4 March, 2024

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Minorities Within Minorities Bullied Into Giving-Up Their Right To Convert & Be Converted: A Response

By P. Soma Palan

P. Soma Palan

I refer to the above titled Article in the Colombo Telegraph by Prof.S. Ratnajeevan Hoole (Prof. SRH) which stirred me to respond due to the questionable views expressed on the Right to Religious Conversion. I enumerate as follows:

1. Prof. SRH mentions that “(a) Saint, more correctly Thirugnasambanthar killed 8000 Jains who refused to convert to the Saiva Religion (b) King Sangili killed 600 Roman Catholics who refused his Order to revert”. Firstly, I must clarify that in Hinduism there is no consecration of a religious title like Saint to religious persons as in Christianity, where a religious person is canonized as a Saint by the highest Apostolic Church Head, the Pope. Hinduisms  has no stratified Priest-craft, and not an organized institutional religion. What is the evidence for these historical incidents? Were these killings directly committed by them? It gives the impression that Thirugnanasambanthar and the King Sangili killed a collective of 8000 and 600 people respectively, by personaly gunning them down or hacking them. Or, it could have been a religious riot by an enraged people. Incidentally, he refers to “Saiva Religion”. Saivaism is not a separate religion. In Hinduism there is the practice of one worshipping his chosen “Ishta Devata”, the Deity. Those who worship mainly Lord Shiva are referred to as “ Saivites”. Similarly, those who worship their Ishta  Devata, Lord Vishnu, are referred to as “Vainavites”. These are not two separate religions. It does not mean that a Saivite worship exclusively Lord Shiva and rejects other Hindu Gods. Hinduism is one religion, but there are different forms of worship. Similarly, Christianity is one Religion with One Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thus, Catholicism, Protestantism, Anglicanism, Methodism etc are not separate religions but doctrinal denominations.  As a religion, Christianity is one. A non- Hindu like Prof. Hoole , who believes in One God , One Book, the Bible and one only Life-time, are incapable of understanding a complex religion like Hinduism, leave alone knowing it. To connect these killings without evidence to a King and a Holy person is a tendentious, malicious design to denigrate Hindu religion as a fiercely intolerant religion. On the contrary, if there is a religion in the world whose intrinsic nature and characteristic is one of peace and non-violence, based on the principle of Dharma, coming down from the unfathomable antiquity spanning many millennia, it is Hinduism. Hinduism has from the beginning of time survived to -date, without any propagation and conversion by force, violence or material enticement. Instead, seekers of Truth are drawn to Hinduism by its universalism. Hinduism has never waged religious wars, like Christianity, and Islam. Religious conversion is considered an anathema and abhorrence in Hinduism.

2. Historically, Christianity waged religious wars like the Crusades. Central Asia gave birth to Christianity. It is a strange irony that the very Rome which crucified Jesus, hijacked Christianity, and made Rome the centre and apex of the Western Christian Church called the Papacy, the Vatican, which is a State by itself.

3. The Popes issued what is notoriously called Papal Bulls, and called upon navigators, Colombus and  Vasco da Gama, under the guise of Voyages of Discovery ,to undertake naval expeditions to conquer new lands and propagate Christianity by threat of military force, and convert the so-called heathens, the indigenous religious people to Christianity. This colonization zeal was led by Portugal. If not for these religious marauders, the Portuguese, Prof. Hoole and the Hindu Tamils Sinhala Buddhists could not have become zealous Christians. Prof. RJH‘s ancestors could not have been any other than Hindus. They were forced and intimidated to be converted to Christianity by material inducements, a new status in the social ladder, Missionary education, western dress and western culture, by jettisoning their original rich Hindu culture and heritage coming down from ageless Vedic civilization, nursed and nourished by Epics Ramayana and Mahabharatham, the Puranas, and the profound Vedanta Philosophy of Vedas and the Upanishads.

4. Hindu Caste Classification

Prof. RJH says that “according to classical Hindu theory as expounded in the Bhagavad Gita by God himself, the four categories of occupations were created according to peoples’ qualities and activities.” The origin of Caste pre-dates the Gita, the ageless Rig Veda. Krishna in the Gita is not a God but a human personality, but an Avatar of God Vishnu. The Gita is a condensed essence of the Vedic literature explained to Arjuna in the battle field of Kurushetra. The Caste divisions (4) were made on the basis of occupations and not on quality but on human Gunas. Gunas are the inherent nature of man and not a physical quality. The word quality gives rise to a differentiation such as low and high quality or superior and inferior. Caste is a division of labour. The Caste system had its virtue.  For instance each did his traditional work and did not encroach upon other’s work. Continuity of employment ensured from one generation to the other. Further, it promoted specialization and enhanced skill. The Brahamin caste are the religious temple priests; Kshatriya are the Rulers and warriors: Vaisnawa are the Traders : Sudras are the manual workers.

Prof. RJH poses the question, “who indeed is to tell us, the Sudras, that we must accept the  authenticity of the Gita as God’s Holy word whereby we are the filthiest of God’s creation in terms of quality? Not me.” Prof.S RJH has no qualms of blindly accepting the authenticity of the Bible of Christianity based on the sayings of multiple disciples (Gospels) and written down decades after the death of Christ, by editing, revising, interpolating and called as New Testament, which meant there was an Old Testament. Whereas the Mahabharata was written by a single author, Veda Vyasa Rishi and Gita is an integral part of it. Nowhere in the Vedas or Gita, the Sudras  are referred to as the filthiest. This is Prof. RJH‘s self-description. Whereas, Prof.RJH, gleefully accepts the authenticity of the Bible, when it castigates that all humans are born as “Sinners” on the basis of a so-called Original Sin committed by a fictitious Man and Woman, called Adam and Eve.

5. Prof. RJH states that “Dignity- theoscience demands that we change our religion when we do not like our religion or think another better. We Tamils were once animists, then Jains and Buddhists and now mostly Saivites. How can one stop conversions away from one’s religion to another in light of ICCPR”. This statement reveals Prof.RJH ‘s cleaver escapism from the truth and reality that Tamils were Hindus prior to their conversion to Christianity. According to him, Tamils were only animists. He fails to know that even King Ravana was a devoted Hindu Shiva  worshiper at the time of Ramayana, 12000 years B.C. He disowns that his ancestors were Hindus before being inveigled into Christianity. It is a preposterous statement to say that when the Portuguese arrived in Lanka in 1505, the Tamils were Animists. If not for the arrival of Portuguese, no Tamils and Sinhalese could have been Christians today. Prof. SRJH poses the question “How can one stop conversions away from one’s religion to another in light of ICCPR.” This is an interesting question. He takes refuge under the ICCPR- (International Convention on Civil & Political Rights). Our Constitution also guarantees the freedom to practice one’s religion. However, this freedom to practice one’s religion cannot be construed to mean the freedom to interfere with another’s freedom to practice his or her  religion and be converted through force, intimidation, social duress such as poverty, ignorance, material inducements to another religion. Vulnerable segments of the population exposed to poor economic and social conditions and educational facilities are prone to religious conversion by organized missionaries of Christian Churches. Even die-hard church goers are enlisted by the churches for conversion by creating rifts in families and also promoting inter-faith or mixed marriages with ulterior motive to covert partners and their progeny. Many subtle modus-operandi is used to convert to Christianity from other religions. One’s religion is a birth right- one is born into a religion. One is free to change his or her religion to another by own volition, and not by external intervention of Christian missionaries by unethical propagation. The provocation for Prof.SRJH’s article is the prevention of Pastor Thinakaran to speak in Jaffna. Why Jaffna? Because it is a fertile grounds to convert. Aftermath of the civil war, had left severe economic and social problems for the people and particularly widowed mothers. Thus, an easy prey for the Pastor to convert Hindu Tamils. Like the Pope sending Mother Theresa, backed by limitless financial resource, to the slums of Calcutta in the name of altruistic humanism to convert the poverty stricken people to Christianity, as if in the Christian western countries there are no slums and poverty stricken people needing humanist attention of Mother Theresa. She even was rewarded with Sainthood by the Church. The freedom to practice a religion is a right. But the freedom to convert is not a right, because it interferes with the right of another’s freedom to practice his or her religion. There is no such thing as a right to be converted, in the light of the  right to change or accept another religion, if one desires so, on his own choice, voluntarily, but not by external intervention of Church Missionaries.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    3

    Writer P.Soma Palan has explained it clearly. During the pre-Vedic period & Vedic period, caste divisions were based on occupations and not by birth. It was determined by Gunas. Moreover, freedom to convert is not right. It is like giving up the original mother. There are lot to mention about Hinduism one of which is the journey of the Souls after it emanated from the Supreme Soul known as God, until they are unionized with God.

    • 4
      2

      Could you please tell us what the caste divisions were during “the pre-Vedic period & Vedic period”.
      *
      “…freedom to convert is not right. It is like giving up the original mother.”
      Humanity seems to have abandoned its original mother ever since religions came into play, as religion is nothing natural.

      • 4
        0

        Religion is not necessary for man to exist but man is necessary for religion to exist.

      • 4
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        SJ,
        Manu who was the first law giver says ‘Slavery is pain, Freedom is pleasure’. Briefly this is the definition of pain and pleasure. So Hinduism has denounced slavery and had not accepted slavery. Rig Veda goes on to say to crush whoever advocates slavery which is unknown to Hinduism. This is compounded by Rig Veda (10/133/5) which says ‘O resplendent Lord, Destroy the power of the man who wants to enslave us, whether he is alien or akin, no matter if his strength is as vast as the sky; Break the ropes Fastened unto his Bows’. If anyone attempts to encroach upon the liberty on account of their selfish motive and malicious mentality, they cannot be treated as brother in keeping with the philosophy of the Rig Veda that all are equal on earth. History has shown that such selfishness and malicious mentality have crept into Hinduism with the invasion from outside India. Therefore there was no caste divisions during ‘the pre-Vedic period * Vedic period’. Remember Rig Veda was composed about 10,000 years ago.

        • 4
          4

          I asked you a question. You go at a tangent.
          Are you embarrassed to answer?

      • 2
        0

        SJ,
        The origin of discrimination in society is unknown. Though Hindu scriptures contain passages that are interpreted to approve caste system, it should not be forgotten that caste system is not an essential part of Hinduism. The Vedas do not give much importance to caste system. Some Sutras mention about Varnas. They are (1) Brahmins (teachers, scholars and priests), (2) Kshatriyas (kings and warriors), (3) Vaisyas (traders and agriculturists), and (4) Sudras (service providers and artisans). Hinduism is a conglomeration of religious, philosophical and cultural ideas and practices that originated in India. Hinduism is characterized by the belief in reincarnation. One Absolute Being of multiple manifestations. Rig Veda saw a society without any restrictions. People were free to move with each other. Rig Veda says ‘Let our hearts be in equality and unity’ (Rig Veda 10/191/4). It is clear that the philosophy of Veda revolves round the concept of fraternity (brotherhood) and equality. It means no one is superior. None is master and none is slave. All men have equal rights on earth. Everyone has the same mode of birth and death. According to Hinduism, God dwells in the hearts of every Soul. This points out that all have same equal rights to live with dignity and liberty. It is clear that Hinduism according to Veda is based on the doctrine of ‘live and let live’. Atharva Veda says (19/69/1) ‘You may live, And let me also live’.

        • 0
          2

          Still going at a tangent.

    • 5
      1

      AR,
      “emanated from the Supreme Soul known as God, until they are unionized with God.”
      So they have freedom to strike but not to convert?

      • 3
        3

        old codger,
        In Hinduism Souls are considered as eternal. There is energy and vibration in the Supreme Soul. Every Soul has vibration. It is connected with the Supreme Soul. Soul never dies. It is the material body which perishes. Soul takes birth on earth with a noble mission. Noble mission does not necessarily mean conversion of someone’s faith. It is related to Dharma.

      • 3
        4

        old codger,
        When a Soul leaves its material body, it is converted into his or her astral body. The first and foremost belief in Hinduism is that the Soul is eternal. There are no dead Souls. Soul is unborn, eternal, There was never a time when it cease to exist. What we see as death is just a change of body as per Bhagavad Gita. In most Hindu philosophies and unlike other religions, human existence is a duality of energy and matter. Our true identity is that of the subtle energy body, not the material one, so while the cycles of ‘life and death’ is a reality in the temporal universe, true identity is eternal.

        • 6
          2

          How does this model explain the eternally growing human population?
          Does the souls multiply amoeba like without birth?

        • 4
          1

          AR,
          I cannot comment on Hindu metaphysics. I was commenting on your use of the word “unionized”.
          Unless of course that means something different in Hinduism.

          • 3
            3

            SJ,
            Unionized means ‘until the Soul attains perfection and becomes One with the Divine’.

            • 7
              1

              AR,
              The word for that is “united”. Unionized refers to workers forming trade unions.

              • 8
                2

                The author writes: “The Caste system had its virtue. For instance each did his traditional work skill. The Brahamin caste are the religious temple priests; Kshatriya are the Rulers and warriors: Vaisnawa are the Traders : Sudras are the manual workers.”
                So, what happens if a Sudra wants to be a trader? Is it allowed in Hinduism? Or is it a heinous crime if he converts to Christianity to achieve his aim?
                The author seems to have a soft corner for the caste system but is unwilling to acknowledge that it is at the root of many conversions. For instance, why is the fishing community mostly Christian? Did the Portuguese convert all of them at sword point? Very unlikely, in my humble opinion.
                The first thing in seeking justice for the Tamils is to acknowledge that Tamils themselves have practiced discrimination, and not try to hide the fact under a dunghill of quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo.

              • 3
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                OC
                There may be trade unions out there, one for each caste.

            • 1
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              It was OC who asked the question.
              I am a soulless creature, here now and gone tomorrow.

  • 7
    1

    At least some missionaries are strong believers that they should save fellow beings from hell.
    They do what they think is their duty.
    What can be contested are methods like financial and other such material inducements.
    Let us ask ourselves if we have community institutions to care for helpless members of our community.
    We talk of Karma while they talk of charity when addressing the poor.
    Can we blame converts? Blame ourselves if conversion hurts our feelings.

    • 1
      0

      SJ and OC,
      There is some readings not on religious conversion of others in the community, but self-conversion by AKD!!
      Please listen to following link”
      https://youtu.be/5QE2W61YvAI

      Especially from 37 to 55 minutes, time permitting, although full recording is 1¼ hours duration!!
      Change of Stance it appears!! Time will tell or reveal!!!

      • 2
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        Mahila,
        I wonder what some Bandarawela residents think about this?

        • 1
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          OC,
          Bandarawella people will never come to answer our unanswered questions in AKDISM.

          I don’t know what’s going on 24/7 through SM, I feel sorry for his naivety. May so-called “senior citizens” of this nation be blessed with some brains.
          :
          Be that as it may, AKD finally saw that there was no way out without getting close to the hidden force of this stupid domineering nation, the “yellow pets”.

  • 8
    0

    True Christians should pray for Prof. Hoole. He seems to be lost. He keeps trespassing all over the place these days. He’s the one who badly needs religious conversion: back to Christianity that he claims to follow, but transgresses at every turn.
    .
    “He is a conceited person and does not understand anything. He has an unhealthy craving for arguments and debates. This produces jealousy, rivalry, slander, evil suspicions.”
    1-Timothy 6:4
    International Standard Version
    .
    Who in the right mind would encourage the intrusion of an evil charlatan like Paul Dhinakaran into the already disjointed and vulnerable Jaffna society?
    .
    “I-T raids on Paul Dhinakaran expose ₹120 crore of unaccounted income”
    “Over 4 kg of gold was also found at the evangelist’s residence, sources from the Income Tax Department said”
    https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/it-raids-on-paul-dhinakaran-expose-120-crore-of-unaccounted-income/article33641163.ece
    Ranil was so stupid to let the fellow get near him.
    .
    Equally disconcerting is the rise – in tandem with Christian fundamentalism – of Hindu fundamentalism in Jaffna. There is a concerted effort by the Hindu-Fascist BJP to make inroads into the northeast. Maravanpulavu and CV Wigneswaran are its proxies to spread the RSS ideology.

  • 6
    1

    [Contd. from above]

    I can’t believe, of all people, Kadavul’s son writing a paean to Aatukutti Annamalai, one of the most reviled politicians in Tamil Nadu today. Annamalai’s third rate tactics, including honey-trapping, to launch BJP’s politics of hate and racial violence in Tamil Nadu – which has been relatively secular and pluralistic in comparison to the other states because of the dominance of Dravidian ideology – is indeed tragic and most despicable.

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