Experiencial sharing of Inculturation

July 2, 2009 at 3:11 am 5 comments

As I had earlier pointed the Inculturation movement along with the Dialogue Centers started in the 60s.Pope John the XX111 was the initiator. Personally I think he was genuine and wanted the Catholic Church to realize that it did not have the monopoly to Truth. It had to continuously search and towards this he produced the Vat 11 documents. One stressed on the pluralism of religions and stated that Truth is one but there are many paths leading to it. Pope John was like a fresh breeze and a window he opened to let it that whiff within the otherwise suffocating Church. He could not complete what he started-he died suddenly and under mysterious circumstance.
There were five Experimental Centers in India-if I am not mistaken. Chennai,B’lore,Varnasi, Pune (and the other I cannot remember.)In Chennai the Director was Fr Ignatius Hirudayam SJ (he passed away) and in B’lore it was Fr Amalorpavadas.There was a lot of opposition within the catholic churche both locally and nationally. The then Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore once remarked to my husband and me that he regretted giving permission for the Experimental Centre because he was having a lot of problems in the diocese.Fr Amalorpavadas died in road accident on his way from Chennai to B’lore.I have attended one of his meetings in Chennai Goondas was brought to disrupt the meeting and he was physically manhandled and the police had to removed him-the meeting was cancelled. He used to conduct a number of national seminar at the NBCLC(National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre).The whole campus was laid out in an Indian setting. The dancing Shiva in grill work formed the door frame to the Sachinananda(where morning-evening bajans were recited and incense lit-the Deepam was sent around lit from the sacred fire for blessings. He had more enemies than followers. His death was also shrouded in a mystery.
I do not know of Rome’s intentions. But inculturation is something the common people on their own have been quietly introducing in their rites/ceremonies/functions. For example my daughter’s marriage was held in Loyola Chapel but with no usual Mass-I scripted our own prayers-there was the Nagasuram played, the exchange of garlands, the tying of the thali, the sprinkling of saffron rice and flowers on the couple –all within the church. She did not cover her head and was decked in a red Kanjeevaram saree with flowers plaited on her head/Now nobody told me what to do and what not to do. This was my own instinctive need and we wished to discard the western type and to incorporate the Indian wedding. Of course the priests witnessed the pronouncement of the marriage vows which takes hardly three minutes. My improvised prayers were printed and distributed-seeking the Almighty’s blessings etc and embracing the whole human family. There was a written complaint about the whole marriage to Rome-the way it was conducted etc by some persons. Rome wrote to the then Jesuit Provincial who was a participant and asked for clarification. He sent the complaint to me and asked me to describe the whole service and give my reasons etc.I told them that I did not tamper with anything official-I don’t need to get permission on whom to pray and what to pray. The marriage vows were strictly repeated as stated in the church and that was all-the rest was for the community to join in their own prayers and blessings. That was the end of that chapter.
I can give you other instances also.By and large our people-especially those of the upper caste long to have some aspect of the Hinduism to which their ancestors belonged. It is a natural craving. The Protestant/Evangelical churches do not permit it and its followers do not even use the Bindi, kuttuvikku. But for us it is a must. This has slowly spread –in our colleges every function is inaugurated by lighting the kuttuvillkau.Sanskrit solkas are recited also. How much has the official inculturation affected these changes I am not able to assess? But as far as I know we in the family have not been influenced by the movement but have adopted on our own the family traditions. For example my husband’s maternal uncle’s children are –Thampu,Vanthana,Kanaka,Vijaya,Punitha,Navaneetham, and Suchochana. The eldest-Jeyapathy is a Jesuit and is 85 years old. So much before the inculturation movment started the catholics were following hindu rituals and customs along with the bare minimum of church rites. My father-in-law got the thali blessed but the tying of the thali was at home sitting in the mandapam..
I agree that priests have taken to wearing the ochre colour cassock-some have discarded the cassock and wear dhoti and kurtha- drape a shawl for celebrating of the mass. Pongal is now celebrated during mass with the sugarcane sticks adorning the altar. And Pongal even distributed in some churches. Not all relish these. Kollam/rangoli is commonly used to decorate the premises of the church and the convents on festival days and every catholic home. The priest is received with arathi and a sandlewood mark is placed on his forehead. This is done during festivals and when some catholics who celebrate the family special days made a request for it. Not all priests are amenable to such requests.
Calling Christian inculturation as cultural plagiarism may be right but what is wrong in copying-aping(after all our prehistoric ancestors are apes)It must also not be forgotten that deep down the Indian is a hindu-that which is dormant will resurrect. How can one have the copy right and say that these aspects of Hinduism must not be lived? I thought Hinduism is inclusive and not exclusive. Is it not to the credit of the Hindu religion that its scriptures are appealing and find an echo in the hearts of others? The questions which I am grappling with are:Is it not a matter of pride that Hindu scriptures are incorporated in the Bible( I have not seen it)?How can the author compare this to Basmati, Neem and Turmeric. And call for patent laws to protect the Hindu culture.
Too much of energy and time and finance are being wasted in these periphery issues. Culture is not static-acculturation is a process that cannot be stopped. Culture will lag in compassion to science but it will grow at a slow pace. Assimilation, accommodation and acculturation are sociological processes of culture. The interventions which accelerate these are important. The Westerners have adopted Hindu names and assimilated some areas of Hindu culture. It comes to my mind that there is a ‘Devalayam’ in Tirupattur-North Arcot District- the architecture is exactly as a temple. This is at least a century old. Mahatma Gandhi had stayed in this Ashram and was one of its trustees. Two doctors-both FRCS –one a Britisher called Patton and the other a relative of my husband Dr Jesudas established this Ashram. They did not belong to any Christian denomination. They took to a monastic life in dress-eating etc. Call them Sevaks. Served the most backward areas-build hospital and did not adhere to any major Christian congregation. Dr Paton- a Scot took part in the Independence struggle-was lathi charged and thrown in prison. He died in Tirupattur and is buried there. We used to spend many a summer vacation in that Ashram. With the demise of the two doctors things were not very good and today it is in the possession of the Catholic Church .So why this sudden arousal against acculturation when it was going on for a 100 years ago? How can this be stopped? Can anyone prevent the dress style-the habits, the vegetarianism, the Ashram life style from being adopted? Something good need be replicated-it will not lessen the luster of the original.. That’s what I feel. Do we not lift passages which are meaningful-do we not quote profusely? It is a sign that the Hindu scriptures are attuned to every Indian soul and finds an echo within. This is my own experience-I cannot vouch for others.
Again I am not over ruling that some may have a mal- intention and want to use this to proselytize hold no brief for them and think they will not succeed.
This has become much longer than I intended. Please Swamiji consider this as personal and if you think it apt to publish portions of it I have no objection. Once it comes into your hands-it is yours. It is not a scholarly in-dept study or even an objective assessment but an experiential narration of acculturation. If I have in the process hurt the sentiments of any one Hindu I apologize but would not be apologetic for wanting to follow whatever I want to from Hindu culture-norms and rites. It is Indian and I have a right to this rich heritage of my forefathers and foremothers. Circumstances and the flow of events over which I had no control would have cut me off and placed me entirely in a different ethos but have I not a right to reclaim my birthright? I am sorry but I want to be honest and truthful. Namasteji. HR

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Chidambaram no moral legitimacy to exhort on Dharma christians more likely tohave a high rate of divorce

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sita  |  July 6, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I had read about the said plagiarisation/ inclusion of Vedic and upanidshadic thoughts in the Bible.and laughed at the Idea.Laughed because all along we were told that They[the Vedas and Upanishads] is not true.;and so we should not follow it.[BTW my Christian neighbour told me I was inviting the Devil when I had put the Kolam in our common entrance. ] So their are a lot of mixed signals,that we are getting.
    The saying in tamil “aranndavanukku irundathellam pei ” shows us the rationale behind the opposition to enculturation,due to their[the hindus who oppose this] fear that it would be another way of trying to legitimise Conversions,;after all these years[of both Muslim and Christian rule] they have become hypersensitised to propaganda and stuff from the Church .Hindus dont look at the Church in its separate denominations but as a whiole-so it doesnot matter to them that the Catholic Church is using its Scriptures in its Bible while another group is abusing the same for conversion purpose. They fear that hindus might be lured into the church beause of similarity of puja practices.They may also fear their temples being taken over.
    The opposition from the Church could be because they fear that later the other Hindu Gods’ Murthis [like Ganesha] might also find a place inside the Church and that it would become a Temple.So it is strange that the basis for both reactions is the same emotion-Fear.

    • 2. hildaraja  |  July 7, 2009 at 4:24 am

      Sita I would say that the fear ofthe Hindus are genuine and has basis.They are not opposed to someone following the samskaras-they dio not object to reading of the hindu scriptures but the opposition is when the official catholic church apes the swamijis,the ashrams,the mantris and the murthis try to subsume these within the christian teachings.This is one way to mislead the people who find something that is familar to them and will easily get themselves converted.If the official chruch is so appreciative of Hinduism thatit palagarises then why convert-leave the Hindus to their faith and tel;l them that their faith is beautiful and they need to be faithful to that faith.If the catholic priests find the Hindu religion more attuned to their thinking-then let them leave the church and take to sanyasam as the swamijis.But to have this and thatis like a avial/kichadi and betrays a shallow understanding of both.HR

  • 3. Sita  |  July 6, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Also why shouldnt one follow the practices of the land,after all ,some Hindus in America are said to opt for the Christian White gown [ but only] for the reception.They also exchange rings now adays.It was not the practice earlier.

  • 4. senthil  |  July 7, 2009 at 3:58 am

    Ma’m.. nice thoughts.. however, i differ with some points..

    There is a difference b/w inculteration and following.. inculteration is done with malicious intent of subverting the invaded culture.. while following is done out of personal choice..

    What you have done for your daughter’s marriage is out of personal choice..
    But if you happen to go to coimbatore on the road towards anaikatty hills, you can see “Christa ashram”, with priests dressed in saffron.. this is specifically aimed to subvert the people..

    What’s the danger of inculteration?

    The main purpose of inculteration is to bring the people and make them listen to the priest.. and when that happens, the real brainwashing starts.. and gradually, the people are made in to intolerant persons, with strict laws of catholics/protestants/evangelicals etc..

    I had a debate with my relative who converted to christianity long back.. he is now looking for a bride, but his religion is a problem.. We told him to come back to the roots.. but he is afraid that if he goes away from christianity, he will fall in the hell, and be surrounded by sins..

    Is it not a psychological collapse of a person, who happens to stick to christianity out of fear?
    I wonder, if jesus is prayed out of love, or out of fear..

    • 5. hildaraja  |  July 7, 2009 at 4:13 am

      Your friend must belong to some evangelical church.Even most of the catholicpriests are unware that hell does not exist.Our hell or heaven wemake .Itis not a place in the underworld!The point is christians areoutdated and religion is usedmore to have a hold over them…from birth to death.It is anotherkind of ‘concentration camp…Freedom of thought and freedom to choose is not given to them.Unlike the Hindu Sanatana Dharma right from ancient time scientific temper,tharkasastras were encouraged.But for the christians what is handed down from semi-literates have to be accepted as dogmatic truth.This is why Galileo was tortured and imprisoned simply because he did not accept that the world is flat!thats what Rome propogated.So our beliefs as far as the cahtolics are concerned is within the intellectual understand of what the Pope has.Can there be more defiance of god and His power?One protestant women told me that because I am wearing the bindi I will go to hell-thatis not the christian god’s chinnam(sign) so poor and or warped is the outlook of christians.HR


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