Conversions to Christianity in India - An Opinion
Christian and Islamic Evangelists have been trying to convert Hindus for centuries. All their success, so far, have been with the very low castes in India. The reason is these communities had no identity whatsoever, physically or emotionally or spiritually. They would obey any one's command, as long as their immediate wants are fulfilled. The Hindu upper castes ignored them totally and confined them to the dustbins. The Missionaries picked them up - even Mother Teresa was only involved in this and she gave them physical comfort and a sense of belonging - gave them appropriate new names, ensured that they followed some sort of disciplined life, made them literate etc. Some of them succeeded significantly in life, by becoming professionals of repute. An Abdul Kalam even became President of India. His ancestors were untouchables in Rameswaram. I know many such. The Missionaries could never get any where near the educated Hindu or the upper castes. The reason, these are people who ask questions, want to be convinced about whatever is told to them, especially in matters of faith.
Another very important point to note is that both Christianity and Islam is trading on imported Gods, Sacred books, Holy places, Festivals and Ceremonies, Language etc. Even the religious dress is totally un-Indian and not very convenient for tropical climates.. Compare the Brahmin Priest's apparel with this. A loose Soman and Veshti flying high in the air and ensuring profuse ventilation, vegetarian food of high nutritional and calorific value etc. All sacred literature is in Indian languages, most places in India, most hills and mountains, most animals and birds, most stones and trees are divine and worshipped. It is possible for the Hindu to see his God everywhere, in trees, rivers, stones, flowers, animals etc. This kind of easy accessability to God is unavailable in any other faith.
The Christian has his holy place in Jerusalem or Bethelhem, the Muslim has it in Mecca and Medina. their holy books are in foreign languages, the religious practices, the functions and festivities are all of foreign origin. They can never conceive of their Gods dancing in ecstacy with women, like a Krishna did in Brindaban, or eat Naivediyams like the Hindu Gods do. What a large variety of both Gods and foods! Also, while the Hindu places of worship can feast at their places of worship or fast and have dance and music festivals, the others cannot. They create a solemn and serious atmosphere and ask their folks to fear God.
Another important point, although intellectual, is the total freedom that the enlightened and educated Hindu has in worshipping or not worshipping God, in going to temples, or even in the matter of accepting or denying the existence of God. Read page 60 of THE ECONOMIST dated November 24 - 30 ATHEISTS AND ISLAM to know how Atheists are handled in Islamic countries. Not too different in Christianity. Scientists who discovered that the earth was round or that it was goinmg round the sun and not the other way, were all treated very severely. Compare this with the total freedom we Hindus enjoy, and that too sanctioned by our highest authority Upanishads to deny God altogether, and TO CLAIM THAT I AM GOD - AHAM BRHMAA ASMI. Astonishing, is it not?
Back to the question. If someone asked me to convert, I know what questions to ask of him. Unless I am convinced that I get more than what I am asked to give up, I should be a fool to think of conversion. This is the case with the upper caste Hindus, as well as the educated. When Ambedkar was fed up with the treatment of the untouchables amongst the Hindus, he reacted by embracing Buddhism and not Christianity or Islam. And, mind you, Buddhism derives total sanction from the Upanishads. Adi Sankara's Guru Gaudapada, in his Maandukya Kaarika, Chapter 4, 1st Mantra pays homage to the Buddha, because he realised the Upanishadic truth about him being Brahman, and both practised and preached it. What else could one expect from a highly educated intellectual, even if he belonged to the lowest caste in the heirarchy.
Also, if a few Hindu intellectuals did convert, they would turn their new faith on the head and make all their new bretheren wear Vibhuti, Rudraksham etc. and go to Sabarimalai, Tirupati and Benares on pilgrimage! I wish this happened.
New Kalpathy, Palakkad, Kerala
29th November 2012