Ideology versus Personal Commitment

This morning when I went to See Dr. Priya (name changed) with my mother for her health problems, I had a very interesting dialogue with her. Despite having several other patients waiting outside, she was very interested to talk about the issue of ‘others changing our people to their religion’ in our local area.

“Instead of constructing the ashrams and living there (comfortably), people like you should come and tell our own people clearly about our faith,” she insisted. Then she pointed out how in olden days people like Krupanandavariyar and other religious orators used to give nice teachings about our faith to our own people.

For this I said, “Using people for our own particular agenda is wrong. Those who ‘convert’ others because of their particular ‘religious’ agenda and those who reconvert them for their particular ‘political’ agenda or ideology are simply using people without actually involving them. Without specifically addressing the grievances which forced people to change their faith and religion (or were used by others to intice them), we try to re-convert them because of our ideological interest. Only after a group comes and changes people’s faith and religion do we awaken to the reality and make all kinds of noise. 

“Before that we neither have time nor commitment to get involved with their struggle in life. So their struggles, issues and problems are not our concern, but only our own particular ‘agenda’. Both those who convert and re-convert leave people to live and struggle with their own problems, once their agendas are served. In such cases, I would rather allow people to change their faith and religion than simply exploiting them to fulfill any of my particular agenda.”

Regarding her point of quoting all the past great gurus and acharyas (like Vivekananda, etc.), I said, “We forget the point that everything they thought was within a specific context which may not be useful for us to imitate in our present context. For example, several Hindu religious orators (whom I myself listened as an youth) mostly talked about bhakti and how to continue certain ritual traditions to achieve all sorts of mundane needs. But they rarely addressed the core human problem (in ethics, relationships, etc.). Swami Vivekananda talked to the need of his time. What he talked about in the west was different than what he shared in India.”

To the point of coming and serving the people here, I said, “Blessed is the man who knows his limitations. Instead of trying to do many things incompletely, it is better do a specific task with an aim to complete it. Above all, any leader who thinks that his presence is needed everywhere to carryout his ideals is a failure. He should know how to produce more leaders rather than take all the responsibility in his own hand. No one is indispensable.”

I would like to end this by pointing one more interesting fact. When my mother introduced me as her second son and mentionded that I have ashram near Hosur, Dr. Priya said, “Why did you bring him here? If I knew that, then I would have come to your place to listen and learn many things from him.”

For this my mother immediately said, “He will be with me till the 17th and you can come any time.” But Dr. Priya never responded to my mother and began her dialogue with me, which I shared with you above. Such vain talk, (though I understand it is a way of showing respect to Swamijis in India) really irritates me. She knows that she cannot come to see me at my mother’s place and I too know it. Though I understand such a public norm of Indian formality, this reflects our flowery talk on all kinds of ‘ideological’ issues in public without having any personal commitment to it. Even though I felt sorry for the other patients who were waiting to see the doctor, at least it helped me to write something to share with you.

Dayanand Bharati, Chidembaram, February 4, 2008.