Reflections on "The Play of Wisdom"

Responding to Student Interfaith Reflections on Social Justice through Dialogue

In mid-November, I attended an event at Georgetown called “The Play of Wisdom: A Hindu-Jewish-Christian conversation.” During the event, scholars of comparative religion spoke about how wisdom is conceptualized in each of these faith traditions. They suggested that each of these faiths has a notion of knowing which is tied to the divine. Near the end of the conversation, a question was posed about the purpose of interfaith dialogue: why engage in interfaith dialogue when it often seems to confuse us? One of the panelists, Professor Ariel Glucklich, responded that interfaith dialogue allows us to come together but experience our togetherness in our own unique ways, as well as be more present in our sense of reality.

Professor Glucklich’s words resonated with me and showed me why I continue to engage in interfaith dialogue: it allows me to understand other’s truths. How I engage with the divine is different from how others may choose to do so, uniquely shaping how we navigate the world and strive to achieve what we ultimately desire in life. According to Professor Glucklich, interfaith dialogue is the revealing of a “secret” to another individual. In his words, I understand a sort of graciousness important to the successful practice of interfaith dialogue. Interfaith dialogue allows one to have opportunity to see the world through another’s eyes. One must truly appreciate this opportunity and allow it to change one’s worldview. A major aspect of social justice is just this—reveling in difference. Social justice must be pursued in the context of what individuals want themselves—it cannot be based on another’s interpretation of liberation.

But there is a further step in true justice, touched on by panelists during the event. Professor Glucklich spoke of the term prajna, which in Sanskrit translates to “profound knowledge.” Prajna conveys a sense of going beyond what one might traditionally understand as wisdom. He also described stages of wisdom in Hinduism as requiring more of the heart and ultimately touching at the notion of being self-giving. Rabbi Rachel Gartner said something similar about Judaism. She explained that it is the practice of ridding oneself of ego and working to find a sense of oneness. This understanding of selflessness and overcoming the ego is tied into my understanding of what it means to fight for social justice. Social justice means empathizing with the experiences of others and understanding how the experiences of others may be different from one’s own. It also means acknowledging distributions of power, recognizing privilege and working to dismantle it, even though it may be beneficial for those who have it. 

Ultimately, interfaith dialogue can provide us insight into multiple meanings of wisdom, which can teach us to fight for an equitable world. We must continue to promote interfaith dialogue as a way to better understand each other and challenge the power systems that constrain justice.

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