Talking on karma and appreciating the audience’s karma – Talk at Princeton University, Princeton
Vineet Chander (Venkat Bhatta P), who is the Director of Hindu Affairs at Princeton University and has become a close friend over the years, organized a talk on The Karma Conundrum – Does our destiny make us or do we make it? I have found that audiences all over the world are keenly interested in the topic of destiny because here philosophy intersects with reality in a way that matters tangibly to all of us. We all have experienced some higher forces working for or against us, and often they shape the results of our endeavors much more than our endeavors themselves.
The caliber of the Princeton audience (a result of their past good karma) was evident in their subtle and sensitive questions about karma and destiny, as well as their measured appreciation after the program. During a private conversation, a student, who is a department topper in his field, said that he found the talk insightful, though he didn’t agree with everything that was spoken. He felt that my saying that bhakti was the best way to spiritual elevation smacked of sectarianism – it undermined the esteemed path of jnana.
We didn’t have time to go into the technicalities about various paths, but I recognized that he had simply voiced what others in his position might have thought too. When speaking to an audience trained in critical thinking, it’s not easy to present the special position of bhakti without coming off as bhakti exclusivists. I am slowly learning this art by discussing with devotees who regularly make presentations to similar audiences and by studying how teachers of other paths present their philosophies without attracting the label of sectarianism.
This article is part of a series of articles about the recent Western tour. Full article can be read here