I have found that there are contradictory views of Sufism within the Hindu community. David Frawley, in “How I Became a Hindu“, writes:
“While one can sympathize with the Sufis and more easily dialogue with them than the orthodox [Muslims], to think that Sufis don’t represent the vested interests of Islam is quite naive.”
He also points out that historically some Sufis historically have supported or even been involved in suppression and killing of Hindus, and with the destruction of Hindu temples.
On the other hand there are certainly Sufis who have had a positive non-exclusionist attitude. Rumi expressed this in this poem:
Love’s nationality is separate from all other religions,
The lover’s religion and nationality is the Beloved (God).
The lover’s cause is separate from all other causes
Love is the astrolabe of God’s mysteries
Yesterday someone emailed me a link to Swami Vivekanana’s speech to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. At that time the speech was very well received. This made me think of the contrast between this and the reception that Rajan Zed’s prayer On July 12, 2007 when he opened the United States Senate.
This has been written about so many times on the web that I thought that it did not need writing again. Then I realized that there were so many sites that misunderstand this issue that perhaps its something that should be mentioned on all sites connected with Hinduism.
To most Westerners the term idol implies a false god. Idolatry is defined as “the worship of a physical object as a god” or “immoderate attachment or devotion to something”. Hindus refer to the statues used in worship as murtis, but this term is not understood by westerners.
Unfortunately, many Indians use the term idol when translating murti into English. This is probably because this word was used by the English to denigrate Hinduism, but it was picked up by Indians learning English without them understanding the negative connotations.
The best western word used to describe these statues is icon, meaning a sacred image or representation. A Hindu no more worships a statue than a Christian worships a cross. The statue is a representation of God, not something to be worshipped in itself. Hindus believe that there is one God with many names. God is ultimately the unmanifest Brahman, but can be manifest in many forms. There is an interesting essay about how a westerner came to see the truth about murtis on the Himalayan academy site: Breaking the idol barrier.
I saw a television program a while back that was looking at attitudes towards environmentalism and conservation The program asked a leader of a Hindu ashram, who said that their attitude was one of detachment. I was disappointed with this answer and I aim to show that Hindus should be concerned with the environment.
I will do this by showing that protection of the environment is seen as a duty of leaders in Hinduism. I will also show that Hinduism has an innate respect and reverence for nature and the environment. Finally I will show that what is seen as the duty of leaders is in these days a duty for us all.
First of all let me say that this is a huge subject, of which I have only just scratched the surface. It would be possible to spend years studying Judaism, it has many subtleties and complexes that my brief study will have missed.
At first glance the key concept of the unity of God may appear as a direct opposite to the Hindu idea of one God with many manifestations. If we look at the Zohar, a collection of works on Kabbbalah (Jewish Mysticism) we can see that there is a concept of different aspects of God in the Jewish tree of life.
Someone was kind enough to give me a link to a text which is intended persuade people to covert from Hinduism to Christianity. It is interesting to see how full of holes and untruths this text is. I will show truth from the “conversion site” as indented italic coloured text, whereas my responses are full width and black. The text starts:
Question: “I am a Hindu, why should I consider becoming a Christian?”
Well, that is a very good question. I have provided many reasons why people should be interested in Hinduism in “What Hinduism has to Offer“. I will be interested to see what possible reason there could be to convert from Hinduism to Christianity.
“Do you know who the most important person in town”, said Andrew, “It is the policeman. Without him we would not be safe, and traders would move away. He is the most important person in town.
Maria thought about this and replied. “What you say is true, but what is really important about this town? People miles away come and see it because of our famous author. Without him nobody would have heard of this place any further away than the next village.”
I read the article “Interview of an Evangelist” today. It graphically illustrates the motives, techniques and billion dollar industry of Christian evangelists. The worst thing is many people donate money to charities thinking it is to help the poor rather than funding a divisive crusade. It is interesting that areas of India where missionaries are successful suffer increases in rates of AIDS, though perhaps not surprising given the “convert and you will be forgiven anything” message given by the Christian right.
Pascal’s Wager is an argument used by the philosopher Blaise Pascal to justify the belief in God. Pascal argues that (following the beliefs of Christianity) :
- If God exists and you believe in God you will go to heaven.
- If God exists and you do not believe in God you will go to hell.
- If God does not exist you will not go to heaven or hell whatever you believe.
Based on the above points, Pascal argued that it was better to believe in God, because not to do so risked going to hell, whereas belief in God carried no risks. A variation of this can be and has been used by Christians to convert members of other faiths, particularly those from non-exclusive faiths, such as Hinduism.
When Christian missionaries target India they are bringing discord to a highly religious and spiritual country, where most people believe in God and at least value a moral life. They bring division to a society where generally religions are inclusive and accepting.
In Britain a small number of people are religious. The exact number is hard to say, when asked if they “know that God exists without a doubt” 23% say yes, but when asked “which comes closest to your belief” 56% responded with an answer that indicated that they had some belief. Even if this number have some belief, most don’t act on it, regular religious involvement is only 7.5%. You only have to go to a city centre in Britain at night to see that many young people regularly get drunk and live only for sensual pleasure.
A few weeks ago my wife and I attended a “Gouanga (ISKCON) festival” at our Hindu temple. There we met a young woman who had joined ISKCON after attending one of these festivals, where she realised that there was more to life than getting drunk. She now works for ISKCON in the UK. She said a couple of years ago she would have probably been drunk in the gutter. At the festival she contemplated Krishna for the first time, and felt that there was something spiritual inside her.
Why, with so many people living a non-spiritual life, don’t Christian missionaries target the UK? Surely this is a country where spirituality could bring great benefit?
I believe that it is because they know that they cannot easily offer bribes and inducements in a relatively rich country. This is the reason that they oppose laws in India that ban forced religious conversions. They know that this is their easiest way to success. For them religion is not about improved behaviour, spirituality or social adhesion, they would willingly sacrifice those to win in the numbers game. All that matters is the number who say they are Christian. That is enough. The fact is that despite the lack of belief, 71% of the British population say they are Christian is enough for them.
A Christian who is violent to members of other faiths, rarely thinks about God, acts immorally and is drunk in the city centre every night is saved. There is no point in missionaries taking notice of them where there are peaceful and tolerant members of other faiths to target. If only they could get them all to be like the Christians!
I received some comments from someone claiming to be an Indian Christian1. I first thought that it was not worthy of a proper response, but after more thought I decided that unless the points are rebutted there is some chance of people might actually believe some of them to have merit. So here is what the poster had to say.
Writing this response seems somewhat surreal. I know so little about Hinduism compared to the many Indians that John must have met who could have pointed out his errors. I know that many extremist Christian groups tell their children not to talk to people outside their group, but I still find it surprising that he has not been informed more about Hinduism.
I have recently started studying the Chinmaya Mission e-vedanta foundation course. I hope this course will help spiritual development and to enable me to become closer to God.
Recently I received two angry posts from someone claiming to be an Indian Christian. I thought that just in case someone believed the comments in his letters I should analyse them and show the false information and gaps in the logic. I got around to posting an analysis of the first message, and intended to do the same for the second message. The Chinmaya course has made me consider my relationship with the world and motivations. I realised that while it could be the right thing to post an analysis like the first one, it would only be right if done through love. The action should be filled with concern that the post might misguide people, together with a loving concern for the misguided poster, and hope that he can step away from the path of hate.