Twelve Gates Foundation President Speaks at the 36th Annual Interfaith Prayer Festival
On December 28, 2021, Twelve Gates Foundation President, Dr. Frank Kaufmann spoke at the 36th Annual Interfaith Prayer Service and Holiday Celebration.
The Spiritual Festival was organized by H.H. Guru Dileepji Maharaj, the Global Chairman of the World Yoga Community, and NGO Affiliated with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Many guests attended the event including, Ms. Hawa Taylor-Kamara Diallo, Chief, Civil Society Unit, Outreach Division Department of Global Communications of the United Nations; Hon. Sujata Koirala, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal; Assemblyman Hon. Dr. Nader Sayegh, New York, 90th District; and Assemblywoman Hon. Jenifer Rajkumar, New York, 38th District.
The 36th Annual Interfaith Prayer Service and Holiday Celebration:
Watch Dr. Kaufmann's talk here:
Guru: I'll invite Dr. Frank Kaufmann. Dr. Frank Kaufmann…
Frank: Good morning, Guruji.
Frank: Namaste. Thank you for the opportunity to speak and to be with your important gathering and your illustrious guests. It is a great honor for me. I am grateful to be in New York. I think I may be one of the luckiest ones on the call because I am near you, Guruji, and this is an enormous blessing. It affords us the chance to be together more easily and not only officially. We can take walks together through the city, and I can benefit from your moment-to-moment spirituality that this is the natural part of life. That is the kind of place where one learns more easily.
When we meet formally and in official gatherings, it usually is quite difficult to inherit the blessings of a spiritual leader or a spiritual friend. But such learning happens more easily in the moment-to-moment parts of life. That is why smart people are members of religious communities. They come around our spiritual leaders on a day-to-day basis because this gives God easier timing to speak to us when we need to hear what we need to learn.
So I thank God that I’m near to you, Guruji. I’m impressed with your constant investment in these events. I have a great deal of skepticism about the “Zoomiverse.” I think that most people jumped into constant Zoom meetings without much reflection. I think because we can see and hear one another, people were easily deceived to imagine a togetherness. There is indeed a togetherness, but physical presence can never be replaced. We need to ponder the subtle differences there.
But in your case, you have invested so constantly in gathering us, that even here in Zoom you have created a community of genuine love, of genuine feeling, genuine emotion, genuine presence. And that is a real accomplishment. It is a new form of spirituality, I believe, because we did not expect this to befall us. We have never had something like this in history before, when we can gather in this flat, digital way. And so there must emerge a spirituality that is responsive to our new situation. I’m not quite sure how that will be.
But you've gone a long way, Guruji, to responding to this crisis and allowing us to form community somehow. I think everyone on the call can recognize genuine feelings of the heart, genuine feelings of love, genuine feelings of fondness. And that is an achievement. I think we all have you to thank for that. I do not want to speak long, maybe I already have, I hope not.
The couple of words I wanted to say is that you are focusing on the spiritual today in this meeting. You call it a spiritual festival. Spirituality is only one small part of religious life. There are many, many elements of religious life that involve keeping a community together. To keep a community together also involves a certain form of politics. All religious bodies have politics. All religious bodies have kind of domestic relations and foreign relations. A lot of religious bodies want to have a relationship with the United Nations.
But spirituality is the core of religion, it is the reason why all else about religion exists. So if we are interested in interfaith, if we are interested in inter-religious relations, we need to know all the different elements of religion that need to be engaged. If we are going to focus just on spirituality, then we should look in our religions to see what part of our spirituality is directly dedicated to making believers better interfaith people.
We also need to look at what part of our religious economics, what part of our buildings, what part of our daily schedule, everything that goes into maintaining a religious group, all of that. Maybe one day, Guruji, you can have a meeting called buildings, sacred buildings, or artifacts, or scriptures, it can be anything. Today, you've picked spirituality. And our spirituality is meant to orient us toward interfaith. How do we get along better? How do we relate to other religions better?
So if those are the two things on our mind today, then I would ask all of us in humility and in gratitude to be among you. Let's look at our religions, let's look at their spirituality, and let us see if we are taking seriously knowing the spirituality of each of our unique religious traditions. How does that help the believers, the Hindus in our temples, the Muslims in our masjids, at our Friday meetings whom we meet week to week, how does the spirituality of our community make our fellow believers of our unique and particular religions better as interfaith people?
At the end of the day, I believe and hope and pray that interfaith means nothing more than this. How do I help members of other religions? I as a Hindu, I as a Muslim, I as a Jew, I want to know as a Jew how do I help believers in other religions? That's my interfaith. And helping in their religion, not merely just helping other people. Thank you for the chance to say a few words, Guruji.
Guru: You brought the right points because interfaith is not easy to bring to the world. A lot of the time religious dogmas or cultural dogmas play the role. But we are here to bring people together. So thank you, Dr. Frank Kaufmann. I know you did so much for the interreligious community and interfaith community around the globe. You are one of the pioneers in the world whom I know. Swami Bua was one such leader, part of it in different events. I know Rev. Moon did a lot of work and Rabbi Joseph Gelberman did a lot of work. So many of them. And you, you are one of them. Thank you, I appreciate it.
Frank: Thank you, Guruji.