Hedgewar’s actions hold future lessons – Rakesh Sinha

Prof Rakesh Sinha“Nation-building cannot be accomplished by manifestoes or speeches. It demands sacrifice and realisation of the responsibility of living and dying for a larger cause. It is this widening of the self that is known as ‘character-building’ in RSS shakhas. Hankering for power and using larger causes for self-aggrandisement hardly serves any purpose.” – Prof Rakesh Sinha

 Keshav Baliram HedgewarNetaji Subhas Chandra Bose visited RSS founder Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar on June 20, 1940 to solicit his support to re-polarise anti-imperialist forces. Unfortunately, conversation didn’t happen as Hedgewar was on his deathbed—he passed away the next morning. This fact unravels many things that history textbooks have selectively omitted. The reason isn’t complex. Most textbook writers, steeped in communist ideology and hatred for RSS, have made history textbooks uninspiring, boring, ridden with selective facts and manipulated ideas and events.

Had Hedgewar lived on, Bose might not have gone to Germany and Japan to seek an alliance against British imperialism. Three decades later, Jayaprakash Narayan sought RSS support to fight Indira Gandhi’s naked authoritarianism. Notably, both Bose and JP came from the Congress Socialist Party, sharing similar political moorings.

The British weren’t unaware of the Sangh’s hidden agenda behind its military training, camps and indoctrination of young minds. Their military intelligence’s first report on RSS in 1930 stated that “RSS has the potential to become a terrorist organisation”. The immediate objective of RSS was liberation of the country. This was endorsed in a different way two years later when Hedgewar along with hundreds of swayamsevaks joined the Civil Disobedience Movement. This led the intelligence to blame Hedgewar for reviving the dying movement in Central Provinces and Berar.

Hedgewar’s actions were an exposition of the definition of nationalism that need to be part of history textbooks. For him, nationalism excluded any compromise with imperialism for personal or circumstantial reasons. It had to be pure-spirited, with Bal Gangadhar Tilaksacrifice, if needed. Nationalism was his philosophy of action. By 1920, Hedgewar emerged as a young radical inside the Congress. During its 1920 Nagpur session, he opposed Vijayaraghavachariar’s candidature for presidency because of the latter’s presence at the Governor of Madras’ tea party, even as the nation mourned the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Hedgewar’s puritanism challenged politics based on elitism and convenience. Earlier, during WWI, when the British enticed nationalists to cooperate in their war effort, Hedgewar, himself a follower of Lokmanya Tilak, broke ranks with senior leaders, including Dr B. S. Moonje, long considered his mentor. Hedgewar’s views split the Rashtriya Mandal, an organisation of Tilakites; he formed Nagpur National Union which opposed mobilisation for the war. His slogan was ‘Revolution, not Cooperation’. It was this nationalism that led him to form the RSS. He found two maladies to be the bane of Indian life—individualism and conscious amnesia of our civilisational role. Thus, while showing solidarity with the Congress, he widened the horizon of nationalism from anti-imperialism as its beginning to cultural nationalism. The RSS bore the responsibility of resurrecting civilisational values of nationalism.

These core issues have been missing from any discussion on the RSS, particularly among its critics who view it as a power-centric organisation with majoritarian perspective. Hedgewar believed that only cultural nationalism can generate peacetime nationalism and restore the importance of Bharatvarsha.

India MapNation-building cannot be accomplished by manifestoes or speeches. It demands sacrifice and realisation of the responsibility of living and dying for a larger cause. It is this widening of the self that is known as ‘character-building’ in RSS shakhas. Hankering for power and using larger causes for self-aggrandisement hardly serves any purpose. Mahratta, an English daily, in its editorial on June 28, 1940, aptly defined Hedgewar’s personality: “We use the word ‘selflessness’. Dr Hedgewar’s career gives it a reality which few have realized…. Dr Hedgewar was the prophet of Hindu Rashtra. He was no mere dreamer engrossed in flights of imagination, but a man of action who knew how to build lofty structures with human material.”

Hedgewar’s vision and action is not merely a thing of past, but holds exciting possibilities for the present and future. That is why while others’ shadows are shrinking, Hedgewar’s imprint is increasing by the day. The Mahratta’s title of page one news “Dr Hedgewar’s Sangh Still Going Strong” on June 28, 1940, transcends the limit of title. His 125th birth anniversary is the apt occasion to correct the discourse. – The New Indian Express, 23 MArch 2015

» Prof Rakesh Sinha is Hony Director of India Policy Foundation. Email rakeshsinha46@gmail.com

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Evangelism abetted by Christian principal in a Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam college – IndiaFacts Staff

Dr M. D. Christopher

SVU College of Arts, Tirupati“Until Hindus take back their temples, it is advisable not to donate to Government-controlled temples. If Hindus really wish to donate, then they will be better served by donating it to a Hindu organization which really cares for Hindu causes and the Hindu community.” – IndiaFacts Staff

The Principal of the Sri Venkateshwara Arts College who goes by the name of Dr M. D. Christopher has been accused by the students of college and various student organizations that he is aiding Christian proselytization. If one looks at the happenings at the SV Arts College in the recent months, there is a strong possibility that this allegation is indeed true.

Evangelist literature is being distributed to students in the college campus. The manner in which the evangelist books are distributed is quite alarming and would not have been possible without the helping hand of the college administration. The students of the hostel are specially targeted for this soul harvest. Evangelical books and other literature arrived in a postal package and were addressed to each student by his name and they were in fact delivered to his room in the hostel. The students say that such distribution of books has happened many times over.

Students allege that complaints about this missionary activity to the Principal  and TTD officials have fallen on deaf ears. The students of the college directly point fingers at the Principal. The Principal has appointed to his staff a person named Rajkumar. Rajkumar is alleged to have given out the names and addresses of the students to the missionary organization distributing the literature. In spite of repeated complaints, no action was taken by the Principal. The Principal is also accused of appointing non-Hindu staff. A complete report (from TV9 Telugu) on this incident can be found here.

SVU College of Arts, TirupatiVandalism at Sri Venkateshwara Arts College

The walls of SV Arts College were painted with portraits of freedom fighters, poets and kings a couple of years back for the World Telugu Conference. The students and the local community over there were maintaining it well and keeping a watch to ensure that there were no posters/bills pasted on them.

However, a couple of days ago, miscreants disfigured these portraits by placing a Christian cross mark on the faces of the luminaries. Even the much celebrated Sri Krishnadeva Raya of the Vijayanagar empire was not spared from this crude expression of superiority of faith.

The College already facing the brunt of missionaries boiled again with student and religious organizations taking up protests. Whether this was done by mischief mongers or by Christians will perhaps be revealed in an investigation but the blame again has to be placed primarily on the shoulders of the college Principal and TTD for not keeping such vandalism in check especially when this very College with same Principal has been in the eye of storm for the past few months for missionary activities. The complete report (from NTV) on the vandalism at SV Arts College can be viewed here.

YSR taking communion from a Christian priest.TTD: Trojan Horse and a symbol of secular Government tyranny

During the YSR and Kiran Kumar Reddy-led Congress rule in Andhra, the state witnessed evangelism on a massive scale. The TTD too was not spared. There were reports in the Telugu media about the employment of Christians in TTD. Due to public outrage, a Government order was also issued directing the TTD to have only Hindus on its payroll. Swami Paripoornananda of Sri Peetam, Kakinanda had to protest again as the order was never implemented.

A Christian pastor was recently apprehended by the police after making a video of him along with his comrades visiting Tirumala and calling the Hindus as devil worshippers. The TTD staff have repeatedly failed miserably to stop such incidents. On many occasions, missionaries used to distribute evangelist material openly but the TTD was utterly inefficient in stopping this vulturesque preying on Hindus.

First, the TTD should not have hired a Christian principal or any staff it a college run by it. After reports and strong evidence of support for evangelism by this Principal, it should have dismissed the Principal. On the contrary it asked the police to lathi-charge the protesting students.

The reason for this incapacity of the TTD is because it is subject to political influence and appointment of people to positions including the Endowment / Executive Officer are appointed by the ruling party. How can the Hindu community be served if the administration is not seen as a service of the Divine but as a career option?

Many Hindus are not aware of the fact that several prominent temples including TTD which gets thousands of crores as revenue are taken over by various state governments and the most of the revenue goes to the state treasurer. This is the reason one sees many hundis placed all over precincts of Government controlled temples. Many mindless rituals are done just to extract money from the devotees worldwide. The TTD has become a master at selling tickets to various redundant rituals and utsavams.

This Government control of temples is a throwback to the colonial past where the Christian British and Muslims Kingdoms used to take over the revenue generated from temples as tax. It was also a mechanism to hurt the Hindus in terms of demography. Donations made by devotees which would have gone to the development of the poorest of the community went to a foreign colonizer. At the same time, the British government planted several Christian missions across the country which targeted the same poorer section of the Hindu demographic that would have gained benefits from the donations made to temples.

State Institute of Temple AdministrationNearly seven decades after Independence, the pattern has not changed. Secular state governments have taken over several Hindu temples, the Community’s money is looted by the government—money, which is supposed to protect the right to practice and propagate the Hinduism, one of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. Hindus live in an independent and secular country but their fundamental right to freedom is severely curtailed. How is the Hindu community supposed to take care of its poorest when the community’s hard earned money is taken away from it?

The Christian community which has a huge proselytizing mission with massive funds backing it, has extensively benefited in Andhra and elsewhere as they have targeted the poor amongst the Hindus for conversions. They have gained massively in demographics due to this tyranny perpetrated on the Hindus. A foreign religion is being given such massive advantage over a native religion which swears by nationalism and deep-rooted philosophical and spiritual traditions spanning thousands of years. How long will it be before India becomes another Philippines or a South Korea, nothing more than a Christian outpost of the West.

Imagine the number of schools, colleges, hospitals and other institutions Hindus could have built and sustained and how it would have changed the lives of poor Hindus. The secular state governments and the central government have become the biggest roadblocks to the prosperity and safety of Hindus.

Swami Dayananda SaraswatiThe long-term goal for Hindus should be to free Hindu Temples from Government control. There are several organizations working across the country towards this goal.

The Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha already has filed a case in the Supreme Court. In a seminar on temples, I had once heard from Swami Dayananda Saraswati that none of the state governments from the south had answered the questions put forth by HDAS in the honorable Supreme Court. Given the rate at which the judiciary functions, one should expect that Hindus are in a for a long grind and by that time, severe damage would have been done.

It would be better to lobby with a supposedly pro-Hindu central government to remove the Hindu Endowments Act completely from the Constitution. Please contact the various BJP Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assembly and ask them to remove this draconian act that is killing the Hindu community.

Narendra Modi & Rajnath SinghThe silence of the Narendra Modi Government in this regard is disheartening. The Government is aware of the problem, it is also aware of the fact that it is the Hindus that voted them to power. It’s been nine months since the NDA came into power and yet it has not taken any concrete steps to provide equality to Hindus. Hindus need to make their collective voices heard and bring pressure on the Modi Government. If it fails to act despite this, the BJP should be shown its place in the sun.

Many times, Hindus complain that Hindu organisations could have better spokespersons to represent them in the media. However, the travesty is that people donate to a government controlled temple like the TTD in crores but not to a Hindu organization that could protect our Dharma. That should tell us something.

In the end, until Hindus take back their temples, it is advisable not to donate to Government-controlled temples. If Hindus really wish to donate, then they will be better served by donating it to a Hindu organization which really cares for Hindu causes and the community.

Tirumala Tirupathi DevasthanamsThe road ahead

The TTD has taken a token action of ordering an investigation and a criminal case has been registered. But that by itself does not guarantee that such incidents will not recur in the future. Readers are requested to call up the official TTD numbers or email them to immediately dismiss the college principal on the grounds that he happens to be a Christian. Please ask the TTD to remove any non-Hindus from its payroll be it from colleges or from temple administration and all institutions run by it. To get a swift response from the TTD, readers should contact the Executive Officer(EO).

E-mail Ids:

Executive Officer: eo@tirumala.org

Joint Executive Officer, Tirumala: jeotml@tirumala.org

Joint Executive Officer, Tirupati: jeotpt@tirumala.org

Chief Vigilance & Security Officer: cvso@tirumala.org

Public Relations Officer: pro@tirumala.org

Phone Numbers of TTD Officials:

Executive Officer: 0877-2264160(c), 4977(o), 4393(o)

JEO Tirupati: 0877-2264877(c), 4231(o)

PA to the Executive Officer: 0877-2264545

Public Relations Officer: 0877-2264392

Central Reception Officer: 0877-2263922

Chief Accounts Officer: 0877-2264752,4213

Chief Vigilance & Security: 0877-2264390

Devasthanam Law officer: 0877-2264317

Dev. Educational Officer: 0877-2264396

Dharma Prachara Parishad: 0877-2264490,92,93,94

Overseas Temple: 0877-2277718

Complaints/Suggestions: 18004254141

Article Source: IndiaFacts, 22 February 2015

 

Tribals are Hindus, Hindus are Pagans – Koenraad Elst

Bada Dev (Bara Dev)

Dr Koenraad ElstAt the 5th Gathering of the Elders (Mysore, 1-4 February 2015), I was originally only present as an observer. But when a Hindu lady speaker had addressed the social philosophy of the Gond tribe, I felt it necessary to give a fitting reply, as it was contrary to the whole aim and spirit of the conference. To my good fortune, the next speaker failed to show up, so the chair asked me if I could improvise a lecture. – Dr Koenraad Elst

How deep the Christian missionary influence has penetrated the Hindu psyche, was shown by this rendering of the Gondi worldview. The first aim of the missionaries is to convince the tribals that they are not Hindus. (After that, they will tell them that their religion is very close to Christianity, and that their self-acknowledgment as Hindus would constitute a “conversion” while their baptism would only constitute a “fulfilment” of their natural religion.) So, the lecture on the Gonds taught us that their religion is the very opposite of Hinduism because:

  1. They worship Barâ Dev while Hindus worship Ishwar;
  2. They consider the North auspicious; Hindus, the South;
  3. They bury their dead; Hindus cremate them;
  4. They believe in service to others (“jai seva!”), Hindus only in their own Liberation;
  5. They believe the world is real, Hindus believe it is Maya (illusion).
  6. They are divided in 12 exogamous phratries, Hindus in endogamous castes.

Against this, we notice that:

  1. Barâ Dev [or Bada Dev], “great god”, is modern Indo-Aryan for Sanskrit Mahadeva, same meaning and a name for Shiva (“the benefactor”, which itself is a flattering name for the fearsome god Rudra, “furious”), for whom another name is Ishwar (“lord”). Within Hinduism, it is perfectly normal for a god to have different names, and for different divine personalities to overlap. There is simply no opposition between Barâ Dev and Mahadeva.
  2. In Vastu Shatra, a front-door should not be built in the south, as it is deemed inauspicious, which is the same valuation of the south as among the Gonds. (For now, I take the speaker’s word for what exactly constitutes Gondi culture.) Even if it was different, it wouldn’t constitute a meaningful contrast: in China, the local habitat edology (fengshui) holds the south as positive and as the correct location of the front-door, due to a different climate: In the cold Yellow River valley, warmth was welcome, so the sunny south was good, whereas in hot India, men shield themselves against the sun. Yet, nobody derives therefrom a meaningful contrast between Indian and Chinese traditions, least of all the missionaries. Whether Chanakya or Confucius, all non-Christians are going to hell.
  3. Hindus since Vedic times have known both cremation and burial. Infants and saints are still buried. In some corners, Hindu burials persist, e.g. among the Gonds.
  4. Hindu society has always believed in social responsibility (Dharma, ca. “taking up your role as a specific part of the whole”), including the need for Seva, “service”, a genuine and ancient Sanskrit word (in contrast with Adivasi, “aboriginal”, which is a neologism devised by the missionaries in the colonial period). This was not put in the centre, and rightly so, but it was fully accepted. This duty was not discharged by clerics, as in Christianity, where hospitals were traditionally manned by nuns, but by laymen, mostly in the extended family. Ascetics, by contrast, were freed from social duty because they had taken up another duty, viz. pursuing Liberation, which to the laymen is mostly but a theoretical goal which they don’t actively pursue. Liberation is not “selfish” but impersonal, and requires a great deal of self-abnegation, even more than Seva.
  5. Only a small percentage of the Hindus even know about Mayavad, the doctrine that the world is a fata morgana created by the magic power of the gods. It is a specific philosophy of Shankara, conditioned by his struggle against Buddhist idealism (Shunyavad, “doctrine of Emptiness”), which in turn is also not the whole of Buddhism (indeed, the Buddha himself would not have recognized it as his own teaching). Shankara is widely appreciated as a great debater and as the founder of the ascetic Dashanami order, but his philosophy has few takers. Gonds too are free to follow , nothing prohibits that, but they too would by and large accept the world as real. And anyway, even if there were a difference in worldview pitting all Gonds against all Hindus, that would not save them: as long as they don’t believe in Jesus, they are all going to hell.
  6. The Gonds are, like most tribes, an endogamous group, and this group is internally divided in twelve exogamous groups, which anthropologists have called phratries. Hindu castes are by definition endogamous groups, Jati-s or “castes”, and are divided in exogamous groups called Gotra-s. If you consider each caste separately, you could, by this logic, start saying that they “don’t have caste”, because internally they are not divided in endogamous groups, only in exogamous groups. So, the situation among the Gonds is exactly like in Hindu castes. Tribals are just as endogamy-conscious as Hindus. When a Flemish Jesuit in Chotanagpur ca. 1890 wanted to put his converts to the test, he had them sit together across tribal lines for a joint meal, a very small matter compared to intermarriage, and even this they found scandalous, so that most invitees did not show up and 7000 converts in the region defected. It is one of the many myths professed by the secularists to spite the Hindus that tribals are “noble savages” practising Ur-communism and not afflicted by social divides like caste.

Lord Jagannath in the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Puri Jagannath TempleThe whole discourse on tribals is warped by the Aryan invasion theory. As a consequence of the hypothesis that speakers of proto-Sanskrit entered India ca. 1500 BC, the American situation is projected onto India: in both cases, a European population came to dominate the natives. Then, just like the European conquerors of America were considered civilized and Christian, while the Amerindians counted as tribal and Pagan, this cultural equation was projected onto India: the Vedic conquerors were non-tribal and non-Pagan, while the natives count as tribal and Pagan. So, working inside this paradigm, the missionaries tell the scheduled tribes to maximize their differences with the Vedic backbone of Hinduism, and the secularists have written a few times that Hindus cannot count as Pagans and that tribals who get “sanskritized” into the Vedic mainstream are “converts to Hinduism”.

The picture becomes very different when, as all evidence indicates, the Vedic Aryans were native to India. This implies that there simply were different tribes, including the Veda-composing Paurava tribe, some of which became more “civilized” than others, e.g. some became literate, others only later, yet others not until the modern state foisted literacy upon them; or some developed business acumen while others remained economically naïve. This is a normal development found on all inhabited continents.

Yagna in progress.That is why many features deemed tribal and contrasting with the image a foreigner gets of Hinduism when the taxi brings him from the airport to his hotel in the metropolis, also appear in Vedic tradition when you go and see it in the countryside, or when you study how it was in the past. Thus, worship in the open air is not a tribal feature contrasting with Hindu temple worship: in Vedic society, worship was equally in the open air. The tribal feature of aniconic nature worship, always contrasted with the Hindu worship of idols, was just as much in evidence in Vedic society and is still seen in the “primitive” layers of Hinduism, where you find snake worship, tree worship, sun worship, etc.

Yet, even if there had been an Aryan invasion, that would not have made the Vedic Hindus any less Pagan. We have heard testimonies here from Latvian and Lithuanian Pagans, who take pride in their language being closely akin to Sanskrit. They are not Indian, yet they are just as much Pagan. If the Vedic Aryans had contrasted with the native Indian tribals, if they had been different in all objects and practical details of worship and of mores, that would still not have saved either the one or the other from hellfire. For that is ultimately the criterion for being Pagan or not, regardless of all the distinctions invented to confuse matters. You are a Pagan if you do not partake of Christian salvation, i.e. if you go to hell. And that is where they belong: being to a smaller or larger extent fire-worshippers, Pagans must feel most at home in the endless fires of hell. – Koenraad Elst Blog, 4 February 2015

Tribals from various states of India hold placards during a protest against Christian missionaries in New Delhi yesterday. The demonstrators appealed to authorities to protect the culture of indigenous people, claiming that evangelical Christian missionaries are forcing them to convert to Christianity.Photo: AFP September 7, 2011

See also

The march to fulfil India’s destiny begins – Anirban Ganguly

Dr Anirban Ganguly“What is most striking, is the civilisational continuum of this land and its civilisational goal. Vivekananda saw this ‘current of national life flowing at times slow and half-conscious, at others, strong and awakened,’ moving towards fulfilling a glorious destiny for ‘my motherland.'” – Dr Anirban Ganguly

Flag of IndiaThe observance of Republic Day is often an occasion for looking back and for national stock-taking. An assessment of the national trajectory is something that the occasion offers. In the oath that he administered on January 26, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi spoke unsparingly of the “inalienable right of the Indian people to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth.”

Gandhi’s oath of January 26 also spoke of how subjection and alien rule had “ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually”, and how only “purna swaraj” was the way out and towards salvation. Years earlier, Sri Aurobindo, then in his active revolutionary phase, had given a similar call—of complete independence.

While defining the dimensions of his “swaraj”, Gandhi noted on another occasion that his “swaraj” would keep “intact the genius of our civilisation”. “I want to write many new things,” noted Gandhi, “but they must all be written on the Indian slate.” The general trend and national atmosphere today point to this effort to write many new things on the Indian civilisational state—an effort that must be made with an unapologetic and bold spirit.

Gandhi’s January 26 declaration also spoke about how “culturally, the system of education (had) torn us from our moorings”, one of his most forceful advocacy was for realising the intellectual and spiritual devastation caused by this deracination and to work towards a completely new education vision and direction.

Sri AurobindoSri Aurobindo, in his days as one of the originators of the national education movement, strove to evolve a national system of education for India, a true education that would essentially express and give space to the manifestations of the civilisational dimension.

At least, the present liberated atmosphere allows and encourages a free discussion on the need to examine our educational framework and to evolve a fresh vision for a new India, accepting that such a vision ought to be inspired and initiated by our civilisational memory of a rich educational past.

Discussing Indian culture and external influence, about a century ago, Sri Aurobindo proffered a crucial national direction and challenge when he noted the necessity of living “in one’s self, determining one’s self-expression from one’s own centre of being in accordance  with one’s own law of being, swadharma”. An inability to do this, argued Sri Aurobindo, would mean collectively, “languor, weakness, inefficiency” with the danger of being “overborne” and “oppressed by environing forces”. A “fidelity to our own spirit, nature, ideals” was required, but it had to be supplemented with a capacity for a “strong and masterful dealing with external circumstances”. The recognition of the need to create with foundations going deep into our civilisational root is a realisation that is increasingly governing the ship of the state.

One can almost hear the echoes of Swami Vivekananda’s call to make “this, our great Mother India, our keynote” and to dedicate and focus ourselves in the next five decades to making her great, prosperous, high-seated in the comity of nations. It is in this call that is Swami Vivekanandablended Sri Aurobindo’s advice to workers for the nation, to “work that she (India) may prosper, (to) suffer that she (India) may rejoice”.

What is most striking, is the civilisational continuum of this land and its civilisational goal. Vivekananda saw this “current of national life flowing at times slow and half-conscious, at others, strong and awakened”, moving towards fulfilling a glorious destiny for “my motherland”.

The essential task then is to ride and guide that national current towards realising that destiny—such a march has now begun. – The New Indian Express, 1 February 2015

»  Dr Anirban Ganguly is Director of the Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. Follow him on Twitter @anirbanganguly.

Census of India 2011: The religious imbalance worsens (with video) – J. K. Bajaj

India Census 2011

J. K. Bajaj“The Muslim rate of growth in 2011 is nearly 38 per cent above the national average; in 2001, the gap between the growth of Muslims and the national average was somewhat lower at 36.8 per cent. The rate of growth of Hindus, on the other hand, has declined about 20 per cent below the national average. This is a matter of great concern. We shall discuss the large decline in the rate of growth of Hindus in greater detail towards the end of this article.” – Dr  J. K. Bajaj

Sword of IslamThe long-awaited religion data for the Census of 2011 has not been published yet. But it seems that some journalists have been allowed to have a quick look at the figures. Consequently, many stories have appeared in the press; already several articles have been written to reassure the Hindus that the share of Muslims in the population of India has not really changed by too much and there is no serious demographic imbalance developing between different communities in India. But the reported figures seem anything but reassuring.

Muslims grow by 24.4 % against national average of 17.7 %

According to the reports, the Muslim population has grown by 24.4 per cent between 2001 and 2011. Average growth of the total population during the decade has been only 17.7 per cent; the growth of Hindus is much lower at only 14.5 per cent. The reports and various articles try to convey that the Muslim growth may be higher compared to the average, yet their rate of growth has declined substantially in comparison to the previous decade, when the Muslim population had grown by 29.50 per cent. But what is critical in maintaining the demographic balance between different communities is not the absolute rate of growth but the gap between their respective growth rates. The Muslim rate of growth in 2011 is nearly 38 per cent above the national average; in 2001, the gap between the growth of Muslims and the national average was somewhat lower at 36.8 per cent. The rate of growth of Hindus, on the other hand, has declined about 20 per cent below the national average. This is a matter of great concern. We shall discuss the large decline in the rate of growth of Hindus in greater detail towards the end of this article.

Muslims gain 0.8 percentage points in their share

Another figure highlighted in the press reports is the rise of 0.8 percentage points in the share of Muslims in the population; they form 14.2 per cent of the population in 2011 compared to 13.4 per cent in 2001. The reports suggest that this increase of a mere 0.8 percentage points is small and not a matter of any concern. But this level of increase in the share of a significantly large minority community can hardly be considered small. It implies an increase of 8 percentage points in a century; that kind of change is large enough to drastically alter the social, political and geographical balance between communities.

It is also suggested that the imbalance in the growth rate of Muslims and others is a temporary phenomenon that is unlikely to continue for long. But there is nothing in the data to suggest any correction of the imbalance. In fact, if the figure of 0.8 percentage point rise in the share of Muslims during the last decade is indeed correct, then it would be the third time in a row that they would have registered such a gain. The share of Muslims had risen by almost exactly the same 0.8 percentage points between 1981-1991 and 1991-2001; their share was 11.8 per cent in 1981, 12.6 per cent in 1991 and 13.4 per cent in 2001; it is 14.2 per cent now in 2011.

In the earlier decades, the rise in the share of Muslims used to be much smaller, but even in that period a clear rising trend was visible from decade to decade. The share was 10.5 per cent in 1951, 10.7 per cent in 1961, 11.2 per cent in 1971 and 11.8 per cent in 1981.

It is clear from the above that the rise of 0.8 percentage points in the share of Muslims in the population of India is a continuation of an established long-term trend that has continued at least since Independence. In the sixty years between 1951 and 2011, the share of Muslims has increased from 10.5 to 14.2 per cent; two-thirds of this increase has happened in the last three decades alone.

Incidentally, in the period prior to Partition and Independence, the share of Muslims in the part of undivided India that forms the Indian Union now had not increased significantly, and it was actually declining in the part that now forms Pakistan; the share was rising significantly only in the part that now forms Bangladesh. But after Partition, the Muslim share has been rising both in the Indian Union and Bangladesh, very rapidly in the latter. Pakistan, in any case, had become almost entirely Muslim after Partition.

Longer term trend of increase in Muslim share in undivided India

However in undivided India as a whole, the share of Muslims has risen continuously and consistently throughout the period for which the Census data is available. Their share was 20 per cent at the time of the first Census in 1881; it had risen to 24.3 per cent in 1941 before Partition and further to 30.4 per cent in 2001. On the basis of the available figures for 2011, we estimate the share of Muslims in the population of undivided India in 2011 at around 31.8 per cent. Thus the trend of increase in Muslim share in the population seems even stronger for undivided India.

What is critical in maintaining the demographic balance between different communities is not the absolute rate of growth but the gap between their respective growth rates.

Christians form another 2 per cent of the population of undivided India according to official sources. According to the Christian sources, the share of Christians in the population of undivided India is nearer 4 per cent. Christians and Muslims together thus already account for 36 per cent of the population of undivided India. Their combined share in 1881 was only around 21 per cent. The corresponding decline of more than 15 per cent in the share of the religions of Indian origin in the course of 130 years is indeed unusual.

Larger Muslim gains in specific parts of India

Another important aspect of the religion figures of the Census of 2011 that have appeared in the press is the very high growth of Muslims in some of the States of India. According to these reports, the share of Muslims has increased sharply in many parts of India, including in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Goa, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Haryana.

Muslims now form 34.2 per cent of the population of Assam, which is 3.2 percentage points higher than their share of 30.9 per cent in 2001. This comes on top of gains of about 2 percentage points registered in each of the decades of 1971-81 and 1981-91 and of 2.5 percentage points in 1991-2001. In 1971, the share of Muslims in the population of Assam was only 24.6 per cent; nearly 10 percentage points below the share counted in 2011.

The real story of what is happening to the religious demography of Assam shall be known only when we get the disaggregated data for the districts and taluks. Earlier data indicated that several districts of Assam had become predominantly Muslim and many taluks were on the way to becoming exclusively Muslim. In such taluks, the absolute population of Hindus counted in 2001 was below the count of 1991. Given the surprisingly large rise in the share of Muslims in the State as a whole between 2001 and 2011, Hindus from many other taluks may have been compelled to flee from their homes.

Similarly there are also several districts and taluks in other parts of the country, especially in West Bengal, Kerala and Haryana, where Hindus have been reduced to an unviable minority. The impact of the rapid rise in the Muslim share in these States on the Hindus of those vulnerable districts and taluks within them can be assessed only when the detailed disaggregated data are formally released.

Given these trends, the need for the formal release of the complete Census data on religion has become even more urgent.

The substantial rise in the share of Muslims in the population of Kerala is interesting for another reason. In Kerala literacy rates counted in Census 2011 are above 90 per cent for both men and women and Muslim literacy rates there have not been much lower than the average. The much higher rate of growth of Muslims in this State seems to indicate that the gap in the rate of growth of Muslims and the others is not related to literacy alone. In fact, according to the figures of 2001, the literacy rate amongst Muslim women was higher than the average in as many 10 major States of India. In some of these States, the difference in female literacy in favour of Muslims was as high as 10 percentage points. Yet in all these States, the growth rate of Muslims was also higher than the average.

Data on Christians has not been reported yet

While some glimpse has been given of the rise in the share of Muslims in the population of India as a whole and of several States, the reports have almost nothing to say about the share of Christians. From past trends, Christians are likely to record major gains in several parts of the country, including in the Northeast, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Orissa [and Andhra Pradesh]. Within the Northeast, the data for Arunachal Pradesh and certain districts of Meghalaya and Assam, where rapid Christianisation had been happening in the earlier couple of decades, would be of particular interest. Census of 2001 also indicated increase in the Christian numbers in several newer areas. Detailed disaggregated data of the Census of 2011 alone shall give a clear picture of the further progress of Christianity in those parts.

Decline in the share of Hindus

A surprising aspect of the data that has been reported is the sharp decline in the share of Hindus in the total population of India. According to these reports, the proportion of Hindus has declined by 2.1 percentage points, from 80.45 per cent in 2001 to 78.35 per cent in 2011. Since the share of Muslims has increased by only 0.8 percentage points, what accounts for the larger decline in the share of Hindus? We do not have the detailed figures yet. But the large decline in the Hindu share is most likely to be associated with a spurt in the number of persons counted under “Other Religions and Persuasions”.

In every Census, concerted efforts have been made by certain groups to persuade different communities, particularly among the Scheduled Tribes of India, to get counted outside the Hindu fold. As a consequence of such efforts, 6.6 million Indians were counted under the category of Other Religions and Persuasions (ORPs) in 2001; the number in 1991 was less than 3.3 million. The decline of 2.1 percentage points in the share of Hindus in the count of 2011 suggests that the number of ORPs in this Census may have spurted threefold.

When the Census of 2011 was being conducted, intense campaigns were organised in several parts of India to dissuade people from referring to themselves as Hindus. There was even a campaign to make the Census authorities assign a new religious category in the questionnaire for this purpose. These campaigns seem to have achieved conspicuous success. Detailed disaggregated data on religion shall give us further insight into how this process has actually unfolded in the Census of 2011.

Critical Concerns

The reported figures of the religion data of Census 2011 thus raise several critical concerns. The figures show that:

(a) the gap between the rate of growth of Muslims and the national average has remained high and unchanged

(b) there has been a significant rise in the share of Muslims in the population of the country in conformity with a continuing and worrisome long-term trend

(c) in several States, the growth of share of Muslims in the population has been much higher than the national average, indicative of the development of several predominantly Muslim pockets; and

(d) there has been a sharp decline in the share of Hindus in the total population. We yet do not have any figures for the growth of Christians, which could raise further concerns.

Given these trends, the need for the formal release of the complete Census data on religion has become even more urgent. We shall be able to fully appreciate the extent of change in the religious profile of different parts of India only when the detailed religious figures disaggregated up to at least the taluk level are made available. To understand the phenomenon of rising numbers of ORPs and perhaps also of Christians, it would be also important to have the detailed religion data for the Scheduled Tribes of India. Given the critical importance of these figures for understanding the changing social, political and geographical balance within India, the Census should consider making this data part of the Primary Census Abstracts (PCA), so that the religion figures become available up to the town and village level and can be correlated with various other socio-economic aspects of the population. – IndiaFacts, 28 January 2015

» Dr. J. K. Bajaj is a prominent scholar on Indian history, culture and demography. He is the director of Centre for Policy Studies and has produced an exhaustive compilation of the religious demographic data of the last hundred years for different regions of the Indian subcontinent and almost all districts of the Indian Union. Contact him at email:  policy.cpsindia@gmail.com

Muslim population increase in India

Muslim population distribution in India (2001 Census)

India’s population has little space – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth“Is it not time to give those, who were brainwashed into obnoxious dogmas, a chance to become free? From my own experience, it was a big relief when I lost faith in the unverifiable Christian dogmas. And I am not alone. Millions lost this faith. Priests in Europe don’t dare any more to preach that ‘heathens go to hell’ though it is still the official Christian doctrine. … In India, priests still dare to preach it and, as I just read, even an IAS officer in Tamil Nadu dares to rant against idol worshipping Hindus.” – Maria Wirth

Local train in UP IndiaIt seems to be still undecided whether India’s huge population of presently 1270 million is a boon or bane. Occasionally one hears that the number of children should be restricted. Then one hears that it is an advantage that India has so many, especially young people. What is the truth?

For the common man, the experience is that there are crowds wherever he goes – in hospitals, to get admission in schools or colleges, on roads, in railway station, in pilgrimage centres, even in prisons. The infrastructure is clearly stretched to its limits and the competition for jobs and seats in educational institutions is unbelievable.

Yet Indians seem to be still relaxed, as China has even more people. Only in 2030, India is set to take the number one position as the most populous country in the world. On the third position is USA with 315 million, then Indonesia with around 250, and so on.

However, the media and even research papers usually don’t mention an important fact when they compare India’s population with that of other countries: the area available for the residents.

India Population Density MapEveryone in India knows from direct experience that the country is densely populated. But only few know how the population density of India relates to that of other countries. Here are some figures (partly from 2010) that will shock:

China is three times the size of India. So if it had the same population density as India, it would have a population of 3.700 million instead of 1.330. The USA, about the same size as China, also would have 3.700 million inhabitants instead of mere 315 million. Australia would have 3.000 million instead of only 20 million. Kazakhstan would have around 1.000 million instead of only 15. Mongolia would have 600 million instead of the unbelievably low 3 million. Indonesia would have 720 instead of 250 million. Russia would take the cake. If it was as densely populated as India, it would harbour 6.130 million, instead of hardly 150 million. Of course, Russia has many inhabitable places. So let’s go to Europe.

The 27 countries of the EU have around 500 million people. They would have 1600 million, if the EU were as densely populated as India. Germany would have 140 million instead of the present 81. United Kingdom would have 95 million instead of 62. Italy would have 110 million instead of 58. France would have 200 instead of 62 million… It is mind-boggling. Imagine what would happen, if all the French people moved into Germany to reach 140 million. There would be a big revolt.

Compare this to India’s Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. These two states, which are among the densest populated in India, have an area that is a little smaller than Germany. However, instead of 81 million, over 300 million people live in those two states, plus tigers, leopards, elephants, monkeys, etc. Germany would not only need to accommodate the whole population of France, but also that of Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. This situation is inconceivable. People would be at each other’s throat.

It is intriguing why world population reports generally focus on the high population growth in Africa, and overlook the incredible density of today’s India, which is getting denser and denser each day.

In Africa, 1.110 million people live in an area that is around ten times the size of India. That means, if the whole world population of 7 billion moves to Africa, there is still place for another 5 billion, till people were packed as tightly as they are in India today. Even if the countries in northern Africa are excluded and only the area south of the Sahara is considered, there is place for the whole world population plus an extra 3 billion.

Victoria & African ChiefAre these facts purposely obfuscated? Are the white “liberals” in the US, Canada, Australia and South America worried that they will be questioned on what basis their countries refuse entry to people from other nations when they themselves had taken over these vast lands and their mineral wealth unjustly only a few centuries ago and had pushed the indigenous population into a corner or killed them?

Maybe they need not fear these questions – at least not yet – from Indians. ‘Overcrowded’ is a relative term. Most westerners have a low threshold in tolerating many others around. It affects their mood badly. “Hell is other people” Jean Paul Satre, a French philosopher famously said.

Indians have a different mind-set. They feel that each creature – human or animal – has an equal right to be on this earth. They adjust to a given situation. It does not seem to make them unhappy. The unbelievable crowds at the Kumbha Mela are proof. They are energising. There is colour and vibrancy to life. There is a joyful, uplifting atmosphere. People are good-natured and helpful to each other.

Those qualities are probably the key: as long as people are good-natured and helpful to each other, living closely together is no problem and even enriching, provided the availability of food, jobs and infra-structure can keep up with the population.

And if people are not good-natured and helpful, life is depressing even if everyone lives in a spacious bungalow.

This brings up the question, “Are Indians good-natured?” They generally are, and probably more than other people. There are few countries where the attitude of “live and let live” is as pronounced as in India. “All are one family” is the traditional attitude.

No Idols!Of course in India, too, there are criminals who are hard to reform. India, however, faces also danger from religious fanatics. Many Indians have been converted to Islam and Christianity, and they are taught to feel superior and look down on Hindus and on their own ancestors as well. Both these religions condemn harshly “idol worship”. They consider it an unpardonable affront to the “true God”. Idol worshippers will burn eternally in hell-fire, claim Bible and Quran.

In the Indian tradition, among other methods, murtis are worshipped as a representation of the Divine. And it makes sense: the creative power of the universe naturally has to sustain each part, from the sun to mosquitos, to human beings and to stones. Everything is permeated by the one divine consciousness. So, the Divine can be invoked and worshipped in any part. If only the dogmatic religions were open for a genuine debate and ready to experiment, even they would realise that murti puja can help develop love for the Divine.

Fundamentalism has been rising in the dogmatic religions in recent years and there is the danger, as it happened earlier in Indian history, even as late as in 1990 in Kashmir, that a call is given to the “despicable idol-worshipping” Hindus to convert or else they will gravely suffer. We know it is possible even in our times.

Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels QuotationHowever, in tune with the financial and political clout of the dogmatic religions, the impression is created, as if the Hindus are the dangerous fundamentalists that threaten the peaceful fabric of India. The Indian and international media push this line with amazing success – proving Goebbels right. “Militant, fundamentalist Hindus” are blasted without mentioning that the fundamentals of Hindu Dharma are benign, unlike those of the dogmatic religions. Truth is turned on its head.

It is a challenge to start a genuine debate on truth and the role of religions, and make those Indians, who follow dogmatic religions, realise that they have been misled: demeaning or even harming fellow human beings will never get them heaven or paradise. It simply cannot be. There will be a rude awakening. Whether one is reborn does not depend on whether one believes in it.

The source of all life is naturally like a mother. She is loving and won’t forsake her offspring. It is absurd to believe that billions or trillions of human beings will burn for ever in a huge cauldron of fire after Judgment Day, if this day ever comes.

Christianity started propagating this absurd claim and Islam obviously found it useful, too. It is useful for frightening simple-minded people into submission to an ideology that wants to expand all over the globe. Two such ideologies compete today under the tag of religion for world dominion and both consider India as a fertile ground to increase their numbers.

IAS officer C. UmashankarIs it not time to give those, who were brainwashed into obnoxious dogmas, a chance to become free? From my own experience, it was a big relief when I lost faith in the unverifiable Christian dogmas. And I am not alone. Millions lost this faith. Priests in Europe don’t dare any more to preach that “heathen go to hell” though it is still the official Christian doctrine. They know they would lose even more of their sheep. In India, priests still dare to preach it and, as I just read, even an IAS officer in Tamil Nadu dares to rant against idol worshipping Hindus.

The majority of Indians has an exceptionally tolerant mind-set. This majority may include many of the converts who have not cut their roots but, because of community pressure, do not openly express their doubts about the dogmas they are supposed to believe. The atmosphere in India is still special. Faith in the Divine comes naturally to all Indians. If there is a country that can show to the world how a big number of people can live together in peace and harmony on little space, and even have room for tigers and leopards, it is India.

However, India cannot afford in her midst youth being brainwashed into hating their fellow countrymen, because they call the Divine by another name and use other methods Hellfor worship. This would lead to disaster. Unfortunately, the clerics of both dogmatic religions do incite their flock to look down on Hindus, if not worse. ‘Hell is guaranteed for them, if they don’t convert’, is propagated. It is probably the biggest, most harmful superstition and certainly against any scientific temper that Indians are meant to develop. Curiously, I never heard rationalists take up this issue.

The clerics should be asked to give proof that Hindus will burn in hell. If they can’t – and they cannot – they should drop this claim and appreciate the Rishis’ observation: Truth is one – the wise call it by many names.

Let the Highest be worshipped under many names but acknowledge that Truth is One and it is too big to fit into any book.

Is it asking for too much?

Population trends for major religious groups in India (1951–2011)

Is Hinduism a monotheistic religion? – Vamadeva Shastri

Ganesha

David Frawley“Hindus need not try to make Hinduism appear more monotheistic in order to gain acceptance by others. Hinduism provides a spiritual alternative to the exclusivism and intolerance that is common in monotheistic systems, which many people are questioning. Hinduism draws people to individual spiritual experience beyond the boundaries of churches and dogmas, granting an inner freedom to find the truth.” – Pandit Vamadeva Shastri

Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV)There has been a considerable debate extending from recent centuries to current interfaith dialogues as to whether Hinduism is a monotheistic religion, and if so whether Hinduism can perhaps be included among the great monotheistic traditions of the world.

This question of Hinduism and monotheism reflects certain preconceptions that should be carefully examined. First is the idea that monotheism is a higher form, if not the highest form of religion, which is both debatable and controversial.

Second, if Hinduism is not monotheistic, the general implication is that Hinduism must be polytheistic, meaning heathen, pagan, primitive, superstitious and idolatrous. This view also implies the superiority of monotheism over different formulations of the sacred that may have their own value.

Third is the implication – which unfortunately many Hindus take – that if Hinduism is accepted as another monotheistic faith that Hinduism will be afforded more respect in the world in which monotheistic faiths predominate. Yet one could propose to the contrary that turning Hinduism into another monotheistic faith could as likely make Hindus more vulnerable to conversion by faiths claiming to be more purely monotheistic than Hinduism could ever be.

Moreover, monotheism has a considerable baggage and a history that has often been intolerant, oppressive and violent. There are many important thinkers, philosophers, scientists and artists in the West who have long criticized or rejected monotheism. And many great mystics and yogis from throughout the world have also questioned the superiority of monotheism, its practices and institutions, over spiritual approaches to Self-knowledge and Self-realization not tied to one belief system or another.

Swami Dayananda SaraswatiHinduism and its confrontation with monotheistic traditions

European colonial thought centuries ago judged Hinduism as polytheistic and pagan, like native and pagan traditions from throughout the world, not as monotheistic. This judgement required that monotheists convert Hindus, along with all similar non-monotheistic traditions, a process that has not come to an end.

Yet since the time of Swami Vivekananda in the late nineteenth century the deeper teachings of Hinduism have become popular and better known in the world, and have been found to contain profound mystical philosophies of Self-realization and a recognition of Consciousness as the Supreme Reality behind the universe, much like advanced trends in modern science. Hindu Yoga and Vedanta contains an understanding of higher states of consciousness, mystical insights, and an awareness of the infinite and eternal, recognizing the vast extent of the universe that appears to go far beyond monotheistic systems and their circumscribed perspectives.

However, as Hindus have come in contact with monotheistic traditions, particularly in countries where monotheism prevails, they have tended to emphasize a similarity between Hinduism and monotheism that is not always correct or to their advantage, and can appear to be a form of self-denigration or self-betrayal.

Some Hindu and Yogic groups have proclaimed that they are also monotheistic, implying a belief in One God, perhaps also one book and one savior, though this may be a Hindu formulation of deity, a Hindu book as scripture, or a great Hindu teacher as the one savior or prophet. Other Hindus would equate the One God of monotheistic traditions with the One Reality, the Supreme Self of Vedantic and Yoga philosophy that is the same and equal in all beings, ignoring the fact that the One God of monotheism is part of a dualistic formulation and is not addressed as the Self of all.

Yahweh / Jehovah / AllahThe one god of exclusive monotheism

The One God of monotheism is not usually a unitary reality or universal truth but an exclusive being that demotes, denies or rejects all other paths or formulations of divinity. Such a One God is a “singularity,” a one opposed to others, not a universality that embraces all. This is quite different from the unitary Deity of Vedic and yogic thought defined as Atman or Purusha, the Supreme Self.

Such “exclusive monotheism” rejects the worship of the One Reality according to different names and forms. Not surprisingly, the votaries of the One God are usually engaged in plans to convert all of humanity to their particular views, rejecting all others as inferior, out of date or wrong.

Hinduism, on the contrary, honors many paths and levels of spiritual experience, form-based and formless, personal and impersonal. Hinduism includes elements of what western thought might call monism, theism, pantheism and polytheism, but as part of a many-sided and multileveled approached to the sacred that honors the freedom of the individual to search out the truth from all perspectives. Yet all these western philosophical terms for religion, including monotheism, are incomplete and cannot encompass the full range of Hindu teachings.

Monotheistic systems generally hold to salvation by belief or by good works that takes the soul into some eternal heaven or paradise after birth as the highest goal, with all other souls condemned to sorrow, if not eternal damnation. They usually reject the karma, rebirth and liberation approach of Hinduism that rests upon Yoga and meditation and cannot be achieved by belief or action alone. Hinduism emphasizes individual spiritual experience through Yoga and Vedanta over any creed or formula. Hinduism does not teach any final heaven or hell, or salvation by belief or works, such as most monotheistic traditions promote.

BrahmaTheism in Hinduism

There are very ancient, sophisticated and philosophically profound theistic forms of Hinduism that recognize a single creator or cosmic lord behind the universe, what we could call “Hindu Theism.” Hindu theism, however, is not exclusive but inclusive, allowing for a variety of names and forms of the deity as masculine or feminine, father or mother, as well as beyond all names and forms.

Hindu theism does not deny a multiplicity of deities on various levels but regards these as manifestations or developments from the same Divine power.

There are also Hindu approaches that are not theistic or place theism at a lower level. Samkhya philosophy aims at the realization of the inner consciousness or Purusha principle but does not make any One God the basis of that. Advaita or non-dualistic Vedanta regards that realization of the Supreme Self transcends the dualistic world of God and soul.

Buddhism, a related dharmic tradition to Hinduism, does not recognize any God or creator apart from karma. Nor does the Jain tradition.

The Hindu view of the universe is much more than what is regarded in the West as monotheism. The Hindu view is not that there is only one God but that everything is God, meaning by the term God, a unitary being, consciousness and bliss. The Hindu view is that Truth is One and that if one had to choose between truth and God, one would be better off choosing truth.

There are some mystics in monotheistic traditions who may have views similar to the Hindu view of Being-Consciousness-Bliss as the supreme reality behind all existence. But these mystics have remained on the periphery of mainstream monotheistic groups and have often been rejected or oppressed by the more orthodox.

Hinduism can be symbolised by a banyan tree with its many roots and trunks which constitutes the Whole.What is Hinduism?

Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma or the Eternal and Universal Tradition accepts all paths to truth or divinity, though it may place these on different levels. Theism is part of this universal approach, but not an exclusive monotheism, and it exists along with many other approaches personal and impersonal, including not only in religion but also in art, philosophy, and science.

To call Hinduism monotheistic or to try to scale it down into the perimeters of western monotheistic religions is misleading and erroneous.

Hinduism is not simply a monotheistic religion. It has more in common with traditions regarded but as pagan and polytheistic. And these negative judgments and stereotypes of Hinduism and other traditions by the monotheists as primitive, pagan and polytheistic are also wrong.

When people ask me whether as a Hindu I believe in God or not, my reply is that I recognize a unitary consciousness behind the universe, but I do not accept the finality of any God born of human historical revelation or limited to any belief system.

We should recognize Hinduism for what it is and monotheism for what it is. Hinduism is like the great banyan tree that stands beyond all limitations and definitions. Monotheism has its primary focus from which it seldom deviates and which usually promotes uniformity.

Hindus should not apologize for not being monotheistic; they should be happy that their tradition never found it helpful to become reduced to any exclusive belief system.

Hindus need not try to make Hinduism appear more monotheistic in order to gain acceptance by others. Hinduism provides a spiritual alternative to the exclusivism and intolerance that is common in monotheistic systems, which many people are questioning. Hinduism draws people to individual spiritual experience beyond the boundaries of churches and dogmas, granting an inner freedom to find the truth.

Hindus accept that the Divine (not one god) has many manifestations extending to every rock, plant, person, planet and star, from the ground on which we stand to the farthest reach of time and space and beyond. We can discover that Divine face and presence of consciousness everywhere, but for this to occur, we must first discover it within our own hearts and in the hearts of all beings.

Swinging on the CrossHow should Hindus approach monotheistic traditions?

How then should Hindus approach monotheistic traditions? First they should study them carefully and listen to what the main texts and teachers of monotheistic traditions are actually saying. Hindus should try to find out what motivates monotheistic groups to seek to convert not only Hindus but Buddhists, Sikhs and all pagan and native groups. They should not romanticize monotheism as monism or Bhakti Yoga in another form, but should be aware of the monotheistic agendas that are still adverse to them.

This is not to say that one cannot find valuable teachings in monotheism, just as one can also find them in traditions called polytheistic. And if monotheistic groups do want to expand their views to the unitary reality such as we find in Hinduism, Hindus should welcome that. But to do so, monotheistic groups must first recognize that they have not only misjudged Hinduism and pagan traditions in general but perhaps reality itself.

In any case, we live in a vast universe with many different individuals and cultures and a number of views on any topic are likely to always exist. There can be no monolithic final view of religion, philosophy, art, science, or even medicine. Nor is it desirable, as an examination of many different points of view may be necessary to find the highest truth that dwells beyond the limitations of the mind in the light of consciousness alone.

As we move towards a new planetary age, we must accept this diversity of all life, which is of both Spirit and Nature. A background unity is certainly there but it exists above and beyond all divisions of name and form, not as one point of view against another. Not only Hindus but many traditional people and ancient cultures seem to be better aware of that background but many-sided unity than what we would call organized religion. We all share a common humanity and spirituality that we should honor, but we must also honor freedom and diversity in developing it. – Hindu Human Rights,  26 August 2014

» Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) D. Litt., Padma Bhushan is a recognized Vedacharya (Vedic teacher). He includes in his studies Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology, as well as the ancient Vedic teachings going back to the Rigveda. He is the head of the American Institute of Vedic Studies.

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