Meeting My First Swami

I met my first Swami the other day, at a panel discussion in my suburban Hudson river town library, no less.  A new local group had been formed to explore questions of "spirituality in action," with a special focus on science and the professions. The seminar was titled “Coping with Crisis” and I was invited to participate with the renowned Swami--exotically robed and barefoot. He and I were assigned to offer spiritual reflections (from a Hindu and Christian point of view), and a practicing psychiatrist (Anglo) and McKinsey management consultant (Indian) were to speak from their respective professional expertise.
 
The invigorating dialogue that ensued brought home to me how much America is changing. I’ve just moved back to Hastings, a small suburb of New York City, after 22 years away, and am quite sure that so much public interest in religion and spirituality is a new phenomenon. The founder of the group that sponsored the seminar is an intellectually curious, scientifically trained Indian businessman who travels back and forth between India and the USA—as does the renowned Swami. How exciting it is to find our country being religiously enriched by the increasing number of Asian immigrants!

Since my knowledge of Hinduism is less than minimal, I look forward to learning more from future meetings and conversations. It is a bit intimidating to find oneself billed as the spokesperson for all of western Christianity, but then aren’t post Vatican II Catholics told to be witnesses to their belief while being open to the rest of the world’s knowledge?
   
Interestingly enough, in our local panel discussion, there emerged a remarkable convergence on psychological and religious strategies for coping and growing through crises. I took this to be a confirmation of my belief in a common human evolutionary inheritance. And I concluded that spiritual wisdom and prudence are universal human capacities, always and everywhere understood and appreciated. So then, what’s coming next in new inter-religious adventures? I eagerly await our next conversation.

Sidney Callahan

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