The first edition of this book, published in 1986, had 16 chapters and an appendix. This second edition has 25 chapters. The appendix - Encounter at Pondicherry - has been fitted in the chronology of encounters and forms Chapter 7 of the new edition. Chapter 14 of the old edition has been split into two chapters, 15 and 16, separating the debate on the Fundamental Right to Propagate Religion from the debate in the Constituent Assembly. Similarly, Chapter 16 of the old edition has been split into three chapters - 18, 19 and 20 - separating the three subjects dealt with. Chapter 19 which formed Section II of Chapter 16 in the old edition has been expanded by incorporation of a dialogue between Ram Swarup and Bede Griffiths. Five chapters, 21 to 25, are entirely new and cover Hindu-Christian encounters that have come to my knowledge since the first edition was compiled.
The old scheme of numbering and naming the encounters serially has been given up in the new edition. I realized that there might have been Hindu-Christian encounters which had not come to my notice. The chapters have now been given headings in keeping with their contents. But the chronological order has been maintained.
The new edition has been thoroughly revised. Language has been straightened wherever necessary, and typographical errors have been removed. Footnotes have been numbered serially for each chapter, and not for each page as in the earlier edition. Some footnotes of the old edition have been expanded, and some new ones have been added. Comments at the end of Chapter 3 have been revised. A critical note regarding the role of the Ramakrishna Mission has been added to Chapter 13 which deals with Swami Vivekananda’s encounter with Christianity. Chapter 14 which deals with Mahatma Gandhi’s encounter with Christianity carries a long and critical postscript. Criticism of Mahatma Gandhi may sound startling. But I could not help saying what I have said. His role vis-a-vis Christianity has to be reassessed.
Finally, the book now carries a subtitle - AD 304 to 1996. This was suggested by Shri Harish Chandra, a keen reader and evaluator of VOICE OF INDIA publications.
It is hoped that
readers will find this revised and enlarged edition as informative as the
old one. The comments I received on the first edition were rewarding as
well as encouraging. Koenraad Elst came to me in 1989 as soon as he read
the book. His cryptic comment was, “Hindus have a very good case vis-a-vis
Christianity and Islam, but at present it is either not presented at all
or presented very badly. This book is a departure.” It was not long before
he became a scholar-writer of the VOICE OF INDIA family. I look forward
to comments from new readers of this work as a whole, and from the old
readers on my critical notes and the new chapters, particularly the one
which advocates rejection of Jesus as junk.
History of Hindu-Christian encounters, as surveyed in this book, falls into five distinct phases. In all of them Christian missionaries stick to their basic dogma of One True God and the Only Saviour. But they keep on changing their methods and verbiage. To start with, spokesmen for Hinduism offer a stiff resistance to the Christian message as well as missionary methods. But due to a number of factors, Hindu resistance weakens in later stages and then disappears altogether so that Christianity forges ahead with a sense of triumph.
In the first-phase, which opens with the coming of the Portuguese pirates, Christianity presents itself in its true colours. Its language is as crude as in its homeland in Europe, and its methods as cruel. Hindus are helpless and suffer any number of atrocities. Fortunately for them, this phase does not last for long. The Portuguese lose power except in Goa and some other small territories. The other European powers that take over have no time to spare for Christianity except the French for a brief period in Pondicherry.
The second phase opens with the consolidation of the British conquest. The British do not allow Christian missions to use physical methods. But missionary language continues to be as crude as ever. Christianity enjoys a brief period of self-confidence. The phase ends with the rise of Hindu reform movements, particularly the Arya Samaj. Christianity suffers a serious set-back.
The third phase starts with the advent of Mahatma Gandhi and his slogan of sarva-dharma-samabhAva. Christianity is thrown on the defensive and forced to change its language. The foul-mouthed miscreants become sweet-tongued vipers. Now they are out to “share their spiritual riches” with Hindus, reminding us of the naked beggar promising to donate his wardrobe to wealthy persons. The phase ended with the Tambram Conference of the International Missionary Council in 1938 which decided to reformulate Christian theology in the Indian context.
The fourth phase which commenced with the coming of independence proved a boon for Christianity. The Christian right to convert Hindus was incorporated in the Constitution. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who dominated the scene for 17 long years promoted every anti-Hindu ideology and movement. The regimes that followed till the rise of P.V. Narasimha Rao raised the spectre of ‘Hindu communalism’ as the most frightening phenomenon. Christian missionaries could now denounce as a Hindu communalist and fascist, even as a Hindu Nazi, any one who raised the slightest objection to their methods. All sorts of ‘secularists’ came forward to join the chorus. New theologies of Fulfilment, Indigenisation, Liberation, and Dialogue were evolved and put into action. The missionary apparatus multiplied fast and manifold. Christianity had never had it so good in the whole of its history in India. It now stood recognized as ‘an ancient Indian religion’ with every right to extend its fold. The only rift in the lute was K. M. Panikkar’s book, the Niyogi Committee Report, and Om Prakash Tyagi’s Bill on Freedom of Religion.
The fifth phase
which is continuing now started with Hindu awakening brought about by conversion
of some Harijans to Islam at Meenakshipuram, renewed Muslim aggression
in many ways, and Pakistan-backed terrorism in Punjab and Kashmir. The
Sangh Parivar which had turned cold towards Hindu causes over the years
was startled by the rout of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 1984 elections,
and decided to renew its Hindu character. The Ramajanmabhumi Movement was
the result. The Movement was aimed at arresting Islamic aggression. Christianity
or its missions were hardly mentioned. Nevertheless, it was Christianity
which showed the greatest concern at this new Hindu stir, and started crying
‘wolf’. Its media power in the West raised a storm saying that Hindus were
out to destroy the minorities in India and impose a Nazi regime. The storm
is still raging and no one knows when it will subside, if at all.
Hindus from seventeenth century Pandits of Tamil Nadu to Mahatma Gandhi have wasted no end of breath to demolish the dogma of Christianity. But it has hardly made any difference to the arrogance of Christian theologians and missionaries. That is because dogma was never meant for discussion. It is an axiom of logic that that which has not been proved cannot and need not be disproved. Who has ever proved that the nondescript Jew who was crucified by a Roman governor of Judaea in 33 AD atoned for the sins of mankind for all time to come? Who has ever proved that those who accept that Jew as the only saviour will ascend to a heaven of everlasting bliss and those who do not will burn for ever in the blazing fire of hell? Nor can the proclamation or the promise or the threat be disproved. High-sounding theological blah blah notwithstanding the fact remains that the dogma is no more than a subterfuge for forging and wielding an organizational weapon for aggression against other people. It is high time for Hindus to dismiss the dogma of Christianity with the contempt it deserves, and pay attention to the Christian missionary apparatus planted in their midst.
The sole aim of this apparatus is to ruin Hindu society and culture, and take over the Hindu homeland. It goes on devising strategies for every situation, favourable and unfavourable. It trains and employs a large number of intellectual criminals ready to prostitute their talents in the service of their paymasters, and adept at dressing up dark designs in high-sounding language. The fact that every design is advertised as a theology in the Indian context, and every criminal euphemized as an -Indian theologian should not hoodwink Hindus about the real intentions.
Hindus are committing a great mistake in. regarding the encounter between Hinduism and Christianity as a dialogue between two religions. Christianity has never been a religion; it has always been a predatory imperialism par excellence. The encounter, therefore, should be viewed as a battle between two totally opposed and mutually exclusive ways of thought and behaviour. In the language of the Gita (Chapter 16), it is war between daivI (divine) and AsurI (demonic) sampads (propensities). In the larger context of history, it can also be described as war between the Vedic and the Biblical traditions.
This is not the place to go into the premises from which the two traditions proceed. I have presented them in some detail elsewhere.1 Here I will indicate briefly the behaviour patterns they promote.
The Vedic tradition advises people to be busy with themselves, that is, their own moral and spiritual improvement. Several disciplines have been evolved for this purpose - tapas (austerity), yoga (meditation), jñAna (reflection), bhakti (devotion), etc. A seeker can take to whatever discipline suits his adhAra (stage of moral-spiritual preparation). There is no uniform prescription for every body, no coercion into a belief system, and no regimentation for aggression against others.
The Biblical tradition, on the other hand, teaches people to be busy with others. One is supposed to have become a superior human being as soon as one confesses the ‘only true faith’. Thenceforward one stands qualified to ‘save’ others. The only training one needs thereafter is how to man a mission or military expedition, how to convert others by all available means including force and fraud, and how to kill or ruin those who refuse to come round.
The Vedic tradition has given to the world schools of Sanatana Dharma which have practised peace among their own followers as well as towards the followers of other paths. On the other hand, the Biblical tradition has spawned cults such as Christianity, Islam, Communism, and Nazism which have always produced violent conflicts as much within their own camps as with each other.
Sita Ram Goel