Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Indian Paganism, Rationalism, Fr. Francis Xavier Clooney, S.J. And St. Francis Xavier, S.J.

Here is an interesting report on fraudulent pagan religious practices and "rationalists" in India, from Times Online of London.
Rationalizing India has never been easy. Given the country’s vast population, its pervasive poverty and its dizzying array of ethnic groups, languages and religions, many deem it impossible. 
Nevertheless, Mr Sanal Edamaruku (pictured) has dedicated his life to exposing the charlatans — from levitating village fakirs to televangelist yoga masters — who he says are obstructing an Indian Enlightenment. He has had a busy month, with one guru arrested over prostitution, another caught in a sex-tape scandal, a third kidnapping a female follower and a fourth allegedly causing a stampede that killed 63 people. 
This week India’s most popular yoga master, Baba Ramdev, announced plans to launch a political party, promising to cleanse India of corruption and introduce the death penalty for slaughtering cows. Then, on Wednesday, police arrested a couple in Maharashtra state on suspicion of killing five boys on the advice of a tantric master who said their sacrifice would help the childless couple to conceive. “The immediate goal I have is to stop these fraudulent babas and gurus,” says Mr Edamaruku, 55, a part-time journalist and publisher from the southern state of Kerala. “I want people to make their own decisions. They should not be guided by ignorance, but by knowledge. “I’d like to see a post-religious society — that would be an ideal dream, but I don’t know how long it would take.” His organisation traces its origins to the 1930s when the “Thinker’s Library” series of books, published by Britain’s Rationalist Press Association, were first imported to India. They included works by Aldous Huxley, Charles Darwin (pictured standing) and H.G. Wells; among the early subscribers was Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. The Indian Rationalist Association was founded officially in Madras in 1949 with the encouragement of the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, who sent a long letter of congratulations. For the next three decades it had no more than 300 members and focused on publishing pamphlets and debating within the country’s intellectual elite. But since Mr Edamaruku took over in 1985, it has grown into a grass-roots organization of more than 100,000 members — mainly young professionals, teachers and students — covering most of India. 
Members now spend much of their time investigating and reverse-engineering “miracles” performed by self-styled holy men who often claim millions of followers and amass huge wealth from donations. One common trick they expose is levitation, usually done using an accomplice who lies on the ground under a blanket and then raises his upper body while holding out two hockey sticks under the blanket to make it look like his feet are also rising. “It’s quite easy really,” said Mr Edamaruku, who teaches members to perform the tricks in villages and then explains how they are done, or demonstrates them at press conferences. 
Other simple tricks include walking on hot coals (the skin does not burn if you walk fast enough) and lying on a bed of nails (your weight is spread evenly across the bed). The “weeping statue” trick is usually done by melting a thin layer of wax covering a small deposit of water. Some tricks require closer scrutiny. One guru in the state of Andhra Pradesh used to boil a pot of tea using a small fire on his head. The secret was to place a non-conductive pad made of compacted wheat flour between his head and the fire. “I was so excited when I exposed him. I should have been more reasonable but sometimes you get so angry,” he said. “I cried: ‘Look, even I can do this and I’m not a baba — I’m a rationalist!’.” Another swami — who conducted funeral rites for Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister who was assassinated in 1984 — used to appear to create fire by pouring ghee, clarified butter, on to ash and then staring at the mixture until it burst into flames. The “ghee” was glycerine and the “ash” was potassium permanganate, two chemicals that spontaneously combust within about two minutes of being mixed together. Exposing such tricks can be risky. 
A guru called Balti (Bucket) Baba once smashed a burning hot clay pot in Mr Edamaruku’s face after he revealed that the holy man was using a heat resistant pad to pick it up. The chief rationalist was almost arrested by the government of Kerala for revealing that it was behind an annual apparition of flames in the night sky — in fact, several state officials lighting bonfires on a nearby hill — which attracted millions of pilgrims. 
Despite his efforts, he admits that people still go to the festival and continue to revere self-styled holy men. One reason is that Indian politicians nurture and shelter gurus to give them spiritual credibility, use their followers as vote banks, or to mask sexual or criminal activity. That explains why India’s Parliament has never tightened the 1954 Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, under which the maximum punishment is two months in prison and a 2,000 rupee (£29) fine. 
Link (here) to read the full article. 

This is an excerpt from Fr. Francis Xavier Clooney, S.J. a professor of Eastern Religions at Harvard University his post entitled, Tamil Love VI: How Hindu poet prepares us for Holy Week at America.

     Perhaps not the model of child care for today, but hardly a violent act or moment of great suffering. But in his meditation on what Narayana is like — transcendent, sovereign, condescending, and now entirely vulnerable, accessible — Nammalvar is struck by the sudden transition — the great Narayana now in the state of a little boy roped by his mother to a stone. Those who hold back must wait, faced with puzzles and conundrums, not knowing what God is, or where. Hope lies in the fact that that the “lady in the lotus” — the Goddess Sri Laksmi — is ever with Narayana, the two inseparable. She is the mother, and elsewhere in Tiruvaymoli Nammalvar indicates that she is a mediator, who makes it easy to reach Narayana. The cryptic reference to the churning of the butter evokes a well known incident in the mythology of Krsna: as a small child, he was prone to tricks and naughty behavior, even if through each prank some portion of the divine plan is achieved. Here, Krsna has put his hand into the butter churn and taken a gob of butter to eat; his mother, frustrated with the behavior of this two-year-old, ties him to the large mortar stone (something like putting him in a playpen, or in a halter). 
Link (here) to the full post. 

Jesuit Scholastic Aaron Pidel has posted a piece exploring the evangelization tactics of one the greatest Jesuits St. Francis Xavier, S.J.. Here is an excerpt of his much larger post , this pull quote from the famous Jesuit missionary.
The [native boys] are full of love and desire for the faith, keen to learn the prayers and to teach them to others … When I hear from them some idolatrous ceremonies in the villages … I collect all the boys I can, and off we go together to those places, where the devil gets from them more despiteful treatment than their worshiping parents had given them honour.  The little fellows seize the small clay idols, smash them, grind them to dust, spit on them and trample them underfoot.
Link (here) to the full piece.


Anonymous said...

Yeah some one believing in a comic bible full of nonsence stories about talking snake,big fish ,flate earth and blah blah dosent suit to comment on this. There is only two religion as evil as satanism itself infact even worse.its Christianity and Islam. Atleast these Hindus and Asian Religionists never killed anyone in the name of their god. Look at urselves christians. U cant even look at urselves in a mirror.

Anonymous said...

Don't you follow international news? Thousands of peaceful, inoffensive Christians have already been killed in Orissa and other parts of India by Hindu mobs....the competing metaphysical claims of both religions will have to be decided on some basis other than that of "Well, I don't like Christians."

Anonymous said...

U are such a BASTERD.... the word racisum and fanatisum started from your so call heavenly religion ,,,NOT from hindus or buddisium.forcing people to convert...black mailling people to convert ...stealling peoples children...doing favours to polote peoples mind...and always talking shit about others belive....Ur savior is not even who U claim him to be.CHRIS IS BLACK...ORIGINAL JEWS ARE BLACK...go see history ..PROPELY FRIST...IDIOT