Inter-faith Dialogue: What’s in it for Hindus?
by Sandhya Jain on 12 Jan 2012 50 Comments

Christianity being a millenarian ideology aims at world dominion, at least since the time it established its headquarters in Rome in the early centuries after Christ. Former Canadian Protestant and now a Smarta Dashnami sanyasi, Swami Devananda Saraswati alias Ishwar Sharan, perceptively deems it to be a continuation of the Roman Empire under another name. Not too long ago, late Pope John Paul II asserted that the current mission of the Church was to spread Christianity in Asia in the third millennium, having conquered Europe in the first millennium and the Americas in the second.

With Australia already a White Christian majority continent, and Africa largely converted and badly brutalized, and the entire Muslim world under the White Man’s heel, India remains one of the few major civilisational hurdles left to conquer. It is no coincidence that India is a necessary staging post for any military action against China and Russia!

It follows that Hindus in India will be making a grievous mistake if they buy into a motivated propaganda that the Church is not interested in converting the Hindu pagans and harvesting their souls, and rather cares for a genuine inter-faith dialogue in order to understand the Hindu dharmic spectrum better. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is undeniable is that as much of South East Asia has been christianised, India alone among major nations remains largely unconverted, and her living civilisation poses a constant challenge to the descendants of St. Peter.

India has hitherto withstood the missionary assault because of the devotion of the ordinary citizen, especially the denizens of villages and tribal hamlets, to their ancestral faith as represented by the grama devatas, kula devatas and sthana devatas who form a protective shield around their devotees and save them from harm. Then, there are the great gods in the larger temples and peeths and pilgrimages which gird the whole country in a protective grid, along with the spiritual strength and leadership of the traditional acharyas, gurus, mathams, and so on.

But the danger is by no means over and may be said to have increased in the light of new invasive techniques constantly put out by the church, massive funding by western Christian nations using conversions to control the populations in former colonies, and the recruitment of willing accomplices from the target nations and societies in order to make inroads therein.

There is also, thanks to the complicity of the secular state, much missionary-driven violence in remote tribal areas, such as the north eastern and eastern India (an issue we shall not dwell upon in this article).

The church has always moved in a planned manner. In 1539, the Society of Jesus was set up by St. Ignatius of Loyola to establish Catholicism all over the world, by any means. Hindu India suffered the Goa Inquisition (1560) under the auspices of St. Francis Xavier. The latter was a founding member of the Jesuit order and initiator of the Inquisition in 1545. Italian Jesuit priest Roberto di Nobili, the first Jesuit to come to India, arrived in Goa in 1605 and then settled down in Tamil Nadu in 1606. He claimed to be a scholar of Tamil and openly raged against Hindu paganism.

In recent years, the Vatican has sent the high-ranking Cardinal Jean Louis Pierre Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, to India to engage with various Hindu religious leaders and sectarian denominations. The idea, of course, is to find the chinks in the Hindu armour and pierce the Hindu resistance to conversions (see articles by Thamizhchelvan, links below).

On the intellectual plane, contemporary Jesuits are attempting to woo the Hindu elite in India and those of western nationality, as part of a refinement of strategy. Their favourite method today is a process known as Inculturation (see Thamizhchelvan), which is really the innovation of Roberto di Nobili; it involves borrowing native cultural habits and practices and insinuating oneself into the local culture, with the ultimate aim of swallowing it whole at a future date. As an example, di Nobili would wear saffron robes instead of white and use Hindu words to describe Christian rituals, etc.

But the cutting edge of missionary activity today is the Hindu-Christian dialogue. This is essentially just a variant of Interreligious Dialogue, but its purpose is inexplicable from the Hindu point of view. (The word Hindu is being used as a generic term for native-born faiths such as Jain and Sikh dharma).

An important corollary of this exchange is the remarkably high standard of scholarship that Jesuits maintain in their own faith as also in rival traditions. This is precisely what makes the dialogue extremely unequal and unproductive for Hindus as the leaders who participate in the exchanges may have a mastery over their own religious texts, but completely lack an understanding of the Church as a political entity with a political agenda. Hence they are unable to proffer arguments regarding the illegitimacy of conversions and world dominion by a single faith. They are also innocent of the synergy between the Vatican-Protestant Churches and the Western Christian neo-colonial agenda unravelling in many parts of the globe today.

Rev. Francis Xavier Clooney, currently professor at the Harvard Divinity School, is a highly accomplished Jesuit scholar of comparative religion; he has successfully disarmed a number of Hindus in India and America with his knowledge of Tamil and the bhakti tradition of Tamil Hindus. Of course, his priority is the conversion of pagan Hindus to Catholicism. To this end, he has steeped himself in the process of inculturation and drawn many intellectual Hindus into his interfaith orbit.

Speaking to a small audience at the premises of an American university late last year, Dr. Clooney displayed considerable intellectual finesse, stating that in the past Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Swami Vivekananda had attempted a critical look at the West from a Hindu perspective, but post-colonial authors like Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goyal had politicized the Hindu Christian relationship. In other words, he skillfully denigrated authentic Hindu scholars who made resistance to Christian conversions the keynote of their scholarship! His (Hindu) audience did not demur.

In essence, Dr Clooney was asserting the ‘right’ to validate or delegitimize Hindu scholars who critiqued the Church – he approved those who posed no threat and sought cooption into the West-dominated world order, and demonized those whose intellectual armour was more acute. By inference he claimed the right to undermine Hindu nationalism on Hindu bhumi and among Hindus who are now the citizens of western countries, mainly America. That this critical point went uncontested – perhaps was not even understood – by his co-panelists and audience underlines the writer’s contention that Hindus have no intellectual, political or strategic advantage to derive from inter-faith dialogue, and need not engage in it.

Dr. Vijaya Rajiva, a political philosopher who has taught at a Canadian university, believes that there is no merit in dialogue that does not have the ultimate goal of vanquishing the opponent. The ancient Hindu intellectual / spiritual tool of purva paksha, for instance, involves a rigorous and unflinching critique the opponent, and was used by Adi Sankara to defeat, and not to accommodate, the enemy. This is a three-fold process, Dr Rajiva says, wherein the philosopher outlines the adversary’s position; strongly refutes the adversary’s position; and finally, states his own position.

Adi Sankara’s digvijaya tour of India, she points out, repudiated the Mimamsa School and Buddhism, and led to the creation of Advaita Vedanta; it ensured the survival and continuation of Hinduism in India.

Contemporary Hindu scholars possibly lack this skill, and the traditional acharyas do not utilize their knowledge to teach bhaktas how to decimate the enemies of the Hindu tradition. The globe-trotting sanyasis with White disciples are unduly accommodating of Christianity, beginning with the famous Yogananda Paramhans; they are also uncommonly harsh with Hindus who complain of the dangers of conversion and even malign them in various forums, as the writer has personally experienced.  

Modern Hindus with foreign nationality are doubtless influenced by the compulsions of living on non-natal soils; they seek to accommodate the ‘enemy’ tradition as they need its indulgence to retain whatever they can of their natal faith and culture. Inevitably they experience a cultural swamping, and as the ground slips away under their feet, they respond with concessions and compromises, and an ephemeral search for a ‘middle ground’ between the utterly alien faiths.

And in order to cover their shame, they use bluster to insist that there is an entity called a Global Hindu Community which they represent and which gives them the right to speak for and adjudicate on behalf of Hindus all over the world, specifically the dharmabhumi of Bharat. This writer and colleague Radha Rajan have vigorously rebutted such pretensions over the years.

The Global (read American) Hindus of Indian origin are clever enough to understand that they, and their globe-trotting sanyasi patrons / fellow travellers, are providing savvy Christians with the opportunity to penetrate Hindu society in India and pervert its institutions. But they are too intoxicated by the limelight to retreat. We may leave them to their distractions, as anything they do cannot influence Hindu tradition within India.

Our fight is to ensure the scuttling of further Christian-Hindu / Jain / Sikh dialogue that serves no native interest and can only end in Hindu disempowerment. Christians like Reverend Clooney are driven by the mission to convert the world, especially a resisting pagan civilisation like India’s. Hindus have no worldwide spiritual-cum-political mission of conquest and must remain focused on resisting missionary activity. Hindus have no reason to engage in inter-faith dialogue, which is a futile and destructive activity from their point of view.


Highlighting the fact that India remains high on the Papal Millennium Agenda, Pope Benedict XVI recently appointed Major Archbishop George Alencherry, head of the Syro Malabar Church in Kerala, as one of the Vatican’s 22 new Cardinals. He is the 11th Indian and fourth Syro Malabar prelate to become a Cardinal; the investiture will take place on Feb. 18 in Rome.

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