Anita’s argument is supposedly with a young Christian woman sitting next to her flight and was reading the Holy Bible. Anita told her why Anita is a Hindu and her argument is in form of answers to that lady’s questions and reactions. I do not know why and how that lady answered the way in she did. In this response, I am assuming that I am in that young Christian woman's place and replying to Anita. I know that the following discussion will evoke more genuine questions . But I have restricted myself to her set of argument. I will love to answer them writes Dr. Arun Gadre, a renowned Marathi Novelist.
Anita: I was surprised to see the young girl reading a Bible unusual of young Americans. After some time she smiled and we had few acquaintances talk. I told her that I am from India.
Arun: I would have told Anita that I too am from India ! And yes, I read Bible.
Anita: 'No!' I replied, 'I am neither Christian nor Muslim'. She looked at me as if she was seeing a caged animal. She could not understand what I was talking about. Apparently she appeared shocked to listen to that.
Arun: I too am not a Christian or Muslim, I am Hindu by culture as she is. I suppose that I might use the same phrase now – Anita looked at me as if – etc, but I will not because reactions do not matter for pure theoretical discussion!
Anita: A common man in Europe or US knows about Christianity and Islam, as they are the leading religions of the world today. But a Hindu, what? I explained to her – I am born to a Hindu father and Hindu mother. Therefore, I am a Hindu by birth.
Arun: I too am so, but I believe that by birth religion is a FORCED CONVERSION that one can never escape. But as one grows one must shop around with INTELLECT AND EMOTIONS, to select worldview (not organized form of it that is Religion)
Anita: 'Who is your prophet?' she asked. 'We don't have a prophet,' I replied. What's your Holy Book?' 'We don't have a single Holy Book, but we have hundreds and thousands of philosophical and sacred scriptures,' I replied.
Arun: I agree with you. Biblical view is that before Christ, God there were many people in all cultures to tell them that they are sinning and they should turn away from sin to God. Hindu society too got many such people from God and hence yes, what Anita is saying is quite true indeed.
Anita: That young woman whom I met in the plane asked 'Oh, come on at least tell me who is your God?' 'What do you mean by that?' 'Like we have Jesus and Muslims have Allah – don't you have a God?' I thought for a moment. Muslims and Christians believe one God (Male God) who created the world and takes an interest in the humans who inhabit it.
Her mind is conditioned with that kind of belief. According to her (or anybody who doesn't know about Hinduism), a religion needs to have one Prophet, one Holy book and one God. The mind is so conditioned and rigidly narrowed down to such a notion that anything else is not acceptable. I understood her perception and concept about faith. You can't compare Hinduism with any of the present leading religions where you have to believe in one concept of god.
I tried to explain to her: 'You can believe in one god and he can be a Hindu. You may believe in multiple deities and still you can be a Hindu. What's more – you may not believe in god at all, still you can be a Hindu. An atheist can also be a Hindu.'
Arun: Anita is both right and wrong. Whatever she said until this point is true. But she has forgotten to add what the majority believes. Atheist Hindu are rare. We should consider them as Atheist and not as Hindus for this discussion. Atheist often discuss as atheist and not so regularly as Hindus.
What a Hindu believes fundamentally is – and what Anita has forgotten to mention is – (if she is an atheist and does not have the following worldview, then she is not a Hindu in worldview)
1. Eternal time and the cyclical nature of existence of the soul
2. No personal God (Male/female) outside the present world/universe out of the time/space boundaries as there are none. God exists within the matter of this time/space eternal existence. It is Param –atma dwelling in matter/energy and living beings that includes Human beings.
4. Karma Siddhant making one take multiple births to pay back the sins one commits.
5. Moksha is ultimate aim of any human. Moksha is the integration of an individual soul with that of Param – atma.
6. Various ways to attain the Moksha are – Bhakti Marg, Dnyan Marg, Tantrik Marg, Purana Marg, and so on. Since the ways to attain Moksha are innumerable, the methods/Gods are innumerable and whatever suitable for that person is his Dharma.
All sub sects of Hindu worldviews (Buddha, Jain, Sikh) adhere to these principles, but with differences. Buddha says that there is not even Param – atma or GOD. It believes in all other points. Sikhs have their Granth Saheba.
This worldview is in stark contrast with Judo-Christian worldviews as Anita rightly points out.
Anita; This sounded very crazy to her. She couldn't imagine a religion so unorganized, still surviving for thousands of years, even after onslaught from foreign forces.
Arun: I have only one comment. Is the survival for thousands of years even after onslaught from foreign forces is a basis of selection of any world view? At least for me it is not. I believe that what Christ says in Bible is prime requirement to select any worldview, he advises two basic tenets to select any world view including His–
1. Use your intellect and emotions,
2. Count your cost.
Anita: 'I don't understand but it seems very interesting. Are you religious?'
What can I tell to this American girl? I said: 'I do not go to temple regularly. I do not make any regular rituals. I have learned some of the rituals in my younger days. I still enjoy doing it sometimes.
Arun: 'I am too not religious. I do not go to Church building ANY TIME. I do not make any regular rituals any time. I have even not learned some of the rituals in my younger days because as I said earlier whatever we learn/ labeled at birth and in childhood is FORCED CONVERSION and needs rethinking. Since my father is an atheist I was also an atheist and hence did not learn any rituals even in childhood! That’s all.
Anita: 'Enjoy? Are you not afraid of God?' she asked
me. 'God is a friend. No- I am not afraid of God. Nobody has made any compulsions on me to perform these rituals regularly.
Arun: As I was atheist naturally I was not afraid of God. Bible says – wisdom begins when one is afraid of TRUE GOD. Looking back to my sins (sin is not only acts of womanizing, corruption, murder as far as how Christ defines it, it is not what we indulge in but what we think in our mind. And I am sinner in that sense on all counts!) And when I accept that God is Holy, personal God who by nature can not tolerate any sin I am afraid of God. His judgment is coming and my existence has an eternal element in it beyond the nature bound by present time/space frame.
What makes me free, fearless and close to God is what Christ has done on the cross by offering Himself for my sins.
Anita: She thought for a while and then asked: 'Have you ever thought of converting to any other religion?' 'Why should I? Even if I challenge some of the rituals and faith in Hinduism, nobody can convert me from Hinduism. Because, being a Hindu allows me to think independently and objectively, without conditioning. I remain as a Hindu never by force, but choice.' I told her that Hinduism is not a religion, but a set of beliefs and practices. It is not a religion like Christianity or Islam because it is not founded by any one person or does not have an organized controlling body like the Church or the Order, I added. There is no institution or authority.
Arun: I think I have answered many points raised here already. I too like Anita have a strong dislike for authority, structured religions like Roman Catholics, Protestants who baptize at birth or any organized form, but I walk with Christ because Bible exactly says that! My questions to Anita will be —
Has Anita realized that there is always a measuring tape, (For me it’s now Bible) covert or overt with which every human being measures every thing whether he is a tribal or a Hindu or an atheist. The point she is emphasizing is self explanatory in that sense. Even if some one sincerely believes that all worldviews are same, it is ULTIMATE TRUTH (a measuring tape) for himself or herself, it is non-negotiable for her/him.
Secondly I want to believe that there is one truth and not many because if I believe not so, I loose my ability to resist evil.
For example what is Anita’s measuring tape by which she opposes any of the Hindu rituals? For example, Pandita Ramabai who was a Pandita after having mastered Hindu Vedas (it was Brahma Vrinda of Calcutta which had given this title to her before she accepted Christ), declared that as she examined Vedas she found out that there is NO MOKSHATO WOAMAN AND SHOODRA hence she is accepting Christ. I wonder what would be Anita’s reply as she is a woman as against me who is by birth Brahmin male, the most eligible for Moksha!
Anita: 'So, you don't believe in God?' she wanted everything in black and white. 'I didn't say that. I do not discard the divine reality. Our scripture, or Sruthis or Smrithis – Vedas and Upanishads or the Gita – say God might be there or he might not be there. But we pray to that supreme abstract authority (Para Brahma) that is the creator of this universe.'
Arun: Anita is rightly pointing to Hindu worldview but she is telling a part of it. My questions will be –
Does she believe all Vedas as they are? For example, in Atharva Veda there are rituals and Mantra for making one’s neighbor’s wife attracted to one self.
Why doe she restrict to Vedas and Gita? Why omit Purana? Any measuring tape in this selection? I suspect that she has. The one that she has imbibed with modern education which has its origin to schools started for girls in India by persons walking with Christ like missionary William Carey in 1800 or humanists Non-Hindu believer persons like Sawitri Bai Phule. I think she shall ask herself again about her measuring tape and its origin.
Anita: 'Why can't you believe in one personal God?' 'We have a concept – abstract – not a personal god. The concept or notion of a personal God, hiding behind the clouds of secrecy, telling us irrational stories through few men whom he sends as messengers, demanding us to worship him or punish us, does not make sense. I don't think that God is as silly as an autocratic emperor who wants others to respect him or fear him.' I told Her that such notions are just fancies of less educated human imagination and fallacies, adding that generally ethnic religious practitioners in
Hinduism believe in personal gods. The entry level Hinduism has over-whelming superstitions too. The philosophical side of Hinduism negates all superstitions.
Arun: Again here I think Anita is selective. She is forgetting Vishshist Adwait of Madhavacharya in Hindu worldview which assumes personal God concept. Shankaracharya too allows Bhakti Marg. Sagun verses Nrgun Vad is quite common and obvious even in Hindu world view. While generalizing Hindu world view in her limited spectrum she is actually making it too narrow!
Seeking for Personal God is hunger of human being. The thousands of devotee Hindus who go walking all the way to Pandharpur seek personal God in form of Vithoba and not an abstract energy.
In Vedas there is a beautiful search of a personal God. And there are some Hindu Pundits who have accepted Christ because they felt that this hunger from Vedas is fulfilled in Christ!
Anita: 'Good that you agree God might exist. You told that you pray. What is your
prayer then?' 'Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,' 'Funny,' she laughed, 'What does it mean?' 'May all the beings in all the worlds be happy. Om Peace, Peace, Peace.'
Arun: I never like personally to evoke this type of argument or win argument by putting immature argument from one side against mature argument from opposite side but well, as Anita has evoked it let me finish. There is this famous verse in Bruhad Aaranyak Upanishad 1.3.28.
‘Asto ma satyam gamay
Tamaso ma Jyotir gamay
Mryutto ma Amrutam Gamay’ In Bible Christ says
I am the Truth
I am the Light
I am the eternal ever lasting life. (Verses can be given)
Now what Anita has to say? Anita: ‘Hmm …very interesting. I want to learn more about this religio
n. It is so democratic, broad-minded and free' she exclaimed. 'The fact is Hinduism is a religion of the individual, for the individual and by the individual with its roots in the Vedas and the Bhagavad-Gita. It is all about an individual approaching a personal God in an individual way according to his temperament and inner evolution – it is as simple as that.'
Arun: Ok. According to my temperament and my own inner innovation I am convinced that as per the law of Karma is concerned it is justified that
The one who has sinned in past life has to pay in this life and hence s/he has to take rebirth as a woman or a shoodra (Like Anita) in this life. Obviously there is no possibility of Moksha to them in this life. In this life they will serve those all who have taken birth as males and Brahmins so that in next life they will become themselves Male Brahmin like me so that the door opens for Moksha. And hey! What’s the hurry? There are so many chances again. You can’t grumble. You cant cry foul. I am the rular and I decide it for you. Believe me I am thinking of best interest of your soul. That is my my temperament and my own inner innovation and that is my truth as it was Mine kamph for Hitler. How would Anita now respond?
Anita: 'How does anybody convert to Hinduism?'
'Nobody can convert you to Hinduism, because it is not a religion, but a set of beliefs and practices. Everything is acceptable in Hinduism because there is no single authority or organization either to accept it or to reject it or to oppose it on behalf of Hinduism.'
I told her – if you look for meaning in life, don't look for it in religions; don't go from one cult to another or from one guru to the next. For a real seeker, I told her, the Bible itself gives guidelines when it says ' Kingdom of God is within you.' I reminded her of Christ's teaching about the love that we have for each other. That is where you can find the meaning of life. Loving each and every creation of the God is absolute and real. 'Isavasyam idam sarvam' Isam (the God) is present (inhabits) here everywhere – nothing exists separate from the God, because God is present everywhere. Respect every living being and non-living things as God. That's what Hinduism teaches you. Hinduism is referred to as Sanathana Dharma, the eternal faith. It is based on the practice of Dharma, the code of life. The most important aspect of Hinduism is being truthful to oneself. Hinduism has no monopoly on ideas.-It is open to all. Hindus believe in one God (not a personal one) expressed in different forms. For them, God is timeless and formless entity.
Ancestors of today's Hindus believe in eternal truths and cosmic laws and these truths are opened to anyone who seeks them. But there is a section of Hindus who are either superstitious or turned fanatic to make this an organized religion like others. The British coin the word 'Hindu' and considered it as a religion.
Arun: Humm. I am in many points with Anita. My observations are –
Bible and Christ no doubt says many things that appeal every one. But let me be honest here. I have not accepted Christ or rather no one shall accept him because he is a great teacher. There are many like Buddha who are equally so. What Bible says in general about morality is also not unique. God has given general revelation in form of Human conscience (as against Specific revelation is Bible) No. These are not the reasons for which Christ is accepted. On the contrary as C.S. Lewis has mentioned, after reading Bible one has to take a stand. Either Christ is a son of God as he claims or a plain Megalomaniac telling you so. One can’t selectively use him.
Why I have opted to walk with him is because he offers not a release or magical escape from the satanic evil world but offers me his Holy Spirit so that I can fight evil. Evil includes primarily my own temptations and secondarily the outer ones. Bible clearly and pointedly says that one is sinner not because s/he commits sins but as one is by birth sinner s/he sins. Mahakavi Vyas at the end of Mahabharat says – even after having told the truth in Mahabharata no one listens. Every one turns to sin! Paul says in Bible – I do not do what I ought to, but I always do what I ought not to.
I examined myself and found myself guilty on this definition, and have accepted Christ as an answer.
Philosophically and scientifically I can debate but can not win. The point is addressed mostly by faith. Assumption that there is – No personal God or there is Personal God, both are faiths. I may point out that there is an inherent need of human being to relate to personal God.
Only point I want to stress here is – I was atheist because I believed that as a person with scientific orientation I cant believe a concept like GOD for which science has no basis. Now the facts are exactly opposite. If one is of scientific orientation AND OPEN, one has to accept Personal Creator GOD. If interested one can visit the web site from Prof Schaefer for his lecture – Stephen Hawking, Big Bang and GOD. http://www.leaderu.com/real/ri9404/bigbang.html
Prof Henry Schaefer is a Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at the University of California at Berkeley, the sixth most highly cited chemist in the world out of a total of 628,000 chemists. He is nominated for Chemistry Nobel Prize for five times, His research involves the use of state-of-the-art computational hardware and theoretical methods to solve important problems in molecular quantum mechanics.
Anita: I said: 'Religions have become an MLM (multi-level- marketing) industry that
has been trying to expand the market share by conversion. The biggest business in today's world is Spirituality. Hinduism is no exception' I am a Hindu primarily because it professes Non-violence – 'Ahimsa Paramo Dharma' – Non violence is the highest duty. I am a Hindu because it doesn't condition my mind with any faith system. A man/ woman who change 's his/her birth religion to another religion is a
fake and does not value his/her morals, culture and values in life. Hinduism
was the first religion originated. Be proud of your religion and be proud of
who you are. Om Namo Shiva…..
Arun: Yes I agree that religions including Christianity have become MLM. Regarding Anita’s allegation about the person who changes his/her birth religion is a fake — What can me say? I can only restate my earlier argument that BY BIRTH RELIGION IS A FORCED CONVERSION. (In all religions.) All religions are organized political entity including Christian religion. In that sense I am in agreement with Anita.
But if she is objecting to my selection of a world view after studying all available today, as a fake, well, I disagree.
Sakshi Note: We have seen the same article by Anita appearing in http://www.ethicalsocietywestchester.org/pdf/october08.pdf with a different name. However, the focus of this response is on the argument rather than the person.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here are personal.