Bhakti; Pathway to God is a compilation of papers presented by the scholars at the Hindu Christian Interfaith Dialogue: a symposium jointly organized by K. J. Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskrit Peetham, Mumbai and Focolare Movement, Italy. This symposium was held from 14th to 19th June 2002 at International Mariapolis Centre, Castelgandolfo, Rome.
Devotion is considered as the shortest route leading to God-realization. The book gives insight into spirituality to scholars as well as aspirants. A brief introduction in the book contains invaluable information of both the religious. Thus this book presents a spectrum of various aspects of devotion in Hinduism and Christianity.
It is indeed a moment of great joy to present this volume entitled 'Bhakti-Pathway to God' that comprises research papers which were presented in the Hindu Christian Interfaith Dialogue Symposium jointly organized by K. J. Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham, Mumbai and Focolare Movement, Italy at International Mariapolis Centre, Castelgandolfo, Rome from 14th June to 19th June 2002.
Bhakti, that is, Devotion means a life given to God. Devotion is expressed through prayers and worships, rites and rituals and also pilgrimages and festivals. The expression of the Supreme Love for God takes different forms in different cultural and religious backgrounds. The theological and philosophical interpretations of Devotion may differ from faith to faith but the language of a devout heart is universal. The diverse forms of Devotion in different religions are like different colours of a rainbow. Hence an in-depth study of Bhakti in Hinduism and Christianity, two glorious traditions of the world was undertaken by scholars of K.J. Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham and Focolare movement.
This is not just an academic endeavour analyzing Devotion but a heartfelt realization that only in the presence of God all artificial divisions vanish and we stand together as the children of God.
Religion is derived from the Latin words 're' and 'ligare'. 'Re' means 'back, again', 'ligare' means 'to bind, to unite'. Hence, etymologically, religion means, 'that which binds or unites one to the origin'.
There are various great religions known as world religions. Each one of them has its own set of doctrines and dogmas, rites and rituals, philosophy and theology, ceremonies and festivals. Hinduism is one of the oldest religions. The indigenous names of this religion are Sanatana-dharma and Vaidika-dharma. The name 'Hinduism' had originally a geographical significance. The Persians called the land to the east of the river Sindhu as Hindustan after the name of the river Sindhu which was pronounced by them as Hindu. Hence Hinduism is the name of the religion followed people in the region. The word Sanatana means eternal or universal and ever expanding. This religion is called 'Sanatana dharma' because its core principles are eternal as well as universal and at the same time this religion is ever expanding because it is all comprehensive and also because it modifies its practices so as to make them suitable in the changing times; sometimes new ones are added to it. This great religion continued to expand like the bed of a river that becomes bigger and bigger while it flows to meet the ocean, because several other streams rush towards it to meet and get absorbed in it.
Hinduism is also known as the Vaidika-dharma because its authoritative scripture is the Veda. The Smrtis and the Puranas are the other texts from which Hinduism derives its norms of conduct, practices and festivities. Hinduism can be thus defined as the religion based on the Veda, the Smrtis, the Puranas and on the good conduct of the wise people. The Veda is the fountainhead of Indian culture. All the secondary scriptures, namely, the Smrtis, the Itihasas, the Puranas, the Agamas and the Darsanas develop particular aspects of the Veda.
Christianity is founded on the teachings and life of Jesus Christ in whom God is fully and definitively revealed. As Incarnate Son of God, Jesus was born a Jew and lived and died in ancient Palestine, the crossroad of three continents and civilizations: Asia, Africa and Europe.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem. His mother, Mary, who was a virgin, had conceived her son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus spent the greater part of his life, in silence and ordinary work, in the little village of Nazareth. When he was thirty years old he began to preach to his compatriots, in public and with authority, telling them: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel (Mark 1: 15). His preaching was a pressing invitation to spiritual renewal but also a promise of liberation and joy. In the person of Jesus Christ the human search for God, the Absolute Truth, finds its fulfillment. In Christ, there is the perfect and final fulfillment of what people have been seeking in the various religions.
Jesus' teaching was demanding, urgent and simple. It required uncompromising trust in God and a courageous break from all sinfulness. He himself became the way to God by accepting a life of suffering and death. Before dying he summed up his teaching, saying to his disciples: Love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples. (John 13:34-35).
Sent by God to bring salvation to all people, Jesus lived a life of complete compassion. He manifested the saving presence of God by bringing sight to the blind, healing the lame and paralytics, curing the sick and raising the dead. He truly became the life of all people. While living in intimate union with his Father in heaven Jesus always manifested his spirit of true solidarity with all people. He was kind to all: men and women, the just and sinners, rich and poor, fellow-Jews and foreigners. Any preferences he showed were for those who suffered or were despised and for the lowly.
Speaking of God as his Father and of himself as the Son he declared that he was totally at the service of his Father and that his nourishment was to do the Father's will. He revealed to mankind that in one God there are three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
By his words and his behaviour he wounded the pride of the religious leaders of his country, who decided to do away with him. Jesus knew this but did nothing to escape from the danger that threatened his life. The day finally came when he was arrested and handed over to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. He was condemned to the shameful torture of death by crucifixion as he had prophesied. Hanging on the cross, before breathing his last, Jesus commended himself to God, his Father, and forgave his executioners. The Roman Officers who was in charge of the execution, when he saw him die, exclaimed together with the others guarding Jesus: In truth this man was Son of God (Matthew 27:54).
Some of his disciples obtained permission from the governor to bury Jesus' body. The tomb was strictly guarded by soldiers and yet, three days after his death, it was found to be empty and Jesus, risen from the dead as he had promised, showed himself very clearly and on several different occasions, to his disciples. They, in turn, testified to having seen him with their own eyes and having touched him with their own hands. Then one day, in their presence, he was raised up to heaven and disappeared from view, having accomplished his visible mission on earth. He has promised that at the end of time he will come again, in glory, to harvest the fruits of the seed he has sown, giving to every man and woman according to the life each has lived.
The principal facts of Jesus' life and the words of his teaching have been handed down to us, by his disciples, in the four books of the Gospels. These consitute, for Christians, the most precious part of the New Testament which is the New Covenant part of the Bible. The other part of the Bible, the Old Testament, is common to Jews and Christians.
Key to Transliteration
Introduction I - Hinduism
Dr. Kala Acharya
Introduction II - Christianity
Msgr. Felix Machado
The Focolare Movement
K.J. Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham