Text and Context in Dialogue

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Letter to the Editor
from Swami Dayanand Bharati
in India

I am thankful to Tjee for her wonderful review of my book Living Water and Indian Bowl (VOB 3:2, May 2004, p. 19). I humbly accept the fact that there is a tone in my writing that often gives the impression that I am being critical.

I have no problem in accepting the fact that the term "Hindu" does not simply mean "Indian" any longer. But by calling one as an "Indian Christ Bhatka" or "Tamil Christ Bhakta" are we not simply generalizing the term? When it becomes the task of a Bhakta of the Lord to reach out to her own people, then which identity should she carry? Paul, who wanted to become all things to all men, did not hesitate to identify himself with his own people both through his words and actions (Romans 10:1 and Acts 21:17f.)

So when we want both to communicate and identify with our own people, are ethnic, cultural and social identity enough? Nowhere in the world have so-called secular social and cultural views emerged from a vacuum without any religious connotation so that they can easily be assigned to watertight compartments. Without identifying with the religious worldview of the people how we are going to communicate the gospel to them? So I am not using the word "Hindu" only in its original meaning of geographical identity, but definitely with a religious connotation as well. While cultural and social aspects provide the natural environment in which people are born and brought up, and from which they must not be displaced, still it is only through religious identity that we can build bridges for the gospel. I understood the gospel as a Hindu, with my own religious background and my religious worldview, and not through my cultural and social views!

It is true that 'one may become so confused trying to come up with some solutions to reconcile the religious part of being a Hindu and his or her devotions to Christ.' But there are several religious aspects in a Hindu's life that would help her to grow deeply in her devotion to the Lord. Bhakti is one such. It is the experience of so many Hindu Christ bhaktas that their religious heritage as a Hindu not only helped them to comprehend the gospel but also helped them to grow in their faith.

Tjee rightly points out 'it will be too much for most common people to have to resolve the intermingling social, cultural and religious practical aspects of being a pure Hindu yet a devotee of Christ'. But, if it is too much for the common people to resolve all the issues with which they have to wrestle and live, what are we to say about how in the past, the religious representatives, and particularly missionaries, assumed such authority for themselves? By doing so they did serious damage. What looks to an outsider like a religious issue need not be so to the local people.

I accept that my "ideas and valuable suggestions become clouded, scattered throughout the book and hard to identity" but even in the preface I mentioned that this is a collection of essays and brainstorms resulting from wrestling with various issues. I am not a gifted writer. All the 'Failures', which look a 'contradiction to the positive title of the book', are a spontaneous expression of my reflections and not a systematic intellectual work. I wish and pray that some gifted writer could collect various spontaneous reflections of several Hindu/Muslim etc. Christ Bhaktas and write them up properly.

Thanks, Tjee, for the pain and time to articulate your views in a beautiful way. God bless you.

Letters to the editor: Voice of Bhakti welcomes interaction with its readers.

bhakti. bhakti, nom. devotion, love, loyalty