Having lived here so long, do you think you have imbibed certain values from Indian thought, not necessarily Hindu thought – for instance, destiny, which is a pan-religious concept in this country?
Yes, recently, I did an interview for The Daily Telegraph, in which I tried to explain how, within the Christian context, you could believe in karma and in reincarnation, for which I got some interesting responses.
And I said I find reincarnation a more easy-to-believe-in-and-understand idea than the Christian concept of Heaven. And I certainly believe, and I’ve said a lot about this in India’s Unending Journey, that karma is a very important lesson, for two reasons – not just because it does teach us that, you know, we have to live responsibly, otherwise we will pay a consequence for it, but (b), because it also teaches us that when we come into this world, a whole lot is given to us, and we must not try to be something other than what our karma is.
And so many of us spend our lives, you know, trying to be clever when we’re not intellectually very clever. I mean, I’ve never been an intellectual genius by any standards! So, yes, trying to be clever when we’re meant to be something else, rejecting being good with our hands, because we think that’s demeaning, when in fact, our great talent may be for gardening or something like that. And so many of us make ourselves unhappy because we reject our karma.
So, those things, I believe one has to try and fit into one’s beliefs. And I got a letter, just today, which I’ve just answered really, about the interview, which speaks of how the idea of karma within the Christian religion is interesting.
But, you know, I would also add to this something which I think about a lot: Christianity places a greater stress on loving God, which I find helpful, and I think Indian religions are more individualistic, while Christianity is more of a corporate religion, giving you a sense of community, you know, and I like the corporate side of Christianity.
And lastly, I would say that, I, like the Mahatma, believe that that religion in which we were brought up in is probably, not absolutely necessary, but probably, the right one to practise and belong to. And I was brought up as a Christian, and at one stage, I was a very fervent Christian. So, I think I’ve always rejected the idea of leaving Christianity, for me. I’m not saying you should join in! (Laughs)
Image: Judy Mendonca, a 60-year-old Indian of Scottish descent, walks through a Christian cemetery in McCluskieganj, Jharkhand on October 25, 2011.