Meera Chary is a mechanical engineering student at UC Berkeley and is preparing to join the Peace Corps. Though she grew up in a small, predominantly Christian community, she and her family maintained their Hindu affiliation. She talks with RELEVANTmagazine about the role of women in religious arenas and "good dogma."

[RELEVANTmagazine:] Can you describe your beliefs?

[MEERA CHARY:] I do believe in God, or more generally a spirit that connects all living things in life and beyond. I’ve always had this belief. It’s not always been taught to me, I’ve just always had it.

[RM:] How would you label your spirituality?

[MC:] I would say it’s most closely associated with Hinduism, but there are certain facets of Hinduism that I don’t associate myself with. I do believe that religion should evolve with time and certain aspects of Hinduism have not evolved to incorporate today’s society.

[RM:] How would any ancient religion change to incorporate today’s society?

[MC:] In today’s society we have physically a greater capacity. The simple physical things in life are changing: computers, the role of people in society, for example women’s role in society. Many religions haven’t changed to incorporate these changing roles, particularly women’s roles.

[RM:] How would you react to someone who claims that Jesus and Paul were ahead of their time in addressing the role of women in society?

[MC:] I’m sure that’s true and that’s great. There are some people in the history of Hinduism who were also ahead of their time. My namesake, Meera, for example, was far beyond her time.

[RM:] If someone came to you as a “seeker,” how would you direct them?

[MC:] Well, no one usually comes to me like that. But I would say the key to finding spirituality is to meditate on life and look within yourself. Have faith.

[RM:] Faith in what?

[MC:] (laughs) I knew you were going to ask that. Faith that there is something; there is a higher spirit.

[RM:] How have your Christian friends influenced your beliefs? How have your non-Christian friends influenced you?

[MC:] It’s important as a person, as a member of humanity, to be a good listener. In that respect, I think I’ve kept an open mind to all my spiritual friends, whether they are Christian, Muslim or Jewish.

[RM:] You have read the Bible before, at least portions of it. What is your opinion, perhaps in comparison to your own inspired writings?

[MC:] I do believe [the books of the Bible] are spiritually inspired writings that are taken far too literally in today’s religious society. But I believe there is some good dogma in the Bible.

[RM:] Can you think of any “good dogma” offhand?

[MC:] The way Jesus himself was portrayed in the Bible in that He was a great leader and a good man. He was the protagonist, as far as the story is concerned, not to say that He’s only a character. He was kind and gentle, which is a true embodiment of the spirit that rules the earth.

[RM:] In closing, do you have any general advice for Christians who might want to clarify their message or improve the way they are perceived by other non-Christians?

[MC:] Christianity is evangelistic, historically, right down to the Bible. So, I can’t advise Christians not to be evangelists. But, like I said before, being part of humanity is being open-minded and being a good listener. And part of that is being open-minded to other religions and accepting them as valid. And that is the only thing I can advise. Otherwise, like I said before, to each his own, as far as faith is concerned.

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