Last night in a conversation with the parent of a current OWU student from Delhi, the parent noted that the strength of India lies in its diversity. This comment grew out of a discussion of Indian cuisine and the variety in Indian food from various parts of the country. He noted the difference between the diet of South India and North India, and then said that each of the four states of South India in fact has its own unique cuisine. He went on to talk about the diversity of culture, ritual, and religion. His argument is that it is the rich diversity that holds the country together and makes India, well, India.
Our experience with Lady Shri Ram College began Sunday with a day in the city, led by students and faculty from LSR. Our first stop was the Lotus temple, a magnificent sacred space constructed by the Baha’I community. The principles of the Baha’I faith include the common foundation of all religions. The lotus temple is a pilgrimage destination for Indian people of many religious traditions, reflecting again the rich diversity of the land.
We began our course on Gandhi Monday morning with a prayer service on the lawn of LSR. The service was patterned after the morning prayer service Gandhi shared with his friends each day at the Ashram. Gandhi was interested in many religious traditions, and his daily prayer service drew upon those traditions. The service included the favorite hymns of Gandhi, readings from various religious traditions including Hindu, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism, reflecting Gandhi’s understanding of the authenticity of the collection of the world’s religious traditions. We were all deeply moved, many to tears, by the beauty of the music, the serenity of the prayers, and the unity of the human spirit reflected in the service.
So often today religion is used as a source of division, and diversity is treated with suspicion, if not hostility. It is good to be reminded that our strength is found in our diversity.