INDIAN High Commissioner Malay Mishra has expressed concern about errors creeping into Hinduism locally.
"What I have seen is too much emphasis on ritualism, the ritual part of it. And sometimes with very shallow understanding of the philosophy of the religion," he said.
He voiced his concerns at a media briefing on the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Indian Hindu monk and famed spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda held yesterday at the Indian High Commission in Victoria Avenue, Port of Spain.
Speaking about Vivekananda's teachings he said the most important point is revision of the understanding of Hinduism.
"And I stress this point because a lot of confusion and errors have crept into understanding this religion not only in India but in Trinidad and Tobago among the so-called priests and pundits of this country about what Hinduism really amounts to," he said.
He noted that Swami Vivekananda spoke about Hinduism it is a "totally different interpretation", where he speaks of a universal religion, and one that has always believed in tolerance and universal acceptance.
Mishra explained that an understanding of vedanta, the core of Hindu philosophy, will give a different perspective of the religion.
"(It) is the most rational and scientific way of understanding what it stands for. (A religion) bereft of all prejudices and all that creeps into our mind, and brings this sort of hierarchical feeling in the society, brings us inequal distribution within the society, brings us separation between us, between the so-called higher caste and lower caste, between the priest and the not-so-learned people; it breaks all that down," he said.
Mishra recalled that from childhood he fell under the "spell" of Vivekananda, his teachings gave him a new perspective and he has taken that influence forward in his life. He noted that Vivekananda had begun raising the nation's consciousness in India even before Mahatma Gandhi.
"So he was a person who has done immense contribution to shaping India's nationhood, India's nationalism, and brought forth what we call an unleashing of ideas on the Indian sub-continent which went across the length and breadth of the world and came back to India," he said.
He said the celebrations, running from January 10-15, were not just about one community but they wanted the whole nation to be uplifted by the Vivekananda's universal message. The celebrations include a play on Viv's life starring Hansley Ajodha and co-narrated by Ralph Maraj, screening of a film and charity drives.
Mishra noted that the Indian missions all over the world were engaged in the commemoration but this country will stand out for both the number and variety of activities, all funded locally and free to the public.
Chairman of the organising committee Pundit Dr Rampersad Parasram said it was "high time" the world heard the message of Vivekananda, and of a religion free of dogma and fanaticisim and where there was no place for discrimination.
He described him as a "much respected scholar and spiritual master" though he was always willing to learn. He noted that Vivekananda was also concerned about youth empowerment, poverty and ills of all kind, and had worked with political reformers.
"Swami Vivekananda is a model many could emulate," Parasram said.
Vivekananda was born in January 12, 1863 in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and died in July 4,1902. He is a household name in India and is famous for bringing Hinduism to the west.
The following is the list of events for the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda provided by the Indian High Commission:
6 p.m. Inauguration of exhibition featuring display of books, pictures and posters on the life and philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. Followed by a variety cultural programme by the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Cultural Cooperation. NCIC, Divali Nagar, Bishram Gopie Auditorium.
5 p.m. Screening of a film on Swami Vivekananda "Veer Narendra". City Hall, San Fernando.
8 a.m. Special yoga session. Address by High Commissioner on Swami Vivekananda's views on yoga. Divali Nagar.
6 p.m. Play on Swami Vivekananda's life developed by Mondira Balkaransigh and Sharda Maharaj. Divali Nagar, Bishram Gopie Auditorium.
8 a.m. Day dedicated to "Sewa" (charity). Various youth groups will go out on charity drives out to homes.
8 a.m. Health camp in Tobago.
6.30 p.m. Inter-faith parliament of religions with chief guest Swami Ishtananda, head of Vedanta Society, Florida. Followed by a short episode of "Mahabharata" on Lord Krishna's Vishwa Roop. Divali Nagar, Bishram Gopie Auditorium.
7 a.m. Swami Ishtananda discussion with youth live on WIN TV and hosted by Hansley Ajodha.
5 p.m. Special address by Swami Ishtananda on "value education" at Learning Resource Centre, University of the West Indies, St Augustine.