Saturday, July 29, 2006

As India assumes a leadership position amongst nations...

Unity in Diversity: Oxford, the Model T and Hinduism come together at last. This is the text of a presentation delivered by Mr Alfred Ford, at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Board of Governors Annual Dinner, held in the Oxford Town Hall, on the 26th June 2003. Mr Ford is a member of the OCHS Benefactors Council and his wife, Sharmila is a member of the OCHS Board of Governors.
It is a great pleasure to be here tonight and I would like to thank Shaunaka Rishi and the Board of Governors for giving me the opportunity to say a few words. Just to clear up any misunderstandings, yes I am the great grandson of the man who is famous for saying among other things, that "History is more or less bunk!" This is one of the many aphorisms that I do not share with Henry Ford. In addition, I couldn't fix a car if my life depended on it.

My great-grandfather did not have much of a formal education. He did; however, seem to have an extraordinary ability to understand the complex mechanics of machinery. He was able to disassemble and assemble pocket watches at a very early age, and build rudimentary car engines with very little training. He would often contemplate where this ability came from, and this questioning fostered his strong belief in spirituality and reincarnation. he studied whatever he could find about these subjects, and at one point entertained a visiting sadhu from India. He even handed out small pamphlets concerning reincarnation to visitors after they completed the factory tour at ford motor company.
Like my Great Grandfather I accept the philosophy of reincarnation and I also entertain Sadhus in my home and I don't shy away from handing out full volumes of Hindu literature, what to speak of pamphlets. The Bhagavad-Gita Gita refers to knowledge of the soul as Raja-vidya or the King of knowledge. It is knowledge of god, his creation and our humble place in the grander scheme of things. Hindu thought and culture is infused with the concept of the supreme. there is nothing we can touch which has not been identified in Hindu scripture as belonging to God. But Hindu scholars do not study theology so how is this culture to negotiate its interaction with the West and our global culture.
In order to investigate the Hindu science of God and the self at a high academic level, we now have this important presence at Oxford. Oxford University has an impressive reputation for excellent scholarship in the world. There is no better place to display, discuss, dissect and disseminate the vast collection of Hindu literature available, Vaishnava, Shivite and Shakta, among others. Certainly there exists a natural synergy between the king of education and the king of universities.
The world today is in great need of an introduction to and appreciation of the treasures of all cultures. It is not healthy that one perspective, be it economic, political or religious tries to dominate and ignorance has always been the chief weapon of dominance in the world. Although we all fly the flag of multi-everthing-ism we also share great ignorance of the diverse spiritual reality in which we live.
For the Hindu community students armed with a deep scholarly appreciation of the potent message of Vedic culture, will be better equipped to respond to the complex ethical and moral questions posed by modern society. They will have the language to dialogue effectively with other religions and cultures and they will be respected as leaders, Commentators and advisors in their communities.
The main source of inspiration for these studies, the spiritual literature of India needs a place of honour and refuge. Many of these writings are in danger of being lost or forgotten. Certainly by sheer volume, the sacred texts of India rank as the greatest collection in the world. Should not these texts be studied at the same academic level as other great religious traditions? And the OCHS is also taking steps to preserve manuscripts in Indian libraries presently under threat.
As India assumes a leadership position amongst nations in the new millennium, it is incumbent on all of us to do what we can to preserve and enhance India's greatest treasure. This treasure is not the burgeoning technology industry or lucrative markets for over seas manufacturers. it is not tourism, or textiles, or Bollywood. This treasure is one of the oldest religious and spiritual traditions in the world, and the richest treasure trove of sacred scripture. It is an enduring source of enlightenment, which can make a positive contribution in the world today.
I believe Henry ford wanted to make the world a better place. he campaigned for world peace and saw the automobile as a way to liberate people from the drudgery and ignorance of rural life. He was inquisitive about machines, human existence and the nature of the soul. I am the first to admit that some of his efforts have backfired, and have had unforeseen consequences. But he was, I believe, instrumental in making the world a smaller and more unified place. He was concerned about our planet and i think that if he could, he would have liked to peel away the covering of the universe to reveal its inner workings.
The work being done at the OCHS could be considered a part of this revealing process. it is opening a door to knowledge and culture that until recently, was unfamiliar and confidential, separated from the western world by time, society, and distance. My wife and I are privileged to count ourselves as active supporters of this Centre for three important reasons.
  • The first is the need we see for Hindu communities to appreciate scholarship in Hindu Studies and to recognise its enormous potential for their future in our global culture. Linked with this is the need for contemporary scholarship to study contemporary Hinduism, its spirituality, literature and perspectives.
  • The second is that we feel a need to invest in the future of our communities by facilitating young intellectuals to become a future generation of scholars. This will help preserve and interpret Indic religions for modern times.
  • The third reason is more personal. We have two lovely daughters and we hope that they will one day have children of their own. We would like to see our grandchildren, and others have every opportunity to excel in any field of endeavour, including Hindu theology, philosophy and culture. With the OCHS they will have such an option.

I urge you all to do whatever you can to assist in this exceptional and important endeavour. If you are a scholar you hold the keys for a whole culture to engage wholeheartedly with the Western world. Your support is essential; if you are a businessman you can add value to the Centre; if you are a student you can consider a vocation in scholarship in this field. But everyone can offer support and blessings. Thank you HOMEPAGE OCHS NEWS ABOUT OCHS FACULTY &STUDENTS INDIAN STUDIESAT OXFORD RESEARCH PROJECTS PUBLICATIONS EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMMES BENEFACTORS & FRIENDS VISITORS TO OCHS CONTACT US

No comments:

Post a Comment