UNESCO & Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation
International Symposium 2012-2013
Significance of Life and Death in Three Major World Religions
St. Andrew’s College, Bandra
Concept Note: Our first question is to what end and upon what right do we think about the strange and totally inaccessible subject of death? The answer is because of the supreme certainty we have about the existence of man: that it cannot endure without a sense of meaning. But existence embraces both life and death, and in a way death is the test of the meaning of life. If death is devoid of meaning, then life is absurd. Life’s ultimate meaning remains obscure unless it is reflected upon in the face of death.
The fact of dying must be a major factor in our understanding of living. Yet only a few of us have come face to face with death as a problem or a challenge. There is a slowness, a delay, neglect on our part to think about it. For the subject is not exciting, but rather strange and shocking.
What characterizes modern man’s attitude toward death is escapism, disregard of its harsh reality, even a tendency to obliterate grief. He is entering, however, a new age of search for the meaning of existence, and all cardinal issues will have to be faced.
Death is grim, harsh, cruel, a source of infinite grief. Our first reaction is consternation. We are stunned and distraught. Slowly, our sense of dismay is followed by a sense of mystery. Suddenly, a whole life has veiled itself in secrecy. Our speech stops, our understanding fails. In the presence of death there is only silence, and a sense of awe.
Is death nothing but an obliteration, an absolute negation? The view of death is affected by our understanding of life. If life is sensed as a surprise, as a gift, defying explanation, then death ceases to be a radical, absolute negation of what life stands for. For both life and death are aspects of a greater mystery, the mystery of being, the mystery of creation. Over and above the preciousness of particular existence stands the marvel of its being related to the infinite mystery of being or creation. Death, then, is not simply man’s coming to an end. It is also entering a beginning.
The highlight of the year was the International Symposium held on 23rd November 2012. His Grace, Archbishop Felix Machado was the Chief Guest, Dr. Maria Luisa Rossi was the key-note speaker and the Guest of Honor was Mrs. Kia Scherr, President of One Life Alliance. The panel of speakers consisted of a psychologist and eminent speakers from the three major world religions i.e. Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.