Ganesh in London
Today I read a blog-post which criticised the Hindu American Foundation’s statement on caste. Though I disagreed with a lot of what the post said I found it to be a well thought-through and clear expression of an opposing view. I wrote a comment in response to the post which I will expand on here.
First a brief background. The Hindu American Foundation published a report on caste, which basically said that caste-based discrimination is not intrinsic to Hinduism and that it was a problem that is being addressed in India. The blog-post I am responding to is by Sandhya Jain. She sees this report as part of an attempt to “recast Hinduism as an International faith” and set up a canon of Hinduism, one defined set of sources and beliefs. The article has comparatively little to say about caste, except that it is part of a dynamic system that has positive virtues. The article should certainly not be seen as an endorsement or acceptance of caste-based discrimination. Here is my response, together with some expansions and comments.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Locomotive 780
I can’t remember where I heard it, but I had read somewhere and believed that despite the obvious exploitation of India under the British Raj, there were two lasting positive legacies; the education system and the railways.
A couple of days ago someone on facebook someone mentioned Thomas Babington Macaulay as responsible for severely damaging the Indian education system. I had not heard of him, and I was told about an article in Hinduism today that described his attitudes towards Indian culture and the changes he implemented in India. This totally changed my opinion of the effect that the British Empire had on education in India.
I read an interesting article on another blog, entitled “I am a western Hindu, But I don’t feel welcome in Hindu temples“. It is an interesting post, though I don’t agree with all of it. Personally, I have never felt unwelcome visiting Hindu temples in England – I have not yet visited any in other countries. In my Mandir the fellow worshipers are so used to me that they forget that I am not Indian, I have had people try to speak to me in Hindi a number of times. The post says:
It is possible that a new convert to Hinduism will find himself/herself an object of curious onlookers in Hindu temples. But take heart, no Hindu will bar another Hindu from performing any religious rituals.
Sometimes when I am visiting a Mandir I have been looked at, but once they see that I a visiting for worship then they are quite happy. Continue reading
I have received two unpleasant posts from an “Indian Christian”. After responding to the first comment I decided not to post a response to the second comment for a while, for reasons I described in a post “Why I will not respond to the second ‘Christian’ post soon“. Anyway, I now feel ready to respond to the comment.
O.K., SO MR. CHRIS YOU SAID THAT I SHOWED THE KIND OF TOLERANCE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS WANT TO BRING IN INDIA.I WILL TELL U A FEW THINGS:-
1. I AM FAR FROM A EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN,BUT U TELL ME IN WHICH RELIGION OF THE WORLD DOES ONE GOD FIGHTS ANOTHER GOD FOR HIS WIFE? OR WHERE THE OTHER GOD HAS 16,000 GIRLFRIENDS (LORD KRISHNA),WOW!SO MUCH FUN, RIGHT MR. CHRIS?
I came across a thread in Orkut discussing Westerners converting to Hinduism. One of the posters said that there was a danger in taking pride in Westerners converting, because it confirmed a “colonial mindset”, and an opinion that a Westerner being interested somehow validated Hindu beliefs. I can see that pride for this reason is a bad thing, but I don’t think it has to be for this reason. Here is an edited reply that I left on the thread:
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.
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 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.