“Not until we see the richness of the Hindu mind and its essential spirituality can we understand India” Lyn Yutang
Couple of days ago, on Diwali, I had a great time with my friends. For the first time in my life, I went for a Diwali party with my friends. It was at the house of one of my North Indian friends here in Edmonton with his parents and his brother. After the initial gup-shup about politics and current affairs, we had puja conducted by my friend’s dad, the man of the house. It was an awesome experience on my part to take part in that puja. The puja lasted about 15-20 minutes during which yours truly also had the privilege to offer prayers to Goddess Lakshmi. According to the Puranas, the goddess of Wealth, Prosperity and Luck Lakshmi was born from the churning of the Milk Ocean, along with other magical beings and objects including Amrit, Kamadhenu, Chintamani, Halahal aka Poison, etc. I stood there and prayed these few words ‘ My God and my father, to me, you are everywhere and you are the very one we offer prayers now, bless us your children who offer prayers now on this auspicious day’. It was simply powerful and magical. I felt a voltage surge through my body (it happens always when I pray with that realm of spirituality, a vindication to me that God has listened to my prayer that very moment). I felt gladder than never before in my whole life. After the puja, we went to the mandir in Millwoods and offered prayers there also. Not to forget the awesome display of fireworks that completes the festival of lights!
Recently, there was very big debate regarding this very issue in the local church I go to. To the non-discerning reader, I am a reformed Syrian Christian (Nasrani) following the traditional Orthodox church of Kerala. The debate was over one of the members, actually following Hinduism or the various aspects associated with it. The debate was pretty fierce but it actually did open a whole new strain of thoughts which I feel I should share with you people. As a background, as mentioned earlier, I come from a reformed Orthodox churchwhich is very liberal in nature. Four of our ten bishops did their post graduation in Bhagavad Gita so as the official stance of our church that believes in our strong roots in the community. Again the reader might pose a question regarding why did the debate happen in your church in the first place. Well again the influx of right wing Pentecostal Christianity into the various spheres of the church has diminished whatever that remained of our strong traditions and propagated a false sense of teaching that is anti Christian and anti tradition.
I am proud to say that my church is so liberal in this method of thinking in a day where Hinduism is confused by many as a religion. To me Hinduism never was and is never a religion, its a culture. My culture and the culture of every proud Indian. The thaali that even Indian Christian woman wear today that symbolizes marriage is a powerful epitome of our culture and its strides, Similar is the case when we commemorate Onam, Diwali, Holi etc. These are inclusive of any religious setup as such. The respect we show to our elders; love for everyone irrespective of caste, color and creed; family values of love, honesty and trust; arranged marriages; etc are all Indian or to be specific Hindu in nature. The friendship, trust and respect that Duryodhana had for Karna, Krishna instructing Arjuna in battle which later became the Bhagavad gita, the ability of Ram to sacrifice and go to vanavas though he was wronged; the sacrifice of Mahabali; the motherly love of Yasoda; the faith of Draupadi to Krishna, the Hindu mythology has scores of examples that we Indian Christians boldly claim as part of our rich heritage and tradition. So I guess when we boldly claim all these, shouldn’t we be calling ourselves Hindu Christians?
If the teachings of Jesus who became Christ through his death and resurrection inspires us Christians to follow all these Hindu traditions from wearing thaali, to folded hands in prayers and the drawing of cross, I believe we are to be rightfully called Hindu Christian and I am proud to be one. Wouldn’t this thought actually help drive us from animosity as seen in Orissa and many other places to one of brotherhood and love. Far as I know, Jesus never wanted to convert anyone leave alone even establish a religion. He wanted his followers to spread his message to the ends of the earth. His legacy was his teaching which through eons, morphed into a religion of convenience for the Romans who incorporated their then fledgling beliefs into Christianity as the new religion was called. Antioch where the believers were called Christians took a different rout as some ended up being part of the East Roman Empire or the Byzantine Empire ultimately culminating in the Ottoman Empire. We see that Christianity was always a teaching and the dire straits that the Church finds itself today is because of the inability of the church to accept this very fact.
When St.Thomas the Apostle brought this teaching to India and people followed him, they dint leave their strong traditions behind. It was alleged that St.Thomas converted over 400 Brahmin families in India. But later on when the Roman Catholic missionaries came, they were surprised to see Christians in this part of the world with stronger Christ-like values, living in harmony with other religions than they could ever imagine. It made their task easier. That to me friends, should be the stand of Christians today. We are simply proud Hindus who have accepted the teachings of Christ into our lives. Let this belief lead us. We will be secular in a way we never thought we could and through our lives, people will actually realize what made Jesus the Christ he became in the end. Through this propagating the teachings of Christ will be easier and we can save more souls than we could ever imagine.