Hinduism-Christianity Comparative Religion Series
Call for Papers
“Building Competencies for a Deeper Hindu-Christian Dialogue”
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The intellectual basis for the current Hindu-Christian interlocution, or the so-called Inter-faith dialogues, seems to be the ideological formulations that were formed in a colonial milieu of 19th century India. Ideally, the pre-independence ideological imperatives should have been updated in view of the freedom that was attained in 1947. However, post-independence, there have been very few efforts to rethink the ideological parameters, with the notable exceptions of Late Shri Sita Ram Goel and Shri Ram Swarup. What is worse is that colonial parameters have been further extended to build a post-independence narrative that is acutely compromised in its core and one that has yielded in indeterminate results. While the Christian interlocutors are straightforward in their approach and have crystal clarity of Christianity, it is the Hindus who seem to be lost in the maze of outdated theories, compromised perceptions, lack of intellectual capital, and sheer capitulation to a “default” and further regress into intellectual stasis.
Before a meaningful and deeper Hindu-Christian dialogue can occur, it is imperative to build Hindu ideological competencies, and incrementally build clarity on the nature of Hinduism in relation to Abrahamic “religions” in general, and with Christianity in particular.
This seminar invites papers on the comparative analysis and positioning of Hinduism vis-à-vis Christianity, and Hindu views of Christianity from a Dharmic standpoint.
There have been several attempts at having a Hindu-Christian dialogue but most have not gone beyond expressing diplomatic niceties. From a Hindu point of view, there is no perceptible impact where it matters the most. It is quite clear that those who are engaged in the so-called Hindu-Christian dialogue are either intellectually disempowered, or have been coopted by the Abrahamic-Western Establishment.
Most of the current Hindu position in the myriad Hindu-Christian dialogues seems to be based on the apparent “practice” of Sri Ramakrishna of Christianity (and Islam). It is not very clear whether it was how this episode was recorded in “Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna” (English translation of the original Bengali text), or whether the Saint could actually really practice Christianity for a small period of time in the true sense of the word. Nevertheless, this has been extrapolated to inconsequential ends in the Academia, based on which the Hindu-Christian dialogue at the community level seem to be stalled in the tracks. At the end of the day, Hindus have not gained an inch in the process. What is the use of a dialogue if it does not result in any tangible benefit to any of the principals? Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Hindu intellectual community to go into the basics of both Christianity and Hinduism at the fundamental level, and explore why the parameters of current dialogue are not suitable or inadequate, and what kind of competencies need to be built, in order to engage in a meaningful and a much deeper Hindu-Christian dialogue that what it is today.
There are several public issues that are a consequence of Hinduism’s interface with Christianity. A selected few are listed below.
Hindus have had to engage the Christian missionaries for the past many centuries. In each country this has been a unique experience for the Hindus. The case in the U.S. is special because of the presence of huge majority of Christian population who despite being liberals and accommodating of diversity in several dimensions, have not been sensitized enough on differences between Abrahamic organized religions vs. Hindu schools of spirituality. As a result, a large majority of Christian Americans accept the proselytization of Hindus by evangelists as a legitimate and “moral” activity. Quite often the American Hindu community puts up a weak defense against Christian proselytization in the U.S., because they are told that it is practical to avoid confrontation in a Christian majority country. This self-imposed inhibition enables the missionaries to target the 2nd generation immigrants with “love of Jesus.”
Conversions go unabated, and there are no let up on the likes of Project Joshua. In India, cultural debasement continues by unprecedented levels of proselytization. The world over, same sets of issues are faced by the Hindu communities – be it Fiji, the Caribbean, Europe or North America. Outside of India, prejudice against Hinduism reflects in cases of discrimination, bullying, mocking Hindu symbols and sometimes violence. The definition of religious freedom is understood in different terms in the U.S. and in India. For example, the position and actions of U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom vis-à-vis India translates into protection for missionaries to proselyte in India. Bodies like USCRF largely ignore ban on conversions in Israel or blasphemy laws enacted in Christian societies such as Ireland. It is clear that “religious freedom” in the US means “freedom to proselytize” and nothing else.
Social service in the Christian parlance has an entirely different purpose than the Hindu concept of Seva. The objective of Christian social services is not to help humanity, but to gain converts to Christ. This has been popularized by the media, and made socially acceptable. On the other hand, Hindu social service is always rendered to help humanity, but in an act of humility the word Hindu is not ascribed to it. This ends up in a stereotype that Hindus do not engage in social service, hence a justification for conversion. This is a paradox that needs to be resolved. First Hinduism is attacked for its caste system, and based on this alibi conversions to Christianity are justified. But once the scheduled castes become Christians, reservations are asked for them, because of the caste system.
If a Hindu sports a tilak, he is attacked as a communalist. On the other hand there is an institutionalized interference of Church into politics, which is encouraged and fed upon in elections.
Determinants – Categorization of Schools of Thought
Building the Zero-Base Template
The current state of intellectual stasis in the Hindu-Christian dialogue is an outcome of a plethora of factors that need to be considered for research, re-interpretation and further investigation. A selected few of such factors are listed below (by no means comprehensive), along with a suggested nomenclature of the respective schools of thought:
a. The Synthesis School and Sri Ramakrishna’s Practice of Christianity for a Short Duration – to reiterate what is mentioned elsewhere in this document, that most academic discourses on the subject, use Sri Ramakrishna’s so-called practice of Christianity for a short duration as a basis, and then extrapolate this to inconsequential lengths, by ascribingavatarahood to Jesus. The same academicians also cite purported Buddhist influences on early Christianity. What is often missed from this discourse is the basic structure of Christian theology that is based on dogma, and not on individualistic spiritual experience which is quintessentially Hindu-Buddhist in its conception. The mystical experiences of Christian monks cannot escape the basic dogma of Christian belief-system. In all, it seems it does not make any sense of an accomplished advaitin like Ramakrishna to get into and out of Christianity for a short duration. Somebody forgot apostasy in this narrative. In all, a School of Synthesis has emerged both in academia and in popular space, which goes out of its way in finding technical commonality in Christianity and Hinduism, despite the differing totality of Christian doctrine and resulting ideological position vis-à-vis Hindus and Hinduism. It is noteworthy that many leading lights of the Indian freedom movement, including Swami Vivekanand and Mahatma Gandhi, belonged to the Synthesis school of thought. The Synthesists have extended their narrative to include modern-day Vedantists who have proposed absorption of Christianity into modern Vedanta.
b. The Inculturist School and the “Jesus in India” theory – hundreds of books have been churned out all over the world to prove that Jesus may have lived in India. This position was originally proposed by Rev. Raimundo Pannikkar, which later grew into an entire industry. It seems that the purpose is a wink to Hindus to adopt Jesus as one of their own. But this position is untenable because had Jesus been born even on the ghats of Benares, it would not have make an iota of difference to the structure of Christian theology. Jesus in India has also led to equally untenable Jesus as a Yogi theory. The Jesus in India and Jesus as a Yogi theories, though founded by Indian Christian scholars, have been internalized by Hindus sufficiently enough to be considered an ideological factor that must be addressed from the Hindu side. Such Hindus are more likely to be coopted by Christian conservative establishments, such as the Republic Party in the US. They would form a conjugate pair with their Progressive counterparts, mentioned elsewhere in this document. Most likely this segment will negotiate a nominal existence for Hindus as religious vassals within the ambit of the conservative establishment (for example – Hindus will be asked to sign-off on anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-public prayer agenda).
c. The Progressive School and the “separation of Jesus from the Nicene creed” theory – within Christianity, especially in the West, there exists an ideological position of “separation of Jesus from the Nicene creed”, which could be seen as a logical outcome of enlightened discourse in the post-Renaissance period. But many Hindus, especially those who have been brought up in an overwhelming majority Christian milieu, have adopted this position as their own, based on which so-called inter-faith dialogue is conducted. This position may make perfect sense within the Christian community, but where do Hindus and Hinduism figure in this position? It seems like, it is due to intellectual disenfranchisement and a thought vacuum, this position is inaccurately appropriated by the Westernized Hindus, thinking that with this they may find a “seat at the table (in the West).” This is a quite a comical position to take for a Hindu, simply because Hindu spiritual and cultural experience is vastly different from Christians in the West, and the so-called “separation between Jesus and the Nicene creed” might be irrelevant from a Hindu point-of-view. The Hindus who take this position, in effect, serve no better than colonial sepoys of western/Christian neo-colonialism, by making Hindus a part of a process that is outcome of a dogmatic intransigence of the conservatives pitted against the rebellion of the liberals within Christianity, and whose ultimate aim remains no different from the colonial conquests of an earlier era – instead of conquests by sword and plunder, this time, it is worldwide domination of western “values” and “culture” — which is just the other side of the Christian coin, often packaged as “progressive” and “liberal”. The secularized and westernized Hindus who adhere to this position are the Hindu Progressives, are more likely to be coopted by George Soros type left progressive-liberal politics , who serve as modern-day equivalent of mansabdaars of the erstwhile Mughal Empire. The Hindu progressives will be more likely to be (and are being) coopted by the Democratic Party in the U.S. They will negotiate personal positions of power, and in return will be asked by the Left Establishment to attack Hinduism and Hindutva.
d. “Karma Chameleons” – there are a plethora of Indian-origin public personalities who have taken Indic ideas, and disfigured them to plug into a certain thought vacuum that exists in the New Age milieu of the West, which gives them instant name and fame, and a rich yield of public attention (and monetary benefits). One of the prominent examples is Dr. Deepak Chopra who has gone to the length of proposing a “Third Jesus” who is supposedly more of a spiritual guru to all humanity than a prophet. This position seems to be an aggregate of Synthesis, Inculturist and Progressive positions, and then some. There are many others who have proposed similar theories. The intention here is somehow to make themselves fit into the Western societies and “be counted.” Hence the epithet “chameleon.”
e. The default position – most Hindus take a certain default position of “anything goes” variety. There is no ideological qualifier in such a position, but deserves a separate category because of the sheer number of Hindus who fall in this category. Most do not care what Christianity is all about, and hence act as sitting ducks when their time comes as a target of proselytization – be it evangelical or that by progressives. The Hindus adhering to the default position can be called the survivors, due to the adaptability to just survive in any milieu.
f. The Hindu Classical position – there is scope for the development of a Hindu position on Christianity that is based on parameters extracted from the Classical Hindu civilization. This school of thought is yet to be formed. A selected few thinkers have expounded positions that could be classified as close to a Hindu Classical one, but a monumental intellectual effort is further needed to solidify a whole school of thought. Works of Sita Ram Goel and Ram Swarup can become the basis of future work that may constitute the Hindu classical position. The Classicist scholars and thinkers will have to experience adhyatma in addition to conventional academics, in order to develop deeper insights into their own traditions before they can look at others. Thus, the classical position remains a work to be done.
Given the various schools of thought, as outlined elsewhere in this document, it is imperative to research and theorize upon each school of thought, perform a SWOT analysis from a Hindu perspective of each school, to determine what will be more suitable in a Hindu-Christian dialogue, develop the necessary skills set, and only then perhaps come face to face with the principal interlocutors from the Christian side (who have always been more honest and straightforward in their approach towards Hinduism). The purpose of the research, theorization and debate is to attain clarity of thought that would result in a much more honest Hindu engagement with Christian interlocutors, than what it is today.
The goal of the Hinduism-Christianity Comparative seminar series is to formulate a Hindu Classical School of Thought vis-à-vis Christianity, one that is devoid of colonialist 19th-century and derivative theoretical formulations, and incrementally build an ideological position that is closer to classical Hindu civilization. The thinkers and philosophers belonging to this school will be called Hindu Classicists, in contrast to Synthesists, Inculturists, and Progressives.
The objectives of the seminar are:
– To obtain an assessment of each Hindu school of thought on Christianity
– To seek clear demarcation of lines between various Hindu viewpoints on Christianity
– To seek a SWOT analysis of each Hindu school of thought vis-à-vis Christianity (whether how effective a particular school of thought is in dealing with Christianity and its representatives
– To list and explain set of issues that affect Hindus worldwide that are driven by Christianity, missionaries and derivative political, economic and social issues
– To develop a set of parameters that can be utilized to formulate a Classical Hindu position of Christianity
– To offer a valid critique of each Hindu school of thought from a classical Hindu position
– To suggest a list of core competencies required by the Hindu interlocutors in engaging Christianity and its representatives
– To explain who should be the Hindu interlocutors in engagement with the representatives of Christianity, and why?
– To build a set of guidelines for the Hindu interlocutors who can engage in a Hindu-Christian dialogue
Suggested Areas of Work
Thinkers and scholars are invited present their viewpoint based on the aforementioned background, categorization, goal and objectives. Suggested areas of work include, but are not limited to:
(a) A paper of how to describe Hinduism to a non-Hindu. What should be the differentiating parameters.
(b) A historical insight into Sri Ramakrishna’s practice of Christianity for a few days – what it means from both from a Christian and Dharmic standpoints.
(c) “Jesus as a Yogi” and “Jesus in India” theories – how these have been used to construct a narrative of indigenization of Christianity (in India), and positioning of Jesus Christ amongst the Hindus? What are the socio-political expressions of the same, their validity from a Christian perspective, and how it impacts the Hindu-Christian dialogue?
(d) A Hindu perspective of Jesus – could Jesus be considered as a spiritual being from a Yogic standpoint? How should Hindus look at Jesus, and on what basis?
(e) Why “Separation of Jesus from Nicene Creed” theory is irrelevant and detrimental to the Hindus? This theory is adopted by Hindus in the West in order to fit into the mainstream, without realizing that they could be coopted into Christendom leading eventually into conversion.
(f) Rationale for Indian Christians to “convert out” of Christianity (NOT necessarily convert into Hinduism). The paper could do a comparative analysis of Indian classical culture with what a convert to Christianity loses when he converts.
(g) “A Hindu Perspective on Inter-faith Dialogues – Guidelines for the Hindus“ – this should be a critique the current way this so-called inter-faith dialogue goes on and build a set of parameters and guidelines, in order to affect a possible course correction.
(h) An analysis of Missionary Service industry camouflaged as “humanitarian” work. The paper will juxtapose the material benefits offered by the missionaries in return for conversion as an unethical and immoral position from a basic humanity’s point of view. The paper will use examples such as iconification of Mother Theresa and show how the media portrays to build a narrative of legitimizing an immoral activity such as conversion. The paper writer will do a qualitative comparative analysis between how Buddhism was spread in East Asia vs. how Christian missionaries do it.
(i) Church’s intervention in politics and public affairs – this paper should expose international evangelical groups’ support for terrorism in India, esp. in the Northeast. Also, in Kerala, the Church actively intervenes in all kinds of public issues. The writer will analyze this from an ethical point of view, and why it is improper in public life.
Contributors will be asked to submit the following:
– Title (one line)
– Abstract (1-2 paras)
– Bio sketch (not to exceed 2-3 paras, please do not send whole CV)
– Photo (passport style front facing)
If bio-sketch and photo are available on the web, then no need to submit. Once the proposal is admitted, the contributor will be asked to upload the whole paper to a designated website, in addition to send a MS-WORD and a pdf copy of the paper. Also, needed is a list of three (3) peers, who can review your work in the online system. One of the reviewers could be you.
The contributor must not release his paper prematurely in the public domain. After the conference, the paper will be published on the conference associated website, which then can be quoted and reproduced elsewhere without alteration. The papers must be followed up by a summary presentation (in a ppt) on the salient points in the paper.
Debate – the contributor can be challenged for a debate, and must agree to one, if a proposal for a challenge is proposed.
For title, abstract, bio sketch, and photo: April 15th, 2014
For papers and ppt: April 24th, 2014
In order to clarify the positions from various schools of thought a debate is being invited. Please note that the sole purpose of the debate is theoretical positioning, in order to yield practical value. A hardened position in theory is meant for bouncing a perception.
How to Engage Christianity: Confrontation or Conciliation?
Hinduism has a rich tradition of studying and evaluating rival religious ideologies. However, barring a few honorable exceptions, Hindus have not evaluated Christianity. We live in an age when Christianity seeks global domination and Christian beliefs shape social attitudes to varying degrees. Hindu society is not impervious to Christianity. Therefore, the need to actively engage Christianity cannot be overstated. This necessitates that the Hindus apply their rich tradition of evaluating rival religious ideologies to Christianity. A Hindu should begin with seeking the answers to many questions:
1. Is the Christian influence beneficial or harmful?
2. Are Hinduism and Christianity compatible?
3. Can the two religions coexist?
One must adopt the strategy to engage Christianity based on the answers to these questions. One could engage Christianity in many possible formats, e.g., inter-faith dialogs, debates, social media, textbook portrayal, and critique. What should be the method of engagement regardless of the format? Which one is likely to be effective?
Debater A: Confrontation
The two religions cannot coexist. A Hindu should be clear that for dharma to survive, Christianity must be deconstructed. This can only happen through a direct confrontation in the intellectual space to recover the next generation of those who are born as Christians from Christianity.
Debater B: Conciliation
The effective approach is to contrast the principles of Hinduism with those of Christianity. This would allow an open-minded observer to see the merits of Hinduism and the limitations of Christianity. This would allow co-opting the neutral observer into the larger framework of dharma.
Format of the debate:
Round 1: Each debater makes his/her case for 30 minutes (Total duration: 60 minutes)
Round 2: Each debater rebuts the other for 10 minutes (Total duration: 20 minutes)
Round 3: Each debater gets 5 minutes to question the other (Total duration: 10 minutes)
Round 4: Each debater delivers a concluding speech for 5 minutes (Total duration: 10 minutes)
Round 5: Q&A by the audience (Total duration: 30 minutes)
Total: 130 minutes
Global Hindu Conference
April 26th-27th, 2014
San Jose, CA, USA
Details of the conference are given at < http://globalhinduconference.
For conference information, please contact:
Conference group e-mail: email@example.com