Sunday, December 14, 2014

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 (practically 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 TB 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 interiorize 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 SR 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 worldview and way of life than its challengers.




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 (eventhough 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 Chrstians 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 VD Savarkar, a Hindu is one who considers India both his Fatherland and Holyland. 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 provider 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 interpretatio 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 anymore 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 worldview 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 worldview 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.

(Hindu Human Rights, 14 Dec. 2014)


Anveshana said...

Recently VHP converted some Muslims. The question came to my mind was; "To which caste? Who would marry their daughters and sons? ". If they have to marry amongst themselves, what is the meaning of this conversion? (Forget the question, do they have right to become pontiff of one of the sacred Matas).
If someone discourages conversion of any Europeans, it is probably they themselves are confused. What brackets these converted people should go?

We can say "conversion" only if a person can get an entry into a caste. Like the act of acharya Ramanuja. He gave diksha for everyone to embrace Brahminism. Govinda Dixita put a sacred thread for a Muslim boy Sheriff, two centuries ago. Today, if there has to be an act of conversion (either from other religion or other castes), it can be channelised by respective caste heads, VHP cannot do that.
Rest can only be termed as integration. Like ISCON followers in west. They would be Hindus (if they want to call themselves one). There is no need to ask for anybody's permission or acceptance. (There is no such authority in Hinduism either).
They will have their own distinct culture like rest of the castes are. (This Western Hinduism can be accepted in a similar way as eastern Christianity). This would broaden Hinduism with more categories/communities or castes.

Regarding the alienation one experience as a European in Hinduism and the presumption that all other communities are doing fine. This dissatisfaction is the common string that binds every community in Hinduism.
We hear instances where some Dalit boys are killed in villages for entering a temple breaking the rules imposed by other communities. What would be in their mind? They must be feeling, they are the most discriminated, just because of their birth.
Other backward communities, who constitute more than 60 to 70% of the population. How would they feel with the fact that, more than 50% jobs are taken by one community (Brahmins) who constitutes less than 3% of the population? Don't they feel, they are discriminated?
Then the supposed to be top class, the Brahmins. They have been continuously targeted because some Manu wrote a Smriti thousands of years ago, which none of them or their ancestors read (Manusmriti was never a Veda or Bhagavad Gita), forget practicing. Still they are accused of creating (?) and maintaining casteism, Some of them are even driven out from their land either due to hatred or reservation policies. If someone asks them they would say, they are the most prosecuted communities in India (There was a recent article in Times of India by a Tamil Brahmin on this).

The reason why Hinduism must have been equal to all is, everyone feels the same. "Only they (their community) are discriminated, rest all are doing fine with their identity". You may not care, but with your whining you have proved your membership of Hinduism. Welcome to the club, Mr. Elst. :-)

Unknown said...

Dr. Elst, I agree on this one whole heartedly, especially the one about the internet duffers. I would also urge you to ignore the hate mailers, although I agree that it is very easy to advise. But, and this is really from the bottom of our hearts, there are very few intellignet people like you who correctly represent the Indic viewpoints. I apologize for my Hindu - hate mail - "brethen". They have to take out their impotent rage on someone...

Secondly, the question remains as to which caste should say Muslim converts be fitted into. Is not the answer to this that caste should become irrelevant in Hindusium? But do you think this is possible?
Lastly, I agree that India is irrelevant to the survival of Hinduism. But why should we give easy victories to the Islamists? Indeed, though it may seem laughable today, may not India become the graveyard of Islam?

Unknown said...

Dr. Elst,

I dont think conversion is important - it is a non issue. The quest should be for higher truth. In case some philosophy postulates truth better than Vedantic thought - one should embrace it and at the same time - i feel - one should expose false beliefs.

Nonetheless - your contribution to Hindu cause is immense. My respects.

Gururaj B N said...

Though I would love to see the Hindu numerical strength grow through conversions, practically, I think it will be problematic for the converts, as Dr.Koenraad Elst rightly puts, one cannot enter into a caste. Consequently, there is a danger that the coverts become another caste by itself, just as Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samajs have become separate castes for all practical purposes.

There is another recent phenomenon thanks to globalisation and exposure of of fairly large number of urban Hindus to other religions and societies. Inter-caste marriages have become fairly common. But, such couple find it difficult to find alliance for their children within their original caste. They have to start looking for alliance amongst families who are also different castes. Gradually, off springs of inter-caste marriages are emerging as separate matrimonial group on the matrimonial websites.

In the State of Karnataka, there is a proposal to do caste-religion based census. The government plans to identify inter-caste families and inter-religion families. This move is bound to accentuate the distinct nature of such groups. BJP opposes this move as it apprehends that eventually the government may treat them as another minority community, leading t further shrinkage of the Hindu constituency.

Therefore,it seems that Hindu strength can grow only by progeny, not by conversion. But alas, the Hindus have sold themselves to the concept of nuclear families, and DINK families.

S.Srinivas said...

It is Hindu conservatism which is hindering Hindu unity.

Gururaj B N said...

It seems to me that the geography of India is intrinsic to Hinduism. The deserts, rivers, mountains and plains of India have played an important role in shaping the Hindu thought. Apart from the parts of Mahabharata, and Puranas which extol the glory of Bharata as a land, the very shaping of Hinduism has been strongly influenced by the indian land and its mix of tribal and migrant population. I think, Hinduism cannot be divorced from India, nor India from Hinduism. I wonder would Hinduism have been same, had it grown in an arid zone instead of fertile Gangetic Plains.

Shravan Tanjore said...

Dr. Elst it is better to have a utilitarian attitude. You have read the works of Yagnavalkya and Dirghatamas. Two people you seem to admire the most. Follow them and rejoice in your Immortality like Yama said to Nachiketa.

I have one question though what varna did Raikva who instructed Janashruti belong to?.

Finally Hinduism is also an ancestor worshipping religion, I suppose that is why many Hindus feel awkward about ANY non Hindu wanting to practice Hinduism. Who is he going to give offerings to? his non Hindu ancestors? Ritually speaking it is quiet Confusing.

bharat said...

Dr.Elst, please continue your great work. I consider you a great Karma Yogi and an intellectual Kshatriya. Many people with shallow knowledge have cropped up on the internet in recent times who resort to abuses. Don't worry about them. There are many like me who have read your works and hold you in high regards.
I feel being an outsider who knows as much as an insider gives you an edge as you'd take an unbiased position. Your critique of RSS & BJP is in that direction only. Maybe if you had become a Hindu you might be obliged to praise the sangh. Your critique of the sangh is much needed.

Unknown said...

Dear Koenraad,

I have followed your works for quite some time. I believe that you have been in the wrong company of Hindus who believe that you are an outsider. I don't subscribe to this view. Lots of Westerners have converted to Hinduism after reading the Bhagavad Gita. I have always welcomed such people. Such people, I believe, are more knowledgeable than the average Hindu. Nothing stops you from practicing Hinduism your own way. And the best part is that no ritual is required.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant. This antidote is always needed. Had the opportunity to interact briefly with you in WHC-14 and as i shared then... in the final sense anyone working on himself is a hindu [in-do] and a State doing so is Hindi [in-deed]. Sanataani is the correct non-reactive term.

Sagar M said...

Question of a brotherhood of purely Hindu faith is extremely problematic.

Some swear on Upanishads, ISKON people say 'Krishna and Krishna Only, ones like Lingayats and Shaiva Siddhanta folks dont have no time for Vedas and Shaktas swear by Tantric traditions.

So much opinions and thats fine - but where is the fraternity of faith?

Maybe we must stop speaking about a geo-historical 'Hindu" and instead focus on a purely religious SMARTHA identity that is based on PANCHADEVATA (Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti, Ganesha and Surya) veneration.

Imagine what would have happened if ancient 'Hindus' who were concentrated along banks of Saraswati had not taught wisdom of Rishis to people of rest of South Asia and South East Asia! Had it been so, 'Hinduism' would have by now become a faith of a small people who would be a minority in their own homeland - much like Yezidis.

Karthikrajan said...

Anyone who speaks for the cause of truth can call himself a hindhu.
Modern science ushered in during the renaissance period is in fact a quest for truth - to understand everything under the sun. Everyone treading this path is a hindhu.

madh said...

Belonging to any particular caste is not a need to be a Hindu. Iam in my late 50s. So far I have lived a Hindu without any caste. In my educational certificates there is only Hindu but no caste is mentioned. Also for my daughter I have not put any caste, but only Hindu, like me. She is married a good boy doing software like her. Nowadays a lot of inter caste, inter state marriage is happening in India. It is better to understand the latest trends in India. My only worry was my daughter marrying Muslim or a Chrisitian. But that too I will agree provided that boy will convert to Hinduism. For me Hindu and Hinduism is most precious thing. According to me caste is good so far if one can make any financial gain or educational or government job reservations. Otherwise who needs a caste? I am born a Hindu, daily worship Hindu Gods and Goddesses in Hindu temples and at home and even run a Hindu religious magazine in my language, though infrequently and publish books occasionally based on Hindu spirituality and politics. My life's great dream is to spread Hinduism everywhere in the world, convert as many as to Hinduism including Latin Americans, Arabs,Wildest Africans etc. I want my religion which I believe is the super religion to be received by all. Of course it is born in India region and cultivated here. But that is no reason to block/limit its growth on filmisical grounds. In religion demography counts a lot. According to me it is the monopolistic thinking of Hindus in India that is prohibiting Hinduism spreading far and wide. If Buddhism born in Indian could be spread worldover, Islam and Christianity born in the middle east deserts could be propagated and spread world over why not Hinduism? Hinduuism used to go past the seas but something happened hindering its progress. Let all hinderences be removed including caste, color of skin or continents. Each Arab trader voyaging in the seas were the ambassodors of his religion. Christianity spend billions of cash and employ lakhs of men and women to spred it. They have got power, money, countries to back. Only Hinduism is living isolated. Even a mild religion like Budhism spread very soon and and still popular.

KR Dasharathi said...

Hinduisam does not get exalted by praise or denounced by criticism since it is based on attaining the absolute truth by certain religious observances related to caste by birth & eternal principles. If the caste system is taken out of hinduism the resulting Hinduism cannot be practiced as per scriptures. As such, the desired results of spiritual upliftment cannot be obtained. Hinduism is therefore unique in the sense that it is based on the Vedas and other scriptures which cannot be transgressed. Therefore a true conversion to Hinduism is not a viable proposition to any foreigner in my opinion. Westerners denounce Hinduism for its caste system not knowing that the bad effects attributed to the caste system are due to the way it is practiced by unethical persons. Such bad things exists in all religion's due to the existence of good and bad persons, the creation of whom is again an act of God. Westerners always feel that others should think and act like as they do and other things are sham. They have to be made aware that the system of democracy, equality etc practiced by them holds good only for materialistic prosperity and sensual enjoyments as an outcome or end result. Science and technology can find their limits in course of time and cannot give everlasting happiness. They can only better how life is lived. It should not be forgotten that the hindu seers attempted at the ultimate absolute happiness from primordial times which is not comparable to any type of sense pleasures. Since it gives the ultimate solution to the life's unending travails the path is also difficult and might look strange and crooked to westerners unused to such ideas and thoughts. That might be the reason, perhaps that God has oriented this great country with a unique system to approach him. If one thinks these are useless shackles imposing restrictions on human thought and actions it is better that they follow the materialistic/atheistic paths of self aggrandisement. Also it needs a particular temperament to be a hindu, which even many hindus have unfortunately lost due to imposition of western culture. As I think most westerners do not have this type of attitude, they will try to remould Hinduism to their taste if they convert to hinduism for some reasons beyond anyone's control. They think that Hinduism consists of weird notions and practices, which is unsuitable to them and has to be changed by pounding it and imposing their thoughts. As it is happening, only totally westernised hindus who have made bold to de-link themselves with hinduism for the sake of money other ideas projected as glittering and the only best way to lead a life, advise westerners to embrace Hinduism as they now have realised that their lives are dead ends and they want the best of both the worlds.

Somasekhar said...

My heartfelt thanks to you Sri Koenraad Elst.

vamanan sight said...

Koenraad ji, no need truly for any change in name. As the Gita says, What was not is not going to be, and what is, always is. As a Hindu, I like you as you are.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Koenraad, In the world of the real Hindus who have no political axe to grind, you are already very well known and respected. My deepest respects and humblest pranams to you Sir. May your quest continue to enlighten us all

Sandesh said...

Sir, Is there any ceremony needed to become a Hindu ? AFAIK, there is no such thing like conversion. In fact going by the ancient texts the definition of religion becomes what is right. And not Islam, Christianity, etc.
One doesn't needs to be a part of any organized religion to follow the spiritual practices given in Mahabharat amd Ramayan.
Anyone can freely call oneself the follower of Hinduism, there is no bar, and no permissions needed.

Venkat said...

Technically "Conversion to a Faith/Religion is a "Sacrament". The ancient Vedic Rishis were of diverse origins. As far as practicing Hinduism is considered a "Deeksha" (Initiation) would be sufficient. Basically Sanskrit language, Vedas, Ayurveda, Yoga , NatyaShastra, Gita, etc belong to NO particular nation or ethnicity or caste or even region.

I would also like to state about a second type of conversion i.e. "Sanyasa" or "Monkhood". Many orders like Divine Life Society, ISKON, Saiva Siddhanta Church, Ekasarana Dharma (Assam), Gorakhpanth, Kabirpanths, Arya Samaj have always accepted people from all backgrounds.

Unknown said...

dear Koenraad elast you are a true vedantic hindu.labels donot matter to you as you are a real karmyogi. Hindus can never repay back your debt on them as you kindled the arguments to them to go to their root source without a prejudiced are younger then me but i bow before you for your knowledge about the group of liberated souls called as sanatan dharmis or labelled as hindus,just like in epic age learned king Janak bowed before the young ashtavakra for his knowledge.
you are the best of hindu and i accept you as a part of vasudhava kutumbakam and your mission of opening eyes of the aryan( noble ) world view -the vedic view point of civilizing mankind-krinvanto vishwaaryan.
with warm affection
Dr. Vishwadarshi

Mahesh said...

nice post! please provide lingashtakam lyrics in english as am a english reader.

Unknown said...

Dr. Koenraad Elst is one of the very few individuals who has a profound understanding of what Hinduism is. It would be wrong to see him a a non-Hindu missionary agent because his writings go far beyond the myopic view of a religion. I have benefitted from his writings and have come to respect his views.

Indeed I too like you (and respect you) as you are. Thank you for your effort to help we the Hindus gain a better understanding of our religion.

Unknown said...

Dr. Koenraad Elst is one of the very few individuals who has a profound understanding of what Hinduism is. It would be wrong to see him a a non-Hindu missionary agent because his writings go far beyond the myopic view of a religion. I have benefitted from his writings and have come to respect his views.

Indeed I too like you (and respect you) as you are. Thank you for your effort to help we the Hindus gain a better understanding of our religion.

Unknown said...

Dr. Koenraad Elst is one of the very few individuals who has a profound understanding of what Hinduism is. It would be wrong to see him a a non-Hindu missionary agent because his writings go far beyond the myopic view of a religion. I have benefitted from his writings and have come to respect his views.

Indeed I too like you (and respect you) as you are. Thank you for your effort to help we the Hindus gain a better understanding of our religion.

Unknown said...

Caste is not relevant in the sense.. what u work that becomes ur caste/jati... Or create a new caste/jati..these castes are not fixed, can be created / destroyd..

Anonymous said...

Arya SAMAJ are not a caste. They don't even believe in caste. They could be looked as a different branch of Hinduism. As there are Samkya and etc.

Venkat Raman said...

Dear Elst,

One question kept appearing in my mind reading this article - why is acceptance by Hindus (or by a section of Hindus viz., hate mailers) important? Not just ISKON, we have a Hawaian Saivite (founded by Sivaya Subramanya Swaigal) organization which embraces people without assigning castes. I also feel that Varna as mentioned in the Vedas is different from Jati. Varna (I am not trying to pontificate - you know more than me) is more to do with which Guna you belong to rather than your birth. Eventually varna does degenerate to caste. But the corrective is already there in the Vedas to fallback on. Many Hindu saints have shown the way - they matter more than the hate-mailers. I know the main problem - you are an intellectual - a Jnani. Not a Bhaktha type.

Unknown said...

You can adopt Hindu names as David Frawley is known as Vamadeva Shastri. I know another calling himself Pandit.
No on can stop them. I even know Muslims with Hindu sounding names like Veena, Anand, Vikram, Tanvir etc.

So what.

Yogesh Jayant Khandke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.