Why I am not a Hindu – Koenraad Elst

Dr Koenraad Elst“I am a friend. And that loyalty is not dependent on the attitudes of some Hindus towards my person. I am convinced that, in spite of some human failings, the best Hindu doctrines are true, and Hinduism is a far more desirable world view and way of life than its challengers.” – Dr Koenraad Elst

How I did not become a Hindu 

Both Sita Ram Goel and Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley) have written a book called How I Became a Hindu. I could never write such a book because I have deliberately made a choice not to identify myself as Hindu. In this article I will explain “why I am not a Hindu”. 

Leaving Christianity

Before starting out, let me put aside any possible confusion with another publication in existence: the book Why I Am Not a Hindu by Kancha Ilaiah, a convert to Christianity. I have seen post-Christian Westerners grimly use it as a formidable argument against Hinduism, not realizing that it is an ordinary missionary pamphlet against caste, to which Hinduism is falsely reduced. Unlike Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian and Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not a Muslim, hefty tomes written by apostates who knew their childhood religion very well, Why I Am Not a Hindu is a caricature for simpletons. It starts out with a few interesting sketches of caste life in his childhood village, but then descends into unwarranted theoretical speculations for which he is simply not equipped.  Essentially he assumes, like most haters of Hinduism, that “Hinduism is caste, wholly caste and nothing but caste”, and that the only way to break free from caste is to destroy Hinduism root and branch. The author is hopeful that Hinduism is indeed losing out, and a recent book by him muses about a “post-Hindu India”. That is of course the missionary vision.

It is not my vision. I think Hindus are better off staying Hindu, and that South Asian Christians and Muslims had better shed their divisive faiths and return to the Hindu civilization which their ancestors left. I know first-hand that there is life after apostasy from Christianity or Islam, being an apostate from Christianity. I belong to the generation that collectively walked out of the Church. In my society, the Flemish part of Belgium, the vast majority in my childhood used to be practising Catholics, now these are only a small minority. There is no danger that many will return to the faith, even on their deathbeds:  the knowledge pin-pricking the basic Catholic truth claims is just too strong. 

Recognizing one’s friends

However, when tempted to think that that is obvious, internet Hindus are there to accuse me of being a clog in a world conspiracy, mostly as a missionary agent. These people really live in a fantasy world, for a real-world organization that means business, such as the Church (actually any Church), would at least pay its agents. Well, I am not being paid by the Church nor by any other lobby group. Worse about their lack of worldly wisdom is that they haven’t heard about the very real decline of the Church. Anachronistically, they are still fulminating against T.B. Macaulay and Max Müller and feel very brave when kicking against corpses; more recent developments have passed them by. Yet, I keep on meeting Hindus who assume I am a believer, even after having read me, or who suspect I merely claim to be past all that in order to gain the confidence of the Hindus, but am secretly an agent for the Church.

Not being able to recognize your own friends is a very serious drawback in life. It is my experience that Hindus are very defective in this regard. One of the five books of the Pañcatantra is meant to teach “the art of making friends,” originally to three not-so-gifted princes. Presumably the fables succeed in making even these dummies understand how to make friends. Among Hindu activists, by contrast, I notice a greater proficiency in the art of making enemies. This takes two forms: treating friends as enemies, and turning friends into enemies.

In the diaspora Hindu movement in the US and the UK, I have been privy, just in the last three years, to good initiatives getting marred by infighting, defections and hostilities against ex-friends. In this case, it seems to me that giving names and details will only make matters worse, so I won’t. But one example I can easily divulge is the attacks on myself.  Ever since I took upon me the unpleasant job of giving Hindus feedback about their glaring and costly mistakes in history rectification initiatives, I have received quite an amount of hate mail. And mind you, I am not using the term “hate mail” (or “death threats”, a term used by Romila Thapar, who was safe and sound but couldn’t stand being criticized) lightly. It does not mean a mail from someone who disagrees. If only internet Hindus were to argue dissenting points of view, that would be fine; but more often than arguments they just give you abuse.

One serious example of making outsiders into enemies concerns those Hindus who borrow conspiracies about the Jews. Some Western forums and websites specialize in stories about “the Israeli secret service Mossad having engineered the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001” or about “the Jewish bankers behind the world financial crisis of 2008” (and of 1929 etc.). Individual internet Hindus sometimes internalize this line of rhetoric, and they are too blind or too self-important to see that they are beautifully playing into the hands of their enemies. After centuries of Hindus giving a uniquely good treatment to their Jewish minority, after V.D. Savarkar and the BJP supporting Zionism, after cases of collaboration between American Hindus and the “Jewish lobby”, and after the mounting military cooperation between Israel and India, the powerful Indo-American secularist lobby, well-entrenched in the universities, would love to break this Hindu-Jewish alliance. Enter the Hindu lobby, that gives them all they want to hear, and especially to quote. Those lobbyists (once more confirming S.R. Goel’s impression that they are “the biggest collection of duffers that ever came together in world history”) are easily capable of driving a wedge between the Hindu activists and any friends they threaten to make. But the internet Hindus concerned are too smug and too wrapped up in their fantasies to see the strategic implications of their fanciful arrogance for the broader Hindu cause.  

In India, the Hindu activists are closer to power, with a handful of BJP governments in some states or other, and now (December 2014) even a BJP government at the centre. Power tends to quell infighting, firstly because there are constructive things to do, with tangible tasks and results; secondly, because any individual disgruntledness or unease can always be bought off with a post or perk. But that is the peace of the lowest common denominator. It is OK that Hindus don’t roll on the floor fighting each other, but it is another question whether they are focused enough to achieve anything in their times in power – other than keeping the enemy out of power.

At any rate, I am a friend. And that loyalty is not dependent on the attitudes of some Hindus towards my person. I am convinced that, in spite of some human failings, the best Hindu doctrines are true, and Hinduism is a far more desirable world view and way of life than its challengers. 

Unwanted

I do know that numerous Hindus object to foreign converts and spew their venom at “white Hindus”. They may even be the same people who otherwise like to quote the praises of Hinduism by Arthur Schopenhauer, Mark Twain, Romain Rolland and other Westerners. At one time I was not aware of this phenomenon. And yet it is but the in-your-face dimension of a deeper-seated mistrust and unease among Hindus of any transgressing of the boundaries between inside and outside Hinduism.          

Indeed, at one time I was so enthusiastic about Hinduism that I had made up my mind to formally convert. I mentioned my desire to become a Hindu to Prof. Kedar Nath Mishra, the philosopher of Banaras Hindu University who had accepted me as a Ph.D. candidate. However, I immediately noticed his lack of enthusiasm, much in contrast to how a Muslim would react. Out loud, he only commented that this matter should certainly not be hurried. This is in fact only common sense: even responsible Christian missionaries eager to make conversions still insist on verifying whether a candidate is serious. If he loses his initial fervour for his new religion and quits it, this would mean that much ado had been about nothing, and constitute a greater loss of face for his conversion sponsor than his accession was a gain. So, the temporization is universal and reasonable. But I sensed there was more to it than that.

One is member of a caste by birth. There is no conversion possible from one’s own birth-group to another. All the castes combined have been called Hindu society, so one is a Hindu by birth. One is born within a community, and while people can change jobs, swap wives or borrow new ideas, they cannot change the facts pertaining to their birth. So, Prof. Mishra was born as a Hindu and has remained a Hindu until his death; while I was born as a non-Hindu and will die as a non-Hindu.

Even Hindu organizations explicitly preaching and practising conversions, such as the Arya Samaj and the Vishva Hindu Parishad, only target former Hindus or people on the margins of Hindu society. Their “recoversions” only concerns Indian Muslims or Christians whose ancestors were Hindus, or tribals who only recently were seduced by the missionaries. We see the same thing among other national religions. In the Iranian community of Los Angeles, as well as in Ossetia and Tajikistan, many Muslims reconvert to their ancestral Zoroastrianism (even though the Ossetes’ Scythian ancestors may have largely escaped the specifically Zoroastrian reform of the Iranian religion), but the Zoroastrians do not welcome non-Iranians. In Yakutia, an ethnically Turkic republic within the Russian Federation, the traditional Turkic religion (which is not Islam) has become legally recognized in 2014. The Russian Orthodox Church (more nation-oriented than the Catholic and Protestant Churches) did not object, on the understanding that only native Yakuts would feel attracted to this religion, while Russians would remain Orthodox. So, outside Christianity and Islam, and even within some strands of Christianity, there exists an identification of religious traditions with national communities, into which one has irrevocably been born (or not).

Many Hindus welcome converts, and take pride in the existence of Westerners who have embraced Hinduism. However, I do not want to enter a house where other inhabitants object to my presence. I don’t mind if they object to my ideas or my conduct, but if they object to my very presence, I have to take their attitude into account. And so, I am only too aware of those other Hindus who find it rather bizarre that outsiders would want to become Hindu. Moreover, their negative attitude does not amount to disrespect: most of them can respect me as a Westerner, it is only the strange inclination to perforce self-identify as a Hindu which they object to.

Traditionally, Hinduism only knows collective conversion, or at least integration which Christians might describe as conversion, i.e. a whole existing community that retains its own ways and autonomy but accepts the over-all framework of Vedic society; and very exceptionally, individual conversion through marriage. If an existing Hindu community accepts you as a son-in-law, then everybody accepts you as a member of that particular community. One never knows whom one may yet meet in life, but so far, this hasn’t happened to me. 

Link with India

This fact of a rejection by others, by a sizable part of the legitimate Hindu population, is already enough for me not to call myself a Hindu. It is a conception of converting religions to consider the most true or somehow most desirable religion as the one of which we should be a member. If you wax enthusiastic about a Hindu practice like yoga, most Hindus will say: go ahead and practise it, become a European yogi, or as the case may be, a Japanese yogi, a Rastafarian yogi, a Hottentot yogi. At the end of your life, you may write an autobiography: Story of a European Yogi, but please don’t affect being a Hindu.

A second reason is that “Hindu”, as the Persian form of Sindhu (the Indus river), refers to India. Originally it meant “one who lives at or beyond the Indus”, a purely geographical term meaning “Indian”, later the Muslim invaders turned it into a geographical-cum-religious term: “any Indian Pagan”. According to V.D. Savarkar, a Hindu is one who considers India both his Fatherland and Holy Land. The West now has a sizable Hindu population, but they are for the most part People of Indian Origin. When Hindus praise the work benefiting Hinduism that I have done, they typically speculate that I “must have been born in India in my past life”. So, there is always that connection to India. Well, at present I may be a regular traveller to India, but my roots lie in Europe.

To put it crudely, I don’t care for India. It is true that Hinduism grew up on Indian soil, and I strongly disagree with those colleagues who insist that “yoga isn’t from India”. Of course India is historically the place where Hinduism grew up, and even now India is worth defending against those who besiege it. But the ideas and practices that make up the beauty of Hinduism could have come about elsewhere too, and partly they have. Religions related to or typologically similar to Hinduism have existed though they have largely been wiped off the map by Christianity and Islam, and even these have preserved certain traditions that Hindus would feel familiar with. So, India as the cradle of Hinduism is a fact of life, but it is also relative and a shaky foundation for a religion that sees itself as the eternal Dharma. “One day, India too will go,” to quote my yoga teacher Dr. Pukh Raj Sharma from Jodhpur. 

Compare with Christianity. Numerous Hindus have the tendency to identify Christianity with the West. In reality, Christian missionaries see it as the universal truth, equally valid for Indians as for Westerners. The geographical claim is at any rate historically untrue: in the Roman Empire, the Christians were called the “Galileans” to mark their religion as an import into the West from the Middle East. Pilgrimage to Jerusalem as the site of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection has a certain place in Christian history, if only because it provided the casus belli of the Crusades, but it testifies to the Europeans’ awareness that Christianity originated outside Europe. European ex-Christians with nationalist convictions hold it against Christianity that it is foreign. The Christian answer to that would not be to deny its foreign origin, but to insist that it is the true religion and that therefore everyone should accede to it. As for European culture and its national divisions, these can get a place in Christianity: inculturation has a long history, and to a large extent, national folklore has indeed merged with Christianity. So, in India’s case, a feeling of Indianness is welcome to flourish in Indian churches, using Indian materials during rituals or singing Indian music, as long as everyone believes in the imported teachings of the Church. 

Secondly, this identification with a nation just doesn’t apply. The motor car has been invented in the West, but the cars on the Indian roads apply the exact same mechanical principles which the German inventors once implemented to build the first motor car. There is no such thing as “Indian car mechanics,” this science is universal. The Law of Gravity was discovered by an Englishman, Isaac Newton, but would have been just the same if it had been discovered by anyone else, anywhere else. Likewise, anything true is universally true, so if the Christian core teachings are true, they should also be accepted as true by Indians; if not, they are not true for Westerners either. That is why it only shows incomprehension to argue about whether Christianity is or is not Indian; the only sensible question is whether it is true. Yajñavalkya never argued about the Indianness (a concept that didn’t even exist yet) of the doctrine of the Self. Nor did Shankara engage in debates about whether Dualism was more Indian than Non-Dualism; he only cared about which view was more true. So, let us follow in the footsteps of these great Indian thinkers and forget about Indianness.

However, Hinduism pertains to more than just the truth of a doctrine. It effectively also has a geographical component. For that reason, I may agree with the Hindu thinker Yajñavalkya, be doctrinally on the same wavelength, yet not be a Hindu. 

Hinduism as Paganism

Without creedal religions like Christianity, the world simply consists of a landscape of different sects or traditions. These are not foreign to one another, as witnessed by the practice of interpretatione romana, i.e. Julius Caesar’s approach of the Celtic deities he encountered in Gaul and whom he “translated” into the corresponding deities in the Roman pantheon. The practice already existed in the ancient Middle East, and can easily be seen in the names of the week days, where the names of the planets were translated from Sumerian to Akkadian and Aramaic, these to Greek, thence to Sanskrit and Latin, thence to Hindi, English etc. The planet Jupiter was Marduk to the Babylonians, Jupiter to the Romans, Thor to the Brits, Guru to the Indians, etc.

The ancient Arab traders went on pilgrimage to the Somnath Temple, because in the moon-bearing Shiva they recognized their own moon-god Hubal. And conversely, Indian traders doing business in Arabia went to the Kaaba in Mecca because its presiding deity Hubal was clearly their own Shiva. Yes, in the human netherworld there were local differences, but these were not consequential. The places from which you see the starry sky are different, but the stars in heaven are the same.

So, I have decided to focus on the absolute unity of heaven, more than on the relative difference of the vantage points on earth. Therefore, I don’t care any more about being from here or from there, the truth would in each case turn out to be the same. It doesn’t change anything to my world view or my way of life whether I artificially try to change myself into a Hindu or naturally define myself as being European and all other levels of identity that happen to apply to me. 

A Hindu name

In Western yoga circles, I know numerous people who have received a Sanskrit name, and many of them also use it. A few have even gone to the town hall or the court to change their civil names and officially register the Sanskrit names. Though I have received quite a few initiations (diksha) from Hindu gurus, somehow I have never been given a Sanskrit name. Fortunately so, for that saves me the trouble of having to decide whether to actually use this name or not. Probably not.

Not that it matters to me if others do it. Most Westerners who have a Sanskrit name live among Westerners and so there is no occasion for confusion. By vocation, I am more in touch with Hindu society, and that makes it confusing if I would adopt a Hindu-sounding name. (For the same reason, I disapprove of converts to Christianity retaining their Hindu names, a new Church policy consciously seeking to confuse and conceal.) Also, it is but normal that those who become Hindu monks get a monastic name, just as a Catholic monk changes his civil name to a given monastic name.

My own given name is Germanic and profound enough. Koen means “brave”, raad means “counsel” “deciding what is to be done”. Its Greek equivalent was Thrasuboulos, which happens to be the name of a victorious general, national liberator and pioneer of democracy in Athens, killed in battle while fighting for his polity. So, I will just keep it.

That also happens to be the Hindu thing to do. Thus, some equality-minded Hindus hide their caste-specific last name, e.g. calling themselves (to name one example I have known) Maheshvari Prasad instead of the recognizably Brahmin name Maheshvariprasad Sharma. Yet, they will never intrude into another caste by giving themselves a last name suggestive of another caste identity, say Maheshvariprasad Yadav or Maheshvariprasad Varma. So likewise, I will not intrude into the Hindu commonwealth by claiming a Hindu identity and calling myself by a Hindu name.

Hindus don’t have this notion of a creedal identity. A creed or world view can be chosen (and indeed I have the experience of trading in a religion imposed on me for another persuasion); while an identity is simply there. So, I just accept that I carry the non-Hindu name Koenraad without having chosen it, and I will not choose another one. ♦

10 Responses

  1. Dr. Koenraad Elst always displays his capacity for nuanced thinking, which the ‘hammer Hindus’ do not appreciate. By ‘hammer Hindus’ I mean passionate Hindu nationalists to whom the world like laid down into black and white. Either you are this, or against this. Dr. Elst often argues the case from both sides, before choosing his conclusions. He has very rationally shown the odds against converting to Hinduism. I personally do not want him to become Hindu either. There are more than 100 crores of Hindus in India, but only a handful have stood up for Hindu nationalism as Dr. Elst. I feel his clear thinking is part of his western training. He is living proof that Hindus can have sincere friends (which implies one is non-Hindu). Otherwise if in the world only Hindus love Hindus – there is nothing great about it.

  2. I don’t understand why people are so obsessed with caste system. Castes are by birth. Period. There is no way one can enroll in to an existing caste, but you can always form your own caste or sub-caste based on your parent caste. This is because, caste (jaathi) is nothing but a pointer to your genetics. Your caste is an indicator of your clan. How can you change that? It is representative of your own past. Can you ever change that? Why don’t people understand this simple thing? All this hatred towards caste is because of the negative discrimination happening in this system. If we successfully eliminate the same, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the caste system. I don’t agree with what the admin points out. One can never become a member of a caste through initiation. For eg. Brahmana is a varna, but there are various castes inside it. You have to be born into this system to have a sense of belonging. But you can always create your own caste and acquire the qualities of a Brahmana. People can get initiated into ideologies but you cannot change biology through initiation. Caste is linked to biology. When are we going to understand this?

    • Science does not support your view nor does Sri Krishna in the Gita.

      See the article “The Müllerian Aryan Invasion–or Romilian Aryan Migration–never happened” regarding the DNA of Indians and then try and relate it to your biological theory of caste.

      • The DNA research was used only to debunk the Aryan-Invasion theory, which I agree, but that does not avert the diversity within. Genetics is not flat. It’s hierarchical. It has properties and diversity within. Science is still in it’s infancy with genetic research. In fact we’ve only touched the tip of genetics. We have a long way to go to understand the finer details of genetics. Our own shastras mention about gothras which you may be familiar with. Gothras are nothing but pointers to the parent gene. Have we done any research in line with this? Without doing this you cannot dismiss the genetic diversity in India.

        On your comments about Gita, it only talks about Varna and doesn’t mention anything about Jaathi. So you can’t easily dismiss it. Also there is a huge dispute about varna being tied to jaathi. The modern Hindus don’t agree Varna as a birth based entity while the Shankara mutts strongly oppose it. They show several quotes from scriptures to prove that.

  3. Two points: One: Dr. Koenraad Elst need not formally convert to become a Hindu. As long as one believes in the tenets of the Dharma and works to support the Dharma against the Adhaarmic forces, one is by “practice” a Hindu. A rose by any other name will still be a ROSE.

    Two: A careful study of the Manu Smrithi AND the Bhagawad Geetha will reveal the fact that caste is NOT by birth ALONE. In fact, the TRUE caste of a person is determined by what he learns at the Guru’s feet and what Dharma he practices for the rest of his life. So, even a boy born of Brahmin parents is NOT recognized as a Brahmin until he has learnt AT LEAST one Veda and unless he continues his life as a “practicing” Brahmin which defines his role in the society. Caste is a colonial word – the real word is Varna – which is the way you serve the society.

    The Brahmana Varna was the intellectual power house of the society. The Kshathriya Varna was the muscle power that defended the society from internal disorder and external agression. The Vaishya Varna was the economic power-house of the society that generated wealth. The Sudra Varna was the “assistants” layer or the “menial labour” layer, which did not have any specialized qualifications but nevertheless needed to be accommodated in the social structure – also, the other three varnas needed hands and feet (foot soldiers) to execute their command.

  4. I think that Dr. Elst was quite articulate and intelligent in his piece. He respects Hinduism, and in fact respects it enough to not want to intrude on it. I’ve met many scholars of Hinduism who feel similarly. By theology and even by practice in some cases, they are Hindu, but they won’t identify as such because they know that a large contingent of Hindus will not accept them, and will perceive them as intruders. And there is some reasonable justification for why those conservative Hindus would feel that way. Their texts and traditions seem to suggest that is what Dharma demands. Better to do your own Dharma correctly than another person’s Dharma incorrectly after all. Best not to have confusion amongst the Varnas.

    That said, If I had it my way, I’d have all the people in Elst’s position come out as Hindus. If the Hindu tradition is to become truly global, it cannot become (or stay) an ethnoreligion like Judaism. Hinduism has the capacity to become a global dialogue on the purpose of consciousness and its relation to the universe, free of dogma, and open to all. It has the capacity to transcend religion and philosophy both. The first step towards that end would be embracing non-Indians who take the ideas seriously and want to participate in the search for meaning with us as comrades.

  5. The distinguished Dr Koenraad Elst, like many Hindus, has a terrible blind spot regarding Judaism & Israel, and their negative role for India and Hinduism.

    Dr Elst ignores how the culture of the Hebrew Bible and Talmud is actually the original source of the forces in Islam and Christianity that have done so much harm to Hinduism and India over the centuries. Dr Elst misses the point well-understood by Hindu author Anuraag Sanghi, or pagan-sympathiser Dr Ashraf Ezzat of Alexandria, Egypt, who both write very sharply about how the 3 ‘Desert Bloc’ religions of the Middle East, the ‘Abrahamic faiths’, have common barbaric and belligerent roots and tendencies.

    It is in the Hebrew texts that we find the bloodiest, most awful, as well as earliest presentation of Abrahamic characteristics: Religions of extremism, slavery, conquest, destruction of local cultures and artifacts; ‘My god only or die!’, the so-called ‘God-ordered’ genocide of women, children, animals and entire nations, utterly clear in brutal Bible texts; and the brutal physical mutilation of babies’ genitalia (circumcision) and consequent mental trauma. The Hebrew Bible is much bloodier and more barbaric than the Qur’an, which merely echoes various elements of the original, Jewish, Abrahamic tradition.

    Like many Europeans, and Hindu Indians, who are over-focused on what has been suffered from the conflict with Islamic culture, Dr Elst makes the mistake of thinking that Israel & Judaism should be indulged as a counterweight to Islam. But just because the 3 Desert Bloc conquest religions all have fought terribly with each other, does not make it logical to use one of them to combat the other … they all have the same ugly source ideology (along with various nice elements mixed in, of course).

    The ugly core of the 3 Desert Bloc religions of Abraham, is quite the opposite of the open-minded tolerance at the core of Hinduism and South and East Asian religions generally.

    It’s especially sad to see Dr Elst sneer at the 11 Sep 2001 ‘truth movement’ … when in fact no serious investigator believes that cockamamie story about ‘Muslim hijackers’, which has been debunked hundreds of times, by thousands of architects, engineers, high-ranking retired US military officers (even a general) and intelligence agents …

    As former President of Italy Francesco Cossiga stated out loud in a frank moment, all European intelligence agencies know that the New York City twin towers destruction of ‘9-11’, was a project of US intel and Mossad, not ‘Muslims’. – But it is hard now for Europeans, to confront the truth about Israel, or about some predominantly Jewish political mafias used by Western oligarchs … as the many non-Zionist Jews in Belgium can themselves explain to Dr Elst in his native Dutch.

    Dr Elst has written some fascinating speculative material on the last book of the Christian bible, being possibly written by a mentally-tormented Jesus of Nazareth, who possibly survived the crucifixion under a cruel ‘joke’ of Roman governor Pontius Pilate.

    But a related line of thought, is to look at the harms and horrors of the three cultures today which practice baby boy mutilation: Jews, Muslims and Americans (apparently because of the significantly Jewish-influenced US medical system) … It is quite likely that having your genitals mutilated for life as a baby boy, leaves significant trauma, making you want to conquer, control and manipulate others and make them submit to your ways.

    And it does seem that it is from these 3 cultures that so many problems of the modern world have arisen. In ancient times, the Greeks tried to outlaw circumcision as a way to end Jewish extremism, and Germany has tried to outlaw it very recently. Some Jews and Muslims themselves have begun to reject this barbarism, and it should indeed be outlawed: Circumicision kills hundreds of babies each year, and permanently damages male sexual sensitivity and, very likely as well, the minds of the males who suffer this mutilation. Though we must generally ‘respect other faiths’, we also must be free to denounce practices we find abhorrent, such as animal ‘sacrifice’ or mutilating human babies.

  6. Hindu social structures evolve and change to accommodate the needs of the time. They are not at all as rigid as they were during colonial times.

    Though caste identity is acquired by birth, it can also be acquired by ritual or even by the simple acceptance of an individual into a caste community. So Pandit Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley) is a Brahmin by initiation and his acceptance by the Brahmin community of Pune that he is associated with.

    Various Shudra generals of the past were accepted into the Kshatriyas community after they acquired kingship.

    Non-Brahmin postulants for sannyasa are ritually made Brahmins so that they can fulfil the ritual duties of a caste Hindu before they renounce rituals and their caste identity (the logic being that one cannot renounce what one does not have).

    There are also recognised casteless Hindus such as the Sindhis.

    As to conversion, the Arya Samaj has the constitutional right to convert anybody to Hinduism and the certificates they issue are recognised by the government. Many Westerners take advantage of this ritual service the Arya Samaj offers and are formally converted. They are under no obligation to join the Arya Samaj itself and are free to return to their chosen Hindu sampradayas once the conversion yajna and namakarana are completed.

    Christian missionaries, especially the Jesuits in the 1960s, promoted the idea that a non-Indian could never become a Hindu because they had no caste. This was an attempt to keep Westerners away from yoga and spiritual gurus. But Vivekananda has said some place that a Westerner sincerely wishing to become a Hindu must be accommodated and may or may not assume a caste identity as needed. The Westerner need not even go through a shuddhi rite.

    In actual social practice, anybody who formally takes a Hindu name and is known publicly by his or her Hindu name … is a Hindu.

    • every word of your above comment is perfect , except ,
      i quote you ( admin ) :
      “there are also recognised casteless Hindus such as the Sindhis”

      i don’t know whether there really are any casteless Hindus , but Sindhis are not casteless ; i personally know so many Sindhis in bombay who are Brahmana s and Kshatriya s ; they perform the ceremony of wearing Yaj*opavita without fail , at least prior to marriage ;

      of course , caste is not taken rigidly nowadays , while searching for matrimonial alliances ; many marry freely and the caste is diluted ;

      alas ! they lost their holy land where the Indus flows ! what of caste !

      • Thank you, Dr Prasad, for your observation regarding the caste of Sindhis.

        I do not remember where I got my information regarding ‘casteless’ Sindhis. But, curiously, I associate it with a comment made years ago by L.K. Advani (who is a Sindhi, maybe even casteless!).

Comments are moderated

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: