On being a “Christian Hindu”
Francis D’souza will be glad to know he is in good company, in fact distinguished company! When I read this, I was reminded of an article reprinted in Freedom First which was first published in its sister publication Quest in 1961 on the occasion of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. In his article Atma Parichaya - (Introducing Oneself) – (written in Bengali and translated by Buddhadeva Basu) Tagore said something similar to what the Goa’s deputy CM is quoted as having said and for which he refused to say ’Sorry’ and thereby has incurred the wrath of a padre.
Gurudev Tagore said inter alia "...I was born into the Hindu society and have accepted the Brahmo sect; if I wish I can go over to another sect, but to another society I cannot belong... With the history of no other society would I have this sense of identification? We can transfer a fruit from one basket to another, but on a different branch we cannot grow.
"Do I than claim that I remain a Hindu even if I become a Christian? Certainly I do, and to me this is quite beyond dispute. No matter what the orthodox Hindus may say about it, Kali Charan Banerjee was a Hindu Christian, and so was Jnanendra Mohan Tagore before him and Krishna Mohan Banerjee as well. These men were Hindu by nation and Christian in faith. Christianity was their complexion, but in substance they were nothing but Hindus. There are thousands of Bengali Muslims whom Hindus perpetually label as non-Hindus, and yet the truth about them is that they are Hindu Muslims. It isn’t difficult to conceive of a Hindu family where, lovingly cherished by the same parents, live three brothers, of whom one is a Christian, another, a Muslim and the third a Vaishnava. Rather is this family which would represent what is true and beautiful in the Hindu idea....
"The words "Hindu” and "Muslim” do not have a similar connotation. Islam is a particular religious creed. But Hinduism is not. "Hindu” is a term for the consummation of the Indian nation... From long ago has it come down to us , passing through centuries and the same sunlit horizons, carrying along with it the same rivers and forests and mountains, and saturated with that sequence of attacks and responses which constitute the history of our mundane and spiritual lives. In that word is contained all that we are in our bodies and our souls. From this deep flowing stream no one is cast aside simply by virtue of his having become a Christian – neither a Kali Charan Banerjee nor a Jnanendra Mohan Tagore.
"The nation is larger than the creed and goes much deeper too; changing one’s beliefs involves no change in one’s nationality. The nation to which I belonged when I believed in the mythological story of creation is still mine, although I believe in the modern and scientific version of that story. And this is true despite the fact that my great-grandfather would no doubt have boxed my ears if he had learned that I no longer conceived the universe as an egg (Brahmanda, the Sanskrit word for ‘universe’ literally means "the egg of Brahma”) as an extraordinary kind.
"It will be argued that a Muslim is a Muslim for all that, whether in China or Persia. Not that I know much about the Chinese Muslim, but I dare say that he is in many ways quite different from his Indian counterpart, although there is a certain agreement in religion. I will add that even in the matter of faith the Chinese and Indian will agree on but broad principles; on details they will be at variance. Yet this same Chinese Muslim will have numerous points in common with the Confucians and Buddhists of his nation...”
And so goes on Tagore with his Atma Parichaya, which I found an absolute learning experience. Having read Tagore I could understand what the Goa CM was trying to convey. If you wish to read the full article reprinted in two parts, please visit www.freedomfirst.in, select archives and click Nos. 530 and 531 to read " Introducing Oneself (Arma-Parichaya)” by Rabindranath Tagore. The text excerpted above is from FF No. 531.
S. V. RAJU