On Thursday, March 9th, Ek Ong Kaar Kaur from SikhNet had the opportunity to participate in an interfaith panel on Dharma, presented by John Hopkins University. The interfaith panel included four members, each representing a specific Dharmic tradition.
Bhupesh Mehta, an active leader in the Jain community, currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington and also as the Director for JAINA. Swami Sarvapriyananda is the minister who heads the Vedanta Society of New York and is a monk with the Ramakrishna Order of India. Rev. Dr. Wakoh Shannon Hickey is a priest of Soto Zen Buddhism and a member of the Religious Studies faculty at Notre Dame of Maryland University. She also serves as the Buddhist Campus Minister for John Hopkins. Along with Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa, the Program Manager for SikhNet.com, these speakers engaged in a very thoughtful Discussion on Dharma, with an emphasis on the theme of peace.
The students who helped organize this event said that this was the first interfaith dialogue focusing on the Dharmic-centered religions at the John Hopkin Interfaith Center. Most interfaith events had previously focused on the Abrahamic religions, and this was new ground for the Interfaith Center. The event was open to the general public.
The discussion began with each guest introducing him or her self and giving a brief overview of their particular Dharmic tradition and their understanding of what Dharma is.
This was followed by a conversation based on the question, “How can one pursue peace at the individual level through Dharma? And how does this relate to the pursuit of communal peace?”
Ek Ong Kaar Kaur began the discussion and asked, “Are we asking the right question? Is this idea that we are trying to pursue peace at an individual and communal level a fairy tale? When I look back through Sikh history...there is tremendous conflict and shadow that plays out as this beautiful path develops. Peace is not an absence of conflict. Peace is an ability to manage conflict in higher consciousness.”
Rev. Dr. Wakoh Shannon Hickey shared her views on the question by saying, in part, “Buddhism teaches that the basic nature of reality is (a) they are impermanent and (b) everything arises in relation to everything else...What I think is separate from me isn’t really fundamentally separate from me...My challenge is when I see someone who I profoundly disagree with, how do I recognize that that other person is like me and I am like that other person. And that we are in this together. How do I disagree without resorting to enmity.”
Swami Sarvapriyananda also expressed his view on the issue. “Shanti (is) the Sanskrit word for peace...It is very interesting that in Vedanta, our very nature is peace. We do not know that. When we look out into the world of manifestation, we find lack of peace and we find conflict and we find struggle. Vedanta shows us that where you find lack of peace and violence and conflict, watch that. That which is experiencing that lack of peace, that violence, is peaceful.”
Bhupesh Mehta spoke from the Jain perspective on the issue of peace, saying in part. “The problem is the liking and the disliking because of the ego…I am just a being….The best way to get back to peace is to remove yourself from the worldly things for just five minutes a day...Conflict arises because of liking and disliking...We need a lot of practice because we have forgotten and the soul is all wrapped up in the samsara.”
The conversation continued for over an hour, with audience members also posing questions to the panelists.
To view the complete panel discussion, please click the link below:
Published on Mar 13, 2017
The Johns Hopkins University Interfaith Center is honored to share this Discussion on Dharma with the greater public. This interfaith panel features speakers from the traditions of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, and Sikhism, and was hosted as part of the University's annual Open Hands Open Hearts Week - a time to celebrate religious diversity and spiritual unity on campus. The speakers come from diverse spheres of life - monks, scholars, community leaders - and in this panel, they discuss how the philosophical concept of Dharma can be applied to inspire action and introspection, and discover peace and unity amidst conflict and division.
We were honored by the presence of the following panelists:
Bhupesh Mehta is an active leader in the Jain community, and is currently serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington and Director for JAINA (Federation of Jain Associations in North America). The Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington (http://www.jsmw.org) was established in March 1980.
Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa is a Sikh writer who enjoys sharing her experiences of the practice of Sikh Dharma. She currently serves as the Program Manager for http://www.SikhNet.com, an online platform for people to easily connect with the heart and wisdom of the Sikh faith, and with each other.
Swami Sarvapriyananda, Minister heading the Vedanta Society of New York (http://www.vedantany.org), became a monk of the Ramakrishna Order of India in 1994. He teaches Vedanta in the tradition of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. The Vedanta Society of New York, a branch of the Ramakrishna Mission, was started by Swami Vivekananda in 1894 to propagate the teachings of Vedanta.
Reverend Dr. Wakoh Shannon Hickey was ordained in 2003 as a priest of Soto Zen Buddhism, which she has practiced since 1984. She is a member of the Religious Studies faculty at Notre Dame of Maryland University and is the Buddhist Campus Minister for Johns Hopkins University. She serves on the Steering Committees of the Buddhism in the West group and the Buddhist Critical-Constructive Reflection group of the American Academy of Religion. Examples of her scholarship can be seen at http://www.ndm.academia.edu/WakohShan....
Many thanks to JHU Chaplain Kathy Schnurr, Assistant Chaplain Asher Kolieboi, and Administrative Coordinator Barb Helmuth for their support.
SikhNet would like to especially thank the following people for organizing this event. The staff of the John Hopkins University Interfaith Center: Chaplain Kathryn Schnurr. Assistant Chaplain Asher Kolieboi. Administrative Coordinator Barb Helmuth. And students Sean Thompson, Vignesh Sadras, Arshdeep Kaur and Juhi Hegde of Notre Dame University of Maryland.