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Do Hindus go to heaven when they die?

Author: Kanchan Gupta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: January 11, 2015
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/coffee-break/do-hindus-go-to-heaven-when-they-die.html

The answer depends on whether the person asking the question and the person answering it are ‘tolerant’ and feel the ‘need to understand’. Such are the absurdities of Left-liberalism!

 Think fests run the risk of turning into endless boring sessions of highfalutin talk by speakers and participants and pretentious chatter over coffee during breaks. It is the odd session that enlivens proceedings as speakers and participants kick up a row along with dust and heat.

 So it was at the first India Ideas Conclave in Goa, organised by India Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Delhi. Just as the day’s proceedings were turning into a drone attack and listless participants were beginning to doze off, there were fireworks at the session on ‘Religion and Terrorism’.

 Perhaps ‘fireworks’ is not an apt term of description; it was flame-baiting at its best by the speakers and the inflamed response from the audience was matching in passion and heat.

 The reason I recall this session is because of the preachy lecture by one of the speakers, a Norwegian bishop, who held forth on the virtues of ‘tolerance’ and the need to be ‘tolerant’ towards the ‘other’. He read out verse and chapter from various declarations and charters to buttress his point.

 After he had spoken, I asked him what virtue was there in being tolerant about that which is intolerable and why must I, as an individual, be expected to tolerate the intolerant. I gave two examples.

 For instance, if I find the denial of rights and dignity to Muslim women who must submit themselves to the iniquitous sharia’h intolerable, why must I be expected to tolerate that? Or, if those who demand tolerance from me are intolerant towards their own and others, as many Muslims and definitely the Islamists are, why should I be tolerant of that intolerance?

 The Bishop was probably irritated that the laity should dare question him, but he hid his irritation behind admirable equanimity. He quoted stuff from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which is followed more in the breach than in the practice by member-states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation whose Governments have rarely hesitated to show even the remotest concern for the rights of those whom they persecute with impunity), indulged in some more mumbo-jumbo and then sternly informed me that I was “morally, legally and politically obliged to be tolerant”.

 We shall return to this presumed moral, legal and political obligation to tolerate the intolerable and be tolerant towards the intolerant in a while. Let me digress from this issue to faithfully report the subsequent question, posed by a friend, and the Bishop’s response.

 The Bishop was asked, “Do Hindus go to heaven when they die?” He waffled and mumbled and then said he would not want to answer that question. Why? He wouldn’t give any reason. “I do not wish to give an answer,” is all he would say.

 As a bishop of the Church, it is impossible he does not believe in the existence of heaven and hell. So the reason for his refusal to answer the question could not have been linked to his lack of belief in there being a place for the virtuous and the sinners in their afterlife.

 As a believer and that too a bishop does he then believe that there is no place in heaven for non-believers? And he did not want to say so, or say that Hindus go to hell when they die because that’s what awaits heathens, given the fact that he was addressing a Hindu audience?

 We will never know for sure. But what we do know is that the Bishop refused to answer a simple question: “Do Hindus go to heaven when they die?” So much for a preacher’s preachy advice to others to be good and nice and politically correct! Which takes me back to the issue of tolerance.

 Given the Bishop’s response, or shall we say non-response, are we to believe that this whole tolerance thing is no more than an act that is put on for the benefit of being seen as someone who is politically correct and hence a Left-liberal? If so, then this is no more than trickery, meant to fool others and, more importantly, yourself.

 Linked to this hocus-pocus mantra of ‘tolerance’ is the bunk about the ‘need to understand’. We ‘need to understand’ why a suicide bomber pulls the trigger in a crowded place. We ‘need to understand’ why terrorists slaughter little children, killing them without the slightest remorse as they did in Beslan and Peshawar.

 We ‘need to understand’ why trains are bombed, as they were in Madrid and Mumbai via London. We ‘need to understand’ why hijacked planes are turned into deadly missiles. We ‘need to understand’ why Islamists want to see Israel wiped off the map of the world.

 We ‘need to understand’ why children are used as human bombs and women made to hide themselves in a tent like costume which tells us how black and grim and joyless is the world of Islamists. We ‘need to understand’ why women are kicked out of their marital homes. We ‘need to understand’ why little girls are forced into marriage with old men looking for young flesh.

 We ‘need to understand’ why the Islamic State beheads those who do not submit themselves to its ruthless barbarity. We ‘need to understand’ why young girls and women are auctioned in slave markets. We ‘need to understand’ why entire towns are razed to the ground and its inhabitants massacred.

 Like the meme of ‘tolerance’, the meme of the ‘need to understand’ would have been laughable had it not been steeped in sinister consequences unless accepted and embraced even when your conscience revolts against everything that this ‘understanding’ stands for.

 So, as learned commentators who wear their liberalism on their sleeves and others who make a fetish of their Left-liberal posturing have been prompt in instructing us the uncouth unwashed masses, there is a ‘need to understand’ why the Islamic terrorists who killed Charlie Hebdo’s editor and his colleagues at their office in Paris did what they did.

 One could argue that the call for such understanding should be welcomed because any sincere effort to understand the vile crimes of terrorists will lead us to the causative factors that are rooted in their religion, or the manner in which that religion is interpreted, though pious Muslims are prompt to point out whenever this cockamamie distinction is mentioned that there is no moderate and extreme Islam, there is just Islam.

 But the ‘need to understand’ is not about honest inquiry nor is it about uncovering the truth that lies hidden behind the cloak of faith. It is about glossing over the truth and ignoring discomfiting facts. In fact, there is nothing noble about being ‘tolerant’ and the ‘need to understand’; these are clever words that used to hide a shameful human weakness called cowardice.

(The writer is a current affairs analyst based in NCR)
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