I was thinking about my grandfather today. He passed away when I was about 7 or 8 years old. Although my personal memories of him are vague and few, he has been kept alive and well with tales of his glory by all his children. He was so loved by them that he could do no wrong. The stories of his generosity are many. He was willing to give his shirt off his back for someone in need, even though he faced financial hardships all his life. The family was large with 7 children and my grandparents. Providing food, clothing, and shelter for all was somewhat an ordeal.
Following British invasion into India, missionary work became very common. Conversion to Christianity was a common occurrence too. Tales of conversion of many village and tribal communities in rural India is well-known. Tribal culture in India at that time was primitive and raw. Village culture was mostly uneducated agrarian culture. While the tribes did not necessarily conform to any religion and poverty in rural India was rampant, these communities were easy targets for conversion into organized religion. India with the largest democracy in the world provided a safe haven for missionary work. Missionaries seemed to be more focused on the quantity of conversions rather than quality of conversions. Tales of petty bribery such as a sack of rice, to coerce people into Christianity are numerous.
My grandfather was a French Teacher. He worked in a Christian Missionary school. They were very aware of his financial hardships. Although he had served many years in the school as a respectable teacher he was denied a pension package because he declined to convert into Christianity. They had presented him with a good pension package with a caveat that he would follow and convert into Christianity. My grandfather was not willing to succumb to bribery, even though that was his ticket to financial stability. He later passed away at a relatively young age of a heart attack, possibly because of life stressors including financial burdens.
This story often touches my heart and I wonder if denying pension on the basis of religious label was a Godly action. My grandfather was certainly a very Godly person. He believed in sacrifice. His extreme generosity was known to friends and family. He imparted great moral values. In fact if one looked at the ten commandments he fulfilled every one of those Godly characteristics without a doubt. Why then was he not considered a Godly person in his school? Was the label so important, that they forgot to recognize a true child of God? When God asked his word to be spread, did he ask for quantity or quality? If he asked for quality, then did the Principal of the school have to answer to God because he dismissed a soul who was already on the path of God?
What then truly is the meaning of Conversion? It does not seem as though converting the label is the purpose of conversion. The intent of conversion should be to set a strong example of Godliness within one’s life, that those around us will imbibe the actions and follow the steps of Godliness with reverence. The purpose of conversion should be to convert the non-believers to believers, to help the prodigal souls to return to their father, to be a GPS for those who have wandered out of the path of Godliness, and to enlighten those who have embraced worldliness without Godliness. Changing a label does not necessarily change these traits. One can change these traits without changing the label.
Religion is a path to self-realization. Self-realization is the goal of every soul. A self-realized person will not see the need to discriminate between black and white. They will realize the same God in all regardless of the label attached to them. It will not matter if there are more Jewish people or fewer Hindus in the world. Every religion which is the path of Godliness has the same message of self-realization. Every religion has the same innate message of seeking God as the ultimate purpose of life. So instead of focusing on increasing the total numbers of your religious path, would it not be more Godly to encourage more to become believers through example.
That is,…. that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.
Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, God, Sai Baba, and many others would agree and would embrace all regardless of the label they are attached to as long as they are seeking God. Everyone is seeking the same God through different means. All paths of Godliness lead to God.
Only one in a thousand who seek God know him, so let us put more effort in knowing God rather than putting time and effort into converting names and labels.
The one who walks on the path of righteousness with faith and belief finds God, but the one who communes with the universal spirit, beyond the boundaries of space and time knows God (temple, mosque, synagogue, church, monastery, etc)
Let there be light everywhere!!!