I want to imagine how the world would be with out the idea of one right religion for all! We know once it was so.
Perhaps this has become a wish because I have spent a good part of my life (nearly 45 years) living and working in the mightiest nation of the West, the only super power at this time, the United States of America!
Much money travels in and out of this nation for various purposes; one of them being religious conversions. Western countries have been rich for the last couple hundred years and we of the USA have been the richest! I think of myself mostly as a proud citizen of my adopted land; there has been much to be proud of - plus my native land taught me to give love and respect to all including the place I inhabit. But try as I may, the logic of proselytizing fails me! Via the Churches huge sums of money have been sent out to fix the woes of the world but end up adding to already existing problems. Much is done in the guise of charity but the money often gets used for destabilizing whole cultures. It is kind of a double whammy, as it cheats the receiver by breaking into her/ his belief systems and creating a distance from the original cultures; the givers who are generally ordinary and devout people are cheated because the money gets into individual pockets and does real harm to Humanity.
Way back when I came here from India I had no knowledge of the word, “PROSELYTIZING”. No, not because I was not proficient in English; rather the context was unfamiliar. I am a Hindu and over the years have learnt to respect and love the freedom given to me though my faith system, which emphasizes that we must never disturb the belief system of others! Opposite of PROSELYTIZING -is it not?
Soon after arriving here at the spectacularly wise age of 21 years, I was asked to teach a class on Hindu-ism. First I read the only book available to me at that time, which was Hinduism by Swami Vivekananda ji; that I somehow had brought along with my silver tea set: as two most required things to a new land!. Now, so many years down the road, it is a thrill to be writing for a publication of the Vivekananda Kendra. I see a karmic connection here. I am a Bangaali/Punjaabi mix - - sort of a forerunner to Globalization that can also be termed confusion-ism, where no one is sure what is it that we should do - except that we are free to do whatever. Doing whatever unfortunately requires a fair amount of wisdom that we have less and less opportunity to learn.
Anyway, having armed myself with the knowledge gained from this brief book about Hinduism, I confidently walked in to a Church to teach the stunning ideas of the Vedic Hindu Sanaatan Dharma to people brought up on ideas of original sin, fires of hell and salvation only through accepting the grace of Christ. If there ever was a case of blind leading the blind it was this attempt of mine, at their request. Christ did not present any problem to me as he does not to most Hindus. Later when I learnt about him being the ONLY WAY I surely had a problem. The people were nice and very complimentary, but on looking back I wonder what I taught and what they understood? Oh the delights of youthful innocence!
This is how my own discovery of the tradition which I am blessed to be born into began; this is how I started first learning about Sanaatan Dharma and finally teaching and writing about it. It can also be called the beginning of learning about Christianity and other traditions of the world. As long as I was a pure product of my Hindu home I respected every one and their faith systems, which to me were legitimate, though different ways of having a relationship with Bhagavaan the Almighty.
In the USA there are a lot of Interfaith organizations which by their name appeal to us Hindus, because we think it is an attempt by various traditions to understand each other. So eventually I found my way to one in the city where I lived for 35 years. In the mean time I had become a student of Swaami Dayananda Saraswati ji (of Tamil Nadu) and was seriously studying Advait Vedanta which he teaches masterfully. This study took me to Anaikatti, TN to Swaami ji’s aashram, Aarsha Vidya Gurukulam, for a period of six months -preceded by three months at the aashram by the same name in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. Once I met my Guru I knew I was destined to learn from him and I always thank the fanatics that I met for they propelled me to learn my own tradition in depth. As of now I have been studying for 24 years seriously with my Guru as well as through his writings, CDs, DVDs. This effort is a conscious desire to know that which I see misrepresented and /or misunderstood in the world via the medium of Western writings mostly in English and German ; translated into many languages of our world! The convent educated Indian too reads in this same harmful language. I use the word harmful for a reason. English as of now is deficient in its grammatical structure as well as its overall range of ideas, feelings and expressions. Fortunately a Hindu learns her/his traditions and how to live life by seeing her/his elders and general members of the society. With in the larger community there are innumerable sub- communities that have certain rules pertaining to their own way of living and worshiping which have been encouraged and are given the name of Deshaachaar or Jaati Dharma . So variety of thought has never upset the Sanaatan Dharma tradition. In fact Hindus do not have a word for “Religion” as used in the Abrahamic systems. However, the custom of considering one savior for all or one way for all offends the otherwise non-offend-able Hindu. To accept a Savior one has to accept the concept of original sin which we as Hindus do not; the sin being that we are born of parents who kind of followed Adam and Eve’s original sin!!! That such a mind set could and does exist in an otherwise decent society continues to boggle my mind.
After adjusting to this shock, the first thing I found was that with in the Interfaith group there were persons who were going to India and other financially deficient countries to convert pagans each summer. It was another stunning discovery for me as I was sure that everyone was in an interfaith group to better understand to bring about harmony.
Here I must share a couple of stories with everyone as they are at once funny and a bit sad.
With in the first year of my being in the USA I started to get people who would ring the door bell and want to talk. I was a very lonely human being in a country where the door bell only rings by a preplanned design, unlike in my country of birth, where someone was perpetually coming or going in and out of our homes. Since I had no problem with that it was a very happy and warm welcome that I gave to these people. India had taught me “atithi devo bhava” - guest is like a deva. So of course I would get busy immediately making tea and pulling out snacks. This kept happening to me for several months until a neighbor who was also a Christian asked me if I was a Jehovah's Witness . Now, imagine a 22 year old, small town Indian Hindu girl raised on Dharma/Adharma --- in conversation with these people! I told my neighbor that I had no idea what she was asking or what is Jehovah’s Witness? Well then she looked as puzzled as me and wondered why I was spending time with these persons week after week? At my Hindu best, I told her that my mother had taught me to offer tea and something to eat to all who came to the door. At that she asked if they left any literature for me and asked for money. Yes, I said, they always gave one brochure which did not seem interesting to me and asked for a dime (ten cents). I told her that I did not mind giving such a small amount of money as we are used to shani people in India asking for some small amount also! In fact if this shani person failed to come for a few weeks my mom would send someone with a little money to enquire if all was well in his family. My white American neighbor did not know what to make of this - I was the only person of Indian origin she had met up to that point! Later my neighbor told me all about various groups and the idea of conversion. She said that even with in different churches there was quite a bit of rivalry and one group would not consent to go to another’s church. That was like Siva Bhaktas not being able to tolerate Krishna Bhaktas --- I had never heard of such a thing as I even went to a church happily and tried to sing Hymns with the rest.
Much has happened over the years to Bhaarat, from the richest country in the world, it had gone to quite poor. All this because of the relentless, unprincipled and brutal, often religiously inspired attacks on her people who are most accepting of all traditions and have been the giver of sanctuary to all who were or are persecuted. Hindus even today have a difficult time believing that such hatred continues to spring in the hearts of Humanity. All this ferocity has been unleashed and continues its march which is getting worst every day in the name of God; who they claim to be ONE. This I do not understand at all. If there is only one God then what are they trying to convert people to? If god is almighty then why we try to do God’s work -- God must know who to put in which family or tradition! Don’t you think so? The funniest thing is that none of the people who teach and encourage conversions want to go to Heaven themselves --think about it; if a wonderful place like this Heaven or Paradise exists then why there are no lines, no pushing or pulling to get ahead? Even the Pope goes to a hospital when not well not to Heaven!
I hope one day Humanity will see the total illogic of this type of thinking and our Human-ness will finally manifest in full force. Hope has always sustained life!
Renu S. Malhotra
16th of May 2011
 Deva is used in sanskrit and other Indian languages as an enlightened being not God as the West uses it!
|< Prev||Next >|