On Wed, Mar 7, 2012
' Dr. Frank Morales' u turn'
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva
In an astonishingly vituperative article titled 'In Defence of Sanatana Dharma : Spotlighting an unknown bigot' Dr. Frank Morales who is also President of the International Sanatana Dharma Society' displays an unusual anger for someone who claims to be a sincere seeker in Sanatana Dharma. The occasion for this somewhat bizarre display were the articles by the present writer on what seemed to be his u turn from his early article on Hinduism to his later video(in 2 parts) on Jesus the Dharma Master, where he glorifies Jesus. It may interest Dr. Morales that many Hindus were surprised by these two videos (See this writer's ' From Sanatana Dharma to Jesus' and 'The Enemy at the Gates', both articles in www.bharatkalyan97.blogspot.com &
Not all Hindus subscribe to the theory of Jesus being of divine origin or that indeed he is an exceptionally great individual or that he was even a historical figure. Dr. Morales cites the case of Mahatma Gandhi who he claims (inaccurately) did endorse Jesus in the entirety of the Church's claims for him, and therefore, is with Morales in his glorification of Jesus. Gandhiji did say that the sermon on the mount went straight to his heart, but he did not agree that Jesus was the only son of God and he did not agree that he was even an avatar. Anyone who is familiar with Gandhij's life and writings, knows that he vehemently rejected the Church's attempts at conversion. In his own personal life he rejected firmly and politely many advances made by his Christian friends to shed his 'paganism'. A well known early example is the episode in South Africa, where Gandhiji had gone in 1893, and where his Christian friend tried to pull the Tulasi beads off his neck saying that it was superstition. Gandhiji's reply was : it may be superstition to you but they were placed around my neck by my mother before I left for England . . . . ."
Hence, apart from a general admiration for the figure of Jesus, none of the Hindu gurus enumerated by Dr. Morales (Prabhupada, Ramakrishna, et al ) went out of their way to exalt Jesus in the way that Dr. Morales does in his videos. It would also be helpful for skeptical Hindus (skeptical of Morales' mission) to know whether there has been a follow up study of the people of the proselytising faiths that attended his satsang during the talk he gave on Jesus the Dharma Master (captured in the videos) returned to their Christian fold and how many actually started on a different path altogether. Morales claims that these talks were undertaken to bring those people to Sanatana Dharma.
It is well known that the Churches are no longer as well attended as in early years and this gives great concern to the Church dignitaries of all denominations. They would be extremely happy if the Morales talks brought them back to the Christian fold.If any of the listeners to the talks took his glorification of Jesus seriously they should indeed return to their own churches and worship this glorious figure ! The Church should thank Morales for this.
What appears to be Dr. Morales's u turn from his early committment to Sanatana Dharma to the new phase of Jesus worship illustrates one aspect of the globalisation of Hinduism. On the one hand, there is some satisfaction that the Vedic heritage is being talked about to larger audiences (as Morales does) but on the other hand there is the question of the rehabilitation of Christian figures into the Hindu consciousness, something that the missionary educational system along with colonial rule had already inculcated amongst Hindus.
Today, the contemporary Hindu prides himself /herself on being 'secular' and tolerant of other religions, precisely because of the myth that Hinduism says all religions are equal (something that Dr. Morales firmly rejected in his early article on Hinduism ). To further reinforce that colonial/missionary trend by bringing Jesus in by the back door, does appear, with all due respect, to be a u turn. Dr. Morales can get as agitated as he wants with criticism of his methods, but this happens to be the stark reality in the Indian subcontinent.
It is in doing this u turn that Dr. Morales displays a remarkable lack of historical/political perspective. Whether this is owing to the excessive enthusiasm of a 'convert' to Hinduism or something else is difficult to ascertain. But at first glance, his Jesus videos strike many as being an aspect of the phenomenon of Inculturation, which started as early as the 17th century with Robert de Nobili and continues to this day in the work of prominent Catholics such as Dr. Francis Xavier Clooney of Harvard University. The present writer has written about this in other articles, in conjunction with what again appears to be a sudden u turn towards Hindu Christian dialogue by author and writer Rajiv Malhotra, where much ground was conceded with very little returns.
It is gratifying to note that Frank Morales by his own statements is still very much a seeker in Sanatana Dharma. One can only hope that he acquires some more political savvy if he is truly to help the Hindu Samaj. In his international mission, such as it is, he has forgotten that the Hindu Samaj is under siege. His further possibly well meant efforts do not help if they bring Jesus in by the back door. He may wish to reconsider his strategy.
(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university. Her academic training is in Philosophy, Literature, Political Science, Political Economy & History).