Maria Wirth is a German and came to India for a holiday after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University. She visited the Ardha Kumbha Mela in Haridwar in April 1980 where she met Sri Anandamayi Ma and Devaraha Baba, two renowned saints. With their blessing shecontinued to live in India and dived into India’s spiritual tradition, sharing her insights with German readers through articles and books. For long, she was convinced that every Indian knows and treasures his great heritage. However, when in recent years, she noticed that there seemed to be a concerted effort to prevent Indians (and the world) from knowing how valuable this ancient Indian heritage is, she started to point out the unique value of Indian tradition.
During the Ujjain Simhasth Kumbh 2016, a Vichar Maha Kumbh, an International Convention, was organized from May 12 -14, and a Universal Declaration was released in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
I felt grateful that I had been invited and had sent in a proposal. Dr. Yvette Rosser who had been given the opportunity to speak, felt that my proposal was more important than what she had intended to talk about and presented the major points at a plenary session at the International Convention near Ujjain.
Incidentally, Prime Minister Modi in his speech pointed out that expansionism and the “holier than thou” attitude of “tere raste se mera rasta zyada sahi hai” are the causes for conflict in the world.
To realize this is an important step. Yet even more important is to find ways to prevent this holier than thou attitude from taking root in a large portion of humanity and to expose those ideologies which claim that it is the command of the Divine that their particular way of worshipping the Highest has to be accepted by all human beings.
Here is the proposal on the topic “Religion for human welfare”
Being at the Simhasth Kumbh is a privilege, as well as a responsibility. Since ancient times the Kumbh Mela was an occasion where spiritual personalities guided lay people on the dharmic way of life, and fearlessly and honestly conducted debates about truth.
Today, the world is interconnected. It means that the debates on truth need also to take note of the truths that are propagated elsewhere. Sincere questions must be asked and satisfying answers sought also of Christians and Muslims.
Indian philosophy is solid. It makes not only sense but is validated by modern science. Indian wisdom is slowly spreading over the world. But this is not enough.
Intellectual sincerity demands that Swamis not only share their tradition with Indians and the world, but also point out dangerous aspects of other traditions, if they are there. There is no doubt that in the name of Christianity and Islam great misery was brought over mankind, killing millions over the centuries. It is absolutely necessary to find out how this could happen.
Unfortunately, Hindus shy away from this task. Maybe the reason is that they don’t know Christianity and Islam well enough as they are no insiders of those religions. They are told only the good points which are also there.
Another reason may be that Hindus don’t want to say anything negative about other religions, even if it is true, as it may be seen as an insult. This is however a weakness. The search for truth must overrule such consideration, and ideally those, who are criticized, would be happy to discover their flaws. And anyway, others have no such hesitation towards Hinduism which they freely criticize and blatantly condemn as falsehood.
Today, every second child in the world is either Christian or Muslim and is indoctrinated into a fixed doctrine that must not be questioned. The followers of Christianity and Islam account now for more than half of the world population, and if those, who can clearly see the dangerous aspects in those doctrines, keep quiet, soon there may be no more chance to speak, and we would have failed humanity in a big way.
What contains this fixed doctrine?
I for example ‘knew’ already as a child that I am very lucky that I was born in a Catholic family, because Catholics alone have the true belief and God loves us, because we love his son Jesus who died for our sins, etc.
A Muslim child is probably told something similar – that she is very lucky that she was born in a Muslim family because Islam is the only true belief and Allah loves those who follow Prophet Mohammed’s instructions.
Each of those two religions makes also a terrible, but untrue claim: all those who don’t belong to their own religion, will suffer for all eternity in hellfire.
Anybody who is not indoctrinated can see immediately that there is something very dangerous and discriminative in these claims.
Let’s analyze them:
First: It is not possible that there are several Divine Powers. Now if there is only One, is it possible that this inconceivably powerful Being which is the cause for the billions of galaxies insists on one specific way of worship and on one specific name?
Second: Is this great Power really separate from creation, as those religions claim or is it the essence and awareness in all human beings, never mind whether they call the Divine by the name of God, Allah, Bhagawan, Shiva, Pure Mind, Brahman, etc.?
Third: the claim that those who don’t convert will burn in hell for all eternity needs to be dismissed outright. It is ridiculous, but unfortunately still widely believed by those who were indoctrinated into their fixed doctrines.
The issue is serious. Today’s most pressing problem, Islamic terrorism, has its roots in the claim that infidels are rejected by Allah. ISIS and others don’t see them even as human beings, but rather as sub-human, and therefore it is easy to kill them. Their foot soldiers consider it a sacred duty to rid the earth of such sub-humans to please their god. Obviously they are convinced that what they were taught is true and they will get paradise for their acts.
Christians, too, see it as their duty to ‘save’ Hindus and in the process uproot them from their tradition and make them look down on it and on their Hindu fellow citizens. Even if they lose faith in Christianity later, it will be almost impossible for them to value again their ancestors and they are likely to become atheists. (Europe is an example).
Hindus are called “idol worshipper”. Idol worship is the worst sin for both Christianity and Islam. This label has done great harm. Hindus who are killed seem to matter far less compared to Christians or Muslims. We need only watch the news to know that it’s true or go back into history.
The term Religion is only about 1000 years old and was used first for the Church and later for Islam. It means ‘to bind’. If religion is for the welfare of people, it must bind oneself to the Divine and not to one book or doctrine.
If religion is for the welfare of people, it must also mean that terror against ‘others’ has absolutely no place in religion. In fact, there should be no ‘others’ (as Hindu Dharma demonstrates).
From this follows that discrimination of persons, who worship the Divine in another way, cannot be part of a religion. If it is contained in the doctrine of religions, it needs to be put on the table, discussed threadbare and scrapped. When it is discussed openly there is a chance that doubt creeps into the mind of “believers” (this has happened to many Christians in the west). And once doubt about the doctrine has risen, it is not possible anymore to ‘believe’. One still can pretend (if blasphemy laws are in place), but fanaticism has gone.
If an individual demeans another individual because of his religion, he is quickly booked under some laws. Yet until now, the far greater abuse of half of the world population by the doctrines of Christianity and Islam themselves has not been called out as unacceptable. Freedom of religion can never include the right to demean those who worship in another way.
The Kumbh Sangams have a tradition of fearlessly enquiring into the truth. I would earnestly request Hindu representatives at the International Convention to include in the ‘Universal Declaration on the welfare of humanity’ a request to the UN to take up the issue of religious discrimination by the Christian and Islamic doctrines and to direct those religions to stop telling their followers and especially their children that those who worship the Supreme in different ways, are less human and will suffer eternally in hell unless they convert.
It might be even more effective, if the Indian government would coordinate with countries where the majority is neither Christian nor Muslim, like Japan, China, Thailand, etc. and lobby with the UN for this undoubtedly reasonable request. This is not a religious issue. It is about safeguarding their citizens from being unfairly defamed and from hate-crimes which are the natural outcome from such unacceptable discrimination.
It is urgent, because indoctrination into disdain and even hatred especially for Hindus is daily happening and efforts are on by Islamic countries to ban any criticism of Islam. Unofficially, many have already imposed a ban on themselves due to political correctness.
We need to act before it is too late.
By Maria Wirth