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Malaysia Conference

Bodhinatha speaks about an event he has been invited to by the Malaysia Hindu Sangam called "Hindu Renaissance Event," scheduled for January 26, 2003 in Kuala Lumpur. Hindus in Malaysia are faced with the problem of fraudulent evangelical conversion, and the intention of this event is to rally and educate Hindus to prevent their being so unethically converted to Christianity.

Unedited Transcript:

It is a wonderful vibration this morning. I thought twice about speaking English, here comes the English! Anyway, moving into English, another wonderful bliss of our homa.

As most of you know, when we stopped in Malaysia on our way back from Mauritius, we met with the President of the Malaysia Hindu Sangam, Vaithilingam. He invited us to come back to Malaysia to be one of the speakers at an event that the Hindu Sangam is arranging, that they are calling a Hindu Renaissance event, which is scheduled for January 26th.

January 26th sounds like a long time away, two and a half months. Lots of time to prepare. Well, they sent a little e-mail yesterday, could you please send a copy of your talk so we can get you a Visa? So all of a sudden, my two and a half months of preparation vanished and I have about two days instead! I thought I would share some thoughts this morning in terms of initial thoughts on this area and help get some feedback and ideas from all of you. Just your sitting there and thinking about what I say, gives me ideas.

Malaysia Hindu Sangam is concerned about a very specific problem, fraudulent Evangelical conversion. The President very carefully distinguished between the Christian groups in Malaysia which the Malaysia Hindu Sangam gets along with very well, has respect for, such as the Catholic groups, the mainstream groups like Presbyterians and so forth. They respect the Malaysia Hindu Sangam in return.

It is only this one particular area of Christianity that they are concerned about and specifically it is some very charismatic, evangelical preachers who are coming from India. (and) They are holding big rallies and going around to the various cities in Malaysia. If you watch carefully in all the different towns every night the same person, the same blind person gets his sight back. It is the same person every night, somehow he becomes blind the next morning and is cured again the following night. That is not a very good cure! Anyway, I am just joking. The person, of course, is not blind in the first place. He is just pretending to be blind and pretending to be healed. Likewise with people that are crippled and so forth. They are not really getting healed but it is part of the presentation and it is winning over some converts from Hinduism.

Rather than have an anti-conversion rally, we are having a Hindu Renaissance rally. I was thinking about an analogy which I will try and develop. It is not in the pot yet. An analogy of prevention versus cure. In medicine, of course, we try and strengthen the immune system, take our vitamin C, take our echinacea when the cold season comes around. We try and prevent ourselves from getting the cold or flu in the first place. The other approach is you just wait until you get it and then you have to cure it.

So they are taking the prevention approach. Maybe we can strengthen something in the first place so the problem does not occur. That is the reason they are focusing on Hindu Renaissance.

Very interesting timing! In Tamil Nadu, an anti-conversion bill was passed just a few days ago. The legislature of Tamil Nadu passed a bill against conversion. Specifically to read our own HPI says, "Chief Minister Jayalalitha, commenting on the legislation, said that it was not directed against any particular religion or minorities. There was no provision under the India Penal Code to prevent conversions and therefore the government felt the need for a legislation to curb conversions through "force and allurement."

Those are the key words, "force and allurement." Such as, getting money. Or getting privileges that you do not have, such as schools or hospitals. Getting access to those kinds of things which you do not have now. But, if you become of that religion, all of a sudden you have these privileges or allurements . "Those changing religion on their own volition will not be covered under this legislation."

So, as part of the preparation for this talk I was looking through our best resource of course, regarding conversion, which is 'How to Become a Hindu' and I happened to come across the statement that Gurudeva made in the book, which I had forgotten about. It says, "In India today, the problems of forced or deceitful conversions are so prevalent that the government is trying to pass a law to prohibit such tactics, like the laws that already exist in Nepal. We hope this legislation is passed not only in India but wherever similar problems exist."

Gurudeva must be happy! We will have to send him a note. Could you send him a note, Arumugaswami, send him that HPI? The book was published two years ago, I imagine. More than maybe three or four years ago, he made that statement. But it has finally come to pass, at least, in Tamil Nadu. It shows, it is right in line with Gurudeva's thinking. They are using the words, "force and allurement." He said, "forced or deceitful". A very similar concept.

Swami Dayananda Saraswati commented on the legislation. I thought I would read a little bit from him. He is the only Swami from who we have comments at the moment. He says, "I welcome the promulgation of the ordinance by the Government of Tamil Nadu to ban religious conversions by use of force or by allurements or by any fraudulent means. This is a long-awaited step, a step that ensures for the citizens of Tamil Nadu the most basic of human rights."

He goes into a fairly long description of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and how it fits in with that. But we will skip that and move on.

"With the conversion experience come shame, isolation, deep personal conflict and ultimately, the seeds for discord. History testifies to the devastating loss of rich and diverse cultures, gone forever in the aftermath of religious conversion. I appeal to the political leadership of all other States in India to promulgate similar laws and make sure that all possibilities of religious conflict are avoided, and the tradition of religious harmony in India is maintained."

That is a very strong statement. It is nice to see he is taking a strong position on that.