The Indian Express

Saturday, October 30, 1999

Religion by free choice

Dr. Alexander Harris

I have been following the activities of the VHP with some amusement. To me, religion shows a pathway to God which must be carefully studied by each individual by free choice without any coercion or deception. Also each individual must have the freedom to share his or her faith and expose any deception in society. This sharing is for the benefit of all and must be without any ulterior motive or deception.

Over the past the VHP has not shown interest in open debates or discussion on religion. Instead, it tried to stir up religious sentiments and create confusion regarding the history of development of religion in India. Take for instance the Bhagavad Gita that has many similarities with the Bible.

There are parallels in the doctrines of incarnation, salvation by faith, and total surrender to God. How is this so?

The Gita is written in good classical Sanskrit and epigraphic evidence clearly shows that it could not have been written before the second century A.D. The earliest epigraphic evidence on languages in India comes from the inscriptions of Asoka inscribed in third century B.C. But its messages were in Prakrit, not Sanskrit.

The first evidence of Sanskrit is found around A.D.150 and from the fifth century A.D. classical Sanskrit is seen to be the dominant language in the inscriptions. Thus the doctrines of God coming into the world in the form of a man, He being our sacrifice, salvation by faith in Him, and our response to total surrender to God as a living sacrifice are the doctrines of Christ. These influences are seen in the Bhagavad Gita.

South India had excellent trade relations with the Roman Empire. Along with that there were cultural and religious exchanges. When we study the development of religion and worship in India before and after Christ, we can see that Christ and Christianity totally transformed religion and worship in India from the first century AD.

Thus I find Mr. Ashok Singal’s criticism quite meaningless. What is needed is an open forum for discussing religious issues based on truth and facts.

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