The Bible Takes An Eastern Influence
Matt Wade in New Delhi
August 9, 2008
THE words of the Bhagavadgita, the songs of a Hindu mystic and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi have all found a place in a controversial Bible published in India.
An illustration in the new version depicts the Holy Family as poor Indian villagers – Mary wears a simple sari and has a bindi on her forehead alongside Joseph in a turban and loincloth. There is also a full-page portrait of Mother Teresa, the nun who served the destitute on the streets of Kolkata, above the words “pure and blameless religion lies in coming to help orphans and widows”.
Promoters of the project, called the New Community Bible, claim it will help Indian readers understand the Bible by drawing on “the rich culture and religious heritage of our motherland”.
A team of 30 Indian biblical scholars worked for more than 15 years on the new edition, which has been approved by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and is published by the Society of St Paul.
“I am sure this Bible, made in India and for Indians, will bring the word of God closer to millions of our people, not only Christians,” said Oswald Gracias, the Catholic Archbishop of Bombay.
A simple English translation of the whole Bible is accompanied by extensive commentary notes to assist readers interpret the verses.
This commentary draws on the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu holy book, as well as Indian epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata to help explain the Bible to an Indian audience.
Jesus’ words about storing “treasure in heaven” in the gospel of Matthew are compared to the Bhagavad Gita’s teaching that “work alone is your proper business never the fruits it may produce”.
The commentary refers to the songs of Mirabai, a popular 16th-century Hindu mystic. Her hymns of devotion to Krishna, a Hindu deity, are used to illustrate Mary Magdalene’s attitude to the resurrected Jesus.
The teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, Asia’s first Nobel laureate, are also referred to in the commentary.
The New Community Bible has 24 line drawings by Christopher Coelho, which use common Indian cultural scenes to illustrate biblical texts. One depicts a Hindu temple, a Muslim mosque and a Christian church with shoes and sandals left outside the door – a tradition in many places of worship in India. Another shows a poor Indian family living in a shanty hut below towering skyscrapers.
The general editor of the New Community Bible, Reverend Dr Augustine Kanachikuzhy, admitted that references to Indian scriptures had generated complaints.
“This was expected,” he said. “It will take some time for the [new Bible] to gain acceptance.”
Dr Kanachikuzhy denied the new edition watered down the Bible’s message.
The manager of the St Paul’s bookshop in New Delhi, Father Stephen, said the New Community Bible had only been available for about a month but the first edition of 15,000 copies had almost sold out. A new print run is being prepared.
“People in India are really appreciating it, especially the pictures,” he said.
The 2200-page hardcover costs 250 rupees ($6.60).
According to local tradition Christianity was brought to South India by the Apostle Thomas – “doubting” Thomas – in AD52.
Christianity is the third largest religion in India after Hinduism and Islam. India’s last census in 2001 found there were 24 million Christians, about 2.5 per cent of the population, although some estimates put the proportion above 5 per cent.
It is alleged many poor communities do not admit to being Christian because they fear losing benefits reserved for low-caste Hindus.
Hindu Contrary View:
Christianity cannot tolerate and respect other cultures and religions. They have destroyed nearly 90% of the cultures around the world. Christianity failed in India and in Muslim countries miserably but that has not stopped the Vatican and missionaries from perusing its hidden agenda of conversion. Timesonline in an article titled ‘Vatican hopes Indian Bible will translate into surge of converts’ discuss this yet another attempt by Christianity to harvest souls in India.
‘The calculation is that India is the last great missionary front on Earth,’ John L. Allen Jr, a Vatican expert based in Rome.
The tactic to conquer the last great missionary front is to use the secular culture of Hindus to attack them. It might sound strange but Vatican never has the guts to apply such cheap tactics against Islam. And everyone knows Why? Christianity encourages religious fundamentalism in other religions through such dirty tactics. They give enough ammunition to the fundamentalists and often quietening the voice of moderates in Islam, Hinduism and other religions.
Extracts from the article in Timesonline:
The New Community Bible is part of an attempt by the Vatican to attract more converts in India as congregations decline in Europe and North America.
“I am sure this Bible, made in India and for Indians, will bring the word of God closer to millions of our people, not only Christians,” Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay, said at a ceremony on the Bible’s release.
The notes even quote Hindu scriptures, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics, to help to explain Christianity to prospective converts. “We wanted to show the parallels between the themes in the Bible and in Indian religions,” Father Tony Charanghat, a spokesman for the Archbishop, said. “We’ve put the sacred text in a local context.”
Some of the new tactics employed in the Hindu Bible:
- Virgin Mary: Barefoot and wearing a sari, with a bindi on her forehead and a naked baby on her shoulder.
- Joseph: Clad in a loincloth and turban.
- When Jesus tells disciples to turn the other cheek, the notes compare this to Gandhi’s creed of non-violence.
What is baffling is Christianity’s utter contempt for other cultures and religions. When discussing the topic of conversion Roman Catholic priests and other missionaries hide behind the veil of education and saving the poor. They have miserably failed in saving the poor and providing secular and quality education all around the world.
Instead of creating free individuals, Christianity creates more poor and people who are always dependent. Only free individuals can create a free society and which will lead to economic freedom. Sadly, Christianity cannot tolerate free thinking individuals.
Instead of creating more trouble around the world by cheap conversion tactics, Christianity and its bosses should bring the word of God (Bible) closer to political leaders in Western Countries. Ask them to stop attacking other nations. Ask them to stop selling weapons around the world. It is time for Christianity to educate its political leaders in Bible – You must love your neighbor just as much as you love yourself. In simple terms stop creating wars and other problems in Africa, Asia and in Muslim and Communist countries around the world.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said:
Different people call God by different names: some as Allah, some as God, and others as Krishna, Shiva, and Brahman. It is like the water in a lake. Some drink it at one place and call it ‘jal’, others at another place and call it ‘pani’, and still others at a third place and call it ‘water’. The Hindus call it ‘jal’, the Christians ‘water’, and the Moslems ‘pani’. But it is one and the same thing.
Hindus have never poked fun off or criticized Christ. For many Hindus, he is just another path to self realization. But Christianity and its priestly class cannot tolerate and respect the beliefs of Hindus. And their lies the great difference between Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) and Christianity. (Reference)
Christian Contrary View:
“There just cannot be a dialogue or genuine peace between Christians and Hindus unless we stop proselytization,” says the Reverend Karen MacQueen, popularly known as Mother Karen.
“This does not mean that someone who has witnessed Christian work, say at a charity institution, wants to find out more about Jesus and the church (should be discouraged). But denigrating another religion and insisting that there is only way to salvation is not a good thing at all,” she said.
Mother Karen, who first visited India in 1977 to work with Mother Teresa in Kolkata, and got drawn into studying Hinduism, has promoted Hindu-Christian dialogue in Los Angeles for many years.
She was one of the key movers behind the Indian Rite Mass held on January 19 at St John’s Cathedral in Los Angeles. The cathedral is run by Episcopalians, an influential branch of the American church.
A vegetarian since her first visit to India, she says one of the reasons the church issued an apology to Hindus for the attack some Christians have made on Hindu beliefs and way of life, is the continuing controversy about conversions in India.
“We continue to be appalled by the action of many fundamentalist Christian preachers and aids organisation that sought to exploit the tremendous tsunami tragedy in many Asian cities and towns,” she said from her office near Los Angeles. “The missionaries were telling the people that unless they became Christians, they would not get the relief aid.”
She decided that the Mass would be celebrated in Indian style, using aarti and kirtans. “The Indian style Mass is being celebrated in many Christian ashrams in India,” she said.
There are over 50 such ashrams in India where Christianity is presented as an Eastern faith. You will see Christ looking like an Indian sadhu, and Mother Mary picturised wearing a sari.
Mother Karen has sojourned at several of those ashrams, particularly at Shantivanam Ashram, a Camaldolese Benedictine community made famous by its former prior, Bede ‘Dayananda’ Griffiths.
The Shantivanam ashram looks like a rishi’s home transported from Vedic times to the banks of the Cauvery river, at a forested place near Trichy in South India, wrote Hinduism Today magazine.
‘A pilgrim’s first impressions are strong, and very Hindu: the elaborately colorful Hindu shrine; the bearded, saffron-robed swami seated cross-legged on a straw mat; devotees practicing yogic meditations, even chanting Hindu scriptures.’
The Christian priests who run such ashrams get criticised by conservative Christians and by Hindu groups who think they are trying new conversion ploys. But Mother Karen says the most important mission of Shantivanam is to foster better understanding with the Hindu community.
‘The impressions at the Christian ashrams lead to another kind of reality. First, the eye detects that the courtyard shrine is for Saint Paul and that puja is actually a daily Mass, complete with incense, aarti lamps, flower offerings and prasadam,’ Hinduism Today wrote.
‘Finally, one meets the swami, learning he is Father Bede “Dayananda” Griffiths, a Christian sanyasi of impeccable British background…’
Some of the critics of such ashrams may remember a few Italian priests, who, in the 16th century in Go,a lived like sanyasis and were trying to convert high caste Hindus.
‘These ashrams,’ wrote Hinduism Today ‘which are variously described as “experiments in cross-cultural communication,” ‘contemplative hermitages that revolve around both Christian and Hindu ideas,’ or (less charitably) “institutions to brainwash and convert India’s unwary masses.”
Are these places to be endorsed by Hindus as worthy attempts to share each other’s spirituality? Or are they a spiritual oxymoron, a contradiction of terms, because the Christians are interested in sharing — dialogue is the term they use — only as a means to conversion?’
Mother Karen would like to see such ashrams grow in number as long as they have a clear mission in holding genuine dialogue and involve Hindu spiritual leaders in the nearby community.
She believes that the recent Indian rite Mass was not a one-time event. “We want to see a Gandhi pilgrimage center in a temple where Christians could go and meditate,” she says, “and even get involved in social action.”
She also plans to meet with immigration officials and lawmakers at the national and state levels to make changes in the immigration law, so that it becomes easier for Hindu priests from India to serve at the American temples and ashrams. (Reference)
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Conversion, Hindu, Hinduism, India, Jesus Christ, Missionaries, Missionaries In India, Mother Mary, Vatican Tagged: | Augustine Kanachikuzhy, Catholic Bishops, Christopher Coelho, Mirabai, New Community Bible, New Delhi, Society Of Saint Paul, St Pauls Bookship