Radha Rajan, 5th May, 2010
That wondrous creature called Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony
The second Hindu Spiritual and Service fair concluded in Chennai on the 28th December, 2009. The fair brought together Hindu religious (Hindu dharma, unlike the Abrahamic religions does not make a distinction between religion and spirituality) and service organizations providing them with the unique opportunity to get acquainted with each other’s work and also to share experiences.
From all accounts, the fair was well-organized and attracted thousands of visitors including a smattering of curious Christians and Muslims. Participants included the Tirumala-Tirupathi Devasthanam, Shri Pejawara Matha from Karnataka, Sri Kanchi Matham, Sri Ramakrishna Matham, Sri Ramanashramam, Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s Arshavidya Gurukulam, Sri Sri’s Art of Living and another ashram promoting something called Science of Living, Mata Amritanandamayi ashram, Hindu Mission Hospital, RSS Sewa Bharati, and Rashtra Sevika Samiti.
This is an extraordinary initiative aimed at bringing together both well-known and little-known Hindu religious, cultural and service organizations together to display their wares at this fair. One important objective of this fair is to enable public-spirited Hindus to choose an organization which suits them best and begin to give time and other resources for the common cause; so far so good.
There is however a lesser-known dimension to the Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair. The fair is only the arrow. The bow behind the scenes is the Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony or GFCH (http://www.gfchindia.com) which, from whatever one can glean from its website, takes Hindu intellectual vacuity to new and rarified heights; it is also Level II of the Vatican initiative, inter-faith dialogue, which the Hindu components of the GFCH not only welcome with great gusto but also get conned into signing self-defeating anti-Hindu declarations and resolutions. Like its more famous synonym supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, the GFCH too can be broken into parts and its meaning mirthfully explained. The GFCH website is a masterpiece of dense self-descriptive prose; it challenges us to zero in on the core. What better way to camouflage its real intent than by cloaking it in verbosity?
There is lot more in the same vein but this was breathtaking in itself. Even before it has embarked on its mission to build a global society (whatever that may mean) GFCH already claims to be a global foundation though it is not clear what contributes to its global status or how it will go about building this “global civilization mosaic of peace, harmony” and all that with the Vatican, National Council of Churches, Al Qaeda, Al Umma, US State Department, Teesta Setalvad, John Dayal, and the Deoband mullahs panting at my heels and baying for my blood; which makes the writer suspect that grandiose declarations to build a global this and a global that may not really be what these people intend. Needless to say the very construct ‘global’ is Abrahamic in origin and connotes conquest, political, religious or economic. “Global” is also the very anti-thesis of ‘swadeshi’.
The clue to their intent lies in the names of their Founder-Patrons, Patron, Trustees, Academic Council and Secretariat; except for the Founder-Patrons of GFCH all others are Shri LK Advani’s men. While some of the Founder-Patrons, with the active collaboration of some of the trustees have fabricated the GFCH out of thin air, the rest would have been prevailed upon to lend their names to an initiative in which they did not see any harm even if they did not see anything concrete emerging from out of it. The Muslim and Christian components have no need for a mixed-religious platform but end up being the sole beneficiaries of all such foolish Hindu initiatives.
Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar and Mata Amritanandamayi are the Hindu Founder-Patrons of this wondrous creature; while some of them have grave reservations about describing themselves or their wares (Yoga and Sudarshan Kriya) as Hindu, some others have reservations about describing themselves as Hindu religious leaders. They prefer the more saleable and non-definitive ‘spiritual’ tag to their names. The stated objectives of GFCH is grandiose and totally at variance with their actions.
Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who received his deeksha from Pujya Swami Chinmayananda of revered memory, was inexplicably made Convener of the Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha, a forum comprising all traditional mathams, adeenams and mandaleswars who belong to lineages at least a 150 years old or even older.
The Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha website carries the report drafted and signed by Brahmacharini Dr. Vrinda Chaitanya on behalf of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Convener, Hindu Dharmnacharya Sabha of a meeting held in Lariano, Italy in May 2006 on religious conversion.
According to the report, 3 Hindus were invited to be present at this Vatican-organized inter-faith dialogue on religious conversion. Unless otherwise stated or denied, because this meeting has been reported in the HDAS website (http://www.acharyasabha.org), we have to assume that the Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha participated in this Vatican meeting. And because there is a lack of transparency, we do not know which individuals spoke on behalf of the Hindus; this is important for us to know to understand why the creation of this new forum GFCH is a matter of concern.
At the Vatican meeting in 2006, titled Conversion: Assessing the Reality and hosted by the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, Vatican City, and the Office on Inter-religious Relations and Dialogue of the World Council of Churches, Geneva, the Hindus participating in the meeting have allowed The Concluding Reflections and Recommendations to declare –
(We have allowed the Vatican and the World Council of Churches to equate Hindu dharma with the murderous and genocidal Abrahamic religions which have wiped out entire nations, religions and cultures from the face of the earth as they expanded across the globe)
(By permitting use of the phrase ‘unethical conversion’ Hindus have inter-alia legitimized something called ‘ethical conversion’ of Hindus by Christians and Muslims)
“We see the need for and usefulness of a continuing exercise to collectively evolve a ‘code of conduct’ on conversion, which all faiths should follow. We therefore feel that inter-religious dialogues on the issue of conversion should continue at various levels’
(Instead of demanding that the Vatican and World Council of Churches refrain from religious conversion in India, the Hindus representing us at this meeting have asked for a code of conduct on religious conversion thus tacitly accepting the right of all churches to continue with religious conversion of Hindus on Hindu bhumi)
Swami Dayananda Saraswati claiming to speak on behalf of the Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha in his capacity as Convener of the HDAS also traveled to Jerusalem to convince the Jews that Hindus are not idolatrous. An account of this meeting too can be read on the HDAS website. In the words of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, writing in The New Indian Express dated 9 March, 2008 –
[Last year Hindu and Jewish religious leaders, representing the two oldest traditions in the world, commenced an inter-religious dialogue in New Delhi. Following that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the delegation from the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha held the second round of inter-religious dialogue at Jerusalem in February 2008.
The Jerusalem meet concluded with a landmark declaration that Hindus worship ‘one supreme being’ and are not really idolatrous. The implications of this are profound in content and far-reaching in effect. Judaism was born of the complete repudiation of idol worship and rabbinic literature abounds with denunciations of idolatry in an entire tractate of the Talmud devoted to this.
The importance of this issue in Jewish and other Abrahamic traditions cannot be overstated. Since its first encounter with these religions, and due to their incomplete understanding of its Sastras, Hinduism has been perceived by them as idolatrous and promoting many gods. The Hindus have for centuries experienced the extremely violent consequences of this wrong perception. The historic declaration made at the Hindu-Jewish summit at Jerusalem on February 18, 2008 sets at rest the wrong notion that Hinduism is idolatrous.The declaration reads:
‘It is recognised that one Supreme Being in its formless and manifest aspects has been worshipped by Hindus over the millennia. The Hindu relates to only the one Supreme Being when he/she prays to a particular manifestation. This does not mean that Hindus worship ‘gods’ and ‘idols’.’
The Jewish leaders, in so many words, owned their perception of the Hindu tradition as erroneous and came up with the declaration which the Hindu delegation could happily accept.
When they understood that no form is separate from Isvara and the particular form enshrined in a temple is but an altar of worship, they did not see any real issue to contend with. They were visibly relieved and thanked the delegation for removing the wrong perception held for more than two thousand years.
Once the fundamental misconception was removed, the Rabbinate, not surprisingly, also affirmed the following declaration on the sensitive issue of the svastika, the sacred symbol for the Hindus:
‘The svastika is an ancient and auspicious symbol of the Hindu tradition.
The importance of this affirmation may be understood from the fact that a Hindu temple in Detroit was vandalised a few years ago by the Jewish community offended by a huge svastika rangoli at the entrance of the temple.
The writer is surprised that there are no Jewish scholars of Hinduism and that Swami Dayananda Saraswati had to involve our traditional mathathipathis in the exercise to educate the rabbinate on why Hindus worship idols and the importance of the swastika in Hindu tradition. It is not the responsibility of our religious leaders to visit foreign lands to resolve doubts and allay fears. If the Jewish Rabbinate was serious about friendship with the Hindus, the correct and proper conduct would have been to request an audience with any one of our traditional religious leaders for a discussion on this soil.
The Hindu Founder-Patrons of GFCH suffer from the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder of dining with the enemy, not with the aim of speaking of Hindu concerns, but to smooth the enemy’s ruffled feathers. Hindus across the country were affronted to see the smiling Sri Sri locked in bear hug with the arch jihadi Yaseen Malik; they were even more affronted to hear that on his second visit to Kashmir, he spent the night at the house of yet another arch-jihadi Syed Shah Geelani.
Baba Ramdev went a-visiting the Deoband mullahs and suffered the mortification of having the mullahs issue a fatwa, in his presence, against the singing of Vande Mataram. Taking the insult to Vande Mataram in his stride and in his eagerness to sell his brand of yoga to Muslims, Baba Ramdev offered them a discount on his commodity by making the bizarre pronouncement that yoga was beyond religion and that Muslims could cry out Allah-O-Akbar instead of chanting ‘Om’ before they began their yogic aerobics. Within a few days, some mullah issued a fatwa against yoga too.
Not to be outdone, Sri Sri made a dash to Deoband pleading the case of Vande Mataram and may be just maybe to offer the Deoband mullahs his brand of yoga, the artful sudarshan kriya as an alternate to Ramdev’s beyond-religion-tummy-tucker.
The same small group of 10 or 15 individuals, sanyasis and non-sanyasis (whose USP is their English-education based professions and their obviously foreign-looking disciples milling around them), keep coming back in different permutations and combinations. First they created the Hindu Dharma Rakshana Samiti, next they created the Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha with one of them as Convener, then they designed the Thinkers’ Meet, then was concocted the Vivekananda International Foundation and now they have crafted the Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony. What sticks out unbecomingly is that all these organizations are managed and/or controlled by Advani loyalists.
Swami Dayananda Saraswati justified the creation of GFCH thus –
“Dialogue is the ancient Hindu model for promoting mutual understanding of religious truth and avoiding or resolving conflicts between faiths. Dialogue between enlightened leaders of the faiths prevents the differences among them from spilling on to the streets and turning into uncontrollable issues. That was how in this ancient nation religious harmony was conceptualised, promoted and sustained for thousands of years. Now this needs to be globalised for promoting peace among religions.
The only means to conflict avoidance and resolution is dialogue among different religions. The Global Foundation for Civilisational Harmony [GFCH] which was inaugurated by His Holiness Dalai Lama in January 2008 in Delhi, and in which some well-known religious and spiritual leaders of different faiths participated, has a very significant role to play to bring about this healthy understanding among religions. The GFCH needs to organise meaningful dialogue between leaders of different religious traditions and help remove wrong perceptions arising from an absence of true understanding of each other’s faiths, paving the way for harmony and mutual respect among religions. All religious faiths and religious leaders must extend their whole-hearted support to this great initiative”.
Swami Dayanana Saraswati knows, as do Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri and Mata Amritanandamayi, the patron of GFCH knows it too as do the long list of its trustees, that churches and mosques are coming up close to temples in every street and street-corner, that Christians and Muslims are now buying land running into hundreds and thousands of acres allegedly for various purposes including educational institutions, but which sooner than later become the vastly profitable commercial establishments like shopping malls, restaurants, auditoriums, wedding halls, hotels and retail shops.
The trustees of GFCH know that agriculture, trade and commerce are increasingly being controlled by Christians and Muslims in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, that more and more churches and madarasas are mushrooming along the coastline and yet Swami Dayananda Saraswati believes and will have Hindus believe that all these issues can be resolved through dialogue. Even if the writer takes him at his word, Hindus deserve to ask and deserve to know if GFCH has initiated a dialogue with Muslims and Christians on these issues and what has been the response by the adherents of the Abrahamic religions to these issues.
The Hindu Dahrma Rakshana Samiti, the Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha did nothing when Jayalalithaa launched her murderous attack against the Kanchi matham; all these grandiose organizations have proved to be completely unable to stop one church or one mosque from coming up, they do not care to look at the rapidly changing character of our public spaces, they do not accept or acknowledge that long before Love Jihad, white Christians and now local Christians had perfected the science and art of using love to penetrate important Hindu business and political families. Planting love-peddling Christian boys and girls on impressionable Hindu youth has been church tactic for several decades now. It speaks volumes for the bankruptcy of Hindu intellectual leadership and leadership at all levels that our spines are not made of steel.
None of these organizations have been able to stop government control of our temples, to stop cow slaughter on Bakrid, they could not stop the police from arresting four Hindus from the venue of an exhibition on Aurangazeb nor counter the Muslims who shouted Allah-o-Akbar joyously as these Hindus were arrested and taken away. They have not been able to put pressure on the government to remove EV Ramaswamy Naicker’s statue from before the Srirangam temple nor have they done anything to challenge the government on whimsically altering the Hindu New Year from April to January. If the GFCH thinks dialogue is the only method to resolve issues, given that we are all such great and glib talkers, surely all issues should now have been resolved in our favour.
The Secretary of GFCH has proudly flaunted on the GFCH website that he is a recipient of an Action Aid fellowship for Media Research. Voila! The Ford Foundation fellowship, Ashoka Fellowship, Fulbright Scholarship and all other lollies-doling western agencies have always picked their candidates well. The Vigil book on NGOs has chapter and verse on the doings of Action Aid in India and elsewhere. (http://www.vigilonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=970&Itemid=1)
Yet another reason why the creation of GFCH must worry all right-thinking Hindus. Far from taking up with the Muslims and Christians issues threatening Hindu survival on Hindu bhumi, the Hindu components of GFCH have declared that they intend to organize Christian and Muslim spiritual and service fairs too in other cities of this country.
Organizations like GFCH and religious leaders who cater, in the main to foreign or NRI Hindus ultimately end up diminishing the importance of our traditional acharyas, gurus and mathams. By embarking on this foolish misadventure called inter-faith dialogue and multi-religious feel-good annual parties, these individuals aim to throw water on simmering Hindu anger even as they blunt the sharp edge of Hindu resistance at being crowded, manipulated and victimised out of more and more spaces. The real objective may be to create a collective Hindu papacy with the Hindu Founder-Patrons of the GFCH emerging as the 21st century voice and face of Hinduism.
The Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair must now aim only to bring together all Hindu religious and service organizations; this ought to an end in itself. Leaders of Hindu organizations must de-link this fair from the GFCH and put this noble Hindu endeavour to better and more purposeful use.
Radha Rajan, 2nd January, 2010.