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On March 30, 2022, Twelve Gates Foundation President, Dr. Frank Kaufmann spoke at the Interfaith Prayer Service in celebration of Women’s History Month.
The event was hosted by Guru Dileepji, the Global Chairman of the World Yoga Community, and NGO Affiliated with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Other guests attending the service include, Smt. Monica Willard, Cdr. Prasanna Edayilliam, Amb. Dr. Sima Karetnaya, Dr. T.P. Sasikumar, BK Sabita Beer, Rev. Dr. MNC Bose, and Rev. Chandra Sookdeo.
Interfaith Prayer Service:
Introduction: Welcome to Our World Plainly Seen, insights and commentary on the world around us with Dr. Frank Kaufmann.
Guruji Dileepji: Now I’d like to invite Dr. Frank Kaufmann, the founder and president of the 12 Gates Foundation and leader in the World Yoga Community. Frank Kaufmann is one of the religious, faith leaders, for over 40 years working for interfaith, harmony and dialogue around the globe, a pioneer in the field. Without delay, I’d like to invite Dr. Frank Kaufmann. The floor is for you.
Frank Kaufmann: Thank you, Guruji. Thank you very much for the invitation to be on this closing panel of this extremely important month and extremely important work and accomplishment, Guruji of you and all your colleagues and all that have been with us throughout the month.
I was surprised to discover inside of myself, perhaps I’ve never felt more unworthy to speak than on this particular occasion. I didn’t expect it. But I just like to open with that just to express that I feel profoundly unworthy to speak on women. I just like to offer my deep appreciation for the women here on this panel and the women of the world and for the divine feminine that surrounds me and all of us every moment of my life. Our gratitude can never be sufficient in words to honor women; simply can never be sufficient. We’re all indebted, including women indebted to one another for the lives each of you lead. And each of you lift up each other and lift up all human beings on the earth entirely.
Tragically, we are in perhaps the single most confusing moment in the history of gender. Surrounding us is a genuine descent into horror and confusion in which there is a concerted effort to undermine the capacity to account for or identify what a woman is. We know that women and the feminine are a direct manifestation of God. And any one committed to making it hard for us to see God in this way is on the path to causing great difficulties for everyone in the world and for the world itself.
I don’t think any of us would have trouble to affirm unequivocally. Is it helpful to live properly if you’re able to identify the difference between water and strychnine? I would say yes. I would say no one would give you any trouble if you insisted that you cannot live properly, if you can’t identify the difference between water and strychnine, although in thousands of ways they look identical. There’s much about them that are identical.
Similarly, could one say that one can live freely properly abundantly without being able to identify the difference between basil and poison? I wouldn’t recommend any human being try to get through life without being able to recognize those differences and live properly in relationship to them. And yet, our culture is moving toward literally the celebration of not being able to identify the difference between a man and a woman.
This is more important than basil and as important as water, the difference between men and women who can help give the world its much needed balance. There’s not a moment of my life in which the feminine is not aiding my life. Every breath I take, one of them is in, one of them is out. Every breeze that falls around me, some of them are feminine, some of them are masculine. All that I am is that. If religion does not have a vital role to help the world find its moorings now, what good is religion? Honestly speaking, we can dream about God, we can dream about our future afterlife.
But if religion cannot help us, in a time of profound threat to the deepest aspect of our being, if I think about my mother, I think about my physical sisters, I think about the ladies all around me who have educated me, who support me or work with me or for whom I work, if people want to threaten what those relationships are to me, I’m distressed by that. And for me, religion and spiritual life is the deepest truth of where we find our hope and our correction and our clarity.
So as an interreligious group, I’d like to call on religions to have the courage to meet this challenge and this difficulty. I’d like to apologize for the sirens. I live in New York City. My friends always say, are they coming for you, Frank, when that happens? My apologies. But to try to concentrate on the point I want to make, religions themselves must take responsibility for bringing this fundamental truth. However we do it, I’m not going to advocate political or cultural positions here. I’ll leave that in the hearts of all listeners.
I went to the scriptures and I went to the literature to try to find out what in religion celebrates and brings forward the clarity of this all important basis of our lives, the male and female relationships. There’s a lot of beautiful scriptures.
Here’s from Hinduism, I am he; you are she.
I am song; you are verse.
I am heaven; you are earth.
We two shall here together dwell becoming parents of children.
That’s the Atharva Veda.
Representing heaven and earth, I have created husband and wife. This is the beginning of the world.
That’s Tenrikyo Mika Gura-uta.
The moral man finds the moral law, beginning in the relation between man and woman, but ending in the vast reaches of the universe.
That’s Confucius, the Doctrine of the Mean.
Blessed are thou, Oh Lord, who makes the bridegroom rejoice with the bride.
That’s Judaism and Christianity. They share the same Bible.
I draw to my conclusion, Guruji. One of the problems is that when we go to the religious universes and the spiritual communities, when we try to find the upliftment of women, what we find mostly is a defense of women, a defense of the equality of women. And I believe this falls short.
Our approach to men and women, so for example, take lions and bears, just lions and bears, do we spend a lot of time saying lions are just as good as bears? Or bears are just as good as lions? We don’t. Lions are lions. We love them as they are. Bears are bears. We love them as they are. Men are men. We love them as they are. Women are women. We love them as they are. We’re not trying to say one deserves to be equal or not. No.
So the final word I’ll say is that if religions are to be involved in rectifying a profound threat to the basis of peace and harmony, honor, namely confusion in gender, I recommend that each of us in our traditions, please look to not a defense of equality. This is a low effort. What I would recommend and seek to find in our religions and in our hearts as spiritual people, is a competition of praise to see who can praise the other gender more highly, who can express gratitude more eloquently, poetically, and more beautifully.
Let women help men understand our value. Let men tell the woman what you mean to us, not to defend equality, but to praise and uplift and celebrate and sing the songs of femininity and of women. So if this is a month or an event that has to do with women, I want to say thank you. I want to apologize for the ways I fall short so far. And I want to say that of all the things that I love most, in the entirety of my life, I like ice cream, I like a walk on the beach, but it is Women most. This is why God created me as a man. Thank you so much, Guruji. Thank you so much.
Guruji: Thank you, Dr. Frank Kaufmann, for bringing your thoughts. And I know you work with so many women around the globe, so you have good experience. And your wife is from Japan, right?
Guruji: That’s a tolerance you have and your wife has.
Frank: She has more.
Guruji: That is in the culture, you both are able to handle it.
Frank: Thank you, Guruji.
Guruji: Thank you. I appreciate the support.