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Baptizing Bapuji

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
April 2012
Baptizing Bapuji SATYALOGUE
with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

I am sure you have read about this absolutely unacceptable act of baptizing Mahatma Gandhi by proxy. I feel a rage towards those who have taken the devoutly Hindu Bapu and posthumously converted him to their foreign faith.

What do these people think? We must stand up to this kind of nonsense. Next thing you know, they will be asking our children to say the Lord’s Prayer in school. I thought this was a free country that separated state and religion!

We must rally against the Mormon Church and protest this conversion.

Dear Friend,

      “I believe that there is no such thing as conversion from one faith to another in the accepted sense of the word. It is a highly personal matter for the individual and his God. I may not have any design upon my neighbour as to his faith, which I must honour even as I honour my own. Having reverently studied the scriptures of the world I could no more think of asking a Christian or a Musalman, or a Parsi or a Jew to change his faith than I would think of changing my own.”
     “Our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.”
      (M. K. Gandhi)

Gandhiji may have shared the spirit of your comments but is unlikely to have agreed with the tone. As suggested in the first quote, conversion was anathema to the Mahatma. He saw neither rhyme nor reason in the concept. If he had heard of this baptism, he might have chuckled at the chuckleheadedness of it.

Regarding your own rage, perhaps if Gandhiji were alive today, he would have taken a lighthearted approach. He may have, for a moment, put aside his favorite passages from the Gita and quoted a much more coarse bit of music to ask you, “Why this Kolaveri di?”

As the second quote suggests, regardless of whether we are Hindus or Mormons, atheists or agnostics, we need to be better Hindus, Mormons, atheists, and agnostics. All belief systems have their virtues and their shadow sides. To be sure, many of those religionists who promote conversion do so from an honest place,
believing that their religion will bring solace to others as it has to them. But, of course, it is for each individual to say what is the right source for such solace; we must neither blindly follow the baptizers nor those protesting the baptism. While baptizing Gandhiji may bring some measure of joy to those who believe in the power of baptism, it does little to nothing for the Mahatma. And while protesting the baptism may bring satisfaction to socalled Hindu leaders, it only incites an unnecessary rage in some who previously were eager to live and let live.

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj.oza@sbcglobal.net.]

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