Thursday 21st December 2006

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In search of the truth

In T&T there is a 150-year tradition where Hindus and other non-Christians observe the tradition associated with this great festival.

Most of the Western Christian world and our brothers and sisters in T&T will celebrate Christmas on December 25. Already T&T has shifted gear into the festivities associated with the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Even so, debates across the world continue over the actual birth date of the Saviour of Christian souls. Some Christian groups claim that Jesus was born on a date that is quite different from the Catholic version.

Many Christian groups also differ when it comes to whether Sunday is the real Sabbath, the day when their Lord rested after creating the world.

Say authors Mark L Prophet and Elizabeth Clair Prophet in their book The Lost Teachings of Jesus:

“All religious traditions that we have received have reported truth to us. All religious traditions have reported to us error. This is not necessarily the fault of any one segment of Christianity. Most of us were born into the religion of our parents. And we came into this world not knowing exactly where we came from.”

The critics of Christianity, after centuries of suppression and even incarceration, have found a world that promotes the concept of freedom of the mind and the person. All civilized nations now have enshrined in their constitutions, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of movement.

It is not surprising therefore that my own religion, Hinduism, is freely questioned and criticised. So too is Islam, which is undergoing tremendous upheavals in its own heartland.

Christianity and all its festivals are being analysed by historians and archeologists whose claim is to arrive at the truth.

Ancient manuscripts and pre-Christian documents provide clues as to the real origin of religious masterpieces like the Sermon on the Mount and even the Lord’s Prayer.

According to the prophets:

“Christ stood before Pilate and Pilate asked the question, ‘What is the truth?’ And we ask the same question today. We should understand that here on Earth truth is relative—there are half truths, there are full truths, and relative truths.”

And they continued:

“Truth is progressive by nature and cannot be qualified into a creed with impunity. When we put it into a creed, it becomes the letter that killeth. We want the spirit that giveth life because we come forth from spirit.”

The author of the controversial book Jesus Lived in India, Olga Kersten, concurs when he writes:

“When the most central and fundamental teachings of a church are no longer accepted as the pure truth even among that church’s own elite administrators, the end of traditional Christianity is undeniably at hand. The message of the empty pews is quite clear.”

As Hindus we proclaim, as Mahatma Gandhi did, “Truth is God. And God is truth.” Even as we recognise this in the practice of religion, the tradition of our ancestors play an important role.

Many of the Hindu scriptures could be regarded as traditional, that came down by word of mouth from generation to generation.

The Puranas are a whole range of Hindu scriptures known as Srutis, that is oral transmissions from guru (religious preceptor) to chela (the devotee). Since the invention of writing, however, we refer to the written version as Smriti, or the written word.

So that those who search for truth are duty bound to consider tradition as part of the truth-finding process. Only then will the perceived and often-articulated conflict of science and religion disappear.

In T&T there is a 150-year tradition where Hindus and other non-Christians observe the tradition associated with this great festival. Many of us consider the Christmas season a most beautiful time of the year, when we sing Christmas carols in unison with great performing artists of yester-year.

Bing Crosby’s White Christmas is still my favourite. Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Jim Reeves still inspire me. Yes, I do come from the past and appreciate the religious diversity that is my country—Trinidad and Tobago.

The Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) is a vehicle which the Maha Sabha co-founded to foster greater religious understanding among the followers of different faiths. And at the education level we are part of the Association of Denominational Boards. These are individual organisations that manage all the church-owned schools in T&T.

On behalf of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha and the Hindu community I express the hope that the problems that besiege our beautiful country will soon disappear. And that the magic of Christmas will help fulfil our individual dreams.

Happy Christmas to the world!

n Satnarayan Maharaj is the

secretary general of the

Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha










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