My speech at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies 20th Anniversary Dinner.
I was an undergraduate of St Anne’s College and a Visiting Fellow at Corpus Christi College. When I was an undergraduate there was no OCHS.
Today as an Oxonian and a Hindu, I stand before you 100 feet tall.
Oxford University is ranked the number one University in the world. There had to be a place for the serious study of Hinduism – the world’s oldest religion - at this University.
When the former Ambassador of China to USA said, "India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border." – Is it not vitally important for Oxford’s relevance to the world today – to have the OCHS here.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Author said, "In the great books of India, an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence, which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the questions that exercise us."
What could be more Oxford than that – ‘the questions that exercise us.’
Mark Twain famously said: "India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great-grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."
Well they are treasured up at the Oxford Centre for Hinduism too now. So rightly, Chancellor Chris Patten put it in these words:
“This development in the field of Hindu Studies at Oxford is very exciting. It is an important addition to Oxford's wealth of resources on India and Indian religious traditions. It fits in well with our goal to attract more Indian students to come and study at Oxford. The new official association provides a platform for the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and Oxford University to move forward together in teaching, research and publishing.”
But it goes beyond that. Consider Henry David Thoreau who said ““In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonic philosophy of the Bhagvat Geeta, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial.”
The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies adds to the Greatness of what Oxford University seeks to accomplish as a centre for learning and excellence. This is what Oxford was made for.
And I defy you to find anyone from any other faith who could have said these words ““Yes I am a Hindu, I am also a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, and a Jew.” – Mahatma Gandhi said that.
Just how important and relevant is OCHS today is highlighted by another Ganahi quote ““If I were asked to define the Hindu creed, I should simply say: Search after truth through non-violent means. A man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu. Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after truth... Hinduism is the religion of truth. Truth is God. Denial of God we have known. Denial of truth we have not known.”
What could be more Oxford than that?
One final quote, which shocked me was this from Dr Ambedkar, the man who gave India – and so one in six of humanity the constitution under which they live and it an important reminder why the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies is so so important. He said:
“The Hindus criticise the Mahomedans for having spread their religion by the use of the sword. They also ridicule Christianity on the score of the Inquisition.
But really speaking, who is better and more worthy of our respect-the Mahomedans and Christians who attempted to thrust down the throats of unwilling persons what they regarded as necessary for their salvation, or the Hindu who would not spread the light, who would endeavour to keep others in darkness, who would not consent to share his intellectual and social inheritance with those who are ready and willing to make it a part of their own make-up?
I have no hesitation in saying that if the Mahomedan has been cruel, the Hindu has been mean; and meanness is worse than cruelty.”