Book Reviews - When Africa Meets India
by Suma Varughese
Wanam, Africa & India, A Spiritual Dialogue, Swami Veda Bharati, Published By: Ahymsin Publishers, Price: 128 pages
I wish, not only wish but also predict that because of the interior spiritual strengths of Africa, this continent is going to rise in the next 20 years, and be recognised for the rightful place it has to take in helping and guiding the affairs of the world… the problems of Africa can be solved by taking the inspiration of the indigenous spiritual tradition, not by people from outside imposing political or economic solutions.”
This quote from a talk Swami Veda Bharati gave at The International Conference on Yoga and African Tradition in 2001, illustrates the warm, inclusive and life-affirmative spirit that runs through the book, so much in contrast with the superiority and exclusivity of the Western perspective.
Both Africa and India have suffered for being neither white nor affluent. However, as Swami Veda points out, both enjoy a vibrant spiritual tradition and perhaps are actually better off for not embracing a materialistic outlook. One cannot help warming to the pluralistic spirit of the writer as he confesses, “It has always been my quest to enrich my mind with all the multi-hued gems of wisdom that have been gifted to the peoples of this planet.”
If only the West had had this respectful open-minded attitude, the history of the world may have been different. The book explores the African spiritual tradition of Vodou (popularly known as Voodoo) enthusiastically and respectfully, and finds several parallels between the two spiritual traditions. One of these is the title of the book, Wanam, which is the name of God in
the More language of Burkino, the location of the conference. In the Upanishad is a passage
which goes thus:
That (Brahman) is Vanam, beautiful, to be attracted to.
Worship That as Vanam, beautiful, to be attracted to.
Many aspects of the spiritual practices of the two nations are similar such as celibacy, meatless days, fasting, periods of solitude and entering an ecstatic or calm state of mind.
“Humanity", says the author, “in a spiritual sense, is one.”
Apart from his meetings with the local spiritual leaders, the book also includes the talks he gave at the conference. Breathing the spirit of catholicity Wanam helps counteract the vertical approach of the Western world for an egalitarian horizontal approach which validates all cultures and approaches to Spirit as both valid and beautiful