The past few months at OCHS have been busy ones, full of talks and events that brought OCHS scholars together with a wider public, in a shared love of Indian culture.
Diwali at the Ashmolean
For Diwali this year, OCHS joined forces with the Ashmolean Museum's Inter-Faith Exhibitions Service (AIFES) to celebrate with a programme of Indian art, music and stories.
The Ashmolean was Britain's first museum, and the Diwali celebrations began with a programme of performances and story-telling set in the museum's beautiful 17th century neo-classical halls. Performers shared the excitement of the Ramayana with Oxford friends and families before returning in a "procession of lights" for chai at OCHS, where more surprises were in store. Oxford families enjoyed live music and a superb re-enactment of Sita's rescue. The OCHS was transformed into a lively theatre as the younger members of the audience helped to stage a spirited drama. Fun was had by all and the day marked a successful collaboration between OCHS and the Ashmolean, together making the Hindu festival of lights an even bigger part of Oxford life.
British Council and Royal Commonwealth Society
November saw OCHS teaming up with the British Council and the Royal Commonwealth Society for a lunchtime panel debate bringing together top scholars in Indian history, religion, and philosophy to discuss "The Hindu Phenomenon: Perspectives on India's past, present and future." A wide range of thought-provoking questions from the audience turned the lecture into a lively discussion touching on topics from Hindu Ethics to India's present economic success. OCHS looks forward to further collaborations with the British Council and Royal Commonwealth Society.
This was also the term in which the world came to OCHS to offer Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian perspectives on universal concerns.
Comparative Theology was the theme of seminars and symposia in which scholars compared Hindu ideas with other theologies. On 9th November, the OCHS held a very successful conference at Regent's Park College in association with the Centre for Christianity and Culture. This one-day symposium brought together Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu perspectives on the theme of Desire.
Desire is an idea that has been the focus of much discussion in religious traditions over the centuries. It has often been seen as a negative quality which keeps people in bondage, but desire for a greater good is also a profoundly positive force. The speakers included Prof. Keith Ward on Christianity, Dr Ulrike Roesler on Buddhism, and Dr Dermott Killingley on Hinduism, offering astute presentations and laying the ground for the excellent discussions that followed.
OCHS Theological Dialogues have always been a great success, and this term's Hindu-Muslim discussion on the "Singularity of God" was no exception. Dr Yahya Michot and Mr Rembert Lutjeharms exchanged views with a sizeable and diverse Oxford audience, discovering wide-ranging parallels between ideas of God in the two traditions. One might think that - with the "million" deities often ascribed to Hinduism, and Islam's commitment to Tawhid, the singularity of God - the two religions would find themselves disagreeing on the nature of the divine. But what came out of this talk is the need to avoid one-sided, simplistic views of such rich and multi-faceted religious traditions.
It was a stimulating evening and we look forward to more Comparative Theology discussions to come, including the "Icon and Murti", Hindu-Christian dialogue planned for the 2007 spring term.