Interfaith dialogues and Inculturation: The Pune Dialogue
by Thamizhchelvan on 09 Dec 2011 17 Comments

On 7 November 2011, the Indore edition of DNA newspaper carried a news item titled, “Vatican Cardinal, Swamis to join hands at meet”. The report said that Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue from the Vatican, would lead a 30-member Catholic delegation for dialogue with a 30-member Hindu team led by Swami Shrikantananda, Head of the Ramakrishna Mission, at the Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune, from Nov. 6 - 9. The theme of the four-day Hindu-Christian meet was: ‘Enhancing Hindu-Christian relations and collaboration for justice, peace and harmony’. (1)

The Cardinal’s visit was well planned, with an itinerary covering senior Hindu, Sikh and Jain religious leaders. Yet despite arrangements being made well in advance, the Hindu Samaj in general, including major organizations like RSS and VHP and many traditional Mathams and Peethams, was not aware of it. As the four-day meet concluded, “Vatican Insider” dated Nov. 10 reported:

-       Before the assembly, composed of forty Catholic leaders and some thirty Hindu leaders, Cardinal Tauran said that religions are instruments of peace and unity, but was sorry to see that some groups still use violence in the name of religion, thereby creating mistrust between the communities: “It is urgent that we turn our backs on hatred,” said the Cardinal. These words are particularly important in the context of inter-religious tensions that exist in some parts of India, as reported by Eglises d'Asie, agency for Foreign Missions in Paris.

-       Attacks against Christian communities have in fact resumed in Karnataka, a state South of India regularly plagued by waves of collective violence. On 3 November in Kankanady, the Catholic Church of Saint Alphonsa, of Syro-Malabar rite, was desecrated in the night by a group of young Hindus who wore saffron-colored bracelets. One of them was a guest of the student college located in the vicinity. (2)

The Mangalore incident quoted in the above report is a white lie. While it is true the said Church was stoned, the police and media reports clearly establish that a man was arrested on the spot for the crime, in an inebriated condition. The story of stoning by a gang of Hindu youth wearing saffron bracelets etc was concocted. (3)

This is how the Church makes use of events like Interfaith Dialogue! There seems to be no report from the Hindu side about what exactly had happened at the four-day meet; who accompanied Swami Srikantananda; the various websites of RK Mission seem to be silent.

The Amritsar Dialogue

Cardinal Tauran had a two-day meet with Sikh leaders at Amritsar, Nov. 11 & 12, on “Enhancing Sikh-Christian Dialogue for World Peace”. He visited the Golden Temple and was presented with a replica of the Golden Temple by the Chief of the Akal Takht. Here, the Cardinal is reported to have said, “The purpose of organising this Conference was to bring attitudinal changes in the human being, so that they can relish the positive points of all religions and see the message of God in unison”.

Selling the usual stuff of universal brotherhood, he said, “we all are sons of God and we must learn to accept the individualities of every religion and every religion gives the message of universal brotherhood and peaceful co-existence and these conferences would reduce the mutual trust deficit between different religions.”(4)

The Delhi Meet

At New Delhi, he then met with the Jain community and spoke of the “need” for the joining together of Christian and Jain communities. He said, “Christians and Jains have many things in common. As Christians, we believe that life is very precious and the Jain religion too upholds the sanctity of life and urges its promotion and protection. Our vocation to promote respect for life, non-violence, peace and harmony in today’s world brings us together with the common bond of mutual affection for each other.”

Sadhvi Sadhna ji said, “A person has to believe in his/her religious scriptures as no religion teaches hatred or non-violence. We have to shun violence, ego, hatred from within ourselves, only then we will be able to bring a change in the world. The world will not have to conduct such conferences to promote peace and harmony if we bring a change in ourselves.”

The Christian side was well-prepared, marking specific areas like protection, preservation and promotion of life, work for betterment of ecology and environment, and preparing religious texts on major themes like family, social life, diversity and equality, etc., for “joint work” with the Jains. The seminar was organized by the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, Archdiocese of Delhi, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and World Fellowship of Religions. (5)

It is an irony that the world’s worst persecutors talk of non-violence, peace and respect for life to the most non-violent and peaceful religion! While the Hindu contingent was sold “Freedom of Religion”, Sikhs were served “Universal Brotherhood” and Jains got “Protection, Preservation & Promotion of life”.

Had the Vatican Cardinal been sincere in his mission, he should have continued his dialogue with Kanchi Sankaracharya whom he met in June 2009 in Mumbai. Realizing he would face inconvenient questions – on the issue of conversions - he took simply engaged with a different set of sanyasis.      

The Assisi Prayer

The Pune-Amritsar-Delhi are significant in that they happened within days of the “Prayers for Peace” Meet organized by the Vatican and led by Pope Benedict XVI in Assisi on 27 Oct, where, Catholic Free Press reports, 300 delegates from various religions and countries participated. Here again, Hindu society at large was kept in the dark and the person(s) who participated as “representatives” of Hindus have not identified themselves so far. The internet has revealed that Acharya Shri Shrivatsa Goswami from Sri Radharamana Temple, Vrindavan, attended as a “representative of India”, and Shri Rajmohan Gandhi was present (he attended a similar meeting in Assisi in 1986, convened by Pope John Paul II). Three other “representatives” are believed to have participated, but their names are still not known. 

While the Pope and others spoke of environment, terrorism, rich-poor divide, etc., Acharya Shrivatsav Goswami spoke about “inward journey”, without a murmur about the atrocities being perpetrated by the Church in India. The Pope conveniently avoided topics like conversion, which is also a form of terrorism. Unsurprisingly, the Indian “representatives” also avoided conversions. (6)

The Diwali Gift


After the Assisi prayer meet, the Vatican sent “Deepavali Greetings” to Hindus, audaciously proposing “religious freedom” as the answer to religiously-motivated conflicts:

“Religious freedom is a fundamental human right. When it is jeopardized or denied, all other human rights are endangered. Religious freedom necessarily includes immunity from coercion by any individual, group, community or institution. The human freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion or belief can take place in public or private, alone or in a community. The right to religious freedom also involves a “serious obligation” from civil authorities, individuals and groups to respect the freedom of others. It also includes the freedom to change one’s own religion. Respect for religious freedom allows believers to be “more enthusiastic” about cooperating with their fellow citizens to build “a just and human social order.” Its denial stifles and frustrates “authentic and lasting peace.

We cordially wish you a joyful celebration of Deepavali.” (7)

The Catholic News Agency pontificated: “The message comes after several years of tensions and anti-Christian violence in some parts of India. Hindu radicals have participated in deadly attacks that have driven Christians out of their homes and destroyed their churches.”

After sending this insult in the name of greetings, Cardinal Tauran had the temerity to visit India to dialogue with selected Hindu leaders, who did not have the wits to question the Vatican Padires about the threat they pose to Hindu dharma on this bhumi. 

Farce and futility

The far of Interfaith Dialogue has been going on for some time, always convened by the Church, and joined in a shoddy manner by Hindus. The Church has clear political objectives – to weaken the spiritual strength of Hindu India. Hence, it cleverly separated Religion from Politics and slowly captured the political establishment in the name of secularism. As “western secularism” got well entrenched in the polity of Hindu India, the nation’s ethos was removed from governance, leading to westernization of education and other important sectors like art and culture.

This led to a spurt in separatism, fanned by the Church, by Maoists, LTTE and other anti-national organizations and NGOs. And another western concept called “Human Rights” entered the polity, furthering the growth of separatism and disunity.

Despite having control over the political establishment, the Church feared Hindu Religious Institutions and their strengths. So it created conflicts between castes and divisions between sampradayas, along with inculturation techniques. To sustain both, it kept religious leaders engaged via interfaith dialogues.            

Our religious leaders fell into the trap. Instead of talking to the various caste leaders and reaching out to the oppressed and discriminated communities and united them, they moved away from them and started having dialogues with other religionists, particularly Christian Padires. As the distance between the common man and Hindu religious leaders increased, the Church entered the scene and wreaked havoc. 

Besides money and allurement, inculturation is the most potent weapon with the Church to convert masses. Inculturation is the copying of Hindu traditional practices like wearing saffron robes, rudraksha and tulsi malas, pilgrimage by padayatra, chanting ashtotra and sahasranama archana for Jesus, composing songs on Jesus and Mary on the tune of our devotional hymns, calling Mary as Maari (Mariamman), planting crosses and constructing prayer houses and churches (unauthorized) on hills and creating a ‘girivalam’ path around them and so on.

This writer had personally heard some of our religious leaders welcoming this danger, thinking that the Christians are now following our culture and method of worship! Naturally, in the recent interfaith dialogues, Hindu leaders did not speak of this insidious concept of inculturation, or the flow of foreign funds and construction of Churches out of proportion to population.

The clear talk

Confident of its approach, in 2009 the Vatican engaged Hindu traditional mathams and organized a dialogue with Kanchi Sankaracharya in Mumbai. The group included Sri Sri Ravisankar, Swami Vageeshananda (Ramakrishna Mission), Dadi Janakiji (Prajapati Brahma Kumaris), Swami Nirmalananda Nath (Karnataka), and Swami Chidananda Saraswati (Divine Life Society, Uttaranchal). Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran was accompanied by the Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue,  Cardinal Oswald Gracias of “Indian Bible” fame, Vatican envoy to India Pedro Lopez Quintana, Archbishop Felix Machado of Nashik, Bishop Thomas Dabre of Pune, and Bishop Raphy Manjaly of Varanasi.

He floored the Vatican team with his explicit assertions that:

-       Pope Benedict XVI visited Jerusalem and gave Jewish religious leaders an undertaking to “desist from all missionary and conversion activities” among the Jews. Swami Jayendra Saraswati demanded a similar pact with the Hindu community in India.

Regarding Pope John Paul II’s call for planting the Cross in Asia to cause the Second Coming of Jesus, Swami ji demanded that Vatican explain the rationale for the First Coming of Jesus Christ when there was no Christianity or Church to undertake the mission of christianising the world.

Kanchi Acharya strongly condemned the [then] proposed visit of the USCIRF and said Hindus would not permit such interference in the internal affairs of India.

-       He demanded the setting up of a common pool to collect all foreign funds received by the Church and their equal distribution amongst all social welfare organisations, irrespective of religious affiliation. He urged all Hindu organisations to work together to eradicate the menace of conversion.

He called for an immediate end to all devious ‘inculturation’ methods being adopted by various Christian denominations and the canard of preaching that conversion to Christianity would cure all diseases, which is violative of the DRUGS AND MAGIC REMEDIES ACT, 1954.

-       He endorsed the proposed anti-conversion law in Sri Lanka, mooted by the Joint Council of Buddhist Organisations. 

Emphasising Sanatana Dharma, he said the soul of India is religious and spiritual, and urged the government to declare India a “Spiritual” and not a “Secular” country, as secularism is an administrative quality and cannot be the soul of the nation.

-       Kanchi Acharya condemned the usurping of Hindu scriptures for incorporating them in the so-called ‘Indian Bible’ and demanded immediate withdrawal of copies of the book, if necessary by the government.   

The Acharya underscored the importance of faithful adherence to points agreed at the meeting; else failure would result in the futility of such meetings. No wonder Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran dodged the Kanchi Acharya this time! (8)

Institutions of Inculturation

The Pune venue amply proves that Interfaith dialogue and Inculturation are a twin-strategy of the Church. While “Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth” sounds like a Hindu institution, it is actually a Christian body blatantly indulging in Inculturation. Attempting to give a Hindu colour to its emblem through the Kathopanishad, saying that the tree in the emblem denotes asvatha and the meditating figure is seeking Brahma-vidya; the game becomes clear when it says that, all the components of the emblem merge at the summit in the Cross of Christ which, as the linchpin of time and eternity, interlocks the human and the divine. (9)

Its mission is to mediate the vision of Jesus for India. For this, it will “promote dialogue among religions, cultures, communities and secular movements, all of which will be facilitated by a positive thrust towards inculturation…” (10)

Other institutions concentrating on Inculturation include “Shantivanam”, founded in 1950 by two French Priests Fr. Jules Monchanin, a diocesan missionary and Fr. Henry le Saux (Abhishiktananda) from the Abbey of Kergonam. They named it Saccidananda Ashram, equating “Sath-Sith-Ananda” with the “Holy Trinity”.


Later Fr. Bede Griffiths, who came to India in 1955, took charge of Shantivanam in 1968 on the invitation of Fr. Henry le Saux, after short stints at Bangalore and Kurisumala in Kerala, where he took the name Dhyananda and adopted saffron robes.

The Saccidananda Ashram inside Shantivanam has a temple built like a Hindu temple but with idols of various Christian saints and a “Cosmic Cross”. The Ashram spends much time and money for “Academic Research” on Inter religious understandings and meeting points, encounters of Christianity and Hinduism, Christian Vedanta, etc. Jesuit Priests from the West regularly land here to establish Christianity.  (11)

Another institution has been established exclusively for fine arts - Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts, Trichy. It is nationally accredited with Grade A by NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) and recognized by the Government of Tamil Nadu; it has tasted success in christianising the divine Hindu art of Bharat Natyam. It also focuses on vina, mridangam, and  violin; all classical music and dance are taught on Bible themes. (12)

Thiruvannamalai based Swami Devananda Saraswati ji has exposed the Atma Jyoti Ashram which has infiltrated into Sri Ramana Ashram in Thiruvannamalai. The Atma Jyoti Ashram operates from Mexico and is well connected with Shantivanam, Trichy. The padres from both bodies masquerade as Hindu Sanyasis and visit Ramana Ashram where some members of the Ashram’s management seem to be hand in glove with them. (13)

The “International Sanatana Dharma Society” run by one Frank Morales masquerading as “Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya” targets US-born and bred Hindu youths who are distanced from their native culture by two to three generations. His seeks to establish Jesus as “Dharma Master” through the Hindu scriptures, like the local fraudsters like Sadhu Chellappa and Vedanayagam Sastri. (14)

The Yoga Marketers

Then we have some Indian cults that do not want to identify themselves as “Hindu”. Corporate yoga teachers who lead these cults, dress up like “Jesus” to sell their yoga globally. The precedent was set by Paramahamsa Yogananda who set up his Yogada Satsang Society’s International Headquarters in Mt. Washington in 1925. He may be the first Indian Hindu yogi who legitimised the legend of Jesus and gave the Christian god a permanent place in the pantheon of Hindu Gods, next to Krishna. Now his Yogatha Satsang Society is almost christianised. (15)

An American ballet dancer called Shivaya Subramanian Swami who met Shivagnani and Siddhar Jnanaguru Siva Yoga Swami in Jaffna in the 1950s, exposed the claims made by Paramahamsa Yogananda in his book “Autobiography of a Yogi”.  (16)

Hindu yoga is marketed by Corporate Gurus who identify themselves as secular or spiritual, but not Hindu. The disciples are foreigners with huge money; ashrams are worldwide; and after endless globetrotting they end up selling Jesus in India and help inculturation leading to the christianisation of Yoga.

Tamil Chauvinists and their Tamil Saivism

Sadly, some traditional Saiva Mutts in Tamil Nadu are opposed to the Vedas and Sanskrit and fall prey to the Church’s Tamil card. They are so chauvinistic, they fail to realize the damage they are causing to their own philosophy. World Saiva Council headquartered at London organizes World Saiva Conferences with the sole aim of promoting Tamil Kumbabishekams, Tamil Marriages, Tamil worship in temples, all sans Vedic hymns and Sanskrit Mantras. They also peddle something called “Tamil Agama”. (17).

Some sectarian and racist Tamil outfits subscribe to Shaiva Siddhanta and pretend it has nothing to do with Vedic Hinduism. These people have been wittingly or unwittingly christianized by the early missionaries who tried to identify Shaiva Siddhanta with Christianity and separate the Tamils from the greater Hindu family. Some chauvinistic saivite heads brazenly flirt with anti-Hindu forces such as atheistic Dravidian parties and Christian inculturation institutes. (18)

Church’s Missionary Agenda

From the day the Portuguese, French, Dutch, German and British missionaries landed on our soil, they have been working to convert the nation. “Roman Brahmin” Robert-de-Nobili, “Italian Munivar” Constantine Joseph Beschi, “German Iyer” Barthalomaus Ziegenbalg, “Italian Iyer” G.U. Pope, “Racist” Caldwell and other rapscallion padires from the 16th century to the contemporary reverend Francis Clooney, have all been working with the same objective. (19)


Late Sitaram Goel, in “Catholic Ashrams: Sanyasins or Swindlers?” explained the church agenda: “Christianity has to drop its alien attire and get clothed in Hindu cultural forms. Christianity has to be presented as an indigenous faith. Christian theology has to be conveyed through categories of Hindu philosophy; Christian worship has to be conducted in the manner and with the materials of Hindu puja. Christian sacraments have to sound like Hindu samskaras; Christian churches have to copy the architecture of Hindu temples; Christian hymns have to be set to Hindu music; Christian themes and personalities have to be presented in styles of Hindu painting; Christian missionaries have to dress and live like Hindu sannyasins; Christian mission stations have to look like Hindu ashramas. And so on, the literature of Indigenization goes into all aspects of Christian thought, organization and activity and tries to discover how far and in what way they can be disguised in Hindu forms."

The Jesuit “Jackals”
Even two decades after Sitaram Goel wrote this warning, we have learnt nothing, and our own people support dubious characters like Francis Clooney of “The Society of Jesus”, a Roman Catholic Religious Order founded in 1540 by Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). This society is notorious for its evangelical works in the guise of charitable, educational and social services; its members are bound by the Vows of Apostolic Order. Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552) was the first Jesuit to work in India facilitating the “Inquisition of Goa”.  (20)

Pope Clement XIV (1705–1774) abolished the Jesuit order in 1773; but it was reconstituted in 1814 by Pope Pius VII. They are well established in India with hundreds of schools, colleges and other educational institutes.

A section follows the “Inculturation” of Robert-De-Nobili, experimenting with a Hinduised version of the Mass that incorporates Hindu serving dishes, Hindu music, language, and postures of prayer. They adopt the life-styles and manner of Hindu sanyasis while working as Roman Catholic priests. Two such Jesuits were Swami Amalananda and Swami Animananda, who worked in remote, poor villages in the state of Mysore. (21)

The Clooney Story

Francis Clooney, a Jesuit Padire and Professor at Harvard Divinity School, easily deceived some self-centered Vaishnavites in Tamil Nadu with his “studies” on “Comparative Theology”. For over two decades he has made regular visits to India, especially Tamil Nadu: “I work in certain traditions of classical Hinduism, including Mimamsa Vedanta and Srivaishnavism. Of course, my work as a professor leads me to write on other topics and themes at times, but these are my areas of focus in the study of Hinduism. Beyond these, I am also a comparative theologian, and so, I reflect on what I learn from Indian traditions alongside my understanding of my Christian bearings. And, to understand comparative study, I am also a bit of a historian, studying how Western Jesuits over the centuries have understood Hinduism.” (22)

Declaring Srivaishnavism to be parallel to Roman Catholicism, with similar depth, breadth, and wholeness, he adds, “I have several book projects in mind, including more work on the Srivaishnava Bhagavatha Visaya, certain songs and commentaries compared with medieval Christian commentary on the Biblical Song of Songs. I have also been doing research on the Jesuit tradition of inter-religious learning in India, and may soon have something more to write on that.” Wikipedia says his current projects include an introductory volume on comparative theology, and a study of yoga and Jesuit spirituality (whatever that means). (23)

During annual sojourns in Chennai, he makes it a point to address Hindus either in a College or a University organized by Vaisnavites who aid and abet him with all details, information and relevant references. They feel no shame or guilt when he compares and equates “Sri” (Goddess Lakshmi) with “Mary”, or Maariamman with Mary, or Francis De Seles with Sri Vedanta Desika. Clooney’s deliberately misinterprets Indian religious texts and “invents” similarities between “Hindu Theology” and Christian Theology.   

Barring half a dozen individual Hindu nationalists in Chennai, no organization feels the necessity to scuttle this devious strategy. Blogger-historian Vedaprakash closely followed Clooney and his activities and exposed him by carefully documenting his mischief. (24)


















Myth of Christian contribution to Tamil – 2

Myth of Christian contribution to Tamil – 3

Myth of Christian contribution to Tamil – 4

Myth of Christian contribution to Tamil – 5



(To be continued…)

The author is a freelancer 

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