Sunday, March 30, 2008

Meet Ravi Gupta - representing the Hindu faith

The Louisville-Kentucky Courier Journal profiles Ravi Gupta, selected to present a gift to the Pope on behalf of Hindus at the interfaith meeting:

Ravi Gupta thought someone was playing a joke on him when the Centre College religion professor received a phone call inviting him to greet Pope Benedict XVI next month during the pontiff's visit to the United States. ...

"At first I couldn't believe it," said Gupta, 25. "I thought it was a prank call, ... but when I realized what was happening, I was deeply honored and humbled by the opportunity. It's very important in today's world especially for religious leaders to get together and show the world their intention of living together peacefully and trying to understand each other."

He added: "When religious leaders do that, especially people of the caliber of the pope, it really sends a strong message to those of us in the lay community that this is something we need to attempt at the grassroots level."

Gupta will be part of a small delegation bringing gifts to the pope. He'll be presenting an incense burner in the shape of the symbol of the Hindu sacred syllable, om, which Hindus believe is represents the unifying principle from which creation springs. ...

At first, Gupta said he couldn't figure out why organizers of the papal trip had invited him. He later learned he had made a strong impression on Catholics who had attended an interfaith conference where he gave a Hindu perspective on the problem of suffering. (read more)

According to the article, Gupta wasn't phased by the Roman Catholic Church's insistence on being the means to salvation (a point frequently articulated by Pope Benedict when speaking on interreligious matters). In fact, he responded in what one might call a "typically Hindu" fashion:
"The Catholic Church is no means unique in this," he said. "Religious organizations have repeatedly made these types of claims. ... It's important that whatever theology we might have provides room to give hope to our neighbors. No one is without hope, even if they choose to follow another path."