They're certainly not afraid of tackling life's big questions at the Hindu Temple of Minnesota.

On Sunday, the temple in Maple Grove -- considered the largest Hindu temple in the United States -- will host an interfaith forum exploring the "purpose of life and human existence."

Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim scholars will offer differing perspectives on such lofty questions as "Why am I here?" and "Is humanity a cosmic joke, a scientific anomaly, a species with a divine destiny, or something else entirely?"

Panelists may not agree on the answers, but that's just the point, said Shashi Sane, a medical doctor and Hindu scholar who is participating in the forum. He notes that while there are differences between the faiths, there are many similarities -- and that it's productive to talk about them.

"The more you get to know somebody, you realize there are so many wonderful commonalities between people of different spiritual traditions," Sane said.

"Unfortunately, we tend to emphasize minor variations ... in our spiritual tradition and keep on banging on that and miss out the major points."

The event was organized by the Minnesota Interfaith Open Forum, a group of faith leaders from throughout the state. The organization holds similar events at other times of the year as well, with mosques and churches also hosting forums.

After panelists share their perspectives, attendees are encouraged to answer questions. Close to 100 people usually attend the forums, Sane said.

Previous forum topics have included: "Extremism in the Name of Religion," "Role and Status of Women in Religion," "Why Bad Things Happen to Innocent People" and "Does Your Faith Tradition Ever Sanction War?"

"The more we get to know one another, the stronger the ties become," Sane said. "Celebrate everybody's variations and differences rather than trying to discriminate based upon the practices of one's faith."

Rose French • 612-673-4352