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Conversion and Ghar-vapsi: My Initial reflection

Conversion and Ghar-vapsi: My Initial reflection

We are hearing a lot of hue and cry about conversion, antI-conversion and re-conversion. The ongoing debate is that conversion should stop. If it does not stop rules will be framed or force will be used to stop conversion. Let us examine some basic truths that come out of this conversion debate.

Conversion is inevitable:

Change and conversion is inevitable. Worldundergoes change and get converted into new shape in every other second. The world we see is not the same that we saw few years back. Is it bad? Given an option, people opt for conversion. A person havinga bike converts his mode of transport to a car when he can afford for it and feels the need for a conversion. He can either hold on to a philosophy of contentment and retain biking or can have a more comfortable philosophy and can convert his mode of transport. When a person gets a responsible position in government or a political party, his whole life style gets converted. No party – even the ones against conversion are no exception. Even ordinary people who migrate from one part to another gets themselves converted to a new place’s life style. Sometimes this conversion is thrust upon, sometimes accepted willingly.

Why does one get converted:

When a person wishes to convert, he eitheris dissatisfied with the existing system or wants to adopt a new set of philosophies, life style and principles. Some may convert even for getting some benefit. But such opportunists who convert may not be very loyal to the principles, philosophizes and ideologies of the converted way of life. They may not even have problem in converting themselves again to some otherparty for some gains as and when the opportunity knocks. But willful conversion is different from forced conversion. Why do many give up their lives when they werethreatened? Why did not they compromise even when faced with severe persecution and threats?

Conversion by Hinduism:

Hindus show that Muslims and Christians are the ones who convert. When I go to some parts of tribal villages of Tamil Nadu,Andra, etc I find people worshiping gods other than Hinduism but calling them as Hindus. Their gods mostly are based on their village tradition. Mahabarata, Ramayana, Upanishads are alien stories to them. Then why do they call themselves Hindus? Did they too undergo some kind ofconversion somewhere in the history? Since we have history from the perspectiveof the influential can this conversion be ruler out?Who can claim to be original?Today we live in a globe with different religions. At one point of time in history there should have been one religion and even before that no religion. Religion as an ideology might have developed over the years. Can’t it be? Beginning of human existence should have been the origin of all. If any “ghar vapshi” should take place it should take place to respect human beings’worth and grand them their right. That is a real ghar vapsi. If we know history only from one perspective and only from a particular period of time, we should not give a call about “ghar vapsi”

More serious problems raised by conversion debate:

Willingnes to conversion also shows the need for a better alternative for the one who wishes to convert. When a conversion happens we should not ask the question “how to bring back the convert”, but introspect on a more serious question “why did they get converted?”. Instead of alleging false and superficial accusation, the losing party should think of restructuring so that it can retain. Deep questions should be asked from sociological, ideological and practical point of view.

A note on Christian conversion:

Before commenting on Christian conversion of non- Christian, let me make it very clear that a Christian can never give birth to a Christian. They give birth only to ordinary human beings. They can either choose to be Christian or not. Every new generation born in Christian families have to under go conversion.

Christians are often told that they lure people by money. But Christians empty themselves and their pockets when they see a need. Because of the love shown to them by Jesus Christ by giving Himself completely and His teaching to love everyone, charity becomes a part of Christian living. So when they find a need for hospital they will not stop from emptying their pockets for a social cause. What do you expect from a Christian? Not to respond at the time of need? By the mean time when some of those benefited by this upliftment gets to hear about this new teaching, he may wish to accept this self giving ideology. What is wrong in him? Why did the existing community wait till a Christian community empty its pocket? Why did it not think of such activities? Christianity went through different phase of reformation. Why not other religions who cry about conversion go through reformation? Why use force? Why use influence? Why politicize it?If there is weakness in you why do you want to invent a problem to hide your weakness? Why don’t you dare to change yourself? Why threaten people ?Why fight against conversion? Conversion was a part of history and it will have to be

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Teachers as nation builders

Happy Teachers day to all my teachers.

We live in a pakka set up of Kali yugh (last days as per Christian understanding). Day after day we see shocking crime reports. News about rape has become everyday news. Bribery, corruption, abuse of power and possition are the order of the day. Policy paralysis, slow growth rate and struggling Indian economy are some of the serious concerns our nation is facing.

 Teaching is one important profession which can really change the fate of our nation. I remember incidents where villegers comment ‘you are a learned person. How come you do such a petty act’. Well, in Indian psyche, education is not just gaining expertice in one particular field of study, but more than that it has to do with ‘being civilized’. But it is sad to see a holy profession like teaching becoming a source of mere consumerism and business. Consumerised education has brought down the quality of education to a great extent. It is sad to see such a situation arising in a nation which always hold teaching as a sacred festival with a festival like ‘guru purnima’ centred upon gurus.

 India does not lack a strong foundation for education. India’s university kind of education dates back to around 500 BC when Nalanda university was in its hay day with 10,000 students and 2000 faculty. Also guru (master) – sishya (disciple) kind of learning is not alien to Indian education system. India has also produced many model propogators of education like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Swami Vivekananda and so on.

 

Past is history but the present with its technical and educational advancements doesn’t seem very well. That is why the role of teachers as nation builders is crucial. One of the definitions for guru (master) goes like this: “he word Guru is derived from two words, ‘Gu’ and ‘Ru’. The Sanskrit root “Gu” means darkness or ignorance. “Ru” denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore one who removes darkness of our ignorance is a Guru”. India is faced with lot of darkness as I have discussed in the first paragraph. The questions Indian education system has to ask are: Can the teachers teach with a perspective that will help in removing the above vices completely? Teachers primarily give interpretation of the texts. Can teachers choose to teach in such a way to enable the students to stand against vices?

 Being a Bible teacher, I see Jesus as a perfect example of a good teacher. Some of the good qualities of teaching is as follows:

He chose to teach in a very contemporary and easy to understand way. He used parables (short stories on a theme) as a means for the same.

“And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable.” (Luke 8:4).

He stood against the existing wrong teachings and sought to bring transformation through right kind of teaching.

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.” (Matthew 21:12-17)

He focused primarily on moral transformation through his teaching.

“Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:10,11)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

(Matthew 5:27-28)

May the Lord almighty enable the teachers of this nation to be nation builders.

Because God has chosen me ….

Because God has chosen me ….

Isaish 49 5-7

(49:5) And now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength—

– Right from my formation, God has a purpose for my life. For Isaiah it was to gather all Israelites to him.
– As I trust in God to accomplish what He wants from me, He invariably becomes my strength to accomplish that particular task.

(49:6) he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

– c.f (v2,4). I may think I could not acieve much for God. But He says that He will enable me to achieve this task which is very light and enable me to achieve something stil greater.

(49:7) Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

– There are times when we will have to face stuations like ‘being ‘deeply’ despised, ‘abhored by nation’. But God IS STILL FATHFUL. One day people will understand the God who has chosen me and they will give due respect to me (because God has chosen me).

SYMBOLISM IN LITERATURE

SYMBOLISM IN LITERATURE

 An idea can be represented by a person, an object, or a group. Symbols may be presented graphically or representationally. They may involve associated letters or they may be assigned arbitrarily. Symbols are devices by which ideas are transmitted between people sharing a common culture. Every society has evolved a symbol system that reflects a specific cultural logic; and every symbolism functions to communicate information between members of the culture in much the same way as, but more subtly than, conventional language. Symbols tend to appear in clusters and to depend on one another for their accretion of meaning and value. Similarly we have symbolism in literature. In literature the systematic use of recurrent symbols of images in a work to create an added level of meaning. For example: most of the characters and incidents in Melville’s Moby Dick can be interpreted symbolically. Similarly, the raft, the river, the towns, and “the territory” combine to provide a pattern of symbolic meaning in Twains’ Huckleberry Finn.

From a psychoanalytic perspective, symbolism refers to all indirect and figurative representations of unconscious desire like symptoms, dreams, slips of the tongue, etc. This conception of the unconscious symbol depends on a relation of general substitution where one thing takes the place of another; as for as symbolism in psychology is concerned the contribution of Freud and Jung cannot be excluded.

Definition:

Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colours used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. Symbol is an object, sign, or image that is used to stand for something else; Symbolism can be distinguished from allegory in that an allegory commonly invents a world in order to comment on the real world. In symbolism, a writer usually presents what we view as the “real” world and through that reveals the higher truth of an external world. Also, an allegory normally has a system of equations in which this equals that, and something equals something else. In a symbolic representation, the concrete world is seen as a natural reflection of the eternal, and it is only through the real that the external can be seen. Reality, then extends through the symbolic to the external.

Origin and Development of Symbolism

Symbolism began as a literary movement that developed from Romanticism in France in the second half of the 19th Century. The poet Jean Moreas gave the term in his manifesto ‘LeFigaro’ in 1886. The idea of suggestion, ambiguity and symbolism rather than direct conveyance of meaning is developed by the poet Stephane Mallarme. Like romanticism, symbolism favoured feelings over reasons, but was more intellectual in its conception. This technique is brought to novel by Huysmans in his novels A Rebours and La bai.

Symbolism was largely a reaction against Naturalism and Realism, movements which attempted to capture reality in particular. These movements invited a reaction in favour of spirituality, the imagination, and dreams; the path to Symbolism begins with that reaction. Some writers, such as Joris- Karl Huysmans, began as naturalists before moving in the direction of Symbolism; for Huysmans, this change reflected his awakening interest in religion and spirituality.

The Symbolist movement in literature has its roots in Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) by Charles Baudelaire. The aesthetic was developed by Stephane Mallarme and Paul Verlaine during the 1860s and 70s. During the 1880s, this was articulated through a series of manifestoes and attracted a generation of writers. The works of Edgar Allan Poe, which Baudelaire greatly admired and translated into French, were a significant influence and the source of many stock tropes and images.

Distinct from the Symbolist movement in literature, Symbolism in art represents an outgrowth of the more gothic and darker sides of Romanticism; but perhaps of the several attempts at defining the essence of symbolism, no work was more influential than Paul Verlaine’s 1884 publication of a series of essays on Tristan Corbiere. He spoke about Arthur Rimbard and Stephane Mallarme.

Verlaine argued that in their individual and very different ways, each of these poets were highly neglected. They were isolated from their contemporaries, in this conception of genius and the role of the poet, Verlaine referred obliquely to the aesthetics of Arthur Schopenhauer, the philosopher of pessimism, who held that the purpose of art was to provide a temporary refuge from the world of blind strife of the will. A number of important literary publications were founded by Symbolists. They became associated with the movement. The first journal was La Vogue found in April 1886. In October of that same year, Jeam Moreas, Gustave Khan, and Paul Adam began the magazine ‘Le Symboliste’. One of the most important symbolist journals was ‘Le Mercure de France’, edited by Alfred Vallette, which succeeded ‘La Pleiade’ founded in 1890 this periodical lasted until 1965. Pierre Louys founded La Conque, a periodical whose Symbolist leanings were alluded to by Jorge Luis Borges in his story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. Other Symbolist literary magazines included La Revue Blanche, La Revue wagnerienne, La Plume and La Wallonie.

Remy de Gourmont and Felix Feneon were literary critics associated with the Symbolist movement. Drama by symbolist authors formed an important part. Theatre des Arts is notable production. The Symbolist and Decadent literary movements were satirized in a book of poetry called Les Deliquescences d’ Adore’ Flouptte, published in 1885 by Henri Beauclair and Gabriel Vicaire. Symbolism’s cult of the static and hieratic adopted less well to narrative fiction than it did to poetry. Joris-Karl Huysmans’ 1884 novel A Rebours (English title:

Against Nature) contained many themes which became associated with the Symbolist aesthetic. This novel in which very little happens is a catalogue of the tastes and inner life of Des Esseintes, an eccentric, reclusive antihero. The novel was imitated by Oscar Wilde in several passages of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Paul Adam was the most prolific and most representative author of Symbolist novels. Les Demoiselles Goubert co-written with Jean Moreas in 1886 is an important transitional work between Naturalism and Symbolism. Few Symbolists used this form. One exception is Gustave Kahn who published Le Roi Fou in 1896. Other fiction that is sometimes considered Symbolist is the cynical misanthropic tales of Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly. Gabriele d’ Annunzio wrote his first novels in the Symbolist vein.

Edmund Wilson’s 1931 study Axel’s Castle focuses on the continuity with symbolism and a number of important writers of the early twentieth century, with a particular focus on Yeats, Eliot, Paul Valery, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein is notable. Wilson concluded that the Symbolists represented an dreaming retreat into:, “…. things that are dying- the whole belle-lettristic tradition of Renaissance culture perhaps, compelled to specialize more and more, more and more driven inon itself, as industrialism and democratic education have come to press it closer and closer.”

The romantic period of English literature began in the late 18th century and lasted until 1832. This age favoured the development of symbolism. It was largely reaction against naturalism and realism. Symbolism in art represents an outgrowth of the more gothic and the darker side of romanticism but where romanticism was impericous and rebilious symbolism was staticand intrincic. The works of Edgar Allan Poe has a great deal in promoting symbolism. Apart from him Edgar Allan Poe, William Blake and D.G. Rossetti had too played remarkable role in this respect. As for as novel is concerned the service rendered by Oscar Wilde and Paul Adems are remarkable.

In English speaking world, the closest counterpart to symbolism was Aestheticism, and Pre-raphaelites These were contemporaries of the earlier symbolist and have much in common with them. Symbolism had a significant influence on modernism and its traces can be seen in a number of modernist artists, including T.S.Eliot and William Butler Yeats. Henrik Ibsen has used this technique in his work “ A Doll’s House”. This trend has spread in Indian writing in English too. Krish Karnad’s play “Naga Mandala” is largely symbolic. Similarly the novels of Anita Desai too have symbolic elements.

The symbolist manifesto:

Symbolists believed that art should aim at implying meanings in indirect methods. Thus, they wrote in a highly metaphysical and suggestive manner, endowing particular images or objects with symbolic meaning. Symbolists were hostile to plain meanings, declamation, false sentimentality and matter of fact description. Instead they were to clothe the ideal to a symbol. Yet their from sole purpose was to express the ideal.

Nature celebrates wedding

Nature celebrates wedding

1. As I was passing thorough that pond

The movement of the lotuses towards

The centre of the pond caught my attention.

I stopped for a while to find

Why a garden of lotuses move towards the centre

2. As I was gazing closely

I could see a change in the colour of the water too

The usual yellowish-green is changed to crystal clear white

I asked to myself “Is any wedding happening in this pond?

Does this crystal clear water symbolize holy matrimony?”

3.Little later I found cute little fishes heading towards the centre.

As I was observing closely, I could observe that the

Fishes have dressed themselves with colourful scales.

I wondered and thought to myself,

“Is there a competition for Miss Fish or Mr. Fish?”

4. Immediately I noticed a decorated vehicle coming

From the other end of the pond

As I turned towards my opposite side,

I found a similar vehicle coming from the other end of the pond.

The vehicle seemed to be a well decorated boat.

5. I could trace one person each in each vehicle.

And I was trying to trace the boatman.

To my surprise I found no boatman too.

I was wondering how the vehicle is moving without a driver.

To my surprise I realized that it was a decorated dolphin

6. As the twilight of the dawn was slowly changing

And the reddish-golden rising sun is in all its splendour

I could see a heavenly angel appear between the dolphins.

With the waving of its wings it brought

Both the dolphins to the centre of the pond.

7. Now I could realize the ones seated on the dolphins.

On one of the dolphins was the hero of hills[i]

And on the other was the mother of all nations[ii]

The angel blew into air and made two garlands.

They were knitted with Biblical virtue of marriage.

8. The angel handed the garlands to both of them

As both exchanged the garlands to each other

A golden cap with inscription

“This marriage is initiated and approved in heaven”

Came from above and rested over them.

9. Immediately a short-sighted plumb he-parrot and his music team

Appeared in the sky and tossed jasmine flowers over them.

The fragrance of jasmine bestowed both of them with marital bliss.

And as the parrots started singing “Showers of blessing we plead”

A heavy shower of different kinds of flowers blessed the couple.

(This poem is written to celebrate the wedding of my friends and colleagues Anji and Sarah)


[i] Anji

[ii] Sarah