Monthly Archives: September 2013

Corporate religions

The following information really amused as such swamijis living outside India try to create a corporate Hinduism denying the Hindu reality in India.  As the present generation is fast losing their interest and respect for swamijis and (traditional) gurus the concluding point by this Satguru will further chase them away from them:

Ethics must be established among the presidents and chairmen and executive directors of the religions. Then these holy personages will command the members to reach out and seek new members in a most enlightened way.

Such statements by these kinds of Corporate Swamijis never reflect the Hindu reality in India.  And such demand for some kind of.’Organized Hinduism’ is emerging since past few decades.  But the Hindu reality is that no Swamiji or Guruji can create such power and authority in the present context in India.  At least in the past when the monarchy was there at least in theory some kind of sociological authority was sanctioned to the religious heads as we read in the case of Sringeri matha.  But in the present context no religious head can have such authority or exercise on their own.

Considering the present trend of politicizing the religion and communalizing the politics, even a sincere Swamiji cannot exercise any spiritual authority over his followers.  Above all the present young generation is running away from swamijis and sannyasis because of their association with (muscle-money) power and authority.  Of course huge crowed will gather and follow such swamijis and sannyasis as long as they serve their purpose but will never have any spiritual authority over anyone, unless they live a life according to their dharma as a sannyasi with simplicity and poverty keeping away from the forces who try to politicize the religion and communalize the politics..

Dayanand Bharati.

August 21, 2013.

Hinduism Today’s founder, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, addressed this issue in his book, How to Become a Hindu, available on-line here.

He said in reply to a question:

Devotee: Are there ethics and scruples controlling conversion from one religion to another, such as corporations have in moving a top executive from one company to another?

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami: Doctors and lawyers have ethical guidelines concerning their patients and clients. Corporate officers have codes of conduct, too. The best among them have a cultured protocol and respect for one another. This is not always true among religionists. They can and often do disdain one another.

The religions and their leaders should not and must not be unscrupulous, for that will be harmful to their constituency in the future. Religious leaders should rise at least to the level of corporate managers. For our part, we can suggest this as a solution to the problems of conversion.

Why should someone be ripped away from his born and raised religion to another and “better one” like a piece of merchandise snatched from the supermarket shelf, sold, redistributed and wholesaled to a foreign market? In India today the problems of forced or deceitful conversions are so prevalent that the government is trying to pass a law to prohibit such tactics, like the laws that already exist in Nepal. We hope such legislation is passed, not only in India but wherever similar problems exist.

Ethics must be established among all the religionists of the world. They must nurture an appreciation for each other, not merely a tolerance. Religious leaders, above all, must remain fair, despite their enthusiasm. We are not marketing a product. We are not competing for customers. The values and tenets we are offering must go into knowledgeable and willing hands. They cannot be forced upon the weak or foisted upon the unwary. A doctor would hate and then undermine another who stole his patients and slandered his name to effect the deed. An advocate would feel justifiably injured if clients were bribed to leave him for the services of a fellow attorney. The king of a country is riled at the loss of his lands, and religionists become antagonistic one to another when their fences are cut and their flocks taken elsewhere. Yes, a certain protocol must be established. Permission must be granted from one’s religious leaders, making for a graceful exit from one and entrance into another, just as a citizen formally changes his loyalty from one nation to another, legally and ethically. When war commences, warlords gather, and their nations decide on the ethics of torture, cruelty and needless slaughter. How much more essential is it, then, for religious leaders to come to fair agreements and rules of conduct in their handling of souls?

All religions are not the same. There are eleven major ones, and a multitude of faiths form a twelfth. A oneness of ethics must exist among the religionists, priests, ministers, pandits, aadheenakartars, Shankaracharyas and others in the higher echelons, at the corporate level, for religion today is not unlike the great corporations which produce and distribute their products and services, supplying the world with food and plenty. Ethics must be established among the presidents and chairmen and executive directors of the religions. Then these holy personages will command the members to reach out and seek new members in a most enlightened way.

www.crosswalk.com

May 15, 2006: The Christian website, URL above, posted this item:

 

Right teaching wrong story

Recently a story was sent to us appreciating the moral teaching of it.  Initially though I too appreciated it.  But a further reflection on it forces me to see the contradiction in it.

A father sent four of his sons to observe the nature in each season separately. Each of them narrated what they have seen is correct according to their perspective.  For example the son sent in spring will naturally see only flowers and not a dry tree.  The same is the one who sent in autumn.  If the father wants to help them to understand life (or season here) in its totality should have sent them all the four in all the four seasons and then asked them to present their observation.  Whereas blaming them that what they have observed is not the whole picture about the nature but only a part of it is not correct.  Because they were sent to a particularly season and according to me what they have seen in that particular season is complete itself.

Let me come to the point of human life.  No one can see and learn the life in its totality only observing all the part of life.  Because each season is complete in it.  And who failed in one season, may recover later or who has done well in one season may fail in another.  For example a student who failed to do justice to her vocation as a student and wasted her time in studies may come up successfully later in life.  Though the moral of the story is correct that one should not judge another person partly observing one area or season of the life, yet the illustration of sending the four sons in different season and then blaming them not to judge based on what they don’t see or know is not correct.

Some time we use few illustrations without knowing their limitation.  Of course the moral of every limitation is that one should not stretch the illustration beyond its limit and only focus on the main teaching.  But one should be careful not to use wrong kind of illustrations to give a correct moral teaching.  In this story too, I see the pictures alone look good and not the message.

Db

August 9, 2013

Communication trap.

When any discussion comes about the advantage of technology at the cost of human relationship, those in favour of technology give a long list of advantages and facilities available for us ‘even to develop and keep good relationship with others’.  While not denying the advantages and facilities of all kinds of modern gadgets, they forget one fundamental principle in relationship—human touch.

Yes we can now communicate very fast and even have our own space through blogs and face book.  But those who argue for the advantage of these facilities to communicate forget one fundamental principle: to whom they want to communicate?

In the past too there were communication facilities—however primitive and slow they might be.  But communicating some information and news to those who live far away (or near) is part of maintaining human relationship.  Now the modern facilities only add to speed to it.  But at the cost of those with whom they rub shoulders at their home, work place and other areas, now the present generation is obsessed with the gadgets and technology than paying any attention to the need to maintain relationship. They also forgot one principle that all these modern facilities and gadgets are only a means to the end and not an end itself.  Most of the time they pin their argument about the speed and quick way to communicate to others who are living far away and near than forgetting the fact how fast their relationship is get eroded with whom and for whom they claim and image to use these facilities.  Money can be quickly transferred; information can be quickly sent and gathered. But all these are done to save the time so that relationship can be maintained and celebrated with whom they rub shoulders.  But all these modern technology and gadgets made everyone to become too busy that most of them don’t have time even to spare to pay attention to those who are the backbone for them to live even a normal—BUSY life.  They will buy a separate hand phone to the elders but don’t have time to listen them.  They will send emails and photos on behalf of them to others living far away but have no time to sit with them even for few minutes.  Youths want to have their breakfast and dinner on their computer table and elders want it on their part before the TV serials.  Youths some time ridicule the elders to glue to the TV serials.  But they have no other options left with them.  I have seen some seniors fall asleep while the TV serial is on.  When asked about it their usual response is: ‘we too don’t want to watch them. But when the TV is on, at least we have a feeling that someone is around us’.  Even small children are put before the TV to watch Cartoon network when elders are busy with other works.  We all have now all kinds of facilities to spend time with them but not with each other.  In one way we all are caught in this trap from which one wants to come out.

Dayanand Bharati.

23-09-2013

Identity question

Recently we had a discussion on ‘identity’ for the question ‘Who you are and What you are’.  The bhakta, who raised this discussion, said that as a bhakta for him his identity as a devotee of God is more important which could settle other issues regarding ‘identity’ based on ‘sociology and anthropology’.  But for me the main criterion in identity is ‘relationship’.  Particularly our human identity is always decided by this one criterion of ‘relationship’.  Here even the identity as a ‘bhakta’ too is mainly based on relationship with God.  Because the very word ‘bhakti’ derived from the root ‘baj’ stands for relationship.

Next, any ontological or epistemological understanding of identity based our relationship only with God is not enough as our identity as a bhakta too is tested through the categories of sociological and anthropological factors too.  Any bhakti, particularly with God if not tested and reflected in our relationship with others won’t withstand in the current of life.  The sociological criteria not will test the authenticity of such bhakti but also will help us to understand how true our bhakti in God is.

At least in India, bhakti has created some kind of ‘other worldliness’ in the minds of people not to have sociological dimensions to demonstrate it.  This does not mean that there is no sociological concern in India.  From time in memorial we have it as part of our dharmic value, but it is not centered (anchored) in God.  Dharma, Karma and Rin(a) could be the main factors to decide one’s social and other obligations.  As part of duty (dharma), or because of one’s own karma or to dispose to the debt (rin) with which each one is born guide one to carry her sociological obligation.  But bhakti could work independently from all this.  That is why morality (ethics) can be easily set aside from bhakti.

Db.

August, 20, 2013

 

 

 

Native/NRI Invasion

Like moral policing, a defender of faith is not a new thing in religious world.  We read about the zealots among the Jews and similar orthodox groups existed in every religious tradition in a different name and form.  In their zeal to protect their own orthodoxy, their first enemies are not the opponents in other faiths but those in their own religion, whom, according to them are liberals and dilute their orthodoxy by various compromises.  So naturally they will use all kinds of violence to silence them.

I find such kind of Hindu fundamentalists among the diaspora Hindus.  In their struggle to keep their Hindu identity by creating ‘Universal Normative’ Hinduism, they invented their ideology that too based on Hindu scriptures (which mostly receive lip service back in their home situation in India).  Once they failed to implement that ideology among their own family and community in diaspora, as they are more influenced by the culture of their new found home, then these diaspora Hindu fundamentalists try to ‘export’ their Universal Normative Hindu ideology back to their home.  And here too their main opponents are not the people of other faiths but again those Hindus who do not agree or accept their kind of (fundamentalist) Hinduism.  This reminds me a story which I read long before in Tamil.  I think it was by Rajam and the title is ‘Amma Vandal’. But I am not sure both about the title and the author, but I still remember the story.

One orthodox Brahmin woman fall back in her chastity because of lust.  And she got a son. But regretting very much for the sin that she has committed she tries to bring up her son in a strict orthodox manner of her own ideology.  Similarly, as these fundamentalists Hindus in West (or any other part outside India) has to compromise various ways with their faith and orthodoxy because of their lust for money, comforts etc.  they try to mentally bring up their own idealistic orthodox Hinduism back in home, as they know very well that their ideology won’t be successful in their diasporic situation.  And they find a threat to their ideology back in home too—as the present day India with young generation exposed a lot to various values, cultures and views of the entire world, thanks to the social media.  But as they cannot influence these modern generation of young Hindus from falling into various lusts they turned their attention to oppose their (imagined) enemies within Hinduism who are not ready to buy their kind of (fundamentalist) Hinduism.  For this they have to build up several idealistic (worldviews) based on their own interpretation of Hindu scriptures and tradition.  As most of the Hindus in India simply ignore them, they get more irritated.  But no fundamentalist movement can survive without having an enemy to target by creating ‘the Other’.  So now the Hindu fundamentalists began to attack the people of other faiths.  Here too most of the people in other faiths too ignore them, as they don’t have time for them.  So they now try to target those groups and people in other faiths—particularly among Christians who try to trace their root back in their Indian civilization views and values in their own way.

And now the Diasporic Hindu invaders got a new enemy to target.  Of course such attack is on some Christians who try to contextualize their faith/bhakti through a process of inculturation.  But such attack by Hindu fundamentalism is not new as it already began few decades before.  For example, Sri Sitaram Goel in his book: Catholic Ashrams Adopting and Adapting Hindu Dharma. With a preface by Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1988, says

“The Indianisation of Christianity is a serious matter” [p.4] as the mission is “casting covetous glance before mounting a marauding expedition.  What causes concern is the future of the Hindu culture once it falls into the hands of the church. The fate of Greek culture after it was taken over by the church is a grim reminder”[p. xv].

Though such attack never could influence the Christians of any group (orthodox and liberals), the rhetoric still continues by the followers of such fundamentalist.  These self-appointed guardians of Hindu (or Indian) culture and tradition resemble those people in Tamilnadu (particularly among the politicians) who launched campaigns from early 1920 to protect and save Tamil as if Tamil language (or Tamil Thai [mother]) and culture faced serious threat to its identity and tradition from Hindi and English hegemony.  The fact is that Tamil has its own inherent strength and long tradition to face all kinds of onslaughts and manage to survive as a living language till today.  Similarly Indian culture and tradition, unlike its counter parts like Greek and Roman managed to survive because of its inherent strength and pluralistic tradition. (See more on this in my next article (Assimilation, Conversion, Incarnation, Rejection) What all these self-appointed guardians/saviours attempt is to protect and promote their own self-interest by creating an imagined enemy to attack.  If the Indian civilization managed to survive from various kinds of attack in the past it can continue to survive in future too without the need of any saviour to redeem it.  Any civilization which does not have inner strength to withstand any kind of attack or influence on its own cannot survive for a long time by receiving any kind of protection to it—that too from outside.

As I often say, our Indian Civilization has its own capacity to survive by keeping its own uniqueness of ‘live and let live’.  Of course sometime it succumbed to some outside pressure for some time.  But after paying initial cost, it resurrected back to its glory with added new strength by assimilating or absorbing outside influence or attack in its own way.  Even in this process of assimilation, instead of ‘converting’ the new views and values to its form,  it allowed every view to co-exist without compromising with their core value at the same time allowing every view to influence each other.  The best example is the Sufi tradition and Hindustani music.  Our civilization learnt this art of assimilation by allowing various kinds of diffusion from outside its civilization like Egypt, Assyria, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman etc.  Thomas McEvilley’s  book:  Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, (2002), First Indian Edition, 2008.The Shape of Ancient thought,  high lights this very clearly.1

So the self-appointed guardian of Hinduism or Indian civilization cannot protect our Indian Civilization by creating an enemy to attack to promote their fundamental idealism. The fact is that the Christian Fundamentalists on the other hand too, oppose any kind of attempt by few Christians to indigenize and contextualize their faith and bhakti based on Indian civilizational values.  For them such attempt by few Christians is either liberals or compromise the uniqueness of Christianity. In fact what these Christian fundamentalist try to protect is not Christianity as a religion or Muktivedic (biblical) views/values but Christendom.

The reason for the Christian fundamentalist to oppose every attempt to contextualize is because of the fear of the Indian civilization’s capacity to absorb every alien civilization values and views a part of it. As their aim is to ‘convert’ Indian civilization in the image of their Christendom, in which they miserably failed so far, they could not see that our Indian civilization by giving space for these alien values and views to have their own legitimate space without losing their uniqueness and also not allowing destroying other faiths and traditions.

Meanwhile people like us who have every right to be a Hindu and follow the Vedic dictum: ‘let powers auspicious [or noble thoughts] come to us from every side…’, (Rg. 1. 89.1) try to assimilate the value from Muktiveda are caught between rock and hard place of both these Hindu and Christian fundamentalists.  Of course we need no recognition, approval, acceptance from both the fundamental group within Hinduism and Christianity to have our identity as Hindu bhaktas of Muktinath.  And this fact irritates them more and now we become the target of both these groups.  Though these days I, like most of the Hindus, ignore them, yet I have to express my view sometimes like this article to remind them about their lakshman reka.

My present policy which I try to observe and also my request to those Christians who try to indigenize their faith/bhakti and the Hindu bhaktas of Muktinath is: IGNORE THE FUNDAMENTALISTS.  As we often say, we can wake up those who sleep and not those who pretend to sleep.  No fundamentalist ever listen their opponents view and there is no point in engaging with them in any manner.  ‘My way is the only high way’ is their religious creed.  Particularly Hindu Fundamentalists never notice or agree that genuine disagreement could exist and existed throughout Indian (scriptural, philosophical, etc.) tradition.  This inherent immunity in our Indian Civilization is enough to have self-preservation and these Hindu Fundamentalists in the name of protecting our Civilization only bring new (outside, diaspora) virus (like bird flu and swine fever) to weaken this immunity. Denying the pluralism and relativism of our Civilization, they try to impose their hegemony on others who do not agree with them.

This is another kind of ‘native invasion’ on our Civilization.  When there was invasion by outsiders, we know who our enemies are and prepared by various means to tackle them to check the damage.  But this kind of new ‘native invasion’ by the NRI Hindu Fundamentalists is posing a serious danger to the pluralistic tradition of India, as they come as inside enemies taking advantage of being Hindus.  Sitting in their own comfort zone, they provoke naïve Hindus here in India to fight among Indians of various faiths.2  They are like the Sri Lankan NRI Tamilians, who try to keep the Tamil (LTT) terrorism alive by collecting and sending money.  Whereas the local Tamilians in Sri Lanka, who faced all the burnt in the recent war against terrorism want to return back to a normal life to gain their rights through peaceful political negotiation.  But this kind of ‘native invasion’ by the NRIs  now becomes a serious threat to the people back at home as they alone have to struggle all the fronts.  I am not under estimating their own struggle in their ‘PROMISED LANDA’.  They have to find out their own means and methods to face their own challenges (or funeral).  But sitting in their own comfort zones, enjoying the best of both the worlds (as migrants in the west and NRIs back in India) and not identifying the real struggle back in home, they have no right to launch a new ‘native invasion’ of their fundamentalist ideology here to increase our burden more.  Yes they too part of us.  But they alone opted to ‘desert’ us for their own reasons.  Still we do not deny our relationship with them and ready to help to resolve their identity crisis as much as we are allowed to do so.  But we do not want to impose our solution on them as we cannot understand their context and struggle in its totality.  In the same way, once left us, they too cannot impose their crises and ideology as they cannot understand the changing scenario back at home.  They may be Hindus but their perception about life and faith is now influenced more by their new situation than what they learnt back at home before their migration.  Their Hinduism is more an ecumenical than the original one back at home.  Now for me, they too are like academic (non-Hindu) scholars who writes objectively based on their textual knowledge.  But to legitimize their solution that is relevant to their situation, we cannot accept their ideology of a ‘Normative Universal Hinduism’ for us.

Whatever may be the historical facts or historicising efforts, our Hindu identity is based on two facts: Constitution and Varnashramadharma.  In spite of all the academic attempts, for a professing Hindu in India her identity is decided by our birth in a caste and by our Constitution.  But both these criterion is irrelevant for a diaspora Hindu.  Even if they cling to their birth identity based on caste, it is not going to decide their future like that of an Indian here.  That is why according to my understanding, ‘A Hindu is a member of a particular community irrespective of her faith and the rights/demands of the Constitution because of Hindu Personal law.’  If the NRIs understand this, then they will stop their ideological invasion to add new complication to this complex post-Independence identity issue here in India.

I too write this not to teach or preach such fundamentalists but not get distracted by them in our persuasion to follow our conviction.  By writing this the Hindu fundamentalists will blame me that I am a secret Christian convert to destroy the Indian culture by have a secret understanding with Christian church and Mission.  On the other hand, the Christian Fundamentalist already told me on my face that I am a secret RSS man, entered Church and Mission to destroy it like a secret agent of Hindu Fundamentalists.  Well, I least bother about such false allegation as I know my personal faith and conviction as a Hindu bhakta of Muktinath, as my Indian Civilization helps me to celebrate my bhakti in the Lord without need of others approval.  As Muktiveda also endorses my conviction I continue my pilgrimage with a free conscience.

Someone well said that ‘great people cherish conviction and small people entertain opinion.’  And let us continue to live with our conviction than carried away by any kind of fundamentalists’ opinions or invasion on our views in life.

Db. May 15, 2013

1.. …I will make a measured attempt to establish significant intrusions first from India to Greece in the pre-Socratic period, then from Greece back to India in the Hellenistic period….— Thomas McEvilley, Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, (2002), First Indian Edition, 2008. p. xxxi

It seems, finally, that significant elements of Near Eastern thought and imagery—primarily from Mesopotamia but also from Egypt—are embedded throughout the record of Indian culture, from the Indus Valley on.  These include elements in the myth of cycling time (especially Manu’s version), in the doctrine of reincarnation as purveyed by Jain texts and Upanisads, and in the occult physiology of enlightenment in kundalini yoga…. So massive and crucial is the totality of this input that it would seem ill-advised in the extreme to attempt to account for the formation of Indian civilization without it.  Still, it would be an equally egregious mistake to conclude that India lacks a distinctive and world-important character of its own.  Nothing, it seems, comes out of nothing, and no culture is born by parthenogenesis.  Ancient Greek culture has had at least as much input from the same sources without being denied its own “miraculous” selfhood.—ibid. p. 261

It appears, finally, that there was a vast network of Indian-Greek contacts by way of both land and sea routes; details are especially well known from the Roman period, but apparently this network existed in various forms back at least to Alexander.  Much important cultural diffusion took place through these contacts, and four topics should be considered, which, though three of them are not directly part of the history of philosophy, will establish the diffusion context of that history: (1) astronomy, (2) literature and drama, (3) Gandharan art, (4) knowledge of Indian philosophy in the West.—ibid. p. 384

It has long been accepted by both Indian and western scholars that Indian astronomy derived from Greek sources….—p.384

2..  I wrote this article on May 15th.  But I got the book: Public Hinduisms, ed. By John Zavos, Pralay Kanungo, Deepa S. Reddy, Maya Warrier, Raymond Brady Williams, New Delhi, Sage Publications, 2012 I was surprised to know that what I have written is very little and what the NRI Hindus Fundamentalists do is more.  As I generally ignore such group, I never paid any attention to read more materials about them.  So the following point by Shana Sippy will endorse my view:

…Hindu groups, in places like North America, the UK and Australia, have sought a more prominent voice in civic, political, academic and cultural life, wishing to shape the perceptions of Hindus and Indians by both those within and outside of the community.—‘ Will the Real Mango Please Stand Up? Reflections on Defending Dharma and Historicising Hinduism. P.  26