RMF Summary: Week of March 23 - 29, 2013

March 24 (continuing discussion)
Pope Francis calls for "respect" for all religions
Is it the first time that a pope said something like this? If true Rajivji's stand on mutual respect is accepted:Pope Francis calls for 'respect...

Tariyal comments: "... pope will never give equal respect to the Dharmic people. This is because of the fundamental dogma of Christianity that man is a born sinner and he or she can only be saved through Jesus Christ. Also the old testament forbids worshipping of false gods. To give equal respect to us will mean they would not be Christians any more. So an avowed Christian respecting our Dharmic traditions is an oxymoron. Cannot happen. Can only happen if the person will give up the core dogma, which means he or she is not a Christian anymore."

Alex responds: "Reg. [] Tariyal's following comments, I would like to, as a Christian respectfully offer the following comments:

"A true Christian especially a pope will never give equal respect to the Dharmic people."

While I do not know whether the new Pope is hypocritical or not when he spoke about respecting all faiths, but I do know that Dr. Tariyal is factually
incorrect when he says that a "true Christian will never give equal respect to the Dharmic people".

There are hundreds of millions of "true" Christians all over the world, who do take seriously the admonitions of Jesus of Nazareth to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" & "love thy neighbor as thyself". They are all required to give equal respect to followers of all faiths, Dharmic religions included.

.... Jesus was preaching to the Jews in the role of a Rabbi who was trying to reform the Jewish religion. He did not "establish" Christianity. His followers established that faith which got interpreted in many different ways and
generated many sects of Christianity, just as it happened in all religions including Sanatana Dharma.

.... Those statements of Dr. Tariyal, I submit are based on his own interpretation of Christianity. And, it is very unfortunate that Dr.Tariyal has been too quick to
generalize without perhaps having interacted with true followers of the tenets of Jesus who value more than anything, first, the golden rule of do unto others
as you would have them do unto you and second,to love thy neighbor as thyself.

Such Christians are in the millions and so are many millions in the Dharmic faiths who do not hold []Tariyal's views nor are they as vehement as he is in
asserting as to who is a Christian and who is not.

Belief in God is a deeply personal matter and respecting one's neighbor requires the humility not to be judgmental in proclaiming who is a true follower of one religion or another. That is best left to the believer and his or her

Not withstanding Dr.Tariyal's assertion, I as a follower of the tenets of Jesus of Nazareth, do respect and love people of all faiths and I also respect and love those who profess no faith in God. ..."

Rajiv comment: ... So how do I recommend reconciling these views?

Though Tariyal ji means well, I find that most Hindus lack adequate understanding of Christianity, and hence they conflate too many things into simplistic categories. To be able to discuss with credibility in well-informed
forums, Hindus must learn the important differences among each of the following aspects of Christianity:

1) Jesus' own utterances.
2) Bible as a collection of utterances by many voices of which Jesus is just one. (This means Bible cannot be seen as shruti, but evaluated as smriti - like a purana perhaps.) Pls note that there are many persons who reject Bible as
literal word while worshiping Jesus.
3) Theologies formulated by numerous persons since Jesus onwards.
4) Belief systems of the Catholic Church.
5) Belief systems of the Eastern Orthodox Church. (Alex belongs here.)
6) Belief systems of the mainline Protestant Churches.
7) Belief systems of the non-mainline Protestants - pentacostals, mormons, etc.
8) Philosophies of numerous Christian rebels today, who in turn are also having many diverse views amongst themselves...

It is better to articulate an issue, and invite the other party to respond with a stand. Let each Christian thus be able to decide for himself where he stands.

In this spirit. I request Alex to inform us of his stand (which may have nothing to do with some institutional "Christianity" per se) on the Nicene Creed as it
relates to Hindu tenets. Specifically:
- does he accept it literally or metaphorically?
- what is the status of Hindu avataras, deities such as Shiva, Devi, etc?
- how does he see principles like karma-reincarnation?
- what is his position on conversions being done in India?"

Maria adds:
"Alex is right that there are millions of ‘respectful’ Christians who love Jesus and would never convert anyone. However, that is not the point.  Christianity and Islam (and each sect of them) claim that they are the only true faith. They indoctrinate their flock. Before each mentioning of “Catholic Church” in Germany, there was the prefix “alleinseligmachende”, which means “which can alone give salvation”. .....Most Christians at least in Europe, would not condone conversion; in fact, many do not even believe that conversion is still happening today.

The point is that the different Churches are on a conversion spree in India and probably in many other places, too. So if the Pope wants to give respect, he cannot possibly condone trying by hook and crook (that’s what happens) to convert Hindus. He would have to make an announcement to this effect if he was sincere..."

Alex responds to Rajiv:
"...my article on Proselytization in India which was subsequently published in Sulekha. Its link is provided below. .... recommend that they read the last page where I have sought the inclusion of a prohibition against Proselytization in the UN's Declaration of Human Rights. The link below will answer the last item on your list, viz., my position on religious conversions in India.

... Reg. Nicene Creed, though my Church believes in the Nicene Creed (431 CE) I do not! The Church has every right to ex-communicate me if it chooses to do so for
that... But, there are far too many like me who do not subscribe to everything that the Church demands. I also do not believe as many others also do not, that the Bible is inerrant. Thank God, the Eastern Orthodox Churches do not believe in the infallibility of their Patriarchs! For me, the Jefferson's Bible is quite sufficient for my understanding of the teachings of Jesus.

Reg. Hindu avatars, deities, Shiva, Devi etc…the way I understand avatars is that they are different manifestations of the transcendent God...

For me, Shiva is the Supreme God of Shaivites, also called Mahadeva. Devi (if you mean Shiva's consort Parvati) is the Supreme manifestation of Shakti which
showers unconditional love on all her children. Interestingly, in the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the Holy Spirit is called Shekinah (feminine) as is the case in Judaism. Shekinah is also endowed with the power of showering unconditional love on all of `creation".

Reg. Karma, I do not see any contradiction between that concept in Sanatana Dharma and orthodox Christianity. For e.g., In Galatians (6:7) it is stated that "For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". I also believe that one does not have to wait for the next birth to reap the outcomes of one's action.

Reg. Reincarnation, there is some evidence in the Bible, that the Jews also believed in reincarnation. For e.g. In Matthew 11:14, Jesus speculated that John the Baptist could be Elijah, the Old Testament prophet reincarnated! In John 9:2, some disciples of Jesus brought a blind man to be healed by Jesus and asked Jesus, "whose sin is this, this man's or his parent's?" I tend to believe in both more than I reject them outright. But, in my Eastern Orthodox Church, both Karma and Reincarnation are not accepted.

..While all religions preach that in one form or another, it is unfortunate that both the golden rule of treating others as you would like to be treated and being a true and loving neighbor are both breached more often than they are followed. ... I am an American of Christian faith and
a Hindu by culture. That self-identification is my privilege and not of the Church or any one else for that matter."

Rajiv comment: I am glad Alex accepted the invite to respond to questions. This egroup should be a forum for respectful discussions even when we disagree. Let
us maintain that tone and continue the thread. "

Maria asks Alex:
"... intrigued why you still identify as a Christian, even though you (like me) fall clearly into the ‘heretics’ category and if we had lived a few centuries earlier, our lives would have been in danger. I may oversimplify again (my forte, Rajivji), but in my view whatever is good and helpful in Christianity is there already since long in Hindu Dharma (and there is even much much more that is helpful) and what is bad and divisive in Christianity, both of us have rejected. But since there is no pick and choose option in Christianity, both of us are basically not Christians anymore.
... could you imagine considering yourself a Hindu by culture who has Jesus as his Ishta devata? Keeping all songs, prayers, rituals, but considering him as one among many different ‘ways’ that can lead to the truth? ...."

Alex answers:
".....there is no religion that has all its followers adhering to everything that religions demand or their "dogmas" dictate. Sanatana Dharma is no exception to this.

All faiths, including Christianity and its different denominations have their own "dogmas". ... rational human beings think for themselves as to what is sensible and what is not for them to maintain their relationship with their understanding of "God".

In fact, I know that even among Christians (as in other faiths) there are agnostics who still go to their places of worship for social reasons or as an "insurance" against their "wrong bets"! ...

Do all Sanatana Dharmis, be they Shaivites, Vaishnavites, Lingayats, or whatever, do they follow all of their respective "creedal" requirements? No, they do not. If one were to apply your logic, they should not consider themselves Sanatana Dharmis. (I make a distinction between Hinduism which is a culture of the Indian subcontinent and Sanatana Dharma which is the religion of the large majority of the people of the Indian subcontinent.)

I would also venture to say that the large majority of most of the World's Religions do not follow everything that their respective religions proclaim as their "dogmas". As to your assertion, that there is no "pick and choose" option in Christianity, I submit that you are in error, that is if you have observed the behavior of "practicing Christians". For example, this is the season of Lent. Do you really believe that all "practicing" Christians observe fasting and or avoid eating meat, fish etc?

Finally, why I remain a Christian you ask... I find that the more I read Advaita Vedanta, the more congruence I find between the seminal sayings of Jesus and what I find in Vedanta. I see my religious identity and other identities as "my" labels and I see no reason to change any of them: I am an Indian by birth, American by naturalization, Christian by faith and Hindu by culture. ... I am not ashamed of any of my identities, nor will I ever consider courteous for anyone else to define the "purity" of my faith or challenge the legitimacy of any of my identities since I have earned them all by legitimate and rational means. ..." 

tvikhanas asks Alex:
" 1. You admit that Bible is fallible but at the same time you feel compelled to see traces of karma and reincarnation in Bible (a position contradicting the
official position). Why do you feel the need to find these ideas in Bible?

2. You say you are culturally a Hindu. What does it translate to in practice? How do we prevent main stream predatory churches from using that as a shield for

3. Is it even possible to separate Hindu thought into "cultural" and "religious" buckets? These concepts like "secularism" evolved in an different milleu and cannot be applied so easily to India. As an organically evolving entity, every aspect of Indic "culture" is tied to "religion"; there is no clean demarcation.
Thus, the reason for putting bindi/tilak is not merely cultural or fashion.

4. Through the examples of narrow minded Hindus you claim that even the so called followers of Dharma are not really following it and that one can follow Dharma even though one doesn't belong to the traditional schools. This I think every true follower of Dharma will grant: there are no clubs to belong to be "dharmic". But the reverse is not true. If you belong to some clubs you will be
prevented from following (or at least it will be very hard) Dharma. ...Does that bother you?

5. As you pointed out there are narrow minded individuals among Hindus as well and as you say that's human nature. The question is are these lower impulses
empowered by the religion. In case of Hinduism there is no sanction for them. There is no main stream text or acharya that sanctions narrow minded sectarianism and vast majority freely visit all temples. The same is not true
for Christianity and Islam which explicitly exploit the lowest fears & drives in their quest for domination. And the fruits of these religions can be seen in their core followers. " 

Surya responds to Alex:
"...You most certainly do not have to justify your faith to anyone. You do not have to justify or feel compelled to explain and defend your faith in Jesus as your savior. It is entirely your choice and you choice will be respected on this board because you have respected the freedom and
choice of those who follow Dharma traditions. That is the only way for mutual respect.

You see the sad predicament though. When you take proselytization and digestion out, there is no need to fight, be on the offensive. Restraint in your comments as you fend off attacks shows that.

Dharma traditions face the same. Unfortunately, the digesting or proselytizing religions (or sects) do not relent. They see the failure of the other side to respond as an opportunity to go for a kill. To be clear, digestion also exists in the secular variant of Western Universalism which is focused on hegemony and civilizational intolerance. Proselytization and digestion are offensive,
intolerant, and disrespectful.

.....Unfortunately, many Christians of Indian descent are becoming increasingly this way too. Hopefully, forum members read your comments and see you in a different light." 

Rajiv responds:
"I agree with Surya below that we should close this thread and it has served a good purpose. My own conclusions are:
- Alex is not required to defend all Christians or the Church, when he has already written extensively against proselytizing. When a man distances himself from some institution, its silly asking him to defend that institution or blame him for the conduct of other members.
- Given the above, he is only explaining his own PERSONAL faith, and the rest is rendered irrelevant.
- We need to encourage more Christians to be like him, i.e. challenge from within that system of belief.
- Asking him to become like us means having one less Christian ally and just one more Hindu.
- Having said all this, I want to now clarify: Alex's "sameness" is from Christianity leading towards Hinduism. I WOULD NOT ENCOURAGE THE REVERSE DIRECTION, I.E. WHERE HINDUS ADVOCATE SAMENESS TOWARDS CHRISTIANITY. Yes, this is a double standard but I am prepared to defend it. While Christians are well
grounded in identity based on history-centrism, most Hindus are confused/morons. Therefore, advocating sameness is ill-advised now. Playing the game of diplomacy towards other faiths requires expertise that is well over the heads of most Hindus, incl most Hindu leaders. So its best avoided until we first achieve a
much higher standard of identity formation. That is the goal for BD to initiate." 

Arun comments:
"In the spirit of Being Different, we would recognize and appreciate the many strains of Christianity, and know that some of them do live with mutual respect with us; and some of them don't. (This is a matter of lived experience, and not a matter that can be decided by theory.)

Further, we do not grant the followers of the intolerant varieties of Christianity the power to decide "who is a true Christian"? They can make their judgment, we are not obliged to accept it.

Incidentally, we make the same mistake with Islam - we implicitly or explicitly agree with the fundamentalists that they own the definition of "who is a true Muslim? " .." 

Anantha asks:
"I've heard a lot of people say "I'm culturally Hindu but Christian by religion". However, it strikes me as extremely telling that I have never heard anyone say "I'm culturally Christian but Hindu by religion". ... is it indeed possible to be "Christian by culture and Hindu by religion"? If yes, then what does living such a life entail?" 

Surya responds to Anantha's question:
"Rajivji's concepts of integral and synthetic unity explain your questions.

For Dharma traditions culture is not separate from their traditions.  Much has been written on this forum on how music, dance, and other art forms are integral to Dharma traditions. Thus, one cannot separate "religion" from "culture" with Dharma traditions.  A Hindu is confused to hear such statements because, even unknowingly, such integral unity is deep rooted.   

Ravi Zachariah, a Christian apologist, said that when other religions were absorbed into Christianity only their culture was retained in Christianity.  He uses this to explain to new converts to drop their "religion" but keep the culture if they want.  Rajivji calls this synthetic unity which could be for any number of reasons including opportunistic maneuvering.  In India, this is going on in the name of inculturation.

Rajivji explains that inculturation of integral aspects of Dharma is really digestion.  Digestion has happened before.  Pagan religions disappeared but the "Christmas tree" has been digested and still survives.

Rajivji has explained as "Himsa" when something integral such as Bharatanatyam is being separated out and treated as secular art form.  A Hindu is flabbergasted to see Jesus mudras in Bharatanatyam not because Christianity will gain social acceptance but because what is integral to Dharma has  been split asunder."
Venkat notes:
"This seems to a case of moderate peaceful Christians vs fundamentalist conversion prone Christians, in this case also good cop vs bad cop.

In India at least, we seldom hear the voices of such moderate peaceful Christians talking against conversions, let alone against the fundamentalists and the harm they are doing to society..."
Rajiv comment: Agreed.

So can we encourage some good cops to break ranks and publicly turn hostile against the proselytizing bad cops? I have seen Alex do just that since the past 2 decades.

This INTERNAL dissent from within Christianity is helpful to us, and we must encourage this. We are not strong enough in the kurukshetra by ourselves to fight the might of well-entrenched powerful nexuses, and we do need allies. "
Wadhwa asks:
".... I would also like to know  stand of Mr.Alex on the following point: 
"Shall mere faith in Christ lead to canceling  or negating  ones sins or bad karmas"? 
Here I would like to add that in a 3 day debate between Swami Dayanand Saraswati and  Dr.T.J. Scott(a Christian missionary), in August 1879, at Barilly one of the subjects discussed was: 'Can sins be pardoned through Grace or repentence?'  The stand of Swamji was that mere faith in Christ cannot help any one in undoing the effect of ones sins or bad karmas. He said that inevitably, every one gets punishment or reward as per each  deed or karma."
Alex responds:
"As to your question reg. "mere faith in Christ alone lead to canceling one's sins/karma etc".

My answer is NO. And, I believe that I can find you support in the New Testament (see: James 2:20., "O vain man, faith without works is dead".) But, please read
the verses above to get the context of my assertion.

I will hasten to add that there are passages elsewhere in the Bible where faith alone will suffice!

In the scriptures of all the world's major faiths, one can find contradictions in texts and the beliefs of its followers. Sanatana Dharma is no exception to this.

May I ask you two questions to highlight this point: 1)why do millions of followers of Sanatana Dharma dip in the Ganges River during Kumbh Mela and believe that by doing so their sins will be forgiven and at least some of their bad karma can be wiped out?

2) Why does the most pluralistic of all faiths that I know and admire greatly (Sanatana Dharma)have sects like Lingayats who shun Krishna/Vishnu and Ayyangars
who shun the worship of Shiva? In my neighborhood, I was glad to see the construction of a Shiva-Vishnu temple, but soon after its construction,the south
Indians Shaivites split off and constructed a Murugan Temple (brother of Ganesh) within the stone throw of the Shiva-Vishnu temple!

All faiths have human failings being superimposed on their respective belief systems. Therefore, in my humble opinion, it is counter-productive to throw stones at the belief systems of others. Worse still is the penchant of some to judge others as to who is a true Christian, true Muslim or true follower of Sanatana Dharma. A fully evolved follower of any faith will know that it is the
height of ignorance to judge another person's purity of faith.

Unlike others who are ridden with "avidya" I would dare not brand or call them as being not "true followers" of Sanatana Dharma because my common code of ethics (not just my faith) has taught me not to judge another's faith or lack of it. If you have the time, please answer my question. Thanks." 

Tariyal responds:
"I agree with the comments of Alex. However, he is defining Christians in his own convenient way. As a follower of teaching of Christ he is correct that millions of people may follow what he follows as a person, and he has elected to call himself a Christian. However, the meaning of Christian as defined by the current Churches, be it Catholic or the various Protestant ones requires that the person believe in the central dogma of Christianity....
.. In summary I do not disagree with the basic sense of Comments by Alex, but I define a true Christian as a follower of the accepted Christian Dogma. And with that Caveat I stand by my comments."
Alex responds:
".... The Baptists, Mormons, Pentecostals, Jehovah's witnesses, Church of Christ, & Seventh Day Adventists do not accept the Nicene Creed. A few of these sects do not believe in the Trinity as well. They also call themselves Christians.

Majority of Eastern Orthodox scholars accept inclusivism. While holding the view to the centrality of Christ for themselves,they acknowledge that salvation
can be found outside of Christianity. And, I must add that they do not proselytize.

Contrary to your assertion, there is no accepted dogma to subscribe to for anyone to call himself/herself as a true Christian. It is between the follower of that faith and his conscience to determine as to whether he or she is being
true to his/her ishta Devata.

I would never ever dare to judge you or assert that you are not behaving as a true follower of Sanatana Dharma because of your expressed eagerness to judge
others like me, since that can be construed as due to avidya, a common failing of the human condition brought about by one's inability to subordinate one's ego.

..... By the way, if you would google the World Council of Churches (WCC), and query "salvification outside the church" you will be surprised to find that there are many other Christian sects (besides mine) which concede that there are indeed other faith systems by which a human being can find salvation. Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic Church is not yet a full member of the WCC. Hope Pope Francis will join that organization which also has come out against proselytization, but not to the extent that I would like WCC to do...." 

March 25
Saket asks: In Hindu traditions the practice is to cremate the body after death. However I have observed that when a human is less than one year old that is navjat , in Hindu traditions he is buried.  Can someone highlight why this minor exception is made in case of navjat?  

Devendra responds:
"Hindu traditions do have reasons behind their rituals. Death ceremony is also considered an important ritual. One reason behind burial of a child,as opposed to cremation,upon his death is that he has not yet developed attachment to his body,so there is no need to destroy it by cremation..."

Vishwa adds:
"Do note that the pre-Vedic Indus Valley civilization had many burial grounds. Burial was quite a common practice in that civilization." 

KK comments:
"For infants and Sanyasis and Saints, there is no unfulfilled/pending Karma that might attract the 'Jeeva' to hover around the dead body, hence no harm in burying. In the case of Sant-Mahaatmaas, even their 'dead' body helps the followers by inspiring duty/devotion.

For all others, merging with Pancha Bhootas/the last Yaaga is one thing as also the possibility that if they are unable to let go of their Naama-Roopa even after physical death burning on a pyre might ensure an easier onward journey.....nothing to 'go back to'
Pregnant women are also not cremated,... " 

Ashok adds: "......perhaps we ought to look at ourselves a bit to see why is it that Hindus convert. Could it be that we do treat some if our own less favourably and they do not feel supported?
As Rajiv ji has earlier pointed out, there are two levels of religion. One consists of those like me who just practice it (and are the vast majority, the followers) and those that deal with it at a higher level and are in a position to discuss issues with their counterparts in other religions. These would be our Akhara leaders, our saints, our Shankaracharyas and our intellectuals like Rajiv ji. As a 'follower' I would only interact with 'followers' of other religions. Anyway, coming back to the point, today I feel betrayed by those in power in my own religion. And I am neither the oppressed nor financially challenged. 
Perhaps we need to look at ourselves and discuss ways of supporting our oppressed brethren in addition to of course supporting our intellectuals with our voice thoughts,minds and pockets. "

[there are some personal and poignant discussions here that are left out].
March 27
Interesting paper questioning Western Universalism in Psychology
Alakshendra shares: I just came across this interesting paper which states that broad claims about human psychology and behaviour based on narrow samples from Western societies are regularly published and questions the practise. It makes a very interesting read. Specially the term WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic) used for the folks of the west ...

Below is a part of the paper which you might like:
Research in moral psychology also indicates that non-Western adults and Western religious conservatives rely on a wider range of moral principles than amorality of justice ..... In sum,the high,secular Western populations that have been the primary target of study thus far appear unusual in a global context, based on their peculiar reliance on a single foundation for moral reasoning (based on justice and individual rights).

The paper also describes the commonalities and the nuances of American from the rest of the west"

Rajiv adds: "A great bit of research that illustrates how Western Universalism (in this case in the field of psychology and ethics) has been wrongfully imposed upon other cultures. It is amazing how many "eminent" Indian psychologists have adopted such WU ideas."
March 27
video of padre casper raj who is seen in every riot out of TN.
Chandra shares: video of padre casper raj who is seen in every riot out of TN. Embroiled in 2G scam too. Should Lankan players be made hostage to politics? ... 


1 comment:

  1. This is mostly in response to your statement on Heinrich's "WEIRD" acronym paper. I think you highlighted one of the more interesting connotations of the paper with the discussion of morality. In a positive formulation, the results of the study attack any "universal" moral norms that come from the outer rim of the psycho-social model. This prompts the formulation of norms from the bio/cognitive affective realm (something like that). Well that's a bit of a tangent, but was what I found interesting about the research. It may be of no interest, but I regularly make infographics and made one on Heinrich's research. If you're interested here's the link: http://www.bestpsychologydegrees.org/american-psychology/