Open Letter to H.H. the Dalai Lama
Mumbai; May 10th, 2007
I address to you as to one of the greatest spiritual leaders of this contemporary world. I have some apprehensions and want to convey my feelings to you.
Yesterday (May 9) Hindustan Times, Mumbai edition published a report on the front page titled "Nation's largest religious conversion at racecourse" (http://ht09may.notlong.com). I came to know that on 27th of May, 2007, India's biggest religious mass conversion will be held at Mahalaxmi Racecourse, Mumbai, where more than one lakh people including 1000 nomadic tribes' families will embrace Buddhism. The report contains the following statements: "People from 42 nomadic tribes will convert to Buddhism", "The Dalai Lama will perform the rites", "We tribal never followed Hinduism, so there is no question of relinquishing it" "Conversions were a protest against the government apathy; don't even get shelter and food, and literacy rate is just 0.06%."
Hinduism, at no point of time, could to be defined under a fixed set of principles and beliefs. Hindus are so diverse and far from each others in terms of practices, customs and beliefs that it is very difficult to summarize what Hinduism exactly stands for. One accepted definition is that who ever was born and lived in this land called Hindustan or India, are Hindus. Tribal and nomads, in my opinion, are more Hindu than people who regularly visit temples. They worship the sun, rivers and natural forces, which is a part of the Hindu custom and practices everywhere. They may not be as educated as or as settled as common societies, but they are all Hindus by nature. The difference in skin colors or dialect doesn't matter; they are all my brothers and sisters. Everyone born in Mother India and whoever has drunk her water and ate what comes out of her soil are her own sons and daughters. I don't understand how someone can say that the tribal are not Hindus. They may not know a word called Hinduism, but they have lived it for generations.
The government apathy over development in tribal areas is a real concern. Even after 60 years of freedom, the tribal people have not seen the life which populace in cities enjoys. We could have done so much to make their lives more comfortable and happier; alas, we have not done enough. But to use religion as a means of retaliation don't seem logical. We need to be part of the system to bring changes.
From my childhood, I have been inspired by the struggle of the Tibetans for their independence. Whenever I see your picture, I feel a feeling of reverence. The atrocities in the hands of China have made Tibetans depart from their own motherland. But I have this solace that India has patronized your cause; it has not back tracked and is second motherland to the Tibetan Buddhists. India has helped Tibetans preserve their free spirit, culture, tradition and education, and their existence has never before posed any threat to the local culture and tradition so far.
As you know, India and Hinduism are so close and engraved into each other that you hit one and the other bleeds. How can your Holiness be part of such an agenda? Religion is a personal matter, but such mass conversions are more politics than religion. Buddhism is not alien to India and even Hindus have learnt a lot from Buddhist ideas. But such mass scale religious conversions make many like me uncomfortable. Are these nomads educated enough to decided about leaving their age old beliefs to accept new ones now, or is their decision a real retaliation against neglect? Why should your Holiness be involved in these events? I love my motherland, and I consider all Indians my brothers and sisters, irrespective of their religion or belief. But I feel shattered when I come to know that my motherland which supported you as her child, suffers in the name of religion. No one can separate India and Hinduism. Hinduism is not merely a religion; it is a way of life for all who consider India as motherland. I pray to you please don't be part of such mass scale conversions. This is my sincere request to you as to the highest figure in Buddhism today.
If anywhere in this letter, I have been less than devout reverent to you please excuse my naivety.