Vice-President Hamid Ansari speaks only for Muslims – R. Jagannathan

Hamid Ansari

R. Jagannathan“The real tragedy is that Ansari has reduced himself to a spokesman for his community rather than the Vice-President of all of India. And this is not the first time he has done so. In September last year, he made a specific plea to give Muslims reservations in jobs, when the constitution does not allow quotas based on religion.” – R. Jagannathan

The Vice-President of India, like the President or the Prime Minister, represents the whole country—all the people, and not just some of them, or the community he or she comes from. Unfortunately, the Vice-President of India, Hamid Ansari, has sometimes been talking like a spokesman for Muslims in India. This is not his job.

On 2 April, Ansari must have raised hackles all around when he called on the Supreme Court to reflect on how minorities can be protected from majoritarianism and clarify “the contours within which the principles of secularism and composite culture should operate with a view to strengthen their functional modality and remove ambiguities.”

He also wondered aloud, without any sense of irony, whether Indian democracy may not be better served with a “more complete separation of religion and politics”—when this is precisely what Muslim organisations oppose. Throughout India’s journey from 1947, Muslim institutions have opposed a uniform civil code, the triple talaq and several other things. Recently, the Jamiat-e-Islami-e-Hind had the effrontery to tell the Supreme Court it had no business looking into triple talaq, a simple gender rights issue that should have nothing to do with religion. Nor has he spoken aggressively against the Haj subsidy, something that directly brings the state into a religious activity.

Mylapore MLA R. Rajalakshmi, Secretary HR & CE M. Rajaram (second from left) and HR & CE Commissioner M. Kalaivanan (right), are in the picture.Also, is Ansari unaware of recent history, where Hindus have been ethnically cleansed from two neighbouring countries, and also from a Muslim majority state in India (J&K)? Majoritarianism, if it existed, would never have allowed the majority community to be cleansed from one of its states. Ansari also didn’t stop to think whether India’s brand of secularism is impacting Hindus more than Muslims, where states directly control major temples (Tirupati in Andhra, Siddhivinayak in Maharashtra, and Sabarimala in Kerala). The state directly controls thousands of temples in the south, and even in some places in the north. Nor does he even seem aware that courts happily intervene in Hindu religious practices, but never those of Muslims or Christians. The constitutional protections given to minorities to run their own religious and cultural institutions excludes Hindu institutions in practice.

It is possible to take a more charitable view of Ansari’s speech, but given the context in which he asked for these clarifications, it is obvious that he is only talking about Muslim concerns when the state is run by the BJP, which has obvious links to Hindu organisations.

At the outset one must make it clear that the Sangh Parivar has not helped matters by making “nationalism” a big issue, especially its narrow view of it, including the need for Indians to chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai” or “Vande Mataram.” The beef controversy was not only avoidable, but needed opposing. What people will eat, wear or speak cannot be imposed from above, whichever be the party in power. This statement applies equally to narrow definitions of secularism, where the Sangh alone is designated as communal, excluding many parties that are caste-based or based on support of minority communities (as in Hyderabad, Assam, J&K, Kerala and elsewhere). “Sickularism” is as bad as narrow nationalism.

However, Ansari has shown that he too is not above sectarian thinking from the way he is voicing the concerns of Muslims to the exclusion of the so-called majority.

Consider his various other statements, made at the 16th convention of Jammu University:

He said “any public discourse on India being a ‘secular’ republic with a ‘composite culture’ cannot overlook India’s heterogeneity…. A population of 1.3 billion comprising over 4,635 communities … religious minorities constitute 19.4 percent of the total…. Our democratic polity and its secular state structure were put in place in full awareness of this plurality. There was no suggestion to erase identities and homogenise them.”

Muslim mother with son on JanamashtamiOne must ask: who is seeking to erase plurality? It is not the Sangh or the BJP government, despite the outlandish statements made by some members of the Sangh on “Bharat mata ki jai”. It is interesting that till some time ago, the Left used to proclaim India’s “composite culture” in order to deny its Hindu underpinnings; now Ansari is rubbishing the whole idea of a “composite culture” and says India is about “4,635 communities”.

Then he contradicts himself by referring to 19.4 percent minorities, as though they are some solid block that needs defending from the remaining 80-and-odd percent majoritarians. If India is a composite of 4,635 communities, we are all minorities and Hindus are not one solid phalanx of religious unity. There is no majority or minority. And certainly a Muslim population of 180 million cannot by any stretch of imagination be called a minority.

Ansari also failed to look at his own community’s efforts to erase plurality, with organisations like the Tabligh seeking to weed out any traces of Indian influence in Islam—worship at dargahs, veneration of pirs, etc. In Tamil Nadu, where Muslims were till recently more Tamils than Muslims, there is a concerted effort to Wahhabise them.

Elsewhere too, Muslims are learning to grow beards to emphasise difference rather than common citizenship, and even something as basic as “Ramzan” is being Arabised as Ramadan in some quarters. Ansari’s silence on this deliberate effort to separate Muslims from Indian syncretism is eloquent.

If attempts to homogenise Indians are reprehensible, surely attempts to homogenise Muslims are equally reprehensible?

Ansari also said that the “three accepted characteristics of a secular state were liberty to practise religion, equality between religions in state practice, and neutrality or a fence of separation between the state and religion.”

Muslims and Hindus play HoliThere is no bar on anyone practising any religion in India. So the first point exists in India. The second, equality between religions, does not exist, because Indian politicians have used the rights of minorities under Articles 25-30 (to run their own institutions without state interference) to ring-fence minority institutions but Hindu institutions have become personal fiefs of politicians to run their rackets. We have made a mockery of Article 14, which guarantees equality before the law, by excluding Hindu institutions from the right to administer their own institutions. And some laws primarily apply to Hindus. A recent case in point is the Bombay High Court decision to force the Shani Shingnapur temple to give women the same rights as men (…) to enter the sanctum sanctorum. But the same is not explicitly applicable to the Haji Ali Dargah or other mosques.

And then Ansari made this remark: “The difficulty lies in delineating, for purposes of public policy and practice, the line that separates them from religion…. The ‘way of life’ argument, used in philosophical texts and some judicial pronouncements, does not help … identify common principles of equity in a multi-religious society. Since a wall of separation is not possible under Indian conditions, the challenge is to develop a formula for equidistance and minimum involvement. For this purpose, principles of faith need to be segregated from contours of culture since a conflation of the two obfuscates the boundaries of both.” (italics mine)

Since it is obvious that only Hinduism describes itself as a “way of life”, Ansari’s target is clear: he wants the state de-Hinduised. Not objectionable in itself, but Ansari seems to want not only separation of state from religion, but also culture from religion. This is the only interpretation one can give to his statement that “principles of faith need to be segregated from contours of culture since a conflation of the two obfuscates the boundaries of both.”

Can faith really be hermetically sealed from the culture in which it grows? Is there no such thing as Indian Islam, where elements of local culture are inextricably mixed with elements of Islam?

Is Ansari a closet fundamentalist, who wants his faith to be untainted by local culture?

In fact, he contradicts himself again when he uses a quote from Left historian K. N. Pannikar, who said: “Whether India developed as a melting pot of cultures or only remained a salad bowl is no more the issue. The crucial question is whether Indian culture is conceived as a static phenomenon, tracing its identity to a single unchanging source, or a dynamic phenomenon, critically and creatively interrogating all that is new.”

This Pannikar observation was meant to tell Hindus to stop looking only at their past for identity validation, but Ansari seems to want to retain Indian Islam is a pure state that has nothing to do with local culture. Does he want to deny the right of Islam in India to Indianise by “critically and creatively Reservation for Muslimsinterrogating all that is new?” If Muslims want to sing Vande Mataram, as A. R. Rahman did, would Ansari think this is an unwarranted mixture of culture and religion?

The real tragedy is that Ansari has reduced himself to a spokesman for his community rather than the Vice-President of all of India. And this is not the first time he has done so. In September last year, he made a specific plea to give Muslims reservations in jobs, when the constitution does not allow quotas based on religion.

Ansari has to make up his mind whether he is just a Muslim or the V-P of India who happens to be a Muslim. – Firstpost, 3 April 2016

Turning Temples into Courts: Judges should not dictate religious practices – David Frawley

Vamadeva Shastri / David Frawley“Judges should not dictate religious practises. Political activists should not be allowed to use temples for political agitation.” – Dr David Frawley

Visiting Hindu temples is an amazing experience, an inner journey through history, culture and cosmic dimensions. Each temple is profoundly unique with its own identity. Such temples represent one of the most important cultural heritages of all humanity.

As a Western Hindu visiting Hindu temples for several decades, each temple has been a transformative event in sacred time and space.

Unfortunately, there are a few temples where as a Westerner I have been unable to enter. Having an Arya Samaj certificate of conversion to Hinduism does help, but is not always enough. Yet there are many Hindu temples that let everyone in. Often we are taken to the front of long queues in respect of having come so far in our pilgrimage.

Some complain that there are not enough Hindu women priests, though that situation is improving, or that women cannot enter certain temples, though they can get into most. These are areas of genuine concern. Hindu dharma honours Shakti and this should extend into the society overall.

Yet my wife, who is an Indian and a Hindu religious teacher, always receives special respect at any temple she visits, often from the head pujari, even at temples that I am not able to enter. But she approaches temples with genuine heartfelt devotion, not as an angry activist.

I know something of history, how thousands of Hindu temples were destroyed by Islamic invaders, and how the British belittled Hinduism. I can sympathise with temples that do not want non-Hindus to enter as mere tourist sites. Temples, just as churches, have dress and codes of conduct that should be followed and security concerns in this age of terrorism.

Supreme Court of IndiaPolitics of temple going

It is sad to see temple entry in India being made into a political football. It is strange to see the Indian judiciary ruling on who can go into temples and how far, as if temples should be under court jurisdiction.

This is compounded by the fact that churches and mosques in India are exempt from such interference and regulation. In addition, temple revenues are taken by state governments for their own usage, while church and mosques receive state subsidies.

Clearly, there is a tremendous prejudice against the majority religion in India that is unparalleled in any country. In other countries majority religions are treated as well or better than minority religions. In Islamic states like Pakistan and Bangladesh, Islam is given precedence and prestige over all other religions.

In the secular USA, there is a strict separation of church and state, and the judiciary does not rule on church practises. On the contrary, the government grants extensive and equal tax benefits to all approved religious groups, with majority Christianity granted the most regard.

Devendra Fadnavis & Trupti DesaiThe sanctum sanctorum

Going into temples should be an act of devotion, not of political assertion. Allowing political activists into the sanctum sanctorum of temples can be a gross violation of religious respect. That is an area of the temple reserved for the priests, not for the general public.

There are Hindu temples and festivals for men or women only. There is nothing wrong with this, any more than gyms or clinics that cater to male or female only concerns. There is a strict separation of men and women in certain temples. That is also fine and creates a different type of energy than the free mingling of the sexes.

Hindu temples have a vast array of deity forms and worship at special times and in distinctive ways. There is no single standard church service or namaz. Such local variations of practise should be honoured and preserved. They reflect the richness of Indian civilisation.

Judges should not dictate religious practises. Political activists should not be allowed to use temples for political agitation.

At the same time, temple entry policy should be respectful of different types of devotees in terms of age, sex or ethnicity—but this can be done without destroying the sanctity of the temple or curtailing the myriad forms of temple worship. – Daily-O, 22 April 2016

» Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) has a D. Litt. (Doctor of Letters), from SVYASA (Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana), the only deemed Yoga university recognized by the Government of India.

Hitopadesha Quote

Ambedkar erred, Buddha was Hindu – Sandhya Jain

Sandhya Jain is the editor of Vijayvaani.“Shakya Muni was clearly a Vedic Hindu; Buddhist tradition asserts that following his enlightenment, he preached his wisdom to mankind only at the urging of the Vedic Gods, Indra and Brahma. … Nor did Buddha reject the caste system per se; as an enlightened being, a person of prestige, he called himself a ‘Brahmin’. Most of his followers were upper caste and all later Buddhist thinkers were Brahmins. The future Buddha, Maitreya, is predicted to be a Brahmin, according to Buddhist tradition.” – Sandhya Jain

B. R. Ambedkar“Though, I was born a Hindu, I solemnly assure you that I will not die as a Hindu.” So said Dr B. R. Ambedkar, independent India’s first Law Minister, who is credited with reviving Buddhism centuries after its decimation by iconoclasts. As Ambedkar renounced his Hindu roots in despair over repeated indignities heaped upon him, and led his followers into the Buddhist fold, he inadvertently cemented an erroneous belief that Buddhism was a separate faith that arose out of a revolt from Hindu dharma. This West-sponsored view has since found many adherents.

So entrenched is this belief that even the recognition of Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu is often dismissed as a fraudulent manoeuvre to soften criticism of the Hindu creed. The truth is that it was Buddha who proclaimed this lineage. In the Dasaratha Jataka, he narrates the story of Rama and says: “At that time the king Suddhodana (Buddha’s father) was the king Dasaratha, Mahamayi (Buddha’s mother) was the mother, Rahula’s (Buddha’s son) mother was Sita, Ananda was Bharat, and I myself was Rama-pandita”.

This was well-known to Buddhists. A third century AD Prakrit inscription of the 14th regal year of king Virapurushardatta of the Ikshvaku house of Vijayapuri in Nagarjunakonda valley, hails Buddha as “born in the family that produced hundreds of great royal sages such as Ikshvaku” (Iksvaku-raja-pravararsi-sata-prabhava-vamsa-sambhava).

Moreover, Shakya Muni was clearly a Vedic Hindu; Buddhist tradition asserts that following his enlightenment, he preached his wisdom to mankind only at the urging of the Vedic gods, Indra and Brahma. It is pertinent that Indra’s weapon, the vajra (thunderbolt), is the principal symbol of Tibetan Buddhism.

Nor did Buddha reject the caste system per se; as an enlightened being, a person of prestige, he called himself a “Brahmin”. Most of his followers were upper caste and all later Buddhist thinkers were Brahmins. The future Buddha, Maitreya, is predicted to be a Brahmin, according to Buddhist tradition.

Scholars recognise that Buddhist ideas are consistent with the philosophy of the Upanishads. Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, scholar, president of India, and father of Nehruvian academics, S. Gopal, said Buddha was not untouched by the intellectual ferment of his time regarding the struggles and experiences of the soul, which were part of “that supreme work of the Indian genius, the Upanishads”. Buddha diverged from the prevalent conventional ritualistic religion, but did not abandon the living spirit behind it. He himself admitted that the dharma which he had discovered through strenuous efforts is the ancient way, the Aryan path, the eternal dharma, which he adapted to meet the needs of the age.

Dr Rhys Davids too, asserts that: “Gautama was born and brought up and lived and died a Hindu”. There is not much in Buddhist metaphysics, morality and teachings which cannot be found in one or other of the orthodox systems. Buddha’s originality lay in the manner in which he adopted, enlarged, and carried out to their logical conclusion principles of equity and justice admitted by important Hindu thinkers.

Buddha & BhikkhusThe Upanishads share Buddha’s contempt for ritualism. Buddhism shares the fundamental Hindu belief in the law of karma and the soul’s quest for nirvana. Buddha did not feel any disconnect with Hindu society and classed Brahmins along with Buddhist mendicants, bhikkhu being a term of honour. Buddhism became an independent faith when it travelled outside its Hindu milieu in India; within India it was nourished by kings, merchants and lay devotees within the fold of orthodox belief.

Like the Upanishads, Buddha repudiated the authority of the Vedas, in that both resisted the mechanical theory of sacrifices, insisting that there is no release from rebirth by the performance of sacrifice or practice of penance. Rather, liberation comes from the perception of truth, the knowledge of reality at the basis of all existence. Both admit that the absolute reality—described as neither void, nor not void, nor both, nor neither—is incomprehensible by intellect. Buddha accepted the idealism of the Upanishads and made it available to mankind.

Though Buddha was critical of the jati system he neither disowned it completely nor demonized it, but at times seemed to endorse it. S. Radhakrishnan observed that Buddha did not oppose caste, but adopted the Upanishadic view that the Brahmin or leader of society is not so much a Brahmin by birth as by character: “Not by birth is one a Brahmin, not by birth is one an outcast; by deeds is one a Brahmin, by deeds is one an outcast”.

Buddha admitted all castes into the sangha (monastic order) on the premise that all men could attain perfect knowledge through meditation and self-control. He dented caste exclusiveness, but did not abolish it, as only the erudite could fathom his complex philosophy, which is why most of his early disciples were Brahmins. Not once in his lifetime did Buddha claim to be founding a new religion.

Yet this canard of Buddhism at daggers drawn with Hindu dharma is being invoked to instigate caste tensions. Recently, Radhika Vemula and Raja Chaitanya, mother and brother of Hyderabad Central University student Rohith Vemula, travelled to Nagpur to embrace Buddhism on Ambedkar Jayanti. Vemula had committed suicide some months ago, possibly disillusioned with the sterile campus politics he had been lured into. Now, his family has succumbed to political mentors with an agenda and is repudiating its multi-caste identity, viz., OBC father (Vaddera) and Scheduled Caste (Mala) mother.

While children are entitled to claim quota benefits via the parent eligible under reservation norms, sterile politics could compromise Raja’s academic prospects. He has a prestigious Project Fellowship at the National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad. His well-wishers should not instigate him to be political cannon fodder like Jawaharlal Nehru University student’s union president, Kanhaiya Kumar, who maybe stagnating academically and has grabbed the political lifeline thrown by his communist mentors.

India needs a new discourse on caste, given its growing divisiveness. Amidst the Bihar elections last November, Jamui MP, Chirag Paswan, expressed a desire to not be defined by jati identity and limited to being a dalit leader. Recently, he urged well-off SC families to renounce quotas for the benefit of the truly needy. Only such original thinking and initiatives can end the corrosiveness of identity politics. Others should take a leaf from this book and refrain from accusing Buddha, one of India’s greatest sons, of rupturing its civilisation. Reducing Buddha’s universal teaching to a casteist ideological weapon must also be firmly repudiated. – Vijayvaani, 19 April 2016

» Sandhya Jain is a senior journalist with The Pioneer in New Delhi.

Radhika Vemula and Raja Chaitanya, mother and brother of Hyderabad Central University student Rohith Vemula, travelled to Nagpur to embrace Buddhism on Ambedkar Jayanti

See also

The Supreme Court has reduced polymorphic Hinduism to meaningless myths – Gayatri Jayaraman

Ganapati in Mumbai

Gayatri Jayaraman“The Supreme Court, in adjudicating on matters it has no religious punditry over, and in doing so under the protection of the law, and the Constitution of India reduces Hinduism to a bunch of meaningless myths. … Hinduism, under the protection of the Constitution of India, faces a fate worse than death.” – Gayatri Jayaraman

On the Sabarimala temple issue, the Supreme Court of India observed on April 13, 2016: “In Hindu dharma there is no denomination of a male or female. A Hindu is a Hindu.”

And just like that a constitutional body has, probably for the first time anywhere in the world, become the interpreter of religious texts. In this it is protected by Article 25 (2) that deals with the right to religious freedom but allows the courts to intervene on social welfare and reform, but only on Hinduism. This inability to separate faith and state is now the definition of Indian secularism.

What this becomes is not just a ruling on access to a temple, but a reorder of the entire Hindu faith itself. The source of Hinduism is its Vedas. The Vedas contain entire texts devoted to women. While much is made of that favourite of the book-burners—the Manusmriti, which is not even a Vedic text but a second century code now overwritten by 18 centuries of lawmaking that left much of it behind, much like amendments to the current Constitution leave regressive laws behind—this ruling impacts the core texts of Hinduism, the ones that its philosophies are actually composed of. To say Hindus have no gender and are but Hindus, makes a mockery of much great philosophy

The Hindu epics

The entire Ramayana revolves around Sita’s abduction. And who wages war on the purity or abduction of a man? The entire Mahabharata was wrought upon the Pandu clan because of Draupadi laughing at Duryodhana in the palace of illusions. Kunti, Shakuntala, Maitreyi, Sati, Sita, Parvati, Gargi, Savitri, Ahalya and of course Sabari occur with various catalytic roles throughout Hindu literature. Their roles may be questioned or derided as sexist, and debated, but many texts are metaphorical, contain sub texts that a competent guru could explain, and are subject to interpretation, and they may not be arbitrarily removed from the religion by a non-religious body, and that too one that gives its followers the right to question it.

For example, my guru explained the Ramayana, as a metaphor: Sita as the mind, the deer as material wealth, Rama as the self, and Ravana as the ten senses who must be conquered else will be ruled by ego, ahamkara, and the subjugation of Sita in the purity ritual as the return to one-minded focus.

Others have other versions. Some take it at face value. Are we to toss out our texts and their interpretations because a judge decides it is a sexist story?

The feminine principle

Within Hinduism, the issue of gender is complex and nuanced. Rites and rituals are defined in various parts of the Vedas. The principle of Shakti, the feminine principle of energy, is integral to understanding Vedic lore and, at once empowered with creation itself as well as destruction, is a very distinct energy from male avatars. Lord Ayyappa, at the centre of the Sabarimala debate, is born of Hara and Hari—Vishnu in the form of Mohini, both male principles.

So while the Supreme Court, if it so chose to reduce a spiritual union of male energies to physical form, may be well within its right here to ask why Hindus must be deprived of a law that decriminalises homosexuality, when it is in fact rich with religious precedent as evidenced here, sadly, the honorable court, unable to question the human rights’ curtailing provisions of its own personal laws, is unable to bring up the real progressive questions of India for debate. Instead, it reduces Hindu gender to binaries. The principle of Shakti is also not restricted to women, it is permeable in men. Hence entire sects of male yogis devoted to female energies.

So, as far as any Hindu knows, principles of male and female are not as distinct as the Honorable Judge would make them out to be. Neither is male or female a physical only form, nor is its energy restricted by the gender of the worshipper. Shiva lies in the sahasrara chakra and Shakti in the muladhara chakra, so all Hindus are in fact composites of both energies.These are nuanced positions most Hindus understand easily and are intrinsic to our religious ethos.

Supreme Court of IndiaThe legends of Sabarimala

The legends of Sabarimala, though there are many, one romantically portrays the ban on women as Ayappa’s loyalty for the penance of a beautiful woman released from her curse by his slaying her demon form of Mahishi, also have to do with harnessing the inner male energies.

Ayappa is the god of discipline. Mahishi symbolises the ego. It is in him that Hari and Hara, creation and destruction, come to harmony. The rigorous vows of celibacy, the 40 days penance, ironically, are a tribute to womanhood: they symbolise one day of penance for each week spent in a mother’s womb. Woman, the symbolic prakriti energy, or vehicle of creation is not available to man for these 40 days. Man must pull himself back from his function as procreator and the procreated. The black symbolises the nullifying of the colour spectrum, absorbing all differentiation into one.

Devotees do not even address each other by name during the pilgrimage. The physical state is forgotten, and the pilgrim must subsist on alms. The 18 steps symbolise 18 exercises to remind the student or the householder, of his need to transition to a state of detachment. Women may go up the hill all they want, Lord Ayyappa will survive the seduction of women pilgrims plenty. He is too advanced a master of the mind not to.

One may not be so sure of the men who make the climb though. The penance is for them. To remind themselves that they are one half of a whole, where they come from, who they depend on, and why balance is their function. That it is seen as rigorous penance, is indicative of why men need to probably do this more often, but once a year is enough.

No single Hindu philosophy

The Supreme Court also seems to be reducing Hindu philosophy to a single absolute certainty. Something Hindu sages, the progenitors of the philosophy themselves, never did. There is, contrary to popular opinion, no arbitration on who a brahmin should be. Ram was a kshatriya, Krishna was a Yadava, Shiva a tribal, a kirata, none of them brahmins. Rishi Aiterya, Vishwamitra, Veda Vyasa, Matanga, Nammalvar … Ravana. Many material states in Hinduism are mutable.

The sages even in their expositions mark nothing but the highest truths as certainty. In Chapter 2, Brahmana 4, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Rishi Yajnavalkya asks of his wife Maitreyi who asks him for knowledge instead of the settlement of property he was about to give her before he left for the forest:

Yatra tv asya sarvam ātmāivābhūt:

“Where everything is the Self of knowledge, what does that Self know, except its own Self?”

This conversation with the most woman-friendly of Vedic sages—there is a later conversation with Brahmavadini Gargi also in the same Upanishad—becomes the core of what is to be Advaita. Basically, that philosophy which says that, simply put, all soul, matter, energy, forms, are one.

It is pertinent that Yajnavalkya was himself disowned by his guru, who annoyed by his constant questioning, asked for the knowledge he gave him back, which he vomited out and which was consumed physically by birds (tittiri), now forming the Taittirya Upanishad (and that’s just one version of that story). Yajnavalkya then proceeded to seek the sun as his guru, and procured his own knowledge, which became the Shukla Yajur Veda.

All Hindus do not follow the Shukla Yajur Veda, and much of the caste distinctions are not merely whom you can choose to oppress, but is built on which school of Vedic study you traditionally follow. So when Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi propounded what was to be the base of Advaita philosophy, let’s be clear, they were not following convention. That they were free not to do so, is the beauty of the space the religion lent them even at that conservative period of time.

MonotheismWhy this monotheism?

No doubt, this entire body of knowledge and way of thinking is what the learned judge of the honorable Supreme Court was encapsulating and taking into account when he began to arbitrate what Hinduism says. He had clearly studied it, decoded all the caste links and structures, schools of knowledge, expounded it, and was only thus explaining it in open court. Which is an amazing feat, considering all commentaries and bhashyas on Hindu texts differ, even from sage to sage and commentator to commentator on the same line of Hindu text. Yajnavalkya warns Maitreyi: it is impossible to know the essence of finite beings.

Yet, the honorable judge, has defined all of Hindu Vedic dharma with the clear exposition of advaita, non-differentiation. Where do the Visishtadvaitins, and the Dvaitins, who believe in differentiation, and other things, from Yogins to Nastikas, which Hinduism allows them to, apart from several other schools of thought, go?

The judicial arbitration of Hinduism’s intrinsic principles reduces an entire religion to a monotheism and ignores the multiple layers of consciousness that form its spiritual temperament. The pantheon of Hindu gods exists so a devotee may adopt that which suits his form of bhakti, or adoration, which again is not the only path. Even wealth, duty, study take you there. One is not imposed on another. The myths and stories exist so Hindus lower down the plane of spiritual evolution may comprehend higher truths more easily, in the form of life lessons. The stories of avatars exist to exemplify ways of living and behaving. The Vedic texts exist for those who seek to question on higher planes. This ascent is not ordained by pundits but is open to each member of the faith as and when he or she finds himself seeking it. The multi-layered multi-faceted expansiveness of Hinduism is its fabric.

Meaningless myths

So, yes, the women may enter Shani Shingnapur and the women may enter Sabarimala. Just like Maitreyi may have her own Upanishad. But to do so for the sake of a court-ordained mandate, by which every woman in Yajnavalkya’s time may write their own upanishad, betrays a lack of understanding of the religion. Of all religions on earth, it is Hinduism that refuses to apply a blanket formula for all spiritual growth and understands that every person finds their own ways of spiritual growth, through devotion, through duty, through study, through learning, through meditation, through yoga, through rebirth, and allows multiple channels to do so.

To force ascension is against the inbuilt progression of the religion itself. The Supreme Court, in adjudicating on matters it has no religious punditry over, and in doing so under the protection of the law, and the Constitution of India reduces Hinduism to a bunch of meaningless myths.

Without this spiritual understanding to back them, our temples are just stone houses, and our texts just myths we will never be able to explain. Hinduism’s greatest temples have survived sieges, been shut, abandoned, looted, idols taken underground and protected against being misused, desecrated rather than their essence be lost. And Hinduism has survived it all. But these were mere physical attacks.

The current attack works against the essence of what constitutes the religion itself. By pandering to popular thought rather than any deep philosophical study of the religion or its tenets, it reduces it to its material facade.It is better, that rather than Hinduism suffer this fate, temples be shut down, rather than propagate this unthinking version of myths and stories that then hold no meaning intrinsic to the religion, and Hinduism recede to the space of private spiritual study.

Else Hinduism, under the protection of the Constitution of India, faces a fate worse than death.

It disintegrates into meaningless ritual.

Shut the temples down.

If what the court says today stands as law, Hinduism in India is dead anyway. – Daily-O, 13 April 2016

» Gayatri Jayaraman is an author, reporter and editor based in Mumbai.

Ganga Namaste

A Partisan Constitution: Why the law is loaded against the Sabarimala Temple authorities – R. Jagannathan

Supreme Court Justice Dipak Misra

R. Jagannathan“When did anything with a religious dimension have pure ‘rationalism’ as its core? In fact, our Constitution itself hardly passes the test of rationality in the way it framed provisions on religious rights.” – R. Jagannathan

Given the trend of questioning in the Supreme Court, where women activists are fighting a ban on the entry of menstruating women in Sabarimala, it is clear that the temple authorities are fighting a losing battle.

Supreme Court of India in New DelhiOn 11 April, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra asked questions that cannot but indicate how the case is going. Among the questions asked: “What right does the temple have to forbid women from entering any part of the temple? Every argument has to meet the test of constitutionality.”

Then: “Can you deny a woman her right to climb Mount Everest? The reasons banning anything must be common for all.”

Or take these questions and observations: “Why this kind of classification for devotees to visit the temple? We are on constitutional principles. Gender discrimination in such matters is untenable. You cannot create corrosion or erosion in constitutional values.”

And, finally: “We will be guided by (a) rational dimension and that is the Constitution. I just believe in the Constitution.”

The last one takes the cake. When did anything with a religious dimension have pure “rationalism” as its core? In fact, our Constitution itself hardly passes the test of rationality in the way it framed provisions on religious rights.

The contrast with the US Constitution is stark. The US Constitution has just 16 words to describe its approach to religious freedom, while we have multiple articles in our tome. The first amendment to the US Constitution, which deals with religious and other freedoms, has this to say:Our constitution has an imbalanced approach to religious issues. In fact, it ties itself in knots by professing one high principle in one place, and then allowing exceptions to this principle in other places when it involves another community.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

This simple sentence allows religious groups to practice what they preach: this could include the right to discriminate against homosexuals, oppose abortion, or practice polygamy (Mormons) or whatever, as long as an individual claims it is part of his or her religious faith or practice.

India, on the other hand, has elements in the constitution that say contradictory things. One part will say such laws will apply only to Hindus (including Sikhs, etc), and another says some laws will not apply to others. Our constitution is egalitarian in spirit, but discriminatory in many of its provisions.

Thus, civil laws will apply to Hindus, but not minorities.

Thus, you can make laws that discriminate against beef-eating, and still claim you don’t’ discriminate against minorities who want to eat beef.

Thus, you can make laws (like the Right to Education) that are supposed to be applicable to all, but not minority-unaided institutions.

Thus, you can profess the right to religious freedom, but states can also put in laws to hinder it.

This is why the Supreme Court can claim it is following the constitution, even while defeating the spirit of it.

Haji Ali Dargah MumbaiThe real villains are Articles 25, 29 and 30. Article 25 gives the state the right to interfere in how Hindu temples are run, but articles 29 and 30 give minorities the right to run their own institutions according to their own traditions and culture. This is why Sabarimala is a losing battle, but Haji Ali may not be.

Article 25 is about “Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.”

It says: “(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.”

This should have given Sabarimala the space to argue that its practices are part of its religious belief, but there is an important “but” in Article 25.

It says: “(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the state from making any law (a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice; (b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.”

Article 25(2)(b) would thus allow the Supreme Court, if not the government, to claim that Sabarimala is an institution of public character and should be “open to all classes and sections of Hindus.”

Given the recent tendency of the Supreme Court to make the law rather than just interpret it, the fact that the Kerala government is on the Sabarimala temple’s side may not matter much.

On the other hand, Article 29 gives minorities the right to protect their culture and institutions. It says, inter alia, that “(1) Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.”

If Sabarimala had not been covered under Article 25(2)(b) which gives the state the right to enforce its own idea of egalitarianism, it could have claimed protection under Article 29. Article 29 negates a part of the ideas in Article 25. Giving minorities a right not enjoyed by a majority is essentially iniquitous, but the Supreme Court may not spend much time discussing this anomaly.

Clearly, the Indian Constitution is a mish-mash of contradictory provisions. It needs to be seriously rewritten.

This is not to say that Sabarimala is right to keep out menstruating women, but we can’t deny that our laws are wonky. – Firstpost, 12 April 2016

» R. Jagannathan is the editorial director of Swarajya Magazine in Mumbai.

Women yatris returning from Sabarimala

See also

How the Indian liberal is killing Hinduism – Gayatri Jayaraman

Shani Bhagavan

Gayatri Jayaraman“Muslims, Catholics, Parsis, Sikhs have their own gender-based roles within their religious duties. If they were all secular and afforded gender parity and rational scientific ideals they wouldn’t be religions anyway, they’d be sciences. The function of religion is faith, and to dictate the rationality of one religion’s faith—when human rights are being regulated—is not just wrong, it is oppressive and by design engineered to wipe out the religion.” – Gayatri Jayaraman

That Charlie Hebdo editorial was Islamophobic paranoia at its extreme. But here’s an exercise for you: cut and paste a rough translation of the editorial into your Word document, replace the word *Muslim* and its variations with *Hindu* and its variations and read it. That there staring you in the face is the Indian liberal agenda.

In the last week since I joined a growing chorus of Hindus asking why their temples are being stormed, when Indian law protects against interference on matters of the Waqf Board, religious properties of the Church or the Parsis or the Sikhs, I have been called everything from mentally unhinged to bigot and been referred to Modi to get what I want.

Because you see for liberal India, the same who believe the violent acts of rogue terrorists cannot be equated with Islam, even if the perpetrators insist on doing so themselves, the voice of non-violent Hindus who have concerns or fears, and those concerns can always be debated, is always and unequivocally to be equated with violent fascism. Right.

So what has Indian liberalism achieved for Hindus? There are laws that outlaw discrimination on the basis of caste, which is good. New debate suggests outlawing discrimination on the basis of gender, which is good. Temples have been nationalised, lands redistributed and wealth, formed entirely of the private donations of patrons and devotees based on religious needs, audited. Temples are required to indulge in secular development activity.

And as recent outrage shows, choosing not to invite a Muslim DC is now against the principles of templehood. The anti-superstition bill prevents the guileless masses from believing in any unscientific gibberish the priest may throw at them. The Income Tax appellate will not exempt temples as Hinduism is a way of life not a religion, so no excuses there as made in the past, when kings made endowments that were to be used for public good.

The Waqf is also required to use their income for public good, but it is for Muslim public good, not general public good. All great temples for instance offer free food, which is a legacy of the past generosity integral to the religion. And temples are open to all faiths. Dress codes are seen as outrageous.

Though mosques still require you to follow protocol and those demands are seen as culturally appropriate. Temples under state and central government administration are now the personal treasuries of corruption, revenue from lands being used to line the pockets of government officials, and with a paucity of funds for any real research, learning, commentary, thinking or even propagation of actual Hindu texts.

The architectural heritage of the Hindus commands some of the highest prices in the antiquities smuggling market. None of this is unrelated and this is all progressive and great. Hindus should move beyond idol worship anyway.

What makes a temple a place of Hindu worship then? Why is it not, say, a library?

While all of these changes are undeniably progressive, and some such as those against caste discrimination are required to be enforced far more aggressively, no questions asked, with the Maharashtra government bringing in the social boycott bill to reinforce implementation, the question it begs is: Is the entire definition of liberalism to rest only on Hinduism?

Club the above with the fact that there is not a single modern reputed institute of Indic studies in all of India today. The debate over Pollock is also the fear that all academic research on India’s Hindu past is only emerging from overseas, and thus leaves the mainstream Hindu thinking with no scholar worthy enough to counter or debunk it—this itself speaks of the lack of institution building.

Most books on Vedic culture emerging from within India today, even well-funded ones like the Poddar library collection are hagiographic, unattributed, and lack chronology, detail, source, which are important—the bhashyas or commentaries are so self-important they manage to be insufferable bores.

One assumes this is by design and not because there is a lack of a market. Because otherwise there wouldn’t exist the level of interest there is in popular writers like Amish Tripathi, Devdutt Pattanaik and Ashok Banker or Bibek Debroy, let alone in badly made television episodes on Indian mythology.

The middle level—well-researched works that examine mainstream concepts and figures of Vedic culture and are well written—have not been funded, published or encouraged in 60 years. Rather, they have been systematically avoided in that time. Quiet research out of corners like Melkote, Mysore, Kanchipuram, Trivandrum, Varanasi are too concerned with embalming the past rather than finding a modern pulse within it to work with.

So the fearful-of-not-being-heard mainstream of Hinduism descends into chest thumping, protectionism and tokenism, while nothing that propagates actual thinking is permitted to grow. At the same time, the law insists on progressiveness, which is the obligation of the Hindus.

This would be fine if it were equitably enforced to ensure a progressive society. But all other religions are encouraged by laws framed in an era when the thinkers believed silos had to be maintained for harmony. That liberalism meant those within the silos would never have to adapt to a changing world. And this was fine. Frogs in their wells, all’s right with the world.

So the self-critical thinking across India today is restricted to “hey, we didn’t do it” for Muslims, “paedophile priests the Vatican pardons. And Mother Teresa is a saint” for Catholics, “make more babies of pure bloodline” for Parsis. Yes, internal questioning of codification exists for the Catholics but even they are not obliged to align with the Constitution. That they do so now is a function of who their Pope is.

So Muslim women can go file petitions asking for entry into dargahs or to end female genital mutilation but the court is not confident it has the authority to intrude and hence postpones verdict. Especially when the Supreme Court has declared the Jamait Ulema-e-Hind has rights to intervene in matters of Muslim women.

So institutions like Kodai International School in Kodaikanal have the right to ask for parents to sign on a piece of paper ensuring all children who study there will be brought up in the Christian way, but no Hindu institution that is not a Vedic pathshala would be within their legal rights to do so. While temple land was nationalised and redistributed the Catholic Church in Kodai, my hometown, has the freedom to continually acquire properties, especially of those now lying derelict after the dissipated British population left it with no heirs to inherit it. Instead of nationalising it, like everything else, these lands were reverted to private Church control.

So, it’s not the right to acquire individual property that is questionable but the right to acquire community property. Which, every time a non-vegetarian is not permitted to rent or buy a flat owned by a vegetarian, typically Hindu, who has bought it out of personal funds carved over a life time of savings, with no discount from a panchayat or Church or Waqf Board such that no constitutional amendments may apply to them, is touted as Hindu oppression. This enshrines the liberal belief that not only is the right of Hindus to own community property suspect, individual rights must also be put under lock and key and regulated.

As Trimbakeshwar Temple shuts its sanctum to men, the interference in Hindu religious matters has reached its peak. It functions without understanding that in all religions, some roles are given to men and others to women. These are roles integral to religious participation—yet Hindu women have fought for and won rights to be priests, to perform funereal rites and to chant Vedas, thus indicative of a larger more expansive and well-functioning critical process within Hinduism itself which is not to be underestimated or shunned.

Muslims, Catholics, Parsis, Sikhs have their own gender-based roles within their religious duties. If they were all secular and afforded gender parity and rational scientific ideals they wouldn’t be religions anyway, they’d be sciences. The function of religion is faith, and to dictate the rationality of one religion’s faith (when human rights are being regulated) is not just wrong, it is oppressive and by design engineered to wipe out the religion.

Unlike other religions, Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism does not even excommunicate those who do not abide by their way of life. No priest can take away your authenticity as a Hindu. So the freedom to disbelieve a certain practice is enshrined in Hinduism itself and thus does not require constitutional intervention.

If you believed Shani was necessary to your spiritual growth, you must believe the myths associated with him. If you don’t, why do you need him at all? Walk away with no punitive action against you.

If the Hindus may not have a say in regulating administration funds, religious practises of Muslims, Catholics, Parsis none of which are devoid of patriarchy of racism or are obliged to progressive critical thinking that aligns them with constitutional rights…. The question is why are the Hindus?

So, it follows that the only real obligation—legal, constitutional, social—to be truly liberal, is the Hindus’.

Brick by brick, the idea of liberalism in India today stands on the need for Hindus to be liberal. If the Hindus choose, as many individuals are doing today, to be illiberal, Indian liberalism has no other recourse to existence. It will die.

This is why there is so much “liberal” panic at the Hindus who choose not to be liberal today. And yet, there is no incentive or indeed any means for them to protect their inherent pluralistic way of life. It is a snake eating its own tail. As Indian liberalism furthers this idea of Hindu-only progressiveness, it kills the very institutions that propagate and protect that way of life. In response, the Hindus become more insular.

If your entire idea of liberalism is based on Hinduism staying so: here’s a thought—stop killing it. – Daily-O, 5 March 2016

» Gayatri Jayaraman is an author, reporter and editor based in Mumbai.

Hindus Rising

Shani Shingnapur Temple: What is this ‘right to pray’ nonsense? – Radha Rajan

Trupti Desai

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil Online“Our courts, not even the Supreme Court has the right to deny Agama which governs a temple’s religious rituals and practices. If the High Courts and Supreme Court want to do fairly by women than let them bring about parity in the number of women judges in the Supreme Court first.” – Radha Rajan

In Modi’s India some force is throwing up non-entities like Kanhaiya Kumar and Trupti Desai who become the talk of the media overnight on non-issues.

Kanhaiya KumarKanhaiya Kumar, like Sonia Gandhi is destined to self-destruct through his mouth. Every time he opens his mouth Kanhaiya Kumar is exposed and yes pun intended. For a man who even at 30 is still struggling to complete his Ph.D., Kanhaiya Kumar is dreaming big dreams. And a motivated group is egging him on to dream with his mouth.

Kanhaiya Kumar has barely shut his mouth and Trupti Desai has opened hers demanding right to enter the Shani Shingnapur Temple. And this is where the media, the English media is playing a dirty game. For people who know little about this temple, like me, I do not know if this temple denies women entry into the temple.

Arnab Goswami‘s campaign raising Trupti Desai as some kind of reformist has titled this campaign “Right to Pray”. I find this queer. Has this country denied this woman or any woman the right to pray? Trupti can pray to Shani Bhagwan even from outside the temple if prayer is what she wants.

My grandmother living 20 yards from the Srirangam Ranganatha Perumal Temple went to the temple maybe thrice or four times a year. No time. Mother of 13 children and keeping an open house—open to relatives from distant villages, she had no time to go the temple.

But she performed her pujas at home. My grandfather on the other hand went to the temple morning and evening. And me, I have never prayed in my life although my kuladevata and I have very lively conversations through the day. I talk, he listens.

So I don’t understand this right to pray nonsense. But is that what this lady Trupti wants or is it something ignoble and totally disruptive? Please enlighten me somebody. I hear she is not demanding right of entry, and that women are not barred entry into this temple, but she actually wants to enter the garba griha or the sanctum sanctorum

This woman like Kanhaiya Kumar is the chief dramatis personae in the “controlled chaos” geopolitical wargames the Generic Church is playing against us. Those who want to know what “controlled chaos” is read: ‘Controlled Chaos’ as an Instrument of Geopolitical Warfare and ‘Color Revolutions’ by Dr. Vladimir Prav

You need useful idiots like Trupti Desai and Kanhaiya Kumar to let loose “controlled chaos” simply to test the waters to see what brings people to the streets, on what issues and how many other useful idiots are ready to stir the spittle.

In Tamil Nadu as I am sure in several states, no one except the priest is allowed to enter the garba griha. No man, no woman here. Only the priest. Does Trupti think Bhagwan Shani is short-sighted or short of hearing that she has to enter the garba griha to “pray”? Seriously? And Times Now thinks this is some huge revolution?

Arnab GoswamiArnab should do a random sample and ask religious temple going women if they will enter the sanctum santorum of any temple simply to make a point? Arnab Goswami will be surprised.

One can ask all the questions one wants, break as many rules as you wish but to what end? If we are serving a larger good in the larger interest, by all means, but to seek some bogus equality when even men cannot enter the inner sanctum, then this is a non-issue which is blown up simply as “controlled chaos”.

Our courts, not even the Supreme Court has the right to deny Agama which governs a temple’s religious rituals and practices. If the High Courts and Supreme Court want to do fairly by women than let them bring about parity in the number of women judges in the Supreme Court first.

This country has placed only six women and one of them obnoxious in the Supreme Court as judges in 66 years after independence. Lets have equality there first before the courts presume to interfere in Hindu temple practices. When women can enter the temple and perform pujas, this is not “right to pray” but something else altogether and nothing good or noble about it either. An idle mind is a useful rent-a-cause idiot.

» Radha Rajan is an author, political analyst, and animal rights activist. She lives in Chennai.

Trupti Desai

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