Tag Archives: Conversion

Swami Vivekananda on De-Conversion

ON THE BOUNDS OF HINDUISM

(Prabuddha Bharata, April, 1899)

Having been directed by the Editor, writes our representative, to interview Swami Vivekananda on the question of converts to Hinduism, I found an opportunity one evening on the roof of a Ganga houseboat. It was after nightfall, and we had stopped at the embankment of the Ramakrishna Math, and there the Swami came down to speak with me.

Time and place were alike delightful. Overhead the stars, and around — the rolling Ganga; and on one side stood the dimly lighted building, with its background of palms and lofty shade-trees.

“I want to see you, Swami”, I began, “on this matter of receiving back into Hinduism those who have been perverted from it. Is it your opinion that they should be received?”

“Certainly,” said the Swami, “they can and ought to be taken.”

He sat gravely for a moment, thinking, and then resumed. “Besides,” he said, “we shall otherwise decrease in numbers. When the Mohammedans first came, we are said — I think on the authority of Ferishta, the oldest Mohammedan historian — to have been six hundred millions of Hindus. Now we are about two hundred millions. And then every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy the more.

“Again, the vast majority of Hindu perverts to Islam and Christianity are perverts by the sword, or the descendants of these. It would be obviously unfair to subject these to disabilities of any kind. As to the case of born aliens, did you say? Why, born aliens have been converted in the past by crowds, and the process is still going on.

“In my own opinion, this statement not only applies to aboriginal tribes, to outlying nations, and to almost all our conquerors before the Mohammedan conquest, but also in the Purânas. I hold that they have been aliens thus adopted.

“Ceremonies of expiation are no doubt suitable in the case of willing converts, returning to their Mother-Church, as it were; but on those who were alienated by conquest — as in Kashmir and Nepal — or on strangers wishing to join us, no penance should be imposed.”

“But of what caste would these people be, Swamiji?” I ventured to ask. “They must have some, or they can never be assimilated into the great body of Hindus. Where shall we look for their rightful place?”

“Returning converts”, said the Swami quietly, “will gain their own castes, of course. And new people will make theirs. You will remember,” he added, “that this has already been done in the case of Vaishnavism. Converts from different castes and aliens were all able to combine under that flag and form a caste by themselves — and a very respectable one too. From Râmânuja down to Chaitanya of Bengal, all great Vaishnava Teachers have done the same.”

“And where should these new people expect to marry?” I asked.

“Amongst themselves, as they do now”, said the Swami quietly.

“Then as to names,” I enquired, “I suppose aliens and perverts who have adopted non-Hindu names should be named newly. Would you give them caste-names, or what?”

“Certainly,” said the Swami, thoughtfully, “there is a great deal in a name!” and on this question he would say no more.

But my next enquiry drew blood. “Would you leave these new-comers, Swamiji, to choose their own form of religious belief out of many-visaged Hinduism, or would you chalk out a religion for them?”

“Can you ask that?” he said. “They will choose for themselves. For unless a man chooses for himself, the very spirit of Hinduism is destroyed. The essence of our Faith consists simply in this freedom of the Ishta.”

I thought the utterance a weighty one, for the man before me has spent more years than any one else living I fancy, in studying the common bases of Hinduism in a scientific and sympathetic spirit — and the freedom of the Ishta is obviously a principle big enough to accommodate the world.

But the talk passed to other matters, and then with a cordial good night this great teacher of religion lifted his lantern and went back into the monastery, while I by the pathless paths of the Ganga, in and out amongst her crafts of many sizes, made the best of my way back to my Calcutta home.

Reference

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Ethics Of Conversions

As the debate on conversions and Gharwapsi continue, it would be good to recall that this issue is not new. Intellectuals and national leaders from the early 18th century have been drawing our attention to the menace of conversions in India.

Pragnya Bharat had conducted a public discussion on “The Ethics of Religious Conversion”. Speakers included eminent Indologist and Vedacharya Dr. David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri) and Samineni Arulappa Archbishop of Hyderabad.

The article below contains the speech delivered by David Frawley

Sarva Dharma Samabhav?

Hinduism is based upon respecting reach individual and the swadharma of each individual. The highest goal of the Hindu religion is self-realization , not simply knowing God but understanding who we are and the Divine presence within us. It would be a tremendous loss if India gave up Hinduism and became another Christian and Islamic country. We have enough of them already. India has a wealth of spiritual tradition. Westerners come here for this wealth of spiritual knowledge. Infact, you should be exporting your religion.

Today, throughout the world, and in the United States, with very little exception, there is no “Sarva Dharma Samabhava” taught in religion. It is something I never encountered in my Christian education in the West. Most of the We were taught that Hinduism was a religion of idolatry.; it was religion of polytheism and superstition and there was no place for Hindus in heaven. The average Christian throughout the world has been taught to believe that only Christians gain salvation. To date, there is no major Christian leader or Moslem leader, in the world. Who is saying that Hinduism is as good as Christianity or Islam.

Some people say all religions teach the same things and they differ in inessentials. Is the Law of Karma and the process of Rebirth something inessential ?

 

Conversion1 Conversion2 Conversion3

Christian claim that their faith alone is enough to save you. This means that a person may be a mass murderer, but if on his death bed he converts to Christianity, he will go to heaven. Another person may live the life of a saint, but if he does not convert to Christianity, there will be no heaven for him. Recently in United State, a woman who had been convicted of murder was converted to Christianity on death-row and the Christian leaders- particular the fundamentalist Christians -asked for the death sentence to be removed because that woman had converted to Christianity and therefore the sin no longer counted.

Conversion activity:

Why is this conversion business so big in India? Because India is the largest country and largest non-Christian country, in the world, where missionaries have the freedom to act and to propagate. Islamic countries- Pakistan, Bangladesh- do not allow this missionaries activities to be conducted. In Saudi Arabia, you cannot even bring a Bible or a picture of Jesus into the country. China, also does not allow missionary conversion activities.

Organized conversion activity is like a trained army invading a country from the outside. This missionary army often goes into communities where there is little organized resistance to it or which may not even be aware of its power or its motives. It will even take advantage of its communities that are tolerant and open minded about the religion and use that to promote a missionary agenda that destroys this tolerance.

Evangelization sounds nicer and more ennobling than conversion. Such evangelical movements have world conversion strategies and programs to target India and Hindu state by state, tribe by tribe , even village by village. They keep track of the numbers o converts and mark them in the win column as gain for Christ.

Missionary activity is like an ideological war. It is quite systematic, motivated and directed. It can even resemble a blitzkrieg using media, money, people and public shows to appeal to the masses in an emotional way.

In fact colonialism has not truly ended but has recently taken a more economic rather than military form, along with the Westernization along economic lines. As Christianity is the dominant Western religion it continues to use the current economic expansion of Western culture to promote its conversion agendas.

Even when it is a question of a Christian minority in a land dominated by a non-Christian religion, the non-Christians are often at a disadvantage in terms of money and media through the Western support that the Christian community has, particularly in regards to its conversion activity. They are using financial and media advantages including mass marketing, to promote their agenda of conversion.

Evangelical missionaries still identify Hinduism with devil worship. Today it is illegal in most countries to promote racial hatred, to call a person of any race inferior or the product of the devil (which white Christians used to call the blacks until recently). Most such Christians have never seriously or open-minded  studied Hinduism. They know little of Yoga and Vedanta or the great traditions of Hindu and Buddhist spirituality. They prefer to highlight the Hindu worship of God even in animal images like Hanuman as a form of superstition or evil.

The Catholic Church is bit more diplomatic thee days. It is now telling Hindus that their religion may have some values but Christianity is even better. This view is a bit more tolerant but cannot be called sincere either. If Catholic no longer believe that Hinduism is a religion of the Devil, as they were promoting until only recently, they ought to apologize to Hindus for their mistaken notion and the problems that these must have caused.

In India Christians claim that by eradicating the caste system they are helping people and raising them up socially. They could do this easier by helping reform Hindu society rather than by trying to destroy or change the religion. Clearly they are using, if not promoting the caste differences as a conversion strategy. Christian cultures still have their class and other social inequalities, particularly in Central and South America but Christians do not see that the religion has to be changed in order to get rid of these.

Changing a person’s religion may not help them in terms of health, education or economics. Social work born of love is hardly to be found in missionary Christianity, though it likes to pretend that this is the motivation.

Conversion and Cults:

In the West there is a cry against cults, which any religious movement out of mainstream Christianity can be called. There is a tendency to regard Hindu based religious movements in the West as cults. Under the guise of being a cult a religious organization can be sued for millions of dollars if even one disgruntled or disappointed former disciple can be found who feels they have taken advantage of. Many Hindu- based and yoga movements in the West have been sued as cults.

The criticism against cults is that they are outside the cultural religious norm, that they are intolerant of majority religions, that they divide families and turn individuals against their upbringing.  Precisely the same charges can be leveled against missionaries all over the world

People in India may believe that , in America, all religions are treated equally. Certainly the law requires that but this is not the fact of life. For example, it is still very difficult for Hindus to build temples in the United States, particularly in areas in which fundamentalist Christians are strong. To put it in perspective, one would say that it is over 10 times harder in America to build a temple than it is to build a Church. In many areas, temples must not outwardly look like a temple, but should look like a school or church or the local governments would not approve of them.

Most Americans believe that Hinduism is a religion of cults. Organized Christian cult busting legal groups, with dozens of lawyers and budgets in man millions go around systematically encouraging suits against Hindus for Indian religious groups such as ISKON , TM Anand (a Yogananda group), The Himalayan Institute, Rajneesh and Sikhs under Yogi Bhajan to mention a few.

Any Hindu-based teacher in America, particularly pone wo is working with general American public or bringing people rom Christianity to Hindu-based teachings, remain under a severe legal threat.

The legal secularism of the West still hides much religious prejudice. We also note that the West politically will defend Christian interest overseas and criticize alleged discrimination against Christians. Recently the Russians criticized the Mormons, an evangelical American Christian group, as a cult. The American government lodged a protest to protect the Mormons and their missionary activity in Russia. No Indian Government so far has made any such protest to protect Hindu groups in the West.

David Frawley

Source: “The Ethics of Religious conversion” book., written based on a public discussion conducted on the above topic . The speaker is an eminent Indologist  Dr. David Frawley.

National-level TT player enmeshed in ‘love jihad’ now in Kanpur

Arisebharat does not agree with the phrases like much-hyped while referring to “Love Jihad”. We are however reproducing the article as it is from http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-national-level-tt-player-enmeshed-in-love-jihad-now-in-kanpur-2015190

Close on the heels of the Tara Shahdeo conversion case of Ranchi, another such episode of the much-hyped “love jihad” variety has been played out in Kanpur. While Tara is a national level shooter, the girl in the latest case, allegedly forcibly converted and bound in a farcical ‘nikah’ besides having been sexually abused, is a national level table tennis player. Neetu (name changed), a minor, is also a state level Taekwondoist.

love-jihad-1_300_090114101212

The Muslim boy Waseem, who had allegedly posed as a Hindu named Raja to court the 17-year-old girl, has been arrested. But the incident has once again exposed the overpowering callous attitude which is now a hallmark of the UP Police.

According to the girl’s statement before a magistrate, Waseem and his sister using a false alias (Rani) had lured her to their house where she was taken hostage on August 16. She was then forcibly converted and given a Muslim name. Two days later (i.e. on August 18) she was forced into a ‘nikah’ with Waseem who took her to an unknown place where he sexually abused her despite her resistance. The same day, she managed to call her father, an auto driver, from Waseem’s mobile and told him about her plight. The father immediately went to the Babupurwa police and even gave them the mobile number.

But the police did absolutely nothing despite the parents’ repeated cries for help for eight long days. It was only on August 26, when the father met Kanpur DIG RK Chaturvedi who geared up things in the language which the police understand, that the girl was recovered within a record 30 minutes!

“I had to give up my auto driving. All day long, we used to just sit outside the Babupurwa police station hoping someone would listen to us and help us recover our little girl. We even cried before the police officers and constables. But no one helped us,” Neetu’s father told reporters between wails of agony. “How did they recover her in half-an-hour when the DIG pulled them up? They had his mobile number and could have easily traced him on August 18 itself,” he asked angrily.

Neetu said in her statement that Waseem, a bus conductor, had befriended him as Raja during an NCC tour about six months ago. He had taken her mobile number and kept in touch after they returned. “It was only when he and his sister took me to their home on August 16 that I got to know they were Muslim. But, the entire family ganged up and made me a captive in their house,” Neetu told reporters.

Babupurwa SO Ajay Varma said initially the case against Waseem had been registered as one of inducing a minor for elopement. “After we came to know of the true story, stringent IPC sections for rape and illegal confinement have also been added,” he said. Asked whether it was a case of “love jihad”, he said a junior officer was inquiring into it. “We are yet to get papers relating to her conversion, rechristening and ‘nikah’,” he added.

Source: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-national-level-tt-player-enmeshed-in-love-jihad-now-in-kanpur-2015190

Photo credit: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/love-jihad-taekwondo-national-player-from-kanpur-up/1/380151.html

Thoughts on the Right to Propagate Religion – I

“Propagation of religion” is an area where Indian law is both unclear and unfair to non-proselytizing groups:

  1. The word religion cannot describe our society and hence propagation methods of religions are not acceptable in India
  2. The terms and ethics of propagation are not spelt out, which have been accepted norms in this nation for ages and helped a peaceful and non-traumatic spreading of traditions and mutual enrichment with interaction
  3. Practice is a right, but propagation is a privilege to be earned. Calling out propagation a basic right (Art 25.1) unwittingly encourages infringement of others’ freedom of their faith to not be interfered with.
  4. Like in many other areas like corruption and bad leadership, the primary assumption of constitution has been a use of law, not misuse.

We seek to explore here in brief, the conceptual background that helps formulating proper laws in this matter.

What is religion comprised of?

Religion by definition, is a truth claim and not a truth-seeking system. Indian traditions share a knowledge system with its formal hypothesizing, deductive and validating structures. India’s knowledge traditions have the culture of debating based on formal epistemology among the proponents of traditions, to earn the moral right to propagate their respective traditions.

Who can propagate?

In oriental societies, subscription and practice of any tradition is a matter of personal choice almost entirely. Propagation and preaching is a privilege, not a basic right as our constitution proclaims. It is similar to saying that to learn is a basic right but to teach is a privilege to be earned, and that to be treated of a problem is a basic right but to treat others is a privilege to be earned with knowledge and ability.

Among traditions/sampradayas, there is a formal debating structure. Propagation is a privilege earned by one who, having mastered one’s own tradition’s worldview and formal learning structures, ably defends one’s own siddhAnta in a formal debate, without taking recourse to deceptive arguments. There are ethics of argumentation or vAda, and arguments are qualified as ethical and deceptive.

What if deceptive arguments are used for propagation?

In formal argumentation, a deceptive argument is the last resort one uses to save a humiliating defeat. It cannot be used to defeat an opponent. Debates are officially moderated by scholars, who would object to such arguments. Argument proceeds as long as one does not withdraw or concede defeat, but it has to stick to either pUrva paksha (refutation of counter theory) or uttara paksha (affirmation of one’s own tenets).

Who cannot propagate?

One who is defeated in a debate, has to either convert to his victor’s position, or retire from propagation. It is immoral and fraudulent to continue propagating, once having lost a debate. Before doing that one must reverse the loss by inviting to debate proponents of erstwhile victorious tradition and defeat them.

What is ‘loss’

A tradition is not expected to be defeated in a defeat. It is the proponent who is defeated. This is because –

  1. The depth of tradition and the strength of argument of scholars are two different things. A tradition could be great, but the scholars may or may not be able to defend it for various reasons.
  2. Traditions evolve with time, and their practice cannot be questioned as long as practitioners retain belief in the core tenets of the traditions. This is unrelated to any scholarly debates.
  3. A scholar being defeated at a point of time could happen for various reasons:
    1. One not being equipped with sufficient knowledge of other traditions to win a debate
    2. One not being the best proponent of one’s own tradition compared to his rivals in debate
  4. The arguments extended from one tradition being refuted by others, which means the losing side would reformulate their arguments over time and conduct victorious debates and be back in propagation. This happens over several generations, not even in the life time of one proponent
  5. At a given point there could be places where proponents of one tradition are strong in scholarship and widen their practice and there could be other regions where weak scholarship of regional proponents weakens the tradition and shrinks practice

When is a tradition prohibited?

When a tradition becomes anti-social and disrupts the civilized social order it can be prohibited by the state, as was done in the case of nIlapaTa-s. Its practitioners would be warned (and punished in extreme cases) and propagators punished.

Market Argument

Often, a free market kind of argument is extended to justify right to propagate, that anyone is free to propagate and anyone who does not want to convert to another religion is free to reject it. This is ridden with several flaws, a few to mention:

  1. Even in a free market, right to buy and right to sell are distinct and the latter requires norms and licensing for productizing, marketing and selling. If an equivalent be applied, right to propagate is to be earned by clearing certain norms common to traditions.
  2. This puts the onus of knowing ins and outs of religions squarely on the common man, who is not equipped with the know how to understand the deception of specialized propagators.
  3. As a basic principle of propagating, one needs to respect the right of practitioners to not be interfered with. To say “I will bombard you with my speeches and keep coming to your places to insult your traditions but you are free to reject my version” is simply immoral and worthy of punishment.