Your browser is no longer supported

To get the best experience, we suggest using a newer version of Internet Explorer/Edge, or using another supported browser such as Google Chrome.

Acceptance Speech by the Honourable Justice Peter Jamadar

May 11, 2023

Justice Peter Jamadar standing on the steps of Old Vic.

Emmanuel College proudly announces that Justice Peter Jamadar Emm 9T7, of the Caribbean Court of Justice, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Victoria University at the University of Toronto on May 11, 2023. The degree was conferred by Chancellor Nick Saul during the Victoria University Convocation and Emmanuel College Graduation. Read Justice Jamadar's full acceptance speech below:

"Thank you, Chancellor Saul, President and Vice-Chancellor McEwan, Principal Kim-Cragg, thank you Emmanuel College and Victoria University. The honour of this doctoral degree, Doctor of Divinity, is a moment of profound salience in my life. It has caused me to pause, reflect, and search for its meaning and purpose, an event that invites praxis as response.

My life, your life, our lives are constituted as intersections. To be, is to be Intersection. It is constitutive of what/who we are. Put another way, at the heart of reality is relationality - the fact of inter-connectedness. We may also speak of it as inter-abiding, drawing on the metaphor of the vine and branches in chapter 15 of the Gospel of John, and the ontological insight inherent in this experiencing and awarenessing of inter-connection.

What is more real? Our ordinary perception and experience of separation – and of living out of a dualistic (either/or) subject-object dichotomy (which makes sense of the world through differentiation and by dividing the field of awareness into subject and object)? Or the unitive glimpses we have of a non-dual luminous, even numinous, web of inter-being (an awarenessing that perceives and knows through an intuitive grasp of a unified and interwoven whole, and an innate sense of intimate collective and complementary connection and belonging)? 

Are we really One living creation, in which both distinction and non-separation co-inhere in this realm? In which the characteristics that we use to distinguish, and to compare and contrast, are both real and not wholly real – as the assertion in Galatians 3:28 seems to indicate. (‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’)

This is a reality that science is also revealing – differentiation of functionality within an overall structural and purposive unity.  A single cell manifests this, as its individual components perform different but complementary functions, operating purposively as a whole living entity that is more than the sum of its many parts. In fact, the membrane of each cell seemingly creates a boundary, a sort of separation among others, but even this it is not definitive of what a cell really is. Together, cells exist in symbiotic unity.

Indeed, these unitive approaches allow one to experience and understand the inherent and dynamic structure and function of the Trinity – characterized by distinct but not separate, mutually loving, inter-abiding relationships - as both a secular and sacred driveshaft for action within a relational field. Manifesting as communal compassion and agape love. And also importantly, as justice grounded in inherent dignity, substantive equality, fundamental fairness, and freedom, including in therapeutic and restorative approaches, that seek the best interests and good of all parties and communities, and healing and renewal wherever possible.

Reconciling these two ways of perceiving, experiencing, knowing, and understanding, impacts our responsibility (duty) and response-ability (how we can and should respond), and how we come into relationship with the world. For example, to ‘love one’s enemy’[1] is a paradox, or a koan, largely irreconcilable in a subject-object paradigm, but natural and spontaneous in a unitive framework. Indeed, we may find concrete support for this proposition, if we were to accept Thomas Merton’s phenomenological realization that occurred on the corner of Fourth and Walnut streets in Louisville, on the 18th March 1958, about ‘the secret beauty’ in every person which is ‘a point of pure truth,’ and ‘the core of their reality’ - ‘le point vierge’ (drawing on 9th Century Sufi insights).[2]

Moreover, through all our intersections runs that most primal and integral thrust to transcendence. That vague yet ever so real human drive towards the ineffable ‘more’, an expansion of being, searching for that which is as yet not concretely identified, yet elusively already known.  Some call it freedom, others say it is truth, or peace, or happiness, or love, or self-actualization and fulfilment, or the pursuit of meaning and purpose; and some say it is the interpenetrating and participatory Divine Presence, or the Emptiness of the Absolute. Words fail us - Nothingness, Ground of Being, Cloud of Unknowing, Suchness!

Maybe it is all of these and more, as poetically described by the Psalmist: ‘Deep calls to deep …’[3] (‘tehom - ‘teh-home’ el tehom qore – ‘ko-ray’’), conjuring up juxtaposed images of the deep primeval post-creation oceans and their surging, moving masses of water, and of a partridge bird calling/summoning another (‘qore’, ‘qore’, ‘qore’) – Deep calling to deep. Every surge and summons unique for each one of us.

Only my seeking, uncovered will remains, led by what I know not, following an unseen path, into the unknown. IAM the seeker, who or what IAM as yet unsure and what I seek still veiled.

Understood, possibly, through the insight of Thich Nhat Hanh, in his well-known gatha[4]:

I have arrived, I am home;

In the here and in the now; 

I am solid, I am free;

In the ultimate, I dwell.

And also appreciated, perhaps, through the revelation attributed to Paul in Acts 17:28: ‘For “In him we live and move and have our being”.’[5] And maybe likewise by the assertion in the Chandogya Upanishad as one of the four mahavakyas[6]: ‘ Tat Tvam Asi .[7] And, through the great Islamic source revelation, ‘Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Rahim’[8], in which the Semitic root of both Rahman and Rahim is r-h-m (rahm), which means womb. All signifying, that in this world everything lives, moves, exists, here and now, in the womb of Divine Presence, co-existent with the Divine Indwelling. Intersections of transcendence. With consequences of compassionate living, freedom, equality, and justice for all, born out of the recognition that we are all, and everything is, a part of same inter-abiding whole.

Faith is thus constitutive of human nature itself, because It is fundamental openness to Ultimate Mystery. And the experience of the transcendent dimension in oneself, in others, and all creation, is a manifestation of this inherent and intrinsic faith. This is faith before It is reduced into various belief systems, and formulated as dogma. In this sense, and in our seeking, we are all people of faith, whether we belong or subscribe to any particular religion. The implications for how we live with others and creation become obvious.[9]

My Journey to Emmanuel

In the 1950s, in Trinidad, Reverend J.W.E. Newberry, a Canadian missionary, worked with Mary Jamadar, a local Presbyterian Bible Woman. Mary Jamadar was my paternal great-aunt. In 1994 I left Trinidad to read for my Masters in Divinity, a response to ‘Deep calling to deep’. A response triggered by my wife’s challenge to my faithless living and prompted by a sermon focused on the Gospel of Luke’s reference to ‘no room in the inn.’[10] Quite unexpectedly, as there is a Presbyterian theological college in Trinidad, I was advised to ‘go to Emmanuel,’ as there I would get the theological formation that I needed. I left everything behind to follow this impulse and yearning sounding from deep within me.[11]

Standing in the registration line at Emmanuel, just ahead of me, on my very first day, was a tall curly haired Canadian, a complete stranger. We chatted, only to discover that he was the grandson of Reverend J.W.E. Newberry! That chance encounter, unfolded into a most remarkable series of intersections in my life. At the moment of meeting, the sheer coincidence provided a firm assurance that the path I was choosing was right for me at that time.

That stranger and I became good friends. We lived together in Lower Burwash for my second and third years at Emmanuel. We had wonderful adventures, theological and of the kinds that all university students enjoy. Our friendship has survived geographic and career separations. He is Reverend Dr David Kim-Cragg. He was also following his own impulses of transcendence. To be here today, to receive this honour almost three decades later, and to have both David and HyeRan present, is testament to why intersections inspire awe and wonder and invite us to seek their meaning.

And Beyond

The experiences and values of Emmanuel College and Victoria University, of the University of Toronto, have shaped my profession and my life. My work as a judge, and my jurisprudence - especially in human rights, procedural and therapeutic justice, as well as my interventions in gender, disability, LGBTQIA+ and other issues – that seek the betterment of justice for all. My service in the Foundation for Human Development and the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago. My roles in the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute and the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers and broader facilitation as a judicial educator and researcher. And the leadership/service roles I play, my friendships, family life and marriage.

Intersections of profound mystery, whether mere coincidence or something more, with threads of transcendence running through them all! These are everywhere.

The Intersections of ancestors, parents, siblings, spouses and children, friends, mentors, peers, those who challenge us, those who inspire us, those who hold and support us, and those whose presence and actions transform us. Intersections of geography, history, cultures, ideologies, ideas, faiths, and vocations. Indeed, intersections of the past, present, and the existing, unfolding futures, of the ever present Now. Intersections of the particular and universal. With deep soundings resonating in and through them all.

All have brought me to this moment. All are in this moment. All are this moment.

The Eyes of Intersection, the Heart of Transcendence

I have found intersections everywhere - and they have given meaning and purpose to my life and living, my relationships, and to my work and vocations. Importantly, they ground me in humility and save me from hubris.

Life, viewed through these lenses - of intersections and of transcendence, can reveal a world of awe and wonder. This is my experience.

And running through it all, the soundings of the Deep calling out to me - teleological insights.

We may call this way of living, looking through the Eyes of Intersection and responding through the Heart of Transcendence.

Maybe this is what the idea and experience of the Christian 'body of Christ', as an interconnected and interrelated ontological collective grounded in love,[12] is revealing.

Maybe the cross re-imagined can be seen and experienced as an icon, an archetypal and cosmological symbol of intersection, inter-being, and inter-abiding.

Looking through the Eyes of the Cross, we may see how Christians can assert that 'all things hold together' in Christ,[13] and that 'in God we live and move and exist'.[14] Or more radically, how the Gospel of Thomas can state: 'Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up a stone, and you will find me there.'[15]

Indeed, what would happen if we were to look deeply at the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus through the lens of the great Sanskrit mantra at the end of the influential Buddhist Heart Sutra: ‘Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha’?[16] Or, through its radical assertion: ‘Form is emptiness (sunyata), emptiness is form’? What intersections of transcendence, of particularity and universality, might we discover?

Maybe these are all entry points into the integral truth of Intersections, and the abiding, the inter-abiding, immanence of transcendence?

To look deeply is to see; but see what ... see who ...

When we look around, here, now, what do we see ... who do we see ...

Maybe we'll see and experience each other, all others, creation ... in new ways – through Eyes of Intersection and Hearts of Transcendence.

Namaste Eyes

Holding a both/and, or an all/and, inclusive insight, allows one to see through Namaste Eyes! (The Sanskrit gesture and greeting ‘namaste’, is formed from the Sanskrit verb ‘namah’, meaning ‘to bow’, and the enclitic pronoun ‘te’, meaning ‘to you’. Rendered, ‘I bow to you’, i.e. to your inherent dignity, equality and divinity.)

The sacred and secular coexist comfortably when we see the innate dignity, worth, and value in all things and can respond with full respect and regard, and for the more religious, when we also see an indwelling divinity. Then equality, regard, and respect spontaneously prevail and inform our actions and how we inter-relate and respond.

One of my mentors, Sr Paul D'Ornellas, insists: ‘Look and you will see God’s presence and action in your midst; and seeing you will be amazed …’.[17] Unbounded possibilities, informed by intelligent and compassionate goodness. Namaste Eyes!

We stop seeing individuals and begin to see persons, and in doing so we enter the true realm of the personal, which is inherently intersectional and unitive, part of a much greater inter-relational whole. Hence integral to that symbiotic unity that characterizes inter-abiding. The mystery of the Trinity manifesting in creation.

Indeed, one may say Intersection is at the heart of human reality and of all creation. And the impulse to, the yearning for, transcendence is its driveshaft.

Learning to See

Over time we can all learn how to see through Eyes of Intersection and Hearts of Transcendence, and we do so in our own ways through our own lived experiences. I can share that one thing that helps me see this way, is through consciously cultivating a kind of kenotic[18] open-minded and open-hearted awarenessing. An orientation grounded in a self-emptying, waiting-in-life, heart-felt, receptive openness, anchored in a non-judgmental witnessing presence.

Your Journeys

Can you see intersections in your own lives?

In your journeys to this moment? In this moment?

What deep impulses and yearnings push and pull your own drives to transcendence?

And why those impulses?

Seek, question, explore,[19] and yes, what you may find may disturb you, and disrupt your plans, assumptions, and expectations. However, I can assure you, that being disturbed and disrupted can be good things. If you can stay in and through the unsettling, you may come to marvel at what you will find.[20]

Intersections, like a rope, are made up of many strands woven together – giving strength and support, or like bread, bear within them the entire cosmos, the sun, rain, earth, and the labour of many hands past, present, and future, offered for others.

I invite you all to look deeply into your own lives and discover the Intersections of salience. Find your own threads of transcendence. Discover their meanings. Respond and live accordingly and in integrity. Trust in your heartfelt insights.

Having issued this general invitation, here is however one intersection, of existential gravity, that I invite us all to consider today. It is the intersection of planetary survival, cultures of consumerism, self-referential narcissism, preferences for opinion over facts compounded by the freefall of unfiltered information, and unbridled greed and quests for power. An intersection of which we are both a part and protagonist, one which cries out for our response. .

Live consciously out of this reality of Intersections.

Experiment with it as a lens to look through the Eyes of Intersection.

Use it as a hermeneutical tool.

Filter everything through your Heart of Transcendence - Deep calling unto deep.

Observe what insights, what inspirations, what realizations, and revelations arise, in you, for you, and for the world.

Use these twin lenses as fulcrums for response and action and see what happens.

Maybe you too will be surprised at what you discover.

Maybe awe and wonder await.

Mystery unfolding!

Appreciation

As I look deeply into this honour bestowed on me today, I see so many Intersections. Not least of which, is that of ‘Deep calling to deep’, the impulse and yearning of transcendence, surging.

Truth be told, honours such as this are always the fruit of many persons’ and institutions’ involvements, including Emmanuel College and Victoria University in the University of Toronto, which I acknowledge with humility and appreciation. I am also deeply grateful to my spouse Shail Pooransingh, our two daughters - Serayah and Rebekah Jamadar, my parents, brothers, my circle of close friends, and my mentors. And most deeply, to the Divine One, who is awe and wonder, my alpha and omega, the ground, centre, and mystery of my being.

Wishing you all, every Good on your journeys. May your intersections inspire awe and wonder.

Peace, Shalom, Shanti, Salaam.

Namaste!"

 

[1] Matthew 5:43-48.

[2] Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, (Image Books, 1968), p. 158.

[3] Psalm 42:7.

[4] Thich Nhat Hanh, 1st Dharma Talk, Plum Village Summer Retreat, 13th July 2014; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7sntErVuQ4&t=2195s

[5] New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition.

[6] The Great Sayings of the Upanishads.

[7] ‘That you are’, ‘You are that’. Samaveda, Chandogya Upanishad, Chapter 6.

[8] ‘In the name of God, the All Gracious, All Merciful One.’

[9] Thomas Keating, Seekers of Ultimate Mystery, Contemplative Outreach News, June 2010.

[10] Luke 2:7.

[11] Psalm 42:1.

[12] 1 Corinthians 12:26-27.

[13] Colossians 1:17.

[14] Acts 17:28.

[15] Gospel of Thomas, Logion 77.

[16] ‘Gone, gone, gone to the further shore, gone completely to the further shore, fully awakened, truly it is so!’.

[17] Peter Jamadar, Insights of Sr. Paul D’Ornellas, (Paria Publishing, 2023), p. 25.

[18] Philippians 2:7.

[19] Matthew 7:7-12.

[20] Gospel of Thomas, Logion 2.

Read Next

Posted Tuesday, September 26

Fifty Years After Graduating, Student Returns to Vic U

Posted Monday, September 25

Principal’s Perspective: On the Crest of a Wave