"He is one of the few truly original minds in the world...disturbing and controversial."
Professor Dr. Ram Gidoornal, CBE
Chairman, South Asian Concern, UK
"Vishal is authentic. From jail for civil disobedience to church planting, from debate with great gurus and national newsmen to grassroots community development, from video studies to sweltering jungles, Vishal has shaped a truly original vision. This is no ivory tower writer."
Dr. Miriam Adeney
Author and Professor,
Regent College, Vancouver, BC
"Vishal Mangalwadi does today from India what Francis Schaeffer did in the last generation from Switzerland. Vishal helps us shape our Christian mental infrastructure on which we develop our Christian life, walk, and service. Read, understand, and act on what he says…and the world will be a better place as a result."
University of the Nations
"Vishal Mangalwadi is one of the most remarkable intellectual reformers working in India today."
"Vishal and Ruth Mangalwadi are opening the door of new insight that the Church in India needs urgently. They have a perception of the contemporary India that is compelling, challenging and captivating. . . . This method of doing history stirs prophetic imagination."
Dr. Sam Kamaleson
World Vision International
"What book accurately examines the human condition and explores it with such thorough concern for its healing and well-being? Only the Bible. The Book of the Millennium project addresses the deepest needs of humanity–across geopolitical, ethnic, and cultural boundaries–to find a narrative with power to bring people together redemptively."
Marketing and Planning Group, New York
We should not be surprised that India is now producing its own spokesman on the order of Tocqueville and Solzhenitsyn and Augustine. Colonialism is half-a-century behind us; it is now possible for an Indian scholar to appreciate the spiritual dynamics of Western civilization without feeling unpatriotic…. Having read most of Mangalwadi’s works, I believe he combines Tocqueville’s profound insights into American spirituality with the passion of a Solzhenitsyn to reform his own nation.
Professor Prabhu Guptara
Union Bank of Switzerland
My spiritual journey began in earnest at the university, where I went to study philosophy. Realizing that my university education could not account for the tremendous poverty of my Indian neighbors, I started living with the rural poor in order to understand the roots of India’s chronic poverty, corruption, oppression, and social evils. I also began to study history in order to understand how different worldviews have resulted either in poverty or development, oppression or freedom. Among other things, my actions and reflections have resulted in thirteen books, published around the world.
THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST
The news that Christ came to save us from the power of sin appealed to me. A simple prayer asking Christ to save me, changed my life. I went back to the shops that I had stolen from and offered to make restitution. The shopkeepers were too stunned to accept the money.
THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT
I began to recognize the merit of a traditional Indian parable about five blind men and an elephant. In it, each blind man can feel only one part of the elephant and comes to his own incorrect conclusion about the nature of the whole elephant.
The parable seemed to say that arguing about truth is futile because every blind individual’s assertion about reality is only true relative to his own experience.
PHILOSOPHY AND TRUTH
One of the most important lessons I learned at the university was that the professors knew that the philosophers knew that they did not know truth and that they could not know truth.
Moreover, the professors said that our Creator could not possibly speak. They insisted that while they could write books, their Creator could not have his point of view written.
PHILOSOPHY, GOD, AND REASON
I discussed these philosophical issues with Hindu, Muslim, secular and Christian scholars who were better read and better informed than I was.
My professors knew that they were as blind as the blind men of the parable. Their assertions about truth and God were based on ignorance. If reason cannot know truth then how can it know that the Creator does not exist or that He cannot communicate truth?
RE-VISITING THE BIBLE
One day, an unexpected visitor from Australia, Ian North, encouraged me to read Francis Schaeffer’s book “Escape from Reason”. In this little book, the author explained why philosophy had moved from the age of reason to the age of non-reason toward contemporary mysticism.
Intrigued by Schaeffer’s assertion that we can know truth if an all-knowing Creator revealed it, I decided to read the Bible one more time to see if it could possibly be God’s revelation.
THE BIBLE ENTERTAINING?
I found some parts of the Bible to be arresting and more illuminating than my textbooks on philosophy. However, others were boring - sometimes even repulsive.
I felt it would be more helpful to read Indian history than to waste my time reading these tidbits of Jewish history. But just as I was about to put the Bible away, for good, I noticed something strange.
STRANGE NATIONAL HISTORY
My teachers of Indian history taught us how wonderful our ancestors were. But the Bible – the source book of Jewish history – was telling me terrible things about its kings, priests, prophets and people. It could not have been written from any of their perspectives.
GOD’S TAKE ON HISTORY
This book claimed to be God’s interpretation of Jewish history and the claim made sense. It explained why Israel and Judah were destroyed. The story of the restoration of a ruined nation fascinated me.
GOD’S PROMISE TO INDIA
More intriguing was the discovery that the Bible told a story bigger than that of the Jews. It said that God had chosen Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob so that he could bless all nations on earth through their descendents: God had made a promise to bless India. I could know if the Bible was true by examining whether God had kept that promise.
THE BIBLE’S CREATIVE POWER
I started looking around. Places that I saw everyday suddenly started answering my question: Why did my university had a church, but not a temple or a mosque? I learned that the Bible had birthed the university, both globally as well as locally. Modern Hindi – my mother tongue and our national language – was the creation of Bible translators, as were most of the modern languages in Europe and the Asian sub-continent.
THE BIBLE AND DEMOCRACY
I also learned that the Bible had driven the development of India from a colony under foreign domination to the world’s largest democracy. India’s adherence to the rule of law (although sporadic) came from the Bible, and Allahabad’s municipality had been created by a British evangelical who wanted to help Indians learn democratic self-government.
THE BIBLE AND CIVILIZATION
Our public library, railway system, newspapers, medical and educational institutions were all blessings given to us by Abraham’s spiritual descendents.
I continued reading the Bible with a renewed interest and perspective. I was eager to test it against other philosophies and worldviews. As part of my master’s program, I began studying most of the prominent Indian gurus, comparing their teachings to the Bible.
I first met my wife, Ruth, in 1970 while she was studying at a prestigious women’s college in India. In 1974, we realized that our shared faith and walk with God was inspiring each of us to serve the poor.
We were married in 1975 and moved to my family farm outside the village of Gatheora in 1976. Our daughters Nivedit and Anandit were born when we served in Chhatarpur district.
FINDING A NEED IN RURAL INDIA
Our home soon became a source of hospitality and comfort for the rural poor, outcastes and idealistic youth from the city. It grew to become a community and a society – Association For Comprehensive Rural Development.
As we worked and lived among the poor, we began to realize that Hindu ideology oppressed the majority of Indian people rather than affirming the humanity of everyone, as the Bible did.
ENCOUNTERS WITH CORRUPTION
When we began our community service, we were proud of our democracy, free press, and the rule of law. But soon we found that our people were electing criminals as legislators. Our free press had no qualms about publishing baseless lies about us. And our “civil servants” had no hesitation in bringing up trumped up charges against us to try to extract bribes from us or to appease criminal-politicians.
STYLE VS. SUBSTANCE
We learned that the spirit of democracy was a different thing than its form when the highest and most educated district official began arresting me and tying me up in fabricated, expensive, and time-consuming court cases in order to hinder our service to the poor, whom they routinely exploited. In 1984, following the assassination of our Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the local leaders sent a mob to burn down our community’s buildings in Chhatarpur district.
I learned that the roots of India’s poverty were nurtured by important political, social, philosophical, moral, religious, and spiritual nutrients. This understanding led me to socio-political activism, religious teaching, and the writing of my 1985 book Truth and Social Reform, which many friends and critics consider to be my signature work.
In 1987 an eighteen year old widow, Roop Kanwar was burned on her husband’s funeral pyre. Some powerful Hindus deified her as a goddess, using the occasion to revive the ancient tradition of Sati or widow-burning. I fought through the national press to oppose these murders as the most diabolical of all Indian religious practices.
WILLIAM CAREY, THE REFOMER
The Sati controversy helped me discover William Carey, the pioneer of the Protestant missionary movement, who had been instrumental in abolishing the Sati tradition in 1829. My study of Carey, co-authored with Ruth and published as William Carey and the Regeneration of India, crystallized my earlier perception of the Bible’s role in creating modern India.
THE WORLD AFTER THE GURUS
After reading The World of Gurus, a British gentleman began to feel that I ought to write a sequel exploring Hinduism’s impact on the West after the decline of the guru movement. Publishers in England and the USA endorsed his opinion. Reluctantly I agreed to do what I have never done before or after – write a commissioned book. Thus came In Search of Self: Beyond the New Age (UK title) or When The New Age Gets Old: Looking for a Greater Spirituality (USA title).
In 1994, the Catholic Bishops of India invited Mr. Arun Shourie, one of India’s most respected writers, to give a lecture on how a Hindu sees Christian missions in India. Shourie argued that missions were an imperialist conspiracy to colonize the Indian mind and subvert Indian culture, a critique that he later published as a book. Knowing that nothing in history had blessed India more than missions, I responded with a series of letters that became my 1996 book Missionary Conspiracy: Letters to a Postmodern Hindu.
INDIA: THE GRAND EXPERIMENT
After reading my letters to Mr. Shourie, some Indian friends in Europe asked me to celebrate the 50th anniversary of India’s Independence in 1997 by describing to the misinformed world how the Bible, not Mahatma Gandhi, had been the key to India’s liberty. These friends provided a scholarship that enabled me to work full time as a writer for the first time in my life.
THE BIBLE AND THE PUBLIC MIND
My last letter to Arun Shourie had explained that the Bible he ridicules is the book that created the modern world, including modern India. While I was working on that letter, I realized that Mr. Shourie went to the best Christian college in India and then to Syracuse University for a Ph.D. Yet he had no idea of what the Bible is and what it has done because his Christian professors did not know.
AN AMBITIOUS DREAM
This realization led me to believe that the world needed to hear what Shourie had not: namely, that the modern Western civilization had been molded directly by the Bible and its worldview. I began to feel that God wanted me to say to the whole world what I was saying to Mr. Shourie through television, radio, and the Internet. But I had no idea of how I could do so. I was working with the untouchables. I had no connection in the electronic media.
THE WORLD IS OUR HOME
For nine years prior to ’97, Ruth had been the principal breadwinner for the family. Our home came with her job. In 1997, Ruth resigned from her job. Having devoted our lives to public service, we had no money to buy or rent a house. We weren’t in a position to borrow because neither of us had a job, a credit history, or any assets. So we became itinerant speakers, accepting international invitations that had cumulated over the years.
A TALL ORDER
My last speaking engagement of 1998 was in Zurich. On our flight back to London a friend who was accompanying us asked me: “What next?” I shared with him my ideas for half-a-dozen books. He said, “Do the Book of the Millennium first. But do it only if a major publisher like HarperCollins asks you to write it.” I protested, “How can I go to HarperCollins? Who am I? Who will return my calls?”
SURPRISED BY PROVIDENCE
The next morning I was looking at a book table in a church in London. Someone patted my back, “Hey Vishal! What are you doing here?” Sensing that I had not recognized him, the tall Englishman said, “I am James Catford, the publishing editor of HarperCollins. I published your book on the New Age with Hodder and Stoughton. I love your style of writing and would like to help you get into the mainstream market. Why don’t you visit me in my office?” After listening to my various ideas, and unaware of the airplane conversation between me and my friend, James said, “Do ‘Book of the Millennium’ first.”
RELIGION AND PERSONAL DIGNITY
My work on the Book of the Millennium was interrupted in 2001 when we heard that a million lower-caste Hindus were planning to convert out of Hinduism. Following their leader Dr. Ambedkar, the lower castes believed that they could not possibly recover their human dignity without quitting a religious system that had made them untouchables. Many of them wanted to become Buddhists, but many others preferred Christianity.
THE QUEST FOR FREEDOM AND DIGNITY
Recognizing India’s urgent need for a new, humanitarian consciousness, I decided to put the BOM project on the back burner and write The Quest For Freedom and Dignity: Caste, Conversion, and Cultural Transformation. The book led to the production of our first documentary, Untouchables Vs. Aryans: The Battle For The Soul of India.
THE BIBLE IN SECULAR SOCIETY
Secularism has powerfully distorted many basic facts of history, including that the notion of human equality spread around the world only through the Bible. Nations such as India can go beyond the external form of democracy to find its spirit only by being introduced to the truth. Revealing the role of the Bible in secular history is an endeavor to which printed medium alone cannot do justice. For the contemporary world to know, they must hear it in the language they best understand: television.