This interview was given to Rajeev Srinivasan in August 2001 with the understanding that it would be published in his column on the Rediff.com website. However, the editors of the Rediff website did not published it allegedly because of my criticism of their colleagues in the English-language media. They have unwittingly proved my point about the pusillanimity and bias of Indian editors and their inability to tolerate any kind of criticism. – Ishwar Sharan
Rajeev Srinivasan : Can you tell me a little about your background? How long have you been in India? What prompted you to become a monk?
Ishwar Sharan aka Swami Devananda : I was brought up in the foothills of western Canada. My purva ashrama family were middle class professionals and religious, God-fearing Protestant Christians. I was fed from birth on the strong meat of the Old Testament prophets. But in my early teens my father discovered that I did not love Jesus and was not afraid of his “divine” father, the vindictive, unforgiving Hebrew god Jehovah. I was excommunicated from his small Christian congregation. It was a very liberating experience and I left home soon afterwards.
I began to read Buddhism and existential philosophy. Perhaps as a legacy of my early years, I retained an avid interest in Christian history. I was always trying to discover how such a fearful and repressive religion came into being. I read Gore Vidal’s book Julian about the last Pagan emperor of Rome. Julian the Apostate became my hero along with Alexander the Great. Julian was the great ascetic and philosopher and Alexander the great king and traveller. I followed in Alexander’s footsteps, visiting as nearly as possible every place that he had visited on his journey to the East.
I reached India in 1967 and immediately went to Kashi where I lived on the ghats as a beggar. I had fallen in love with Mother India and Hindu civilization. It is the best civilization of the Great Mother Goddess. She is called Asherah in the Bible and the prophets are always cursing Her. As a small child I had seen Her once in a garden, and later I had read about Her in The Golden Bough. She has always cared for me, and like the great guru Adi Shankara I believe that She is the liberator of man and the revealer of truth. I became a sannyasi because of Her. It is a sacrifice of love that I am still trying to perfect.
RS : What was your objective in writing The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple? You are quite critical of the Christian establishment and their fellow travellers in the Indian media.
IS : Most historians will tell you that St. Peter never went to Rome and did not establish a Christian church there. Yet the very authority of the papacy rests on this fiction and most educated people accept the papal claim. I was interested in the Indian parallel, in seeing what the historians had to say about the coming of St. Thomas to India and his establishing a church in Kerala. I soon discovered that the most reputed historians of Christianity including Eusebius, Von Harnack, De Tillemont, Latourette, Winternitz and Bishop Stephen Neill, all denied the coming of St. Thomas to India. Some denied his very existence.
In writing The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple (which I did under the alias Ishwar Sharan: I had been threatened by the missionary Fr. Bede Griffiths and had to change my public name in order to continue writing about Christianity in India), I also wanted to show that there was a carefully orchestrated cover-up in the Indian English-language media regarding the St. Thomas story. Indeed, even after two editions of the book, The New Indian Express and popular Deccan Chronicle remain the main purveyors of the fable through travel features and their Christianised “secular” columnists. Little leftist magazines like The Indian Review of Books, edited by the St. Thomas advocate S. Muthiah, also put in a good word for St. Thomas when the opportunity arises. This is their unprofessional response to the exposure of a historical fraud that does not serve their financial interests.
Yet in writing the book and giving the source material for the legend, the 3rd century Syrian religious romance called the Acts of Thomas, my sincere hope was that Indian scholars would take up the study of the legend seriously. But this has not happened. Indian historians with their Marxist bent of mind are not willing to touch it. They are afraid for their tenures and their politically correct professional reputations. For the English-language newspaper editors, all of them brown sahibs with brown noses, the St. Thomas fable is a useful stick to bash Hindus with when the occasion arises, as the story is a vicious blood libel against the Hindu community.
RS : You allege that there is, in effect, a conspiracy of silence to hide a lot of uncomfortable facts about Christianity in India. Why?
IS : The establishment of the Christian Church in India was intrinsically part of the European colonial enterprise. Its history is shocking for its violence and duplicity. Read the letters of St. Francis Xavier or the diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai.
The Indian Church today is not so much different from the original 17th century Portuguese Church that created it. It is very wealthy and corrupt and politically ambitious. But it has learned the propaganda value of social service and is making a great effort to disassociate itself from its colonial origins. This involves a lot of deceit, of course, and a massive cover-up of past evil deeds. But as the late Archbishop Arulappa of Madras would say, the end justifies the means―even if that is not exactly what Jesus taught.
The Christian Church uses St. Thomas and his legend to claim a 1st century origin for Christianity in India. It also claims the Tamil cultural icon Tiruvalluvar as a disciple of St. Thomas and India’s first famous native Christian. If we accept these outrageous claims, then Christianity becomes the “original” religion of India―excluding Buddhism and Jainism―as it would be older than many of the medieval and early medieval Hindu sampradayas followed in the country today. But the greater travesty is that some Tamil scholars and a racist Dravidian chief minister subscribes to this wicked thesis. What treachery!
The whole idea of the baptism of Tiruvalluvar and martyrdom of St. Thomas is a gross perversion of history. It is a grave injustice to the Hindu community that has offered refuge to persecuted Christian refugees down through the ages. It is Hindus who have been martyred by these same Christian refugees starting in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries when Syrian and Persian immigrants destroyed temples to build their seven and a half St. Thomas churches in Malabar. It is Hindus who were martyred in Goa by Catholic inquisitors and in Madras by Jesuit, Franciscan, and Dominican priests who operated under the protection of the Portuguese. And it is Hindus who are martyred today by the Christian Churches and the secular press who support them, including the BBC and CNN―all of whom have mounted a base campaign of vilification and calumny against Hindu religion and society.
RS : You make the startling revelation that the fondly believed story of St. Thomas, an apostle of Christ, coming to India and establishing an Indian church, is a convenient fiction. What was the original rationale for this story? Who propagated it? What has been the consequence?
IS : The original rationale for the St. Thomas story was to give the first 4th century Christian immigrants in Malabar a local patron saint. The story also gave them caste status that was important in integrating them into Hindu society. There is nothing unusual in a refugee community creating this kind of mythology of identity and it is part of the process of getting established in a new land.
The St. Thomas legend, which they brought with them from Syria, was easy enough to adapt to India. St. Thomas was already the Apostle of the East, of “India”―“India” being not the subcontinent that we know but a synonym for Asia and all those lands that lay east of the Roman Empire’s borders. “India” even included Egypt and Ethiopia in some geographies, and China and Japan in others.
St. Thomas was called the Apostle of the East by Indian Christians up until 1953 and St. Francis Xavier was called the Apostle of India till that same date. However, after Cardinal Tisserant brought a genuine St. Thomas relic from Ortona to Kodungallur in 1953, St. Francis Xavier was demoted and St. Thomas was designated the new Apostle of India.
The Syrian Christian refugees had been led to India by a merchant who is known to history as Thomas of Cana, i.e. Canaan (Palestine). He is also known as Thomas of Jerusalem. Over time it was natural enough for the Syrian Christian community to identify their 1st century patron saint Thomas the Apostle with their 4th century leader Thomas of Cana. As a result of this process it is now mistakenly accepted by most educated Indians that St. Thomas came to India in 52 CE and established a Christian church at ancient Muziris―Kodungallur―in Kerala.
RS : The great Kapaleeswara Temple in Mylapore, Madras, was demolished, according to you, and that is where the San Thome Cathedral now stands. This is news to many people who believe temple demolition was largely a Muslim act.
IS : The evidence for the demolition of the original Kapaleeswar Temple is according to a variety of sources including government records and archaeological reports. There is the presence of temple rubble in the San Thome Cathedral walls and in the grounds of Bishop’s House (which has been removed since my book’s publication). The news of the demolition of the original temple was not news to anybody of a past generation and was discussed in the Madras newspapers during British times. The origins of the present Kapaleeswara Temple are recorded and directly reflect and confirm the destruction of the original temple.
It is true that Hindus do not associate temple breaking with Christians. That is due to the success of the historical cover-up of which the ASI and the state archaeological departments are partly responsible. But we from the West know better about Christian history and have access to a vast stock of published material that is not usually available in India. We know that every great Pagan temple in Europe and the Mediterranean basin was destroyed and replaced with a church after Christianity gained political ascendancy in the Roman Empire. We also know that it is not any different in India today where Christian missionaries hold sway in remote tribal areas because we have seen the evidence.
In Central India, Orissa, the North-East, even Arunachal Pradesh and Nepal where missionaries cannot officially operate, village temples are demolished and sacred images broken by new converts. The video films of these “good works” are then shown on TV in Europe where missionaries go to collect funds for their evangelizing effort. It is even happening in Tamil Nadu today. District authorities turn a blind eye to these crimes when they are paid off.
Temple breaking in India seems to have originated in the 7th, 8th or 9th century with Nestorian Christian immigrants from Persia. They built churches on the broken temple foundations and then attributed the temple breaking to St. Thomas himself by claiming he built the churches in the 1st century. Franciscan, Dominican, and Jesuit priests destroyed temples in Goa, Malabar, and Tamil Nadu in the 16th century. St. Francis Xavier left a fascinating written record of his temple breaking work on the Coromandel Coast. The Portuguese entombed the Vel Ilangkanni Amman Temple near Nagapattinam and turned it into the famous Velankanni church called Our Lady of Health Basilica. The Jesuits destroyed the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple in Pondicherry and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception now sits on the site. The list is very long. Christians were destroying temples long before the Muslims got into the act.
RS : I have heard some Christians say that they believe that the Bhakti Movement in Tamil lands was influenced by Christian ideas of a personal god. How do you respond?
IS : Christian missionaries and Marxist intellectuals have a mantra: There is nothing Hindu in Hindustan and nothing Indian in India. According to them everything of value in Indian civilization came from outside, from someplace beyond the pale of Sindh. They are aware of the Hindu’s low self-esteem and seek to undermine it further.
Be that as it may, devotion to a personal god is there in the Rig Veda itself: “Oh, Agni, be easy of access to us, as a father to a son.” Dr. Pandharinath Prabhu tells us in his much-acclaimed book Hindu Social Organisation that the very term bhakti first appears in the Svetasvatara Upanishad. Bhakti is there in the Puranas and finds its best expression in the Bhagavad Gita; a better expression, I must say, than is found anywhere in the Bible. Tamil bhakti has its roots in the Tirumantiram, ca. 200 BCE.
So there is no influence from Christianity at all. But even if it was true that Christianity influenced Hindu concepts of a personal god, what do Christians gain by making such a claim? Hindu bhaktas direct their love and devotion to Shiva and Murugan, Vishnu and Krishna and Rama, not to Jesus. Jesus has failed in India! And failed and failed and failed again in India!
RS : There appears to be an effort on the part of certain Christian groups to “Indianize” the church: for instance, they have created a cult of the Infant Jesus to compete with the worship of the Baby Krishna, and a cult of the Madonna to compete with the worship of the Mother Goddess. Is this a genuine effort at cultural synthesis?
IS : The Pope has made it absolutely clear in the Vatican document called Dominus Jesus that inculturation and indigenization are the means by which the Indian heathen is to be evangelized. Inculturation is not an effort at cultural synthesis but a means of conversion. Its object is to undermine the integrity of Hindu religion and culture and subsume it into Christianity. It is a tried and true method. It is by this method that Christian missionaries starting with St. Paul undermined Greek and Roman religion and culture and took it over for themselves.
Christianity is a simple personality cult with an elitist ideology. It can be insinuated into any open society. It is parasitical in nature and feeds on the spiritual and cultural body of the society it invades. In the process it destroys the invaded culture and absorbs it into itself. This is what happened in Pagan Europe.
Hindus do not understand this process because Hinduism is spiritually self-sufficient and does not require outside nourishment. At the same time Hindus are flattered by the attention given to their religion and culture by Christian operators and are vulnerable to their overtures. See my dialogue with Fr. Bede Griffiths in Sita Ram Goel’s book, Catholic Ashrams, concerning this important subject.
RS : Some Christians have written to me quoting various Sanskrit texts to “prove” that they foreshadow the arrival of Jesus Christ. What do you think of this?
IS : Prophecy is the last refuge of the religious scoundrel and unfortunately the Indian missionary community is made up entirely of scoundrels. They can find and foreshadow whatever they like in scripture―be it Hindu, Muslim or Christian―because of scripture’s obscure language and context and the poet’s use of allegory and metaphor. For example, Bible scholars know that the Old Testament “prophesies” concerning Jesus’s birth are forced contrivances of interpretation and editing used to give Jesus divine legitimacy and royal lineage. They know that these prophecies are false but because they appeal to the believer’s imagination and reason and help inculcate faith in Jesus, they continue to be quoted as divinely inspired and true.
In India a favorite method of foreshadowing from Vedic texts is closely related to the inculturation process. Christian preachers simply appropriate the meaning of Sanskrit terms and claim them for Jesus. They argue in a round about way that terms like Isa, Ishwara and Parameswara only ever referred to Jesus in the first place! I have got letters from Baptist converts who claim that Prajapati is really Jehovah!
If Christian missionaries want to find Jesus in the Veda and Christ in India they can do so with the help of clever and amoral scholars like Fr. Raimundo Panikker. He and they should carefully consider that these “inspired” claims, and, indeed, the inducement to convert by means of these claims is a sin against the Holy Spirit. According to their own doctrine, there is no forgiveness for a sin against the Holy Spirit. But the real problem is not that Christian religious entrepreneurs invent prophecies and manipulate the meaning of Sanskrit texts, the real problem is that Hindus accept their claims at face value and do not know how to reply.
People who follow prophets invariably become idolaters of “the Word”. They believe that the prophet’s word is divine word, that a man’s word is God’s word. It is the worst kind of idolatry and leads to the religious fundamentalism and violence that we are witness to today throughout the world.
RS : If you criticize Christians in any way, their immediate response is. “We are a tiny minority of two per cent of India’s population, and see how much social work we are doing.” How do you respond to this?
IS : The question of numbers of population, which for Christians is something like three per cent, is very misleading. Not long ago India’s millions were ruled by a cadre of 30,000 Christian foreigners. It is not a question of numbers but of institutional wealth and influence, of organization, political ambition and high ideological motivation, and, especially, of due control of institutions like education and health care that counts. And then there are the special constitutional privileges for minorities that make Hindus second-class citizens in their own land, and the uncritical sympathy for all things Christian in the English-language media.
It is an absurd situation. No country in the world allows a minority community to dictate to the majority the way India does, or to allow a foreign-trained minority community to proselytize in a society that has never proselytized and cannot protect itself against the psychological and emotional assault and material inducements that go with proselytisation. No country in the world would allow virtually unchecked the foreign money and expertise that flows into the Indian Churches, much of it under the guise of social aid, when the bigoted leaders of these Churches have declared over and over again that they intend the religious and spiritual annihilation of the Hindu community.
RS : There is a shadowy group called Opus Dei that is supposed to be doing significant theoretical work to help spread Christianity around the world. I believe the well-known Indian-Spanish Jesuit priest Raimundo Panikker is associated with them. What do you know about them?
IS : Opus Dei is everywhere but nobody really knows anything about them except their Vatican banker and the Pope who is their special advocate and patron. They are an authoritarian secret society with members in such places as the CIA and MI5. I am inclined to doubt that they would employ a theologian like Fr. Raimundo Panikker because he is a “married” priest and they are advocates of strict Church discipline. Their fronts in India (and other developing countries) are scholars associations, history conferences, Hindu-Christian dialogue seminars, certain NGOs and aid agencies―all missionary outfits use NGOs and aid agencies as cover for their proselytizing activities―some Western embassies and the English-language media.
Opus Dei is especially interested in creating favorable public opinion for the Catholic Church and has infiltrated every major English-language daily. Read the op-ed page and letters column in any big city newspaper and you will probably find the handwork of Opus Dei. They want to manipulate and control public opinion. They would never employ a venomous journalist like A.J. Philip but soft columnists like Renuka Narayanan are definitely on their list of honorary lady Jesuits.
RS : Arun Shourie and other scholars have detailed the ongoing assault on Hinduism by Christians from British times. Do you see this clash of civilizations abating any time soon?
IS : The clash of civilizations will continue, indeed, will become more pronounced, unless Christianity and Islam give up their religious bigotry and world-conquering ambitions. This is very unlikely as bigotry and religious imperialism are inherent within their belief systems. These systems have to be reformed, but cannot be reformed because their adherents believe that the religions are divinely ordained. As the systems cannot be changed, the adherents of the systems have to be weaned away from them. This has happened in Europe and to a lesser extent in America where Christianity has been abandoned for a rational humanism and Vedantic spirituality. But it has not happened in the Islamic and Marxist worlds of Asia and will not happen without a fight.
RS : In your book Koenraad Elst quotes the fact that the place where Jesus is alleged to have been crucified was “divined” by Emperor Constantine’s mother in a dream. What similar stories do you find in Christian mythology in India?
IS : In the 4th century when Christianity gained political clout in the Roman court, the Emperor’s mother Helena “divined” various sites in Palestine which, she claimed, were associated with the life and death of Jesus. These sites already had old Greek and Roman temples sitting on them. Nevertheless, in Bethlehem the Church of the Nativity was built on the ruins of a demolished Adonis temple and in Jerusalem the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built over a Venus temple that had been destroyed on Constantine’s personal order. See Joan Taylor’s book Christians and the Holy Places.
The parallel in India is the identification of various temple sites in Kerala with St. Thomas and the building of churches on them by Christian immigrants from Persia in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries. Nestorian Christian missionaries were active on the West Coast and up into Kashmir and Ladakh in the 9th and 10th centuries, and it is they who left crosses carved on rocks and various Christian signs and symbols that later European writers of historical fiction have associated with a life of Jesus in Kashmir.
In the 16th century the Portuguese “divined” various sites in Madras at Mylapore, Saidapet, and Big Mount―now called St. Thomas Mount―that they claimed were associated with the martyrdom and burial of St. Thomas. The temples that occupied these sites, including the original Kapaleeshwara Temple referred to in the hymns of Jnanasambandar and Arunagirinathar, were demolished and churches built on their ruins.
RS: There is a certain school of thought that says Jesus Christ came to India and that a lot of what he taught is based on Hindu and Buddhist ideas. Comments?
IS : The idea that Jesus came to India as a boy and studied in a Buddhist monastery or, alternatively, came to India after the crucifixion and married a princess of Kashmir, tickles the romantic imagination of Western travellers and quite a few Indians too. The story originates in a clever piece of fiction by the Russian forger Nicholas Notovich that was published in Paris in 1894.
It cannot possibly be true, and if it is true it destroys completely the special claims made by Christian doctrine, of the sacrifice made on the cross and the resurrection, and the vicarious salvation of the Christian believer. The Buddhist monastery where Jesus is said to have studied did not exist until the 16th century, and the Srinagar tomb where he is allegedly buried is really the tomb of a Mogul ambassador to Egypt who converted to Christianity while on tour there. The key to unravelling the tale is to study the activities of the 10th century Nestorian Christian missionaries who passed through Kashmir on their way to China and left crosses on rocks and an abundance of illegitimate children with biblical names in their wake.
The Hindu and Buddhist ideas found in the New Testament books, including the Sermon on the Mount, were picked up by the gospel writers in Alexandria from Indian pundits and monks who were teaching there. But it should be remembered that the New Testament books contain ideas quite the opposite of Hindu ideas of pluralism and tolerance. For example, there is the virulent anti-Semitism and religious bigotry of the Gospels. Jesus was perhaps the first religious teacher in history to threaten his critics with eternal damnation if they disagreed with him.
RS : There is another school of thought that says Jesus Christ did not actually exist and that the legends about him are a collection of stories about several other leaders and teachers of the time. Comments?
IS : It is quite true that the New Testament books as we know them today are composite works edited and rewritten a number of times after the 4th century Council of Nicaea. Christian doctrine was formalized at this Council and Jesus was raised from mortal prophet to immortal God by a vote of the collected bishops (two bishops from Libya voted against deification and were soon murdered by their colleagues).
Some years after the Council, Emperor Constantine sanctioned and financed a new edition of the Bible. As there were no original documents to work from (they had been destroyed by Emperor Diocletian), the bishops were free to edit, revise, and rewrite the Bible according to their own tenets. The Old Testament books are also compiled from many sources and they are not a true history of the Jewish people.
The result of all this 4th century religious activity is that the Pauline salvation cult that we know today as Christianity came into being. It was modelled on earlier Greek salvation cults except that Jesus replaced Apollo as the saving god. The famous Sermon on the Mount that so appealed to Mahatma Gandhi, is a later literary interpolation from a Pagan source. It may even be of Indian origin.
The Jesus of the Bible is a literary creation not a real historical person, though it is probable that his character was modelled on that of a real person, say, the Teacher of Righteousness of the Essenes of the Dead Sea. The evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dated 100-200 BCE, bears out the fact that there is nothing new or true in Christianity. The Catholic Church has for decades tried to suppress the evidence of the Scrolls as they virtually prove that there was no historical Jesus as depicted in the New Testament stories.
I do not think that St. Paul believed in a historical Jesus either, which is why he preached a Christ of faith rather than a Jesus of history. The term “christ” is a Greek title not a proper name. It can be used as an appellation for any person so deserving and there were many christs in the Roman world of the 1st century CE. St. Paul is the true founder of the Christian religion. He was a Gnostic and a very forceful character who has left his imprint on all aspects of Christianity.
Does Jesus exist? Yes, indeed, he does. He exists in the romantic imagination of every Christian believer―and not a few Hindus too. He is the personification of a very dark force, an asuric being not a divine being.
RS: If Jesus did not really exist, how does that affect the organized Church and its shibboleths?
IS : Christianity is not going to collapse just because it has been discovered that Jesus was not born of a virgin mother (as a recent BBC programme declares), did not die on the cross for our sins, and did not bodily rise to heaven on the third day to sit at the right hand of God. People believe what they want to believe, and, more important, what they are taught to believe as children. The pope or any dictator will tell you in private that there are not many people in this world who are willing or able to think for themselves, and those few who do are to be eliminated―like the courageous Giordano Bruno who was burned at the stake for teaching that the universe was infinite.
It is not a question of seeking truth, as the naive Hindu pilgrim seems to think, but of ideological indoctrination, of repeating the shibboleths over and over again until the believer is “saved”. But salvation theories aside―and Marxism is also a salvation theory―there is the more important business of Big Business. The Christian Churches are Big Business. They employ hundreds of thousands of people who are otherwise unemployable. They are important cultural and political institutions. The Vatican itself is Europe’s most famous political circus and the pope her best-loved clown―but not the current one who has been dubbed the Paederast Pope.
More importantly, the Churches, and especially the Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Baptist varieties, are important international financial institutions. They hold all the ready capital, not only in souls but also in dollars. They are not going to disappear just because their doctrines have been proved false and their god has been found to have feet of clay.
RS : There have been recent admissions from the Vatican itself about nuns being raped and sometimes murdered by missionaries and priests. Similarly, there was a startling expose in the Kansas City Star about the rate of AIDS among Catholic priests in the US being four times the national average. Does this imply that the system of celibate nuns and monks is not quite working? Incidentally, these reports died quiet deaths in the Indian Press whereas they regularly jump all over allegations of misconduct by Hindu sadhus and saints.
IS : Sodomy, incest, the abuse of nuns and the molestation of children have been endemic in the Christian Church from its very origins. Read the fascinating book A Testament of Christian Civilization by the famous ex-Franciscan monk and historian of early Christianity Joseph McCabe. He was a linguist and had access to documents that are never published in Christian histories. He records the extraordinary craving and sexual license among ecclesiastics from the first centuries of Christianity up to the 1950s in Germany.
At the various Church councils where the Christian creed was formulated, the bishops would quarrel over doctrine during the day and dancing boys during the night. More shocking than the sex was the violence and cruelty that went with it, which found its high point in the Inquisition. This institution was run by Dominican monks and was an orgy of sadism and unspeakable cruelty. It was introduced into India by St. Francis Xavier whose tomb sits on the site of the Saptakoteshwar Temple, Old Goa’s most important Shiva temple. In the medieval period in Europe, convents became high-class brothels and their bishops forbade priests to live with their mothers and sisters because of the moral dangers involved. The then pope introduced a rule of celibacy for priests and nuns―celibacy literally means they were to remain unmarried; it does not mean that they were to maintain sexual continence. But the celibacy rule―it is not a religious doctrine―has always been contested and has never been taken very seriously by the priesthood.
Today there are thousands of priests involved in various kinds of sexual relationships and thousands more who seek to be relieved of their vow so that they can marry. Abuse of children in Church-run institutions by celibate priests has become an international scandal that threatens Pope Benedict XVI himself. All of this is not very surprising to those who have read Christian history and know the moral rot that has always existed within the Christian Church even at its highest echelons. After all, it was not very long ago that the Pope was collecting a tax from the lepers and prostitutes who operated in St. Peter’s Square.
Of course, the great irony in this sad state of affairs is that in Christian doctrine sex is a sin, indeed, it is the original sin invented by woman to bring about the downfall of man. In fact it has brought about the downfall of the Christian Churches. They have tried to deny this state of moral debasement but modern human rights and instant exposure in the Western media do not allow the deceit to continue except in India.
In India the Churches are protected from scandal by state authorities, minority commissions and the Christianised English-language press. If the allegedly impartial editors of our national newspapers and TV channels spent as much time at the local convent or seminary or Church-run boy’s school as they do at the ashrams of Premananda and Nithyananda, they would get a story much more satisfying of their prurient interests. All of these journos are sewer inspectors at heart but they will not touch a Christian sewer with a long pole. Such is the power of the Christian Church in India and the overt bias of the national English-language media.
The Christian Church in India is still a 17th century colonial Church financed from abroad. It has a sophisticated international support system in place―and this is especially true of the newer American evangelical Churches. It is very arrogant and corrupt, a quasi-independent state that is coddled and pampered by the Indian government and media alike. It is answerable to nobody, which is reason enough for a responsible national government to order a white paper investigation into its finances and activities.
Calumny and more calumny is the Church’s current weapon of choice and all of the bad press India and Hindus get in Europe and America originates in bishop’s houses, Church councils and the offices of Christian NGOs in India. Their “authoritative” and “secular” views are picked up by an accommodating English-language press and broadcast abroad with alacrity.
The truth of this observation can be verified by listening to Indian scribes and Christian fathers reporting from Delhi and Madras to their English masters in London on the BBC’s various religious programmes and South Asia news services in the morning. It does not enter the heads of these Indian media worthies that the BBC is a neo-colonialist radio network dedicated to the promotion of Christian culture and values and British government foreign policy, and that it does not have a kind word for Hindus or Hinduism or Hindu issues even though Hindus make up a large part of its world audience.
RS: There seems to be a large element of land-grab in the actions of Christians in India. They buy land, get it ceded by the authorities, and then grab the hillsides by painting crosses on rocks and claiming the area as Christian.
IS : The Christian Churches are the largest landowners in India after the government. Much of this land is alienated temple land that was given to them by the British in the 19th century. They also own large amounts of prize commercial property in the cities. This fact has become a scandal among many of the Christian faithful who do not feel that their Churches should be real estate agents and owners.
However, this observation is not true of the newer, smaller American Churches like Pentecostals and Evangelicals who have mounted a caste war against the Hindus and seek to provoke the Hindu community at every opportunity. They simply grab land in the towns and districts by painting crosses and Christian slogans on stones and hillsides and then claiming the property as their own.
This activity is especially evident in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. In Arunachal Pradesh where proselytising and conversion are illegal, Christians claim whole villages and put up signboards that say “Non-Christians Not Allowed” at their entrances. These Arunachal converts originate from Mother Teresa’s institutions in Assam where they are indoctrinated and baptized and then sent back to their villages to convert the elders.
In Tamil Nadu Christian slogans appear on Hindu pilgrim routes to Tirupati and on the route around Arunachala Hill at Tiruvannamalai that pilgrims circumambulate on full moon days. I am told that Christians plan to raise a cross on the hill’s summit when the opportunity arises. I am not at all surprised. The theoretical ground for this “good deed” has been laid years ago by Catholic theologians and missionaries like Fr. Raimundo Panikker and the Benedictine monk Abhishiktananda. They have already claimed the holy hill and all of India for Christ in their writings. I myself hope that the cross-raising comes soon. Perhaps then Hindu leaders and district officials will wake up to the threat that an aggressive, proselytising Christianity poses to Hinduism’s most ancient sacred sites.
RS: There are detailed war-game scenarios on the Internet by various Christian fundamentalist groups who have identified India as a soft target for conversion.
IS : India is a soft target for the Christian missionary for a number of reasons. Firstly, Hindu society still suffers from many social ills that the missionary can exploit; secondly, Hindu society is by nature pluralistic and accommodating of all ideological views including those that would destroy it; and thirdly, Hindu society is divided against itself and its religious and political leaders have failed it totally. These leaders with few exceptions are not willing or able to challenge the ideological forces that would destroy Hindu religion and society.
The result is that Christianity and its younger sister Marxism have the ideological upper hand in India today. They have an unhealthy influence on government, education, publishing, the English-language media, and some vital social services. It is a shocking situation for which Hindus themselves are to blame―even if the overall situation is a legacy of British days. The very fact that Hindu intellectuals and entrepreneurs are not able to publish a national daily newspaper of record and present their own point of view to the world is sad proof of Sri Aurobindo’s observation that Hindus have lost the power to think.
RS : There is the decline of the Church, particularly the Catholic Church, in Europe and the Americas. Hence the need to find new recruits to man the barricades in the growing clash of civilizations with Muslims. There is the need to create nuns and priests in Kerala as they provide a lot of menial labour in European convents and monasteries. Is there a pattern? Is there an element of racial exploitation as well?
IS : As this is the last question, I would like to make a digression before replying to it. New converts to Christianity like to tell me, a white foreigner of European descent who has lived among the white Jews of Israel, that Jesus was an Asian and by extension he was therefore an Indian. I am very much amused by this rhetoric. It is so juvenile and simplistic. There is a whole world of difference between Abrahamic West Asia and Hindu South Asia. To begin with one is white and the other is brown.
But were Jesus born in Asia, Africa or Antarctica―we must assume here that he had a human birth―he is verily the white man’s god and personifies the white man’s race and values. Look at any statue or painting of him. He has red or brown hair, blue eyes, a Roman nose, and lily-white skin. If you take a peek under his Roman toga you will find that he has been circumcised―a very un-Indian custom except among Muslims who follow a West Asian religious code copied from Judaism.
Now, it is true that Hindu sadhus had penetrated the Egyptian desert as early as the 4th century BCE and that Brahmin pandits and Buddhist monks taught at the great university of Alexandria in the first centuries BCE-CE, but their contribution was to Jesus’s philosophy not to his ethnicity and culture. Where then is the Indian Jesus? And who is fooling whom by pretending that Israelite is synonymous with Indian?
St. Thomas too had a Roman nose, blue eyes, red hair, and a lily-white skin. He too was circumcised. He was Jesus’s look-alike twin brother according to the Acts of Thomas. He wore a Roman toga and lay at table to eat and drink just like a Roman aristocrat. All of these facts require some explaining by the local Indian Christian priest if we are to accept him as our own Indian apostle. And I am talking here only about physique and culture, not about the vexatious doctrinal problem of there being two Sons of God, Jesus and Judas―for St. Thomas was known as Judas Didymus the twin of Jesus.
Now to your question. Brown Indian priests and nuns are the peasant workers of the White Catholic Church. They are welcome in Europe and America to clean the toilets and scrub the floors of the empty convents and seminaries, nurse the sick and dying, present the news in funny English on Vatican Radio, write lengthy dissertations on indigenizing the Church in India, and get trained as native missionaries for work in the jungles and outback.
This is the pattern and it has been followed for decades. Indian priests and nuns are numerous and expendable. They are everywhere there is dirty work to be done. They are the first victims of the white man’s most elitist institution. Casteism is rampant. They seldom if ever move up the ecclesiastical ladder if there is a white European available to fill the post. There are in South India only two or three Dalit bishops and one of them is an Anglican (CSI).
Everybody knows that if a black pope were ever elected―and Indians are black people according to Europeans―the Catholic Church would lose half of its membership. It cannot be otherwise in a European feudal institution whose bishops wrote the first theoretical justification for slavery in the 16th century. After all, the Bible says (1 Peter 2:18-25); “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward.”
I have had more than one Dalit convert tell me that the racism and caste prejudice within the Christian Churches is a crime against humanity. I have to agree. I have to say after a lifetime of study, that the advent of Christianity and its forced establishment in the Roman Empire under the wicked Emperor Constantine is one of the great disasters in the history of mankind.