Subhash Anand

The vast majority of the people of India claim to be Hindus. Hinduism has also significantly shaped our history. Hence it is imperative for Christians in India to understand Hinduism, to enter into dialogue with Hindus. This is not an easy task, because it is very difficult to describe Hinduism, much more so to define it. It includes people who are considered believers (āstika) and also non-believers (stika). The former hold that there is (asti) life beyond death, while the others deny it.[1] Some maintain that a male god (Vi{<u or Śiva) is the Supreme Reality; others worship a goddess (Kālī or Durgā); while some others hold on to Brahman – neither male nor female.[2]


A.1. The Constitution of India

The Constitution of India (Art. 25) reads: “the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.”[3] Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism owe their origin to founders who, in their younger days, were Hindus. These newer traditions accept the doctrine of karma and punar-janma, the only idea that can be considered pan-Hindu, as it is shared by all the different Hindu groups.

A.2. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Savarkar (1883-1966), maintains that the Hindus are one nation ({}ra), one race (jāti), one culture (saòsk[ti) mediated by one language (saòsk[ta).[4] Everyone who considers this land not only as his fatherland but also as his holy land is a Hindu.[5] This means that not only does he speak the language of this land, follow its cultural life, but also that his religious belief is deeply linked with this country, its environment and history. Savarkar’s position is much more comprehensive. For him even the tribals, including those who are ethnically neither Aryans nor Dravidians, and the people following folk religions are all Hindus. Only the Parsees, Christians and Muslims are not Hindus because India is not their pu<yabhūmi.[6]

A.3. The Origin of `Hindu’

In recent times, the word hindu has become a bone of contention not only among well-informed scholars but also – and much more so – among ambitious politicians. Among the latter there are some who do not hesitate to say that anyone wishing to live in India must be a Hindu, and that the country should be renamed Hindustan![7] As such this could sound quite innocuous, because the Persian kings Darius (522-486 B.C.) and Xerxes (486-465 B.C) used this word to indicate peoples beyond the river (sindhu).[8] Thus “The term `Hindu’ had originally a territorial and not a creedal sig­nificance.”[9]

A.4. Hinduism as a Religio-Cultural Umbrella

Whatever be its origin and original meaning of `hindu‘, today the word has a definitely religious meaning. The great historian of traditional Hindu Law, Pandurang Vaman Kane says “Hinduism is a combination of many systems and religious ideologies… There were only a few matters that would be said to have bound most of the Hindus to each other…”[10] Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan puts it more graphically:

To many it seems to be a name without any content… Its content, if it has any, has altered from age to age, from community to community… The ease with which Hinduism has steadily absorbed the customs and ideas of peoples with whom it has come into contact is as great as the difficulty we feel in finding a common feature binding together its different forms.[11]

Ramchandra N. Dandekar, an internationally accepted Indologist, has something similar to say about Hinduism:

Hinduism does not venerate any particular person as its sole prophet or founder. It does not also recognize any particular book as its absolutely authoritative scripture. Further, Hinduism does not insist on any particular religious practice as being obligatory, nor does it accept any doctrine as its dogma. Hinduism can also not be identified with a specific moral code. Hinduism, as a religion, does not convey any definite or unitary idea. There is no dogma or practice which can be said to be either universal or essential to Hinduism as a whole.[12]

This description of Hinduism demands that we be very careful when speaking about it, otherwise we may end up with naive generalisations.

We can safely say that Hinduism is a sort of a religio-cultural umbrella, sheltering many traditions that were originally autonomous regional cults. There are some features that are fairly common to the different Hindu traditions. These are the acceptance of the doctrine of karma and punar-janma, the authority of Vedas, the unifying impact of early Sanskrit literature on the religious consciousness and the formation of regional languages, the journey to the same tīrthas.[13] The caste system too is considered to be a uniquely dis­tinctive feature of the Hindu community.[14]


Like our country at large, the Catholic Church in India is also characterized by some kind of unity in diversity and diver­sity in unity. Not only the diverse languages of our land, the ethnic differences of our people, but also the different castes and the so-called outcasts in our society, constitute the poly­morphous character of the Christian community. In the past, missionaries have drawn a good number of tribals and dalits to the Church. As for the caste Hindus, the heralds of the Gospel seem to approach a tightly closed door. Yet the Good News of Jesus is for all. Hence it is necessary to reflect on our past experience and become wiser for the future.

B.1. The Mar Thoma Christians

The Church in India is almost as old as Christianity itself. The Syrian communities of the South owe their origin to the missionary work of St Thomas the Apostle. Till very recent times the Syrian Churches were constituted by people from Kerala and were found in Kerala or in those places where the Syrian Chris­tian Malayalees had migrated. Thus these Churches are a linguis­tic/ethnic monolith. This indicates the absence of any concerted effort to reach out to others. It has been suggested that in the past only the “Latin Church was entitled to undertake any mission work in India,” and hence the Syrians could become missionaries only by abandoning their rite.[15] This explanation – even if correct – may be adequate for the time following the arrival of the Latins in India, i.e., for the past five hundred years. How are we to explain the situation for the first fifteen centuries?

Studying the missionary ethos of the Mar Thoma Christians, P. Thenayan lists the following “Reasons for the meagre outcome of missionary endeavour till A.D. 1000:”

1. Foreign cultural garb did not suit the local culture.

2. Imported liturgy impedes missionary work.

3. The Malabar Church was lacking in an indigenous leadership.[16]

Coming to the time following the first millennium, Thenayan continues

Around the 10th century the Thomas Christian community underwent the process of sanskritization. They adopted higher standards of ritual purity in terms of religious practices and taboos defined by the Hindu religion… All this leads to the conclusion that these Christians underwent to a certain extent a process of hin­duization… This acceptance into the society as a noble class had significant repercussions in their religious life and profoundly affected their missionary zeal.[17]

This phenomenon of the Mar Thoma Christians coming to be con­sidered as belonging to a higher caste has been noted also by the well-known scholar P. J. Podipara. He informs us that the Mar Thoma Christians of Kerala were inferior only to the Brah­mins.[18] Consequently “in almost every respect they lived a caste-bound life, so much so that they avoided the touch of low-caste persons who were not allowed to come near their houses.”[19]

It is this caste-consciousness which “explains the near absence of missionary movements in the Syrian rite churches in Kerala.”[20] Hence it does not come as a surprise to us that “Nearly all the authors writing on the Christians of St. Thomas have labelled them as a non-missionary-spirit community till their coming into contact with the European missionaries in the XVIth century.”[21] This is also the reason why they did not try to get in closer touch with peoples of other faiths.

B.2. European Missionaries in the South

With the arrival of the Latin missionaries in the 16th century, Christian communities begin to emerge in South India outside Kerala. Among these foreigners, there some serious scholars who were eager to understand the Hindus. English Jesuit Thomas Stephens (1549-1619), who “was clearly acquainted with the work of Jnāneshwar and of his own contemporary, Ekanāth.”[22] His Khristapurā<a, a life of Jesus, is soaked in Hindu lore. Italian Jesuit Roberto de Nobili (1606-1656) was a scholar in Sanskrit and Tamil. He entered into dialogue with the Brahmins of Madurai.[23] He even tried to be an Indian sannāysin (ascetic).[24]

As in other parts of India, Tamilnad too had──and continues to have──a caste-bound social structure. The Brahmins considered peoples of low castes as impure. Consequently, persons mingling with them were believed to be polluted.[25] Hence, in order to maintain contacts with the Brahmins, De Nobili had to keep his distance from persons of low castes. In some case even the missionaries condoned the caste mentality and structure as a bait to get other converts. The low castes were ministered unto by ‘Pa<*ārasāmī.’[26] Though this practice is discontinued, the Catholic Church in Tamilnad is still deeply divided along caste lines.

B.3. European Missionaries in the North

Catholic missionaries started work in North India in the early decades of the 18th century. The other churches followed towards the end of the century. These were fired with evangelical zeal, and tried to convert as many natives as possible. The Serampore Mission (near Calcutta) numbered some great Indophils, persons known for their scholarship and dedication. True, their work was primarily evangelical: to make the message of Jesus better understood. But they often worked with the collaboration of traditional Hindu scholars.

The majority of the converts were drawn to the Church for very earthly motives.[27] In his A History of Orissa (2 vols., 1872) W.W. Hunter writes “If the famine orphans be excepted missionary efforts have made but little progress in actually converting people…”[28] The fact that the bulk of the first non-tribal converts were from among the dalits meant that the quality of their commitment was poor because of “the impos­sibility of insisting on a high standard of Christianity in the case of low caste Hindus.”[29] As these converts were economically and otherwise of very poor origins and as their religious life was very superficial, the missionaries tried to protect them by gathering them together in Christian colonies.[30]

As a consequence, these converts were isolated from each other. For these missionaries “conversion to Christianity not only meant the acceptance of Christ as saviour but also adoption of the western way of life.”[31] This rather unfortunate “facade of western culture, foreign character of the missions, suspicions regarding the motives for conversion and above all their (converts’) abject economic dependence on the mission bounties, perhaps, were the most important causes for the cultural isolation of the converts.”[32] These converts did not seem to be eager to reach out to others and bring them to the knowledge of Jesus, but tried to get for themselves as much as possible from the Church. The missionaries too were not equipped for dialogue with peoples of other faiths, nor were they keen about it.

B.4. Brahmabandhu Upadhyaya

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Church in India was guided more by a concern for conversions – it may be more correct to say for numbers – than for a serious dialogue with peoples of other faiths. There were a few exceptions, and Bhavani Charan Banerjee, who was to became famous as Brahmabandhab Upadhyay (1861-1907),[33] stands tall among them. He was baptized by an Anglican on 26th February 1891. From then on he was carried by one longing: to bring all of India to Jesus. This becomes abundantly clear from his earliest writings. He started publishing The Harmony from August 1890. In its editorial he announces his intention: “To preach Christ as the Eternal Son of God, as the Logos in all prophets and saints before and after His incarnation and as the incarnate perfect righteousness by whose obedience man is made righteous.”[34] Upadhyay joined the Roman Catholic Church on 1st September the same year, choosing the name Theophilus, `the friend of God’, brahma-bandhu.

It was not merely the question of bring others to Jesus, but also of bringing the riches of this land to the Church.

The development of the Christian religion has not come to an end. It will grow, blossom and fructify till the end of time. Indian soil is humid, and its humidity will make the ever-new Christian Revelation put forth newer harmonies and newer beauties, revealing more clearly the inviolable integrity of the Universal Faith deposited in the Church by the Apostles of Jesus Christ. The Hindu mind and heart, coming under the dominion of the One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church, will sing a new canticle which will fill the earth with sweetness from end to end.[35]

The Church of Jesus becomes truly catholic by only becoming genuinely local. Upadhyay was “fully Indian and yet fully global at the same time.”[36]

He was not too happy with the strategy followed by the missionaries. He felt they were only alienating the converts from their roots, and their life-style made them less credible. Hence Upadhyay says:

A score of learned and zealous missionaries, holy men, of ascetic habits, and a metaphysical turn of mind issuing from a common centre of operations established in India, subject to common central authority, travelling all over India, giving lectures and holding public disputations with learned Pundits – can, we feel sure, transform the face of educated India within a few years. This, we submit, is the method that has always been adopted in India by her religious preachers. It is the one that, in our humble opinion, can succeed with the enlightened class. Nor was this method unknown among early propagators of Christianity.[37]

These missionaries will be not merely scholars but also deeply religious people.

If this is to be possible the missionaries must be trained in, and constantly return to, a place of prayer. It is this that inspired Upadhyay to try to found an Indian Christian monastery.

Here in the midst of solitude and silence will be reared up true yogis to whom the contemplation of the triune Sachchidanandam will be food and drink. Here will grow up ascetics who will, in union with the sufferings of the God-man, do penance for their own sins as well as for the sins of their countrymen by constant bewailing and mortification. Here will be trained future apostles of India. They will possess nothing that they may possess all. They will desire to know nothing that they may know all. They will take delight in nothing that they may delight in the All.[38]

From the monastery will emerge Christians who, like the first apostles, have experienced the Risen Lord, and who are longing to share this experience with others. Their missionary endeavour will not be part of an institution, but the fruit of their contemplation. This is the only way true apostles of Jesus can be formed.

The proposed monastery would have another much desired effect. It would lead to the inculturation of the Church – and this is very essential for effective mission.

The European clothes of the Catholic religion should be removed as early as possible. It must put on the Hindu garment to be acceptable to the Hindus. This transformation can be effected only by bands of Indian missionaries preaching the Holy faith in the Vedantic language, holding devotional meetings in the Hindu way and practising the virtue of poverty conformably to Hindu asceticism.[39]

Inculturation is primarily a way of life. It calls for a personal commitment to Jesus and his mission. Without this life-transforming commitment, any efforts at inculturation will be futile.

Upadhyay “was decades ahead of his time in his insight into the dynamic relationship between good theology and good missiology.”[40] Only when it is presented in a local way can the universal mission of the Church could bear fruit. The Church was not yet ready for this, and so it silenced one of its greatest native theologians and prophets.[41]


Dialogue is an inter-personal phenomenon, an encounter between persons and communities with different faith visions. Personal relations and reactions are governed not only by situa­tions as they are but perhaps much more by the way persons and things are perceived to be. Hence, it becomes important for us to understand how the Hindus see us, and courageously and criti­cally examine the image they have of Christianity and the Chris­tian community in India.

C.1. Colonial Association

The Christian mission, especially after the advent of western powers in our country, has been associated with these colonial rulers and the early missionaries were all foreigners. Even after the independence of our country, though the local personnel steadily grew in number and also in competence, foreign missionaries continued holding important posts in the Indian Church. Many Hindus think that by and large the Christian community was happy with the British Raj, and that they saw it as a providential arrangement for the proclamation of the Gospel in this country.[42] During the 1857 War of Independence in some parts of the North, “the loyalty of the missions and the converts lay with the British Government.”[43] Consequently after the war “Indian Christians were not only welcome in public employment but, in fact, were afforded preferential treatment.”[44] Even after sixty years of independence the Church in India, sometimes even for its basic needs, depends heavily on foreign funds.[45] A strong concern about the misuse of such funds has been voiced at different meetings of Hindus.[46] The Hindus thus see the Church as a colony of the West. This impression is further corroborated by the fact that some very important deci­sions affecting the Church in this country are taken by foreig­ners, even if at times they happen to reside in India for a while.

Some of the missionaries who accompanied the colonial rulers were totally ignorant of the great religious heritage of India. This ignorance made them rabidly critical of Hinduism. This negative attitude was inherited by their earlier disciples and co-workers, who in some instances outdid their mentors. The colonial dependence of some of the Christian missions brought about a social and cultural alienation among the first converts of these missions. This left deep wounds on the psyche of our Hindu brothers and sisters. In his writings “Swami Vivekananda has given the most heart-rending accounts of the calumnies that Christian missionaries spread about Hinduism, about India, about him personally.”[47]

Christians seem to be more at home with western music. They appreciate better western literature. Similarly in terms of dress and food habit they imitate western tastes. There was a time when walking down the streets in Goa I could identify a Christian woman just by looking at her dress. Some Hindus are of the impression that Christians (and Muslims) do not really consider India as their true home. Once again we cannot comp­letely blame them for this prejudice. I have a hunch that if we were to study, for instance, the phenomenon of Indians working in the Gulf countries, Christians──and Muslims──would be comparatively the majority. Even if they do not go abroad for work and studies, there is very often a unexpressed desire to do so. Foreign universities and degrees are considered superior to our own.

C.2. Power Institution

The Church of Jesus is expected to be the presence of the Risen Lord, who had nowhere to lay his head and who emptied himself to be our servant. But many people of our country, even a good number of the Christian laity, see the official and institutional Church as anything but that. For them the Church is a powerful institution with a very good organisational set up, a bottomless pool of funds, and well qualified and not rarely foreign-returned personnel. An institution tends to assert and preserve itself, its rights and privileges. This explains why the Church tends to associate itself with the political party in power. As in other institutions, there are also dirty power politics within the Church. Hence it is not all surprising that the Church “experiences at times very acute and scandalizing tensions fomented by caste, language, ethnicity and ecclesial traditions.”[48] In recent years these tensions have taken on a violent turn and often local maffia or gangsters are involved.

In a institution struggling for power, values become secon­dary,[49] and greater importance is given to efficiency, results and statistics. With the absence of a proper perspective, the Church becomes a victim “to the dehumanizing forces operating in our society.”[50] Consumerism, competitive individualism, com­fort culture and glamorous alternatives idealized by our media have deeply affected not only the Church at large but also those who have publicly professed a special commitment to the propheti­cal message of Jesus. This too has been noted by discerning Hindus. I have some very close friends among them. These have shared with me their shock and pain at some of the scandalous situations that prevail in the Church. Hence they are not at all surprised that in spite of all its professional competence, well organized institutions, and abundant funds, the Church appears capable of reaching out only to those people who either due to their economic situation benefit from its abundant funds, or who due to the lack of adequate education are unable to examine critically what it has to offer. It does this not because it cares for quality of life – people who are really concerned about the quality of life begin with themselves, but because numbers are important for power institutions. This concern for numbers is seen as operating also in our institutions and “robs from the nobility of service.”[51]


The phenomenon of the emergence of militant Hinduism poses a new difficulty for us in our effort to dialogue with Hindus: it does not seem to believe in dialogue. Yet militant Hinduism is very much part of our national scene today and so we need to understand the factors that explain its origin.

D.1. A Wounded Psyche

Militant Hinduism, especially as a militant and, at times, violent ideology has its roots in the past of our nation. Just as individuals can be hurt, so too communities. From the eight century A.D. onwards India has been invaded again and again and ruled by Muslims and then by Christians. The memory of these humiliations can make even “a reasoned and informed scholar” sound like “one of the preachers from the Old Testament… full of thunder, fire and brimstone, demanding a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye.”[52]

Some Muslim invaders and rulers have vandalized Hindu places of worship.[53] In 1297 at Alauddhin Khilji’s order “the image of Somnath was carried away, this time to Delhi to be trodden under foot by the faithful.”[54] This was adding insult to injury. Similarly Christian rulers in Goa destroyed Hindu temples and shrines,[55] or they forbade the construction of new ones and the repair of the existing structures, thus hoping that “left unrepaired [they] would in the course of time fall into ruins and be extinct.”[56]

Some non-Hindu invaders and rulers used physical violence to convert Hindus to their religion.[57] Others resorted to pressure-tactics: levying additional taxes, denying jobs, banning religious ceremonies, prohibiting the veneration of icons in homes, banishing priests and religious teachers, sending the more vocal Hindus into exile, treating the Hindus as second-class or even as non-citizens.[58] The non-Hindu rulers used the services of the missionaries who worked in close collaboration with them to ask, at times force even the “unbelievers to give up their rites and customs.”[59]

Still other non-Hindus, who did not resort to destruction of shrines or pressure-tactics, passed very hurting remarks on the religious beliefs and practices of Hindus. In his autobiography, Gandhi tells us that from his childhood he had a great respect for other religions, but he adds: “Only Christianity was as that time an exception. I developed a sort of dislike for it. And for a reason. In those days Christian missionaries used to stand in a corner near the high school and hold forth, pouring abuse on Hindus and their gods.”[60] On the other hand they were very eager to “point out how immaculate Christianity was in contrast.”[61]

D.2. A Pampered Minority

An RSS booklet complains that while in Islamic countries the minorities are second-class citizens, and while in Communist and democratic nations all the citizens are equal, “It is only in our country that we see the strange topsy-turvy situation of the minorities enjoying more rights and privileges than the majority.”[62] Starting from December 25, 1987, a Vishal Hindu Sammelan, organised by the Vishva Hindu Parishad, was held at Alandi, a pilgrim village near Pune. One of the advertisements featured a traditional two-pan weighing balance. One pan, carrying Hindus, was packed to capacity, while the other carried just one Muslim and one Christian and yet, surprisingly, it was the latter that was down, i.e., it was heavier![63] This picture and the statements recorded above reflect the sentiments of some Hindus: the non-Hindus in Hindusthan are a pampered lot. This feeling is not without some foundation in reality.

The history of British rule in India gradually becomes a document of the policy of `divide and rule’: “setting the Muslims against the Hindus.”[64] This policy was already operative before Lord Minto became viceroy (1905-1910), but his action made it more obvious. In 1906 he appointed a commission to study political reforms to be introduced in India, but even before the commission could submit its report,

he took a momentous step which gave a definite stamp to the forthcoming reform. He promised, in advance, to grant Mohammadans separate electorates and also gave vague hints about other special concessions… [and subsequent developments have shown] the important role played by this decision in the future history of India…[65]

Similarly already in the 19th century, the British Government in Punjab recruited either Brahmos – considered non-Hindus by many Punjabis – and Christians for government jobs.[66]

The Indian National Congress gave the impression of being pressurized by the Indian Muslim League to give in to demands that appear to be unfair. For instance in 1916 both met in Lucknow and agreed that “No Legislative Council shall proceed with any Bill or Resolution if three-fourths of the members of any community are opposed to it on the ground that it adversely affects its interest.”[67] The Congress “had virtually given veto power to Muslims to negate or drop any clause, resolution or programme which did not favour them or suit their taste.”[68] This attitude continued even after the attainment of independence. Let me cite just two examples.

In 1963 Golwalkar had invited King Mahendra of Nepal to address the RSS on 14 January 1965. He agreed, but the Indian Central Government dissuaded him. Golwalkar comments:

When the Pope, who is the head of the Vatican State, came [for the Eucharistic Congress, 1964], both, the President and Prime Minister, rushed to Bombay to receive him. But when the Head of the Hindu State of Nepal wanted to address a Hindu rally, he was pressed to cancel his trip.[69]

The Congress central government banned Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, as this book would hurt the feelings of Muslims in India. On the other hand the Congress state government in Maharashtra not only allowed but sponsored the publication of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar’s Riddles of Hinduism, a book which contains critical comments on some Hindu gods and goddesses.[70]

There are two articles in our Constitution that make special provisions for minorities. Article 29 ensures their right to preserve their culture and to secure admission in educational institutes maintained or aided by the state. Article 30 empowers the minorities to run their own educational institutions. Unfortunately the constitutional minority rights are often a convenient cover for a multitude of sins: exorbitant fees, irregular financial transactions, improper appointment of teachers, unfair remuneration, arbitrary transfer or termination of service, etc. In such situations there is a violation of basic human rights.[71] Sometimes missionaries from the south, running institutions in the north do not recruit locals for jobs they are fit for, but get people from their native state – often their own relatives.

D.3. A Vulnerable Majority

It is true that in India the Hindus constitute the majority, but on the global level they are a minority. What is still worse is that the so-called Christian and Muslim countries club together whenever it suits their need. Let me cite some examples. On 6 December 1992 the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was demolished. There was a terrible reaction in Pakistan. That same evening a Hindu temple in Karachi was set on fire. “Local and federal government representatives, political, student and religious leaders, all condemned the action of the Hindu extremists and the Indian government’s failure to protect a minority place of worship.”[72] During the next two days, many more temples and shops belonging to Hindus were looted and burnt. Hindu women and girls were molested. Violent mobs broke open Hindu houses and carried away what they could and burnt the rest. Now let us suppose an important Hindu shrine is desecrated in a Muslim country. Would there be a reaction on such a scale in any country other than perhaps India?

On 23 January 1999, Dr. Graham Staines – an Australian working among lepers – and his two sons were mercilessly burnt to death. There was a strong protest not only from the Australian Government – this was expected and understandable, but also from some of the nations belonging to the European Communion. In fact, “very few events in recent history have evoked such strong, spontaneous and universal indignation as this inhuman deed.”[73] Once again a question: Were such a reactions reported after so many innocent Sikhs were handle violently and even put to death after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, or after the violence let loose on Hindus in Pakistan and other Muslim states as the aftermath of the Babri Masjid episode in 1992? This is how one Hindu expresses the feelings that – I am afraid – lie unexpressed in the hearts of many others: “It is time that the Hindus start thinking of themselves as a minority. Yes, even in India.”[74]

To add to this fear from outside, the Hindus feel that their number is going down even in India. For almost a thousand years, first the Muslims and then the Christians have been trying to win over people to their fold. The Hindus see the Christians and Muslims as international networks, pouring in a lot of money not only to pay their propagandists, but also to lure uneducated and poor dalits and tribals.

The Constitution of India (Art. 25) reads: “the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.”[75] But “over 70 intellectuals, scholars and activists representing several Buddhist, Dalit and academic organisations” who took part in a seminar `Buddhism versus Hinduism’ on 12 December 1999 in New Delhi organized by the Bahujan Swayamsevak Sanghathan and the Indian Social Institute state, have rejected this stand.[76] So also “a scholarly Sikh of high position, Kahan Singh, published a pamphlet entitled Ham Hindu nahin (we are not Hindus), which became very influential.”[77] We observe a similar attitude in the Dalit Panthers Movement started in Maharashtra[78]

Besides conversion and the fact of groups asserting their non-Hindu character, the Hindus are also disturbed by another factor: the pattern of response to the family planning programme in our country. A recent analysis of the first fifty years since our independence comes to this conclusion: “One cannot wish away the fact there is a much less encouraging response from the minorities in general and the Muslims in particular.”[79]

D.4. A Threatened Aristocracy

The Indian society has been dominated for centuries by four aristocracies. The Brahmins dominated the religious sphere, and succeeded in monopolizing the educational system. The second group were the people with wealth. Either they had a lot of money and so functioned as money-lenders and systematically grabbed the little their clients had. Sometimes, in order to pay back their loans, these poor people sold whatever they could, even their land, and became totally dependent on others. Or they were landed families, employing people of low castes or tribals, and giving them a pittance in return. In many cases the farmhands ended up by becoming bonded labourers. Third, patriarchy has been a characteristic of the Hindu society. The first three aristocracies worked together and constituted the fourth, i.e., Sanskritised Hinduism, which systematically absorbed and dominated `popular Hinduism’. The latter is constituted by “the culture of the low castes [and the outcastes, which] incorporates the forms of worship and practices which differ from those of the high castes.”[80]

The schools run by missionaries in tribal areas enlightened and empowered the tribals, so that they could now affirm their rights and demand justice even without the missionary support. This explains why there is so much – at times violent – opposition to missionary work among the tribals. The work of missionaries among the dalits had a similar effect: “Conversion meant disruption in the village economy. For instance, conversion to Christianity helped the untouchables who were tied up to serfdom, to partially liberate themselves from illiteracy and social disabilities.”[81]

The second threat to traditional aristocracy came from within. In the nineteenth century “Critical assessment of the tradition was also stimulated by exposure to leading Western thinkers… Increasingly, reason rather than tradition and authority was emphasized as the factor which should determine the norm and values of society.”[82] The liberal trend of thought in the West could not but shake the very foundation of the caste system. Social reformers and political activists emerged from among the low castes. They empowered the oppressed masses and enabled them to assert their rights.

Education has also empowered Hindu women. Their status in the society has gradually improved. They move about freely, without needing the escort required by tradition. They seek employment away from home. This gives them a certain amount of standing within their family and the society. They hold positions of great power: not only as directors of great companies, but also as chief and even prime minsters.[83] They are having a say even “in one of the most sexist institutions in history – organised religion.”[84] Now they are not only learning Vedic ślokas, but also presiding over s, marriages, death ceremonies, etc.

With education, the little traditions – tribal and religions – are becoming aware of their own potential. In the past many, especially Dalits, believed that Sanskritisation would mean social mobility. They have learnt from bitter experience that this is not always true. Also modernisation tends to destroy many traditional values. There are among these people some who are making great efforts to preserve the best in their culture. They have become conscious that their identity is intimately linked with their religion.

D.5. An Imperilled State

Besides being culturally alienated, some Christians and Muslims have given the impression that they are also politically alienated from India. In the North-East, Christian missionaries “popularized modern education and health care. However, in so far as dissemination of the ideals of freedom and equality and a sense of belonging to the `great’ Indian nation were concerned, the Christian missionaries played a negative role.”[85] The underground Naga movement tried “to enlist the Churches on the hostile side.”[86]

Services were regularly held in the various hide-outs and there was a great deal of propaganda that since Nagaland was to be the first completely Christian State of Asia (today Naga Churches are placarded with posters saying `Nagaland for Christ’) it was the duty of Christians to fight the `Hindu Government’ in order to preserve their religion.[87]

One of the prominent leaders of the Naga underground movement, Rev. Michael Scott, was deported on May 4, 1966 for his anti-Indian activity.[88] There were underground movements also among the Mizos and Kukis. These “were motivated by three or four considerations. The first was to maintain ethnic identity and the second was to preserve Christian ideology. These two points provided the base for mobilization and unity and the claim for independence was put forward.”[89]

Slowly more and more, “divide and rule’ becomes the British policy. This resulted in the partition of Bengal in 1905, and “the motive was to curb the growth of national feeling in politically advanced Bengal by driving a wedge between the Bengali speaking Hindus and Muslims…”[90] Hence “it is perhaps no co-incidence that the Muslim League was born in 1906.”[91] This policy of divide and rule will eventually culminate in the emergence of Pakistan.

The growth of fundamentalism among the Sikhs in the early quarter of the 20th century served to emphasize “the maintenance of the boundary that distinguished the Khalsa Sikhs from the Hindus. The definition of the boundary became increasingly political…”[92] The Muslim demand for a separate state provided a pattern for the fundamentalist Sikhs. In 1946 the Akali Dal passed this resolution:

Whereas the Sikhs being attached to the Punjab by intimate bonds of holy shrines, property and language, traditions and history claim it as their homeland and holy land… and whereas the entity of the Sikhs is being threatened on account of the persistent demand of Pakistan by the Muslims on the one hand and of danger of absorption by the Hindus on the other hand… the Akali Dal demands for the preservation and protection of the religious, cultural, and economic and political rights of the Sikh nation, the creation of a Sikh state.[93]

Even though this demand was not granted, the idea persisted, and in 1981 extremists Sikhs demanded the creation of Khalistan: “an independent Sikh State”,[94] and in 1986 “they burnt the national flag… and hoisted the Khalistan flag atop the [Golden] temple.”[95]

Already in 1938 the Justice Party had called for a separate autonomous Dravidastan as the only solution to overcome Brahminical dominance.[96] All these instances of secessionist movements make the spokespersons of militant Hinduism believe that the Brahmanical Hindus alone can uphold the integrity of this nation. Hence once they become “strong and united, the whole country will become strong and united. It is not the Government or the Army that makes a nation strong. It is a strong society that throws up a strong government and produces a strong army.”[97] After the Kargil war one of the Pakistani generals was reported saying that had not Nawab Sharif interfered “Like Soviet Union, whose collapse was presaged by its defeat in Afghanistan, the myth of Indian military invincibility was on the verge of being exposed.”[98] Yes, the spokespersons of militant Hinduism believe that unless they act we will go the way of Soviet Russia

D.6. A Disappearing Culture

In almost all ancient traditions, religion is seen as an all-encopassing phenomenon. It is, perhaps, the most potent force shaping cutlure. Not only our beliefs about God and life beyond death, our rites and rituals, but also what we eat and drink, how we entertain guests, whom we marry, how we celebrate the important transitions of life, etc., are governed by religion.

With the dawn of modernity and its critical attitude, with more and more people shifting from villages to towns and cities, with the gradual spread of modern education, with peoples of different faith traditions coming together, working together, recreating together, and now with the media shaping our thinking, earlier ways of thinking and living are being abandoned, traditional cultures are threatened. In Asia the media invasion has come overnight, and many people are feeling unsettled.

The media technology is highly sophisticated. It functions more effectively than the appeals of religious and moral guides. It shapes not only our thinking but also the way we express our emotions. Recent studies show “that opinion and attitudes change drastically by regular viewing of particular type of [T.V.] programmes.”[99] Researchers have also noticed that “television violence is a major factor in the development of aggressive behaviour among its viewers… it is an undeniable fact that people in our societies have learnt that aggression is fun.”[100] In many T.V. programmes “there is an excessive display of emotions even when this is not warranted. This `phoney’ behaviour may evoke imitation in children.”[101]

With the onslaught of media, we tend to become passive and non-critical. More and more young people imitate the way of speaking, dressing and behaving of their favourite actor or actress in the T.V. serials they watch, persons “who are attractive because they appear competent in handling the troubled, threatening world outside.”[102] Even traditional moral values are thrown over board. Today some young people think, “virginity is over-rated and outdated concept.”[103] In the past young and not so young people made a pretension of love before they proposed sex. Today it is just a matter of two people having some fun. They do not make any commitment to the other, neither do they expect any commitment from the other. “Sex has become as casual as having a cup of coffee together. Sex is seen as fun without responsibility.”[104] With mobile phones it is possible to arrange for a session without parents getting the least inkling of what is going on. During some festivals in India, parents employ private detective agencies to keep an eye on their daughters. With contraceptives so easily available, there is no risk of any pregnancy. Even if a pregnancy crops up, there are so many abortion clinics. All this is bound to affect family life adversely.

Unless we are critical, we may identify ourselves with one of the characters we see in our favourite serial, and live in a world of our fantasy, not merely while viewing T.V. programmes, but also at other times. As a result “homo sapiens is reduced to animal imitans, to an aping animal.”[105] This is one of the major concerns of militant Hinduism. They need to blame somebody, punish somebody. The loss of depth and the epidemic of superficiality must be a concern that we too should share.

A recent episode in Mangalore is a good example of how modernisation and westernisation can make some insecure persons resort to the violence. On January 25, 2009, a gang of fanatics manhandled young men and women who were having a drink in a bar. These fanatics think that Hindu young women are being corrupted by the others. The media people were on the scene to make sure they could catch the attack on their cameras. The fanatics want the message to go across to other young men.[106]

D.7. A Fragile Economy

Of late one hears a lot about “India’s emergence as a fast-growing economic power.”[107] India’s “growth rate is now approaching that of Asia’s other economic juggernaut, China.”[108] This, however, is not the full truth.

Prosperity and progress haven’t touched the 550,000 villages where two-thirds of India’s population live… Millions of women are not getting the education they need. Transportation networks and electrical grids, which are crucial to industrial development and job creation, are so dilapidated [that] it will take many years to modernize them.[109]

Writing in 1908, Gandhi made a statement that today comes across to us as prophetic: “The generally accepted principles of economics are invalid. If acted upon, they will make individuals and nations unhappy. The poor will become poorer and the rich richer…”.[110]

Unemployment generates frustration. It “brings about a loss of the sense of personal worth.”[111] As the pace of life becomes faster and faster, as competition for survival becomes stiffer and stiffer, there will be more stress and greater frustration. This can lead to a “culture of poverty. Some of the elements of this culture are the presence of institutionalized violence, a sense of helplessness and resignation.”[112] Economic depression generates violence, and the majority attack the minority: they are seen as the outsiders, whose presence puts a strain on the economy. This violence becomes more vicious when the minority is more educated and is perceived as better employed. Christians in India are comparatively more educated and better employed than the others.


We had a Church History professor, Fr. Emile Hambye by name – some of you also may have been his students. Once when reflecting on the different crises the Church went through, he remarked: “When the Church fails to sweep itself, then God get others to sweep it, to make it clean.” This is where I would like to start. The physical violence experienced by Christians in India including the violation of their personal dignity, the vandalization and even total destruction of places dedicated to worship, and other forms of oppression that we have witnessed in the wake of Hindutva makes us ask ourselves a question. Is the good Lord trying to tell us something through all this? Is He inviting us to reflect on mission in this context? I think He is.

Any effort to enter into dialogue with Hindus – and if we wish them to take us seriously – then we need to do some – at times embarrassing – deep soul-searching and critical theological reflection. We need to be really open and honest. Hence in this section I shall now try to spell out certain conditions that I consider essential if our dialogue with Hindus is to have some intelligibility and credibility. I am inclined to believe that if the conditions indicated below are given a serious thought, then our dialogue with go much beyond words. We ourselves will broaden our vision, trying to build up basic kingdom communities, communities held together not by creedal and sacramental bonds, but by a commitment to the values of God’s kingdom. I hope these reflections, hopefully, will also make us rethink our recruitment and formation policies.

E.1. An Adequate Spirituality

Dialogue is an integral part of our mission. In the past we have focussed on the mission mandate given to the first disciples by the Risen Lord: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation (Mk 16.15).” The history of the church bears ample witness to the fact that we have taken this very seriously. However a more honest and critical examination of our past and even present will reveal to us that a lot of human ambition and imperialistic dreams lie hidden in many of our missionary undertakings, deve­lopment projects, social service, etc. I am inclined to think that this is because our missionary endeavour has been institu­tionalised. We are missionaries because we have received a mandate, if not from Jesus, at least from the local ordinary or from our religious superior. We are missionaries because we find ourselves in some `mission territory.’ We are missionaries because we are members of a `missionary congregation.’

But both in the Old and in the New Testaments, mission is always a charismatic experience. The person with a mission is a deeply spiritual person, a person who has had a powerful ex­perience or anubhava of the Lord. His life and his mission are shaped and guided by this experience. Even the Markan mandate should not be read as the ipsissima verba of Jesus, but the evangelist’s way of conveying to us the deep impact the Risen Lord made on his disciples. Hence the Christian desiring to evangelise the Hindus, or for that matter anybody else, must have a solid spirituality. This spirituality must be a darśana. The word darśana is very significant. It means a way of looking at life in its totality. When the Hindu goes to the temple he hopes to have a darśana of God. He hopes to see God. At the same time deep in his heart he also hopes that God will graciously look at him, that God will give him a darśana. As a result of his contemplation (darśana) and God’s gracefilled glance at him (darśana), the devotee acquires a new vision (darśana). He sees life as God sees it. This darśana is possible only through an anubhava or spiritual experience.

Anubhava means that one comes in contact with the self (ātman). Like all ancient languages, Sanskrit too does not have what we call capital letters. Hence when this word occurs in Sanskrit texts we could read it either as ātman or as Ātman. The Hindu spiritual tradition insists that the experience of God, the Ultimate Self of all is inseparable from the experience of one’s self, of what I am deep down. Unless and until I come in contact with my deep self I will not be really free. Today we know from behavioural sciences that a large part of our conscious behavi­our originates and is guided by sub-conscious factors. So often our feeling of being free is only an illusion, the result of our ignorance (avidyā). By an anubhava of one’s self we come face to face with our deep rooted inborn and acquired needs. The more we realise their existence and the powerful hold they have on us the more will we see how much our behaviour is shaped, not by freedom or by conscious choice, but by our self-asserting, self-preser­ving, and self-defending needs.

Our missionary commitment is a call to share in the mission given to Jesus by His Father. Jesus’ mission was rooted in what today we call the ‘Abba-experience’. Jesus would spend long hours all by himself communing with his heavenly Father (Lk 4.42; 5.16; 6.12; 9.18, 28; 11.1). In fact this contemplative aspect of Jesus is one of the best attested features of his life. The Abba- experience enabled Jesus to go out of himself and reach out to all people, but especially to the poor, the outcastes and the oppressed of his times. It enabled him eventually to lay down his life for this mission. Only the experience of a Love greater than ourselves can carry us beyond ourselves. Without this experience of God there is a real danger that what goes on as missionary work becomes a subtle way of asserting ourselves. A pious way of fulfilling our deep rooted needs. The anubhava of one’s self and of God brings us authentic freedom, freedom from oursel­ves in order to really love and serve others.

This experience of God will give us the realisation that the quality of our life is more important than our professional competence. This experience will help us to see that what we are is more important than what we have or what we can do. Authentic contemplation will lead to the primacy of satya (truth-embodying existence). One reason why many Christians hesitate to reach out to Hindus is precisely their awareness of the lack of an adequate spirituality. People who are economically or socially in need of our assistance will accept us even though we ourselves are spiritually mediocre or even bankrupt. But when people do not need us to fulfil their economic or social needs then they will accept us only if we can help them in their spiritual journey, in their rtha-yātrā. This will be possible only if we ourselves are pilgrims, constantly moving towards God; if we are constantly crossing boundaries of ethnicity, language, culture, religion, gender, rite, church denomination, etc.;[113] if we ourselves are constantly moving away from our little world and our little church, walking (carya) towards greater realities (brahman) and towards God (Brahman). This is authentic spirituality.[114]

In our tradition the person who has had real anubhava of God is characterised by ahiò (non-violence). Ahiò means that in his dealing with others he is not only polite and courteous but warm and loving. The deeper his spiritual life, the more people will experience this love radiating from him. Ahiò also means that he will respect points of view other than his own. A really spiritual person is not dogmatic, much less arrogant. He is conscious that as a pilgrim he is still far away from the full­ness of truth. This awareness makes him humble and gentle. In our contemporary context respect for environment and for all forms of life will also be an essential part of ahiò.

The experience of God’s presence, and of his love which surpasses all our understanding, will make the missionary deeply detached from worldly possessions and values. The commitment to evangelical poverty will then mean not merely a detachment from wealth and material goods but also detachment from worldly concerns like success, prestige, status, popularity, etc. In our tradition the spiritual person is characterised by vairāgya. This inner simplicity is reflected in his outward behaviour, his conversation, his life-style. This commitment to evangelical simplicity becomes all the more imperative for us today and this for two reasons. First, our mission must be related to the actual situation of our country. In spite of all our efforts at development, a great number of our people are still very poor. Spiritual simplicity and evangelical poverty will mean not merely inner freedom and spirit of detachment, but also an effort to share in some way the life of our people, to participate in their struggle for survival, to make our own their joys and sorrows.

Second, our mission is to be exercised in the contemporary context. Today we are surrounded by a powerful culture of dehumanizing consumerism, and this poses a greater threat to human survival than all nuclear weapons put together. For many people today personal commitment and moral values are secondary while money and all the pleasure and glamour money can bring have become primary. Many people think that the Church too is a victim of this malaise, and so she has lost her credibility. If the missionary is to make an impact on the more enlightened Hindus he must by his very life exercise a prophetical critique of the contemporary inhuman culture. Then, and only then, will the missionary proclamation offer them not some statements that are said to be true, but God’s saving truth.

The deep spirituality which the Christian missionary is expected to have must be nourished not only by his Christian tradition but also by the profound religious and mystical tradi­tion of this land. Then he will be able not only to speak to the Hindus in a language they understand, but also offer them a way to God that is both deeply Christian and at the same time authen­tically Hindu.

E.2. Adequate Theology

One reason why many Christians are unable to go out to the Hindus who are socially and economically comfortable is the fact that they do not have a deep spiritual life. The second block is the absence of adequate theology. As long as I operate within the traditional boundaries of my parish or of my institution I feel secure, because in this situation the people I encounter share my faith. As a result they will not ask difficult theological questions. Even if they do and I do not have an adequate answer I can always get away by saying that the Bible says this or the Church teaches this.

The lack of adequate theology goes unnoticed also when I go out to socially and economically needy people. Since they come to me because they need me or since they accept me because I can help them, they are not bothered about questions of theology. However, the moment I try to reach out to the other Hindus I enter a difficult area. They will ask me questions about what I believe and I will not be able to get away by saying that the Bible says this or that the Church teaches this. I need a more thoroughly reasoned out theology, a theology that has a good grounding in philosophy.

The theology needed for dialogue with Hindus must first of all be a critical theology. A truly mature Christian distinguishes between faith and belief. Let me explain this distinction by the giving the example of Abraham who is presented to us by St. Paul as the father of all believers (Rom 4.16). When Abraham felt and accepted the call of God he was not a true monotheist. He believed that there where many gods but Yahweh had chosen him as his own and he had accepted Yahweh as his only God. That was about 1800 years BC. Then about 1200 B.C. we have the Exodus. As the Jews move out of Egypt they felt that Yahweh had done mighty deeds for them. Since their god had helped them to outwit the Egyptians, they began to believe that Yahweh is not just one god among others, but that he is more powerful than all the other gods (Ex 18.1), that he is the God of gods (Deut 10.17). Then 600 years later when the Jews are carried away as slaves to Babylon, their faith deepens. Then they come to know that Yahweh is not simply the God of gods but that he is the only God, the one God of all time and of all nations Is 44.8; 45.22). Here we have real monotheism, but this is not yet the Christian faith in a triune God.

How then is Abraham a model of faith for us Christians? The Letter to the Hebrews gives us the answer. Abraham, we are told, began his journey not knowing where he was to go (11.8). Faith is an existential attitude of surrender. It means that we put ourselves in God’s hands, trusting Him, allowing Him to shape our life. Belief is the articulation of our idea of this God. It is this belief that may be naive as was the belief of Abraham. Very often we confuse belief with faith and dogmatically hold on to something which is really secondary. As a result, we find more differences between others and ourselves and unnecessarily distance ourselves from them. The critical Christian is aware that he is a pilgrim, that he is on a journey, and being on a journey means that even his faith has to grow. If his faith has to grow, then all the more so his belief because belief is secon­dary and an attempt to articulate faith. One cannot be dynamic while the other remains static. Since theology is faith seeking understanding and articulation, a theology formulated fifty years ago will be not be adequate for us today.

Besides being critical, contemporary theology must have a hermeneutical attitude. It is not enough to know what I believe and why I believe but we also need to understand the significance of what we believe, and that not just for ourselves but also for the people of our time. For example, what is the contemporary meaning of the central given of our Christian tradition: the mystery of incarnation. What do we want to say when we confess that God’s Word become man and dwelt among us? This is not merely a metaphorical statement, reminding us of God’s nearness to us? It a contemporary challenge, inviting us to live in His presence, making our theology alive.

The Christian faith in the incarnation means that with the event of Jesus the humans are the primary temple of God, the primary point of meeting between God and us (Mt 25.40). It means that love is the primary law (Jn 13.35), and that service is the primary liturgy.[115] Presented this way the Christian message becomes contemporary and powerful. It becomes a prophetical critique when in our times the dignity of the human person, sometimes even in the name of religion, is being cons­tantly violated not only by concrete events in our day to day life, but also by dehumanising attitudes and value structures powerfully propagated by modern media. Once again the missionary must make sure that this affirmation of human dignity is being effectively upheld by the Church he claims to represent.

Theology at the service of dialogue with Hindus must itself be dialogic. This theology will take a serious note of the rich religious tradition of this land. This theology will be not merely an attempt to answer some of the questions arising from this encounter with other faith traditions but also a theology that is constantly being enriched by this encounter. This theology will become intelligible not merely by being translated into our regional languages, but by being a new creation. I suggest that what we urgently need to do is to use the latest historico-critical method and get to the core of the New Testament message and then articulate this core by using symbols, myths and rites that emerge from the subconscious of our people and thus really makes sense to them, enlightening not only their minds, but also warming their hearts. If we wish to be effective with Hindus, then like Abraham, we must be prepared to journey not knowing where we are going, but believing that the Spirit of the Risen Lord continues to guide us.

E.3. Adequate Worship

The Christian mission is not the work of an isolated in­dividual. This is the responsibility of the whole Christian community. Our past experience teaches us that when our anxiety about numbers gets the better of us, Christian life and values suffer, because then the converts have been sacramentalized but not Christianized! This becomes a block for the more authentic seekers. If the Christian community is to be renewed for dialogue with Hindus, then its way of life must be shaped by a contemplative experience of the Risen Lord, and by the values he has given us.

This will be possible only when our liturgy is not merely a pious celebration meeting our emotional needs, but an experience of the presence of the Risen Lord, and a prophetic proclamation for and critique of our times. When the Christian community gathers to read and reflect the Word of God, it must do so in ongoing dialogue with our times. This reading of God’s Word must first of all confront us and force us to look at ourselves, our values, our life-style, and our relations to others. Then the liturgy will serve not as a pious pain killer or shock observer but as a powerful incentive for a prophetic way of life. Our worship must also be enriched by the rich religious traditions of this land so that when we gather to break bread even the Hindu may understand and say `Amen.’

For the early Jewish Christians there was no Old Testament, but only `the Scriptures’ (e.g., Acts 18.28; Rom 15.4; I Cor 15.3-4) – the Scriptures of the Jews. They continued to attend the temple at Jerusalem, where these Scriptures were read and explained. They also met to break bread together (Acts 2.46). They carried with them, if not literally then at least in their hearts, their ancient Scriptures, and slowly they realized that the Risen Lord, present with them in their breaking of bread, explained those Scriptures to them and that they now understood them much more than ever before (Lk 24.27, 32, 45) They were convinced that they spoke about Jesus. Thus the rememb­rance of Jesus became an interpretative principle, and the celebration of the Eucharist a hermeneutical experience. Those Jewish Christians believed – and this may sound very arrogant to the other Jews – that they were the ones who really understood the full meaning of the Jewish Scriptures. In due time, even when some of their own writings were accepted as sacred those ancient texts were not abandoned. They became the First Testament of one Scripture.

The liturgical use of the Scriptures of this land is very important if inculturation – and without inculturation deep dialogue is not possible – is to be more than a cosmetic act. These texts are the fruits of deep prayer and reflection. They express the profound longings of our people. They have shaped the lives of millions and millions down the centuries. They use symbols and images that touch the deeper levels of our people’s consciousness. The Christian theologian will con­tinue to be on the margin if he ignores them. But the theologian must study them not only in his library but also listen to them in the liturgi­cal assembly, because Jesus promised us that whenever we gather in his name, he will be with us. Hence when we read those texts in our liturgical assembly, he is there to guide us. I believe that the Spirit who inspired the Bible is also living and active in the Church today. I believe this Spirit will teach us all we need to know, he will lead us to a fuller remembrance of Jesus (Jn 14.26).[116]


[1].Vaman S. APTE, The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, rev. ed., 1912, rep. 1998, p. 240. The word āstika is an adjective derived from asti, the present third person singular of the root as (to be); while stika is a compound: na (not\non) + āstika.

[2].Grammatically Brahman (the Supreme Reality according to Advaita Vedānta) is neuter, and should be distinguished from Brahmā (the creator god according to popular Hindu tradition) who is masculine.

[3].V. N. SHUKLA, Commentaries on the Constitution of India, Lucknow: Eastern Book Company, 3rd ed., 1960, p. 88.

[4].V. D. SAVARKAR, Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?, Poona: S. R. Date, 2nd ed., 1942, p. 81.

[5].Ibid., p. 95.

[6].Ibid., p. 92.

[7].Such a demand was made at the third state convention of the Shiv Sena held in Pune on December 31, 1988. The Times of India, Bombay, January 1, 1989,  p. 11.

[8].Pandurang Vaman KANE, History of Dharmaśāstra, 5 vols., Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, rev. ed., 1968‑75, vol. 5, p. 1613. In some languages there is no sibilant, and that is replaced by an aspirate. Thus the Persian ahura and the Sanskrit asura originally have the same meaning: God.

[9].Sarvepalli. RADHAKRISHNAN, The Hindu View of Life, London: George Allen & Unwin, (1927) 1954, p. 13.

[10].KANE, History of Dharmaśāstra, vol. 5, p. 1621.

[11]. RADHAKRISHNAN, The Hindu View of Life, pp. 11-12.

[12].Ramchandra N. DANDEKAR, Insights into Hinduism, Delhi: Ajanta Pbs., 1979, p. 1.

[13].KANE, History of Dharmaśāstra, vol. 5, p. 1621.

[14].KANE, History of Dharmaśāstra, vol. 2, pp. 20-23; RADHAKRISHNAN, The Hindu View of Life, p. 93.

[15].K. PATHIL, “The Rite Question in India: Is There No Way Out?,” Jeevadhara, 22 (1992), p. 291.

[16].P. THENAYAN, The Missionary Consciousness of the St. Thomas Christians: A Historico-pastoral Study, Cochin: Viani Pbs., 1982, pp. 89-94.

[17].Ibid., pp. 110-111.

[18].P. J. PODIPARA, The Rise and Decline of the Indian Church of the Thomas Christians, Vadavathoor (Kerala): St. Thomas Seminary, 1979, pp. 20-21.

[19].P. J. PODIPARA, The Malabar Christians, Alleppey: Prakasam Pub., n.d. (after 1972), p. 58.

[20].E. J. THOMAS, “Caste and the Syrian Rite,” Jeevadhara, 23 (1993), p. 231. See also A. ETTACKAKUNNEL, “The Role of the Syro-Malabar Church in the Field of Evangelization,” in G. MENACHERY (ed.), The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, Trichur: 1973, vol. 2, pp. 123-126.

[21].THENAYAN, The Missionary Consciousness of the St. Thomas Christians, pp. 79-80.

[22].K. R. Srinivasa IYENGAR, “Stephens, Thomas”, in New Catholic Encyclopedia, New York: Mcgraw-Hill Book Co., 1967, vol. 13, p. 526b. Jnāneshwar and Ekanāth are both well known mystics from Maharashtra.

[23].Fred W. CLOTHEY, “Tamil Religions”, in Mircea ELIADE (ed.-in-chief), The Encyclopedia of Religion, 16 vols, New York: Macmillan Pbs., 1987, vol. 14, p. 266a.

[24].S. RAJAMANICKAM, The First Oriental Scholar, Tirunelveli: De Nobili Research Institute, 1972, pp. 45-46.

[25].Ibid., p. 46.

[26]. Ibid., 49.

[27].G. KOTTUPPALLIL, History of the Catholic Missions in Central Bengal: 1855-1866, Shillong: Vendrame Institute, 1988, p. 90. K. N. SAHAY, Christianity and Culture Change in India, New Delhi: Inter-India Pbs., 1986, p. 41.

[28].Quoted by D. SWARO, The Christian Missionaries in Orissa: Their Impact on Nineteenth Century Society, Calcutta: Punthi Pustak, 1990, p. 215.

[29].R. B. SHARMA, Christian Missions in North India 1813-1913: A case study of Meerut Division and Dhera Dun District, Delhi: Mittal Pubs., 1988, p. 166.

[30].Ibid., p. 198; SWARO, The Christian Missionaries in Orissa, p. 214; SAHAY, Christianity and Culture Change in India, p. 114.

[31].SHARMA, Christian Missions in North India 1813-1913, p. 193.

[32].Ibid., p. 198. See also SAHAY, Christianity and Culture Change in India, pp. 23-24.

[33] This is the Bengali version of his new name Brahmabandhu.

[34] Brahmabandhab UPADHYAY, The Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, George GISPERT-SAUCH & Julius J. LIPNER (eds.), Bangalore: The United Theological College, 1992 (vol. 1) & 2002 (vol. 2), vol. 1, p. 1.

[35] Ibid., vol. 1, p. 19.

[36] Timothy C. TENNENT, Building Christianity on Indian Foundations: The Legacy of Brahmabāndhav Upādhyāy, Delhi: ISPCK, 2000, p. viii.

[37] UPADHYAY, The Writings of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, vol. 2, pp. 195-96.

[38] Ibid., vol. 2, p. 208.

[39] Ibid., vol. 2, p. 207.

[40] TENNENT, Building Christianity on Indian Foundations, p. viii.

[41] See Carl FONSECA, “A Prophet Disowned” Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection, 54 (1990), pp. 177-94.

[42].It must however be stated that even some great Hindus, e.g., Raja Ram Mohan Roy, believed that the arrival of the British was a blessing for this land, but for other reasons.

[43].SHARMA, p. 207.

[44].Ibid., p. 47.

[45].Some Indian ecclesiastics and religious and their generous western benefactors think that the principle of ecclesial com­munion justifies the dependence of our Church on foreign funds, more so if we can supply them the much needed personnel for their Churches. Here two comments are in order. First, we must distinguish between basic or ordinary and emergency or extraor­dinary needs. The training of priests and religious is a basic need, but helping people struck by an earthquake is an emergency need. Second, a Church that cannot provide for its own basic needs, be it in terms of finance or personnel, is either a church that is still in its infancy or a Church going through a serious crisis. In either case the really healthy solution will be in nurturing the resources within. It is my impression that we in India too easily accept foreign funds, often for very questionable projects, e.g., a mighty flashy cathedral. Depen­ding on local resources will make us, priests and religious, more accountable to people who are close to us. This is definitely not a very pleasant proposal for many of us.

[46].See for instance the report on the Vishal Hindu Sammelan organized by the Vishva Hindu Parishad at Alandi (Pune) in the last week of December 1987 in Maharashtra Herald, Pune, December 27, 1987, p. 1.

[47].Arun SHOURIE, “Missionary Work in India”, Maharashtra Herald, Pune, January 29, 1994, 6. Shourie was invited to address the National Consultation on Mission referred to earlier in no. 24. Subsequently he published a series of syndicated articles in different English and also in some regional dailies. The article quoted here is the first in the series.

[48]. Paths of Mission in India Today: Statement of the National Consultation on Mission, 4-9 January, 1994, Pune: Ishvani Kendra, 1994, no. 8.

[49].The secretary of the CBCI Commission for Proclamation and Communication, in his report on the national survey on our mission in view of the consultation referred to in note 24, states that though many people of backward origins have joined the Church in recent year, “The quality of their life and witness has yet to deve­lop.” Quoted by A. SHOURIE, “The Means Take Over,” Maharas­htra Herald, Pune, Febru­ary 12, 1994, 6.

[50].Paths of Mission in India Today: Statement of the National Consultation on Mission, no. 8.

[51].SHOURIE, “Missionary Work in India,” 6.

[52].N. CHANDHOKE, “Harvest Hate” (a review of Arun Shourie’s Harvesting Our Souls), Outlook (New Delhi), 40-2 (January 24, 2000), p. 77

[53].One historian goes so far as to say: “The destruction of infidel places of worship had always been a result of Muslim conquests.” This happened not only in India, but also in other parts of the world. J. C. POWELL-PRICE, A History of India, London: Thomas Nelson, 1955, p. 345.

[54].Ibid., p. 135. The Hindus suffered the same humiliation later at the hands of Aurangzeb, who ordered the “burying under the steps of mosques the Hindu images that were brought from their temples destroyed by his orders.” S. BHATTACHARYA, A Dictionary of Indian History, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1967, p. 84.

[55].For more data, see for instance A. K. PRIOLKAR, The Goa Inquisition, Bombay: author, 1961, pt. 1, pp. 65-70.

[56].Ibid., pt. 1, p. 77.

[57].For an account of what Portuguese rulers did in Goa see PRIOLKAR, The Goa Inquisition, pt. 1, pp. 29-30, 150-60.

[58].See for instance BHATTACHARYA, A Dictionary of Indian History, p. 84; PRIOLKAR, The Goa Inquisition, pt. 1, p. 115; R. G. PEREIRA, Hindu Temples and Deities, Panaji: Printwell, 1978,  pp. 8-10;  T. N. MADAN, Modern Myths, Locked Minds: Secularism and Fundamentalism in India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 110-11.

[59].C. J. BORGES, “Christian Life in Goa during Colonial Times,” Jnanadeepa: Pune Journal of Religious Studies, 1/2 (July 1998), p. 35a.

[60].M. K. GANDHI, The Story of My Experiments with Truth: An Autobiography, Ahmedabad: Navajivan Pub. House, 14th rep. n.d., p. 28.

[61].M. N. SRINIVAS, Social Change in Modern India, Bombay: Allied Pbs., 1966, p. 78.

[62].RSS: Spearheading National Renaissance, Bangalore: Prakashan Vibhag, RSS Karnatak, 1985, p. 40.

[63].The Indian Express, December 25, 1987, p. 5.

[64]. R. C. MAJUMDAR (Gen. ed.), Struggle for Freedom (The History and Culture of the Indian People, vol. XI), Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1965 & 1969, p. 151.


[66]. K.W. JONES, Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in 19th-century Punjab, New Delhi: Manohar Book Service, 1975, pp. 13-17.

[67].Qt. by MAJUMDAR, Struggle for Freedom, p. 247.

[68]. G.S. HINGLE, Hindutva Reawakened, New Delhi: Vikas, 1999, pp. 95-96.

[69].Ibid., p. 122.

[70].B. R. AMBEDKAR, Writings and Speeches, vol. 4: Riddles in Hinduism, Bombay: Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1987.

[71].Ibid., p. 39.

[72].Christine AMHAD-ALI, “The Aftermath of Babri Masjid”, Al-Mushir, 34/4 (1992), p. 134.

[73].Swami AGNIVESH, “Hailing the Spirit of Gladys Staines”, Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection, 63 (1999), p. 217.

[74].Manoj M. MENON, in “Letters”, The Asian Age, 6 February 2000, p. 12.

[75]. SHUKLA, Commentaries on the Constitution of India, p. 88.

[76].Jivan, February 2000, p. 16.

[77].MADAN, Modern Myths, Locked Minds, p. 80.

[78].R. KUMAR, “Dalit Culture: A Perspective from Below”, Social Action, 50/1 (January – March 2000), p. 30. Kumar is a Fellow, Indian Institute for Advanced Study, Shimla.

[79].J. S. APTE, “Population and Family Planning in India: 1947-1997”, New Quest, 21 (1997), p. 222.

[80]. C. JAFFRELOT, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics  – 1925 to the 1990s: Strategies of Identity-Building, Implantation and Mobilisation, New Delhi: Penguin Bks., 1999, p. 1.

[81].V. T. R. SHETTY, Dalit Movement in Karnataka, Madras: Christian Lit. Soc., 1978 pp. 118-19.

[82]. A. RAMBACHAN, “Swami Vivekananda’s Use of Science as an Analogy for the Attainment of Moksa”, Philosophy East & West, 40/3 (July 1990), p. 331.

[83].When Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister, she was so powerful that more than one remarked: “There is only one man in the Congress: Indira Gandhi.”

[84].P. BANERJEE, “Homemakers to Ommakers”, The Sunday Times of India, 28 November 1999, p. 6.

[85]. B.P. SINGH, The Problem of Change: A Study of North-East India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987, rep. 1996, p. 3.

[86].V. ELWIN, Nagaland, Shillong: Adviser’s Secretariat Research Deptt., 1961, p. 62.

[87].Ibid., p. 63. See also p. 75.

[88].Prakash SINGH, Nagaland, New Delhi: National Bk. Trust, 1972, rev. ed. 1977, p. 145.

[89].S. M. DUBEY, “Inter-Ethic Alliance: Tribal Movements and Integration in Northeast India”, in K. S. SINGH (ed), Tribal Movement in India, 2 vols., New Delhi: Manohar Pbs., 1982, vol. 1, p. 16.

[90].MAJUMDAR, Struggle for Freedom, p. 21.

[91].K.R. MALKANI, The RSS Story, New Delhi: Impex India, 1980, p. 185.

[92].MADAN, Modern Myths, Locked Minds, p. 86.

[93].Qt. ibid., p. 87.

[94].Ibid., p. 89.

[95]. P. D. DEVANANDAN, The Dravida Kazhagam: A Revolt against Brahminism, Bangalore: CISRS, 1960,  p. 93.

[96].Ibid., p. 10.

[97].MALKANI, The RSS Story, p. 89.

[98].Siddhartha VARADARAJAN, “Kargil post-mortem provides clues to Pakistani motives”, The Times of India, 30 November 1999, p. 11.

[99].Jose KALLUKALAM, “Media and the Family”, Jeevadhara: A Journal of Christian Interpretation, 24 (1994), p. 472.

[100].Munira SEN, “Media and the Family”, Religion and Society, 41/3-4 (Sept. & Dec. 1994), p. 117.


[102].Ibid., p. 120.

[103].Nona WALIA, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!” Times Life, Mangalore edition, May 14, 2006, p. 1.


[105].Raimon PANIKKAR, “A New Society for a New Millennium”, in Antony KALLIATH (ed.), Pilgrims in Dialogue: A New Configuration of Religions for Millennium Community, Dharmaram Publications, 2000, p. 18.

[106].Sugata SRINIVASARAJU, “Deccan, Chronic?”, Outlook, February 9, 2009, pp. 36-46.

[107].Pradeep PILLAI, “India spins its charm”, The Week, April 23, 2005, p. 18.

[108].Jim ERIKSON, “A Place in the Sun”, Time, June 19, 2006, p. 26.


[110].The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, 90 viols., New Delhi: Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1958-84, vol. 8, p. 371.

[111].Catherine B. HALIBURN, “The Family and the Child: The Asian Family’s Struggle for Life”, FABC Papers, 72f, Hongkong: FABC, 1995, p. 10.


[113].A journey is not possible without crossing boundaries: the boundaries of our home, our village, our state, and sometimes even our country. For our ancestors the tīrtha was a ford, a shallow point in the river that allowed them to cross over to the other side. See APTE, The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p. 476.

[114].The word brahman is derived from the root bh[ (to make or become big), and so we should not be surpri­sed that the substantive is used both in the masculine and in the neuter, with over twenty different meanings, all indicating something or somebody considered great. Eventually it comes to denote the greatest of the great, God himself. See SURYAKANTA, A Practical Vedic Dictionary, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1981, p. 493; APTE, The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p. 1173. The words carya and rin are derived from the root car (to walk). See APTE, The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, pp. 429, 433. Hence we can redefine brahmacarya as the constant movement towards the great, and ultimately towards God, who is the Greatest of all. The word brahmacarya also indicates a celibate. Hence as consecrated celibates, the obligation to move out to others becomes all the more our task.

[115].In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10.29-37), the priest and Levite ignore the wounded man because they were on their way to the temple, and were afraid they would be culticly polluted were they to touch him and come in contact with blood. The Samaritan was considered perpetually polluted.

[116].The “Relatio post disceptionem” of the Asian Synod (no. 16), makes the following statement: “It was suggested that the cause of evangelization and inculturation will be served if a move could be made in our liturgy and prayer of the Church towards the use of non-Christian Scriptures which at times are very inspiring.” One cannot but wonder why this document was marked `sub secreto‘.

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