Monthly Archives: March 2013

Krishna and Christ

Dear Sir,

I am quite astonished to see my brothers and sisters are able to accept Yesu Krist in this country. I would be happy if you could send all the possible materials regarding Yesu krist in and of Bagavad Gita; the sacred song of Hindus. I would like to explore more on the active spirit in the religious scripture of the Hindus especially the Bagavad Gita and also kindly enlighten me with its relevance for today’s India which is characterized by extreme poverty and religious pluralism.

Thank you,

Prem Rag

Dear Sri Prem Rag,

Shanti!

Your email was sent to me seeking my response to your enquiries on Yesu Krist and Bhagavad Gita etc.

Before I share further, I would like to say few words about me.  I am D. Bharati and a bhakta of Bhagavan Muktinath (whom Christians and others call as Jesus Christ and Yesu Krist).  But I remain as a Hindu and become a bhakta of the Lord Muktinath (Yesu).  There are two reasons for me to remain as a Hindu and follow the Lord: first is that Hinduism, which has pluralistic view regarding spirituality, bhakti and Mukti also can accommodate a bhakti in Bhagavan Muktinath without compromising with our socio/cultural identity as a Hindu (samajic dharma) and with our faith/bhakti in the Lord (sadhana dharma) as we get immense freedom to choose the best sadhana that suits to our pravarti (nature).

Next is Muktiveda (Bible) itself.  Though Muktiveda, like any other religious scriptures demand ‘exclusive’ devotion to its doctrines (siddhanta) yet it never expects or encourages anyone to give up their birth identity related to social and cultural aspects. (1 Cor. 7:17).  Of course this is not that much easy as said than in practice as several aspects of life is overlapping with socio-cultural and religious views.  As every scripture is a victim of ‘text torture’, anybody could give any kind of interpretation on Muktiveda and say opposite to what I said.  The same is true with our Hindu scriptures also.

Regarding to your request to send materials about Muktinath, though you can easily get a copy of Muktiveda or second part of it ‘Uttara Veda’ known as ‘New Testament’, I am not sure whether you can understand its central teaching without get lost on the names, terms, places and other worldviews in which it was written.  But still you can begin from it.  Or I can arrange to send one ‘Krist Gita’ written in the style of ‘Gita’ in which several themes like ‘bhakti, mukti, karma and jnan etc.’ is expounded based on the teaching of Bhagavan Muktinath.  And if you are interested, pl. send your address to … website.

Regarding the relevance of the teaching of Bhagavad Gita, leaving its sectarian interpretation and exclusive claims of Vaishnavas, most of its message has a universal appeal. (See my paper on Bhagavad Gita in my website: dayanandbharati.com) But as I said above, all the scriptures of the world are the victims of ‘text torture’ in one form or other and Bhagavad Gita is no exception to this rule.

Considering the fact that there are more than 300 orthodox commentaries and more were written in the last (20th) century and continue in this (21st) century on Gita, it is difficult to ascertain any one central theme or the teaching of Gita.  Leaving ancient acharyas like Sri Sankara, Sri Ramanuja and others’ commentaries, even in modern times, Sri B. G. Tilak insisted on the Karma yoga of Gita (writing in the context of the freedom struggle in his famous ‘Gita Rahasya’) and Mahatma Gandhi found encouragement for his ahmisa in it (Gita my Mother).  Now days we often see Gita’s sloka quoted in obituary message in Newspapers and the so called ‘nishkamya karma’ of Gita is often quoted by politicians when they lost elections but claim to serve the people without ‘seeking any fruit’ (2:47) based on the teaching of Gita.  So any one can find any kind of teaching in Gita by twisting the text and imposing their interpretation on it.  This being the reality the extreme poverty and religious pluralism or any kind of problem can easily find a ‘theoretical’ solution not only in Gita@ but in any scripture of the world.

See the recent book by Satya P. Agrwal: The Social Role of the Gita: How and Why, Delhi, Mothilal Banarsidas, 1993.  About the book the Publisher in their newsletter MLBD, November 2012, p.6 says:

Although the Bhagavad-gita has traditionally been regarded as a poem of primarily religious significance, Dr. Agarwal shows that with the proper interpretation its message may be transformed into a set of practical ethical guidelines.   This practical aspect of the Gita’s teaching, its insistence that involvement with the world is an ethically correct function of human behaviou, is the focus of this book.  That term ‘Lokasamgrah’.  The term covers a multitude of social and political forms of behavior and attitudes of mind and is perhaps more central to the meaning the Gita should have for modern man than its traditional other-worldly interpretation. (Italics added).

Here I stop and would like to give my response after hearing from you.  Take care.  God bless you.  Shanti!

Yours sincerely

D. Bharati.  September 27, 2010.

Dear and Respected D. Bharati,

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for the reply. I am happy that you enlightened me with your views and experiences. It is something superb in theory and practice. Actually, it is my search that how can I, as an Indian could make Lord Muktinath understand, infuse, contrast and compare with Lord Krishna of Bhagavad Gita and make it meaningful in my life.  Do Lord Muktinath have a unique place in our Bhagavad Gita? or is he superior to Lord Krishna in terms of his mukti karya (act of liberation) by his death and resurrection? How does Lord Muktinath become universal in the act of mukti (salvation) given the context ofIndiatoday. Your view seems to me that Christian Syncretism is applied to your idea of belief. How do you justify this?

These are my genuine questions. I do not pretend to know anything. Therefore, I would be happy if you could enlighten me in this area of search. Personally I am happy that Lord Muktinath has pervaded Indian culture and society in the esteemed and noble person like you. You must have had a personal experience of Lord Muktinath and I suppose your reply proves the same.

If possible, Kindly send me all the websites that deal with Lord Muktinath and Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita and a comparative view in Muktiveda.

Yours sincerely

Dear Prem Rag

Shanti!

I not academically trained person and even I don’t know proper English.  So you have to keep this in mind in all our future dialogue on this subject.

From the language and some technical terms that I found in your response, my good guess is that you are a Christian.  Anyhow that is not a big issue for me.

I don’t know how to do any search or research in Website.  So you have to do that and find out all the website of your interest.  But I can give the name of few books, particularly on Gita and Muktiveda which I have read so for except one by Gandhiji.  I am giving the bibliography below for you to get these books to read.

Finally, to your question: ‘Your view seems to me that Christian Syncretism is applied to your idea of belief. How do you justify this?’ let me ask, ‘what do you mean by “syncretism” and what is your understanding of this word’?  Because syncretism is more related with ‘faith’ and not with cultural and social issues.  Hinduism itself allows for ‘extreme’ and ‘exclusive’ devotion to one’s own religious ‘faith’ and accommodating cultural and social issues.  Having exclusive or single minded devotion to any particular faith/theology/doctrine and accommodating various cultural and social aspects is not strange to Hinduism.  To say in other words, pluralistic inclusivism is the bench mark of Hinduism.  Though I don’t know much about Christianity, yet according to my limited understanding ‘pluralistic exclusivism’ is the trade mark of Christianity.  While we Hindus call it as ‘Unity in diversity’ (or as many souls so many views) Christians call it ‘Unity not uniformity’.

Regarding to your others question, if I began to respond then I have to write even a book but I am not competent enough for that now.  But many books that I listed in the bibliography could help you to get some answers to these questions.

That’s all for the time being.

Db

October 6, 2010.

1. Stephen Neill, BHAKTI HINDU AND CHRISTIAN, CLS, 1974.

2. Franklin Edgerton, The Bhagavad Gita  Translated and Interpreted

Mothilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd. Delhi, First Published Cambridege, 1944, Reprint:Delhi, 1996.

3. Francis X. Clooney, Hindu God, Christian God: How Reason Helps Break Down the Boundaries between Religions, S.J.,New York,OxfordUniversityPress, 2001. [This book is not exclusively on Gita, but an interesting dialogue book]

4. Eric J. Sharpe, THE UNIVERSAL GITA: Western Images of the Bhagavadgita a bicentenary survey. London, Duckworth, 1985.

5. Cyril Veliath S.J., The Mysticism of Ramanuja, Munshiram Manoharlal, 1993.

6. Yardi, M.R, Bhagavad Gita As A Synthesis, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute,Poona, 1991

7. Ishanand Vempeny, S.J, Krishna And Christ,Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand,1988.

8. B.G, Tilak, Tr. by A.S.Sukthankar, Srimad BhagavadGita-Rahasya, Seventh Edition, Tilak Brothers,Poona, 1986

9. P.M, Thomas, 20th Century Indian Interpretaions of BhagavadGita: Tilak, Gandhi & Aurobindo, ISPCK,Delhi, 1987

10. Shankuntala Rao Sastri, The BhagavadGita, Fourth edition Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, 1993 (1959)

11. T.G, Mainkar, A Comparative Study of The Commentaries On The BhagavadGita, 2nd ed., Motilal Banarsidass,Delhi, 1969

12. Gandhi Mahatma, The Message of the Gita, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1977 [1959] [not yet read by me]

13. Jayadayal Goyandka, SrimadbhagavadGita Tattvavivecani, Eighth Edition, Gita press,Gorakhpur, 1992

14. R.C. Zaehner, The Bhagavad Gita, Oxford, 1966.

15. Hans Staffner, S.J., Jesus Christ and the Hindu

 Community, Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand, 1988, p.146.

Dear and Respected D.Bharati,

Greetings of Shanti and Prem!  At the outset, I would like to extremely thank you for the speedy reply in terms of bibliography to address my concerns. You are somebody, I guess, a person of convinced, knowledgeable  and religious. It is proved by your reply to my questions. I give you all the respect that is due. Human language at any level matters little when we convey our ideas and share our faith experiences.

With regard to the practice of faith and culture, I am a full-fledged Christian and an Indian respectively. I am proud of both, even one can argue saying thatIndiadoes not have any ‘particular’ culture but a ‘composite’ one. Do not mistake me for some religious fundamentalist group as it is found in most of the religions these days. I would like to let you know that I am quite interested to know from you this question: On the basis of ‘pluralistic inclusivism’ in Hinduism, is Lord Muktinath superior to Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita? This is the core issue. Your answer may be negative. But on the basis of ‘pluralistic exclusivism’ of Christianity, I would uphold Lord Muktinath not as ‘one of degree’ but ‘one of kind’. In this way, though we christians (I do not know how you call us christians in Indian terms like Yesu Christ as Lord Muktinath and Bible as Mukti veda? ) believe that Lord Muktinath is the final fulfillment of God’s final revelation,You also could argue in this way with regard to Lord Krishna. Still, I have not found a systematic conclusion for the unique place you hold as a hindu and that too in Bhagavad Gita.

Another question: When we believe in (the) Lord Muktinath, it is not only an identity one puts on to himself or herself, but also a task (mission) that awaits us, namely, to preach Lord Muktinath to others. How do you view this in your understanding and faith-culture life?.

Thank you very much for enlightening me to go deeper in my search for such identity.

Yours Sincerely,

Prem Rag (D A)

Dear Prem Rag,

This might be the last mail from my end, as generally I never try to ‘convince’ Christians about my views and ideals.  It has its own long story and there is no point of repeating it here.  Anyhow I would like to give answer to your questions:

‘…even one can argue saying that India does not have any “particular” culture but a “composite” one.’—Preme.

My short response to this view is this: not having any ‘particular’ culture but a ‘composite’ one is the ‘One particular’ culture of India.  However diverse is our civilization, yet there is some basic unity that connects the entire country for more than several centuries covering social, cultural and religious life of people’.  Though we were not politically one country in the past (political nationalism), yet civilizationally we are one country for more than 2500 years and still continue to remain a unique civilization, which I hope will continue in future too.

On the basis of ‘pluralistic inclusivism’ in Hinduism, is Lord Muktinath superior to Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita? This is the core issue.—Prem.

In Hinduism, each sampradaya holds it’s particularly deity as the supreme and other deities are always considered its subordinates to do the errands that are entrusted by that deity.  This you can see in all sectarian Puranas.  In all the Puranas in which Siva is glorified as the Supreme deity, other deities, particularly his rival Vishnu is his subordinate to do his errands.  The same is with the Puranas glorifying Vishnu and also Puranas glorifying Sakti.  And claiming salvation only through a particular deity is also not strange in Hinduism (see: MYTHOLOGIES AND PHILOSOPHIES OF SALVATION IN THE THEISTIC TRADITIONS OF INDIA- Klaus K. Klostermaier, Published for the Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion/Corporation Canadienne des Sciences Religieuses by Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1984.).

Leaving the Puranas, even other major scriptures of each sampradaya also hold the same view.  For example in Gita Krishna says: Whoever worships whichever god with faith, they are only worshiping me through that deity (7:21).  Even Saiva scriptures claim the same.  In Siva Jana Siddhiyar Arul Nandi says: ‘whichever god you follow Siva (Ardhanaarisvara) will come in the form of the same deity’.  In Tirumandiram, Periyapuram, Tiruvasagam and Nalayira Divyaprabandam we find similar views.  The famous Vaishnavite claim is:

Aakaasaat patitam toyam yathaa gacchati saagaram,

Sarva-deva-namaskaarah Kesavam pratigacchati.

Just as the water which falls from the sky goes to the sea,

So the salutations offered to the various gods reach Kesava alone.1.

So keeping a particular deity as the Supreme and others as subordinate is quite a common feature in Hindu sampradayas.  But this view should be understood not merely as sectarian rivalry but also as a way of accommodating all other deities of Hindu Pantheon with some hierarchy.  But when it comes to Muktiveda, Muktinath is never put in competition with other gods.  Though in the Purva Veda (Old Testament) one can see this kind of claiming supremacy of YHWH with other deities of non-Jews nations, yet it should be understood in the context of their war and survival in the Promised Land and not as competing with other gods within the same religious tradition.  From the beginning Jews believed in One God, though often they compromised this claim and faith because of their sin and weakness, but not with any theological reason.

The same is the case in Uttara Veda (New Testament).  As Muktinath is considered as the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise, both the early Jewish followers of Him and later others non-Jews need not compare Him with other deities within their new found faith. Though all the theological understanding and doctrinal formation of Trinity around various heresies, yet all through the ages, based on the Creeds of various Councils (about which you are well aware, as week after week they are confessed in the church) faith and belief in One God is the mark of Christianity and also of the Muktiveda.

Even though the early bhaktas of the Lord from non-Jewish background had to understand this ‘unique’ claim of Muktinath as the Only God and Savior, that too comparing with the various deities of their former faiths, yet once they become the bhaktas of the Lord, they were clear in their conviction that Muktinath is their Lord and Savior.  Though I never did any in depth study on this subject, yet based on my limited understanding and studies, it was not natural for them to have such conviction considering the worldview of the Romans and Greeks of their time, which was completely different from Muktiveda. God’s love for humanity, the condition of loving each other to receive forgiveness and love of God, morality associated with salvation, no appeasement but sincerely following the teaching of God, etc., made Muktivedic faith entirely different from the other faiths.2

At the same time we should not get confused with all the exclusive claims of Muktinath as the only ‘Way, Truth and Life’ etc. in Muktiveda in any context of comparative theology.  For example, Acts 4:12 is quoted as proof of the unique claim about salvation only through Muktinath.  Now the question that comes to my mind is this, “Is the verse addressed to the Gentiles in particular, or both to the Gentiles and the believers, or only the believers, or–as per the context–is it addressed to those who are opposing the preaching about the Lord?” As I strongly believe in scriptural exegesis, this verse, if interpreted correctly according to the context should never be used for our exclusive claims. About this, A.T. Robinson says, ‘The word for “saved” here (and hence “salvation”) is exactly the same as that rendered three verses earlier in Acts 4:9 by “cured”. The context is not one of comparative religion but of faith-healing.  The issue is “by which power” the cripple is made “completely well” (3.16).  Is it by some innate power or godliness of the apostles (3.12), or is it by “the name of Jesus, awakening faith”’ (3.16)?3  The same is the case with John 10:8, which again, according to Robinson, ‘ has nothing to do with comparative religion’.4   The following explanation offered by Robinson on John 14:6 will further highlight this point:

Much the same must be said of another Johannine text, which is frequently put to exclusivist use: ‘Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life: no one comes to the Father but by me”’ (14.6).  The context here is Thomas’s question about how the disciples can know where Jesus is going, and therefore, how they can know the way.  The answer is that he is going to the Father, and since they know him, they have no need to ask further.  With Philip, ‘Show us the Father’: to have seen Jesus is to have seen the Father (14.1-11).  The point the evangelist is making, to use an earlier distinction, is that Jesus as the Christ is totus Deus: the Father is perfectly reflected in him, he is God ‘all through’.  There is no suggestion in the context that he is claiming to be totum Dei, that outside him there is no truth or life to be found.  The assurance is that in him truth and life are to be found; therefore, there is no cause for anxious fears.5

So we should keep all these important facts when we try to make any comparative theology with Hindu deities and scriptures.  Unlike the Greco-Roman World, the religious context of India(Hinduism) is different one (though one could find several similarities).  We find so many features of God that we found in Muktiveda in many Hindu scriptures like—God as a person, love of God, assurance of salvation, forgiveness of sin etc. At the same time one advantage in Hinduism is the pluralistic inclusivism giving space for ‘exclusive’ faith in one particular deity. This doesn’t mean that we need to revile other deities or condemn their faiths.  Sectarian rivalry and condemnation of faiths among Hindu sects is known to exist.  But this happens not only in the context of theology but also claiming supremacy based on hierarchy of one deity over the other.  Whereas we never found such competition or hierarchy in Muktiveda.  One God, one Faith, one form of Salvation is the uniqueness of Muktiveda.

So there is no point of comparing Muktinath with any other Hindu Gods to give supremacy one over the other.  Each has the unique place in respective faith.  Those who accept the uniqueness of Muktinath based on the revelation of Muktiveda should accept it on that basis and not comparing with other deities of any faith.  And as a Hindu, my understanding of Krishna, Rama and all other deities of Hindu Pantheon is part of our common heritage.  All need not give only ‘religious’ significance to such figures in our common heritage.  Rama is the ‘maryada Purushotama’,Krishnaas a statesman, warrior and leader.  At the same time both Rama andKrishnacould be also an inspiration for bhakti to millions of Hindus.  In the same way Muktinath could be the inspiration of ‘love’ to many Hindus. Mahatma Gandhi found true ‘satyagrahi’ (holder of truth) in Muktinath; Swami Vivekananda called Him as the Prince of Incarnation but they refuse to give a ‘solitary throne’ to the Lord.  As M. M. Thomas wrote, Muktinath remained as the ‘Acknowledge Christ of Indian Renaissance’ (CLS,Madras, 1970, repr. 1991.)but they never accepted His final authority as God and Guru in their personal life.

This freedom in ‘sadhana dharma’ of Hinduism could accommodate all kinds of faith that suit to every individual.  At the same time the demand of Muktiveda is not some appreciation of the Lord based on some idealistic interpretation of few selected texts of the Muktiveda (that too out of context) but complete surrender to the authority of the Lord.  But my view is this: let a Hindu/Muslim/Christian (or anyone) accept or reject the Lordship of Muktinath with this understanding rather than twisting and bending the text to serve her own purpose.  But the pluralistic exclusivism of Christianity demanding obedience to a particular doctrine of a denomination rejects others faiths (both of Christianity and Hinduism etc.) as false whereas the pluralistic inclusivism of Hinduism acknowledging the claim of uniqueness of each sect, faith, god and doctrines accommodates all kinds of faith within its fold for the smooth function of samagic dharma.  Of course ‘co-existence’ is not possible without ‘co-essence’ (Raimundo Panikkar, The Unknown Christ of Hinduism, Revised and enlarged edition, London 1981, p. 33.).  But Hindu civilization giving room for ‘co-essence’ within a sampradaya allowed ‘co-existence’ side by side upholding the pluralistic nature of life of every individual.

While giving an exclusive place to Muktinath as Guru and God in my life, I can also accommodate other aspects of the heritage of India(Hinduism) that could enrich my bhakti to Bhagavan Muktinath.  Rama, Krishna, Siva and even Allah can complement my bhakti in the Lord without compromising my faith theologically, at the same time not being condescending or condemning them.  This does not mean that God the Father of the Lord Muktinath is ‘Allah the kind one; Siva the auspicious one and Buddha the Compassionate one’ as one time they prayed in CSI Church Synod held at Palayamkottai (in Tamilnadu) by Christians.  This is syncretism.  In the name of providing ‘co-existence’ the Christians of this group lost the ‘co-essence’ of not only Muktinath and Muktiveda but also superimposed their own theology on Allah, Siva and Buddha.  For me Veda, Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata and various other Hindu scriptures are part of my common heritage.  While I read them to understand them, I try to accept them in their own terms.  The same way I read Muktiveda and accept it in its own terms.  However I found the teaching of Muktiveda unique in several ways and it best suits to my spiritual needs and hence I have exclusive devotion to it.  At the same time my reading of all other scriptures only helps me to understand Muktiveda more deeply and adds richness to my bhakti in the Lord.  This is synthesis and not syncretism.6 More I read in depth Hindu scriptures my understanding and commitment to Muktiveda grows deeper and my reverence to Bhagavan Muktinath increases.  They not only prepared me to become a bhakta of Muktinath but continue to contribute to enrich my bhakti in Him.

Though I understand your claim that ‘Lord Muktinath is the final fulfillment of God’s final revelation’ (is there any specific reference in this sense in Muktiveda?), yet these are technical terms that most of the evangelical Christians (including you) often use in their anxiety to protect their exclusivism.  However, for me, no one can put any limitation to God’s revelation within any boundary.  All our understanding and interpretation on Muktiveda is also an ongoing revelation of God.  As some evangelical well said that until Indian Christian Theology (or Indian Muktivedic Theology) is written the Christian theology will remain incomplete.  And for this we need God’s continuous revelation even on our understanding and interpretation of Muktiveda.

In general, most of the Hindus worship the gods or a particular deity either because of family tradition or ishtadevata (god of personal choice) and they never try to find any other kind of ‘idealism’ from their deity.  Bhakti and ethics rarely clash with each other and Hindus can even assign different functions to different gods like: Family god (kula daivam), gods of boundaries (ellai daivam); gods to protect (kaval daivam); god of personal choice (ishta daivam); gods of forest/desolate places (vana daivam).  For example Lakshmi should be worshipped for wealth and Saraswati for vidya etc.  At the same time one can ask everything from only one god of their choice or family deity.   Only when our bhakti or deity is condemned and criticised then we try to present all kinds of idealism from our gods and bhakti.

Coming from such a tradition, as my expectation of a Guru ended up in Muktinath, He became my Guru and God.  And in this respect He stands unique for me.  And based on my understanding of both Muktiveda and Hindu scriptures/religious tradition I need not put Muktinath and Hindu Gods in competition claiming supremacy of one over the other, but can be respected and accepted as difference in ‘kind’ and not in ‘degree’.

We should keep the uniqueness of the ‘gospel’.  In the name of comparing it with other faiths, we need not dilute it to accommodate within Hindu frame by reducing Muktinath as the ‘Crown of Hinduism’ (Farquar) of the ‘Fulfillment of Vedic quest’ (The Vedic Quest Fulfilled in Lord Jesus Christ, published privately Rev. D. P. Titus) etc.  The gospel is fulfillment of God’s Covenant Promise.  It has the capacity to ‘incarnate’ in any cultural and social setup and even can be expressed through the native religious terms with proper explanation.  But because we use native religious/theological terms, symbols and cultural forms to understand and communicate the uniqueness of Muktinath, should we also compare Him with other native deities and put in competition to claim His supremacy?  But such questions will come like whether Rama/Krishna is Supreme or Muktinath?  And the answer is: ‘Who holds the final authority in your life’?  But even this answer won’t be that much easy, because in theory sectarian loyalty give supremacy only to a particular deity whereas common people give equal respect to all.  However when it comes to Muktiveda and its claim, when we accept the supremacy of Muktinath, we neither condemn the gods of other faiths as devils nor keep them all at the same level like common people, but understanding His authority in a bhaktas of life, we celebrate the beauty and richness of other gods and scriptures as part of our national heritage.

Let me give an example from Vaishnavism.  Sant Thyagaraja of 19th century is a complete Rama bhakta and he wrote and composed hundreds of Telugu Kirtanas in Carnatic music and they are sung by almost all the Carnatic musicians even today.  Though Thyagaraja wrote and composed so many kirtans on Rama, being a Smarta Brahmin he also wrote and composed a few kirtans on other deities like Ganesha, Siva and Devis.  So a stanch Vaishnavite, though she may not condemn or criticize Thyagara’s Kirtans or bhakti to Rama, yet will never use or quote his other hymns on other deities in her worship and sharing.  This I witnessed several times.  Even in special programs on Thyagaraja (which DD Bharati Television broadcast often), while other speakers will praise and quote from Thyagaraja’s  Kirtan, yet the Vaishnava Acharyas will be careful only to emphasize on his bhakti to Rama but will never mention even the name of Thyagara and to emphasize their bhakti on Rama they will quote only from Vaishnavite scriptures like Srimad Bhagavatam or Divyaprabandam.  Interestingly they won’t even quote from Tulsiramayana as Tulsi also wrote several songs on other deities.  For a stanch Vaishnavite not only Narayana/Vishnu alone is the Supreme God but strict Vaishnvites scriptures and followers alone are true Vaishnavite scriptures and Vishnu bhaktas.  But unlike the past Vaishnavite authors though the modern acharyas and preachers of Vishnu won’t condemn or criticize other deities, particularly Siva, yet they will be careful enough to emphasize on the Supremacy of Vishnu.7

To your question on preaching the Lord to others, it is a known fact in our civilization.  All the sampradayas preached their gods and doctrines and try to bring others to their fold (see the notes 6 below).  Though a few Hindu fundamentalists and liberals were in a denial mode about the ‘missionary’ nature of Hinduism in the past, now they too accept that it existed and still exists.  We Hindus never deny others’ rights to share their views, but only oppose the methods used by church and mission to divide and rule.  Of course the gospel brings sword and division in a home and family, but this should be more in values and not in external forms, dividing homes and families threatening the fundamental fabric of every society.  Each community and society evolved its own form to live together.  They never remain static but always remain dynamic adjusting to the demands of time.  But from time immemorial the basic structure of a home which is the shock absorber of every society is not much affected.  But in the name of ‘conversion’ when Christians try to destabilize and destroy the basic structure of community and society, it should be opposed in every way. There is no sanction for this in Muktiveda.

One can remain a Hindu and be a bhakta of Bhagavan Muktinath.  Both Muktiveda and Hinduism give ample scope for this.  Gospel has the inherit capacity to incarnate in every community and society without disturbing the basic structure which it evolved.  Of course it will challenge certain values which are opposed to Muktiveda, but it will try to regenerate from within rather than reforming from outside.  In the same way Hinduism gives ample scope for one to choose her own sadhana dharma that best suits to her, at the same time expecting her to abide by the samajic dharma.  Both sadhana and samajic dharma are flexible and not rigid rules of law.  While they accommodate new demands, they never allow any change that will disturb the basic structure of family and society.   Of course we now face new challenges that are coming from outside that threaten this uniqueness of our Indian civilization.  But such threats are not new and we always faced them in the past and emerged successfully after paying an initial cost for all the concessions and accommodations.  And I hope and pray that this inherent feature of our civilization will carry forward successfully into the future too, always remaining as ‘Jagad guru’ for other nations to learn the art of Live and Let Live.

Db. Gurukulam.  October 17th 2010.

1. See Kambaramayana Arayna Kanda, song 52 & 54 and the Comments by Sri V.M. Gopalakrishnamacharyar, Chennai, Umap Padippagam, 2006, vol.3. (Arayna Kandam,) pp. 42-43

2.…The Christian teaching that God loves those who love him was alien to pagan beliefs.  MacMullen has noted that from the pagan perspective “what mattered was … the service that the deity could provide, since a god (as Aristotle had long taught) could feel no love in response to that offered” (MacMullen, Ramsay.  Paganism in the Roman Empire. New Haven: Yale UniversityPress.1981:53).  Equally alien to paganism was the notion that because God loves humanity, Christians cannot please God unless they love one another.  Indeed, as God demonstrates his love through sacrifice, humans must demonstrate their love through sacrifice on behalf of one another.  Moreover, such responsibilities were to be extended beyond the bonds of family and tribe, indeed to “all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor.1:2).  These were revolutionary ideas.— Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, Harper San Francisco An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 1977, p.86 […]

And as we have seen [in page 84], that is precisely what most concerned Julian as he worked to reverse the rise of Christianity and restore paganism.  But for all that he urged pagan priests to match these Christian practices, there was little or no response because there were no doctrinal bases or traditional practices for them to build upon.  It was not that Romans knew nothing of charity, but that it was not based on service to the gods.  Pagan gods did not punish ethical violations because they imposed no ethical demands—humans offended the gods only through neglect or by violation of ritual standards (MacMullen, Ramsay.  Paganism in theRoman Empire.New Haven: Yale UniversityPress.1981:58).  Since pagan gods required only propitiation and beyond that left human affairs in human hands, a pagan priest could not preach that those lacking in the spirit of charity risked their salvation.  Indeed, the pagan gods offered no salvation.  They might be bribed to perform various services, but the gods did not provide an escape from mortality….—ibid. p.88

… E.R. Dodds pointed out that in “popular Greek tradition a god differed from a man chiefly in being exempt from death and in the supernatural power which this exemption conferred on him” (1970. Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety. New York: Norton.  [1965] 1970:74).  Moreover, while people often appealed to various gods for help, it was not assumed that the gods truly cared about humans—Aristotle taught that gods could feel no love for mere humans.  Classical mythology abounds in stories in which the gods do wicked things to humans—often for the (p.200) sport of it.  Arthur Darby Nock noted that worship of such gods need not have inspired sincere belief (Early Gentile Christianity and Its Hellenistic Background, New York: Harper and Row. 1964:4)….—ibid. pp.200-01

E.R. Dodds has put this as well as anyone:

A Christian congregation was from the first a community in a much fuller sense than any corresponding group of Isiac or Mithraist devotees.  Its members were bound together not only by common rites but by a common way of life…. Love of one’s neighbour is not an exclusively Christian virtue, but in [this] period Christians appear to have practiced it much more effectively than any other group.  The Church provided the essentials of social security…. But even more important, I suspect, than these material benefits was the sense of belonging which the Christian community could give. ( Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety. New York: Norton. [1965] 1970:136-137)—ibid. p. 207

The simple phrase “For God so loved the world…” would have puzzled an educated pagan.  And the notion that the gods care how we treat one another would have been dismissed as patently absurd.

From the pagan viewpoint, there was nothing new in the Jewish or Christian teachings that God makes behavioral demands upon humans—the gods have always demanded sacrifice and worship.  Nor was there anything new in the idea that God will respond to human desires—that the gods can be induced to exchange services for sacrifices.  But …the idea that God loves those who love him was entirely new.—ibid. p.211

3. John A.T. Robinson, TRUTH IS TWO EYED , SCM Press Ltd., p. 105

4. (ibid. p.106).

5. ibid. p. 107

6. ‘…Although “syncretism” in modern English usage refers to the merging of religions or philosophies that are properly separate, the original Greek term synkretismos used by Plutarch meant something different. It referred to a custom of people on the isle of Crete to overcome local feuds and to form a sacred alliance in order to withstand foreign aggression {Jan Assmann, “Translating Gods.”  In The Translatability of Cultures, edited by Sanford Budick and Wolfgang Iser, 25-36. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. 1996. 34}….’— Andrew J. Nicholson. Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History, Ranikhet, Permanent Black, (2010), 2011. p. 190

7. Ten Vaishnavite Oaths.

In this morning (April 8, 2007) in the National Tamil T.V. channel, one famous religious speaker (Sri Velukkudi Krishnan, from Vaishnavaite sampradaya) read out ten oaths to his audience to repeat after him. A few are along sectarian lines as expected-Ramanuja is the only acharya to be followed, and Narayana as the only god to be worshipped. But what is interesting to me is two oaths. In the first he said, ‘neither by birth, or wealth or education we won’t consider ourselves as great’. But he never said ‘by birth, or wealth or education we won’t consider ourselves as great but will treat all are equal’. The eleventh one is, ‘I will share these oaths with at least ten persons.’

I wish I could have recorded them and shared all those ten oaths. I don’t want add any of my comments but anyone can read their own as per her/his perception.

Dayanand Bharati.

Posted By Swami Dayanand Bharati to SAMVAD &nbsp ::   Dialogue of Life at 6/29/2008 09:46:00 PM

Dear and Respected D.Bharati,

Greetings of Shanti and Prem!

I am in receipt of your last mail. As you are aware, there is no end to the ongoing search for truth in one’s religion especially given the context in India. I am greatly indebted to your views and convictions and religious faith experiences that put me in a different platform to look at the same reality in a different lens. Lord Muktinath has saturated himself in the Indian composite culture in such a way that many translations of the Bible is availed to us. At the same time we do not deny the Christian authors who took pain and spent their lives in reading, translating and assimilating the Indian literatures and their contribution to various Hindu sacred texts. It all began because of the universal and incarnating characteristics of Lord Muktinath and his values in the society.

If you do not mind, could you let me know what category of the Hindu (sect) you belong to? I am aware of the Bhakti Vedanta and the neo Hindu reformists and revivalists, Indian secularists etc.

As I have gained from your indepth knowledge, only thing I would like to emphasize is by quoting from New Testament where St. Paul writing to Galatians 5:6 says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” This is the crux of the matter of Christianity which is also found in  1 Corinthians 13:13. Ultimately it is love in action (Prem Marg) is the yardstick with which we all would be judged here and after. 

Thank you very much for all the support and for your service (love) in action.

Yours Sincerely,

Prem Rag (DA)

 

Thank you for sharing this, Swami ji. I especially liked the bits where you explained about the lack of necessity for comparing Muktinath with other deities, and reading each scripture for itself and not trying to muddle things up.

It seems as if people like to play advocates for God even in areas where God Himself doesn’t seem to mind. Indeed, God is bigger than all scriptures and theologies and explanations put together. But we keep trying to put God in a box so we can comprehend Him.

While i do believe that Muktiveda is the revealed Scripture of the God i worship, i should also remember that He is bigger even than that.

I have been following some of the Lausanne 3 articles (http://coversation.lausanne.org), particularly those on contextualization, world faiths, etc. In the midst of all the debates and questions that seem to be arising on truth, and objective truth, and proclaiming of that, all i could think of was how large truth and how small we are. Like someone i knew said, we need to learn to hold with humility that truth that’s been revealed to us.

Bungi, Oct. 21. 2010

 

 

Identity question for Hindus

 

Hello Swamiji,I had been having some interesting conversations with a close friend of mine (PGK) – …. (who is now in Denmark).  He had some very serious questions about Hindu identity and i tried answering to the best of my knowledge.His main question was “how is hinduism defined”? (Is there any one-line answer for this which is accurate 🙂 and what does it mean to have a “Hindu identity” ? It will be great if you can sound this right as i did not want to give him any misguiding principles. Please do let me know your thoughts…..

 

PGK:

For Hindus, there is definitely no straight identity based on rituals or traditions. My derision towards the term ‘religion’ also is closely related to this aspect. Boxing and labeling a diverse set of beliefs is impossible while it is so much more easily possible for the ’Abrahamic’ religions. Their whole methodology of ‘top down’ or ‘one book down’ approach is very well suited for a very clear identity. Reversing the gaze or doing a purva paksh, we notice that this single aspect is what helps them achieve a semblance of respectability when approaching naïve civilizations.

Reverse take: We should definitely carve an identity…but not carve it on their platform. We cannot and should not carve it on the basis of traditions or number of Gods or rituals. Just because they are too diverse and in the process of carving a single identity, we would invariably alienate the not-so-well-represented. We should carve an identity on the basis of values…on the basis of ‘Dharma’ which is something which will “never” overlap with the Abrahamic religions.

I have had a few conversations with Christians/Atheists here in Denmark and predominantly the one question they ask is “If you as a Hindu believe in multiple Gods, then you should also believe in Christianism”. At first, it was a conundrum but after some introspection and reading up .. mainly Malhotra and a couple of others… my reply now is that
“I would definitely believe in any religion which accepts the possibility of another religion being completely equal … in other words.. if your religion said Christ was not the ONLY savior, then I would definitely believe in it”. This puts them off mostly but some come around to accepting the fact and also leads to serious soul-searching for them.

SKM

Dear SKM

 

PGK is hundred per cent correct about his view on Hindu identity in comparison with and the Christians’ (wrong) approach about the identity of others (religious and non-religious).  Both traditionally and historically Christians had such a wrong view, from which they cannot come out.  So for me we need not even think about our identity on their terms or anybody’s term.

At the same time, living on this earth, no one can claim to live in a ‘no man’s land’.  And the first criteria that decide the identity in modern time is not one’s value, principle, religion, culture etc. but Law (or Constitution) at least in India.  So we Hindus should begin from there viz. what our Constitution says about our identity.  As lots of information is available about this, so I need not give them here.

Regarding the ‘value’ which should give our identity as a principle, that too is very evasive.  What ‘dharma’ is a contested question and developing a Hindu identity, based on it though good and reasonable one, yet very evasive1 as Yudhishtira himself say:

tarko’pratisthah srutayo vibhinnaah; naiko rsir yasya vacah pramaanam | 

dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhaayaam; mahaajano yena gaatah sa panthaah||

Inferential logic is uncertain, i.e. it is such that it will give birth to various inferences according to different degrees of keenness of intelligence in men; the srutis, that is, the precepts, of the Vedas, are all mutually conflicting; and, as regards the smrtis, there is not a single Rishi whose precept we can look upon as more authoritative than that of others.  Well, if we seek the fundamental principle of this (worldly) dharma, it is lost in darkness, that is to say, it is such as cannot be understood by a man of ordinary intelligence.  Therefore, the path which have been followed by venerable2 persons is the path of dharma.] { B.G. Tilak, Tr. by A. S. Sukthankar: Srimad Bhagavadgita-Rahasya,seventh edn., Poona, 1986,}

After quoting from the scholars, my personal view is that a common Hindu least bothers about all kinds of hair splitting analysis of words and concepts.  She lives the life as it comes, based on the value set by her family, (caste) community and society.  So however theoretically we argue over the identity of a Hindu (based on one’s own ideology),3 yet for me the right question of our identity is not ‘What Hinduism is’ but ‘Who a Hindu is’?  Then:

A Hindu is a member of a particular community irrespective her faith.  If I understood our Constitution vaguely, that too endorses this view along with the practical identity of Hindus.

This is the Hindu reality in India.  When I say ‘in India’, I have to recognize the same diaspora Hindus (now) have to work out their identity in a different context (as they are not living under the ‘Hindu Personal Law’ there), recognizing the fact that their diasporic identity (or struggle) cannot be universal or ‘pan-Hindu’.

In this post-modern context, any universal claim needs to be questioned, at the same time no local context could remain an island of its own not influenced by some universal views.

I know my response raises more questions than giving a specific answer to PGK’s view.  But not get lost in so many sub-points:

I agree with PGK’s view about Hindu identity, but want to qualify that he too began to think Hindu identity based on his response to Christian view and not independently as a Hindu– keeping his social and cultural roots (now with a diasporic identity crises).  The movement we keep ‘the Other’ (here the Christians) as the purva-pakshin, then we will end up giving a wrong answer to the right question about our identity.

Having shared my initial view, I have few questions on PGK’s comments:

We should carve an identity on the basis of values…on the basis of ‘Dharma’ which is something which will “never” overlap with the Abrahamic religions.—PGK

Though life cannot be compartmentalized (as social, cultural, religious etc. at least for a Hindu then) what is the ‘value’ which he means here?–db

On what basis he says that ‘dharma will ‘never’ overlap with the Abrahamic religions?–db

“I would definitely believe in any religion which accepts the possibility of another religion being completely equal—PGK

Does Hinduism accept the possibility of another religion being completely equal?  No two Hindu sampradhyas accepts each other equal.  This is true with deities’ too.–db

Rest after hearing from others comments.

Db. Gurukulam. 25-02-2013

Notes

Dharma does not have a definitive form.  It has an ever-elusive nature that has been well illustrated in the story from the Mahabharata.  It is also open-ended and rational.  Dharma does not rule, but (as Robert Lingat once put it{The Classical Law of India, trn. By J.D.M. Derrett, Berkeley: University of California Press. 1973}), it reigns from above.  It is a going concern of the society as well as the individual.  It demands the best from our practical wisdom….— The Collected Essays of Bimal Krishna Matilal: Ethics and Epics, ed. Jonardon Ganeri, New Delhi, Oxford, 2002,  p. 69

2 Prof. Sharma’s comments on this word ‘venerablepersons’ will help us to understand this concept in its right context:

…The word mahaajana can mean either (1) a great person or (2) a great number of persons.  Although the first sense is the obvious one, tradition, in this context, favours the second sense, an understanding which is surprisingly logical.  If it has already been asserted that the sages, who were great persons, differ among themselves, then how does the great man, the mahaanjana, help us overcome the dilemma?  The point then is that if contradiction is to be avoided, as in a previous line the sages, who are or were presumably great persons, are declared to be at odds regarding (p.19) dharma, the sense of a ‘great number of persons’ must be favoured.  To put the matter succinctly: consensus is the arbiter of dharma.

…this is how P.V.Kane translates the term.  He renders the entire verse as follows (from a text in which the first line read tarko ‘pratistah):

rationalization is unstable, Vedas are in conflict with each other, there is no single sage whose opinion is held to be authoritative (by all, the truth about Dharma is enveloped in a cave (i.e. it cannot be clearly discerned) and that therefore the path to be followed) is the one followed by the great mass of people. [History of Dharmasastra, vol. V, pt. II, pp. 1271.]

He also points out that Sankara has employed the word in this sense in his gloss on Brahmasutra iv.2.7.  In fact Nilakantha, in the sixteenth century, in his commentary on this verse takes it clearly in this sense; for he glosses it as bahujanasammatamityarthah.  The late Professor B.K. Matilal# tentatively offered the sense as an open possibility, which is my unhesitating choice also.— Arvind Sharma, Hinduism for our Times, Delhi, Oxford India Paperbacks, 2001, pp.19-20

#…the public rituals in classical India used to be prefixed by a benediction ritual-recitation (mangala), where the following phrase was commonly used:

bahujana-sukhaaya bahujana-hitaaya ca.

For the sake of the happiness of many people, and for the sake of the good of many.—Matilal, op. cit.  p. 68

[This view of ‘maximum good to maximum number of people always clashes with society and an individual.  This topic itself is a big subject deserving separate study—db]

3. …texts are basically normative and prescriptive rather than descriptive of actual practices, not to mention the fact that most of the texts cannot be dated with any precision.  All ideology is, of course, normative and prescriptive by definition.—‘ The Ideology of Gupta Kingship ‘ Lorenzen, in Who Invented Hinduism: Essays on Religion in History, David N. Lorenzen, New Delhi, Yoda Press, 2006, p. 184

Legalism

I know a person, who claims that he is straightforward and tell things to other directly to them than saying round about ways or through some other mediators.   He is also very strict in using his personal things and use the same yard stick when others use his things.  When someone borrows something from him, he will tell ten times that they should return the thing in the same condition or should replace it.  To say in other words he is a person who tries to live with lots of dos and don’ts, which make others, bit nerves in their relationship with him.  He will even mark the date of the soap and tooth paste which is used for the entire family and won’t replace them until the due date comes.  If soap or tooth paste run out, then all have to manage without them.

Such legalism makes life miserable to others and joyless for oneself.  Such people create some kind of self-imposed idealism and expect everyone to follow their line.  But life is not lived based on legalism but in celebration of relationship.

One time a group visited my ashram.  We have a beautiful terracotta oil lamp hanging from the ceiling which makes our dhyanamandapa more beautiful.  I asked my shishya to make it especially as per my design and he has to give special order for that.  When that group came, one young man, while shifting the chair by mistake hit the lamp and it fall and broke down.  He was so upset and do not want to face me thinking that I will be angry with him. He immediately rushed to by asking sorry so many times and ready to give the money to make it or get it done from where I got it.  But not showing my disappointment, with a smile I said, ‘it’s all right.  It was just an accident.  That could happen to anyone and even to me.  So don’t become upset and lose your peace of mind.  I will get it replaced and don’t worry about the money’.  And he left the ashram without any guilty conscience or bad memory about me or his visit.

For me that terracotta oil lamp can be replaced, but not that relationship if my mistake if I said something which would have hurt him.  Discipline we need, but we should never allow it to degenerate to become legalism.  And ‘Law-bound Disciplines breathe death’ says Foster and further:

…When the Disciplines degenerate into law, they are used to manipulate and control people.  We take explicit commands and use them to imprison others.  The result of such deterioration of the Spiritual Discipline is pride and fear.  Pride takes over because we come to believe that we are the right kind of people.  Fear takes over because the power of controlling others carries with it the anxiety of losing control, and the anxiety of being controlled by others.’— Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline. [As I forgot the take the reference, I cannot give the year, publisher and page number here—db]

Dayanand Bharati.

05/03/2013.