Who is the loser?
“ Love Thy Neighbour”- says the Bible. The central message across most religions is the same. But do the so-called expert practitioners of religion stick to it?
A few months back, I had attended a lecture series by Swami Parthasarthy at the Kamaraj Memorial Hall in Chennai. I have been a recent ( last three years) but a keen follower of his teachings and have read his books Vedanta Treatise and The Fall of Human Intellect. His clarity of thought on important issues of life coupled with his simplicity of communication is addictive.
Inspired by the lecture, I decided to follow it up with a home study group near my residence. I found out the venue and the timing and reached there well before schedule. As I entered the house, I noticed a deep silence; nobody was even exchanging pleasantaries. There was not a courteous hello mentioned to a stranger who had stepped into the house for the first time( I still do not know who the host was!). As the bhajans began, some of the group members had a hymn book but there was no attempt to share it with a newcomer.. We then completed the songs and proceeded to read the chapters…
There were discussions on various parts of the chapter and I must say that there was a concerted effort to dwell deep into the words and into their meanings.. Being an avid follower of the Hindu scripture ( especially the Gita), I found the discussions quite enlightening. This being my first attendance, I shared some of my doubts—some of which were clarified .
As the session concluded, I went and introduced myself to two ladies in the group. I was taken aback at the questions that were thrown at me- “ Is this your first time”/ “ have you attended the Gita lecture( at a particular place where this group normally goes)/ Else we will not like to “lower” our discussion standards here/ We cannot entertain “impulsive” questions/ People can make out if you are a novice etc etc”)!! I was flabbergasted.. and then let out a meaningful smile..
I am a Tamil Brahmin married to a Christian for the last twelve years. Both of us were batch mates at IIMA where we met. During my initial advent into a Church in Chennai, I remember a very cordial welcome by the Pastor of the Church- even though both of were newcomers there ( and they had no way of knowing whether we were Christians or not). And I have been an active participant of their forums and workshops. I have never been made to feel like a stranger- and this attitude is one of the strong reasons that our Church is growing rapidly. While some may argue that since Christianity is relatively a “new” religion in India and hence displays more “inclusiveness” in handling people, I believe that an older religion like the Hinduism, through its practitioners, should do this more so..it is almost like the older member of the family extending a warm welcome to his descendants/ children..
But this was not to be. And this particular problem continues to plague Hinduism as a religion. It is getting more and more elusive and is being considered “irrelevant” by the youth simply because not enough care and effort has gone in to disseminate it among the larger sections of society. The teachings in the Gita or Vedanta are absolutely inspiring and extremely useful . But does anyone know? Or does anyone care? The upper class Hindus have displayed a “Holier than Thou” behavior in preserving the scriptural knowledge so elusively that it has the danger of becoming “ obsolete” to the modern generation.
The objective of the Home Group that I talked about earlier, I am sure was to share Vedanta teachings . But by making the new comers feel “alienated”, they are doing quite the contrary. What is the use of studying Vedanta if you are not able to share it with humanity at large? Sharing knowledge is one the greatest services to man-kind.. and to do it with love is the only way Hinduism will be taken forward..
Religion should be made available to people when they are young . When they need directional clarity and mental strength to go about the purpose of their life. Not when they have become old as just and “life processing mechanism”. And modifying traditional heirarchical mindsets will go a long way towards ensuring this. So who is the loser in all this? We- the people. Both the practitioners and the students. The former will have to find ways to “include” more into the student fold, and the latter will have to actively seek and demand the same. After all , “ a man who does not read is as good as the one who