So this Catholic from Canada who used to be Hindu, and this Hindu from The United States who used to be Catholic came together on a tour van in Mexico. It was a tour of a city on the Mexican Rivera.
Regrettably, my wife was not feeling well, and so I took this tour alone. There were three couples, and I was number 7. As we boarded, our eyes met and we politely smiled at each other. We were all on the same cruise ship and this was one of the planned land excursions.
At that, both their eyes widened and they asked with obvious surprise, “Are you Hindu?”
“Yes” I replied, “I embraced Sanata Dharma several years ago and I have been very peaceful ever since.” They both chuckled. However it was clear to me that they were not laughing at me personally, but at the situation.
“I used to be Hindu,” she cheerfully responded, “but for the past 20 years I have been Catholic.” Now it was my turn to chuckle. “I used to be Catholic,” I said. We all laughed together. We boarded the van and began our narrated guide through the town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. There were several opportunities to leave the van and sample local culinary fare, as well as to purchase souvenirs. At these times I enjoyed talking to them about a variety of topics: our mutual love of travel, the on-board ship cuisine, and the peso vs. the US and Canadian dollars, noting how much more our dollars could purchase in Mexico.
Inevitably, the subject came up as to why one would leave one religion for the other. We were both extremely polite with this delicate subject. Each trying to make it abundantly clear that it was only curiosity and not an attempt to engage the other in debate or criticism. Far be it from me to try to convert someone! After all, Hindus don’t believe in pushing our religion on to others, and I certainly didn’t want them apptempting to reconvert me back to Catholicism!
I ventured to say that I honestly noted similarities between the two religions and that while they seem to be quite different anyone who gives honest evaluation might agree. Actually, the husband concurred. He mentioned that The Deity in Hinduism has a triple-form, which is somewhat like the Christian Holy Trinity. Whereas I am disgusted with what I consider to be hypocritical popes, she respected the pope’s position as God’s earthly representative. I held my tongue on that one. I really wished we were someplace where this topic could be the sole focus. I like that Hinduism has no central governing board, no overarching institutional structure, yet the Vedas have endured since almost the dawn of time, with intact structure that has guided souls down through the ages.
They informed me that they participate in Hindu festivals in the community where they live. I admit that I participate in Christmas gatherings because some people at my temple do and so I go along with them. I was surprised at first but as it was explained to me, one can do these events (Christmas parties) just to be sociable. We need not isolate ourselves from surrounding society. I thought about how US soldiers used to celebrate Buddha’s birthday when I was stationed in Korea. None of us converted, but we enjoyed all the celebrations.
We compared communion to prasad’ and various Hindu Gods to Catholic saints who will aid and assist you with intercessions on any and all matters through novenas and fasting, as will Hindu deities.
Since this was a guided tour we were not at liberty to just keep talking. After all, we were there by choice to learn about Mexican culture. We did touch, albeit briefly, on reincarnation, in which I firmly believe, but they were not entirely certain. We all believed in karma, however, and according to them, negative karma could be worked off in Purgatory. I believe it will be dealt with over several lifetimes.
It was a good day and our tour guide really showed us a great time. In the end we talked mostly about cameras and how much fun it is to look back on vacations years later.
I saw them on the ship one more time that week. It would return us to Los Angeles, California, our port for debarkation. From there, they would fly North to Canada and I would drive East to the state of Arizona. We will all get home, just by different paths, a parallel not lost on us. We bid each other safe travels and made reference to the saying “one truth, many paths.”
There are certainly many salient as well as subtle differences between what Catholics and Hindus each hold sacred. There are also similarities, not the least of which should be to each do our part to make the world a better place, respect each others’ beliefs, and to exist in mutual respect and harmony.