Jesus in India and the Digestion of Hinduism, June 2011

The debate was initiated by Rajiv Malhotra, and this thread provides one of the (many) links between his books 'Breaking India' and 'Being Different' that would come out a few months later. This is among the most important and thought-provoking discussions in the forum so far. Rajiv Malhotra has provided a tremendous amount of feedback in this thread, and the original thread should ideally be read in full to fully grasp the nuances in this debate.  Also, this thread is best read in conjunction with another important debate around the sameness methodology embraced by the Ramakrishna mission.

This discussion was initiated in response to an email that reached Rajiv:
"Dear All,
You can watch my recent film ' The Rozabal Shrine of Srinagar' on the subject of Jesus in India, on You Tube. This film has been made by a follower of Sri Sri Thakur ji and produced by Films Division, Govt. of India. The Link:

`The Rozabal Shrine in Srinagar', India, contains one of the biggest mysteries of the world. It contains the tomb of Yuza Asaf who is supposed to be none other than Jesus Christ ! This fascinating film explores the research works of national and international experts who are convinced of this fact.."

"I dont personally believe in the jesus-in-india thesis. it is entirely speculative and based on one-sided evidence.

But many indians like to believe it. THIS HELPS THE EVANGELISTS AS THE INDIANS TARGETED FEEL THAT JESUS WAS ONE OF THEIR OWN. It facilitates inculturation. In the book "Breaking India" we discus how the myth of St. Thomas being in India gets used to convert Tamils "back to their original faith, i.e. Christianity." This Jesus in India myth serves a similar purpose. Hence even the pseudo-secular govt supports the story.

While many Hindus naively feel this approach assimilates Christianity into Hinduism, in fact the reverse happens, i.e., Hinduism gets digested into Christianity through devices such as Christian Yoga, Christian Centering Prayer (an appropriation from Transcendental Meditation), etc. The reason that Hindu-Christian synthesis results in a bigger, more robust Christianity with Hinduism as a subset is explained in my next book where I introduce the concept of "digestion" of one civ into another. What makes Christianity resilient to being digested into Hinduism is what I refer to as its History-Centrism. .."

Ganesh responds:
"... Found this great site that shows how a lot of Jewish belief's were hijacked and made part of present day Christianity.

The above link is related to the interview with Yashendra on his Rozabal tomb film. His very speculative answer to the very first question gives away the subversive nature and way people with vested political interest have been using Christianity as a religious tool,.."

At this point, a sub-thread talks about Deivanayagam (father-daughter duo peddling dubious theories, noted in Breaking India).

Ammangudi asks:
"Reading the exploits of the unstoppable Deivanayagam in your book, it struck me whether Madras university could be engaged in a discussion about Deivanayagam's thesis about St. Thomas and beyond, how such a thesis was issued despite evidence to the contrary ..."

Vedaprakash provides details:
"1. The "research" on such myths continue and now more than 50 M.Phil and Ph.D are done on the topic.

2. Aravindan knows very well that Baskaradass and three others have already completed their Ph.Ds...

3. The "Christian studies" and "Vaishnava studies" departments of Madras University have been working together to strengthen such myths ...

4. But none does research on christianity and their methods. Ironically, the "Vaishnaa studies" department puts hurdles who come to study the "Vaishnava" religion, philosophy etc..,

Jataayu makes an important point:
"While there are declared Chrisitans studying in the Shaivism
& Vaishnavism departments in the Univ of Madras, there are no Hindu students studying in the dept of Christianity. If Hindu students enroll, the dept is bound to accept them - they can not decline citing religion as the reason. So, at least in theory, nothing stops Hindus from studying in Dept of Christianity and writing research papers like "Impact of Upanishads and Buddhism on the early Judeo-Christian tradition" or
'Prophethood: its benign Indic origins and transformation in the semiitic faiths" or "Contesting St. Thomas visit to India: A historical survey" etc. etc..

The point is, we did not do it, nor are we even thinking about it now. ..."

Rajiv responds:
"The christians are practicing what I called purva-paksha. They study us. We started this tradition long before there was any intellectual traditiion in Christianity at all, in fact before there was christianity. But we lost it.

Notice the uproar when i suggested that we study Mormon university training system which produces 20,000 missionaries to go abroad every year.

I find most gurus are very ignorant of the other side, leading them to the sameness posture. Hence the syndrome of RKM, SRF, J. Krishnamurti and many others"

There was another response, and we return to the original thread.
Carpentier notes:
"The thesis of Jesus coming to India is old and deep rooted! Irrespective of whether it is historicqlly true; it has plausibility and conforms with India's universalistic ideals. There is no point fighting or trying to demolish by research, rather draw and present the right conclusions from it; Jesus was a master within an ancient esoteric tradition which transcended the sectarian Judaism of his day (itself influenced by Zoroastrianism, Egyptian and Babylonian religions) and had roots in India like its contemporary and competitor Mithraism."

Rajiv's response: 

"see my earlier comment on political implications. Its not a
discussion about jesus or about philosophy, but about present day politics of religion. jesus' historicity become a device in this context. "

Ghare adds:
"... Shri.gaNeshajee knowingly or unknowingly has touched on Point to b Noted.
It is well known (but often forgotten) that both "Jesus Christ" and "mohammad" are recognised and described as "shiva_avataara" (Incarnations of Lord Shiva) in "bhavishya puraaNa".
To the best of my Knowledge and Memory, this fact is known to Prof.raajeevajee for more than a decade by now.

("hanumaana" or "maarutee" is another very popular Lord_shiva_rudra Incarnation.
    However, for some unknown reasons, incarnations of Lord_shiva are not as well known and popular as those of Lord_vishNu)..."

Vishal notes:
"...All printed editions of the Bhavishya Mahapurana stem from a single Venkateshwara Press edition (from late 1800s, of which I have a copy). This edition itself was 'put together' by a Pandit of Amritsar. No known manuscripts older than the printed edition have the fables that the Pratisarga Parva of the Bhavishya Purana has, although parts of this Parva are indeed very ancient.
Most of the traceable quotations from the Bhavishya Purana in Dharmashastra Nibandhas can be found in the Braahma Parva of the Purana, and this is clearly the oldest section of the Purana..."

Suresh comments:
"... there is a book -Jesus Lived in India - by a Gernam Chaplain Holger Kirsten. The book gives archeological and other evidences to support the point. he visited India when he was under 12, and opposed animal sacrifices in Yagnas which
is malpractice of the Vedic teaching. The Vedics did not listen him, and he went back. There he survived crucification , and came back secretly to India and became a Bodhisatva, the book says. He had no followers in India at that

Rajiv's response

"there are several such books i have read about jesus in india.
bottom line: since jesus was indian yogi, lets become christian as we lose nothing by doing. Right? Thats the implication and strategy behind it. I hope this is clear.

Ravindra notes:
"Rozbal Shrine in Kashmir was a creation after the conversion of the local population. There is no such statement in Kashmiri literature, and there is a lot of it available. No mention in Neelmat Puraana, no mention in RajaTarangani.
But it starts apperaing when the local Hindu shrines start getting usurped and local Muslims want to show their roots in Arabia. Unfortunately Hindus fall for such myths."

Desh suggests:
"Personally I believe that if we could do something in terms of narrative, then the Jesus in India could be a great way to hit at the evangelists. "

Rajiv Malhotra's response:
"one side is more organized than the other; one side has a
strategy, central institutions, ambitions, etc. while the other side (namely ours) does not. THIS IS WHY THE BRIDGE TO MOVE BOTH WAYS WILL GET MOSTLY TRAFFIC
MOVING FROM HINDU TO CHRISTIAN IDENTITIES. Until this gets solved such a proposal would be dangerous.
ANALOGY: Suppose we have an open border with Pakistan on a similar logic. The fact is that terrorists will infiltrate into india and your call form indians to migrate to pakistan and dominate there will go ingored" 

Raj comments:
"The concept of Avatar is outright blasphemy in the Abrahamic religions, so are ideas like Self-realization, yoga etc. Hence redefining Jesus and Mohammad as a rishi or an avatar shows poor understanding of the "other" system. By trying to upgrade them to the same level as Shiva, Buddha, Shankara et al, we are in fact downgrading our own system. But such notions appeal to the ignorant Hindu and the liberal guilt-stricken White Christian. Both these groups want to simply ignore the vast difference that exists between closed-single-identity-repressive-exclusivism & open-pluralistic-dharmic-inclusivism - the former increases suffering, the latter is its preexisting antidote... "

Karigar has a followup to the previous comment:
"I quite agree with Raj Kashyap ji's persuasive framing of the issue. I'd also go one step further. The reason for Hindus (& other non-Westerners) to know European "enlightenment" thinkers is not quite to show that their thinking is in line with Vedanta or other Indic systems.

Some elements of that may be true, but the primary reason is to look at the HUGE tussle over centuries that took place (& is still taking place) between it & the Judeo-Christian worldview. This will (a) give apathetic Indians pause before absorbing everything from the West as "Progressive Modernity", or as "Christianity", and (b) learn the gory oppression conducted by Christian institutions upon their own European peoples before turning their sights on the rest of the world & lecturing other cultures on their shortcomings.

Also, on purely philosophical grounds, the "Enlightenment" thought comes inextricably linked with both the Industrial Revolution (that's now helping the world turn into a Wasteland, due to it's core Unbalanced principles), and Colonialism (which of course the BI book explains in admirable detail) ..."

Carpentier comments:
"It can be spun both ways. By presenting the tradition about Jesus coming to India as an aspect of the age-old legacy of spirituality which attracted people from all over Asia and Europe to India for millenia, Jesus is seen in his true light as another great wise man; It is not possible to disprove
scientifically that Jesus came to india as we know so little about him as a historical figure ...

...  Unsurprisingly Christan Churches, beginning with the Catholic Church are very opposed to the theory that Jesus came to India as that would make him a student of Hinduism and Buddhism instead of being the Only Son of the Hebrew
God who knew everything from eternity because of his unique divine nature."


Rajiv Malhotra's response:
"The predominance of the above view is precisely why I write, "Myth of Hindu Sameness" many years ago. I request those holding such ideas please read it at: [previous link]

Come [Carpentier] is mixed up between dharma's universalism and sameness. The above article will convince him otherwise. As for the damage this has caused, I restate the following: After you read my forthcoming book (expected this fall), you will appreciate my arguments as to why the appropriation of Hindu elements into Christianity is leading to the demise of Hinduism. ...
...Hinduism becomes redundant, everything considered useful becoming a subset of Christianity. The husk left over is the "caste, cows, curry" stereotypes, and these end up in museums as exotic, primitive stuff.

Because the foolish swamis of RK Mission who succeeded Swami Vivekananda never understood this big picture, they facilitated this assimilation.

That is why in USA where RK Mission started big time, it has faded away, becoming redundant. Westerners were once drawn to it in very large numbers to learn meditation. But since the churches appropriated and started to teach the
same meditation, RKM no longer attracts young westerners....It is like another church, nothing unique to offer. Hence it is a second tier appendage to American Christianity for the most part. I do not recognize RKM swamis as legitimate representatives of Hinduism in America. Their effect on our identity is counter productive."

Harihara shares:
".. I remember listening a lecture (taped version) of Rev. Swami Ranganathanandaji of Ramakrishna Math & Mission, delivered to audiences in either Australia or New Zealand. At the end of the lecture session, Swami was asked a question, what is the future of Christianity? He sharply replies, they have to accept vedanta into their system and survive. ..." 

Rajiv's response was already part of the response to Carpentier.

Rajiv Malhotra adds:
"Besides RKM, Self-Realization Fellowship is also entirely Christianized.  Parmahansa Yogananda espoused sameness to bring his American Christian audiences closer to Hinduism, making it seem more approachable in Christian terms. But a few generations later, the state of affairs is that: inside American Christianity SRF is very very fringe, whereras in India it is a huge movement that HAS SECULARIZED THE HINDU FOLLOWERS.

Try discussing our issues with a typical SRF member and he will shy away calling you a hindu fanatic and other names. Ditto for RKM. They dont want to think of themselves as hindu except where the audience is such that it suits them to do so.

I am exposing this sameness lot big time in a future book. I do not accept them as voices for hindu dharma. They have their own agenda."

Manas comments:
 >> They dont want to think of themselves as hindu...<<
This aversion for a Hindu identity is among other factors, largely a result of the Nehruvian policies of negating dharmic values from the Indian public and education system. This coupled with Indira Gandhi's patronization of the Marxists history engineers, aided by her education minister Nurun Hasan, resulted in textbooks that have not only brushed aside dharmic values, but in recent years have actually started demeaning them..."
Come Carpentier responds to Rajiv's prior comment:
"Rajivji may also be misunderstanding what I said. I merely pointed out that rather than arguing endlessly that Jesus Christ could not possibly have come to India (futilely in my opinion as we will not change people's minds when they are made up, just like most people continue to believe that the apostle
Thomas visited India, irrespective of historical doubts); we should lend and propagate the right interpretation to tha story. Christianity borrowed from both Vedanrta and Buddhism as is made obvious by some of the early Christian neo-platonic and patristic writings. Tthe modern Chrsitan Churches will continue to try to absorb Hinduism whether or not JC came to India but many if not most people will draw the logical conclusio: it makes sense to go back to the source and bring Christianty back into the Dharma.

Rajiv's response:

I disagree with the last sentence. That is precisely what all
the sameness gurus think they are doing.

You must study the impact of following a strategy before advocating it. SRF and RK Mission are two prominent examples. Go to their gatherings and see if they have any interest in the kinds of issues being discussed in this egroup...

...The result of trying to "bring Christianity into dharma" has not led to mainstream Christians becoming any less history-centric. (That is the key stumbling block, and the Nicene Creed is the bedrock of this. See this discussed in detail in my next book.) These history-centric Christians will digest whatever element of dharma can fit into the exclusivist Christianity, hence Christian Yoga, Christian Bharat Natyam, etc.

In my book, I also present the right solution to this syndrome, a solution based on interviewing hundreds of westerners who did U-Turns back to Judeo-Christianity after a lifetime immersed in dharma. Why do they do this, what forces are at work, and what would prevent this? These are some research question i have pursued for over a decade quite systematically. "

Rakesh is succinct:
"A Hindu proselytization approach, such as SRF and RKM, will only achieve apologist status and end up beoming 'acceptable' to christians, in the US and Europe, when they turn christian".

Manas comments:
"It is quite interesting how because of socio-political circumstances over decades (discussed here), quite often without even realizing, many Hindus (?) have developed a tendency to go overboard with the "sameness" idiocy (probably in most cases, just in case someone throws adjectives like communal, fascistic, fanatic, Hindutvavaadi, etc.). While non-Dharmics keep propounding totalitarian, supremacist ethos and are still labelled secular by the self-styled secular-liberal brigade..."

Carpentier responds to Rajiv:
"Except that christianity is losing steam and breaking up into many sects which are not even really Christian."

Rajiv responds and has the last word, which we include fully here, given that this is a very, very important debate about a topic that has ramifications for people both India and the West in terms of their people continuing to learn the genuine and complete message of Hinduism and Dharma and not a mangled, diluted, and digested form achieved by giving History-Centric Christianity a superficial makeover:
"This is a common mis interpretation. Chaos in the other side
does not prevent them from causing harm to others. They are undergoing a reinvention of christianity to include science as well as dharma as proper subsets.

1) Science is being assimilated under the new Judeo-Christian doctrine of Intelligence Design - itself an appropriation of dharmic principles.

2) Vedanta is assimilated into a new kind of Christian non-dualism

3) Meditation is now Christian Centering Prayer, said to have been originated in Christian mysticism.

4) Yoga is Christian Yoga

5) Hindu ethics of environment is reformulated as sacredness of God's creation - opposite of the materialistic attitude for centuries.

6) Shakti and Kundalini are Holy Spirit that was always there but now we understand it better.

7) Bharat Natyam is Christ Natyam


Bottom line: By converting from hindu to christian you lose nothing. But gain a lot - freedom from caste, cows, curry stereotypes; and most of all the love of Jesus as ONLY his birth made salvation possible.

X becomes a subset of Y. X is hence redundant and not worth fighting for.

This is why I regard most Hindu leaders to be confused morons, having failed to study the opponents in the manner called for by our purva-paksha tradition."

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