Hindu Vivek Kendra
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Posted By Ashok V Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
Tue, 11 Feb 97 14:10:38 EST


Reproduced by VHP (UK)

The problem of religious conversion has been dogging humanity
throughout modem history. Islam and Christianity are the main
accused. Conversion has ceased to be a simple, holy, beneficial
act of bringing home spiritual knowledge to the ignorant and the
lost. The problem has assumed dimensions far beyond the scope the
original propagandists assigned for it. Whether the original
converters themselves were honest and properly informed is a
question which modern studies have answered in the negative.
Religious bigotry, narrow-mindedness and an unscientific approach
to problems of global dimensions have added to the complex and
pathetic fall-outs of the conversion process.

The question of environmental degradation has laid the blame
entirely on Western technology and its political tool -
Colonialism. The methods adopted by Christian and Muslim
proselytisers have alienated people not only from their religion
and spirituality but also from nature, soil, country, culture and

Once the spiritual goals of the founding fathers of religions are
forgotten, and the whole business becomes a game of numbers, it is
only a question of time before politicians,-media persons and
business ethos take over.

An ordinary man has more faith in his own experiences than in what
he hears from others. One's own experience is a reality, whereas
the experience of others is second-hand information. Under the
best of circumstances, this experience, out of love and compassion,
makes the proselytiser share his spiritual experiences with the
less blessed. But in reality it has never been so. The Christian
and Muslim converters never took any pains to study the religion,
spiritual and moral values and closeness to the nature of the
people converted.

These were invaders and not men of Spirit or God in any sense. For
them, search for power, money, self-aggrandisement and an unholy
enthusiasm to cut every human being to their own size and to bring
about a uniformly structured society were the motivations. The
desire for external uniformity, mistaken for unity, is the
contribution of Cartesian science. A structured approach to
understanding of the life-principle. This interpretation of science
based on mechanics and its philosophy did not stop with objective
science. They travelled far beyond its central theme. Darwin
proposed a theory of evolution, legitimising the law of the jungle
- survival of the fittest. Newtonian physics paved the way for a
model of a mechanically structured universe. Capitalism and its
antithesis, Marxism, completed the economic scene. The modern
medical system ignorant of the holistic approach on the personal
horizon. Industrialisation, colonisation and mechanisation
disrupted social life, broke families, personal relations, broke
human being into pieces - alcoholism, drug culture, divorce,
violence, fraud, corruption, neurosis, restlessness, conflicts and
wars completed the scene.

The European culture is fundamentally an extrovert, aggressive,
disruptive, conquering and outgoing culture. Such an assembly of
people will only formulate a world view which would negate the
'life-principle' and propose a material origin of the universe.
"Consciousness is a by-product of this mechanical evolution". Such
a world view required a God, a religion, a book and a social
engineering, that can be marketed and propagated by a system.

Europeans with their senses turned outward, searched for answers to
the problems of existence in the world outside.

Not for them is the ideal.

Paranchi khani vyatrunat swambhu!
Tasmat parang pasyati nanraratman
Kaschiddhira! pratyagatmanaikshat
Aavruttachakshu: amrutatvamichachan

The self-existent Lord destroyed the outgoing senses. Therefore,
one sees the outer things and not the inner self. A rare,
discriminating man desiring immortality, turns his eyes away and
sees the indwelling spirit. - (Katha-V-II,1,1).

The European explorers, blessed by the Papal Bulls, armed with
sophisticated weapons, a heart convinced of a world mission, set
out to conquer the world. They had with them two maps of the
world, one with Jerusalem as the centre of the world and the other
with Rome as the epicentre. The farther a land from Jerusalem or
Rome was situated the less civilised its people were held to be.
The Europeans held a weird and bizarre view of the people, not
blessed enough to have received the Europeans version of
Christianity. It is not a mere religious or spiritual mission. It
is an inseparable part of Europe's permanent psyche.

In an analysis of Europeans psyche at the time of Columbus, the
authors of The Blinded Eye - 500 years of Christopher Columbus,

"It is the myths that Columbus inherited which provided the real
charter that set historic events in motion, not merely in terms of
the geographic idea that there was a place out there to get to but
also in terms the people one was likely to encounter once one
arrived there. Accompanying Columbus was not merely a whole set of
icons but also a mental geography that included an anthropology of
barbarism. The latter had its origin not in the medieval ages in
Europe, but rather in the earlier Judaic tradition and the
civilisation of Creek and Rome to which Europeans became heir".

The myth and tradition received by Columbus as his European
heirloom were (1) Nature is a cursed adversary eternally hostile to
man's efforts at survival, (2) similarly, a hostile attitude was
mandated against other Cod's and the sacred notions of other
cultures; they were to be seen as adversaries to the true God and
destroyed. Intolerance and commands to destroy the sacred items of
others were incorporated in Judaic monotheism and was passed on to
Christianity as well, (3) the inheritance of the Greek culture
considered all non-Greeks as barbarians (babblers) to be vanquished
by an ever living Odysseus and (4) the traditions left behind by
the Romans as a result of their encounters with "savages" were less
flattering as far as "others" were considered.

So much so, poor Columbus, a symbol of European adventurism, was
less of an adventurer, and more a symbol of Europe's value system
and opinion of others. His mind was set as to how he should deal
with the people whom he would meet on the new lands. Then, new
people were to be converted to his point of view in all aspects of
life. In case the new found man fails to be converted, it would be
a religious, moral, political and civic duty of the invader to
exterminate the dissenter or to enslave him.

The authors of the line Blinded Eye, record:

"Frederic Turner observes that while the original message of
Christianity focused on the divinity that dwells within and that is
present in all creation, and of how one ought to live in accordance
with this, once this religion had been transformed from a sect into
an organised system, the emphasis shifted from the central message
to the historical figure of Jesus himself. Thus, Christ would
thenceforth, be presented as the son of God who intervened in
history purely to show up the world as the contemptible thing it
truly was as someone who has assumed flesh only to show that it was
possible to live beyond the body and to ruthlessly subordinate its
desires to the utterly different needs of the spirit. This
transformation is most obvious in the celebrated conversion of St.
Paul where the conversion is equated with a kind of on-going
self-slaughter. St Paul is referred to by historians as the
inventor of Christianity".

The fissure between Nature and religion was accepted. The urgency
of converting those living an "unnatural" life was realised. The
mechanical tools for reaching the people living outside the
periphery of civilisation were found. The blessings of the Papacy
for "civilising", converting or exterminating the "others" were

What would follow could be nothing except Columbus or Da Gama, Cook
or Magellan. Slaughtering millions in a bid to civilise the land,
and converting of the local people to manufacture "better human
beings" in the spiritual "factories" were all that the religious
institutions turned out to achieve.

"Did conversion stop at religious or spiritual level?".

"It involves changes in habit, dress, food, marriage customs,
family connections, often abode, language and political
affiliations as means of getting civilised". But conversion kept
the people as second class citizens until the process of
Europeansiation was completed.

Such a process of assembly-line-conversion has to be pretty simple.
Not for it the self-conversion or self-realisation, patience or
chance. It has to be "organised, planned, and centralised". The
evangelists had to be trained in large numbers. A central figure,
a single book, a mode of communication and a marketing machinery,
incentives, progress reports, performance evaluation,
advertisement, all have to be designed, built and sent out. The
religions best suited for these gigantic marketing operation were
Christianity and Islam. They served as the religious parallels, of
the expanding State through Christian colonialism and Muslim
conquest. The victorious political bosses themselves were in search
of some sort of sugar coating. They found perfect allies in the
clergy and the mulla.

The aggressive Europeans and the Muslims found the political
climate of the world conducive to their multidimensional approach.
The introvert Hindu, the unorganised African, the fissured Asian
polity, the earthbound Red Indian and the South Americans with a
tired civilisation provided vulnerable gun-fodder for the Muslim
and the Christian for a whole millennium. The Semitic destroyed,
massacred and mauled the weak in the entire globe in the name of
God and civilisation and the State commerce. The men of religion
were the miners and sappers of the State. The warrior, the
evangelist and the trader walked as the triumphant trio.
Exploitation of an unprecedented order followed. For a period of
one thousand years from Canada to Australia, from Germany to Cape
Town, a new ruling class reigned. Europe and West Asia really
became the epicentres of the world. The rulers enslaved the
"others" politically, swindled them in the economic and commercial
spheres, crushed the spirit of the people, drove two-thirds of
humanity to despair, poverty, starvation and broke their cultural
back-bones - all in the name of God, civilisation and Statecraft.

After an initial phase of direct and blatant enslavement of the
conquered people in North America and Africa, the indirect subtle,
invisible and nonetheless severe enslavement of the non-Christian
and non-Muslims began. "Conversion would keep them (the conquered)
as second class citizens. Christianity remained a European cultural
product whose evaluation and definition remained in the hands of
the master. In reality, the masters perennially deferred the
passing out of examinations. As the missionaries were constantly
complaining, the new Christians were often acquired by brute force,
at the point of the sword; improperly educated in their new faith
and its social mores; and there were never enough missionaries any
way to attend to the work of evangelisation, not least since the
priests who did arrive in the dominions were too busy undertaking
the commercial exploitation of the new territories to attend to the
harvesting of souls". The Portuguese were loathe to appoint
indigenous Christians to positions of search either in India or
Africa. (The Blinded Eye).

Ultimately, it is not Christ or Christianity, God or the book, "but
my version of it" and "I know what is good for your soul".

Compare this with Swami Vivekananda: "Each soul is potentially
divine. The goal is to manifest the divinity within by controlling
nature internal and external. This is the whole of religion.
Doctrines and dogmas, rituals and books, temples and forms are but
secondary details". Hindu religion teaches the individual how to
harness the innate, natural spiritual energy. The proselytising
religions shift the emphasis from the individual to the
institution, system, clergy and the book and ritualise all the
events of life from the cradle to the grave and enslave man.
Conversion was only needed to speed up the process of including the
new territory into the unitary framework of Europe and Arabia.

Patronised by the State, funded by the State and the rich, equipped
with the intellect of the educated section of the ruling class, the
process of conversion spread. Individuals were contacted. The poor
were fed, nursed. Education was subsidised. jobs were offered;
money changed hands. The juggernaut of the States' propaganda
machine moved. Free distribution of Bible copies ran into millions.
The East India Company paid scholars in the Oxbridged Universities
to carry our research on Vedas so that the Hindus could read the
translations and see "how evil and worthless their scriptures
were". Cynicism was at its worth. Trickery, deception and fraud on
the unsuspecting common people eroded the latters' simple faith.
The Gods, customs and traditions of the local faith were ridiculed.
Leaders of the community, opinion makers, were neutralised when
they could not be bribed or bought. The printing technology, new
to the Indian scene was used to produce mountains of copies of
extracts from the Bible. The priests paraded themselves as the
limbs of the ruling group. The illiterate, the backward and the
poor were the first to fall.

As a result, 300 millions of the people of India have been
converted to Islam and 45 millions to Christianity and the nation
was partitioned on communal lines.

Families were broken up, Temples were pulled down. Weaknesses,
poverty and ignorance were exploited all in the name of God.

In Arunachal Pradesh alone, about 10,000 people join the church
every year. In north-eastern India, conversions among the Tribals
continue. "During the last 30 years the Catholic population
increased ninefold to ninety thousand" brags an official church

Some of the most frequently cited reasons for religious conversions
are, poverty, ignorance and social discrimination. Other minor
reasons gleaned from the study and analysis of conversion are (1)
inducement by communal-minded politicians who urge criminals to
change religion to escape punishment, (2) personal problems such as
Hindu law against bigamy - want to marry a second time, change your
God!, (3) benefit-oriented conversion, a job, money, a bride or a
foreign jaunt, (4) protest against the atrocities committed against
a community, (5) desire for social respectability, (6) the
individual also reconverts when he finds that the benefits accruing
to him as a Hindu are no more available after conversion.

But, in every case, it has found that conversion has not solved any
of the problems. Poverty on such gigantic scale cannot be solved
by such a naive act as conversion. We find that even after
conversion, the pre-conversion caste differences continue to
survive. Every evil in the Hindu society outlives religious
conversion. The fishermen of the east coast of India continue to
live in the same economic and social hell in which St. Xavier would
have found them at the time of their conversion. Within the
converted group, marriage, dining and other kinds of interactions
continue to be on the caste lines. A nader Christian seeks a bride
from the nader Christian family, a Brahmin Catholic from a brahmin
Catholic and so on. Added to the existing sect differences within
Christian and within Islam, these make an extremely complex
picture, belying the whole thesis that conversion speeds up
properity, social justice and equality. Apart from relieving the
itch, that too temporarily, that something should be done to escape
poverty and social inequality, conversion contributes very little
to change the social scene.

The Constitution of India allows freedom of religious practice. It
also prohibits forced conversion, induced conversion and conversion
motivated by non-voluntary actions. But all this is only on paper.
In practice, the ignorance and gullibility of the poor, the
weakness of the law enforcing machinery and at places its total
absence have made these laws most ineffective.

It is clear that Western powers want social and Political strife to
continue unabated all over the world in order to justify their
arms, weapon, warfare budget. They are in a mood to project every
nation above a population of 100 millions as a potential enemy in
order to sell to their own people a higher arms budget and to treat
every nation as a potential business partner in order to capture
the market for their tinsel sales. This dichotomy calls for some
sort of theorisation, window-dressing and sales talk. The famous
Huntingdon document, delineating half a dozen cultural groups of
the world as the ultimate actors of the world's political stage,
has placed religious conversion in a new perspective. Well
organised, religious conversion can be a potential bomb to explode
cultural values, disturb political affiliations and torpedo
national loyalties. A few major events of religious conversations,
strategically spaced, can work wonders! If 300 million Muslim
converts can be created in a time-span of 1,000 years, if half a
million Englishmen can rule over 300 million Indians for 200 years,
the fragile freedom and political independence of Indians and
similar cultural groups all over the world can certainly be toyed

That is the reason why saints like Swami Vivekananda has condemned
religious conversion and have declared it a fraud on humanity. For
Swami Vivekananda, the preservation of the nation and its culture
are of primary importance. He felt, if India would die culturally,
all that is good and spiritual, in the world will die too. After
hearing him, the Americans felt that it is futile to send religious
preachers to his learned nation (India that produced Swami
Vivekananda). He came down heavily upon the conversion process and
criticised both the Hindus who allowed and those who perpetrated
it, "When a man gets converted, not only does your number go down,
the enemy number increases too". he warns us.

Swami Vivekananda called for great compassion and a sense of
justice in the nation's treatment of its poor and the fallen and
the down-trodden. Untouchability leads to religious conversations,
he felt. In the ideal of Vedanta, with the Divine living in the
heart of each one of us, distinction and privileges, can not exist,
he pointed out. He saw the inevitability of the power of the
society and the State moving towards the working class. He saw the
danger of the masses being enthroned before getting the proper
cultural training. He felt, therefore, the wonderful truths
contained in our Upanishads, Puranas and religious books should be
brought out and scattered broadcast among the masses.

Mahatma Gandhi felt that a Hindu wishing to benefit from the
teachings of Jesus or Mohammed can do so without renouncing his
Hindu identity. "It is impossible for me to reconcile myself to
the idea of conversion after the style that goes on in India and
elsewhere today. It is an error which is perhaps the greatest
impediment to the world's progress towards peace". In a direct
reference, he said, " My trouble is that the missionary friends do
not bring to their work a purely humanitarian spirit. Their object
is to add more numbers to their fold". "They dangle earthly
'paradises in front of weak Harijans and make promises to them
which they can never keep". He repudiated Maulana Muhammed Ali's
position, " A believing Mussalman, however bad his life, is better
than good Hindu". He was afraid, "This proselytisation will mean
no peace in the world". "Conversion are harmful to India. If I
had power and could legislate I should certainly stop all
proselytising". Finally, he says, "If a person through fear,
compulsion, starvation, or for material gain or consideration goes
over to another faith, it is a misnomer to call it conversion".
"Most cases of mass conversions, of which we have heard so much
during the past two years, have been to my mind false coin. Real
conversion springs from the heart and at the prompting of God, not
of a stranger. I would, therefore, unhesitatingly readmit to the
Hindu fold all such repentance without ado, certainly without any
Shuddhi (ceremony for reconversion). To him, reconversion was
rooted in Swadeshi and the Gita. Conversion is unwarranted by
religious scriptures and it violates the Swadeshi spirit.
A prayerful study of the life and message of Sri Ramakrishna
reveals (1) a man should devote all his attention to his own
religion first and master all its philosophy and all its
techniques, (2) then he is eligible to study and practise all the
other religions of the world and (3) there is no necessity to give
up one's own religion in order to respect other religions.

As a ultimate truth is one, and paths many, conscious rejection of
one path in preference to others will be illogical and not

Vinoba's attitude was: "I understand my mother-tongue Marathi
grammar thoroughly. This helps me to understand all the other
languages". He goes beyond linguistics and applies this principle
to his religion also. Understand your religion perfectly. You
will be able to become a devotee of all the religions of the world.

Swami Vivekananda feels that the unique Hindu concept of Ishta
invests a devotee with a capacity to combine theology with
spiritual philosophy. An Advaitin can worship Devi, Narayana,
Shiva, Kartikeya, Ganesh or Surya as his Ishta. When his philosophy
permits him to accept 33 crores of Devas the addition of one or
more divine personalities makes no difference to his spiritual

Swami Dayananda Saraswati and the Arya Samaji took a serious view
of the conversion of Hindus to Islam or Christianity. The
spiritual starvation of these converts moved Dayananda's heart and
he designed the process of reconversion, "Shuddhi". Though
Gandhiji would find sincere repentance as sufficient qualification
for a convert to be readmitted to the Hindu fold, Dayananda earlier
recognised the Hindu's love of symbolism and the beauty of rituals
and felt the need for a concrete and visible expression of change
of heart. Hence, the simple yet touching ritual of "Shuddhi".

Today, conversion has turned to be a bizarre and ridiculous
commercial activity. Heads are counted and hearts are neglected.
Wild promises are made regarding the economic prosperity of
convertees. On the one hand, courts, sociologists and the
"beneficiaries" openly admit that conversion has not brought about
the expected changes and that social inequalities, victimisation,
injustice and vulnerability continue to darken the horizon of the
weak that constitutional safeguards and privileges accorded to
people within the Hindu fold should be continued to be granted to
Christian convertees. On the other hand, conversions continue to
thrive as commercial venture in the name of guaranteeing social
equality and justice.

The world view on religion and spirituality are fast changing.
Science and scientific thinking have posed challenges to many
concepts of organised religion. Theology is being pushed to take
the back seat. Vedanta in its advaitic form is gaining more and
more ground among scientists. And as Swami Vivekananda rightly
said, Vedanta is taking its place in the society as the future
religion. The potential divinity of each soul, one God with many
names and forms, the whole creation being pervaded by one Conscious
Being are the concepts of Vedanta which are standing the and
analytical thinking in the world today.

The large-scale violence in the Muslim world and the environmental
degradation at global level caused by Western have forced people to
ask fundamental questions about the moving spirits behind those

Environmentalists call for a totally new culture with respect for
nature and all living beings. Vedanta based on the universality of
consciousness alone can provide the theoretical background needed
for such a momentous change of heart.

Fanaticism based on revealed and exclusive wisdom is to die.
Thousands of years of conversion, domination, imperialism and
over-organisation of religion have to give place to a new ideology
based on respect for all living things and all human beings.

The papal announcement that the beginning of the third millennia,
has to come about with Christian change of heart and approach is
not one day early. The call for respect for all religious thought
may turn out to be the last cry of SOS. The suggestion that
Christians should ask for forgiveness from humanity for two
thousand years of acts of commissions and failures should make all
the Christian world to sit up and think. In the new context what
is the justification for religious conversion? Conversion have to
stop. The Vatican paper would call for that only. But will that
happen? And with what speed? Even in the well-organised Christian
organisation, such new thinking to penetrate from the top to the
ground level is going to take some time. At the lowest level, much
vested interests and prestige situation have developed. Money and
politics have gained ground. Therefore, the Papal call for respect
for all religions will suffer in translation into action. Let us
pray for its speedy implementation.

In the years that followed India's Independence, the numerical
instances of conversion have dropped. But a new kind of colonialism
and conversion have continued to exist and colour all Western
judgements on India. Mentalities don't change. Modalities do.

Coca Cola and jeans culture have taken the place of the cross and
the crescent. Multinationals, that of the East India Company. If
one can see behind the facade of forms, the threat continues to
lurk - prejudices die hard.

Here is an instance. The census commissioners of the British
Kingdom wanted to enumerate the tribals of Madhya Pradesh as
"animists" and not Hindus in the earlier stages of census operation
1871~1891. But such a distinction was not possible on the field
and no one could draw a line as to where "animism" ended and
"Hinduism" started. Ultimately the census commissioners reconciled
to the Tribes being classified as Hindus in the census reports.

But the earlier notings in the files survived changes and a British
anthropologist working for the Narmada Project for the World Bank
marked the tribals of Madhya Pradesh as "animists". A proverbial
cat is supposed to have nine lives. The colonial prejudice has

Hinduism with its universal equality, all-inclusiveness and a
living culture to support the principle of Vedanta has a great role
to play in bringing happiness and peace to the miserable world.

Advaita fully understood, will not destroy religions. It will only
make than more relevant for their adherents. Religions may die on
their own and pass on as parts of history, because man changes,
values change, human necessities chance. But all the religions of
the world will remain preserved in this Holy Land of ours,
irrespective of their contemporary relevance, because of their past
services to humanity.

Vedanta shall make Christianity, Islam and Socialism more relevant
and broad based and help them to live on providing them with a more
rational basis.

In the process, India and its society also have to change.
Superstition, untouchability and caste difference have to make way
for advaitic equality and respect for all men. Great principles of
Vedanta have to be brought down, simplified and reduced to
practical application and use in day to day life.

If all Indians can learn this message, we can learn a lesson even
from the passing phase of such traumatic events as religious

Vedic Rishis, Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda have not come
on this land to destroy any religion. They have come to ennoble
them all.

"When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the
missionaries had the Bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes
closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the
-Jomo Kenyatta.
Absurdities in the name of Religion - an example.

In Madhya Pradesh a missionary reached a tribal village and found
the gullible tribes worshipping Krishna. He made a statue of Jesus
in wood and a statue of Krishna in stone. "Let us subject these
Gods to watery tests. Let us see who swims and who sinks". He
placed both the statues in a pool of water and showed that Jesus
was floating and Krishna sank. The missionary said: "See, Krishna,
who could not save himself, cannot save you either" and baptised
the tribals. A Hindu wag learnt of the story. He reached the
village. "Now we shall subject both Gods to the test of fire"
saying so, he set both of them to fire and "proved" that Krishna is
greater than Jesus. "Absurd actions beget absurd reactions and
make everybody a fool"

Hari Om

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