CREDOS: Mythbusters — IV

Lavina Melwani:

Ask Long about the questions he encounters from non-Hindus, and he says, “Where to begin? The common questions are about Karma and rebirth. I usually treat this in detail, making analogies between Karma and phy-sics, and citing the Gita, emphasising that the body is the vehicle for the soul’s growth and experience and that our true identity is ultimately not physical but divine.”

The most common misconception of Hinduism that he has encountered has to do with cows and Gods: “There is a commonly held view that if people in India ate their cows, their hunger problem would vanish. This is, of course, absurd.” He explains to these sceptics the symbolic importance of the cow in Hinduism, as well as the fact that respect for the cow is really emblematic of respect for all life.

“Since my audience is usually Christian, I typically make an analogy with the Christian ideal of the trinity, saying something like, ‘Imagine the trinity extended to an infinity, and you get the basic concept of God in Hinduism’”, he says. “I also distinguish between the high Gods — Vishnu/Shiva/ Shakti conceived as supreme manifestations of Saguna Brahman — and the many other Gods, which are liberated souls, which I compare to angels and saints when I speak with Christian groups.”

Knowledge of different religions becomes imperative in talking to non-Hindus. Mich-ael W Smith, 61, Minnesota has been teaching about Hinduism for 30 years. He says: “Christians generally think of Hinduism in terms of idol-worship, rather than a single God, cults, devil worship, superstitions and the abuses of the caste system and ill-treatment of women.” —