Does your faith group attempt to recruit new members?

Posted on August 8, 2010


RADHIKA SEKAR has a PhD in Religious Studies and taught Hinduism at Carleton University for several years. She is a disciple of the Sri Ramakrishna Mission.

While asserting the basic unity in all beings, Hinduism also recognizes individual uniqueness. Thus the Vedas contend that while the goal is one, the paths are many and each must find the way best suited to his/her personality.

Likewise, there is but one supreme Deity, Who is God for all religions. To limit the manner in which one seeks “Him” or say that only one path is true, is attempting to limit the infinite and define that which is formless.

Apostasy (rejection of previous beliefs) is also absent in Hindu thinking. One may move to other paths without publicly declaring or rejecting previous affiliations. In deed, a Hindu may change sectarian views many times before finding the path that is right for him/her. Even atheism is a recognized path and one may practise religious rituals, including temple worship, for their social aspect, and yet maintain an atheistic point of view.

Hinduism is thus goal specific rather than path specific and does not proselytize or attempt to recruit new members. The several swamis, godmen and women who have established centres in the west, do not, as policy, convert followers to Hinduism. Their mission is to show that the goal of spiritual life can be attained through any religion, as long as it is practised sincerely and without fundamentalism.

Moreover, there is no standard conversion ritual, like baptism, to become a Hindu (although the Arya Samaj use the upanayanam rite). At most non-Hindus may receive Hindu names when initiated.

Mahatma Gandhi summed up the Hindu attitude most succinctly when he wrote: “Our prayer for others must not be ‘God, give them the light that thou has given me’ but ‘give them all the light and truth they need for their highest development.’ Pray merely that your friends become better people, whatever their form of religion” (Young India, 1925).

By Radhika Sekar, Citizen Special (OTTAWA CITIZEN) August 8, 2010 4:04 AM

Posted in: Special Features