“Asato Ma Sad Gamaya; Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya, Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya; Om Shanti Shanti Shanti”. This ancient Sanskrit prayer / mantra is recited regularly by the philosophical Brahmin disciple to his Guru. It translates as follows: Lead Us From the Unreal To Real, Lead Us From Darkness To Light, Lead Us From Death To Immortality, Aum (the universal sound of God) Let There Be Peace Peace Peace. (Wikipedia n.d.)
This mantra unveils the heart of Hindu theology and is quite depictive of the natural tendency of the Hindu to search for the ‘Truth’ and the ‘Light’. One enters a land of the mystics and mysticism the moment one steps on the soil in India. As E. Stanley Jones describes it well, “you can feel it in the air” (Jones n.d.). It is everywhere. India has been called as the land of the seeker. It is the birth place of five religions. Generally, Hindus who are a majority of the population are very theologically oriented. But there is a difference.
The current reading Theology A Very Short Introduction by David G. Ford constantly led me to reflect on my own background and context. A noticeable difference emerges between Hindu and Christian Theology. It lies in the central agenda. Hindu theology revolves around self and places God on the periphery. Much of it is inward focused. It seeks self realization. It begins with the ‘self’ and moves towards God. All search is in relation to Self. This has resulted in such great emphasis on Anthropomorphic expressions (idols) of its Gods and goddesses and a religion based on works? (Hindu Theology 2012)
‘Christian theology’ on the other hand centers in God. It begins with God and moves toward everything else. “In the beginning God…” (Gen1:1 NIV) Theological reflection then becomes a search for relevant answers to life from standpoint of this Christian Faith. It is firmly anchored. Ford so poignantly states: “Once ‘God’ is genuinely on the agenda, there can be no arbitrary limiting of enquiry” (Ford 2000) . No matter where one begins and how far one may go on the index between type 5 and type 1 as described in part I, the anchor holds.
The reading also reminded me of someone whose works I read during my seminary days. Panikkar a catholic theologian born in Spain but of partial Indian parenthood wrote after his first trip to India: “I left Europe [for India] as a Christian, I discovered I was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be a Christian.” (Thomas 2010) The theology that India needs today is one that is first and foremost anchored in the Trinity and unapologetically rooted in the Word; yet, one that will boldly reach into the heart of the people at their level of every need including mysticism.
Does ‘Folk theology’ which is predominant in the Church, have a natural and more compelling androcentric leaning?
Are contemporary expressions of idolatry, ‘distorting’ and ‘polluting’ “the ecology of life” as Ford describes,(Ford 2000, 53-53), the result of a growing self centered theology? How should I as Christian leader and a ‘reflective practitioner’ address this?
Ford, David F. Theology A Very Short Introduction. New York, New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2000.
Hindu Theology. 2012. http://www.hinduonline.co/HinduReligion/AllAboutHinduism7.html (accessed October 7, 2012).
Jones, E. Stanley. The Christ Of The Indian Road.
Thomas, T. Jacob. Indian Christian Theology. September 2, 2010. http://jacthanni.blogspot.in/ (accessed October 7th, 2012).
l 1033 Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Brihardaranyaka Upanishad. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brihadaranyaka_Upanishad (accessed October 10th, 2012).