Washington, D.C. – Dr. Ravi Gupta, 25-year-old college professor, will meet Pope Benedict XVI on April 17, and will present His Holiness with an incense burner in the shape of the sacred Hindu symbol, Om. Grateful for the opportunity, Gupta hopes that the meeting will go beyond a formality, and will lead to a deeper exchange between Catholics and Hindus.
Gupta will meet with the Pope at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington D.C. More than 200 religious leaders will be present for the interfaith gathering, but Gupta is part of a small delegation of representatives to play an official ceremonial role.
“I’d like to encourage him to open up a full dialogue with Hinduism and bring Hindus to the table,” Gupta said. “That is especially important considering India’s growing presence in the world. Interfaith dialogue is more needed today than perhaps ever before.”
Gupta was chosen after he made a strong impression on Catholics who attended the 10th Annual Vaishnava-Christian Dialogue in Washington D.C. last year, where he gave a Hindu perspective on the problem of suffering.
“The fact that an up-and-coming scholar was chosen as the face of our faith, instead of a political or cultural figurehead, seems to indicate a more thoughtful approach to Catholic-Hindu relations,” said Vineet Chander, Hindu Chaplain at Rutgers University and spokesperson for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. “I think it is an optimistic sign of things to come.”
Raised in Boise Idaho, Gupta was home-schooled by his immigrant Indian parents, receiving daily lessons at home and at the nearby Hare Krishna temple that his parents have helped to run for more than two decades, which he remains a committed member of. His unconventional education helped Gupta to earn an academic head-start—a feat which the unassuming professor now credits to his dedicated parents and the spiritual foundation that he grew up with. At age 13 he entered Boise State University, where he earned a B.A. in Philosophy and a B.S. in Mathematics, picking up the University’s highest honor – a Silver Medallion – along the way. From there, Gupta went on to earn a master’s degree in religious studies and a D.Phil. (doctorate) in Hinduism from Oxford, marking him among the youngest graduates in the history of that prestigious institution.
Gupta is currently Assistant Professor of Religion at Centre College in Kentucky, and will serve as Assistant Professor of Hinduism at the College of William and Mary this fall.