A MATTER OF FAITH
By Ranjit Butani
Off late there has been a spate of reports in the media about violent attacks on Christian Churches, Pastors and Priests by way of reprisals led by diverse Hindu Organisations, allegedly against the forced conversions of Hindus to Christians. That these incidents have been reported from diverse geographical locations viz. States of Karnataka, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh and more recently Tamil Nadu & Kerala suggests that this appears to be a fairly widespread phenomenon demanding the immediate attention of citizens of the Indian Nation.
Poverty stricken Hindus are being lured by lucre and gifts, to convert to Christianity.
Unlimited overseas funds are at the disposal of churches and pastors who are wooing the downtrodden, in the interiors of India.
and other similar allegations are being reported.
WHAT IS THE TRUTH?
Why would propagators of one religion, especially in the current modern times when religion is no longer interwoven with monarchy and power, as it once was, persuade or try to convince followers of another religion to convert to their religion? What was the gain?
These thoughts kept recurring every time I read a news report about some incident or saw some atrocities perpetuated on Churches and Priests on TV.
What goaded me into action was the following mail received from Vijay, who is not only a friend but a person dedicated to the cause of Sindhyat :-
Dear Mr. Butani
It is commonly seen that we Sindhis have been striving for protecting our identities, which is being lost day in and day out on account of the reduction in values in our community people and our children and future generations have been losing interest in the Sindhi Culture and language.
I would however like to draw your attention to a bigger problem which our community is facing, wherein we are in the process of negating all the sacrifices made by our ancestors to maintain our identity as Hindu Sindhis.
It has been brought to our notice that there have been rampant conversions of Sindhis in Ulhasnagar and Thane to Christianity.
Initially it was on account of poverty that the poor and needy were being lured with offers of employment and housing and monetary gains, however, nowadays the younger generation is turning to Christianity on account of very heavy propaganda and preaching by the missionaries.
I think the main cause for the same is the neglect of the current parents in educating the children about the values and cultures on which Hindu religion is based.
It is important to educate our children about our literature including the Bhagwad Geeta and the Holy Scriptures like the Vedas and Guru Granth Sahib and thereby educating them about the very high moral values embodied in them, which definitely have become the source of the other religions.
It is also sad to note that the very persons entrusted with the task are either too busy to take note of the matter or in fighting amongst themselves to fulfill their self centered ego.
Some of our own Sindhi politicians have also played a big role in the current situation going out of hand.
I would therefore like to request all right minded people to come forward and take note of the matter seriously, before the situation goes completely out of control.
B. Com., LL.B., F. C. A.
Now we are all aware that HINDUISM accepts, and has great respect and tolerance for every other religion practiced on the globe. We also know that this trait is prevalent in equal if not greater measure amongst the Hindu Sindhis.
• But if what Vijay communicated was factual then what made these Sindhis convert to Christianity?
• Was it a matter of faith or the temptation for a better life financially?
• But isn't it commonly believed that the Sindhi community is sufficiently well-off and we have a number of philanthropists in our community to take care of those not so fortunate?
• Does the community not take pride in its origins – the INDUS VALLEY CIVILISATION from where Hindu Dharm originated?
Questions, Questions, Questions – my mind was in a turmoil. If someone found solace in a different path to salvation – Fine; but if someone changed faiths because of pure worldly comforts or financial benefits – then surely there was something wrong somewhere!
• Have the fortunate few been oblivious or not done enough for the not so fortunate of our community?
• Have we not been able to instill a sense of pride in our children with respect to our scriptures and religious beliefs?
• Is the Christian church really encouraging conversion when, it can equally alleviate the pain of the suffering and needy, of whatever religion, without resorting to encouraging them to convert.?
While contemplating on these aspects I received the following copies by e-mail; communications between 3 Sindhi women; dear friends, who care and are concerned about the future of the community:-
Koshi & Asha,
I received this note from Vijay Kewalramani which he had written to Ranjit Butani. The email is self-explanatory. He talks of mass conversions of Sindhis to Christians. Three years ago, when Ulhasnagar demolitions were in the spotlight, I heard from Ashok Jaisinghani that many Hindu-Sindhis were converting to Muslims in the Pimpri district, just outside Pune where many poor Sindhis live. When people have no jobs or not enough food on the table for their families, you can convert them to anything, even communists.
So nice to hear from you, as always.
How can you prevent people from converting? We have to do something to help them. If we fail them they are bound to turn to those that help them. Religion is just like friendship, with God being the friend. If Hindu God is unhelpful, and Christian God comes to their rescue, the Christian God becomes their savior. All religions are fine all believe in being good and doing good. So the poor Sindhis are not abandoning God, just going to a different form of God.
Geeta says we are creations of God, that we are indeed 'Gods' , that we should behave like Gods. Hindus believe in Karma and Dharma, we are given the power to do what we want, with the hope that we all will do what is right. So as Gods we should help these impoverished people. But we don't. Christians believe in destiny and yet they help the downtrodden.
We have the knowledge but as a society we do not have the conscience to do the right.
The rich feel that by performing poojas and giving away money to pundits, they have come nearer to God. And that is as far from the truth, from God, as they can get.
It is our desires that keep us away from 'God'. It is for our own desires, for our own wants and greed that we perform poojas. While the poor starved people look at us pleadingly, we look the other way. When they go elsewhere, where people care, we blame them, we get upset, we want to do something. But we cannot.
It is our culture, specially the Sindhi culture - to keep collecting as much as you can, whether you need it or not, comparing ourselves to the others, wanting to get better than the other, envying the clothes, jewelry, homes, cars, restaurants and what not that belong to others, even spouses!. We never once look into our hearts, into our souls, to see what is really the truth, where the happiness truly lies.
The living Sindhis want to spread the Sindhi culture for sake of pride, not because there is something precious about it. Our forefathers were different, say our old parents. There was love and care for our brethren. But that is all gone. Now Sindhi is synonymous with wealth. And not just Sindhis but all Indians. So why would anyone want to remain in that culture. We create the 'untouchables' beat and spit upon those that serve us, calling them 'untouchables'. Even the government did not help out the 'untouchable' Hindus in the floods this week. They were left to drown, read this
While some get very very rich, others starve. The 'Rising India; has more people in poverty than even the African nations, second most in the world.
Poor Krishna and poor Ram. We have let them down, we have let our forefathers, our culture down and we have let ourselves down. We are to blame, not the poor folks that just want one kind word, just one hug, just one meal.
Keep up your great work of spreading the truth. I look forward to hearing back from you.
Much love to you,
I too am in receipt of the Mail from Vijay.
It made me think.
Whatever may be the reasons for getting converted!!
But Hindu Sindhi's are getting converted that is what is bothering.
I won't preach, tell me how to help?
Today while going for my morning walk i had a thought.
we start a drive, collect one Rs or $ or pound from every Sindhi around the globe,
we can come up with a huge sum of money to help the poor if that is the cause of conversion.
But we have to create a very transparent group.
We don't have to go to rich Sindhis for help.
We all are rich enough to contribute one coin; it only requires the will to do. I am ready to start this in Dubai. How about you both in USA.
Let us start there is no time to sleep.
"JAAG SINDHI JAAG-VEL SUMAHAN JI NAHE."
It was the women of the community who reacted and triggered the urge in me to try and get to the bottom of this controversy – at least in nearby Ulhasnagar.
SindhiShaan requested Dr. Narendra Panjwani, resident of Ulhasnagar to conduct a preliminary probe and this is what he had to report:-
Dr. Narendra Panjwani's Report :
I met Shri Dinesh Chawla, a Hindu Sindhi and an Engineer by profession, who has become Pastor of a church at Lachhmi Apartment, near Kacharam Statue, Ulhasnagar – 3.
Chawla claims that there are about 15-20 churches (Kalisiya' or Prathana Ghar) and 8 to 10 Pastors in Ulhasnagar and about 15000 Sindhis follow the path of Jesus and attend church regularly. He named a few active Pastors in Ulhasnagar – Soni Basantani, Heman Vasiyani, Hiro Choithani, Sonu Lahrani. He further stated that there are many Sindhi Pastors at other places in India and abroad, such as Kishore Sadhwani at Nagpur, Rajkumar Nagwani at Jaipur, Vashu Masand in USA, Mahendra Chawla in Dubai and Prakash Khubani in Jakarta.
Pastor Chawla denied rumours about getting funds from Christain Missionaries and said we have formed a Trust called Satya Marg Jeevan Trust and every brother, sister coming here contributes 'offerings' and we utilize the money to distribute Bibles, Stickers promoting the message of Jesus etc.
When asked why were the old Sindhi Hindu names not being changed, he replied we follow the practice of Baptism and path of Jesus – what is in the name.
I also met a few Sindhis, who call themselves 'Followers of Jesus' – Rattan Hiranand Vasiyani, Shewak Vasiyani, Ram Duseja; and their common justification for conversion was they have experienced miracles in their personal lives citing miraculous healing through prayers after converting.
Criticizing the move to retain Sindhi Hindu names by the converts, Social activist and President Lal Sai Mandal – Shri Hardas Thawani who recently organized Hindu Raksha Samelan, said they are misguiding society by not changing their names. They get married to Sindhi Hindu Girls and later on their wives and children automatically get converted to Christains. No Sindhi otherwise would knowingly give their daughter or sister to them in marriage. Besides they get good business because of their fraudulently projected Sindhi identity. He intends to start a movement to boycott these converts in Business and at Social functions, Marriages and Religious functions.
Mr. Atul Vajpayee a VHP leader during his speech at Hindu Raksha Samelan at Ulhasnagar – 5, warned the Christian Missionaries to stop converting Hindu Sindhis otherwise they will start aggressive agitation and will not rest till they are thrown out of Ulhasnagar.
The Independence issue of SANDESH BHARAT has reported several instances of conversions and lamented the passive attitude being adopted by other family members of the converts, the members of the Sindhi community and the spiritual leaders of the community.
There is a report of a well-attended meeting, specially called on this issue on 26th June 2008 at the REGENCY HALL in Ulhasnagar – by stalwarts of the community viz. Gyan Nagdev, Nanik Manglani, Sunder Dangwani, P. H. Ahuja, Narayan Advani, Dharampal Gupta, Satyapal Malani and the “Lion” Hardas Thawani, where it was unanimously resolved that
- The converts must give up their Hindu names.
- Their names must be deleted from Sindhi Panchayats'
Shri Prem Tolani – editor, raises very pertinent questions :-
- Why have not the Christian Missionaries been able to convert even one Sikh or Muslim to Christianity?
- Why has the target been Hindus only?
- Are Sindhi Hindus cowards, selfish, greedy . . . . ?
...... end of report.
After going through Dr. Narendra Panjwani's report I could not restrain myself from seeking a first hand account of what was actually transpiring and with the able and unstinted assistance of my dear friend and well-wisher Ram Jawhrani planned a visit to Ulhasnagar.
So on 30th September, Ram Jawhrani, my colleague from SINDHISHAAN – Kishor Chellaramani and I set forth on our fact finding mission.
Our first halt was the office of Shri Hardas Makhija, a prominent businessman, social-worker and former Mayor of Ulhasnagar. After a few pleasantries we got down to the purpose of our visit and the sentiments expressed by Shri Hardas Makhija were : -
Yes, a number of Sindhis in Ulhasnagar have indeed been converted. We have failed to find the reason why Sindhis are adopting Christianity. Some say money is being offered, but those who have converted are denying this fact. There is another angle also to this – some well to do persons have also converted and in their cases, at least, it cannot be said that money is involved.
All these converts attend their so called 'prayer houses' daily. There may be other communities also like Maharashtrians who have converted, but the majority are Sindhis who are being targeted. It is said that their 'agents' are going from door to door with pamphlets and other forms of literature to promote and propagate the teachings of Christ.
There has been no violence whatsoever against these converts or their places of worship, here in Ulhasnagar. Though some protests have taken place they have been very low profile, like through local newspapers.
While in his office, we spoke over the telephone with several prominent resident Sindhis, who were aware of the phenomenon but unable (or unwilling?) to provide any details except naming a few Sindhi families who had converted.
Has anyone tried to interact with them, or discuss this at length and to analyze the reason or motive?
In due course of time Dr. Narendra Panjwani, who had provided us with the preliminary report dropped by and expanded his findings further.
These converts do not call themselves Christians, they call themselves 'Followers of Jesus'. When asked what they write under the column of religion, while filling up any forms, etc. they replied we write – Followers of Jesus. Since they don't call themselves Christians, they do not call their places of worship as Church.
The main point to note is that they are not openly declaring themselves as Christians or converts. When Mr. Hardas Tharwani spoke against them, as stated in my report, there was a police complaint lodged against him that he is hurting sentiments and feelings. So people are afraid to oppose them openly. This issue of conversions has been going on from quite some time, but has gained momentum since the last 6 months or so. The main spark to ignite this issue was some article that appeared in the newspaper against the politician 'Mr. Pappu Kalani' for inaugurating one such prayer hall and then from there this opposition to conversions has gained momentum.
When these converts are asked why they are trying to attract others also to this sect, they reply that they want to bring them on the right path.
There are also unconfirmed reports that Auto Rikshaw drivers are being first tempted to this path and then they are given commission to propagate and get more and more people into their fold, as during the course of their working day they come across many individuals with whom they can converse during the time they commute in the auto rikshaw.
We left the office of Shri Hardas Makhija with an acute feeling of disappointment. Our assessment was that none from the community really seemed to care or bother. A stoical attitude of disinterest and unconcern was gleaned from the various discussions. Truly a sorry state of affairs.
We then made our way to the office of Shri Prem Tolani, President Sindhi Shiksha & Sahitya Sangat and a prominent personality in Ulhasnagar and amongst the Sindhi community all over.
When we expressed our despondency at the seemingly prevalent apathy amongst the community on the conversion issue – he responded in total agreement and we reproduce his comments and views:
It is a sad fact that the general feeling among the Sindhis is that they are least bothered regarding these conversions. Once our people get converted, whether to Christianity or to Islam, then they will surely become Anti-Nationalists. Our politicians and even spiritual leaders are not doing much except for giving lectures.
Somewhere we are at fault. Because we teach our children and youngsters that all religions are the same. So when they convert they point back to us that you had told us all religions are the same, so whats the big deal if we convert from one religion to another?
In the Constitution of India, section 29 and 30 gives the right to the minorities to propagate and promote their religion and these people are taking full advantage of these two sections of our Constitution. Although there is a provision against forceful conversions or conversions by means of allurement, these people are denying the use of force or allurement.
The State Governments do not take any action against minorities be it Muslims or Christians because they are vote banks. The Hindus must react, assert themselves and make their voices heard so that the politicians feel they could loose the majority Hindu vote bank and only then will they wake up to the fact that this is a Hindu State and stop appeasing minorities for selfish political motives. Very often we have seen politicians taking the right step only to back-track subsequently under the pressure of losing out on the minority vote bank – for instance take the famous 'Shah Bano' case and more recently 'the Amarnath incident.'
The solution to this problem, in my view is that the local politicians and religious leaders like Dayal Asha etc. should form a committee and go and talk to these converts. Explain them about the disaster they are leading to and enlighten them regarding our Hindu religion. We should go to diverse places, specially in smaller towns and villages and teach and educate the people about our religion and culture. Many don't know the difference between religions, are ignorant about the facts, don't know about the aftermath of conversions or what these conversions will ultimately lead to in the long run etc.
We are not at all aggressive in our approach specially to the problem of conversion, at the same time we are not properly defensive also so as to save our community from this problem. For example if you try to convert any Muslim, the whole community will be up in arms. Then why we Hindus are so liberal? At such times and situations the thought comes to my mind that we should resort to fundamentalism.
We then made our way to our scheduled meeting with Dr. Dayal Asha Founding Secretary and currently Associate President of Janta Janardhan Parishad and a stalwart of the Sindhi community, at his office at the Shanti Prakash Ashram.
As is his wont, he first made us partake of some snacks with a hot cup of tea and only after inquiring about our health and well being and blessing us, proceeded to give his views on the subject:-
I had spoken to the religious leaders about this issue of conversions, long time back - about 8 to 10 years at a religious meet. Not only here in India, I have spoken about this in various other countries also. Recently I spoke to the bigwigs of Arya Samaj and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and informed them that whereas previously there were only about 250 families who had converted, now the number has swelled to more than 2500 families.
I have also requested Mr. Papu Kalani to call the main head of these converts and to strictly warn him that if they want to stay here in Ulhasnagar they should stay in peace and not try to interfere with our religion or try to attract Sindhis towards their religion by offering monetary assistance or giving residential shelter or helping them in getting their daughters married etc. They should not propagate their religion; specially in schools. I also requested him to refrain from attending any of the functions of these converts. But he expressed his inability to do so, because he said that being a MLA I have to attend various functions organized by people of all castes and religions.
I can at the most give lectures on this issue of conversion and request these politicians and other bigwigs to take appropriate action against the miscreants. After all why did we leave Sindh? It was mainly to save our religion. If we wanted to stay there we could have converted to Islam and stayed back. We came here to India mainly to save ourselves from being converted to another religion, so now why are we abandoning our religion and getting converted to another religion?
Here in Ulhasnagar the majority who are being converted are Sindhis. Here there is lack of support of the politicians, leaders or the religious heads. Many are afraid to raise the voice against these conversions for fear of Police action, because the converts immediately go and lodge a Police complaint against any opponent. They are taking full advantage of our fear, and submissive nature.
I am prepared to participate in any forum that works towards bringing a stop to these conversions.
And on that note we left the Ashram for our final and probably the most revealing round of discussions with Pastor Dinesh Chawla.
It was not without mixed feelings of trepidation and anxiety that we followed Dr. Narender Panjwani up the flight of stairs leading to the Prayer Hall housed on the 1st floor of Lachhmi Apartment Building in Ulhasnagar – 3. A side entrance, with a prominently displayed signage “PRAYER HALL” led to an independent flight of stairs to the same hall, which we learnt was meant for the followers entering for their daily prayers held at the Prayer Hall.
Dr. Panjwani introduced us to Pastor Dinesh Chawla and several others who had come for their evening prayers scheduled at 7:00 p.m.
We were warmly welcomed and shown around the Prayer Hall. It was an open hall with sayings from the bible displayed on the walls with a raised section at one end in the centre of which was placed a podium and some musical instruments and speakers on the sides. We were specifically directed towards a Notice in Hindi (shown in the photograph) stating that “We are in no way connected or associated with Christianity.” “You will see there are no symbols or signs of the cross anywhere” was emphasized.
When asked about the proceedings at the scheduled evening prayers we were informed that just like bhajans or kirtan, there was a session of singing hymns in praise of Jesus, sung in Sindhi and Hindi, as non-Sindhis were also welcome to participate in these prayer meetings. Thereafter prayers were recited by the Pastor from the Bible.
When I asked the Pastor whether on one hand denying any association with Christianity and on the other hand reciting verses from the Bible was not a contradiction, he said, “Just like there are followers of RadhaSoami, BrahmaKumaris, Guru Nanak and Sufism, in a similar way ours is only a different path.”
“So then are you Hindus” was my counter question.
Without replying (did I detect some discomfort?) we were led out of the hall into another room akin to a living room in the apartment and offered tea and snacks, with a murmur of 'let's be comfortable, sit down and discuss'.
Pastor Dinesh Chawla then said “Let me explain……….
I am not a Christian, neither am I a Hindu. Our religion is humanity. We call ourselves 'Followers of Jesus'. We don't believe in any religion. Even our places of worship are not called Churches, but we call them 'Prayer Halls'. Any one can come and join this path, we have followers from all communities Sindhis, Maharashtrians, South Indians, Sikhs etc. We follow the Bible and it is nowhere mentioned in the Bible to form a particular religion, only the Bible is strictly against Idol Worship.
My spontaneous reaction was,
“So then you admit you are not Hindus. You may not be a Christian but then neither are you a Hindu. Okay, that's a matter of personal choice – but what are these stories doing the rounds about forced or induced conversions……”
Pastor Dinesh vehemently denied these as rumour mongering and said . . . .
This issue is not a new phenomenon but has been prevalent in Ulhasnagar since the last 12 to 15 years. It was more prominent in Ambernath initially and now it has gained momentum in Ulhasnagar also. There are about 25,000 Sindhis currently following our path and perhaps more who don't openly proclaim so. Everyone comes to our path by his own choice. I was a playboy type of a person, used to drink a lot, gamble, eve teasing was a hobby etc. But just by coming once to this path my whole personality changed.
To my question, “Does your association, if I may call it so, have some sort of hierarchy or organization that guides your activities etc.” Pastor Dinesh replied in the negative.
We get inspiration from the Channels like 'God', 'Miracle Net' etc. and some other magazines. Ours is a Trust - 'Satya Marg Jeevan Trust'. We are 100% independent and not linked to any Church or any other religious organization. We have no backing – monetary or otherwise from any institution. There are about 40 to 50 such prayers houses registered independently under various names in Ulhasnagar who follow this path, but we all are interlinked to each other.
To whether their group has faced any violence or attacks from Hindu groups, their response was “No when people come and see our activities and experience the power of our Prayers they realize the extent of our service and our goodness towards the sick and needy and never get offensive with us. However in times of crises Christian organizations and Churches do come to our rescue.”
I then enquired if it was open for anyone to establish a prayer hall. Dinesh Chawla replied “Yes, if you truly believe and have received a call from within and have mastered the art of preaching the teachings of the Bible. Next you have to register a trust with the Charity Commissioner.
Ram Jawhrani then enquired if any financial assistance would be provided to establish this prayer hall. Dinesh Chawla replied “No! We (meaning other Trusts) will provide you with no financial assistance – we will support with our prayers.”
I followed up with “And then whoever so registers a Trust and establishes a Prayer Hall can proclaim himself a Pastor?” to which Dinesh Chawla replied “No, for that you have to be Baptised”, “But that amounts to becoming a Christian, doesn't it?” I interjected and Dinesh Chawla immediately denied this by stating “ No, no, read the Bible – baptism doesn't make you a Christian . . . . . .”
[The next day in office I looked up the OXFORD DICTIONARY which defines 'Baptism' as – 'the religious rite, of sprinkling or pouring water on the forehead, or immersion (usually only with adults), symbolizing admission to the Christian Church, generally accompanied by name giving……'
This is strikingly similar to our 'Janyo' ceremony, signifying admission to Hinduism.]
We were, during the course of discussion, joined by Pastor Soni Basantani who presented information about his Prayer Hall.
I have been a pastor since the past 12 years. The name of my Trust is 'Prabhu Ka Darshan' Trust. There is no monetary involvement at all when people want to follow this path. Had it been so then there would have been a long queue of people wanting to join us. We are in no way connected to the happenings in Orissa or Karnataka regarding the 'Conversion Issue.' There is no force or allurement whatsoever, any one who comes to us comes of his own free will. We are believers of Lord Jesus. You can also call us the 'Born Again' group.
We do a lot of work in the slums and with the poor people. We don't go to them but they call us, to solve their problems. You will only realize the benefits once you participate in our Prayer and experience for yourself.
When I asked, “Does that not sound like your making an effort to make me join your path?”, Soni Basantani skirted the issue and began talking about his personal life prior to taking up the path – his vices of wife-beating, gambling etc etc. and how his nature has now changed, something that had no relevance to my question.
Pastor Soni, thereupon rose to leave citing he was late for the 'Prayer Meet' at his hall.
Dr. Panjwani at that point of time commented on the sign of cross on his shirt leading to Pastor Soni's joking remark “I presumed it was the brand logo of the shirt”. And thereupon he took our leave.
“Come on Soni, I'm sure you could have done better than that and as far as the symbol of cross is concerned, a photograph depicting the symbol at another Prayer Hall is evident of the doublespeak”, I thought to myself. (Photograph on this page upper left corner)
It was getting late for their Prayers and so after blessing us with a short prayer and gifting each one of us a bible in Sindhi and a framed message “JESUS LOVES YOU” Pastor Dinesh Chawla bid us adieu with an open invitation to call on him any time for further information.
According to Dr. Narendra Panjwani, the other residents of the building, all Sindhis, though a wee bit apprehensive denied being ever inconvenienced or having faced any hostility from the congregations at the Prayer Hall on the first floor.
We left Ulhasnagar with an acute sense of having missed out on the total factual picture. Did Pastor Dinesh's assertion that I am neither Hindu nor Christian arise out of fears and apprehensions of openly identifying himself and his group as full fledged Christians?
We found ourselves saddled with more questions than answers. The circle was definitely not complete – there were some essential parts missing. Maybe no force or coercion was being resorted to but attempts of increasing the numbers into the fold were clearly evident.
At home sleep eluded me –basic questions maintained a steady barrage on my, by now, fatigued mind :-
Can one not be of service to the needy, downtrodden and pray for their well-being without bringing religion into the picture?
Does God bestow favours only on those who bow and pray to him and swear by his path?
Is God like the Monarchs of yesteryears who offered protection only to those who succumbed to and acknowledged his sovereignty and lordship?
The next morning as if in answer I received a call from my childhood friend and co-brother-in-law, who is deep into philosophy and spirituality besides being a voracious reader, who, aware about this report I was compiling told me to visit the website peterspearls.com.au hosted by Pete Sumner of Melbourne, Australia, a Christian himself.
AND WHAT I FOUND WAS AWESOME AND REVEALING :-
Extracts from the site -
Let us begin with one of the most important but most misinterpreted statements of Jesus... recorded in St John's gospel, 14:6. He says to the inner circle of his friends ...
”I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.”
In the Aramaic Bible, Jesus' own language, the word for “I” in this scripture is ena-ena or I-I. The meaning is not the same as ena which is an individual “I.” Ena-ena is a cosmic “I” or I AM THAT I AM (Ex. 3:13 -14).
In other words, Jesus was speaking here, not from the perspective of a human form (the man from Galilee), but from the perspective of the formless Christ (the Godhead, the holy Spirit, Source, Consciousness etc.) which he knew to be the essential nature of all beings.
The way to reconcile “I am the way...” is to understand that it is the formless I AM (ena-ena) that is talking in John 14:6, whereas, in Luke 18:19 and John 5:30, the one talking is the form (ena), Jesus.
Though mere words can never capture or contain the sublime secret of enlighenment, the more correct way to read John 14:6 would be ...
"I AM is the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father (Conscious Beingness) except through (the recognition of) I AM.”
Ponder that Moses did not know how to tell the Israelites who had given him the Ten Commandments.
“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3 : 13-14)
This is curious. Whynot tell the Israelites Y*h*w*h (Jehovah) had sent him? All of the Israelites knew that name.
Moses was experiencing God in a way he knew they would not easily understand. He was experiencing God as the one Self of all beings; as pure awareness, the basis of all existence, the ground of all being – the I AM.
Focusing attention on inner Awareness (the aware Awareness that is our essential nature) also tallies with Buddhist and Hindu scriptures. If the Old Testament says God is I AM, what does the New Testament say? “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, 4:16).
The mantra of the ego is, “Its all about me.” The footprint of the ego is “My way is the only way.”
The ego, by nature, will adopt any belief as an identity. Then it is fearful when faced with other beliefs. It feels threatened. The ego must always imagine that it is the center of the universe. Thus, “My way is the only way” comes into being and, by extension, everything with which the ego is associated.”
An ego-centered Christian says, “Jesus is the only way” and an ego-centered Muslim says, “Islam is the only way.” The translation of both statements is, “My way or the highway.”
By comparison with the ancient sages and magi from the East, one might think from reading these passages that Jesus always speaks as the Atman and of the Father as Brahman, or as the Self realized being One in relation to the All pervasive and timeless Self (the “I AM THAT I AM”). Jesus states :
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM.” John 8:58
A Jewish perspective
“Adonai (the Lord) alone is God in heaven above and on earth below, there is none else” (Deuteronomy 4:39). Ayn od – there is none else – meaning that there is nothing else in heave or on earth but God.
An Islamic Perspective
The Islamic Call to Prayer, referred to as Adhan (Azaan), is an important part of Islamic devotional life. Ahan is recited by a professional muezzin who is chosen to serve at the mosque for his good character, voice and skills.
Adhan is called out from a minaret of a mosque five times a day (Sunni Islam) of three times a day (Shi’s Islam) summoning Muslims for mandatory prayers. When calling to prayer, the muezzin faces each of the four compass directions in turn.
There is a very beautiful phrase in the Call to Prayer that is well worth the attention of all spriritual aware people. In Arabic, the phrase is : “La’ illaha il’ Allahu.”
Since the root of the name for God, Allah, is the same as the word for What Is, the phrase can be translated any number of ways, all of them correct.
“There is no God but God.”
“There is not reality but God.”
“There is nothing which is not God.”
“All there is, is What Is.”
“What Is, is God.”
Great stuff, but do the faithful really understand?
End of extract
Come to think of it – isn’t it repetition of what was stated in our own ancient scriptures – Adwait Veda and Upnishads, long before the advent of Christianity & Islam. – AHAM BRAHMA ASMI (I AM THAT), mention of which is also made by Swami Vivekananda in his ‘GYA YOGA.’
I conclude this report by inviting feedback from readers of SINDHISHAAN.