The Third Dialogue
This dialogue developed around a letter which K.V. Ramakrishna Rao wrote to the Indian Express in protest against Christian missionaries masquerading as Hindu sannyasins.
INDIAN EXPRESS, 13 FEBRUARY 1989
Crucifying the ‘Om’
Sir,-Nowadays, we find several Christian missionaries putting up ashrams at various places in India donning ochre robes, building temple-like churches, reciting Sanskrit slokas and practising other Hindu rites in the guise of ‘inculturation’ - synthesis of Hinduism and Christianity.
In Tamil Nadu, one Fr. Bede Griffiths runs the “Sachidananda Ashram,” Shantivanam at Tannirpalli near Kulitalai in Trichy district. There one finds a temple-like church with vimana and disaratchakas. Inside, Hindu poojas are performed and Hindu scriptures recited. He has even super-imposed the sacred word ‘OM’ on a cross.
The National Catechetical and Liturgical Centre (NCLC), Bangalore-5, has published “An order of the Mass for India,” which gives the manner in which the traditional Hindu “pooja vidhanas” like arati, jala suddhi, sthala suddhi, janalokha suddhi and purna suddhi are to be carried out. Typical Sanskrit slokas to be recited between the rites are also given.
Everybody knows that ‘OM’ has been a sacred word and symbol for Hindus since time immemorial and its sacredness has been revealed in the Vedas, Upanishads and Ithihasas, before the advent of Christ and Christianity. The Hindu believes what Lord Krishna has said in the Bhagvad Gita 3102 years before Christ: “Of all words, I am the syllable OM” (Gita X-25), “I am the pranava OM in the Vedas” (VH-8).” The three words ‘OM, Tat and Sat’ are mentioned in the scriptures to indicate Brahman (XVH-23).
The NCLC has gone to the extent of asserting that Vatican has given divine sanction to the use of OM and Hindu rituals, rites and scripture in their eucharist and mass. But the Vatican-II document about dialogue with Hinduism exposes their motivated plan, as it has clearly mentioned that it should be declared that they (the truths contained in Hindu scriptures) actually show the way, truth and life of Christ. People (Hindus) look for the perfection of religious life only in Christ. In Him alone has God revealed everything.
Fr. Bede Griffiths’ counterpart at Sangmner, Ahmedabad, one Fr. Hans Staffner, has also clearly opened his mind unwittingly in this regard, “Inculturation in India means that a Hindu is able to become a follower of Christ without ceasing to be a Hindu both socially and culturally.” (P.72, “Jesus Christ and the Hindu Community: Is a synthesis of Hinduism and Christianity possible?”, Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand).
So their pretension does not hold water anymore.
But one wonders what authority the Vatican or the Pope has to accord approval or give permission to misuse or abuse Hindu symbolism and spiritualism.
Would they dare to conduct this type of experiment with Islam by building mosque-type churches, nailing the crescent on the cross, and reciting verses from the Quran so as to reach Jehovah through Islam? Would Fr. Bede Griffiths or Fr. Hans Staffner dare to start an experiment to synthesize Islam and Christianity?
This is nothing but blatant misuse or abuse of spiritualistic symbolism, when the christians themselves are ideologically against symbolism, idol-worship and ritualism. So, unless religious identity and purity are maintained in a country like India, the spirit of spiritualism cannot be nurtured.
K.V. RAMAKRISHNA RAO
10, Venkatachala Iyer’St.,
West Mambalam, Madras - 33
NOT PUBLISHED BY THE INDIAN EXPRESS
9, Dr. Ramaswamy Street,
Madras - 600053
This refers to Shri K.V. Ramakrishna Rao’s letter (I.E. dated 13.2.89) on ‘Crucifying the OM’
The dirty tricks played by the Missionaries are not new. It is a way of life for the Mission since its inception.
Shri Gibbon in his book, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, has observed that “The conquest of Crescent was purer than that of the Cross”, for the Roman Catholic Church, in its zeal to win converts to its fold, adopted the pre-christian modes of worship and other social system of the people among whom they spread their new religion.
In India, the activities of the missionaries are not different. Their unethical tactics are buoyant especially in tribal belts. During 1985, ‘Janasatta’ exposed Father Joseph Pareekatil of Catholic Church of Parasahi, Madhya Pradesh. Later he was arrested. The charges include, inter-alia, destroying of a Hindu-shrine and creating a 31 feet high concrete Cross on that spot; deceptively disguising as a Hindu Holyman and worshipping in a Hindu manner.
The incident is not just isolated one but is indeed only the tip of an iceberg and a lot remains to be exposed.
Some readers may have felt that using of OM by Christian missionaries should be welcomed as it implies that Christianity accepts the greatness of OM and it is indeed a glory for Hinduism. But we must remember that OM is being used to mislead the masses and not to sanctify it. Even if the intention is to accept OM, the missionary should propagate the relevance and reverence of the PRANAVA in the West first, starting from Rome.
The use or misuse of Hindu symbols has been tacitly approved and abetted by Rome. Rome should remain Rome and should not become a Babylon, as envisaged by Martin Luther.
Finally, it is the fundamental right of every Indian citizen to profess and propagate any religion. But the constitution does not guarantee any right to the christian missionaries to use unethical means for conversion of the illiterate masses. The Government should put a check on these illicit activities, lest the problem may snowball into a trouble of a great magnitude.
INDIAN EXPRESS, 16 FEBRUARY 1989
The Pranava and the Cross
Sir,-The caption, contents and conclusion of Mr. K.V. Ramakrishna Rao’s protest (IE, Feb.13) against some Christians using in their worship Hindu symbols, language and rituals betrays a perverse misunderstanding alien to the perennial freshness of living religions.
Mr. Rao’s dragging in of Islam in this context is both irrelevant and recklessly mischievous.
Like Swami Vivekananda, Gandhiji, Ramana Maharshi and the Paramacharya of Kanchi, earnest Christian leaders like Dom Bede Griffiths and Swami Abhishiktananda are trying to make all believers in Higher Power to understand, experience and practise their mother-religions better and more fruitfully. In this endeavour Christians here try to communicate the eternal message of Jesus through symbols and modes of worship familiar to Indians. Why blame them for using the local language?
Why quarrel over differences or exchanges in the material, size or shape of lamps, or over the forms and functions of instruments in an orchestra? Why not rejoice in the greater brightness and the richer music? Harmony is not synthesis.
Why should Christians object to a staunch Hindu meditating on the Holy Cross as a diagram of the human life divine, holding firmly together our inherent moksha or freedom, our paraspara Godward growth, and dharama responsibility, the paraspara obligation to our fellow creatures?
It is too late to attempt converting sanatana into puratana dharma or the New Testament to the Old.
246 TTK Road
Madras - 18.
Sir,-Mr. Ramakrishna Rao has quoted profusely from the Bhagavad Gita. But what about the crucial (!) verse in it which says that in whatever way a devotee of Krishna (i.e., God) approaches Him, he will be welcome? If that is so, why should not a devotee approach Krishna through and as Christ?
If we Hindus profess universal tolerance and grow red in the face when it comes to actual practice, are we not hypocrites?
1, Kamalabai St.,
Madras - 17
Sir, - Mr. Ramakrishna Rao has perhaps not visited the Adi Parasakthi” temple of Melmaruvathur. There you are provided with the symbols of Holy Cross and that of a Star and Crescent even near the main shrine and the preaching of “three-in-one” is carried on under the auspices of “Samaya Manadu” frequently when a few Muslims and Christians preach “Samayam” also.
I do not think any of the Hindu heads would have given sanction for allowing such mixtures into our temples.
34, Devadoss Reddy St.,
Chengalpattu - 603 001
Sir-Mr. Ramakrishna Rao has expressed a genuine apprehension about the future of Hinduism. But the Pranava “OM” is not the monopoly of any individual - not even of all the Hindus. It belongs to all mankind.
If “OM” is “Brahman” and “Brahman” is “Om”, then nobody can crucify or destroy “OM” because “Brahman” is indestructible
If there is no efficacy in “Om”, then there is no worry as to who does what to it. The greatness of Hinduism, the Vedas and the Upanishads is their universality and Catholicity.
118, G.S.T. Road,
Sir,-Mr. Ramakrishna Rao’s objections to Christians inducting orthodox Hindu symbols and their sacred rites and traditions into Christian worship, church architecture, Christian literature, lyrics, sermons etc., are quite valid, and this obnoxious tendency on the part of certain sections of Christians calls for severe condemnation by the followers of Christ.
Hinduism and Christianity are not comparable and can’t be subjected to the mockery of so-called “synthesis or fusion.”
The “Church of South India” in Madras and the South, is in the forefront of such a venture. This reckless trend on the part of some sections, is not crucifying “Om” but Christ Himself upside down!
Christ said that his followers should worship in “spirit and truth.” Those who are phoney and bereft of “spirit and truth” in their own religion resort to cheap gimmicks of importing from other faiths.
They belong to “Trisanku Swargam” and not to the Biblical paradise!
44, Medawakkam Tank Road,
NOT PUBLISHED BY THE INDIAN EXPRESS
11, Hanumar Koil Street
February 17, 1989
Ends and Means
This refers to Shri K. Swaminathan’s letter on usage of Hindu symbols by the Missionaries. (IE dt. 16.12.89).
When the Missionaries started preaching Christianity in Africa, they caused some confusion with their colour scheme of ‘White’ Jesus and ‘Black’ Devil. There was a real spurt in conversions when some genius changed the colour scheme declaring Jesus Black and Devil White.
There is nothing wrong in speaking in the local language, says Swaminathan. Missionaries also do not bother about the means. So does Mao - ‘Why worry about the colour of the cat, so long as it catches the mice.’
But the people of Africa have a different story to tells: ‘When the priests came to Africa, we had all the land and they had the Bible. They gave each of us a Bible and we prayed together. When we opened our eyes, we had Bible in our hands and they had all our lands.’
It is indeed worthless to talk about the utterings of Mahatma Gandhi on the importance of ends as well as means.
Room No. 11
4 Pillayar Koil st. (II Land),
Madras - 600 005
Cheating the Illiterate
This refers to Shri K. Swaminathan’s letter (I.E. dt. 16.02.89) on using of Hindu symbols, especially the Pranava by the Christian Missionaries.
Philosophy, Mythology and Ritual are the three parts of a religion. Every thought in the mind has a form as its counterpart. This is called Nama-Rupa viz. Name and Form.
Ritual (Karma) is in fact concretised philosophy. As a common man could not comprehend the essence of the abstract philosophy, it is indeed impossible to dispense with the symbolic method of putting things before us.
Every religion has symbols of its own and it is obvious that certain symbols are associated with certain ideas in our mind.
According to Swami Vivekananda (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 1, Page 74), “The association of particular temples, rituals and other concrete forms with particular religions has a tendency to bring into the minds of the followers of those religions, the thought for which those concrete things stand as symbols; and it is not wise to ignore rituals and symbols altogether. The study and practise of these things form naturally a part of Karma Yoga.”
Therefore it is obvious that a common man can very easily be deceived by the usage of Hindu symbols and rituals by the Christian Missionary.
It is said ‘Do not hate the sinner; hate the sin’. I do not want to cast aspersions on the Christian Missionary. But the cheating of illiterate masses is clearly unethical, illegal and should be stopped forthwith.
25, Sarojini Street, T. Nagar,
Madras - 600 017
This has reference to K. Swaminathan’s letter with the caption “The Pranava and the Cross” (I.E., Feb. 16), wherein he has written, “Like Swami Vivekananda, Gandhiji, Ramana Maharshi and Paramacharya of Kanchi, earnest Christian leaders like Dom Bede Griffiths and Swami Abhishiktananda are trying to make all believers in Higher Power to understand, experience and practice their mother-religions better and more fruitfully.”
It is highly outrageous and objectionable to compare the above Hindu leaders and religious heads with the Christian missionary experimentalists like Bede Griffiths or Hans Staffner. The writer brings in another Christian missionary Fr. le Saux, the so-called Abhishiktananda without any reference. In any case, Swami Vivekananda, Gandhiji, Ramana Maharshi and Paramacharya of Kanchi never resorted to such experimentation of “cocktail religion” or “Masala or Kichidi religion” by mixing religious symbols, donning the dress of Father or Mullah, building church-like or mosque-like temples, fabricating Bible- or Quran- like Hindu slokas, or asserting that Rama or Krishna or Shiva is the only God and by accepting Him alone one can get salvation!
I quote some of the utterances of Fr. Bede Griffiths from his book ‘Return to the Centre’ published by Collins, U.K., 1976:
“While Krishna is primarily a legendary character belonging to the world of myth (with all the deep meaning the word implies), Buddha comes before us as an historical person” (p.83).
“Though there may have been a historical Krishna - in fact, there were probably two or three - he has become a ‘mythical’ person, that is, a person in whom the symbolic character overshadows the historical” (p.84).
“Yet again we must remember that Krishna belongs to the world of myth, that is, to archetypal world beyond time and history… By contrast Jesus does belong to the world of history. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate” (p.85).
“What is more, he (Krishna) is morally ambivalent. He is a symbol of the highest divinity, yet as a man he is shown to be a trickster, a deceiver who brings disaster on his people and is finally ignominiously slain” (p.76).
“He is the symbol of the purest love but this is in terms of gross sexuality. It is the same with Siva. He is the God of love, of infinite beauty and grace, whose nature is being, knowledge and bliss, the Father, the Saviour, the Friend. Yet his symbol is the lingam and like Krishna has many wives” (p. 76-77).
“It is said that Krishna came on earth to enjoy himself” (p.84).
But, what about Christ?
“The love of God was revealed in Christ not in poetry but in history. It was shown not in ectasy but in self-giving for others, in surrender of his life on the cross… not in play but in agony of blood and sweat, not in joy but in suffering” (p.85).
“The man Jesus is a human being as real as Socrates and Confucius, yet the divine mystery is present in his very humanity, making him one with God” (p.77).
The person who is following the path of Sannyasi, or trying to follow the path of Sanyasi, while comparing religions and Gods, would not have given this type of blasphemous remarks about God of another religion as against his own God, when his very aim should be to tell the greatness of all Gods. None of the above Hindu leaders or religious heads ever commented like this. A true God believer cannot even think such things about any God.
His objection to the mention of Islam in this context clearly shows his utter ignorance about the cited Vatican II document dated 28th October, 1965 which includes Islam in its inculturation programme. This document was supported by 2221 and opposed by 88 and this is a clear indication that even at Vatican level there was protest. But inspite of protest, because of the vested interests it was passed.
As Fr. Bede Griffiths in another book, ‘Christ in India’ (published by Asian Trading Corporation, Bangalore - 560 025) and Han Staffner in his ‘Jesus Christ and the Hindu Community’, have clearly expressed their views and methods to make Hindus to accept Christ, to spread Christianity in India and to hasten for church growth in India, anybody’s secular or universalist interpretation of their mundane activities cannot be accepted.
INDIAN EXPRESS, 1 MARCH 1989
No ‘divine sanctions’
Sir,-In his letter “Crucifying the “Om” (I.E. Feb. 13) Mr. K.V. Ramakrishna Rao has stated that the National Catechetical and Liturgical Centre, Bangalore, have gone to the extent of asserting that Vatican has given divine sanction to the use of OM and Hindu rituals, rites and scripture in their eucharist and mass.
His Eminence Cardinal Rubin (Rome 12,8.1980) of the Sacred Congregation for Oriental Rites had informed the Hierarchs of the Syro-Malabar Church that “Not-withstanding the attempt made in various quarters to offer an accommodated Christian interpretation, it (OM) remains so strongly qualified in a Hindu sense, is charged with meaning so unmistakably Hindu, that it simply cannot be used in Christian worship… OM is an essential, integral part of Hindu worship.” Further OM is not one of the 12 points permitted by the Holy See.
Besides neither the Vatican, nor the Catholic Bishops’s Conference of India, nor the local Archbishop of Bangalore have ever given their approval for “An Order of the Mass for India”.
No. 52, 13th Trust Cross St,
Madras - 600 028.
Sir,-If the message of Jesus was exclusive, it would be impossible to borrow a symbol of another “message” without compromising on the exclusiveness of the former. In our effort to respect and tolerate other faiths, it is not necessary to aim at homogeneity - that would be syncretistic.
St. Andrew’s Church,
Sir-The traditional Catholics have been constantly raising their voice against these methods of ‘inculturation’ but there has been no response from the Church. I hope protests from our Hindu brethren will make it realise that this is a blatant intrusion into the territory of other faiths.
At the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre at Bangalore, the grills in the prayer hall had figures of Siva, Brahma and Vishnu. Objections raised by the Catholics were ignored and the images were ultimately removed only when a Hindu organisation went to court.
A. SELVARAJ CARVALHO
D 113 A, Sangeetha Colony,
Madras - 78
INDIAN EXPRESS, 9 MARCH 1989
Sir,-It is no exaggeration to aver that the Roman Catholics in Tamil Nadu are quite secular in their religious observances, especially during the performance of marriage in the Church and the community functions that follow at home. The entire fabric of the socio-religious and cultural background of a Catholic Tamil is quite akin to that of his Hindu brethren.
This is real inculturation. The worship of our Lady of Health at Veilankkanni Church is a typical example of inculturation par excellence.
Thus the time-honoured Tamil Catholic socio-religious observances have profound relevance to the meaning of Articles 37 and 38 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy enunciated in Vatican Council-II documents. They are as follows:
Norms for Adapting the Liturgy to the Culture and Traditions of Peoples:
Article 37: Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of various races and peoples. Anything in these people’s way of fife which is not indissolubly bound-up with superstition and error, she studies with sympathy and if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes, in fact, she admits such things into her liturgy itself so long as they harmonise with its true and authentic spirit.
Article 38: (In similar strain with a particular stress on mission-lands of which India also is one)
Any other innovations and aberrations of the neo-modernists like Fr. Bede Griffiths and the Directorate of National Catechetical and Liturgical Centre at Bangalore and the Management of Aikya Alayam at Madras do not have any sanction under the Vatican Council-II documents or from Rome. If Salman Rushdie, the infamous storywriter could be universally condemned to death for his “Satanic Verses”, why not these abetters of ear-heresy perceptions in the Roman Catholic faith be atleast excommunicated by Rome?
FRANCIS S. MORAIS
11, Gengaiamman Koil St.,
Madras - 94
INDIAN EXPRESS, 15 MARCH 1989
Crucifying the Buddha
Sir,-Apropos of the letter of Mr. K.V. Ramakrishna Rao (I.E. Feb.13) and Mr. Francis S. Morais (I.E. March 9) regarding the aberrations and innovations that have crept into the postconciliar (after Vatican Council II) Church in India, especially in Tamil Nadu, mention should be made of the Buddhist Zen-meditation that has come to stay in Dhyana Ashram, 13, Mada Church Road, Madras-28, an abode of the Jesuit Priests where Catholic religious seminars, conferences and retreats are being conducted periodically in which both the clergy, including the cloistered nuns and the Catholic laity participate. Zen meditation teacher Fr. Amasamy S.J. is the principal exponent of this pseudo meditation imported from Japan.
A Zen meditation hall has been erected in the “Ashram”. A Buddha idol adorns the centre of the hall and a Crucifix is placed in another corner of the hall.
Zen meditation was inaugurated a year ago by the Vicar General of Madras-Mylapore Arch-Diocese, while two Buddhist monks from Japan conducted the ceremony.
Fr. Amasamy S.J. by his adventurism has crucified Buddhism in the Jesuit Ashram in Madras.
JUDE ANTONY ANANTH
7, Dr. Gopalamenon Street,
Madras - 24
INDIAN EXPRESS, 23 MARCH 1989
Sir,-The subject of inculturation in the Catholic Church has come up several times in these columns recently. As my name has been mentioned more than once in this connection, perhaps I may be allowed to clarify the issue.
The basis of inculturation was laid by the second Vatican Council in its ‘Declaration on Non-Christian religions, where it was said that “the Church rejects nothing which is true and holy” in other religions and Catholics are exhorted to “recognise, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral values of other religions as well as their cultural and social values”.
It was in response to this call that the National Centre was set up by the Bishops of India in Bangalore to aid the process of inculturation. At the same time many ashrams dedicated to the ideal of living a Christian life in the context of the ashram tradition in India were started. All these ashrams, contrary to what has been suggested, have the full support of the bishops and the religious orders to which they belong.
There are many different religions in India, and many different sects in Hinduism, each with their own distinctive ritual and doctrine, yet sharing a common cultural tradition.
It is hoped that by sharing in this common cultural tradition the Christian churches also may be able to enter the mainstream of Indian life, bearing their own distinctive witness to the truth, and working together with other religious communities for the good of country as a whole. It is an urgent need that the different religions of the world should learn to co-operate with one another and not be a source of division and conflict, as is so often the case. This seems to be the only way forward for humanity to-day.
Kulithalai, Tiruchi - 639 107
INDIAN EXPRESS, 27 MARCH 1989
Freedom more than communion
Sir,-It is strange that Dom Bede Griffiths does not see the incongruity of foreigners like him preaching inculturation to the Church in India (I.E., March 23).
Christian Gospel must incarnate in Indian soil. This spontaneous process is helped best by the Indian Christian community under the leadership of Indian bishops and the priests working under the bishops.
Dom Griffiths’ observation on Christian churches in India entering the mainstream of India’s life is nothing but an attempt to shift the blame for the foreignness of the churches in India from foreign missionaries and foreign missionary societies to the Indian Christian community.
The Catholic Church in India is still dominated by the personnel of foreign-based missionary societies like the Jesuits, the Salesians, the Fransiscans and so on, under the pretext of the Church in India being ‘young’. It is this that presents the Church in India as the long arm of western Christianity.
No doubt most of the members of these societies (referred to as ‘religious’) are now Indians. But as members of foreign-based societies they claim exemption from the jurisdiction of the bishops in India. The new code of Canon Law of 1983 has abolished this claim for autonomy technically called “clerical exemption”, for doctrinal reasons. But the societies still persist in the claim for autonomy and run a parallel church, relying on the theology that would have done credit to the age of colonisation.
In the discussion on the relation between the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Religious, India (CRI) in Goa in 1986. Archbishop Casimir, himself a Jesuit, said that the religious “value independence and freedom more than communion with bishops”.
But as early as 1926, Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical Rerum Ecclesiae emphatically pleaded for replacing foreign missionary societies by new indigenous societies “such as may answer better the genius and character of the natives and be more in keeping with the needs and spirit of the country”.
So long as this sound theology remains suppressed, there is no point in talking of inculturation.
12, Third Main Road,
Alwarpet, Madras - 18.
INDIAN EXPRESS, 28 MARCH 1989
Pollution of Hinduism
Sir,-I was surprised to read Bede Griffiths’ claim that “All these ashrams… have the full support of the bishops and the religious orders to which they belong” (I.E, March. 23) because he has not denied that any of the activities pointed out by me and other readers in these columns are not carried on!
Does he mean that the soared bishops and the religious orders to which they belong have approved and accorded them permission to pollute Hinduism under the guise of inculturation?
Then what about Cardinal Rubin’s say on OM (Rome 12-8-80)?
He arrogantly writes that the church rejects nothing that is true and holy in other religions and that Catholics are exhorted to “recognise, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral values of other religions as well as their cultural and social values”.
Do they think Hindus are not capable of recognising, preserving and promoting their spiritual and moral values?
It is enlightening to read Bede Griffiths’ books, Return to the Centre and Christ in India. In the former, he glorifies Christ against Hindu Gods, Siva and Krishna, treating them in bad taste, on par with E.V.R. In the latter like Hans Staffner, he expresses his views and outlines methods to make Hindus accept Christ, to spread Christianity in India and to hasten Church growth.
If believers of Gods abuse Gods, seekers of Gods destroy Gods, faithful followers of one religion question the faith of others and, against all moral and ethical codes and universal principles, conduct pseudo-spiritual and psychological-religious warfare against one religion, then these activities are not “inculturation” but “outculturation”, as religion and culture are inseparable for Hindus.
Theocentric and theocratic eclectics are as dangerous as nuclear warheads. The concept “My God is your God, but your God is no God”, does not foster understanding and cooperation. The concept should be changed to “Your God is my God and my God is your God” and accepted by people of all religions.
This is the only way for humanity today. Super God rivalry, religious superiority, theocratic world domination and neo-spiritual globalism cannot make “believers” live in peaceful co-existence.
K.V. RAMAKRISHNA RAO
10, Venkatachala Iyer St.,
Madras - 33
Sir,-With reference to Fr. Bede Griffiths’ letter “Inculturation”, the attention of interested readers is directed to the book Catholic Ashrams: Adopting and Adapting Hindu Dharma, published by Voice of India, 2/18 Ansari Road, New Delhi- 110002 (Rs. 40), which contains a comprehensive over-view of the Church’s inculturation (indigenisation) programme in India and a lively debate on the issue between myself and Fr. Bede Griffiths.
The Pope in Rome and his priests in India have no right or authority whatsoever to meddle with Hinduism, appropriate its sacred customs, titles, dress, symbols and rituals, and put them to uses that are at least unethical and at most highly offensive to devout Hindus. By indulging in these questionable experiments and devious Hinduized proselytization tactics, Christians demean their own religion and exploit Hindu tolerance to the limit.
Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts write in their book Pontiff: “(The Chinese Catholics) are a product of centuries of relationship between China and the Church. It began when the Jesuits walked into Peking in the 16th century. They were warmly received. Then, in a momentous blunder, Rome rejected the Jesuits’ idea of integrating Chinese and Catholic culture. Had this been allowed. China might well have become a Catholic country.”
Inculturation is the means by which the Church seeks to correct this “momentous blunder” in India. If this is not true and conversion of Hindus to Christianity is not the objective of inculturation, why aren’t recognised and qualified Hindu Dharmacharyas consulted by Church authorities before they permit their missionaries to embark on reckless religious and cultural adventures.
It is very doubtful if the ochre-clad priests who employ a bastardized Om-and-Cross symbol in their missionary work, as do Fr. Bede Griffiths and his comrades throughout the country, have ever considered that God Ganesh is known to every Hindu as Pranavaswarup - and all the sophistry in Rome and Bangalore cannot explain away this fact.
SWAMI DEVANANDA SARASWATI
RCC (Avadi) Post
Madras - 109
NOT PUBLISHED BY THE INDIAN EXPRESS
25 Sarojini St.,
Sir-This has reference to Swami Devananda Saraswat’s letter with the caption “Pollution of Hinduism” (I.E., March 20)
He is correct in saying that the object of inculturation is to convert Hindus to Christianity.
A simple reading of Fr. Bede Griffiths’s books such as “Return to the Centre” published by Collins (UK, 1976) and “Christ in India” (published by Asian Trading Corporation, Bangalore) will reveal that inculturation is another method to make Hindus, particularly illiterate Hindus, to accept Christianity.
In this modem scientific world, we must try our best to make people forget about their religious differences and live peacefully. Provocation in the name of spreading one’s religion at the cost of another religion should be stopped to save humanity.
INDIAN EXPRESS, 1 APRIL 1989
For human unity
Sir,-In the letters ‘Pollution of Hinduism’ (I.E., March 28), Mr. K.V. Ramakrishna Rao and Swami Devananda have condemned what many of us welcome as well-meant steps in the world-wide, Gandhian movement for human unity in spirit and truth through (not inspite of) our great religions.
For us in India. Truth is one, though sages speak of it variously. The one fault of the Semitic religions is intolerance, the untenable claim of being the one true faith. The cure for intolerance is not intolerance.
Nothing is lost and something by way of harmony is gained, when Christians use Sanskrit, Tamil, the syllable Om and the rites of doopa and deepa.
Religions are not candles struggling for standing space. They are candle-flames whose light and warmth merge and bring spirit nearer to mind and matter.
Madras - 18
NOT PUBLISHED BY THE INDIAN EXPRESS
RCC (Avadi) Post
Madras - 600 109
1 April 1989
Either Prof. Swaminathan (I.E. April 1st) does not know anything about Semitic religions except that they are intolerant, or he is deliberately avoiding the central issue of conversion by means of inculturation and trying to shift the blame for intolerance onto those few Hindus who raise a voice of protest. Certainly, there is no religious contest between Hindus and Christians, as the latter do not have anything Hindus need or want. But it is also true that Hindus cannot meet Christians on the level of ideology and foreign funds. Christians spend U.S. dollars 165 million every year to convert India’s Hindus to their closed and exclusive belief-system, and Hindus, for a variety of reasons, primarily ignorance and poverty, cannot resist the Christian ideologue with his promises of health and wealth. Since the 1960s, inculturation has become the preferred method of proselytizing Hindus. Inculturation means that all Prof. Swaminathan’s candle-flames become one Christian candle-flame at the alter of Jesus, the only son of God Jevovah. If this the kind of “human unity” we want?
(Swami Devananda Saraswati)
The full text of Cardinal Rubin’s letter, quoted by Mr. S. Santiago, is as follows: Report on the State of Liturgical Reform in the Syro-Malabar Church by the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches. (Text sent to all Hierarchs of the Syro-Malabar Church. 12.8.80)
Section 3: Observations on certain points of the ‘Indian Mass’ and the ‘Indianized Mass (Dharmaram CMI group)’ and related questions.
The ‘Om’ according to what innumerable Passages of the Upanishads continually and repeatedly affirm, is the synthesis of ill the Vedas-, and of all the ‘gnosis’ of Hinduism. Notwithstanding the attempt made in various quarters to offer an accommodated Christian interpretation, it remains so strong - qualified in a Hindu sense, is charged with meanings so unmistakably Hindu, that it simply cannot be used in Christian worship. ‘Om’ is not a revealed name of God. Besides, if even the Old Testament tetragramme itself can no longer be used, how can this syllable, so charged with special meanings, and charged with ambiguity, be used to invoke God? Moreover, ‘Om’ is an essential, integral part of Hindu worship. ↩