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Switch to Forum Live View How can I respond to Christian missionaries who claim Hinduism is bad for women?
5 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2009 - 2:40PM #11
Heatherldavis
Posts: 2

Wow, thanks to you all for your insights. I work for an international aid organization and know that education, training, and local empowerment are what really matter to lift women out of poverty.


I give my relatives kudos for working with widows and orphans but their charity is really all about spreading "the good news." They mean well but I think it's important to help those in need apart from a religious agenda. They don't actually pay Indians to convert to Christianity but they work with Indian Christians to provide food, shelter, and schooling to the poorerst populations and along with all that help comes rhetoric about Jesus.


You all answered many of my questions but I still don't know where some of the practices like the disenfranchisement of widows come from--if they are not rooted in Hindu practice, are they cultural and social traditions? Why are they so hard to tear down?


Do those practices stop in the upper and more educated classes? Do some less educated groups use Hinduism to try to support practices that are not good for women?


I have more research to do I think.


When I replied to my aunt that she should not characterize India as a "dark" and "lost" continent because it is not entirely Christian, she really got defensive and angry.


And then I felt really guilty for upsetting her. Your posts have made me feel a bit better though--thanks!


--Heather


 

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2009 - 5:57PM #12
gangajal
Posts: 835

[[[but I still don't know where some of the practices like the disenfranchisement of widows come from--if they are not rooted in Hindu practice, are they cultural and social traditions? Why are they so hard to tear down?]]]


These are cultural and social traditions. The problem is that nearly all traditional societies are dominated by males. In traditional societies the worth of a woman is measured by looking at her husband and sons. This is true all over the world and was true in the western world only a hundred years ago. To give an example, there is still a law in the statute books in Paris, France that forbids women from wearing pants!


Your critic is from the vantage point of the current western society which has undergone changes from this traditional attitude gradually over a century. Hindu society is only at the beginning of this change. Hindus were under muslim and western christian domination from 1100 to 1947. One can't change society under foreign domination. Change has come only in the last 60 years in urban areas. Rural areas are still very conservative in their views. I suspect that the conservative views are due to lack of education, jobs and other economic factors.  Change will occur slowly since it will take about 100 years for these economic factors to change. Change will occur when women have education and go outside their homes and earn good money.


What your relative is doing or what Hindu service organizations are doing will not change these attitudes. What will change is massive state intervention to spread education and economic opportunity to women. Indian state has in fact adopted this strategy for the last 60 years and there has been enormous progress. Much more needs to be done.


You have asked why it is so hard to tear down these traditions. It is hard to tear down these traditions since people take them for granted. It is part of their identity. Let me give the example of my family. When I was growing up I used to notice that my mother would be the last to have lunch.  Some times she would be having her lunch at 5 in the evening because she waited for every male member of our large family to finish their lunch. It never occurred to me when I was growing up that there is something bad about it specially since nobody told my mother not to have lunch. She did it on her own. She felt an obligation. This example shows that what might strike you as outrageous might appear different to those who are practicing it.


Christian missionaries have been targeting Hindus for the last 400 years. They have tried violence. They have tried converting the Brahmins in the belief that conversion of Brahmins would lead to the collapse of Hinduism. They have tried bribery or social work among the poor (almost the same thing) to gain converts. So this is nothing new.


If conversion to Christianity is the way forward then why has the situation in black Africa gone from bad to worse as more and more black Africans have converted to Christianity?


Gangajal

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2009 - 6:23PM #13
gangajal
Posts: 835

[[Do those practices stop in the upper and more educated classes? Do some less educated groups use Hinduism to try to support practices that are not good for women?]]


Before I say anything let me stress that Hindu society is not monolithic since their is no central organization that forces a common code. So there is variation in behavior. So how do upper and more educated classes behave? The most famous widow in modern India was Indira Gandhi. No one would say that she was mistreated by anyone. I can again give the example of my mother. When my father passed away in 1998, I told her that she does not have to follow the tradition of a Hindu widow (like wearing white clothes, shaving her head, eating only vegetarian food). She does not do any of that. She told me that her neighbours agreed that she does not have to do all this but they felt that wearing bright red clothes (as she wears) was going a bit too far! So I would say that Hindu society does  not in general look favourably on widows but in more educated classes widows live better. The bottom line is that if  the woman has access to education and money than she can do more or less what she wants.


Let me now clarify one thing. Why is that the Hindu tradition recommends Hindu widows live such an austere life? The idea behind this is not to torture widows. The idea is to help a woman gain liberation. Hindu men are advised to live the austere life of a monk if they want liberation. Normally women are not expected to become monks. Hindu traditional view is that a woman who has become a widow has the golden opportunity to live a monk like life and gain liberation from this world. I personally see nothing objectionable in the idea. What I object to is to force the widow to live like a monk when she doesn't want to.


You may ask why is there a requirement for austere living? Let me quote from the Christian Bible:


Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of
heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the
eye of a needle, then for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Mathew
19.23-24


The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man
hath not where to lay his head. (Mathew 8.20)


If you want liberation then you have to give up all the pleasures of life like good clothes, good food, sex etc. However, this renunciation should be voluntary and not forced on people.


I do not know of any group that supports ill treatment of women.

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2009 - 6:50PM #14
Maya3
Posts: 928

Heather,


I'm sorry that your aunt got upset with you, it's frustrating when your family doesn't hear where you are coming from and are getting defensive. I have had some pretty heated discussions with my Jewish sister in law regarding the Isreaeli Palestinian conflict.


I think Gangajal has answered your questions great.


The trick to overcoming oppression of women is definately by impower them within their own culture and religion instead of trying to convert them to something else.


But I agree with you too that it is very nice of your family to try to help the poor, it's obviously coming from their heart.


 


Maya

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 16, 2009 - 1:33PM #15
gangajal
Posts: 835

There is one thing about Heather's evangelical aunt and uncle that disturbed me. Why didn't they tell Heather about the hundreds of Hindu organizations working for the upliftment of the poor?

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 16, 2009 - 4:02PM #16
Jm8
Posts: 784

Heather,

Gangajal presented a modernist liberal hindu view based on the acceptance of Western paradigm promoted by state run schools and media in India. This view disregards dharma completely, considering it a human/elitist construct. This is a monopoly view in main pro-Western Indian media outlets.


Let me give you a more mainstream view, a traditional Vaisnava perspective.

> The problem is that nearly all traditional societies are dominated by males.

This is a myth perpetuated by modernists. Fact: traditional societies are dominated by dharma rules in their various forms (Moses's Laws are of dharma nature). As woman is subject to a man, the man is subject to dharma, guru and God. But when one starts to play master, problems are ahead. See Bhagavadgita ch. 16.

> In traditional societies the worth of a woman is measured by looking at her husband and sons.

That's the dharma of a woman. If this is undermined, we get the things like feminism.

> This is true all over the world and was true in the western world only a hundred years ago.

Right. The next question is: Why since hundred years ago the West goes steeply down from a moral pov? Degradation of human relationships, growth of crime, economic-only criteria for everything...?

> Change has come only in the last 60 years in urban areas. Rural areas are still very conservative in their views. I suspect that the conservative views are due to lack of education, jobs and other economic factors.

conservative = dharmic
Traditional societies lasted for thousands of years while modern one is close to its collapse after two hundred years. Should make one think.

> Change will occur when women have education and go outside their homes and earn good money.

What will an adharmic person do with education and good money? It'll speed up degradation. USA is the model example.

Another modernist myth is that country people worldwide are poor. No, they have their houses, soil, animals, work, traditions. Their life is hard but simple and peaceful, i.e. sattvic.
But compared to affluent urban people they look poor and 'backward' (when the criteria of 'progress' is economic growth, use of modern technology and availability of 'easy life'). Then TV lures them to urban areas with a vision of Western-like cozy life but they mostly end up in slums.

> You have asked why it is so hard to tear down these traditions. It is hard to tear down these traditions since people take them for granted. It is part of their identity.

For good reasons. Not blindly at all.

> my mother would be the last to have lunch

My mother and both granmas did the same. They were very much service oriented. The difference is that ours was a nonpracticing Catholic family. So this is not something exclusive for Hindu tradition.

> Hindu traditional view is that a woman who has become a widow has the golden opportunity to live a monk like life and gain liberation from this world. I personally see nothing objectionable in the idea. What I object to is to force the widow to live like a monk when she doesn't want to.

Forcing means disregarding dharma. While the modernist recipe is to abolish dharma (speeding up the collapse), the real solution is to return to it.

> When I replied to my aunt that she should not characterize India as a "dark" and "lost" continent because it is not entirely Christian, she really got defensive and angry.

Typical reaction of these people. They often mean well (saving the 'lost', where 'lost'= any nonmember of their church) but they don't understand the big picture. They think they have a _monopoly_ on "Light and Truth". That's the main problem. On our website we try to show that this is false, that in fact there're many parallel monotheistic traditions worldwide revealed by the same God (in His various forms) in various times, places and circumstances. I'm sure that this understanding can bring a substantial change.

Hope this helps. Hare Krishna.

Your servant, bh. Jan

www.vrindavan-dham.com
www.veda.harekrsna.cz

kAmyopAsana yArthayanty anudinaM kincit phalaM svepsitam,
kecit svargam athApavargam apare yogAdi yajnAdibhiH,
asmAkaM yadunandanAMghri yugala dhyAnAvadhAnArthinAm,
kiM lokena damena kiM nRpatinA svargApavargaizca kiM?

"Those who waste their time for the attainment of celestial joys or liberation are fools! I do not want any of that! I only desire to remain engrossed in the sweet remembrance of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna. What is the need for heaven or mukti to prema bhaktas of the Lord?" (Adi Sankaracarya, Prabodha sudhakara, Anugrahika prakaranam 150)

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 16, 2009 - 4:18PM #17
Maya3
Posts: 928

Jm8,


As a feminist I absolutely do not agree with your view at all.


The world is NOT better if a woman follows her man, using religion as an excuse to do that is insane.


We are here to evolve as we have for the last bilions of years. At no time is there a reason to go backwards. You can be deeply devoted as a Hindu, or Christian or whatever relgion you feel connected to without behing "behind" a man.


 

As woman is subject to a man, the man is subject to dharma, guru and God.



Sounds kind of like the controversial babtist view: "A woman shoul follow her husband in everything and the man should love his wife as Jesus loves the church"


 


Maya


 

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 17, 2009 - 3:17AM #18
Jm8
Posts: 784

Maya,

I know your stance from your previous posts.

> The world is NOT better if a woman follows her man, using religion as an excuse to do that is insane.

The point is that one _can't_ use 'religion as an excuse to do that is insane'. That's itself adharma and brings bad karma.

Following dharma is not going backwards, just the opposite, evolving morally and spiritually.

To be "behind a man" actually refers to service. Everyone is a servant of God regardless of the body one has now. That's the way to evolve.

> Sounds kind of like the controversial babtist view: "A woman shoul follow her husband in everything and the man should love his wife as Jesus loves the church"

It's not controversial when understood within dharmic paradigm. The only thing is that 'everything' must be dharmic. If the husband is adharmic, her life becomes hellish. This is what feminists like to point out but they blame men as a category and avoid going to the root of the problem: adharma. As a result feminism tries to subvert dharma and replace it by adharma ('freedom to do anything'). We can see results around us.

Hope this helps. Hare Krishna.

Your servant, bh. Jan

www.vrindavan-dham.com
www.veda.harekrsna.cz

kAmyopAsana yArthayanty anudinaM kincit phalaM svepsitam,
kecit svargam athApavargam apare yogAdi yajnAdibhiH,
asmAkaM yadunandanAMghri yugala dhyAnAvadhAnArthinAm,
kiM lokena damena kiM nRpatinA svargApavargaizca kiM?

"Those who waste their time for the attainment of celestial joys or liberation are fools! I do not want any of that! I only desire to remain engrossed in the sweet remembrance of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna. What is the need for heaven or mukti to prema bhaktas of the Lord?" (Adi Sankaracarya, Prabodha sudhakara, Anugrahika prakaranam 150)

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 17, 2009 - 7:33AM #19
Maya3
Posts: 928



I know your stance from your previous posts.




no kidding




Following dharma is not going backwards, just the opposite, evolving morally and spiritually.

To be "behind a man" actually refers to service. Everyone is a servant of God regardless of the body one has now. That's the way to evolve.



I know what it means, but now as we ARE evolving we should realzie that the man is NOT the boss, you should serve EACHOTHER and everyone



It's not controversial when understood within dharmic paradigm. The only thing is that 'everything' must be dharmic. If the husband is adharmic, her life becomes hellish. This is what feminists like to point out but they blame men as a category and avoid going to the root of the problem: adharma. As a result feminism tries to subvert dharma and replace it by adharma ('freedom to do anything'). We can see results around us.



From the above statement, it is clear that you know nothing of feminism or what it means.

Maya

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 17, 2009 - 10:18AM #20
Jm8
Posts: 784

Maya,

when everyone serves everyone as per one's individual dharma, and ultimately God, that's the idea of varnasrama dharma society. Modern society is far from this ideal and therefore it goes down fast.

So kindly quote about the relationship of feminism and a/dharma. That'd be a good topic for a separate thread.

Hope this helps. Hare Krishna.

Your servant, bh. Jan

www.vrindavan-dham.com
www.veda.harekrsna.cz

kAmyopAsana yArthayanty anudinaM kincit phalaM svepsitam,
kecit svargam athApavargam apare yogAdi yajnAdibhiH,
asmAkaM yadunandanAMghri yugala dhyAnAvadhAnArthinAm,
kiM lokena damena kiM nRpatinA svargApavargaizca kiM?

"Those who waste their time for the attainment of celestial joys or liberation are fools! I do not want any of that! I only desire to remain engrossed in the sweet remembrance of the lotus feet of Lord Krishna. What is the need for heaven or mukti to prema bhaktas of the Lord?" (Adi Sankaracarya, Prabodha sudhakara, Anugrahika prakaranam 150)

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