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Rituals form the art of religion
Hinduism has always relied on its rituals to involve its devotees who focus more on family and community. Philosophy and abstract debates about God are left to few intellectuals.
In a recent celebration of Swami Vivekananda, the High Commissioner of India to Port-of-Spain made some incorrect statements about the spread of Hinduism in the Western world and its practice in T&T. India is a secular state and we fail to appreciate Mr Malay Mishra’s shallow understanding of Hinduism.
Swami Vivekananda did not bring Hinduism to the West when he spoke at the world conference of religions in Chicago, USA in 1893. Hinduism was introduced to Guyana in 1838 with the arrival of indentured immigrants and in 1845, the SS Fatel Rozac brought its first contingent of Hindus to T&T.
This diplomat is reported to have said, “What I have seen is too much emphasis on ritualism, the ritual part of it. And sometimes with very shallow understanding of the philosophy of the religion. “And I stress this point because a lot of confusion and error have crept into understanding this religion not only in India but in Trinidad and Tobago among the so-called priests and pundits of this country about what Hinduism really amounts to,” he said.
Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, a deceased president of India, visited T&T in 1995 during our 150 anniversary of the arrival of indentured immigrants from India. Dr Sharma was also a top intellectual of India and he produced a compilation of his various convocation addresses delivered at universities in India.
These have been compiled in his publication Horizons of Indian Education. In one of his presentations at Puttaparthy, on November 22, 1987, he said, “The more we study the more we discover our ignorance. Most of our saints and scholars of the past did not receive any formal education. Even within our living memory, one of the finest products of the university, Swami Vivekananda, had to sit and learn at the feet of an illiterate master, Shri Ramakrishna Pharmahamsa.”
And Swami Vivekananda himself said of his illiterate Guru, “Ramakrishna looked just like an ordinary man, with nothing remarkable about him. He used the most simple language and I thought, ‘Can this man be a great teacher?’ I crept near to him and asked him the question which I had been asking others all my life: ‘Do you believe in God, sir?’
‘Yes’, he replied. ‘Can you prove it, sir?’ ‘Yes’. ‘How?’ ‘Because I see Him just as I see you here, only in a much intenser sense.’ That impressed me at once. I began to go to that man day after day, and I actually saw that religion could be given. One touch, one glance can change a whole life.”
His Excellency Malay Mishra should engrave on his mind these words of Swami Vivekananda: “One touch, one glance can change a whole life.”
The most powerful Hindu in the world today, Ashok Singhal, is a retired secretary and now patron of the Vishwa Hindu Prashad (World Hindu Organization) headquartered at Sankat Mochan in New Delhi India. After attending the World Hindu Organization Conference in California in September last year, Singhal visited T&T and spent five days with us. On his return to India he wrote the following letter:
“Aadaraniiya Sri Sat Maharaj Ji, Jai Sri Ram! Pray you are doing well! It was only your standing invitation that brought me to Trinidad and Tobago. There was a sudden recovery in my health and I felt that I could undertake the trip to Trinidad and Tobago in order to fulfill my intense desire to meet you.
“You deserve all sincere congratulations for the formidable dash and push with which you have preserved the Hindu identity in T&T through the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha of Trinidad and Tobago. The SDMS has created a very good task force of pundits conversant with Hindu rituals and vangmay which is why the temples there have been successful in uniting as well as organising the Hindu society.
“The pride of Hindutva evident in the society there was the contribution of the school education and temple-centric activities of Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha of T&T. “The entire Hindu society of T&T has been fortunate to have a formidable, competent and proficient leadership in your personality who is endowed with a unique nature to take a crisis by its horns, maintain consistency and focus and never take things lying down.
“You took me to the Jagriti radio station. The task of propagation of the Hindu world view that you have taken up through the IT media and your efforts for establishing a TV channel, will be able to address many a problem of the Hindu society and build a right mindset.
“Please convey my Namaskars to the Pandit Parishad Chairman Sri Sitahal who conducted the main programme. Please also convey my congratulations to the Chairman of SDMS, Sri Uttam Maharaj Ji, Sri Lokeshji, Sri Vyasji and Sri Dharmadhikariji.” The VHP and its officers across the world are the expert authorities on Hinduism and its pundits—not Mr Malay Mishra.
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
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