Council of Dharmic Faiths, CoDF, launched in UK
19th May 2011

Council of Dharmic Faiths launched in UK

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Council of Dharmic Faiths, CoDF, launched in UKThe first ever Council of Dharmic Faiths, CoDF, was launched in the UK at the House of Commons on 16 May 2011

The Council was formed to unite in spirit the four major faiths of India, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism and the ancient faith of Persia, Zoroastrianism.  Anil Bhanot wrote a discussion paper in 2007 on the ‘Advancement of Dharma’ for all major faith leaders in the UK and this debate led to the idea of a ‘Four Faiths Forum’ for  the Indian faiths.

As the idea developed some concerns were expressed by some Abrahamic faith and Inter Faith leaders that this should not result into a ‘block’ of the Dharmic Faiths. We assured them that their fears were unfounded as the very nature of Dharma is fluid and progressive, almost individualistic, but our remaining divided was no longer an option for us in the larger global politics, citing to them that most people in the UK have not even heard of the word ‘Dharma’, whereas it is Dharma that underlies all our religions. Moreover Dharma never seeks to convert others religious labels, if it ‘converts’ it seeks to convert one’s heart only to a good righteous living but within one’s own tradition or any identity one may opt to choose freely. Dharma respects all traditions, provided they do not harm humanity. It is essentially about Truth, Justice and Compassion for all, with equal human rights, and a sense of responsibility towards all beings including Mother Earth.

At the time the Zoroastrian faith leaders approached Anil Bhanot for their possible inclusion into the forum but some learned leaders pointed out that Zoroastrianism is ‘Dualistic’, and was the source of ‘duality’ of God and Satan, of Good and Evil as opposites, in the Abrahamic religions and that their theosophy cannot qualify as Dharmic which is ‘monistic’, where good and evil are not opposites but are only polarised forces in one unified whole, with our journey towards Good and beyond. However Anil Bhanot thought their ancient link as ‘cousins’ to the Vedic people was more important  and even if the Abrahamic religions were rooted in Zoroastrianism for ‘duality’ the Abrahamic theology developed an exclusive brand of ‘Monotheism’, in contrast to  Zoroastrianism which always respected others methods of worship.

Thus after much dialogue and meetings the Council of Dharmic Faiths was formed of the four Indian religions, with an associate membership for the Zoroastrians, in 2010.

Council of Dharmic Faiths, CoDF, launched in UKThe launch now after a year of its formation was compeered by Mrs Ravinder Kaur Nijjar and she introduced our host  Stephen Hammond MP who then welcomed everyone and spoke on how British Hindus, British Sikhs and other communities are flourishing in the UK in their respective faiths and how well they have integrated into the British culture. The launch was also supported by Gareth Thomas MP and John Hemmings MP from the other major parties.

Each of the faith leaders recited a prayer and along with the MP’s lit the lamps of wisdom to launch the CoDF, which was followed by Indian dance pieces based on Kabir and Guru Nanak ji’s teachings.

Dr Natubhai Shah representing Jainism spoke about the aims of the CoDF , which are also summarised on the CoDF website.

Yann Lovelock as a Buddhist read his beautiful poem on the five sacred trees from our five religions, though with their counterpart names in English also. True to the Buddhist respect for nature the poem elucidated the deeper message of our interconnectedness.


The sun is golden but when we seek for shade

All the glade’s leaves turn silver in a sudden breeze.

Shall we count them one by one, these precious trees

In the forest of right conduct where our teachers wander?

I name the cypress, raising to heaven its finger

Of admonition; I distinguish the banyan, rooting

The spread of its heavy branches into the earth.

I tell of holy tulsi and the sorrowless ashoka,

The sarv, the sala and the guru’s badari.

Council of Dharmic Faiths, CoDF, launched in UKTruly these are trees under which to find wisdom,

Here at the search’s beginning, the pilgrimage’s end.

Gathered in a grove, they have gathered us to them

And offer us their gifts, the cypress its fragrance,

The jujube its refreshment, the basil a rosary of beads

That tell of a thousand and a thousand and a thousand

Years of right conduct, the path of the dharma

That has led from the site of their first watering

By Ganga and Falgu, by Kali Bein and the rare

Desert rain, to where they harbour at the side

Of Thames and of Severn, by Tyne and by Clyde.

Now the arms of the branches are lifted rejoicing,

Now the tongues of the leaves are voicing together

More than a common origin, and offer the grove’s

Kinship where need makes neighbours of us all.

So they have learned as they lean to each other,

The holy tulsi, the sorrowless ashoka,

The sarv, the sala and the guru’s badari,

That the spirit of service is what makes the forest.

No tree will flourish for long on its own;

It is what we share that is calling us home.


Anil Bhanot spoke on ‘Ethical Governance’ as we had chosen to launch the Council at the House of Commons.

Council of Dharmic Faiths, CoDF, launched in UK“Dharma provides a framework to make every day decisions based on Truth, Justice and Compassion. It’s about taking responsibility for our actions, and for the family, the community and ultimately for the nation. It is duty to oneself, to others and to God, for every decision we take in life; so it becomes a way of life. According to the ancient Hindu Rishis one’s personal Dharma is intrinsically linked to one’s role in life.

About 4000 years ago, Yudhishter the crown prince after having won the Mahabharata war was dismayed at the destruction of life and did not wish to rule as king but wanted to go and take up an ascetic’s life in the forest. Lord Krishna intervened telling him that his personal Dharma was not in the renunciation of his kingdom and go and meditate in the forest but rather in giving the right leadership as king at the time. So in Yudhishter’s case his highest Dharma was Raj Dharma, which in todays’ terms is parliamentary governance or politics.

In Britain we have some great institutions based on these very Dharmic principles of Truth, Justice and Compassion.  When these principles get thwarted we look to the Government to create new laws, to do justice.

Today we are happy that the main political parties joined us in lighting the lamps of wisdom for giving ethical governance to help the communities to continue upholding Dharma”.

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Ms Mehta spoke about compassion and ahimsa, non-violence. She said Gandhi ji was heavily influenced by the Jain principles of non-violence which he proved could overturn a great empire when it is based on unrighteousness, according to Dharma.

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh ji gave a lengthy speech on the importance of Seva – selfless service without reward in return – and quoted several verses from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, to support that. He said that just as a bird has two wings to fly, the Prayer and Seva are equally important for a Sikh. He said that Seva is every Sikh’s Dharam.

Dorab Mistry representing Zoroastrianism said how wonderful the Indian religions have been to them for safeguarding their religion and that for them it is a milestone to be belonging to the CoDF. He reminded us that just as in the Indian four religions the doctrine of Karma requires ‘good deeds, good words and good thoughts’ these also represent the three cornerstones of Zoroastrianism.

Responses were given by others present and  Barry Gardiner MP said that as a Christian he would like to add the fourth cornerstone to the three Dorab mentioned and that is of one’s heart or love.

Warwick Hawkins from the Department of Communities and Local Government said that his job to get the right advice for policy matters affecting all the Indian faiths might become a little easier now and Dr Harriet Crabtree from the Inter Faith Network of UK thought it good that ‘perhaps now we may hear a lot more about Dharma.’

Madhava Turumella extended a vote of thanks to Ramesh Pattni and Ravinder Kaur Nijjar for working on the programme, Stephen Hammond’s office for helping to arrange the members dining room and various permissions, and to the House of Commons Banqueting team to help make the event so comfortable and everyone who came to help the launch of the CoDF.

Council of Dharmic Faiths, CoDF, launched in UK

Anil Bhanot    20 May 2011

[Pictures by Sonalle Photography – Top Picture (l to r): Yann Lovelock, Vice Chair, (Interfaith for Network of Buddhist Organisations in UK); Anil Bhanot OBE, Vice Chair, (a founding member of Hindu Council UK);  Dr Natubhai Shah, Chair, (President of Jain Samaj in UK); Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Vice Chair, (President of British Sikh Consultative Forum); Dorab Mistry, Vice Chair, (Interfaith for Zoroastrian Trust of UK).]

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