Conference Presentations

Globalize our Theologies

Tom Mahon
Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 09:00 to 10:15

Science and Technology are supercharged in the 21st Century. The natural sciences reveal a sense of 'deep space' and 'deep time' unimagined a century ago. And technology now enables things unimagined even ten years ago. But to guide us with this knowledge and capability, we still rely on moral operating systems that were designed 1,500 or more years ago.

It's not surprising we are in the midst of a global nervous breakdown: my ancestor's image of God was and is the only true and authentic one; all others, including yours, are heresies. Religions cling to the archaic model of a God who says, "I alone will be your God, and you alone will be my chosen people."

Slowly but surely there is emerging a new Big Story, based on what the new sciences are showing us of a much more elegant and spell-binding creation story. Unlike the God of faith who had to make everything piecemeal and by hand, we now see that everything in creation - roses, turnips, Lady Gaga - all evolved out of the same hot ball of energy. There is an emerging global creation story, based on empirical evidence, available to all people everywhere; one that supersedes the various tribal stories from antiquity, and that does not required unquestioned faith in ancient allegories. The old authors did the best they could with the information at hand then. We have more information available now, with much more to come, and our creation stories and belief systems should keep up. (See the story of Edward the Electron at

Tom Mahon has been, at various times, a merchant sailor, heavy machine operator, documentary filmmaker, novelist, glass artisan, and, for nearly 40 years, a public relations consultant in Silicon Valley.

Since the early 1990s, he has also spoken and written widely on the need to reconnect technical capability with social responsibility; to re-integrate tech-knowledge with self-knowledge.

Speaking venues have included MIT, Stanford, the International Solid State Circuits Conference, a symposium organized by the U. S. State Department, the United Religions Initiative, the San Francisco Fringe Festival, as well as presentations to senior groups, high school students and local congregations. His writings have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Electronic Engineering Times, National Catholic Reporter, and Business 2.0.

In addition, his work has been covered in The New York Times, The International Herald-Tribune, CNN, CNET, Business Week and The San Jose Mercury, among others.

Mahon is the author of “The Fandango Involvement” (Fawcett, 1980) the first novel set in Silicon Valley, and “Charged Bodies: People, Power and Paradox in Silicon Valley” (New American Library, 1985) an award-winning, non-fiction book about the place. Both books are available in print at Amazon. Mahon also wrote and performed two one man plays about technology through history: “At Home in the Universe” and “Are We Having Fun Yet!”

He holds an MBA in International Business and has had his own public relations consultancy since 1984 representing firms in electronic and genetic engineering. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Mary. They have three grown children.

Web Site:

On Cultivating Gratitude as a Mode of Being

Dr. Atif Khalil
Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 10:45 to 12:00

In traditional Western ethical philosophy, gratitude has played the role of a relatively peripheral virtue. Recent developments in positive psychology, however, have begun to draw out the rather remarkable ways in which the cultivation of this often neglected virtue can contribute towards startlingly positive and optimistic attitudes towards life. Positive psychology, however, operates within a worldview which prevents the full potential of gratitude from being released because it neither fully acknowledges an ultimate benefactor to whom gratitude can be shown consistently, as a mode of being, nor the “gift” of suffering. Using the Sufi tradition as a focal point, it will be argued that the great contemplative traditions offer a means for the fullest realization of gratitude, in all its modes and levels

Dr. Atif Khalil teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge. His area of specialization lies in the formative period of Sufism, with a focus on the early development of Islamic moral and spiritual psychology. He completed his doctorate at the University of Toronto in 2009 with a thesis on repentance in early Sufism. He has also had the opportunity to study in more traditional settings in Syria and Yemen.

Spiritual Quest of a Venture Capitalist

Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 14:00 to 15:15

Dr Vincent Kouwenhoven's story is one of combining his passion for arts, business, nature and spirituality, with yoga / meditation as the connecting energy. Vincent took his first yoga and meditation class 10 years ago, and since that first course, meditation became an integral part of his (professional) life.

Dr Kouwenhoven (aged 48) is born and still living in the Netherlands. In his professional life, Dr Kouwenhoven is active as Founder/MD of a venture capital fund which is investing in African startup companies active in digital media.

Classical Indian Philosophy of Education

Professor V. N. Jha
Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 09:00 to 10:15

Any policy of Education is required to be framed in terms of aspirations of people for whom the policy is being framed. In other words, the policy-makers must take into account what people want to achieve in life. Once the goal is identified, the means to achieve that goal can easily be identified.

The classical Indian philosophers added another important dimension to this. According to them it is not enough to take into account what people think as the goal of human life, but also what should be the rational or logically considered ‘goal of human life’. The philosophers suggested that what people consider to be the goal of human life needs to be critically and philosophically examined before recommending that as ‘the goal of life’.

On critical examination, one will find that there is an immediate goal and there should be an ultimate goal of life. The immediate goal cannot be the ultimate goal. In other words, ‘the immediate goal’ should be considered, together with the ultimate or the logical goal and not in isolation.

Classical Indian philosophers’ inquiry about anything, therefore, has always been holistic. The same holistic approach is also found in the case of deciding ‘education’. They felt the necessity of classifying human goals into two categories : (a) immediate and (b) ultimate. Both the goals are equally important. The first goal will take care of all needs of sustenance, comfort and pleasure which all human beings want. This is the minimum that any education must provide. The ordinary aspirations are to be governed by this first order goal. When one aspiration is fulfilled a human being has a feeling of achievement and that gives him or her joy which prompts him or her to go for it again and again in order to achieve more and more. But the Indian philosophers critically analyzed this human psychology and wanted to know whether there is any upper limit of what people consider as ‘achievement’ and their analysis of human experiences forced them to conclude that there cannot be any upper limit of ‘achievement’. They found that human beings suffer from inherent weaknesses and as such the initial minimum ‘want’ or ‘need’ gets transformed into ‘greed’ and greed has no upper limit. That is why, this, so-called ‘achievement’, cannot be posited as the ultimate goal of human life. This goal cannot be recommended as the ultimate purpose of human life because this will never allow a human being to have a sense of fulfillment. That is why, the classical Indian thinkers introduced the idea of four-fold goal of human life, the fourth being the ultimate goal of life called ‘fulfillment’ which alone can generate a sense of ‘peace’ or a sense of ever-lasting happiness by putting a check on the tendency of ‘greed’.

In classical Indian philosophers’ view ‘education’ is a means of transforming human beings from a lower state to a higher state. Education must liberate small minds and transform them to universal minds. On one hand, as it should take care of the basic needs of one and all, on the other, it should also show the path to move towards their ultimate goal of life. The ‘education’ which does not take into account the ultimate goal of life namely, a sense of fulfillment, is no education at all. In other words, ‘education’ must aim at transforming a man in such a way that he or she ultimately gets a feeling of ‘fulfillment’ or from ‘exclusiveness’ to ‘inclusiveness’. Transformation is understood as gradual ‘freedom from narrowness or bondage’ and complete transformation will mean complete freedom from all narrowness, conditioned state of mind, and identification of the universals. The classical Indian philosophers have identified that ultimate state as the state of discovering one’s own self. A true education must lead one to that state ultimately. No ‘education’ which does not do this job is worth its name.

This paper aims at presenting this universal philosophy of education as developed by the classical Indian philosophers, right from the Vedic period. This philosophy does not preach running away from the mundane responsibility or discourages one from going for more and more achievements , rather it teaches how to incorporate spirituality in general education so that one can live a harmonious life without causing any harm to any body, including the environment and nature. Once the essential identity between matter and spirit is realised, one is convinced that doing harm to nature amounts to doing harm to oneself and so there is no scope of tension of any kind.

If such a model of education is adopted, there should be no scope for any turmoil of any kind that the world is facing today.

Born in 1946 at Raiganj (northern part of West Bengal); Educated at Raiganj (Graduation from North Bengal University); Banaras Hindu University(M.A. in Sanskrit with Vedic group); Calcutta University(M.A. in Comparative Philology); Pune University(Ph.D); Received special training in traditional Sanskrit learning at Raiganj and Pune from Pandita Sitakanta Acharya, Srinivasa Sastri and Sivaramakrishna Sastri in Grammar, Indian Logic and Indian Hermeneutics;

Taught in Pune University and retired in the year 2006 as Director of the Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit;

First Chairperson, Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi;

Authored and edited about 50 books and published over 150 research articles;

35 scholars received Ph.D. degree under my supervision;

Promoted interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary study and research in Indian intellectual , philosophical and spiritual culture;

Honoured by a number of academic institutions;

Were visiting professor in Humboldt University, Germany; Nagoya University, Japan; University of Lausanne, Switzerland; and Mahatma Gandhi Institute, Mauritius;

Life-member of a number of academic bodies and societies;

Participated and organized a number of national and international seminars and conferences;
Presently engaged in training and disseminating classical Indian knowledge systems, all over India, in contemporary idiom.

Living Our Spiritual Values: Spiritual Education and Universities Transforming the World

Dr. Kamran Mofid
Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 10:45 to 12:00
Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
~~T.S. Eliot

This paper is an attempt to highlight and to elaborate the power of spiritual education in universities in general, and in business education and business schools in particular in transforming our world.

Education is the foundation for a good and fulfilling life, setting the individual on a path of personal fulfilment, economic security and societal contribution. Today the world of knowledge and competence is in a constant state of flux. The same can be said for the universe of visions, aspirations, and dreams. For many centuries it had been considered that education in general and universities in particular were responsible for the moral and social development of students and for bringing together diverse groups for the common good. Is this still the case?

For me, the key that unlocks the door to building of a better world is EDUCATION. But, not any education and surely not the education mostly on offer currently, but a truly different form of education, an education grounded in values and delivered by those who know that it is a great honour and privilege to be a teacher as well as knowing that teaching above any thing else is a vocation.

Education is too important a field to be left to the adversarial politics of competing model-builders: all such models are limited and conditioned human constructions. A correct education system must be based on a metaphysics derived from a comprehensive and unifying vision rooted in philosophy, ethics and spirituality.

There is an underlying unity between all branches of education and all aspects of learning and this unity needs to be reflected in an integrated, holistic and multi-disciplinary curriculum which does not draw artificial lines between different disciplines. Much of modern education is still based on a machine-age model of separate subject areas which encourages a fragmented view of learning. In the absence of a unifying spiritual perspective, inevitably little more than lip-service is paid to the need for cross-curricular links.

We should all understand that, in days of spiritual hunger, education needs to do more than grope in the dark. It needs to point students to the light of the world.

What is the main role and function of a "good" education? To equip students with marketable skills to help countries compete in a global, information-based workplace? Has this overwhelmed other historically important purposes of education, and thus, short- changing us all and in particular the students?

If there is a shared national purpose for education, should it be oriented only toward enhancing the narrow vision of a country's economic success? Should education be answerable only to a narrowly defined economic bottom line, or do we need to discover a more comprehensive, inclusive bottom line, given the catastrophic crises that we are witnessing all around us? Are the interests of the individuals and selective groups overwhelming the common good that the education system is meant to support? Should our cherished educational values be all up for sale to the highest bidder? Should private sector management become the model for our mainly publicly-funded education system? Should the language and terminology of for profit- only business model, such as “downsizing”, “outsourcing”, “restructuring”, ”marketisation”, “privatisation” and “deregulating”, amongst others, be allowed to become the values of education, when teaching and learning is nothing short of a vocation and sacrament?

The topic which I wish to address here is vast; all I can reasonably hope to do is paint a picture with very broad brushstrokes. I wish to argue that the marketplace is not just an economic sphere, ‘it is a region of the human spirit’. Many economic and business decisions impact on the environment, as it is now being more widely recognised, but they also raise important moral questions which call into question what it is to be a human being. I will argue that decision-makers (contrary to what is practised today) need also to concern themselves with the world of the heart and spirit.

Although self-interest is an important source of human motivation, driving the decisions we make in the marketplace every day, those decisions nevertheless have a moral, ethical and spiritual dimension, because each decision we make affects not only ourselves but others too. I firmly believe that these values must also be at the heart of our education system, our universities and the business schools.

It is my hope that with this personal and professional reflection, I can begin an open dialogue with all concerned colleagues, friends, students and others, so that together we can consider a working solution. As the current global crises have clearly shown, the whole world is waking up to the value of co-creation and the harnessing of knowledge from diverse sources, disciplines, experience and expertise. It is time to be contemplative and take action for social justice, for which a sustainable education for the common good is an essential part.

Dr. Kamran Mofid is Adjunct Professor at Dalhousie School of Business, Dalhousie University, Canada, Founder of the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (founded at an international conference in Oxford in 2002) and Co- founder/Editor, Journal of Globalisation for the Common Good, hosted at Purdue University, USA, member of the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of the World Public Forum, Dialogue of Civilisations, Moscow and Vienna, and Founding Member, World Dignity University, and Global Advisory Board, Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, Norway. Mofid received his BA and MA in economics from the University of Windsor, Canada in 1980 and 1982 respectively. In 1986 he was awarded his doctorate in economics from the University of Birmingham, UK. In 2001 he received a Certificate in Education in Pastoral Studies at Plater College, Oxford. From 1980 to 2000 he was Economic Teaching Assistant, Tutor, Lecturer and Senior Lecturer at Universities of Windsor (Canada), Birmingham, Bristol, Wolverhampton, and Coventry (UK). Mofid's work is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on Economics, Business, Politics, International Relations, Theology, Culture, Ecology, Ethics and Spirituality. Mofid's writings have appeared in leading scholarly journals, popular magazines and newspapers. His books include Development Planning in Iran: From Monarchy to Islamic Republic, The Economic Consequences of the Gulf war, Globalisation for the Common Good, Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility and Globalisation for the Common Good , Promoting the Common Good (with Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke, 2005), and A non-Violent Path to Conflict Resolution and Peace Building (Co-authored, 2008).

Two Contemporary Spanish Mystics: Teresa of Avila and Ignatius Loyola

(Rev.) Dr. Mark DeStephano, S.J.
Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 14:00 to 15:15

This session will consider how St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) and St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) – perhaps the two most influential figures of the Counter-Reformation – serve as models for the spiritual transformation of our multiculturally-rich and diverse world. Through her celebrated work La Vida (The Life), Teresa describes the path along which she learned to laugh at her faults while at the same time finding the loving hand of a God who was a constant and patient teacher. Likewise, in his Ejercicios Espirituales (Spiritual Exercises) and his Autobiografía (Autobiography), Ignatius discusses the process through which God dashed his worldly hopes, but filled him with spiritual desires that would lead to inner peace as well as to the foundation of one of the world’s greatest religious and educational institutions: the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). Blessed abundantly with mystical experiences, both saints teach us that God’s call is universal, and embraces all peoples of the world, no matter what their race, language, faith, or occupation. What is more, God’s call is practical, leading us to find Him in all things and in all circumstances. Our session will ask, “How do you find God in all things?”

Father Mark DeStephano, a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Society of Jesus since 1976, was ordained a priest in 1988. A native of Palisades Park, New Jersey, U.S.A., Father DeStephano was awarded his bachelor's degree in Philosophy and Spanish from Fordham University. As part of his Jesuit formation, he earned four degrees in Theology at the University of Toronto: Bachelor of Sacred Theology, Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology. Following studies in Theology, Father DeStephano continued his graduate education at Harvard University, where he was awarded his master's and doctoral degrees in Romance Languages and Literatures, with specialization in Medieval and Golden-Age Spanish Literature. Father DeStephano has taught full or part-time for more than thirty years in over fifteen high schools, colleges, and universities throughout the world. Currently, he is Chairman and Professor of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, and Director of the Asian Studies Program at Saint Peter's College in Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A.