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January 2004

Hinduism Unveiled

DINA NANAVUTTY

Hindus have always prided themselves on believing that they are a very tolerant people in all respects, especially when it comes to religious tolerance. The reason for this lies in their conviction that all paths lead to the same divinity — call him God, Allah, Christ or a plethora of Hindu gods and goddesses. But how much of this is genuine tolerance or simply monumental indifference?

Hinduism as Intolerance

Hindus are the most inward looking race on the face of the earth. Although they have travelled and settled abroad in so many parts of the world they have shown not the slightest curiosity about how their hosts live and behave - their culture, civilisation, religious beliefs or social and political histories. This disinterested attitude is in marked contrast to the curiosity shown by Westerners towards people of other faiths and cultures living in the non-Western world. Even in this day and age youngsters come over to India travelling in very exhausting and difficult conditions to study our meditation techniques, work with our poor, our lepers, our orphans or simply travel all over the country for the heck of it. Something quite unthinkable as far as the average young Indian man or woman is concerned. If an Indian goes abroad it is either to study or mostly to settle, and it is almost always to settle in Christian countries since very few non-Christian countries will accept him.

We have only to scratch a Hindu to realise how skin-deep this ‘tolerance’ is in reality. The most revered Hindu and one touted by the Indian Catholic Church as being ‘the greatest Christian since Christ’, Mahatma Gandhi, openly expressed his aversion to Christianity in India 66 years before Hindu fundamentalism raised its ugly head as the ruling political party in India today. Writing in the Harijan issue of 13th March 1937, he stated:

"My fear is that although Christian friends nowadays do not say or admit it that Hindu religion is untrue, they must harbour in their breast that Hinduism is an error and that Christianity as they believe it, is the only true religion. So far as one can understand the present (Christian) effort it is to uproot Hinduism from her very foundation and replace it with another faith."

Again in Young India, March 1927, he wrote:

"The first distinction I would like to make... between your missionary work and mine is that while I am strengthening the faith of the people you (missionaries) are undermining it."

The famous and equally revered Hindu philosopher, Swami Vivekananda, who made such a deep impression when he spoke on Hinduism at the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, claimed that he had such a tremendous experience of Jesus Christ that he always wore a cross afterwards. Yet he was to remark in an interview with Prabudda Bharata in 1899: "Every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy more."

If this was the mentality of the ‘greatest Christian since Christ’ and one of Hinduism’s leading philosophers, is it any wonder that the average Hindu is now being brain-washed so easily into believing that ‘religious freedom’ should be interpreted to mean "only the right to practice the faith one is born into and not the right to preach or convert", according to K.R. Narayanaswamy.

In that case what difference will there be between a convert to Christianity living in India or in Pakistan or any other Muslim country? Will he also end up being stoned to death or crucified?

The same Hindu who is virulently against conversion, Balbir K. Punj, is quick to point out the disgust expressed by Pope John Paul II at the efforts made by evangelicals to convert Catholics to Protestantism. His Holiness angrily condemned such activity, referring to these evangelicals as ‘rapacious wolves preying upon my innocent sheep’, but Punj adds: "the concept of ‘stealing’ in the matters of faith is alien to Indian tradition." He forgets to explain the reason for this, however, which is that you have to be born a Hindu. You cannot become a convert to Hinduism.

Hinduism as Social Oppression

Let us now try and understand something of the nightmare lived by the "Dalits" and their families - lower caste Hindus, formerly referred to with damning accuracy as "untouchables" - for generation after generation.

Udit Raj, a convert to Buddhism, who has mobilised the educated Dalits to fight for economic and other privileges with enormous success, is convinced that conversion is the only political tool the lower castes have to fight for their rights. "Hinduism theoretically justifies discrimination," he believes, quite rightly, and which your fanatical Hindu always sweeps under the carpet. "Dalits are treated worse than animals, dogs, snakes," he insists. When Dalit leather workers were lynched by caste Hindus because the latter suspected them of killing cows (for which there is no forgiveness according to caste Hindus) in order to skin their hides, these brutal murders were applauded by the VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad - a fanatical Hindu organisation). Is it any wonder then, that around 90 men, women and children converted en masse to Buddhism, crying: "You value cows more than us; make us rake your latrines; never forget we are lower-caste even if we become President. You can keep your religion and your cows. We are off."

What is the reaction of the miniscule few lower castes who are educated and in good positions in society? Unfortunately it is no different. Dr. Rohidas Waghmare, a former shoeshine boy, caused a caste earthquake by becoming a cardiologist. "Now I wear a necktie," he remarked, "and when I go to Udgir, they treat me like a God, but I am still not allowed to enter the puja room. People think that once you get degrees and education the walls of untouchability vanish. No, they only become thicker."

Dr. Anand Teltumbde confirms this when he says: "In my field I have the highest qualifications but still remain a ‘scheduled caste’. The discrimination is endless - denial of promotion, supercession by juniors, unimportant postings. Even when the creamy layer struggle out of this poverty and discrimination and live in swank addresses, have foreign degrees, represent the country at the IMF and World Bank summits, who have married into upper castes and whose children study in elite schools and colleges in the USA, they still haven’t found unconditional acceptance."

So deeply imbued with caste prejudice is the Hindu that an Allahabad High Court Judge A.K. Srivastav, reportedly had his chamber washed with water from the sacred Ganges river, because it had been occupied by Bharati Prasad who came from a lower caste. Even servants, according to Dr. Narendra Jhadav, have refused to work for him because, "you are from that caste." Sometimes neighbours send sweets on festive occasions but refuse to accept a box of sweetmeats in return. It is only in the cities that caste prejudice breaks down to some extent. The Vice-Chancellor of Bombay University, Dr. B.L. Mungekar, who grew up in a slum, says: "In my village in Ratnagiri everyone knows my father was an agricultural labourer, but in the cities, unless I mention this fact, you wouldn’t know." But here again, discrimination still exists, only it is far more subtle and sophisticated and therefore more dangerous.

The Indian Christian community has much to learn from Islam when it comes to conversion. When Dalits have converted to Islam not only do they gain financially but they also experience very little prejudice when they marry. When 150 Dalit families embraced Islam in South India they managed to get excellent jobs in the Gulf countries while some even married into highbrow Muslim families and were accepted with open arms. Moreover, these converts were able to command respect and dignity from Hindus. Amir Ali, formerly Murugesan, now 45 years old, writes: "Caste Hindus stopped calling us by caste names. They had to call me Amirbhai (brother Amir). The wealth too came. I’ve been to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia three times, worked in the harbour there. All Muslims there ate from the same plate. I was no longer untouchable. Had I remained a Dalit, I’d have continued to drink tea from separate glasses kept for untouchables."

Hinduism as Political Oppression

Since it is impossible for a Hindu to escape from either the advantages or disadvantages of caste, this scourge has entered the political arena in a big way. It provides huge vote banks for political parties and it is here that the greatest danger to Indian democracy lies. In every election, voters elect their candidate according to his caste. Hindu fundamentalists are terrified that if the lower castes convert to Islam or Christianity, caste-based politics will be severely jolted. Hence the spreading of a tissue of lies against Christian missionaries that conversions are taking place en masse and very soon the Hindu population will be in a minority. However monstrous this may appear to anyone with a grain of commonsense, it has tremendous emotional appeal and hence the passing of draconian laws in more than one state prohibiting conversion by ‘force’ or ‘inducement’ (Read: prohibiting conversion).

Among the seven bills passed in the Gujarat Assembly, a state that is strongly pro-Hindu fundamentalist, one of them is highly contentious. The Freedom of Religion bill makes it compulsory for every person converting to another religion to inform the district magistrate, while the convert is asked to seek the government’s permission. "The provisions are such that the government can fix anyone whenever it wishes," says Fr. Cedric Prakash of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights. It proposes jail terms from one to four years and fines from Rs. 1000/- to Rs. 100,000 (one lakh) for contravention of its provisions. It is obviously made to target Christians and Muslims. Needless to say the Bill adopts double standards since no action is taken for those wishing to convert to Buddhism, Jainism or Sikhism. These religions are regarded as Hindu sects. Buddhists and Sikhs vehemently deny this but it is very convenient for the Hindu to stick to this debatable viewpoint.

Can one become a convert to Hinduism? Apparently not. S. Ashok Kumar, a district judge in Tamil Nadu who converted from Christianity back to Hinduism, states: "You can change your religion but never your caste. Even if you are an nth generation Christian or Muslim, you have to have a caste identity when you revert to Hinduism. I had to return as a scheduled caste." What is worse, ‘reverts’ are not accepted as ‘real Hindus’ and separate "Swastik Temples" are specially created for them. So you see, you are born a Hindu or you die one, but you cannot become one - that is impossible.

Yet however much the government tries to placate the lower castes by promising them various amenities such as reservations, their own temples, etc. they are never accepted. In July 2002, two Dalits in the South were forced to eat dry human faeces by Thevars and in September a Dalit was forced to drink urine by Gounders, presumably because they wanted to enter a temple reserved only for the upper castes. Each time the Dalits threaten to convert, government officials descend upon them and offer any number of amenities, "but respect within the Hindu fold eludes us", they lament.

Hinduism as Moral Degradation

Perhaps the most pitiable of all lives are those of Dalit female children dedicated when no more than crying babies to the Goddess Yellama temple in an Andhra Pradesh village. In a rare and truly terrifying documentary film "Joginis: Servants of God", screened at the first International Human Rights Film Festival in Geneva in February 2003, the Mumbai based journalist-cum-film-maker Sejal Shah exposed, under very difficult conditions, this practice of temple prostitution which continues to flourish, sucking helpless and impoverished Dalit women into its venal quagmire.

Once the baby girl is initiated she is declared a Jogini, a servant of God. There is a scene of a young girl who, as soon as she reaches puberty, goes through the final ceremony with the elderly village headman sitting in as her ‘husband’, after which the man leads her in for the first rights over her body. "Joginis cannot refuse to sleep with any man and neither can we get married. Once initiated we are bound for life" said a Jogini to Ms. Shah. Sadly, because Hinduism does not distinguish between the sacred and the profane the villagers have no sense of doing anything wrong. One of them had his wife sitting next to him when he was interviewed and said, quite simply in a straightforward manner. "When Joginis dance on the streets you can touch them anywhere you want to."

The only help for these wretches lies in education. Two Joginis had the courage to break away and launched an organisation for the welfare of their suffering sisters. But how far they will succeed in breaking the hold of this evil practice, which, although outlawed is still rampant due to the indifference of the Hindu high priests, is a large question mark.

Hinduism as Demonic Nihilism

In the face of all this, what has motivated the steep and ongoing rise of interest in Hinduism and other Eastern religions in the West today?

Never in its entire history has Hinduism had such a pronounced influence on the Christian West. This is because its great attraction in today’s day and age lies in its absence of any kind of dogma or rigid moral code; its total indifference to theological questions or debate; and its non-condemnation of individuals who live lives in complete violation of what we Christians would call the laws of God. In other words, they reject the teachings of the Church that before you can enter the gates of heaven, opened with such monumental suffering by Our Lord, you must live out your days with all their pains and pleasures according to the life prescribed for you on this earth and based on the teachings of the Church. The Hindu tells you there is no need for this – "the Kingdom of Heaven is not separate from you. You and God are one. WORSHIP YOURSELF." All you have to do is find a guru who will ‘open’ you up either by initiating you through his spiritual (read psychic) powers or through various techniques of yoga and meditation.

In other words, where Hinduism derives its greatest appeal and strength is in its contact with the psychic world and because fewer and fewer Westerners owe any allegiance to formal religion such as attending Church services; getting their children baptised; teaching them their catechism and ensuring they are confirmed when they reach adolescence; Church marriages; and all other prayers and rituals connected with Christianity like novenas and other pious devotions. As a result of this spiritual vacuum more and more Christians in the West prefer to become devotees of astrologers, palmists, gurus and various other clairvoyants.

To quote just one example of these New Age ‘mystics’: There is an astrologer in Bangolore whose clients include nearly 2,500 industrialists (300 from foreign countries) and 20,000 influential families across the globe. Born into a very poor family he rarely had enough to eat as a child. He is a fluent linguist speaking 13 languages including flawless English. He lives a very simple life, is married with two children and does not charge a fee from his clients. Of whatever he receives, voluntarily, he keeps only one-third of this money, giving one-third to the government in taxes and one-third to the Academy he had founded for the study of the Vedas, Agama and Shastras. Mr. Somayaji believes that astrology transcends religious and national barriers. "This is probably the reason why people of all faiths flock around me. I am received with the same love and respect as in Russia or the Middle East. I am a deeply religious person, but I keep my religion at
home," he concludes.

It is this psychic world that has a fatal attraction for the present generation both in the East and the West with the exception of the Muslim community. And while there is a growing belief that all organised religions lead to bloodshed, hatred and fanaticism, in France, paradoxically enough, books about religion are being published and sold in greater numbers than at any time in the past. Influential teachers like Regis Debray are urging the government to introduce courses about religions - in the plural, but not Christianity and not religious courses - in secondary schools, because the French now realise the virtues of religious faith, provided such virtues are not associated with any given denomination or sanctioned by scripture. But this is absurd because the virtues of religious faith exist because your scriptures and the clergy of your religious denomination command you to lead such virtuous lives. If you did not believe in your scriptures you would not lead such lives, which is precisely why our present-day, largely agnostic, world is so enamoured of Hinduism.

Here you are not asked to follow any moral code since, according to the historian Romila Thapar in her Early India: from the origins to AD 1300, "a fundamental sanity in Indian civilisation has been due to the absence of Satan." Never mind if in a report published 8 months earlier, Sisir Das, a sorcerer, sucked the blood of 207 goats sacrificed over four days at a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Kali in Bengal! Das reported to a newspaper that his father was directed by the goddess Kali to drink the blood of sacrificed animals. "But," he added: "the number of sacrifices then was 40 in four days. I made a record of sucking the blood of 207 goats this year. I don’t know what happens to me all these four days. I feel the goddess taking possession of my body." We must be grateful that she did not ask him to sacrifice 207 human beings and drink their blood. Kidnapping and sacrificing children to a goddess in order to conceive or for other favours, however, still occurs.

Those living in the Age of Aquarius are not concerned with all these demonic practices. For them what matters is to be free from the shackles of organised religion. ‘Carry on your sterile debates on theology, on ecumenism, on women priests, on hell, heaven, purgatory, how to live a virtuous life and what constitutes a sinful one and all that lot. We are simply not interested’, is the cry from the West. And indeed, once you accept the Hindu view of life and death then you believe, in the words of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, founder of the Isha Foundation which has a worldwide following, that "this world as you understand it today, as you see and experience it today, is a complete falsehood. It seems to be there but it is not really there. It just seems to be there. Everything, including yourself, just seems to be there. The whole struggle now is to see that it is just nonsense. The whole thing is just an illusion." Also referred to as Maya.

Hinduism as Subversion

To discover how deeply Hinduism has penetrated into American society we have only to realise there are more schools of Yoga in the USA than the whole of India. Most of them have acquired a distinctly American flavour, the way curry and rice has done when transplanted into Britain, or as with MacDonald’s hamburgers when they reach India and become largely vegetarian with dollops of masala. If only it was as innocent as this. But innocence is the last word one can apply.

In a review of the recent blockbuster sci-fi movie, "Matrix Reloaded", the Indian film critic Nikita Doval is in raptures over the way Hindu philosophy has pervaded the entire film. "The very premise on which the film is based - the illusory world versus the real world - recalls the concept of ‘Maya’ in Hinduism," gushes Doval. He goes on to quote the sociologist Ashish Nandy in support of these views: "The foundation on which The Matrix is based assumes that ours is a computer-coded world, hence it is an illusion. The Vedas state that whatever is happening all around is Maya, a dream that Lord Vishnu sees as he sleeps."

In the film, the central characters Neo, Morpheus and Trinity often leave the real world behind them and, by computer wizardry, enter The Matrix. But it is not their physical beings but their mental projections which fight all their battles. This is a purely Hindu concept. Again, like Sadhguru Vasudev, another guru, Sudharshanacharya Maharaj, reiterates the same doctrine, that "the individual soul and the universal divine being are one and the same, and the concept of a creator distinct from the creation is a cosmic illusion". According to T.K.V. Subramanian, Dean of Social Sciences in Delhi University: "In the Matrix knowledge is power - the power to make a choice. And this power helps good in its fight against evil - be it in the Mahabharata or the Matrix." But if everything and everybody, including man, is an illusion then good and evil are also illusions. - which is precisely the road we are being nudged along, very subtly, by the New Age.

Even the world of childhood has been infiltrated. Enid Blyton and her simple, childlike tales are now attacked on grounds of "racism" by Big Brother (and Bigger Sister) in favour of J.K. Rowling. The fact that children all over the world, irrespective of the colour of their skins or their nationality, identify with Enid Blighton’s children in her stories and have been captivated by them from one generation to the next, is ignored. Instead, Rowling’s Harry Potter, a distinctly unsavoury character, is held up as an icon - a boy deeply immersed in the occult. Again, we are asked to believe that good triumphs over evil. But how can it, when Harry Potter is himself infected with demonic powers?

Unfortunately, even among Catholic theologians today there is a school of thought which believes that hell is merely a metaphor, and some priests even go so far as to say that anybody who believes in hell as a place of eternal damnation needs to see a psychiatrist. According to the Barna Research Group, 75% of Catholics in the United States deny the personal existence of Satan, identifying him as merely a ‘symbol’ of evil.

Catholic Antidote

Thus the Age of Aquarius could just as easily be re-christened the Age of Satan. Never before has he appeared more radiantly as an angel of light. How compassionate we are today! We no longer condemn anybody’s lifestyle; homosexuality is merely another form of "sexual preference"; prostitutes are gaining respectability as "sex workers" and those who insist on their clients using condoms are applauded, almost deified; abortion is a must if the world’s population is not to run out of control, and poverty, hunger and the destruction of the earth’s resources to feed this population is not to be halted. And so it goes on and on. Yes, we do indeed live an age of illusion, but it is not the illusion Hindu gurus project. Quite the opposite.

A return to Catholicism is the only answer if this demonic juggernaut is to be stopped and the world saved from falling ever deeper and deeper into utter barbarism. May there always be a remnant, without illusions, to console our blessed Mother with prayer, supplication and penance, which alone can stem the tears of her many weeping statues and pictures around the world.


The author writes from Mumbai