Rejoinder to Lisa Miller’s “we are all Hindus now”

August 18, 2009 at 5:01 pm 23 comments

‘We are all Hindus now” by Lisa Miller (NewsWeek Aug 31, 2009) was a startling article. It has been known now that in the USA Christianity is on the wane. The same can be said of Europe. It is not shocking that convents and seminaries do not have new recruits. Many of the churches have closed down-Dioceses are unable to pay the heavy compensations the priests have been charged to pay for their sexual exploits and pedophilic escapades. According to a 2008 survey 76 percent continued to identify themselves as Christians yet the author asserts that, ‘We are all Hindus now’
Christians need to be treated in two streams-the Catholics and those belonging to the Evangelical churches. As far as the Catholics are concerned there has been a steady decline in practicing Catholics. They are called lapsed Catholics. The Catholic Church and its teachings have come under scrutiny and doubt. Gone are the days when the word comes down from Rome and meekly the ‘flock’ accepts. Today with the explosion of information-availability of the literature on the Dead Sea Scrolls Catholics have questioned the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church. For example as the author had pointed out the belief that there is a Last Judgment Day when all dead will resurrect and their bodies and souls will be united is today discarded as a fantasy. Where is this assembly going to take place- in space? How magical for the bodies to be reassembled from the dust. It sounds simply crazy. It was a good pedagogical narration to create in children the idea of considering the body unique and hence to care for it. But brainwashed at such a young age on the Last Judgment Day when the Lord (masculine God) will appear as a Judge affected the life long perception of the Maha Pursha.. On this premise the rest was build-sin and evil-heaven and hell. The concept of God was thus a stock taker, a man who must be having an unimaginably gigantic account book!. But in the process the Creator was dragged down to the level of a common shop keeper/accountant. No adult would accept such a God and Catholics are unable to teach this to their children today. More questions than answers and more confusing than clarity and more ungodliness than godliness in the teachings. The catechism as is called for school children still carry on with this. Confession and forgiveness, sacraments and its administration, the concept of sacramental grace-sins-Original, venial and mortal seem to have done more harm than good in the salvation seeking story . A kind of a fear instilling mechanism was operated through such teachings. Steadily Catholics were pulling out of such a crazy world which made no sense and was seeking their own path of spirituality.
To the Indian Catholics Hinduism-the religion of their ancestors beckoned them. In the south one would find in the same family one branch continues to be Hindus-the religion of their ancestors-another Catholics (converts from Hinduism). Intermarriages-social functions between the families are attended by all without any holding back. So it is not small wonder that Hinduism is attracting Catholics.The same cannot be said of the Pentecostal churches and its followers. They are more rigid more conservative and will not tolerate signs and symbols even distantly connected with Hinduism. This is relevant to the Indian situation
To get back to Lisa Miller and her exclamation ‘We are all Hindus now’,is a bit too far fetched. But this does establish the fact that Christianity is no longer what it was some 50 years ago even in Christian country like the USA.It has lost its sheen; its hold. The whole beliefs systems and dogmas are being questioned. So what immediately comes to my mind is then why are the churches indulging in an aggressive proseltiyzation in India. Is it to make up for the numbers and is it because Indians are vulnerable and are easily led. Is it because what is being discarded in USA is being dumped into India?
I would not agree with Lisa Miller that the Americans are Hindus now. Hinduism is not a religion into which one can walk in and walk out. Hinduism is a philosophy, an ideology and a way of life. It permeates the whole range of one’s life and activities. Unlike the Christian religion it cannot be kept in a separate compartment from the rest of one’s various life activities.30 percent of the Americans according to a News Week survey call themselves ‘spiritual’ not ‘ religious’. By this Lisa wants to differentiate the two dimensions. To be spiritual one need not be religious. It is a subtle way of hairsplitting. It is only through a religion can one become spiritual. I do not understand Stephen Prothero—religion professor at the Boston University his theory on the American propensity for the ‘divine deli cafeteria religion’ as very much in the spirit of Hinduism, because according to him ‘You are not picking and choosing from different religions, because they are all the same’ it is not about orthodoxy ,it’s about whatever works. If going to yoga works, great-and if going to catholic mass works, great. And if going to catholic mass plus the yoga, plus the Buddhist retreat works, that’s great, too’. Something of this and something of that and something of everything-great. It makes no sense to me. Spirituality cannot be easily attained. There are no quick fixes. A pill for headache-another for body pain, another for sleep-whatever suits and whatever be the need are just short remedies. Spirituality calls for a life long search-a going into oneself and then coming out like the spires that reach the heavens. It calls for discipline, for continuity, for perseverance.
What is true is that Hinduism had never been an exclusive, monolithic, and dogmatic. It can never be. So may be having been in one the Christians feel that it has no discipline and not rigorous. Far from it-the difference is it gives space for self discovery-does not dictate and thrust dogmas and stifles thinking. It encourages and liberates one to follow in one’s own pace the Ultimate Reality. The quest for truth and the freedom of enquiry are the hallmarks of Hinduism.
I would like to make a distinction by quoting Swami Jyotirmayananda in his book, ‘India’s gift to the world is the light Spiritual’: “Ours is an inclusive pluralism and holistic Catholicism”. There are many ignorant Hindus who glibly parrot that ‘all religions are the same’. They even exhort us to have ‘sarvadharma sama bhava’…But the facts are that the exclusivists’ faiths are distinctly different from our Sanatana Dharma. The two cannot be equated’. Swami Ramdas( India’s Gift to the World Light Spiritual)has highlighted the essence of Dharma: “Dharma means that which upholds and elevates. Hence the basic principle underlying all manifestation of life is, in the real sense, Dharma. This principle is what we call God or Truth .Dharma therefore signifies the knowledge of the great Truth which upholds all things. From the light of knowledge alone can the life of a human being be harmoniously adjusted in all its various aspects. So the aim of Dharma is to infuse into all activities of life the splendor, bliss and peace of the Divine Reality”. Dharma is central to spirituality and universal in message. But Dharma cannot be equated with religion. Sanatana Dharma is popularly known as Hinduism. Spirituality cannot be attained by a mixture of this and that from all religions. It is a life long quest based on Vedanta which leads to Vedantic vision of Reality
By accepting cremation the Catholic Church has only sought out what is most convenient. As far as my knowledge goes till date not a single priest or nun has been cremated in India. The acceptance of cremation is based on convenience and hard facts. In India there is no place for burial of the ordinary Catholic especially the poor. The lands belonging to the church have all been misused by the church and sold to developers. But for priests and nuns burial land has been reserved-in these lands the ordinary Catholics cannot find a place. This is a simple fact and as time passes land is shrinking and usage of land becoming money spinning business. Will the Pope be cremated? So where does the belief of body and soul sacred which is ‘self’ stand today? Lisa cannot use the cremation as an indicator to claim that ‘Americans are becoming more Hindu’, the comparison is misplaced. One cannot become more Hindu and less Hindu and the cremation which is a mode of convenient disposal of the corpse be a testimony to that. A whole lot of insights precede and culminate in ‘jivanmukti’-cremation is part of this.
Lisa Miller’s “We are all Hindus Now”, statement is like the plagiarism, pilfering and poaching that the Christian churches and its evangelizers have resorted to. It sounds too flippant and too superficial and exhibits a poor understanding of Hinduism. But at the same time it is a testimony of the ever fresh spring of Life-that is Hinduism- small wonder that it has suddenly become like an oasis beckoning the Americans. If the Americans want to identify as Hindus it is a welcome step in the right direction. This is what the great Indian monk Swami Vivekananda dreamt of and worked for. But it calls for study, acceptance of Sanatana Dharma-and Dharma as way of life.
Dr Mrs Hilda Raja


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23 Comments Add your own

  • 1. senthil  |  August 19, 2009 at 5:21 am

    I am surprised at this rejoinder madam.. probably, what lisa miller conveys (to my understanding) is that americans are becoming more inclusive like hindus..
    Do you feel, such understanding is wrong?

    • 2. hildaraja  |  August 20, 2009 at 1:24 pm

      You may be right but to my understand Lisa has made it look that the survey which showed Americans opting for cremation and yoga makes them Hindus.For one thing cremation even the muslims some of them opt for similarly Hindus are also buried.So this is not an identification for Hinduism.Cremation is allowed by the Church for other reasons.Yoga can be practised only by vegetarians.Are these two examples sufficient to qualify one as a hindu?That was my point.She has further gone on to say that attending sunday mass,going to a buddhist reteat and yoga all great.Something does not click here Senthil. Then why object to the plagarism and pilfering of Hindu scriptures and inducting them in the bible?Is that also not great?There was no mention of Sanatana Dharma which is the hall mark and basis of Hinduism.I got the most appreciative mails for this from Indian based hindus-some offered obesiance at my feet!But three hindus based in the USA alone had reservations.To them it is good that Americans are now assimilating Hinduism.In the last sentence I did mention that if that is so then it is a step in the right direction and we are happy.Simply because News Week is an influential magazine one need not swallow everything it puts across.But I acceopt that Lisa’s is one point of view-even if it the assessment of a survey.Mine is another.My perception will be based on my experience ,my limited knowledge of Hinduism and country.Liase should have realised that the survey did not have any depth-with that responses she should not have made such a pronouncement!We must agree to disagree-for no one has the fullness of the whole!

  • 3. karigar  |  August 26, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Nice article, thanks.

    It (NW article) is indeed a superficial & ambivalent take on Hinduism, & the religious landscape in the US. Definitely raises awareness of Americans on hinduism, which is both good & bad, I guess….

    • 4. hildaraja  |  August 26, 2009 at 4:44 pm

      thank you. but there is some thing postive reporting-the Dream of Vivekananda will come true if Americans are really tilting towards Sanatana Dharma.There is nothing greater than than-It cannot be something of this and something of that!thank you for your comment

  • 5. Bill Bartmann Scam  |  September 6, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Excellent site, keep up the good work

    • 6. hildaraja  |  September 22, 2009 at 6:54 am

      Positive feedback helps andI must tell you that yours did help.All the best

  • 7. Bill Bartmann Scam?  |  September 8, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Cool site, love the info.

  • 8. Bill Bartmann-  |  September 11, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,

  • 9. Bill Bartmann-  |  September 14, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Cool site, love the info. I do a lot of research online on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,

    A definite great read…


    • 10. hildaraja  |  September 22, 2009 at 6:52 am

      thank you for the appreciation and encouragement.Hilda Raja

    • 11. hildaraja  |  October 22, 2009 at 5:02 pm

      I am happy that you found my blog’cool site and of some substance.On my part I want those you research and gi out data and information to use it to stand for truth and justice.To conscientize others to empower them to fight for truth and justice in their own lives and for others.Hilda Raja

  • 12. Incognito  |  October 17, 2009 at 9:20 am

    >>>” It is only through a religion can one become spiritual.

    Maybe in this statement religion does not stand for following a book or a dead ‘prophet’ or a list of fixed dogma.

    Maybe religion in this statement stands for carefully travelling through a dharmic path in life.

  • 13. சீனு  |  April 19, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Nice article Maam…I shared in my fb…Thanks

  • 14. Vikram  |  September 17, 2011 at 5:52 am

    I do agree the pilfering and perhaps plagiarizing the meaning and adjoin it with other religion that Lisa Miller wrote but what important to me on what she wrote is that the practice of daily life over the years for us Americans are more towards the life of a Hindu, and yes it’s not 100% way of a Hindu but what she’s merely wrote is that Hinduism doesn’t compress like any other religion and also she likes the message that Hinduism conveys which is peace,respect and love towards all. “one can only born into Hinduism” perhaps one can enter it but the incompleteness spiritually stays.


  • 15. iamhappy69  |  November 18, 2011 at 6:19 am

    I guess if one goes high and stays high ….(try Marijuana for God’s sake (literally))……for a long period of time…it would be the easiest way to become spiritual and closer to understanding what Hindus or various branches of Hindus either Astikas (eg. Vaishnavas) or Nastikas (e.g Jain, Budhdhism or Carvakas) have been teaching

  • 16. Shankar  |  November 26, 2011 at 9:51 am

    A wonderfully thorough analysis and explanation of Hinduism- not a religion as our pseudo secularist would like us to believe- being a way of life where every individual has the space and freedom to experiment with his life through his deeds and their consequences and thereby come to the ultimate realization of the Brahmman -call it God,prakruthi, nature, omnipotent energy, whatever- coming from a person following a different faith was amazing read. Rare to find such neutral, fair and balanced thoughts resulting from an indepth study and research of another faith. One need not be a Hindu to follow Hinduism and you are proving day after day with your secular thoughts that you are more Hindu than people like me who are born Hindus and still trying to come to terms with our vedas,sasthras,puranas, scriptures, karma theoriies etc.Hats off to you madam. Proud to be contributing to your blog in a small way.


  • 17. Ruler  |  December 30, 2011 at 11:23 am

    hinduism is not a religion..its tells you how to lead a life (not how to worship or it doesnt have any messiahs or agents of GOD)..basic thing is theory of Karma..u will cant escape ur karma good or bad….this theory will resolve all your questions and doubts and queries about human life…so if you belive in that (and understand the concept of -infinity to + infinity i.e no begining and no end) u r a hindu whether u call urself christian, buddhist, sikh…it doesnt matter….

  • 18. life  |  December 30, 2011 at 11:36 am

    According to vedas …universe is made of only 3 non interconvertible things 1. God (Parmata) 2. Atma (soul) 3. Matter (mass and energy are interconvertibel- eistein also proved that). These were never created and cannot be destroyed….the ultimate aim of human life to get moksha (liberation from cycle of birth..death and rebirth)
    now whatever I have mentioned above is a theory that according to me best explains the existance universe, human life, aim of human life etc etc..
    I dont think other religions are mature enough to talk at this level…they have simple agenda..follow the messiah and he will forgive ur sins…and followers in turn get awarded(may be in the form of heaven) for making others the followers….so that it helps in increasing the following…clever idea though..

  • 19. BEING DIFFERENT  |  January 14, 2012 at 3:52 am


    I noticed that your rejoinder has been linked by another interesting blog which strengthens your incisive analysis and conclusion. Hopefully all of us can wake up to the deceit now and be on alert.

    Dharma Man

    • 20. Vikram  |  January 17, 2012 at 8:42 am

      What incisive analysis and conclusion that she actually pointed out that made you to conclude it’s a deceit?

      • 21. Digesting VEDA  |  March 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm

        Read BEING DIFFERENT to understand the deceit or the blog for an example.

  • 22. Soham  |  January 27, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Lisa just used a wrong word “Hindus”. She should have used the word “Advaitists”. That word would me more appropriate. Adviatism appeals well to the Western educated mind thats looking for spiritualism. This is the main reason for the mushrooming of ashrams in that part of the world. While they can become Advaitists… they cannot become Hindus… too complex to comprehend.

    • 23. Digesting VEDA  |  March 18, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      who cares? We need to educate them, slowly and steadily. they were neanderthals only 400 years ago as Macaulay said. Indians have an obligation to share their intellect. Forget “hindu” be a santana dharmi.


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