Wednesday, September 17, 2008

India and Hinduism – the soft targets!

Excerpts from the interview with Swami Devananda saraswathi, known as Ishwar Sharan, a Christian by birth born in Canada but a Hindu in practice –

by Rajeev Srinivasan.

* There are detailed war-game scenarios on the Internet by various Christian fundamentalist groups who have identified India as a soft target for conversion.

India is a soft target for the Christian missionary for a number of reasons. Firstly, Hindu society still suffers from many social ills that the missionary can exploit; secondly, Hindu society is by nature pluralistic and accommodating of all ideological views including those that would destroy it; and thirdly, Hindu society is divided against itself and its religious and political leaders have failed it totally. These leaders with few exceptions are not willing or able to challenge the ideological forces that would destroy Hindu religion and society.

The result is that Christianity and its younger sister Marxism have the ideological upper hand in India today. They have an unhealthy influence on government, education, publishing, the English-language media, and some vital social services. It is a shocking situation for which Hindus themselves are to blame (even if the overall situation is a legacy of British days). The very fact that Hindu intellectuals and entrepreneurs are not able to publish a national daily newspaper and present their own point of view to the world is sad proof of Sri Aurobindo’s observation that Hindus have lost the power to think.

* What was your objective in writing The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple? You are quite critical of the Christian establishment and their fellow travelers in the Indian media.

Most historians will tell you that St. Peter never went to Rome and did not establish a Christian church there. Yet the very authority of the papacy rests on this fiction and most educated people accept their claim. I was interested in the Indian parallel, in seeing what the historians had to say about the coming of St. Thomas to India and his establishing a church in Kerala. I soon discovered that the most reputed historians of Christianity including Eusebius, von Harnack, de Tillemont, Latourette, Winternitz and. Bishop Stephen Neill, all denied the coming of St. Thomas to India. Some denied his very existence.

In writing The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple (which I did under the ‘secular’ pen name Ishwar Sharan), I also wanted to show that there was a carefully orchestrated cover-up in the Indian English-language media regarding the St. Thomas story. Indeed, even after two editions of the book, The Indian Express and The New Indian Express remain the main purveyors of the fable through editorials and their columnists A.J. Philip and Renuka Narayanan. Little leftist magazines like The Indian Review of Books, edited by the St. Thomas advocate S. Muthiah, also put in a good word for St. Thomas when the opportunity arises. This is their unprofessional response to the exposure of a fraud that does not serve their financial interests.

Yet in writing the book and giving the source material for the legend, the 3rd century Syrian religious romance called the Acts of Thomas, my sincere hope was that Indian scholars would take up the study of the legend seriously. But this has not happened. Indian historians with their Marxist bent of mind are not willing to touch it. They are afraid for their tenures and their politically correct professional reputations. For the English-language newspaper editors, all of them brown sahibs with brown noses, the St. Thomas fable is a useful stick to bash Hindus with when the occasion arises, as the story is a vicious blood libel against the Hindu community.

* You allege that there is, in effect, a conspiracy of silence to hide a lot of uncomfortable facts about Christianity in India. Why?

The establishment of the Christian church in India was intrinsically part of the European colonial enterprise. Its history is shocking for its violence and duplicity. Read the letters of St. Francis Xavier or the diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai.

The Indian church today is not so much different from the original 17th century church. It is very wealthy and corrupt and politically ambitious. But it has learned the propaganda value of social service and is making a great effort to disassociate itself from its colonial origins. This involves a lot of deceit, of course, and a massive cover-up of past deeds. But as the late Archbishop Arulappa of Madras would say, the end justifies the means — even if that is not exactly what Jesus taught.

The Christian church uses the St. Thomas legend to claim a 1st century origin for Christianity in India. It also claims St. Thomas to be a martyr at the hands of a wicked Hindu priest and king. Better still, Christianity becomes the ‘original’ Indian religion, as it would be older than many of the sectarian Hindu cults practiced in the country today.

The whole idea is a gross perversion of truth and a grave injustice to the Hindu community that has offered refuge to persecuted Christian refugees down through the ages. It is Hindus who have been martyred by these same Christian refugees starting in the 8th and 9th centuries when Syrian and Persian immigrants in Malabar destroyed temples to build their St. Thomas churches. It is Hindus who were martyred in Goa by Catholic inquisitors and in Madras by Jesuit, Franciscan, and Dominican priests who operated under the protection of the Portuguese. And it is Hindus who are martyred today by the Christian churches and the secular press who support them, including the BBC—all of whom have mounted a base campaign of vilification and calumny against Hindu religion and society.

* You make the startling revelation that the fondly believed story of St. Thomas, an apostle of Christ, coming to India and establish­ing an Indian church, is a convenient fiction. What was the original rationale for this story? Who propagated it? What has been the consequence?

The original rationale for the St. Thomas story was to give the first 4th century Christian immigrants in Malabar a local patron saint. The story also gave them caste status that was important in integrating them into Hindu society. There is nothing unusual in a refugee community creating this kind of mythology of identity and it is part of the process of getting established in a new land.

The St. Thomas legend, which they brought with them from Syria, was easy enough to adapt to India. St. Thomas was already the patron saint of “India”, “India” being not the subcontinent that we know but a synonym for Asia and all those lands that lay east of the Roman Empire’s borders. ‘India’ even included Egypt and Ethiopia in some geographies, and China and Japan in others.

The Syrian Christian refugees had been led to India by a merchant who is known to history as Thomas of Cana, i.e. Canaan, but is also known as Thomas of Jerusalem. Over time it was natural enough for the Syrian Christian community to identify their 1st century patron saint Thomas the Apostle with their 4th century leader Thomas of Cana. As a result of this process it is now mistakenly accepted by most educated Indians that St. Thomas came to India in 52 CE and established a Christian church at Cranganore in Kerala.

* The great Kapaleeswar Temple in Mylapore, Madras, was demolished, according to you, and that is where the San Thome Cathedral now stands. This is news to many people who believe temple demolition was largely a Muslim act.

The evidence for the demolition of the original Kapaleeswar Temple is according to a variety of sources including government records and archaeological reports. There is the presence of temple rubble in the San Thome Cathedral walls and in the grounds of Bishop’s House (removed since my book’s publication). The news of the demolition of the original temple was not news to anybody of a past generation and was discussed in the Madras newspapers during British times. The origins of the present Kapaleeswar Temple are recorded and directly reflect and confirm the destruction of the original temple.

It is true that Hindus do not associate temple breaking with Christians. That is due to the success of the historical cover-up of which the ASI and the state archaeological departments are partly responsible. But we in the West know better about Christian history and have access to a vast stock of published material that is not usually available in India. We know that every great pagan temple in Europe and the Mediterranean basin was destroyed and replaced with a church after Christianity gained political ascendancy in the Roman Empire. We also know that it is not any different in India today where Christian missionaries hold sway in remote tribal areas) because we have seen the evidence.

In Central India, Orissa, the Northeast, even Arunachal Pradesh and Nepal where missionaries cannot officially operate, village temples are demolished and sacred images broken by new converts. The video films of these “good works” are then shown on TV in Europe where missionaries go to collect funds for their evangelizing effort.

Temple breaking in India seems to have originated in the 8th or 9th century with Nestorian Christian immigrants from Persia. They built churches on the temple foundations and then attributed the temple breaking to St. Thomas himself by claiming he built the churches in the 1st century. Franciscan, Dominican, and Jesuit priests destroyed temples in Goa, Malabar, and Tamil Nadu in the 16th century. St. Francis Xavier left a fascinating written record of his temple-breaking work on the Coromandal Coast. The Portuguese entombed the Vel Ilang Kanni Amman Temple near Nagapattinam and turned it into the famous Velankanni church called Our Lady of Health Basilica. The Jesuits destroyed the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple in Pondicherry and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception now sits on the site. The list is very long. Christians were destroying temples long before the Muslims got into the act.

* I have heard some Christians say that they believe that the Bhakti movement in Tamil lands was influenced by Christian ideas of a personal god. How do you respond?

Christian missionaries and Marxist intellectuals have a mantra: There is nothing Hindu in Hindustan and nothing Indian in India. According to them everything of value in Indian civilization came from outside, from someplace beyond the pale of Sindh. They are aware of the Hindu’s low self-esteem and seek to undermine it further.

Be that as it may. Devotion to a personal god is there in the Rig Veda itself: “Oh, Agni, be easy of access to us, as a father to a son.” Dr. Pandharinath Prabhu tells us in his much-acclaimed book Hindu Social Organisation that the very term bhakti first appears in the Svetasvataropanishad. Bhakti is there in the Puranas and finds its best expression in the Bhagavad Gita; a better expression, I must say, than is found anywhere in the Bible. Tamil bhakti has its roots in the Tirumantiram, ca. 200 BCE.

So there is no influence from Christianity at all. But even if it was true that Christianity influenced Hindu concepts of a personal god, what do Christians gain by making such a claim? Hindu bhaktas direct their love and devotion to Shiva and Murugan, Vishnu, Krishna and Rama, not to Jesus. Jesus has failed in India! And failed and failed and failed again in India!

* There appears to be an effort on the part of certain Christian groups to ‘indianize’ the church: for instance, they have created a cult of the Infant Jesus to compete with the worship of the Baby Krishna, and a cult of the Madonna to compete with the worship of the Mother Goddess. Is this a genuine effort at cultural synthesis?

The Pope has made it absolutely clear in the Vatican document called Dominus Jesus that enculturation and indigenization are the means by which the Indian heathen is to be evangelized. Enculturation is not an effort at cultural synthesis but a means of conversion. Its object is to undermine the integrity of Hindu religion and culture and subsume it into Christianity. It is a tried and true method. It is by this method that Christian mission­aries starting with St. Paul undermined Greek and Roman religion and culture and. took it over for themselves.

Christianity is a simple personality cult with an elitist ideology. It can be insinuated into any open society. It is parasitical in nature and feeds on the spiritual and cultural body of the society it invades. In the process it destroys the invaded culture and absorbs it into itself. This is what happened in Pagan Europe.

Hindus do not understand this process because Hinduism is spiritually self-sufficient and does not require outside nourish­ment. At the same time Hindus are flattered by the attention given to their religion and culture by Christian operators and are vulnerable to their overtures. See my dialogue with Fr. Bede Giffiths in Sita Ram Goel’s book Catholic Ashrams concerning this important subject.

* Some Christians have written to me quoting various Sanskrit texts to ‘prove’ that they foreshadow the arrival of Jesus Christ. What do you think of this?

Prophecy is the last refuge of the religious scoundrel and unfortunately the Indian missionary community is made up entirely of scoundrels. They can find and foreshadow whatever they like in scripture (be it Hindu, Muslim or Christian) because of scripture’s obscure language and context and the poet’s use of allegory and metaphor. For example, Bible scholars know that the Old Testament “prophesies” concerning Jesus’ birth are forced contrivances of interpretation and editing used to give Jesus divine legitimacy and. royal linage. They know that these prophecies are false but because they appeal to the believer’s imagination and reason and help inculcate faith in Jesus, they continue to be quoted as divinely inspired and true.

In India a favorite method of foreshadowing from Vedic texts is closely related to the enculturation process. Christian preachers simply appropriate the meaning of Sanskrit terms and claim them for Jesus. They argue in a round about way that terms like Isa, Ishwara and Parameswara only ever referred to Jesus in the first place! I have got letters from Baptist converts who claim that Prajapati is really Jehovah!

If Christian missionaries want to find Jesus in the Veda and Christ in India they can do so with the help of clever and amoral scholars like Fr. Raimundo Panikker. He and they should carefully consider that these “inspired” claims, and, indeed, the inducement to convert by means of these claims is a sin against the Holy Spirit. According to their own doctrine, there is no forgiveness for a sin against the Holy Spirit. But the real problem is not that Christian religious entrepreneurs invent prophecies and manipulate the mean­ing of Sanskrit texts, the real problem is that Hindus accept their claims at face value and do not know how to reply.

People who follow prophets invariably become idolaters of The Word. They believe that the prophet’s word is divine word, that a man’s word is God’s word. It is the worst kind of idolatry and leads to the religious fundamentalism and violence that we are witness to today throughout the world.

* If you criticize Christians in any way, their immediate response is. “We are a tiny minority of two per cent of India’s population, and see how much social work we are doing.” How do you respond to this?

The question of numbers of population, which for Christians is something like three per cent, is very misleading. Not long ago India’s millions were ruled by a cadre of 30,000 Christian foreigners. It is not a question of numbers but of institutional wealth and influ­ence, of organization, political ambition and high ideological motivation, and, especially, of undue control of institutions like education and health care that counts. And then there are the special constitutional privileges for minorities that make Hindus second-class citizens in their own land, and the uncritical sympathy for all things Christian in the English-language press.

It is an absurd situation. No country in the world allows a minority community to dictate to the majority the way India does, or to allow a foreign-trained minority community to proselytize in a society that has never proselytized and cannot protect itself against the psycho­logical and emotional assault and material inducements that go with proselytisation. No country in the world would allow virtually unchecked the foreign money and expertise that flows into the Indian churches, much of it under the guise of social aid, when the bigoted leaders of these churches have declared over and over again that they intend the religious and spiritual annihilation of the Hindu community.

The complete interview at

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