he became the program director of the Hindi language program at the American Institute of Indian Studies (1993 to 1998) in Varanasi. In 1998, he became the resident director at the joint University of Virginia/Emory University Semester in India Program. Currently, He is a faculty member of the Hindi program under the auspices of the Emory University Asian Studies Department.

Defining Hinduism for the Construction of Ourselves. What is the Self? How does the identity of oneself relate to religious experiences throughout the individual's lifetime?

Parimal Patil's workshop will explore these and other related questions in relation to the experience of being Hindu in a world where variable reactions to the Hindu faith shape the identity of both Hindus and non-Hindus who increasingly interact together.

Patil teaches Sanskrit, literature, and philosophy in the Asian Studies Program at Emory. A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, he will soon complete his Ph D in the Philosophy of Religion from the University of Chicago. His dissertation, Necessity, Naming, and the Existence of Isvara: Epistemology, Semantics, and Ontology in Buddhist Arguments against a Hindu God, focuses on the content of inter-religious debates between Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain intellectuals in medieval India.

He has spent at least four months in each of the past five years in Pune, India, studying Sanskrit in the traditional way, with three classically educated Sanskrit pandits.

Hindu Diaspora in a Global Context: Long Distance Calling Down Under: Increasingly, the term Hindu 'diaspora' has begun to refer to a community spread throughout the world. There is now an interweaving of the Hindu faith within a variety of cultural traditions, linguistic backgrounds, and socio-historical ideals.

What significance does the globalization of the Hindu community hold to the faith of an individual, and what changes will transpire as our society moves into the millennium?

Purushottama Bilimoria, a visiting Emory professor from Australia, will explore and discuss the evolving Hindu diaspora of today and its path into the future.

He is an associate professor at Deakin University in Australia and research fellow with the department of philosophy, University of Melbourne. He is currently on leave to act as a visiting professor at Emory University.

He received a Ph D in philosophy from La Trobe, Melbourne, and was educated in New Zealand, Australia, as well as India. He has held fellowships at Oxford University and Harvard University, and has been a visiting professor at the State University of New York at Stonybrook, Boston University, Emory University and Banaras Hindu University in India.

In addition, he has held the position of Visiting Chair in India Studies and Contemporary Ethics at the University of California (both Berkeley and Santa Barbara). He is also a recipient of a Rockefeller Fellowship with the Center for Public Scholarship, at Emory University, where he has also taught classes focusing on both the religion and philosophy of Hinduism, part of a sacred texts course.

He will offer a graduate seminar in Spring 2000 called Moral Philosophies of India: Theory, Dilemma, & Practice.

In addition to being editor of the international journal, Sophia, he serves on the editorial board of a number of academic journals and translational monograph series. His best-know book is Sabda-Pramana: Word and Knowledge.

Envisioning a Common Future: Hindus and Christians in Dialogue: In recent times a lot more attention is being paid to the actions and interactions of Hindus and Christians, both in India and in the diaspora. From the question of Hindu-American confrontations with Christianity, to Christians's present-day views of Hindus, American-born Hindus have a great deal of investment and urgency to understand and interpret the relationships between these two religious and cultural groups, says Dr Thomas Thangaraj.

Dr Thangaraj is a D W & Ruth Brooks Associate Professor of World Christianity at The Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He has taught for 11 years at Emory, having come from the Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary, where he taught for 17 years.

He has researched Saiva Siddhanta and his publications include eight books, four each in English and Tamil. Among Dr Thangaraj's works are The Crucified Guru: An Experiment in Cross-Cultural Christology and Relating to People of Other Religions: What Every Christian Needs to Know.

Dr Thangaraj also teaches a course, titled Christian Encounter with Hinduism which encourages future ministers of Christian churches to develop a respectful and dialogical attitude toward Hinduism. He has been actively involved in programs of inter-religious dialogue between Hindus and Christians both at the national and international levels.

Dr Thangaraj completed his Bachelor of Science degree from St John's College, Palayamkottai, Tamil Nadu, and subsequently enrolled at Serampore College, Serampore, West Bengal, to earn his Bachelor of Divinities degree. After completing a Master of Theology from the United Theological College, Bangalore, Karnataka, he received a Doctorate in Theology from Harvard University

Samskritam Jayatu! Celebrating Sanskrit's Worldwide Linguistic Effects: Is Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, the sacred tongue of the Bhagvat Gita, the Vedas and Puranas, really a long-dead language? But then Sanskrit's relationship with several Indo-European languages spills into our daily lives without our knowledge. Dr Adolf von Wuttermberg, also known as Vishnu Shastri, provides new insights into Sanskrit as it applies to the daily lives of people around the world.

Human Rights Abuses in Punjab: The culture of Punjab has been most unique and dynamic, especially in the latter half of the twentieth century, says Dr Brian Axel, an expert on India and human rights. Though the culture can be seen as lively and diverse with its populations of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims living in a blended society, human rights abuses still remain a terrible problem on a worldwide scale, he says. Dr Axel will closely examine these atrocities and will discuss the basis and solutions to these problems.

He received his Ph D in anthropology from the University of Chicago in December 1998. Since August 1998 he has been the Andrew W Mellon post-doctoral faculty fellow in ethnography and historiography at Emory University.

He is the author of Promise and Threat: A Historical Anthropology of the Sikh Diaspora to be published by Duke University Press next year.

Gender, State and Development in South Asia: A Postcolonial Perspective: The ideas of feminism and political activism have been defined and redefined in Western societies many times. However, in examination of South Asian cultural and religious dynamics, it is evident that the definitions and boundaries of the western world no longer necessarily apply.

How does South Asian culture put a new spin on the view of women and their role in society? Dr Renuka Sharma will engage students in discussion about South Asian feminist theory and practice.

She is a visiting research fellow with the Emory University Asian Studies Department. She teaches Gender, Development and Postcolonial Theory at Monash University, Australia, where she is currently the director of the Tara Women's Healthcare and Psychotherapy Centre.

Her undergraduate and graduate training were conducted at Monash University in philosophy, medicine, and psychiatry. She has worked extensively with non-governmental organizations in South Asia and has helped mobilize women's writings from a grassroots perspective.

She is currently editing the third volume in a trilogy of writings/narratives from a feminist framework, Representations of Gender, Democracy and Identity Politics in Relation to South Asia (1996), The Other Revolution: Feminist and NGO Movements in South Asia (1999), and a pending volume, Outside Theory: Negotiating Gender in South Asia.

Dr Sharma is completing a co-edited anthology called Handbook on Indian Ethics and a monograph, Speaking Positions, a series of interviews/narratives with noted Indian activists.

For more information, contact (404) 251-1225. Visit for more information. Or write to: HSC Emory University, Box 24080, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322.

Previous: Bollywood Touch to New Year Galas

Tell us what you think of this report