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Christ - Avatâra - Incarnation

Dialogues

 

Antonio de Nicolas

Antonio T. de Nicolas was born in Villalaco (Palencia, Spain), and educated in Spain, India and the United States, where he received his Ph.D. in philosophy at Fordham University in New York. He is currently Professor Emeritus of philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Long Island, New York and Director of the Center for Biocultural Studies in Florida. Antonio is the author of some 27 books in English and numerous articles, particularly the book Avatra: The Humanization of Philosophy through the Bhagavad Gt and Meditations Through the Rig Veda,  both classics in the field of Indic studies; and Habits of Mind: An Introduction to Clinical Philosophy, a criticism of higher education, whose framework has recently been adopted as the educational system for the new Russia and in seven states in the USA. He is also known for his acclaimed translations of the poetry of the Nobel Prize-winning author, Juan Ramon Jimenez, and of the mystical writings of St. Ignatius de Loyola and  St. John of the Cross. 

A philosopher by profession, Antonio confesses that  his most abiding philosophical concern is the act of imagining that he has pursued in his studies of the Spanish mystics, Eastern classical texts and, most recently, in his own poetry. His books of poetry: Remembering the God to Come, The Sea Tug ElegiesOf Angels and Women, Mostly, and Moksha Smith: Agni's Warrior-Sage (An Epic of the Immortal Fire), have received wide acclaim. Critical reviewers of these works have offered the following insights. From Choice: "these poems could not have been produced by a mainstream American.  They are illuminated from within by a gift, a skill, a mission...unlike the critico-prosaic American norm" From The Baltimore Sun: "Steeped as they are in mythology and philosophy these are not easy poems. Nor is de Nicolas an easy poet. He confronts us with the necessity to remake our lives...his poems...show us that we are not bound by rules. Nor are we bound by mysteries.  We are bound by love. And therefore, we are boundless" From William Packard, editor of the New York Quarterly: "This is the kind of poetry that Plato was describing in his dialogues, and the kind of poetry that Nietzsche was calling for in Zarathustra."
 

Cleo McNelly Kearns

Cleo McNelly Kearns holds a Ph.D in comparative literature from Columbia University and writes on modern literature, theology and postmodern philosophy of religion. She is the author of T. S. Eliot and Indic Traditions: A Study in Poetry and Belief (Cambridge University Press, 1987) and of numerous essays and articles on the implications for religion of the work of Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva and Jacques Derrida. She served for several years as editor of the Cultural Criticism series of the American Academy of Religion, and during her tenure she published two books on the intersections between Indic traditions and recent trends in postmodern philosophy, including pragmatism and deconstruction. She is currently at work on a study of the figure of the Virgin Mary in the sacrificial discourse of monotheism. Cleo and I began interacting around our respective contributions on T.S. Eliot and Ahinavagupta even before we met each other at the Indic Colloquium on 24 July 02. We discovered there at Menla that we had several other interests in common, such as the remarkable parallels between (the esoteric and folk representations of) the Virgin Mary and the Newar Kumr, the points of convergence between deconstructionist readings of classical texts and postmodern spiritual motivations, theologies of liberation and commitment to social justice.

Cleo's paper presented to the Indic Colloquium attempted 1) to argue that Indic traditions have been vital to American literature and philosophy from at least the nineteenth century to today, in ways that the conventional presentation of American intellectual and cultural history profoundly underestimate; 2) to review the intersections between Indic philosophy and current trends in continental philosophy and literary theory; 3) to discuss the extraordinary power and prevalence of reductive and secularist approaches to the Western canon and to Indic and other texts of world literature in literary studies today, and the resulting ignorance of the 'Inner Sciences' (adhytma-vidy) which these literatures encode and without which they cannot be fully understood; 4) to suggest the kinds of study that might re-open the books on these literatures as repositories of an enormous and potentially global storehouse of spiritual techniques and practices which, while they cannot be reduced to some perennial philosophy or normative science, can nevertheless be usefully collated and compared; 5) to argue more strongly for the addition of the category of the aesthetic to the scope of adhytmavidy by discussing how aesthetic issues might be articulated in terms of the agenda of the Global Renaissance.

David Peter Lawrence

David's research areas include comparative philosophy as a mode of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, the Pratyabhijna philosophy of monistic Kashmiri Saivism, and related areas of Hinduism and Buddhism. Recently he has been particularly interested in monistic Saiva approaches to identity and the body; and Abhinavagupta's legacy of using Pratyabhijna categories to interpret nonphilosophical tantric symbolism and practice. His publications include Rediscovering God with Transcendental Argument: A Contemporary Interpretation of Monistic Kashmiri Saiva Philosophy (SUNY, 1999). David received his BA from George Washington University (GWU), and his MA and PhD from the University of Chicago (1992). He has taught in the Division of Humanities of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Department of Religion of Concordia University, Montreal. He is now a visiting associate professor in the Department of Religion of the University of Manitoba. With regards to mentors, David's graduate school advisors were Wendy Doniger, Paul Griffiths, Bimal Krishna Matilal and David Tracy. He first visited India from 1987-1989, where he studied monistic Saivism mainly with Hemendra Nath Chakravarty in Varanasi and Navjivan Rastogi at Lucknow University. He also studied monistic Saivism and related areas of Sanskritic philosophy with other scholars including Srinarayan Mishra and Radheshyam Chaturvedi of Banaras Hindu University. He has since visited India for several shorter trips to work with Pt. Chakravarty, Prof. Rastogi and Prof. Mishra.

"The Visuvalingams extended great hospitality and support to me during my first visit to Varanasi. They helped me to get settled into the city and introduced me to some of its cultural and spiritual riches. At that time, their home was a magnetic center for a number of interesting scholars of monistic Saivism and other areas of Hinduism. I am delighted to have renewed our friendship and to participate in the Abhinavagupta website." David looked us up on his arrival in Benares in 1987 at the suggestion of our friend Alf Hiltebeitel (his ex-teacher at GWU). I recall several passionate discussions with David about Trika philosophy in our BHU apartment, and we also got to meet his father when the latter first visited him in the sacred city. Though David briefly visited us in Boston, in the early 90s after we had moved from India, we lost touch during his years in Hong Kong. We were delighted to renew our friendship after his well-received talk on "Concepts of Empowered Identity and Tradition in Medieval Monistic Shaivism" at the Chicago University South Asia Watch panel on Religion and Identity in Kashmir (9 April 2004). We had been impressed from the very beginning by David's personaland clearly ongoingattempt to engage Abhinava not as a mere curiosity from an obsolete Indian past but on account of his relevance to burning issues in contemporary philosophical and religious thought.

Edward Moore

Edward studied philosophy at New York University and (orthodox) theology at Columbia University before beginning his doctoral program at St. Elias School of Orthodox Theology. He is a scholar of Late Hellenistic Philosophy, and has published and lectured widely on topics and figures such as Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Origen of Alexandria, Plotinus, and St. Maximus Confessor. Edward also serves as Area Editor of Late Hellenistic Philosophy for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and is an active member of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies. In mid-August 2004, he successfully defended his dissertation, "Origen of Alexandria and St. Maximus Confessor: A Critical Comparison of their Eschatological Doctrines," upon which he was invited to accept the position of Dean of Faculty at the Philosophy Department of the Seminary, which has since been published in 2005.

"The revision of Origen's philosophical theology by St. Maximus the Confessor resulted in an eschatology involving the replacement of the human ego by the divine presence. In this study, I will examine the theological developments that led to this loss of a sense of human freedom and creativity in the face of the divine, tracing the influence of Origen's eschatology through the Cappadocian Fathers, Evagrius Ponticus and others, up to Maximus. This will allow me to show the manner in which Origen's humanistic theology was misunderstood and misinterpreted throughout the Patristic era, culminating in the anti-personalistic system of Maximus. Special attention will be paid to the development of Christian Neoplatonism, and how Christian contacts with the pagan philosophical schools came to have a profound effect on Eastern Patristic theology and philosophy. The final section of this study will suggest some ways in which the history of Patristic eschatology - especially Origen and Maximus - may serve as a fruitful source for contemporary theologians who are concerned with issues of personhood, creativity, and existential authenticity." [Editorial Blurb at Amazon.com]

 

 

Félix and Aurora Ilarráz

The Castes of India - published in Spanish in the Sarasvati journal

Introduction to book on Indian Philosophy (with Oscar Pujol Riembau)

This is the original message that Frank emailed on 9/14/01 to relatives and friends, and that I forwarded immediately to our own circle. It was edited into an abridged, and somewhat unbalanced, form by the Indianapolis Star for its op ed page of Oct 7th, 01, along with another good piece by a Mennonite pastor.

Jacqueline and Roland Bouchet

Roland and Jacqueline are the parents of ChristianBouchet. Jacqueline had done her Ph.D. in English Literature at the Sorbonne on (the theme of the 'foreigner' in) George Eliot (pen-name of Mary Ann Evans). Roland had been responsible for setting up the IT networks in several departments of the French academic establishment, including the Sorbonne. They are also in charge of the Center for Information and Documentation of Francophone India (CIDIF). Hailing from a Tamil family in the former French colony of Pondicherry, Jacqueline has spent her youth growing up in Indo-China and Africa, where her father had served as a judge in the French administration. Roland has just prepared for publication in the public domain of a volume by Olagnier.

We got to know Jacqueline and Roland during our 'sabbatical' in Paris from Aug 02 - Jul 03 on the occasion of the visit and celebration of some 20 Indian writers (Les Belles trangres) to France. We first noticed Jacqueline, when she intervened forcefully after the round-table with Esther David, Shauna Singh Baldwin and Nirmal Verma at the Marguerite Durand Library around the theme of "The inexpressible feminine in Indian writers." However, we got to know each other only at our next encounter, when we arrived early to listen to readings in English (and French!) by Shashi Tharoor at the Atelier bookshop on 26 Nov. Discovering in Roland a remarkable combination of information technology and wide reading in the humanities, Sunthar found it surprisingly easy to clarify his research on transgressive sacrality to someone so familiar with French thinkers such as Caillois, Bataille, Girard. Roland told us especially about the fascinating researches of their son, Christian. We subsequently ran into them at every other public event around these visiting Indian celebrities (including Arundhati Roy at the Sorbonne on Dec. 4). On Dec. 14, they invited us, along with Jacques Vigne and Shyamala Raja (a francophone Malaysian friend) to dinner, where we all got to know Christian.

 

Jacques Vigne

When Jacques Vigne visited us at the Benares Hindu University (BHU) in the early 1980s (with a reference from a common Bengali friend, Jayanti Mishra), he was on a French Romain Rolland Fellowship working on a book comparing the guru-disciple relationship in India with the therapist-patient interaction in the West (see book online in English and French). We had introduced him to our cosmopolitan circle of friends and scholars in Benares, and he was soon a regular visitor there. Subsequently, Jacques renounced a top placement to practice psychiatry at the prestigious St.-Anne hospital and thus a promising career in France in order to sit at the feet of Hindu spiritual masters, like Swami Vijayananda (himself a Western doctor of Jewish descent) at Anandamayi Ma's Ashram at Haridwar. Coming from a devout Catholic background--e.g., he sings medieval Gregorian chants (sometimes with his brother), and did so at our BHU apartment on the occasion of Swami Agehananda Bharati's visit--Jacques had also practiced as a psychiatrist in North Africa, and much of his writings reflect a desire to reconcile the different approaches of the various (Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Sufi, etc.) traditions towards a unifying mystical experience. Moreover, he collaborates actively with circles of (especially French) psychoanalysts, psychiatrists and doctors, who are likewise keen to incorporate centuries-old Eastern techniques of spiritual healing into their clinical practice. Like Oscar, Jacques contributes regularly to the Sarasvat magazine published in Spanish by the Purusa Foundation. Living in India for more than 17 years now, Jacques spend most of the year in Himalayan solitude near Rishikish, visiting Europe regularly to conduct spiritual workshops and guiding groups of Westerners on 'pilgrimages' to holy sites in India. We were delighted to renew our friendship with Jacques during his stay in France in late 2002, and have him participate in our recent session with Christian on lucid dreaming.

Jayant R. Kalawar

Jayant's perspectives, based on intense consulting engagements and interacting with very diverse groups of people, on Boston brahmins, unrepentant Richmond confederates, Salt Lake city Mormons, Oklahoma conservatives, Philadelphia Quakers and Hawaiian Asian-Americans have egged him on to think about what he calls the American puzzle. Jayant wants to write, as a diasporal insider, about how Americans see themselves and what drives them to develop certain kinds of relationships with the rest of the world. He also expects to write about how Indians look towards and relate to America.

Jayant's draft was presented on 18 Dec 2005 at panel #49 on "Globalization and Race Relations"with Sachin Jain ("White racial identity as a function of 'Emotional Intelligence'") and Peter Saeverin ("Identity overlaps and 'Rational Irrationality': On the synthesis of global economic and local religious identity clusters in India") at the 2nd International Conference on Religions and Cultures in the Indic Civilization, Delhi (1720 Dec 2005).

Mary Searle-Chatterjee

Mary and I got to know each other in early 70s, shortly after my taking up residence at the International House of the Banaras Hindu University, through our collaboration in organizing lectures on religious culture, particularly Hinduism, sponsored by the Maharajah at his Chet Singh Palace on the banks of the Ganga. I was then President of the International Students Union, Mary would soon be teaching at the Sociology Dept. She has focused on the Muslim community of Banaras, particularly the weavers (Ansari), who constitute a quarter of the population of the Hindu sacred city. Mary subsequently returned to the U.K., where she is now teaching sociology at the University of Manchester and at the Metropolitan University. Her research has provided source materials for our monograph Between Mecca and Benares, and we also facilitated the publishing of her essay on Ghz Miy in Living Benares (SUNY). We renewed our friendship and intellectual exchanges over my few days with her (and her colleagues) in August 2001 in the world's first industrial and working class city. Our discussions on (the Puritan element in) 'English' national character, stimulated by my visit to the monument paying tribute to (Manchester's support for) Abraham Lincoln's war-effort (to the detriment of England's own textile industry!), and my subsequent discovery of Irish nationalism in Dublin, helped prepare me mentally for the thesis that the American War of Independence was, in many respects, a continuation of the English Civil War, and has provided me valuable insights into the increasing polarization of political debate in greater Anglo-America with respect to civil liberties and (the impact of) 'globalization' (on developing countries). Most recently, Mary visited France for the first time to stay with us in Paris from 8-14 Jan 2003, during which time she got to know Vinay Bahl, and also met friends like the Franois Chenet.
 

Oscar Pujol Riembau

Probably the most promising Sanskrit scholar from Spain, Oscar has been teaching Spanish at the Banaras Hindu University, where he received his Ph.D. in Sanskrit Grammar in 1999. His wife, Mercedes, is a Bharata Ntyam dancer, who did her arangetram in Delhi in 1999 . She regularly teaches Bharata Ntyam in Mallorca, Spain. Vasant, his multilingual son, goes to school in Banaras where he was born. Oscar is currently converting his Sanskrit-Catalan dictionary into Sanskrit-Spanish. He has published several other books, especially the translation of Abhinavagupta's Abhinavabhrat on Rasa. Oscar has been very active in promoting cultural exchanges between traditional Indian and contemporary Spanish/Catalan scholars (he's currently working on a Spanish text "From the Ganges to the Mediterranean"). We got to know Oscar and family shortly before we quit India in early 1989, and we were able to renew our friendship at his parents' place in Barcelona in June 2001. During the intervening period, Oscar worked closely on various projects  with Flix (who subsequently undertook an extended stay in Benares), ending with a Spanish book on Indian philosophy (in press). He is a prime mover behind the Fundacin Purusa.

Check out Oscar's Spanish Sanskritvn  (http://sanskritvani.tripod.com) web-site, sponsored by the Spanish Embassy in India.

Patrick Laude

Patrick, who teaches French literature at Georgetown University, has been shaped in his outlook by the metaphysics of Frithjof Schuon and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. He did his M.A. (!983) and Ph.D. (1985) in French literature at Indiana University (Bloomington).

I got to know Patrick through the exchange on Ren Gunon that I had with him and another member of his panel after his talk on "Taoist adventures in the XXth century: Matgioi, Gunon, Grenier, tiemble," during the 3-day Sorbonne Colloquium on "The Encounter of Eastern and Western Religions in Modern Literature" (6-8 February 2003), and my subsequent report on the Gunonian presence there.

Patrick has requested feedback on his paper on "Holy Fools, Sacred Clowns and Demiurgic Tricksters: On Laughter and the Ambiguity of My" (that was also published in French in Connaissance des Religions, n 60, octobre-novembre 1999, pp. 10-46). All the more as he is planning to devote his sabbatical in Fall 2003 to developing its themes and intuitions into a full-fledged work. You can provide feedback at our Abhinavagupta and/or Humor forums at Yahoo!Groups.

 

Pedro Soto Adrados / Maria Ordua Anunciacin

Doa M Anunciacin Ordua Ferrero (Nunci) and Don Pedro Soto Adrados are the current President and Treasurer respectively of the Fundacin Purusa. We were introduced by the Ilarraz' on our first visit to Madrid in Dec. 2000 - Jan 2001, and had the pleasure of getting to know them better on our second visit to Spain in July 2001. Originally presided over by Flix Ilrraz, the Fundacin Purusa publishes the Sarasvati journal (East-West Studies towards a Humanist Renaissance), which features inter-cultural articles by scholars from all religious traditions. Oscar, a frequent contributor, had worked on the Sanskrit to Spanish dictionary for a year under the auspices of the Fundacin. Pedro and Nunci are personally involved with Indian traditions; Pedro was in Benares, Maharashtra and at the Allahabad Kumbha-Mela in early 2001. Since our first encounter, they have published several papers in the Sarasvat journal by Jacques Vigne, Christian Bouchet, Elizabeth and myself (and more soon by other friends...).  Pedro introduced us (Flix, Aurora and myself) to Swami Satyananda, a Spanish monk who lives in Tiruvannamalai, on 13th July 2003 when I last visited Madrid in July 2003.

"The Purusha Foundation was created with the goal of vivifying diverse areas of knowledge such as Philosophy, Religion, Economics, Sociology, Art, Poetry, Classical Languages (Latin, Greek, Sanskrit), etc., that contribute in the measure possible to the individual's pursuit of a role conducive to a New Humanism. Meaning by the latter an intrinsic relation between human nature and reason as the supreme fount helping to discover his/her true nature and all this in conformity with his/her personality. Wanting to emphasize at the same time the highest values represented by historical and traditional culture, both Eastern and Western, whose spiritual riches and profundity is unlimited. This is the sole and transcendental objective pursued by the Foundation, which has been constituted under the protectorate of the (Spanish) Ministry of Education and Culture, and whose vehicle of expression is the annual publication of a journal of knowledge named SARASVATI."

Raja Mylvaganam

Having disappeared beyond the horizon since my resettlement in Benares in 1972, Rajan, my maternal cousin,  introduced himself to me as a Unitarian after my talk on "Death and Sexuality in Hinduism and Islam" at Chicago University on 2nd April 1991. He had enrolled  as a Doctor of Ministry candidate in September 1988 at the Meadville Lombard Theological School, Chicago, and did a ministerial internship the following year at the May Memorial Unitarian Society, Syracuse, New York (where he also go to know Swami Aghehananda Bharati). Rajan had been living in Indianapolis from 1992 to 1993, just before my taking up a position there in Nov. 93 with Macmillan Computer Publishing. He had organized a Tagore Festival in Indianapolis with UU minister, Rev. Larry (and Nancy) Hutchinson (whom I got to know through Rajan during his subsequent visit to Indy), in which Indian scholars from Terre Haute had also participated. We met again briefly in Kuala Lumpur but I subsequently lost track of him again until Oct. 2001.  Raja has worked as a UU chaplain at hospitals in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne (Indiana), and Austin (Texas). Rajan subsequently visited us in Chicago in June 2001 and again in Paris in the spring of 2003, and has been participating in the discussions at the Abhinavagupta forum. 

Raja assures me that the references, footnotes, bibliography were thoroughly checked by a very competent professional librarian who taught the class. Over and above the religious aspect, it's fascinating to see how Benjamin Franklin's abhorrence of taxation (shared by other Founding Fathers...) became Jonathan Holdeen's life mission and the manner in which India's disinherited have been drawn into this vision...

Rajiv Malhotra

After studying in Delhi's St. Columba's High School and then St. Stephen's College, Rajiv arrived in the US in 1971 to study Physics and Computer Science. His corporate careers and business entrepreneurship included the computer, software and telecom industries. He now spends full time with The Infinity Foundation, a non-profit organization in Princeton, New Jersey. Its main interests include fostering harmony among the diverse cultures of the world. Many of its projects strive to upgrade the portrayal of India's civilization in the American education system and media. This involves both challenging the negative stereotypes and also establishing the many positive contributions from India's civilization.

The common theme underlying most of these articles and columns are the representations of India, Hinduism in particular, in the United States (and by extension in the West), as reflected in and determining academic discourse, mass education, media stereotypes, foreign policy, etc. In the process, several of them also focus (at least in part) on the (often maligned) religious values enshrined in Indian traditions and the socio-political 'unconscious' of American 'multiculturalism'. In addition to the numerous un-moderated comments from Sulekha readers, several of these essays have been discussed on the Abhinava forum, either simultaneously (Ganesha, psychoanalysis, critique of history orientated religions, etc.) or subsequently (caste and racism).

Problematizing God's Interventions in History (Mar 19, 2003) column

The Insider/Outsider Academic Game (Oct 25, 2002) article

The Axis of Neocolonialism (Jul 10, 2002) column

America's Last Chance (Jun 8, 2002) column

A Business Model of Religion - 2 (Apr 24, 2002) column

Hinduism in American Classrooms (Mar 18, 2002) column

A Business Model of Religion - 1 (Dec 31, 2001) column

The Asymmetric Dialog of Civilizations (Dec 3, 2001) column

Gita on Fighting Terrorism (Nov 5, 2001) column

The American Guilt Syndrome (Oct 8, 2001) column

Indian Thought is Not Understood in America (Jul 27, 2001) article

The 'Western Only' Curriculum (Jun 22, 2001) article

Stereotyping Hinduism in American Education (Apr 11, 2001) article

Sunthar Visuvalingam