Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ave, Nathan!

Nathan sends me a link to an interesting bit of news about thousands of Hindus converting to Buddhism and Christianity. Keep in mind that Buddhism is a missionary religion-- perhaps not in the monotheistic sense, but it's missionary nonetheless.

An interesting snippet:

Buddhist convert Dhammachari Manidhamma told the BBC that social equality was impossible within Hinduism.

"Buddha's teaching was for the humanity, and Buddha believed in equality. And Hindu religion, Hindu teaching is nothing but inequality."

Similar mass conversions are taking place this month in many other parts of India.

Several states governed by the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, have introduced laws to make such conversions more difficult.

The idea that people somehow naturally belong in a certain part of society can be found in disparate traditions: Plato had his "noble lie," for instance, and Hinduism has its caste system-- a system that has been contested by any number of Hindus and non-Hindus, including Gandhi. To the extent that the Hindu caste system has been an instrument of oppression, I think that the more spiritually egalitarian ethos of Buddhism and Christianity can provide a sense of hope and empowerment to those who feel trapped. Of course, we have to be wary: neither Christianity nor Buddhism is truly free of hierarchalism, either temporally or spiritually. Conversion to these religions provides no guarantees of any sort (unless there are legal issues I'm unaware of, which is a distinct possibility).


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