Sunday, 31 July 2011


Faculty of Philosophy, Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram

Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue

Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans Waldenfels, SJ
Professor of Buddhist-Christian Studies
University of Bonn, Germany

Date: July 28-29, 2011
Venue: DVK Auditorium, DVK Administrative Block

Dr. Saju Chackalackal CMI
Dean, Faculty of Philosophy, DVK

Reverend and Dear Prof. Dr. Thomas Aykara, Rector of Dharmaram College, Reverend and Dear Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans Waldenfels, the speaker of the 15th Dharma Endowment Lectures 2011-2012, professors from various faculties and institutes in and around Bangalore, Campus Superiors, invited guests, staff members of DVK, respected colleagues in the Faculty of Philosophy, and my dear students, ladies and gentlemen,
Along with the Vatican Council II, Dharmaram also opened up her horizons to various cultures and religions. In her attempt to offer holistic education to the scholastics, she has maintained an open approach, along the realization of the Vatican Council ideal that “the bonds that unite us are stronger than the barriers that separate us.” The attitude of openness cultivated or nurtured on the Dharmaram campus and all her programmes has been instrumental in sending out thousands of missionaries who are capable of spreading the message of openness in their approach to various peoples, cultures, and religions. It is a matter of pride that Dharmaram is known on the Indian ecclesiastical horizons for her pioneering and path-breaking contributions in the area of intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Along with the holistic intellectual training offered to her students through an integrated curriculum that included in-depth study of different cultures and religions, Dharmaram started one of her prominent and most notable initiatives through the Centre for the Study of World Religions (CSWR), which offered the platform to bring together people of various cultural and religious backgrounds to come together and share the same platform of living religious relaity. Those who came to the venue offered by Dharmaram not only initiated intellectual discourse on religious doctrines or traditions, but they were given opportunity to have a firsthand experience of the religious life and worship of members belonging to diverse religious backgrounds. To this effect, regular programmes were offered by CSWR under the acronym FIRE, standing for Fellowship in Religious Experience. Though FIRE is not regularly conducted in the changed scenario of Bangalore City, the legacy of Dharmaram enshrined in the CSWR and FIRE offers testimonies for the open attitude that has set the tone and texture of Dharmaram for years. Dharmaram continues the same mission through its official organ, Journal of Dharma, the quarterly journal of religions and philosophies, published regularly for last 37 years, with the collaboration of an international team of scholars, pooled from all the continents and diverse cultural and religious backgrounds.
These core dynamics of Dharmaram blossomed further in the establishment of Dharma Endowment Lectures, established in the year 1996, under the initiative and expert animation of the then President of DVK, our present rector, Rev. Prof. Dr. Thomas Aykara. While wholeheartedly appreciating this initiative of Fr. Rector, I must add that Dharma Endowment Lectures, over the years, opened the up and widened the avenues of Dharmaram, in her further forward movement of holistic integration and inclusive approach. It is a matter of pride to note that, every year, Dharma Endowment Lectures offers a platform for the staff and students of the Faculty of Philosophy to be enlightened by erudite and world-renowned scholars, who have made significant contributions in the domain of intercultural and interreligious studies and philosophical research.
It is in this context that we find the relevance of this year’s Dharma Endowment Lectures theme, “In-Between: Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue” by Prof. Hans Waldenfels. Although the globe has shrinked through instantaneous communication facilities offered by Satellites and other advanced telecommunications gadgets, the distance not only between individuals, but also between social institutions such as cultures and religious traditions has been catastrophically widened. It is a fact that there are many who purposefully create more discord, in order to take advantage and to cater to their vested interests; although it caters to their private gains, we know that finally the humanity seems to be losing its ground. While there are forces of dissention and discord operating so forcefully everywhere around the globe, there are at least a few enlightened individuals, who strive so hard and so earnestly to bridge the gap between individuals and between communities, and religions. Through his academic erudition and ongoing research, and experiments in dialogue over a period of fifty years, Prof. Waldenfels has been instrumental in bridging the gap between cultures and religions. In him, we have the right person to offer this 15th Dharma Endowment Lectures of 2011-2012, where he tries to crystallize the wisdom he has gained from his research and his life’s search, through a series of lectures under the attractive and inspiring title “In-Between.”
As many of you already know, Dharma Endowment Lectures is an important event in the annals of Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram. Started in 1996, these lectures provide a platform for rich and powerful contemporary philosophical and religious synthesis in view of an enriched and meaningful individual and societal existence. The very expression ‘dharma’ is so rich in meaning and philosophical resonance. It is beyond our ability to propose a single exhaustive translation to the word dharma; yet, its subtle existential sense refers to the dynamic and creative rhythm of life that has to be the substratum of everything in existence. Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, particularly the Faculty of Philosophy, in instituting the Dharma Endowment Lectures, in 1996, under the guidance of our beloved Rector, Prof. Dr. Thomas Aykara, has a definite plan of action in view of establishing an integral view of life among the members of our academic fraternity and the wider public. Hence, so far, all the Dharma Endowment Lectures, this year’s lectures being the fifteenth in this series, have been dealing with various themes from existential as well as theoretical points of view.
At the outset, I feel that the Faculty of Philosophy at DVK and all those who have gathered here are blessed and honoured by the very presence of Rev. Prof. Hans Waldenfels SJ, an eminent scholar of Buddhist-Christian Studies, the most prominent among the living scholars on interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
Professor Emeritus Dr. Dr. Hans Waldenfels, SJ, born in 1931, holds a Licentiate in Philosophy and a Doctorate in Theology from Rome, another second Doctorate in Theology from Würzburg in Germany, and is at present professor emeritus for fundamental theology, theology of religions, and philosophy of religion at the Catholic Faculty of Theology at the University of Bonn, Germany. Prof. Waldenfels is a renowned scholar on Buddhist-Christian studies and an ardent promoter of dialogue between these religions. His stay and studies in Japan for several years deepened his scholarship in Buddhism. He has been professor of Theology of Non-Christian Religions and related subjects at the University of Innsbruck, Austria; St. George's Institute, Frankfurt; and at the University of Bonn. Author of a number of erudite works on Buddhist-Christian studies, he is also the Editor of the well-known Encyclopedia of Religions, to which our beloved professor, Dr. Alex Thannippara also has contributed scholarly articles on themes connected with Indian theology and philosophy.
An acclaimed teacher and an erudite research guide, Prof. Waldenfels has contributed to the development of a philosophy and theology of religions during his academic career. I am very happy to note that my beloved teacher and, at present a colleague in the Faculty of Philosophy, Prof. Dr. Alex Thannippara carried out his doctoral research under the guidance of Prof. Waldenfels. Being one of his students, I had the privilege of undertaking one of my first ever written scientific works, my Bachelor of Philosophy thesis, under the expert and loving direction of Fr. Alex. I gratefully acknowledge and recall the excellent guidance and meticulous corrections that Fr. Alex had offered me as his young student. Now, as I look back, I understand that Fr. Alex learned the art of research under the ablest guidance of Prof. Waldenfels, and he had been bequeathing the same to me, in turn, as his student. While I take this opportunity to thank Fr. Alex for having offered me the best possible guidance, I also thank Prof. Waldenfels for having academically prepared Fr. Alex for his excellent academic career as Professor of Comparative Religion and Indology at DVK.
This is a rare moment: I have the privilege of saluting both my teacher and the teacher of my teacher: what a wonderful confluence; let us thank the Providence for this wonderful opportunity.
Widely published Prof. Waldenfels’ contributions include, apart from the Encyclopedia of Religions, works such as Jesus Christ and the Religions: An Essay in Theology of Religions (Marquette 2009), Löscht den Geist nicht aus! Gegen die Geistvergessenheit in Kirche und Gesellschaft (Schöningh 2008), Kontextuelle Fundamentaltheologie (Schöningh 2005), Der Islam: Religion und Politik (cau-authored, Schöningh 2004), Auf den Spuren von Gottes Wort: Theologische Versuche III (2004), Lexicon der Religionen (Herder Verlag 1999), Phänomen Christentum, Eine Weltreligion in den Welt-Religionen (Herder Verlag 1994), and Begengung der Religionen: Theologische versuche I (Borengässer 1990).
Above all, Prof. Waldenfels has been a person who has taken his life and his position in-between the reality, by keeping himself open to its unfolding in the course of time, and in the course of his life. His openness, founded on his firm conviction and faith in the person of Jesus Christ, has made him a sincere seeker of truth, which has made him find his own vocation in the search for his life’s realization in the in-between. His grounding in Christian sources and his expertise in Buddhist thought and life patterns have made him embrace an attitude of welcoming all that is good without in any way challenging his own foundations; all the more, his Christian rootedness coupled with openness has given him the ability to branch out further in opening up himself to the entire religious reality with the sincerity of a genuine seeker. It is his readiness to continue to seek that evolves through the six lectures that he would offer us under this 15th Dharma Endowment Lectures on the theme “In-Between: Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue.” Hence, in the name of Rev. Dr. Thomas Aykara, our Rector, all the members and students of the Faculty of Philosophy, especially in the name of Fr. Alex Thannippara, your beloved sisya, and all those who have gathered here, I accord you, Prof. Dr. Hans Waldenfels, a warm welcome to Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, especially to deliver the Dharma Endowment Lectures 2011-2012!
It is my privileged duty to welcome you all, especially Prof. Dr. Thomas Aykara, our Rector, our Campus Superiors and rectors, staff members from Christ University and other institutes of philosophy, the staff members of theology and philosophy faculties, and the Institute of Canon Law and the Institute of Spirituality and Counselling of DVK and all our well-wishers and students, to the 15th Dharma Endowment Lectures 2011-2012. Hearty welcome to one and all!
According to Prof. Waldenfels, man is a being between heaven and earth. In the cosmic world and in relation to God, the creator, a final connection is breaking down where people cut the connection to heaven; religion loses its characteristic of connecting man with God, and man falls back into a totally horizontal way of life with all its limitations, boundaries, and fetters. According to the different attitudes, human beings view the situation comparable to a prison and strive for liberation, although quite a few among us live in self-content, satisfied with the state of life as it is. Hence, he proposes to conduct the deliberations of In-Between through which we will be taken to understand the necessity of and the inner dynamics of intercultural and interreligious dialogue, not as merely an academic pursuit, but as a sincere search for existential meaningfulness in the given pluralistic context of our contemporary life, both in India and elsewhere. I am sure that the erudition and expertise of Prof. Waldenfels would enlighten us all in our continued search for the in-between.
Wishing you an enriching and enlightening time with Prof. Hans Waldenfels, today and tomorrow, I remain. Thank you!

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