Monthly Archives: November 2008

** Inculturation: Fooling Hindus

Inculturation: Fooling Hindus

Nithin Sridhar, ivarta

In early 1982, Father Joseph Parekatil of the Catholic Church of Parasahi, Madhya Pradesh, destroyed the sacred murthi of the Goddess Visweshwari Siddheswari enshrined on the nearby Nawain Tekdi hill and erected a small wooden cross. Later, the father erected a 31 – foot high concrete cross illegally on the hill on February 18th, 1983. Enraged villagers destroyed the cross a month later on March 17th.

On February 20th, 1985, with the intent once again of trying to gain possession of the hill, Father Parekatil put on the orange robes of a Hindu sannyasin, built a hut on the hill, sat on a tiger skin and began performing worship in the Hindu style. As a result, thousands of simple Hindus came to the hill on Fridays, unaware of the deception they were witnessing.

On May 18th, a complaint was registered, but to no avail. Again there was agitation in the area, and this time, on October 1st, 1985, the villagers tore down the priest”s hut and tossed away the remaining pieces of the concrete cross. Father Parekatil only gave up when he was arrested a week later for breaking the peace and released on bail with instructions to behave [1].

This tactics used by Father Parekatil of adopting Hindu symbols, to further his missioanry goal is called as “Inculturation” or “Indigenization”. Christianity has always been following a policy of “Inculturation.”

This means that it adopted Pagan elements in Christianized form in order to ease the transition from Paganism to Christianity. Pagan gods became Christian saints. Pagan Festivals became Christian festivals.In this process of inculturation, the Christian Church adapted old forms to its new message, but made sure that through the Pagan veneer the Christian doctrine was impressed upon the converts [2]. “Indigenization,” says Kaj Baago, “is evangelization. It is the planting of the gospel inside another culture, another philosophy, another religion [3]”. In Indian case, “Inculturation” or “Indigenization” means “the incorporation of Jesus in Indian spiritual tradition”.

Fr. Bede says “In India we need a Christian Vedanta and a Christian Yoga that is a system of theology which makes use not only of the terms and concepts but of the whole structure of thought of the Vedanta [4].”

Shantivanam Ashram on the banks of the sacred Cauvery River at a forested place near Trichy in South India appears Hindu. It has a Hindu shrine; saffron-robed “swami” seated cross – legged on a straw mat; devotees practising yogic meditations, even chanting Hindu scriptures. But these impressions gradually prove false. First, the eye detects that the courtyard shrine is for Saint Paul and that “puja” is actually, a daily Mass, complete with incense, arati lamps, flower offerings and prasadam. Finally, one meets the “swami”, learning he is Father Bede “Dayananda” Griffiths, a Christian “sannyasin”. This is a Christian ashram, one of more than 50 in India, which are variously described as “experiments in cross-cultural communication,” “contemplative hermitages that revolve around both Christian and Hindu ideals.

Fr. J. Monchanin [5], one of the founding members himself defines his mission in these terms: “I have come to India for no other purpose than to awaken in a few souls the desire (the passion) to raise up a Christian India. It will take centuries, sacrificed lives and we shall perhaps die before seeing any realizations. A Christian India, completely Indian and completely Christian will be something so wonderful the sacrifice of our lives is not too much to ask.” His words clearly show the motive behind these ashrams.

Lausanne Movement (for world evangelization) published a paper “Christian witness to Hindus [6]” (1980). In the report, under the title “Methodology Issues” lists some of the methods to be implemented to convert Hindus.

Some of them are-

(1) We should enunciate theology in Indian categories so that the Hindu can understand the gospel.

(2) We must develop a truly Christian world view consistent with the Indian context.

(3) While presenting the gospel, we must be aware of the fact that the Hindu understands the doctrine of God, man, sin, and salvation in a way entirely different from the biblical doctrine.

(4) Communicate the gospel through indigenous methods such as bhajans, drama, dialogue, discourse, Indian music, festival processions, etc.

Sita Ram Goel, in his book “Catholic Ashrams [7]”, lists 108 such Christian ashram in India, 4 in Nepal and 8 in Sri Lanka. His list includes Asha Niketan, Bangalore, Karnataka, Bethany Ashram (1938), Channapatna, Karnataka, Christa Sevakee Ashram (1950), Karkala, Karnataka, Christian Institute for the study of Religion and Society, Bangalore, Karnataka, Yesu Karuna Prarthanalaya, Kote, Mysore District, Karnataka. The present Catholic ashrams have inherited a history of intrigue and subterfuge.

Here is a description from the “Madhya Pradesh Report(1956) [8]”: “Robert De Nobili (A Catholic Jesuit priest) appeared in Madura in 1607 clad in the saffron robes of a Sadhu with sandal paste on his forehead and the sacred thread on his body. He gave out that he was a Brahmin from Rome. He showed documentary evidence to prove that he belonged to a clan that had migrated from ancient India. He declared that he was bringing a message which had been taught in India by Indian ascetics of yore and that he was only restoring to Hindus one of their lost sacred books, namely the 5th Veda, called Yeshurveda (Jesus Veda). It passed for a genuine work until the Protestant Missionaries exposed the fraud about the year 1840. This Brahmin Sannyasi of the “Roman Gotra”, Father De Nobili, worked for 40 years and died at the ripe age of 89 in 1656. It is said that he had converted about a lakh of persons but they all melted away after his death“.

This is the situation the Hindu finds himself in. Christian missionaries have adopted Hindu ways of life, Hindu religious symbols, architecture, worship forms and declared themselves as Swamis. A Catholic priest who calls himself “swami” instantly attains the status and authority of a holy man in Hindu society, which he can use to make converts.

By using Sanskrit terminology in his sermons he implies a close relationship of Hindu theology to Catholic theology, a relationship which does not really exist. Such missionaries speak authoritatively on Hindu scriptures and argue that their [Christian] teachings are consonant with everything Hindu, but add a finishing touch, “fullness” to the traditional faith.

Related stories:

Shalokas on Mount @

What’s in Name? @

What Made Hindus Angry 



Filed under Conversion by Missionaries, Religion