Elijah Interfaith Institute, Israel. From Tablet
Alon Goshen-Gottstein, Executive Director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute, Israel, is the author of The Jewish Encounter with Hinduism: History, Spirituality, Identity.
There is a special power in the coming together of religious leaders in their diversity to deliver a message at a given point in time, especially a time of global crisis. Forty important voices are taking part in this project. I am grateful to editors of Tablet magazine for their eagerness to feature the project in its entirety.
Together, we set out to answer seven questions:
- What have been your greatest challenges in dealing with the present Corona crisis?
- Corona is bringing out a lot of fear in people. How does one deal with fear? What spiritual advice could you offer to people struggling with fear?
- Corona has forced people into solitude. How should time be spent in solitude? Many people do not have experience and habits that would allow them to make the most of this opportunity. What advice could they be given?
- Corona brings about deprivation. We are deprived of our freedom, of our habits. We lose things, and even more so- people we love. How does one deal with all forms of deprivation?
- What does Corona teach us about our interconnectivity? What are spiritual applications that people can practice consciously?
- Corona forces us into our own protective space, but it also calls us to solidarity. How to practice solidarity? What are teachings that support solidarity? What actions express solidarity? What can one do to express solidarity, even from within the confines of one's home and protection?
- Many people say the world will be different after this Corona crisis. What blessings do you see Corona bringing to the world? How can the world be different, for the better, following this crisis? One of the most important conceptual threads that runs through the project is the recognition that for all its hardships, the coronavirus is in some way also a blessing. To uncover that blessing we may need the eyes of the other and the experience of another spiritual tradition and how it is able to find blessing even in hardship.
Shrivatsa Goswami, India
Shrivatsa Goswami is a Hindu teacher of global note, located in Vrindavan, India, where he is priest in Radharaman Temple, in the city most noted for the worship of Lord Krishna. He describes the situation in India under lockdown, where Temples are closed and the entire rhythm of religious life has been disrupted. COVID 19 has an amazing homogenizing effect on humanity and the challenges of a Hindu religious leader are identical to those in other religions. Everything in the universe is interconnected. A sense of one human family has become stronger from the solidarity of suffering.It allows us to tackle the great problems that humanity still needs to tackle. Prayer is our most important resource at this time.
Karma Lekshe Tsomo, USA
Karma Lekshe Tsomo is Prof. of Buddhist studies at the university of San Diego, an ordained nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and co-founder of Sakyadhita, International Association of Buddhist Women.All of life’s spiritual practice is preparation for a moment like this, for the big moments that demonstrate the fundamental principle of impermanence. The present moment can be seen as a retreat. We must consider the implications of the present moment for the less fortunate, who do not have enough to eat. Looking at the source of attachment is a means of dealing with loss and deprivation. Giving gratitude is a way of keeping our hearts happy. We must keep a calm and happy mind. Confinement is an opportunity for learning patience, as the antidote to anger. Lovingkindess for all includes also the perpetrators of the present global crisis. Lekshe guides us through a process of generating lovingkindness to all, including animals.
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, England
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg is Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg is Rabbi of the New North London Synagogue and head of the Masorti movement in England. Solidarity is one of the main outcomes of the crisis in the community. Networks of support emerge. A spirit of closeness arises, in humanity across the globe. This is also an opportunity for engaging in learning. We can transcend space in our loving thoughts and prayers and reach the sick and distant. We must cultivate a sense of the world as sacred. A meditation service is offered to aid in the present, and taught by the Rabbi.