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Why is there no unity among Hindus unlike people of Islam or Christianity? Are not Hindus weakened by their lack of unity and constant internal squabbling leading to religious conversions?

“There is no unity among Hindus” is a rather an exaggerated statement, though there is an element of truth in it.

By very design, Hinduism has multiple facets, multiple ways to approach God within its overall scope, offers the freedom of choice, freedom of expression, freedom of dissent and so on. Naturally, it gives religious people freedom to compartmentalize themselves, disagree with other sects, argue with them, demean them etc. Hinduism is so widely encompassing that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says even atheism is a stepping stone to reach God in Hinduism!

This very fabric of Hinduism also paved the way for Hindus generously accepting other religions to flourish in Indian soil.

It can be safely said that the absence of unity in Hinduism is exactly like feuds within brothers and sisters in a family! They may not see eye to eye with each other, have different tastes and agendas in life, may even split from the family and live alone. But the underlying blood connection never goes. When some calamities strike the family, we can see that all family members bury their difference of opinions and come together! In a similar way, there are indeed occasions when Hindus join together burying their differences of opinions and tastes.

Hindus as a society do face problems and differences on account of caste system; but again, history shows that our religion is not rigid, but flexible enough to acknowledge and take corrective actions in the long haul. Where there is lack of unity, it is mostly fueled and nurtured by petty politicians and social reformers who have no deeper knowledge about Hinduism; they bet on their pseudo-secularism to keep dividing Hindu people for their selfish gains.

However, it is an undeniable fact that caste discrimination and the absence of any single strict authority (like the Pope in Christianity) have paved the way for Hindus getting wooed by other religions by conversion.

On top of it all please consider this:

Historically, how much of bloodshed have you seen amidst Hindus fighting within themselves based on their religious differences? Extremely little.

Compare this with the history of other religions: Shiites versus Sunnis; Protestants versus Catholics.

Then the reality will be far clearer.

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With so many sects within Hinduism fighting and contradicting each other, is not Hinduism weakened? Are not other religious people more united?

By very design, Hinduism has multiple facets, multiple ways to approach God within its overall scope.  The religion offers the freedom of choice, freedom of expression, freedom of dissent and so on. Naturally, it gives religious people freedom to compartmentalize themselves, disagree with other sects, argue with them, demean them etc. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says even atheism is a stepping stone to reach God in Hinduism!

I would say that the absence of unity in Hinduism is exactly like feuds within brothers and sisters in a family! They may not see eye to eye with each other, have different tastes and agendas in life, may even split from the family and live alone. But the underlying blood connection never goes. When some calamities strike the family, we can see that all family members bury their difference of opinions and come together!

In a similar way, there are indeed occasions when Hindus reunite burying their differences of opinions and tastes because the underlying concept of God is fundamentally same amid the various sects, irrespective of whether people comprehend them fully or not.

Hindus as a society do face problems and differences because of caste system; but again, history shows that our religion is not rigid, but flexible enough to acknowledge and take corrective actions in the long haul. Where there is lack of unity, it is mostly fueled and nurtured by petty politicians who have little deeper knowledge about Hinduism; they bet on their pseudo-secularism to keep dividing Hindu people for their selfish gains.

On top of it all, please consider this:

Historically, how much of bloodshed have you seen amidst Hindus fighting within themselves based on their religious differences? Extremely little.

Compare this with the history of other religions: Shias versus Sunnis; Protestants versus Catholics.

Then the reality will be far clearer.

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In what way is an average Muslim’s perception of Allah different from an average Hindu’s idea of God?

NOTE: The following is essentially from a Hindu point of view, based on basic concepts, faiths and practices existing in both religions.

  • Allah being without name and form, He is virtually beyond the grasp or imagination of a Hindu, while a typical Muslim has no qualms about it. Yet an average Muslim’s faith on his God definitely seems to be far stronger than an average Hindu’s faith on God. There is reason for it. (See point 2).
    • For a Hindu, his God is a personal God, with a name and form. His God may look quite different from the personal God of the neighbor, but it does not really matter to him. His God is much closer and dear to him for easy communication. For an average Hindu too, God as Brahman — beyond name and form as stated in Upanishads is virtually beyond reach. He is therefore content to have a personal God.
  • For an average Muslim, Allah is to be feared, respected, revered. He cannot take Allah for granted. Allah is all merciful alright but if you wrong with Him, He is sure to roast you in hell fire. Better be safe than sorry! Better to be extremely careful with Allah and be reverential to Him rather than taking any liberties with Him.
    • A Hindu can feel free with his personal God. he can talk to Him with love, can criticize Him when he feels wronged, can cry to Him when weak and can ignore Him when the going is smooth! In other words, a Hindu devotee can take God for granted, as if dealing with a parent. He is not all that afraid of God.Of course he knows God is bound to punish him for his wrong doings, but he believes His God is not vengeful, tough, strict and merciless. A Hindu can proudly claim he is an atheist and yet survive happily as a Hindu in the community. This is unimaginable in Islam.
  • A Muslim is always worried about safeguarding himself in his afterlife. After all, after death he has got only two avenues: either living in heaven or living in hell (after the day of judgement). If you get Allah’s mercy, your seat is assured in Heaven. Else, you end up perennially in Hell. There is no respite. No second chance. No mid term review. Hence a Muslim has to ensure that whatever Koran forbids, he should not do. whatever Koran recommends, he should do. No question of using any free will. No arguments and counter arguments. No intellectual hair-splitting. No need at all. Everything is clear in black and white in Koran. You are forbidden from questioning it.
    • A Hindu however is free to interpret his scriptures differently. He has scope for making different definitions of God and his relationship with God. He can even claim “I am God” (Aham Brahmasmi). He too believes in heaven and hell, but he understands very clearly that he will not end up in them permanently. They are at the best like staying in a resort or a mad house for a period. He always has the scope of redemption, to get another chance to live his life right; he can refine himself or he can deteriorate himself too. He always has another chance. That is samsara cycle for him.

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What is the strongest argument in favour of Hinduism?

The strongest argument in favour of Hinduism, in my opinion, is the concept of Karma and rebirth existing in Hinduism.

To understand more on this subject, please click:  “The concept of Karma & Rebirth in Hinduism

I believe karma and rebirth theory is very elaborate, exhaustive, very logical and convincing in Hinduism.

How does it compare with after-death-theories offered by Christianity and Islam? This detailed comparison is available in my reply to the following Question:

If someone is kind, loving, considerate, compassionate, law abiding and just a good person all his life, but doesn’t believe in God, would he go to hell?

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Why Conversion from Hinduism to any other religion is highly discouraged – Part:1

This is an Article series consisting of 3 parts.

In this part 1, some solid and important facts about the relevance of Hinduism are discussed. 

In the part 2, some frequently asked questions from religion/ spiritual point of view have been answered.

In the Part 3 , some FAQs from sociological point of view (issues related to inter-religious love affairs and marriages) are being answered.

Part:1

At the outset, Hinduism is just not a religion; it is known as Sanatana Dharma — the eternal righteous way of living.  The base of Sanatana Dharma (or Hinduism) is so widespread that it has place for accommodating innumerable ways of establishing a relationship with God and attaining oneness with Him as the ultimate goal of life.  It is like a cone with a large circular base and as one rises up higher and higher in quest of spirituality, it ultimately leads one to a single point at the top.

Fact 1: Hinduism is so unique and so wide-based – there is really no need to look elsewhere for anything missing

With a clear acceptance of the universal fact that people have different tastes and temperaments as regards to any relationship, Hinduism offers so much of ‘variety of choice’  in the practice of religion, which is nothing but establishing are relationship with God. Be it with regard to choosing a specific God form for love and worship, method of worship, practice of austerities, school of philosophy to learn and follow,  type of rituals to practice and so on, Hinduism offers so much variety. The idea is: you start with what is traditional to you, what is comfortable to you, what is digestible to you and what is tasteful to you. Then go deeper; understand better; widen your outlook; don’t get trapped into sheer compartmentalization; grow up; turn inwards rather than outwards; out-grow from your earlier presumptions and self-made boundaries. Know the ultimate truth; know that you are no different from the very ultimate truth that you have been in quest of all along!

In other words, a variety of religious and spiritual avenues are available within Hinduism itself for one to seek God for spiritual progress  or worldly prosperity or for removal of hurdles, pains and sorrows in life by praying to God and seeking His divine grace. There is really no need to go in search of any other religion for that matter. If someone finds anything higher or better in any other religion, it is only because he has not really bothered to look deeper into his own religion with earnestness.

Vested interests from other religions , who believe God to be nameless and formless, may mock at Hindus for worshiping idols; for worshiping umpteen God forms — Gods in male, female and animal forms, Gods having thousands of names and so on. If misguided Hindus with very little inclination to know deeper about the significance of all these in Hinduism join the vested interests and start ridiculing our own religion, we can only feel sorry for them.

Fact 2: Hinduism does not woo people from other religions with an agenda to convert them to Hinduism

By virtue of being the Sanatana Dharma, Hinduism is not something meant for ‘sales promotion’ , ‘mass distribution’ or ‘mass consumption’. That’s why there are no religious movements in Hinduism to woo and convert people from other religions to Hinduism. No Hindu organization gets any funding to send missionaries to other countries for the sole purpose of converting people from other religions to Hinduism.  Hindus don’t build schools and hospitals to show how loving and caring their religion is, with a hidden agenda of converting people to Hinduism.

Whatever mode of conversion to Hinduism offered nowadays through Arya Samaj is also NOT meant for wooing other religious people to convert to Hinduism, but only to offer an avenue (which was not available in the past in Hinduism) for the benefit of misguided people of Hindu origin, who had converted to other religions (for whatever reason) and want to return to Hinduism.

Fact 3: It is Hinduism that keeps producing so many Mahatmas and great spiritual masters from time to time to guide people in religion and spirituality

Unlike any other religion, only Hinduism has the unique advantage and proven track record of gifting to the world innumerable spiritual masters, great Mahatmas, great devotees, God realized (and self-realized) Gurus and great Avatars as if in a never ending stream, in this great land of India.

Why is it happening only in Hinduism and not significantly in other religions?

It is because of the following reasons:

1)  As per Hinduism everything in creation is nothing but God — every one of us is potentially divine. Because of maya, this is not available for easy grasp for everyone. But it is the fact that those who earnestly seek to know this truth by experience get divine and guru’s guidance and they realize the truth and become one with God.  In other words, Hindu religious experience of practical divinity is not restricted to a ‘Father in heaven and his One and Only Son’! It is not restricted to one single Messiah who is the only ordained one to know and reveal the truth and no one else.  It is not restricted to a single holy book, a single or rigid school of philosophy or a single divine form or a God who cannot have name and form.

2) Because of the fact that Hinduism has such a wide base, there are umpteen streams available within the religion to travel through and reach the ocean.  Whether one worships a God in the form a male, a female, an animal or in a mix of human and animal, Hinduism asserts that spiritual progress is possible by all means.  If a Hindu believes in God without form, or he/she feels no emotional need for devotional worship too, there are streams available for such an earnest seeker to follow in Hinduism. Each of the paths has its own strong connection to the core of Hinduism and hence there are realized souls available from different streams of Hinduism. Thus such masters could declare to others by virtue of their personal experience that every path in Hinduism is valid.  

Fact 4: Great Hindu Masters cut across religious barriers too and inspire people from all religions

Why do we hail these spiritual masters of Hinduism as ‘great’? Is it out of our mad infatuation to our religion or a sense of natural pride (rightly or wrongly) towards our own religious greatness?

No. We hail them as great because such saints who realized truth by following a particular segment of Hinduism, have indeed  attained the peak and they could clearly see from that elevated state that every path in Hinduism does lead one to the single final goal only. Such a master then is able to impress, enthuse, inspire and guide earnest religious aspirants from several other schools of Hinduism as well! It does not stop there. Such great masters attract people and aspirants from other religions too!

Such a spiritual saints cease to be the ‘sole property’ of Hinduism. Their appeal and attraction becomes universal.

That’s how great spiritual masters like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, his consort  Sarada Devi, his disciple Swami Vivekananda, Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, Papa Ramadas, Swami Sivananda (Divine Life Society), Shirdi Saibaba, Satya Saibaba, Shri Chandrasekara Saraswathi (‘Maha Swamigal’ of Kanchi Math), Anandamayi Ma, Mata Amritanandamayi and such other Mahatmas could attract innumerable Christian and other religious followers from nook and corners of the world and give the seekers guidance on spiritual progress.

Do these masters try to woo the eager beavers from other religions to get converted to Hinduism? Never. Do they ever preach that only through following Hinduism one can attain liberation? Never.  On the contrary, they encourage people to go deeper into their own religions, grasp the truth behind their own religious teachings and try to live true to them.

Very learned pundits and erudite scholars of Philosophies come and prostrate before these Mahatmas (some of these mahatmas may not even have passed primary school level!) and seek clarification on scriptures that they have been learning for decades but could not grasp the true purport and they get convinced and enlightened by a simple explanation from these great souls! It is because what these mahatmas explain comes from the root of their own personal experience and not just from bookish knowledge.

Many Christians used to seek clarification on teachings and quotes off Bible from Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi. He used to explain them from the point of view of the essence of Hinduism based on his own personal experience.  

If any of the followers from other religion who get greatly attracted to Hinduism, its teachings, its Gods and religious practices opt to change their names to typical Hindu names, start dressing like Hindus, start worshiping Hindu Gods, chant  sthotras on Hindu Gods and sing bhajans, these masters don’t discourage them either.  They know for sure that what matters for an individual is the peculiar taste that he finds appealing and attractive for following in his/her spiritual pursuit and that freedom is available, as it is available for any Hindu, to people from other religion too.

The point to note is that the great spiritual masters of Hinduism never say “Your religion is okay, but you will get liberation or salvation only if you get converted to Hinduism and worship Hindu Gods”. They would rather say, “The kingdom of God is within you, and it is up to look within yourself and attain it”.

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Why Conversion from Hinduism to any other religion is highly discouraged – Part:2

This is Part: 2 of the article on Why conversion from Hinduism to other religions is highly discouraged.

In the part 1, some solid and important facts about the relevance of Hinduism has been discussed. Please read it first, before proceeding here.

In this part 2, some frequently asked questions from religion/ spiritual point of view are being answered.

Question 1: How about fake Gurus and God-men of dubious characters who seem to abound Hinduism?

Not every student studying in a class can get distinction. Not every religious aspirant has the qualities of mental purity, sacrifice, unselfishness, grittiness and adherence to austerities. It is always possible that there will be ‘drop-outs’ who, by virtue of their undigested spirituality may start their own spiritual show business and thrive by attracting seekers of dubious qualities.

Not just Hinduism, but every religion has dubious spiritual teachers who misguide people and thrive on a selfish agenda. In God’s scheme of things, it will always be there.

There will also be religious teachers at intermittent levels (Neither fake gurus not fully realized Gurus) who are earnest and sincere in their efforts, limited in their own grasp of religion but nevertheless contributing something for the religion meant for people at lower and middle levels of spiritual or religious progression. They are very much needed for any religion and their role is definitely as good as school and college teachers taking classes at various levels, with their own qualifications being enough to teach and guide pupils of appropriate grade.

Again the point to note is this: Amidst existence of fake Gurus and Gurus of various tiers, sects and subsects and schools of philosophies , it is in Hinduism that great realized saints have been evolving time and again to guide earnest seekers of spirituality with appropriate teachings suited best to the times they arrive at in the society. It is in Hinduism that one can see the constant evolution, adaptation and path correction so that true seekers are properly guided and the society at large is reshaped and guided in the right path for the wellbeing of the society and its cultural traditions.

Question 2:  If Great Hindu Masters accept all religions, then what is the problem in converting to any other religion?

If you go to your own town’s market to buy the things of your need and all essential items are very much available in your own market at affordable price, at good quality and without shortage, then what is really the need to go to next town’s market?

If someone thinks that something is amiss in his own market, it is not because it is true; it is because he has not looked around enough to see where it is available. Or it may be that he got hoodwinked by the false propaganda from a marketer from the next town who spreads lies and falsehood; it may be because the marketer from the next town offered him something out of selfish agenda to change his loyalty.

Now, coming to the stand of great spiritual masters of Hinduism accepting all religions, it is only due to their clear understanding of the all pervading nature of Godliness radiating from within themselves.  But virtually no spiritual master ever nodded in appreciation of any Hindu converting to any other religion.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is oft quoted for his statement “As many faiths; so many paths”.  He was a unique Hindu spiritual master who actually put into practice Christianity and Islam in his own life and within a short time realized the spiritual principle of these religions.  He in fact had a vision of Jesus Christ and saw Christ’s form merging into himself.

Michael Madhusudhan Datta was a famous Bengali poet who lived in Kolkotta during Sri Ramakrishna’s period. He was actually a Hindu, who had got converted to Christianity.  Once Sri Ramakrishna happened to meet Michael Madhusudhan along with some of his devotees. When someone questioned Michael as to why he had got converted to Christianity, Michael replied something like “It’s all for the sake of the stomach; what else?”

The moment Ramakrishna heard this, he left the spot, not willing to engage in any discussion with Michael, as desired by his devotees. Ramakrishna later said to his devotees: “I felt as though I was dumb folded;  Ah! What is there to talk with a person who simply forsakes his own religion and converts to another for the sake of filling his stomach! “

Once a Christian Congregational  Bishop by name Stanely Jones came from abroad to meet Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi. He, with lots of missionary zeal, was trying to impress Maharishi about the “Kingdom of Heaven” that could be attained only through the grace of Jesus Christ; he  started teasing and challenging Bhagwan about his philosophies and questioning Bhagwan’s credentials but showed least interest or earnestness in listening and absorbing Bhagwan’s responses. After trying to make him see reason for a while, Bhagwan understood that the person was only keen on giving a sermon on the Kingdom of Heaven and  how the only facilitator for it was Jesus Christ. Bhagwan kept quiet and the person went on blabbering.

At that time, Bhagwan’s western devotee Major A W Chadwik (Sadhu Arunachala) was in the hall and having got irritated by Stanley’s behavior, Chadvik, (a Christian well versed in Bible), confronted him with pointed arguments. Stanley got shocked by the opposition he faced from a fellow Christian westerner and he opted to pack off and leave. Once he left, Bhagwan laughed and said “You have certainly paid him in his own coin!”

In Swami Vivekananda’s life too there are several instances where he was quite critical of missionaries and their efforts to convert people to Christianity. He was always critical about Islamic rulers of the past who converted gullible common people to Islam at the point of the sword.

Question 3:  What about atonement of sin? Hindu religion is fatalistic; they say one has to experience Karma and there is no escape.  It looks sinners are doomed if they follow Hinduism, whereas Christianity welcomes sinners with open hands; they say, Jesus has shed blood for all our sins and hence our sins are atoned by God. That’s so much comforting.

If any Hindu says that in Hinduism you are cent percent bound by Karma and there is no escape from sins and if a Christian says Jesus has shed his blood for your sake so that you can enjoy life absolved of all sins and keep doing sins, both are misguided!

While as per karma theory of Hinduism it is true that there will be the effect for every karma — good or bad — that one has got to experience, it is never said that it a rigid law; Karmas are not self-propelling, to give you good and bad effects on their own power. Karma is just jata – inanimate. it is God’s will that decides what effect is to be given to the karma at what time to the doer of karma.

In Hinduism, attempting to understand and breaking one’s head as to what is dharma (righteous act  that can bring good effects) and what is adharma (unrighteous acts that can bring bad effects) might get too complicated for comprehension of a commoner.  But if one surrenders totally and unconditionally to God’s will without worrying about dharma, then God (Lord Krishna) promises that he will absolve all the sins of the person (Bhagavad Gita 18-66).

Putting it more practically for the consumption of people of this Kali Yuga where dharma will tend to be at the lowest ebb, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa always emphasized that for this Yuga, chanting God’s name with reverence will absolve one from all sins.  With a firm belief in the purifying power of God’s name and with a firm resolve not to repeat the sins that one committed, if one chants God’s name again and again with devotion, his sins are absolved — assures Sri Ramakrishna.

Going further, Ramakrishna once said: “Sambu Charan once read out Bible for me for a while; Oh! There is so much of obsession with sins in it! They keep talking about sins again and again. He who says day and night, ‘I am a sinner, I am a sinner’ verily becomes a sinner. Why fear about sins? Should you not have the conviction “I chant Lord’s name; what can sins do on me?”

From the point of total surrender to God, it is indeed true that if a Christian totally surrenders to Jesus Christ with absolute trust and faith, he need not worry about the effects of past sins. But any assertion that Jesus Christ who, by virtue of shedding his blood on the cross, became qualified to be “the sole authorized arbitrator for the wholesale absolution of all Christians’ sins” (including those of converted Christians coming in with a sin-washing agenda) turns out to be too blasphemous a claim!

Continued in —> Part:3 (Final part) . In this part, the problems with love affairs and marriages between religions are discussed.

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Why Conversion from Hinduism to Any Other Religion is Highly Discouraged? – Part:3

This is Part: 3 of the article on Why conversion from Hinduism to other religions is highly discouraged.

In the part 1, some solid and important facts about the relevance of Hinduism has been discussed. Please read it first, before proceeding here.

In the part 2, some frequently asked questions from religion/ spiritual point of view have been answered, which can be read HERE.

In this 3rd and concluding part, some FAQs from sociological point of view are being answered.

Q: Are not the curse of untouchability and the vagaries of caste system the prime reasons for people to leave Hinduism and embrace religions like Islam?

There is no denial of the fact that practice of untouchability by Hindus was one of the prime reasons for a marginalized segment of society to get alienated with Hinduism. This alienation was rightly cashed in by vested interests from other religions to convert them to their religion citing their trump card of so-called equality.

The Varnashrama Dharma (classification of the society into 4 classes of people based on their work and role in society in Hinduism), which unfortunately got hardened and compartmentalized into a system of castes, is frequently blamed as another major reason for underprivileged people in the lower strata of the society to leave Hinduism for good.

While the caste system and the consequent demarcation of some of them as ‘upper’ and some as ‘lower’ can be blamed for some of the ills in the social practices of Hinduism, it is outright foolhardy to imagine that “Varnashrama” does not exist in any other religion or society!

In any other religion, where an overt caste or profession-based demarcation does not seemingly exist, there will invariably be the rich, powerful and influential persons who become de facto “upper castes” and the rest who are not so privileged become “lower castes”. Again there will indeed be different levels of people fitting between “upper” and “lower” depending on the clout they have with money, power or influence.

In any part of the world, in any decent society, you will find these sort of people:

  • Teachers, professors, clergies, preachers, research scholars, scientists, intellectuals, linguistics — They are de facto equivalent to Brahmin class
  • Politicians, statesmen, ministers, Top officers in administrative services, chiefs of Defense (Army/ Navy. Air force), military officers — they are de facto equivalent to Kshatriya Class.
  • Businessmen, traders, Industrialists, small Industry owners — they are de facto equivalent to Vysya Class.
  • Laborers, workmen, craftsmen, technicians — they are de facto equivalent to Shudra Class.

In the present times, even in India, it is common place to see Brahmins by caste being engaged in politics, civil services, trading/ business etc. Poor under-educated Brahmins too work as cooks, technicians etc. If a shudra by birth becomes a Sanskrit professor, he is in a way a Brahmin only, as per original definition.

Even if caste systems go, the social class differences between the rich and poor, the elite and the underdog are not going to vanish. That is the reality of human society.

 

A person from a so-called lower caste of Hinduism, by converting to Islam does not become equal with Muslims of the elite class. A converted Muslim worker doing a leather processing work at Vaniyampadi , Tamil Nadu does not become equal to a Mappila Muslim Businessman doing export of leather goods in Kannur, Kerala. An elite Muslim from Hyderabad Nawab’s family cannot claim equality with a native Saudi Arabian Sheik who owns a couple of oil wells! The same is applicable to any other religion that claims non-discrimination.

Another bare fact is that the religions that Hindus are wooed to get converted to claiming ‘equality’ or ‘love’ as their trump card are not in any way free from strife from internal squabbles. Islamic Shias and Sunnis are perennially in loggerheads with each other and the extent of bloodshed that took place in the past the and taking place at all the times within these “equals” is a never-ending history. To some extent it is true with regard to the “unconditional love” of Jesus Christ being practiced in the form of outright bitterness between Protestants and Catholics in Christianity.

Hence basically it is a “human failure” and not the shortcomings in a religion that causes divisions in society within a religion. No religion including Hinduism is ever going to be free from it. Consequently it is meaningless to get converted to another religion citing such shortcomings in one’s own religion.

Q: Is it not really good for the marginalized people to embrace another religion to get saved from discrimination and marginalization?

Actually, people getting converted to another religion will have to face a tougher social discrimination in reality, rather than equality.

The ground reality is that the discriminations practiced in a society are not going to vanish like a magic by getting converted to another religion. We should not fail to notice that untouchability was not something practiced by Brahmins (the upper class) alone. The truth is that in many Indian villages, it is the people in the so called ‘Shudra class’ (lower caste, also known as ‘Jaathi Hindus’) who contemptuously discriminate scheduled castes and refuse to accept them as equals. It is they who refuse equal access to Dalits in local temples, cremation grounds, tea shops and eateries.

If village people belonging to schedule caste convert to Christianity or Islam and remain in the same village, the mindset of the other Jaathi Hindus is not going to change in any way! In fact, their tendency to discriminate them will only get harder, because those converts are not part of their religion too now!

Even within one caste, if some people get converted to another religion, they are frowned upon by their community. They get socially alienated and marginalized. The emotional bonding with relatives gets broken. The new converts, out of their new association with the religion, tend to be very staunch in their new-found belief for two reasons: Firstly, they want to ‘prove’ to the outside world that they have indeed made the right choice and they want to take pride for their boldness; secondly, they are very eager to establish a closer association with people of the new religion. Thus the gaudy behavior of “over-enthusiastic-converts” irks and irritates their erstwhile community. The people of their new religion also become rather cautious and reserved to accept the converts who seem to display a ‘more-loyal-than-the-king’ attitude, as their social equals.

Another blatant ground reality across the globe seems to be that Muslims, despite whatever goodness they may possess as individuals, are getting alienated and marginalized amidst the people of most other religions. On account of the widespread practice of terrorism against other believers by misguided Islamic fanatics as though terrorism is part and parcel of their religion’s basic tenets and teachings, this religion is getting estranged in plural societies. Consequently, common and good hearted people belonging to this religion have to face the evils.

In India, people belonging to this religion, when they need a rented house accommodation, find it very difficult to get in localities where people of all other religions live in majority. Hence they are forced to seek living accommodation only in localities where their own religious people live in majority, which is not really good for communal harmony.

Q: What is wrong if a man or woman, truly loving a person of opposite sex from another religion, gets converted to the religion of his lover for the sake of marriage? Is it not a worthy sacrifice done for the sake of upholding true love that every religion seems to preach?

Such a question creates some disturbing questions on the veracity of the so called true love itself! If the Hindu is expected to forsake his/ her religion for the sake of love, what is the real stand of the other family that demands religious conversion as a basic condition for the consummation of love? It only means that their “love” of their religion is so powerful that they are not prepared for any compromise in the matter of human love!

It means that family thinks that their boy or girl involved in the love affair belongs to a superior class – a superior religion; if the other Hindu boy/girl really wants the marriage to take place, then he/she should essentially forego their “lower” religion with all its associated emotional bonds. It is the “inferior” one that needs to compromise, not the “superior” one!

It means the Hindu boy or girl foregoing his/her own religion for the sake of marriage is starting his very new life with a huge compromise – with a covert acceptance that he/she is an underdog. It is bound to leave a bad taste, an imperceptible emotional wound deep in the psyche. It is bound to bounce up in future at some opportune time to create serious emotional bickering or retaliation in some way.

It is bound to be so because religion is not just only a means of communication with God; religion is deeply bound to one’s culture, family traditions, principles, values, ethics, emotions and sentiments. Religion is somehow closely interwoven with many things including food habits, dressing habits, living habits, manners, interpretations on what is right and wrong and so on.

A person may not be religious from the point of view of practicing religious disciplines (like going to a temple, worshiping God, doing prayers, practicing austerities etc) and may even think that religion is not a practical necessity for conducting day today life. But in reality, his / her life right from childhood would have got molded with many habits, beliefs, sentiments and practices deeply associated with the religion. It is extremely difficult get rid of these associations even though one may externally forsake his/ her religion. It is these associations that can cause deep emotional conflicts between the spouses post marriage.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to explain this with a funny story. Once during Moghul rule, a Hindu Shakta (worshipper of divine mother Shakthi/ Kali) was forcefully converted to Islam by Moghul soldiers, at the point of sword. They would torture him and beat him and force him to shout “Allah”. The man would cry out “Allah” but in between, he would involuntarily shout, “Oh Jagadamba!” (Oh divine mother). Hearing that, the soldiers would beat him still harder. The man with folded hands would plead to the soldiers “Oh! Wait, wait. Please have a little patience and mercy on me. What can I do? I only want to call out “Allah, Allah” but this Jagadamba (divine mother) has already been occupying me up to my throat and she is pushing out your Allah and not allowing him to enter! What can I do?!”

Take for example a Hindu girl whose parents have the habit of practicing fasting on some of the holy days. She might have observed her parents eating only fruits or drinking only milk just one time in a day on such days. Or she might have seen them not eating any food, but taking water nevertheless. Or she might have seen them totally avoiding non-vegetarian food on some holy days. When they finish the fasting, she might have seen them eating simple food, without heavy spicing, avoiding garlic etc.

If such a girl relinquishes her religion and converts to Islam for the sake of marriage, the observance of fasting during Id festival would look very strange and extremely difficult to follow or practice for her. The very idea of keeping fast for the whole day time without taking even a sip of water might look too scary to her from health point of view; after fasting in day time, the practice of eating nutritionally very rich, highly spicy and non-vegetarian food with no holds barred during night time could look too contrary to the very lofty purpose of undertaking fast in day time to her. It is only natural for her deep-rooted Hindu culture, beliefs and principles. If she happens to be a vocal type, she might even question and criticize her husband about the veracity of such a fasting technique and surely she is bound to end up with hurting her husband’s religious sentiments and facing its consequences.

The joy of familiy get-togethers on a festival like Deepavali can never be compensated…

The above is just one example. There could be umpteen such things that would come up as conflicts between the spouses in the matters of habits, practices, sentiments and values.

If the erstwhile Hindu girl happens to be a person following some religious practices, her life will become much more miserable. She is bound to suffer from the loss of emotional necessities like going to temples, praying to her favorite Hindu God, singing devotional songs, celebrating festivals in the traditional way, the joy of the coming together of close relatives and exchanging of pleasantries on festival days etc. Marriages and other celebrations in Hindu families are such joyous occasions that she would have enjoyed so much in the past. Post marriage, practically she would get distanced from her erstwhile relatives on account of her conversion. Her relatives are bound to ignore her in extending invitations for her for such family functions. Even if she were invited, she would have to face lots of embarrassment in facing them.

Post childbirth, the conflicts are bound to get deeper. Her erstwhile religious leanings will prompt her to inculcate Hindu values, habits and cultural tendencies in her child; she may face very stiff opposition from her spouse and in-laws on such endeavors and it is bound to add more marital discards in her life.

Thus a short time compromise on the matter of religion for the sake of ‘love’ has every potential to wreck the very marriage itself in the long run.

Conclusion

To summarize all the 3 parts of this article series,

  • Hinduism is such an ancient and so well established a religion lacking in nothing, that anyone discarding this religion and converting to other religion can only be faulted for ignorance and misguided adventurism or opportunism.
  • Hinduism is never concerned with attracting and converting people of other religions to Hinduism.
  • It is only in Hinduism that there has been a never ending and continuous arrival of Avatars and Saints at all times. Many of such saints are most sought after by earnest seekers from other religions too for spiritual guidance. These saints did not support people converting from Hinduism to other religions.
  • It is a total misunderstanding of Hinduism if people believe sinners have no scope for redemption in the religion.
  • It is foolhardy to believe that converted people get into a classless society without any discrimination. No religion in the world can assure cent percent universal love, equality and freedom from class conflicts and strife.
  • Religion plays a major role in one’s culture, habits, tastes, lifestyle, principles, values and ethics. These influences follow one even after converting to another religion and have strong potential to cause internal and external conflicts. Love marriages happening after a religious conversion have every potential to end up in strife on account of these factors.

-=o0o=-

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If a person is compassionate, law abiding, kind, loving, considerate and leads a good personal life, but doesn’t believe in God, would he really go to hell?

If we seriously analyse the interpretations given by staunch believers in Abrahamic religions (particularly Christianity and Islam), we will have to painfully conclude that a kind, loving, considerate, compassionate and law abiding person will have to end up in hell because he has not accepted Jesus Christ/God/ Creator.

WHAT CHRISTIANITY SAYS:

From whatever I understood from the explanations/ interpretations available on Bible scriptures (here in Quora and a few other sites) I gather the following ideas (knowledgeable Christians can correct me if there are mistakes in my understanding):

  • When a person dies, this physical body perishes but soul remains as if in sleep.
  • The soul remains in this state of suspended animation till the ‘Day of Judgment’.
  • There is an alternative interpretation available (again based on quotes from Bible) that the souls of those believers in Jesus Christ, immediately upon death, end up in heaven and remain there blissfully, but without their bodies. (both good people as well as sinners, who are believers, end up in heaven).As per the same alternative belief, the souls of non-believers (be it sinners or good people) end up in hell, suffering in blistering fire/ in darkness etc.
  • ‘When the day of Judgement’ comes, (God only knows when), those believers of God will get their buried bodies resurrected and they will reach heaven (with a body) to remain in eternal joy in the presence of God for ever. It includes both sinners and good people. Sinners are cleared off all their sins purely based on their faith on Jesus Christ. He had already shed his blood on their behalf and that blood purifies the sins of all the believers.
  • On the day of judgement, those who are alive too will be judged the same way — Are you a believer or not believer? Your fate is frozen accordingly.
  • In case of non-believers, on the day of judgement, they too get the body resurrected, but they continue to suffer eternally in hell.
  • Man gets only one birth/ chance to live in this world. Soul lives for ever and it is either in heaven (in case of believer) or in hell (in case of non-believer, irrespective of whatever good qualities he possessed). So, better believe in Jesus Christ while you are alive! You are NOT entitled for any more chance.

WHAT ISLAM SAYS:

From whatever I understood from the explanations/ interpretations available on Koran scriptures (in a few other sites) I gather these ideas (Knowledgeable Muslims can correct me if there are mistakes in my understanding):

  • When a person dies, their body perishes but soul remains as if in sleep
  • Those souls who have done good deeds and have faith in Allah are taken royally to the heaven, and will enjoy being there till the day of judgment
  • Those souls who have done evil acts and have no faith in Allah will be painfully dragged out of their bodies and they will end up in hell to suffer
  • The souls with a mix of good and bad deeds remain in the state of suspended animation till the ‘Day of Judgment’, but in the grave they will undergo suffering for their evil deeds , waiting for the day of judgment.
  • On the day of Judgment, Allah comes to the rescue of those locked in the grave yard. If the person had sinned but has faith in Allah, he is saved by Allah’s grace and sent to Heaven. For a non-believer, the fate is sealed. He has to suffer eternally in hell. His acts of good are of no avail to him.
  • People of all other faiths who worshiped any other God (other than Allah) are also doomed. They are all cursed to live in Hell.
  • Man gets only one birth/ chance to live in this world. Soul lives for ever and it is either in heaven (in case of believer) or in hell (in case of non-believer, irrespective of whatever good qualities he possessed). So, better believe in Allah while you are alive! You are NOT entitled for any more chance.

WHAT HINDUISM SAYS

  • Every human being is potentially divine. Only problem is people don’t know it (unless they go deep into practical spirituality) because of maya and ego.
  • Lured by maya and deluded by ego, man does lots of acts (karmas) which may be good or evil. A man naturally does both in varying proportions.
  • Every Karma creates a Karma phala (fruit of karma) which one has to enjoy or suffer. A bad karma’s effect does not cancel out a good karma’s effect or vice versa. Accounts of good and bad acts have independent existence.In this specific case, the man who is “kind, loving, considerate, compassionate and law abiding” has really accumulated good fruits (called Punya) because all these are essentially qualities that are part of Satva guna (pure and auspicious qualities). These qualities will be for his benefit irrespective of whether he is a believer or not.
  • Human birth does not end in one life. It is a continuous on going process : birth-live-die-next birth-live-die and so on. It is called Samsara. It is there because you have to enjoy or suffer whatever good or bad that you keep doing till you settle all your accounts.
  • It is by God’s will that the next birth takes place with a specific load of fruits of one’s previous karmas (from the total account done across may previous births). While the person enjoys or suffers by exhausting his previous fruits of karma, he keeps engaging in fresh karmas (good or bad, prompted by his likes and dislikes) too in this birth that will start adding to his karma loads leading to future births!
  • In between two births, the soul may also undergo a stint in Heaven (to enjoy the extraordinary punyas acquired in previous births) or in Hell (to suffer the extraordinary sins acquired on account of outright evil acts committed in previous births).
  • But it has to return to earth in any case to continue the process with the balance loads. Unfulfilled desires on account of all the experiences keep on goading the souls to to hopelessly engage in karmas and getting caught in the samsara cycle.
  • But where is the end to this maddening cycle? There are two ways – Bhakti or Gnyana. Understand the futility of samsara, understand the hopelessness of running behind fulfilling desires, shun the deluding maya, shun your ego — surrender to God. When the surrender is total, God saves you out of compassion on you from samsara and takes your soul to his eternal abode. This is the path of Bhakti.
  • In the path of Gnyana, you inquire: Who am I? Am I this perishing body? Who is true the enjoyer or sufferer? Is it the body, mind, ego, soul or what? I am atman; the witness; imperishable. This way, the soul further realizes that it is none other than the Almighty (Brahman), but getting all along deluded by maya and ego! When this self-realization happens (after many births), there is no more desire to fulfill. There is no fear of death. ‘I am eternal. There is no more birth and death for me.’ “Aham Brahmasmi” (‘I am Brahman”).

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