Sunday, August 8, 2010

It is yogic, not demonic spirituality! - Pat Robertson

 Title : It is Yogic, Not Demonic Spirituality
Author : Ram Swarup
Publication : Hindustan Times
Date: October 9, 1995.

ON  March  23 this year, Pat Robertson led  a  television programme  in  which he attacked Hinduism. He  called  it "demonic" and said that Hindus should be kept out of  the United  States.  He said that they  worship  "idols"  and "hundreds  of  millions of deities," which   "has  put  a nation in bondage to spiritual forces that have  deceived many for thousands of years." He spoke against the doctrines  of karma and incarnation. Then not  forgetting the practical side, he appealed for funds: "Help us carry the light to a nation in darkness," he said.   

Such sentiments are not new to American evangelists or to the world. But their importance in  this particular  case lies  in  the  fact  that they  were  made  by  Rev.  Pat Robertson,  a  national figure of America. He  stood  for Presidential election in 1988; and he heads a 1.4 million member Christian Coalition which has  great influence  in the new  Republican-controlled  Congress.                          

Pat  Robertson is also very powerful in the media. He  is the head of a Christian broadcasting network, the world's largest  television  ministry  beaming  its   evangelical programmes to 70 countries. Its 700-Club is notorious for bashing  non-Christian  religions.  On  the  said   date, Robertson  was  speaking  under  the  auspices  of   this programme. 

To  understand him better, it may also be mentioned  that earlier  in the year, he had visited Andhra to take  part in  a Ceremony of converting Hindus - to set  them  "free from  a  lifetime of fear and demonic oppression"  as  he puts it.                  

Evangelism  is  an important component  of  the  American psyche and we should take due notice of it. We owe it  to us as well as to those who hold such  opinions about  us. While helping them to outgrow their prejudices we  should also   isolate  the"  elements  and  prevent  them   from spreading  their poison. Hinduism should learn  to  speak out.  I  will help better  relations  and   understanding between the two peoples.      

In   America  itself,  these  remarks  would  have   gone unnoticed  as  usual among the Hindus  had  not  Hinduism Today, an excellent monthly journal published from Hawaii by  Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (no NRI but a  native white  Hindu  monk) with the help of his  talented  group taken up the issue. It published those remarks adding its own  reasoned rejoinder. It made many Hindus sit up   and some  wrote  letters  of protest.  To  one  such  protest letter, Pat Robertson made a reply  which while retaining its theology intact was more restrained in language.

The reply is in some ways more than a fulmination; it  is a credo, an ideological statement  and therefore deserves a different kind of notice. It also reveals blocks  which are not of Robertson's alone but are widely prevalent  in the  Christian world. Therefore to discuss them  has  its larger usefulness.               

In his reply, Rev. Robertson  says that he has no  intent "to  offend  anyone", that he wants it to  be  understood that  he believes in "religious freedom"; but that  while he  respected the rights of others, he adds, he has  also "a  responsibility to speak the truth". Fair enough.  And then  continuing he tells us that the  truth is "that the Hindu faith has absolutely nothing to do with God!"  Then quoting  the Bible  for his authority, he says in  lively Americanism that "there is only  one way to hit the  mark and  that  is to come to Jesus Christ." At  the  end,  he 
modestly  says: "I don't make the rules - God, makes  the rules."                

The  reply  is  interesting; it is  brief  but,  rich  in traditional  Christian  theology. It reveals in  a  clear profile   the   unchanging   face  of   Christianity,   a Christianity  which  still lives in  medieval  times  and refuses  to  change.  It gives in  a  few  sentences  the important  elements of Christian theology: a  single  and exclusive God, an equally single and exclusive channel of reaching him, and a conception of truth which  is  ready-made, which requires to  self-preparation, and which can be had by simply looking it up in a particular book.               

First about Hindus having no God, though they have  often been accused of having too much  of him and too many like him. Let us however readily admit that Hindus do not have a  god of the Biblical tradition, the god of  Robertson's familiarity. Their  god is not Jehovah, an exclusive god, a  jealous  god,  a god who  denies other  gods.  In  the Vedas, the oldest scripture of the Hindus, gods are often invited  to  offered "conjoint" praise and it   does  not 
offend  any  one of them. They even believe  that  praise offered  to  one  is meant for others  too  and  actually received   by   them  together.  Vedic   gods   live   in friendliness; they do not deny each other.

This approach is not peculiar to Hindus. It was shared by the  Chinese, the Egyptians, the  Greeks, the Romans  and most  other  advanced cultures and    peoples.  Like  the Hindus they   could easily see their gods in the gods  of others. Greek and Roman gods were habitually regarded  as indenting  and  Caesar and Tacitus  routinely  identified the deities of Gaul and Germany  with those of their own. The Greeks had no difficulty in recognising their gods in the gods  of the Hindus. It is the Semitic  tradition  which sees their devils in the gods of others.              

This  negative view derives from another  basic  biblical concept  - that their god is one and  the only true  god. True,  this view  implies that there are other gods  too, but  it  is freely and repeatedly stated  that  they  are "false"   and they are "abominations" and they are to  be dethroned.      

They are often the gods of their neighbours. Hindus  have  no god of this description. True  they  too often   describe their god as one (ekam), but  they  also call  him   many  (aneka).  Moreover  he  belongs  to  an entirely different thought-system, a different  spiritual view, a different universe of  discourse.                           
Strictly  speaking,  Hindus do  not believe in  one  God, they  believe in one reality, ekam sat.  They do not  say there  is only one God; they say God alone is. The  unity of  Hindu  God is spiritual, not numerical;  He  pervades all;  He  is one in all and the same in all; He  is  also beyond all. Semitic religions have no such concept.      

Now  we  turn  from  an exclusive  god  to  an  exclusive saviour. The two don't stand apart; they go together.  In this  too,  Rev.  Robertson is saying  nothing  new   but repeating  the  old Christian  doctrine of  No  Salvation outside  of Church, now modified in this  ecumenical  age to  No  Salvation  without Christ. In  his  support,   he quotes the Bible as his authority. This is a curious  way of arguing. You assume what you have to prove, put it  in your  own  book  and then cite it as  your  authority  or proof.    It  would  be  con  scared  dull-witted  in   a sophomore, but in a Christian preacher it makes a  bright and clinching argument.                  

Revelatory   religions   work   through   mediators   and intermediaries. In these ideologies, first there is a god of strong preferences and hatred; he chooses a people but even to them he does not reveal himself directly; on  the other  hand,  he makes his will known to them  through  a favoured  intermediary; who in turn has his  apostles  to broadcast his message; and the next link in the chain are evangelists   -   read  televangelists  in   the   modern 
conditions  -  or  as in  Islamic  tradition  jihadis  or crusaders. It is how revelatory ideologies function.  The message  is received by one but preahed and  relayed  by, others who had no share in the revelation. Their merit is greater if they do it with strong hands and in full faith and   are  troubled  by  no  intellectual   scruples   or conscience. 

In  this too the Hindu tradition differs  completely.  In this  tradition,  God resides in man's heart, and  he  is accessible  to all who seek him in sincerity,  knowledge, truth  and  faith.  In this tradition God  is  man's  own innermost  truth and the seeker finds him in the cave  of his heart, to put it in the Upanishadic language. In this tradition,  God reveals himself directly to  the'  seeker and  needs  no  specially  authorised  saviour,  no   go-betweens. Also, since Hindu spirituality recongnises  God in man, it also recognises great goodness in him. On  the other hand, ideologies which deny man's secret  godliness also deny his essential goodness. They find man basically sinful and unfortunately also treat him so. Finally,  to  Rev.  Robertson's idea  of  truth  and  his responsibility  to speak it. In Hindu  conception,  one's truth  cannot  be greater than one's seeking  .  In  this conception,  truth  does  not  lie  in  a  some  quotable passages of a book. It has to be known through a  culture of the spirit, through great seeking, tapas, purity,  and self-inquiry. Let Rev. Robertson himself find out  how far he is ready for this larger truth.

Hindu  spirituality  is  yogic; it  is  found  everywhere thought  not always equally developed. It is found  among the  wise men of Egypt, Greece, Mexico, China, Today,  it is found in its most preserved form in Hinduism. Hinduism preserves   the  ancient  wisdom  of  many  nations   and cultures,  their Gods and their insights which they  lost under  the  onslaught of  monolatrous  creeds.  Spiritual humanity needs renascent Hinduism for its self revival.

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