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 Invitation to an International Conference 

Re-Learning to be Human for Global Times:

Religious Pluralism: An Hermeneutical Understanding for the 21st Century

December 22-23, 2016                                                                                          Chennai, India




University of Madras

Chennai Philosophical Forum




In this new millennium where science and technology play a major role, it is natural to ask about the status of religions. "What is the religious phenomenon of our time, not only as it is manifested at the present, but as unfolding into the future?" is the question which we must address ourselves. To answer this question, we must extend our view not only to a particular religion but also to all religions in general. Religious phenomenon can no longer be viewed within one religious tradition, within one geographical region, even within one continent, or within one hemisphere. It must be viewed globally, for the religious phenomenon of our time is a global phenomenon. The religions of the world can no longer live in isolation, nor can they rightly live in tension or hostility. The organic interaction of the human race is becoming so extensive that the religions of the world must seek new ways of mutual understanding and interrelation. Religions explain that there is a need for the spirit of tolerance, catholicity of outlook, respect for each other's faith and willingness to abide by rules of self-discipline. This has to be both at individual as well as group level.  It should be understood that different religious communities are all part of one nation is not its strength and glory, and should not, in any way, detract from national unity. It would be a tragedy if for lack of tolerance and deviance from the essential of strength and glory into a bane of weakness.


In the Encyclical Letter, Pope John Paul II explains the need for the interrelationship between faith and reason. He says that faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth. According to him, through faith and reason, men understand the meaning of life. If the inner meaning of life is not understood by man, then life is not worth living. That is the reason why philosophers of both East and West were interested in the question of "Who am I?" This is nothing but search for truth. Man has a purpose in life. It is a fact that in man there is always a conflict between what is and what ought to be. This is the conflict between the lower ends and the higher end. This double nature results in an internal conflict between the flesh and the spirit, or the lower and the higher selves.  The revelation of God's wisdom, which is based on faith, cannot be tested by abstract reason.


In the Hindu tradition, belief or faith is a mode of valid knowledge, and not something different from it. Knowing from an authoritative source is, as a rule, attended with confidence. There cannot be any knowledge as long as doubt prevails in the mind of the cognizer.  A doubt cognition cannot rank with knowledge. No information gained is a valid knowledge for the cognizer unless he is convinced of its truth. According to Vedanta, implicit belief or faith usage acceptance if, or the reliance on the words of the trustworthy, which need no verification. It is other than credulity or gullibility. It is conviction of truth and tantamount to valid knowledge. As such it is different from feeling, volition, imagination or assumption. Reason is implicit in faith. It is not unreasonable to rely on the reliable.


In the broad context, there are some fundamental concepts that we must accept, if religion is not to become increasingly peripheral to the vast majority of human beings but, on the contrary, develop into a dynamic force for a new integration. The first is the concept of the unity of the human race. The second concept of vasudhiva kutumbakam (the world as a family) is now becoming a reality. The third concept is the divinity of man. The fourth is the essential unity of all religions. Finally there is thereconstruction of society. It is our duty to work for the betterment of society. We must realize that as long as millions in the world go without adequate food and clothing, shelter and education, our theoretical postulations regarding the divinity of man have little relevance.


Eastern religions show the path for unity and harmony. Hindu philosophy and Chinese philosophy give a methodology for this. The concept of tradition for example in the Analects plays a dynamic role. It is approached from a moral or humanistic perspective, which is reflected as follows: “It is man that can make the Way great and not the Way that can make man great”. What kind of man can enlarge the Way or Tao? It is the “superior man” which serves as the moral idea in the Analects. Like Indian tradition, in Chinese tradition too, we find a synthesis of both spiritual and the moral.  Tradition is a source of knowledge for Confucius. This knowledge, mediated by tradition, has a sacred foundation for it is rooted in the notion of Heaven’s ordinance. This knowledge also calls for moral cultivation. Thus tradition relates a sacred history. It opens up the sense of transcendence which otherwise would be reduced to mere service of “spiritual beings”.


Religion has a direct bearhing on social life. Participation in social life is one of the essential aspects of religion. The singificance of festivals in religion prove this. Religion not only unites human beings with God, but also unites human beings into one family.



Please send 300 words and a brief CV to S. Panneerselvam [sipasel@rediffmail.com] and [cua-rvp@cua.edu] until September 30, 2016. Presentation of accepted papers will be 20 minutes in length followed by 20 minutes discussion. Well-developed full papers will be publisehd by the RVP.



There is no registration fee. Travel expense and accommodation will be covered by theparticipants.



S. Panneerselvam

Chennai Philosophical Forum

National Fellow, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi

Former Professor, Department of Philosophy

University of Madras

Chennai, India





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