Friday, August 19, 2011

The Excellent Prof Ajai Mansingh

“I felt blessed with cosmic bliss. I could see nothing but unity in the world – one Source, one unity, pure divine bliss, not man-made.” - Prof Ajai Mansingh

A fond farewell to a tireless scientist and historian, Professor Ajai Mansingh who passed away recently. His dedication to family, his insightful book “Home Away From Home – 150 Years of Indian Presence in Jamaica” and his leadership of the Interfaith Prayer Group were inspiring. Our condolences to his wife Dr Laxmi Mansingh, son Dr Akshai Mansingh, daughter-in-law Gunjan, and grandsons Abhijai and Atishai.

Excerpt from a column published in the Jamaica Observer 19 October 09

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

How can a country of such wonderful people, be almost on the edge of despair? Let us remember that there is not a single place in the world that enjoys our level of racial and religious harmony. Our history of challenges and triumphs, the heroes we honour today, should help us to rise above the bickering and accusations.

One scientist, who came here in 1973 from India via Canada, fell in love with beautiful Jamaica and has never wanted to leave. He has had his most moving discoveries and life experiences in Jamaica. Professor Ajai Mansingh, author of “Home Away From Home – 150 Years of Indian Presence in Jamaica”, explained why there has been a longstanding kinship between Jamaicans of Indian and African descent. The Indians who had been hired as indentured labour on the plantations after 1845, were left to starve by their masters. “The recently emancipated African slaves had very little, but they took pity on the Indians and shared their food with them,” he explained.

Mansingh went on to explain that the Africans who had been attending Christian churches, observed the Indians gathering under trees to conduct their ethnic religious ceremonies. This inspired them to return to their African forms of worship, Christian in belief but with Hindu influences including the central table laden with food and flowers. “There is still a revival group in August Town that serves dahl bhat at their ceremonies,” he says.

The Professor, a Hindu by birth and conviction, says he had his own personal encounter with Jesus, one that would lead him to become a co-founder of the National Interfaith Fellowship. One afternoon in 1987, while sitting with two students on the porch of his home in College Common, he had a vision. “Suddenly I saw a golden aura that I identified as Jesus Christ, and I went towards Him to receive Him,” said the Professor. “I felt blessed with cosmic bliss. I could see nothing but unity in the world – one Source, one unity, pure divine bliss, not man-made.”

When the Professor opened his eyes, he saw his two students crying. “They said that all the life had gone out of my body – I was pale and apparently not breathing during the episode.” Mansingh said that he went immediately to the United Theological College, to relate the episode to his friend Rev Ashley Smith, when he saw him in the car-park. “Imagine, he said he was just about to drive to my home,” said Prof Mansingh. “He wanted to discuss the building of a Hindu temple by the Christians of Jamaica!”

On October 2, 1992, the promulgation of the National Interfaith Fellowship took place at King’s House with signatories from the Jamaica Council of Churches, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslins, Baha’is and Rastafarians. Co-founders were Professor Mansingh, then Governor General Sir Howard Cooke and Rev Ashley Smith. The members continue to meet and pray together to this day, deeply respecting each other’s beliefs.

...Professor Mansingh shared the prayer of the Interfaith Fellowship which gives thanks for “the gifts we bring one another when we meet in the spirit of acceptance and love”, and asks that we “listen to each other in humility.”

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