(RAGHUNATHAN R was born in an orthodox Tamil Iyer family. He moved around in his agraharam (a Brahmin quarters in a village), chanting slokas, participating in bhajans and happily getting involved in temple activities. He heard his first Gospel message when he was a 14-year-old boy but the preaching offended him because the preacher had given a call to all ‘sinners to repent’. ‘Who is he to call me a sinner,’ Raghunathan was indignant. Years later, Raghu understood what it means to be a sinner and accepted Jesus as his Savior. Today, he is the founder-trustee of Christhava Brahmana Seva Samithi, an organization that helps converts from among Brahmins find their identity in Christ, grow in the Word and share the Gospel to their fellowmen. He can be reached at 0-9841296091 or raghuram311 [at] gmail [dot] com Editor.)
By RAGHUNATHAN R
I was born as the second child to my parents. I have an elder brother and a younger sister. While I was 10, I wore the sacred thread (poonal). In a Brahmin’s life, wearing the consecrated thread denotes the second birth in his life. I believed nobody is a Brahmin just because he is born in a Brahmin family. Only the twija (twice born) symbolizes one’s rebirth. Years later, when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and took baptism by water, I was able to relate the born-again experience with twija. I must admit, however, that I did not know any of that when I was young.
I hadn’t so much as heard the Gospel until I was in my 9th standard. A group of Pentecostal believers were led by a preacher came to our town and did a roadside preaching. However, I remember being put off by the words of the preacher. He had called non-believers as ‘sinners’. How could he call me a sinner, I fumed. Till several years later I held the wrong notion that the church was a place where they train people to convert others to their faith. I had some Catholic and Christian friends but no one had ever shared about Jesus with me.
At home, I was quite a religious nut. I said my slokas in the day, did all the rituals that were expected of a Brahmin and performed poojas with great reverence. Deep inside me, however, there was a gnawing feeling that I was not quite alright. I was short-tempered and angrily confronted people for the slightest mistake. Although gazing at beautiful girls would be considered normal behavior in an adolescent, I used to feel it as a sin. However hard I tried, I simply couldn’t get them out of my system. It was as if the poojas and rituals were quite powerless over making me a better person.
After my post-graduation in computers, I came to Chennai for work. Around that time, there were a few setbacks in my family. The peace and tranquility of our home was shattered by some unsavory instances. I felt unloved at home and outside. That was also the time when one of my close friends met with an accident. I prayed to all gods at home to save his life. The prayers turned out to be futile as he passed away. I was disillusioned and started questioning the existence of god. Slowly, I stopped doing poojas at home and kept myself away from temple-related activities.
In 1997 when I was working at a boiler manufacturing company I met Susheela. We were colleagues. While I was a systems administrator, she worked in the MD’s office. There was something about Susheela. Although she had a Hindu name and came from a Namboodiri family in Kerala, I noticed she was making herself scarce at poojas conducted at our office. She was dishing out one reason after the other whenever she was invited to join the poojas. One day, I confronted her and asked her why she was skipping poojas. Although she was evasive initially, she told me she was a Christian and hence could not attend poojas. I was shocked out of my wits. How could someone like Susheela born in a high-caste family (the Namboodiris are considered to be the equivalent of Brahmins) accept Jesus, the god of low-caste people, I wondered. However hard I tried, I just could not accept it as a fact. Eventually, I took pity on her as I thought she was brainwashed by Christians. I took it upon myself to tell her how Hinduism was superior to Christianity.
The more I tried convincing Susheela about the need to return to her original faith, the stronger her arguments became. She talked to me about Jesus, church, prayer cells etc. I became curious to know what was happening in a church. To dig dirt about pastors and churches, I decided to visit a church the following Sunday. I went to NLAG in Saidapet, Chennai. Pastor D Mohan was the preacher on that Sunday. He was humorous and that put me at ease. In his message, he shared briefly about his testimony, about how a preacher came to his village one day and prayed with tears for them. I gathered from his message how Pastor Mohan, who was a nominal Christian until then, was so moved by the preacher’s message that he accepted Jesus and committed himself to work for God. I don’t remember any Biblical verse he used in his sermon, but I sensed an all-pervasive peace spreading in my heart. I went to the church the next Sunday and the next Sunday. And before I knew, I had visited the church on 5 consecutive Sundays.
An elderly woman who gathered I was a Hindu by noticing the vermilion on my forehead approached me and gave me a copy of New Testament. Although I put it away somewhere, after a month I picked it up again and started reading it. I started with the Gospel according to Matthew and I was touched by Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. I understood why I was doing some of the things that I hated doing when I came across this verse in Romans 7:14-17: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” Although I thought it was hard teaching, I was convicted of my sins. For the first time in my life, I realized that the Bible speaks clearly to anyone who wants to listen to God. Peace that I had never experienced before descended on me whenever I spent time reading the Bible. Since I didn’t how to pray to God like a Christian, I urged Susheela to write down the Lord’s prayer for me. I gave myself to Jesus when I was convicted of my sins through 1 John 1:8 & 9: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
My mother who had noticed how I stopped doing poojas at home also found out that I was reading the Bible and mumbling prayers in my room. One day, she came into my room and fell at my feet. Weeping, she asked me to forsake Jesus for the sake of family honor. However, I grew in the Lord and took baptism on Nov 29, 1998.
Although I was trying to get Susheela back into Hinduism, I now realized Jesus is the True and Living God. I approached their family one day and asked for her hand in marriage. They agreed and our marriage was solemnized according to Hindu customs. They came to know that I was a believer only later. After marriage we were running our own computer business which God flourished for almost a decade. When the Lord called us for His work, we submitted to His call in 2008. We are blessed with three children.
By God’s grace we started Christhava Brahmana Seva Samithi (CBSS) to minister among Brahmins in 2008. I think the church is ill-equipped to tackle the problems faced by Brahmin converts. One of the main problems faced by Brahmin converts is the stigma in their community. Finding a marriage partner for them is also a problem because they are all secret believers. Our association gives them moral support and guides them in navigating their problems. Also, Brahmin converts have a lot of misconceptions about their new faith. We help them tackle the conflict between their old culture and their new identity in Christ.
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