What are the biggest mistakes in Hinduism

"Tolerance is the wrong word"

Martin Baumann is a religious scholar at the University of Lucerne. He specializes in Hinduism and Buddhism and has researched on "Migration, Religion, Integration". As a scientist, he followed the construction of the Hindu temple in Hamm-Uentrop with particular interest. In his opinion, the term "tolerance" does not apply to Hindus. Because for them it goes without saying that there are different gods like Mary, Jesus or Mohammed who can be worshiped in different ways.

WDR.de: When one of the largest Hindu temples in Europe was built in Hamm in 2001, some of the Hindus met with very harsh rejection. How do Hindus deal with this?

Martin Baumann: There were individual voices from the population in Hamm-Uentrop that could be heard at the time. Above all, it was fear of the unknown, perhaps also an outlet for other problem situations. The Hindus themselves reacted very defensively. Priest Paskaran did not go public, or rather late when he was asked in interviews. He said very clearly: "We accept to live here, so we also accept such problems, we try to mediate".

Last but not least, the Tamil Hindus who founded the temple are also grateful that they were welcomed in Germany before the civil war in Sri Lanka. People were very cautious about the conflict, the temple could be built and one of the greatest critics of this temple, who had agitated against the new Hindu neighbors among the population, had herself photographed with the priest about three years later when it came to municipal council elections went.

WDR.de: Is that the classic way of dealing with conflicts?

Baumann: Not necessarily. The temple in Hamm is run mainly by Tamils ​​who live in Germany as a less privileged group. Many have no permanent right to stay and some only have low incomes. In India itself, Hindus sometimes have a very different demeanor. Right-wing chauvinist nationalist circles in particular use Hinduism to marginalize groups and curtail rights. For example, in the dispute over the Babri Mosque in northern India, they said that this mosque should be destroyed because, according to legend, there was a temple of the Hindu god Rama there. You were very aggressive and violent. You always have to pay close attention to the local conditions.

WDR.de: We perceive Hindus as peaceful contemporaries. Are there really so few problems?

Baumann: The Western image tends to attribute tolerance and peacefulness to Hindus, often as a reflection of what is missing here in Europe. Hindus and Buddhists are given a positive image, so to speak, while the image of Islamic tradition is currently very negative. But Islam was partially glorified in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the Islamic countries, so to speak, was the life of 1001 nights, mathematics and science existed there. So the perception changes with the times and depending on the circumstances.

Hinduism as a tolerant, peaceful religion - the impression is fed by the image of people like Gandhi, Nehru, etc. In addition, it is assumed that it is a religion in which there are no conflicts and no mission, as a counter-image to Christianity and Islam who are proselytizing. There are definitely problems, especially due to the strong politicization of Hinduism in India, especially in northern India, where many conflicts have arisen and clear tendencies towards exclusion and violence can be identified.

WDR.de: Mission is often a source of conflict. Do Hindus proselytize?

Baumann: An old controversial question is: Do you have to be born Hindu or can you convert? There are different voices among the priesthood in India. Some say: "He who sees himself as a Hindu, lives a vegetarian and fulfills certain duties, is a Hindu." Others say: "No, you have to be born a Hindu, have a Hindu mother, have grown up in the caste order." There are very different views, from conservative to progressive:
In the 20th century, Hindu traditionalists said: "We want to" bring back "Muslims, Buddhists or Jainas living in India to Hinduism and convert. In contrast, Hindus of Indian descent living in the West largely do not proselytize.

The second line is the western new religious movements - formerly denigrated as "sects" - which refer back to certain Hindu teachings. They have the concept that their spirituality, their Hindu religiosity, is there for all of humanity and can be adopted and exercised by anyone, anyone. Here we already have a clearly missionary orientation, but in no way aggressive or numerically extensive.

WDR.de: The term Hinduism was a collective term for all Indian, non-Muslim faiths in the colonial times. So under the umbrella of Hinduism there are very different religious directions. Are there tensions?

Baumann: Not really. There are many polemics against each other in the Hindu scriptures. What is the best method for attaining enlightenment? Who has the best teachers? But they are not far-reaching disputes in that sense. The basic idea here is that the divine manifests itself in many different forms and that different types of worship are possible.
There are also documents that there were definitely violent clashes between the traditions. They existed between the Sadhu orders, the order of ascetics, to answer questions such as: Who has the privilege of leading the processions at this or that central pilgrimage site and thus receiving prestige. Who has the privilege to step into the holy water first?

But conflicts as we know them from Europe, such as the 30 Years War, that is not recorded for India - this religiously based violence. Possibly because it was not primarily about religious ideas - about dogmas - but about practice. A practice of piety, called bhakti, does not lead to a dispute over ideas, terms and concepts.
It is more about the correct behavior of the people, following the box rules, following the duties. The ideas are secondary, the focus is on the practice, the doing. And then you can worship different gods in different ways.

Interview conducted by Anneke Wardenbach.