About the term ‘religious denomination’ and how Hindus are shortchanged – T. R. Ramesh

Hindus and the Constitution

T.R. RameshOnly Hindu institutions and charities suffer due to the continuing refusal to give Hindu sampradayas the protection that Article 26 offers. – T. R. Ramesh

It is widely known that the Constitution of India adopted on 26th January 1950 seeks to secure justice, liberty, equality and fraternity for all its people. Part III of the Constitution grants and guarantees fundamental rights to all. It is only in Article 30 that we come across the words “minority’ and “minorities” concerning fundamental rights to establish and administer educational institutions. However, not many are aware that there are no fundamental religious rights guaranteed by the Constitution that are available ONLY to minorities.

From 1954, Supreme Court rulings on the Fundamental Rights under Article 26 of the Constitution became more and more constricted, if not totally elusive, to Hindu denominations, sects, and sampradayas. So much so, that after the majority judgment by the Constitutional Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Sabarimala Temple matter, Article 26 now appears to be a fundamental right that is available only to minority religions or non-Hindus in India.

Whence this aberration came to be manifested? How did Hindus came to be deprived of an extremely important set of fundamental rights that allow other believers or sects to decide matters of religions by themselves and to administer their religious institutions and charities without any external interferences or control?

Article 26 of the Constitution runs as follows:

Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right:

(a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;
(b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;
(c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and
(d) to administer such property in accordance with law.

When the Shirur Mutt of Udipi and Chidambaram Sri Sabhanayagar (Sri Nataraja) Temple came to be taken over in 1951 by the then Madras Government, the takeovers were challenged before a Hon’ble Division Bench of the Madras High Court. Justice Sathyanarayana Rao and Justice Rajagopala Ayyangar came with the “original” Shirur Mutt Judgment on 13.12.1951 that would forever be etched in the history of Indian Judiciary for the wisdom and foresightedness embellished in every part of the said judgment concerning Articles 25, 26 and 27 of the Constitution.

Division Bench Judgment of the Madras High Court – 1951

In the common judgment reported in 1952 I MLJ 557, we see that the learned judges referred to the Webster’s Dictionary for the definition of the word “denomination” since the said word was not defined in the Constitution. The Learned Judges mentioned all the five different meanings given for the said word by Webster’s in their judgment. They then elucidated on how Hindus themselves form a religious denomination in a larger sense and how different theologies within the Hindu religion can be different sub-sects of the denomination.

Shirur Mutt Case and the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India

Two appeals were preferred by the then Commissioner of HR&CE Department of the Madras Government against the MHC judgment. Civil Appeal 39 of 1953 concerning the Chidambaram Sri Sabhanayagar Temple was heard by a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court, which dismissed the appeal. Civil Appeal 38 of 1953 concerning Shirur Mutt was heard by a seven-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court. The appellant restricted his arguments only to constitutional grounds in the appeal.

Instead of Webster’s, the seven-judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court chose to seek the meaning of the word “denomination” using Oxford NEL Dictionary.

Definition of Denomination

It is seen that the meaning expounded by Oxford Dictionary and by Webster’s Dictionary for the word “denomination” hardly have any difference. However, unlike the Madras High Court, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Shirur Mutt case selectively took only the 5th among the 5 meanings given by the Oxford Dictionary. There too, it left out a few words viz., “now almost always specifically” from the definition. Further, after quoting only the 5th definition, it also ignored the first part of it, which ran as follows: “A collection of individuals classed together under the same name”.

We must remember that in 1951, the Hon’ble Division Bench of the Madras High Court was considering the denominational character of not only mutts and temples but the communities represented by them as well in the said common judgment.

On the other hand, in the Shirur Mutt Case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, while considering Article 26, was only seized of the questions “… what is the precise meaning or connotation of the expression “religious denomination” and whether a mutt could come within this expression….” The denominational character of a temple or a Hindu place of worship were never the subject matter before the Supreme Court in the Shirur Mutt Case. After choosing a part of the definition given in the Oxford NEL Dictionary, the Bench clearly concluded that every mutt, by being a sect or sub-sect of the Hindu religion, can be called a religious denomination since they have common faith and common spiritual organization. Hon’ble Supreme Court further held that not only the mutt but also the spiritual fraternity it represents would come under the purview of Article 26.

Equally important is the fact that the Hon’ble Constitutional Bench in 1954 did not reverse any of the observations and findings made by the Hon’ble Division Bench of Madras High Court regarding Article 26 in the Shirur Mutt Case or the Chidambaram Temple Case. Therefore, the findings recorded by the Madras High Court concerning denominational nature of temples in the 1951 judgment should have been followed in subsequent cases in the High Courts or in the Supreme Court. There is a now greater urgency to correctly interpret the terms “religious denominations” and “religious character” for Hindu Institutions from the Indic point of view.

How did denominational rights come to be denied for Hindu groups?

1. First, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India or even the Madras High Court for that matter, while considering the Fundamental Rights under Article 26, for the first time after the Indian Constitution came into force, did not seek to see the connotation of the word “denomination” from the Indic point of view.

2. The denomination is a western concept where one denomination excludes members of another denomination from their institutions even if the other denomination belongs to its own religion. This is true from baptism to burial in Christian Churches.

3. In the Hindu religion, members of one sampradaya do not exclude or deny opportunities to worship to those who primarily follow other sampradayas or no sampradayas.

4. The Hon’ble Supreme Court grossly erred by considering primarily one dictionary and that too only one selective part of the definition given in that dictionary for the word “denomination”.

5. The Hon’ble Supreme Court failed to see that other equally or more credible dictionaries belonging to the same or earlier times too have defined the word “denomination” only from the understanding and purview of Christian Institutions.

6. Hon’ble Supreme Court of India failed to note that these dictionaries clearly define denominations only as divisions in religion and in that sense denominations and sects mean the same.

7. Perhaps the biggest omission made by the Hon’ble Constitutional Bench was ignoring the first part of the 5th meaning given by Oxford dictionary which described denomination as “a collection of individuals classed together under the same name”. This definition would have been more inclusive and would have ensured that most religious groups rightly come under the purview of Article 26. Another major lapse by the Learned Bench was to impose the conditions of common faith and organization that were necessary for a body to become a denomination, on the term “religious sect”. Religious sects were already described as denominations by almost all English dictionaries, old and modern. Adding preconditions of “common name, faith and organization” was not just superfluous but also incorrect since it gave a faulty definition that continues to dilute Hindu rights.

8. The fundamental religious rights ranging from Articles 25 to 30 in our Constitution were largely based on Article 44 of the Irish Constitution. The Hindi version of the Indian Constitution was ready in 1950 but unfortunately, was adopted only in 1987 by the Indian Parliament. In the Irish Constitution, if there is some ambiguity regarding the meaning of a certain word, the actual meaning found in the Irish language (national language) should be followed by Courts. Article 394-A (3) of the Indian Constitution is very relevant in this regard. While seeking to know the precise connotation of the term “religious denomination” and from an Indic purview, Courts should well consider the Hindi version of the Constitution where the equivalent term given for the word denomination is “sampradaya”. Monier Williams English to Sanskrit Dictionary gives “sampradhaya” as one of the meanings of the word “sect”. Sampradaya is also defined as any “peculiar or sectarian system of religious teaching”. It is also defined as “tradition”, “established doctrine transmitted from one teacher to another”, “traditional belief or usage”.

9. Article 26 of the Indian Constitution in Hindi is given below:

Hindi translation of Constitution

10. Judgments that came after the 1954 Shirur Mutt Judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court followed the incomplete and the flawed definition of the word “denomination” and started applying it in all cases where Hindu institutions claimed protection under Article 26 from external interferences and control. Further, Supreme Court Benches started imposing more conditions to Hindu institutions and groups to be recognized as religious denominations. In certain cases, communities and sects were asked to show that they had established the institution that was maintained by them to be recognized as a denomination. These additional conditions were never envisaged by the framers of our Constitution.

11. Today, things have come to a stage where their Lordships of the Hon’ble Supreme Court describe a unique sampradhaya like the Sri Sabarimala Ayyappa tradition as a non-denomination and that its core religious practice is no different than that of all Hindus.

12. Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy warns in his dissenting judgment in the S.P. Mittal Case (1983 AIR 01) that “… So soon as a word or expression occurs in the statute is judicially defined, the tendency is to try to interpret the language employed by the judges in the judicial definition as if it has been transformed into a statutory definition. That is wrong. Always, words and expressions to be interpreted are those employed in the statute and not those used by judges for a felicitous explanation. Judicial definition, we repeat is explanatory and not definitive….”

13. There is much sense in Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy’s observation in the above judgment that found in most judges’ strained dissertations on Article 26 and in the meaning of the word “denomination” expounded in judgments dating from 1954.

14. There is a now greater urgency to correctly interpret the terms “religious denominations” and “religious character” for Hindu Institutions from Indic point of view. Wrong judicial interpretations of the word “denomination” since 1954 have wreaked havoc on the fundamental religious and administrative rights of Hindus. Today if courts were to seek the meaning of the word “denomination” (religious) from any dictionary of merit including the Oxford Dictionary, they would find that the word means only a “sect” and primarily an autonomous branch of a Christian Church. “Common name, faith, and organizations” are long forgotten by the learned except by our learned judges.

15. It is an irrefutable fact that only Hindu institutions and charities suffered due to this continuing injustice and refusal to cloak Hindu sampradayas with the protection that Article 26 offers to sects and institutions of other religions.

16. If this is this not discrimination against the majority community, what else could this be? Constitutional morality? – PGurus, 13 February 2019

» T.R. Ramesh is a crusader for temple protection and better temple administration.

 


 

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How the Buddha was made out to be anti-Hindu – Koenraad Elst

Buddha

Dr Koenraad ElstFar from being a revolutionary, the Buddha emphatically outed himself as a conservative, both in social and in religious matters. He was not a rebel or a revolutionary, but wanted the existing customs to continue. The Buddha was every inch a Hindu. – Dr Koenraad Elst

Orientalists started treating Buddhism as a separate religion because they discovered it outside India, without any conspicuous link with India, where Buddhism was not in evidence. At first, they didn’t even know that the Buddha had been Indian. It had at any rate gone through centuries of development unrelated to anything happening in India at the same time. Therefore, it is understandable that Buddhism was already the object of a separate discipline even before any connection with Hinduism could be made.

Buddhism in modern India

In India, all kinds of invention, somewhat logically connected to this status of a separate religion, were then added. Especially the Ambedkarite movement, springing from the conversion of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in 1956, was very driven in retro-actively producing an anti-Hindu programme for the Buddha. Conversion itself, not just the embracing of a new tradition—which any Hindu is free to do, all the while staying a Hindu—but the renouncing of one’s previous religion, as the Hindu-born politician Ambedkar did, is a typically Christian concept.

The model event was the conversion of the Frankish king Clovis, possibly in 496, who “burned what he had worshipped and worshipped what he had burnt”. (Let it pass for now that the Christian chroniclers slandered their victims by positing a false symmetry: the Heathens hadn’t been in the business of destroying Christian symbols.)

So, in his understanding of the history of Bauddha Dharma (Buddhism), Ambedkar was less than reliable, in spite of his sterling contributions regarding the history of Islam and some parts of the history of caste. But where he was a bit right and a bit mistaken, his later followers have gone all the way and made nothing but a gross caricature of history, and especially about the place of Buddhism in Hindu history.

The Ambedkarite worldview has ultimately only radicalised the moderately anti-Hindu version of the reigning Nehruvians. Under Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, Buddhism was turned into the unofficial state religion of India, adopting the “lion pillar” of the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka as state symbol and putting his 24-spoked dharmacakra (wheel) in the national flag. Essentially, Nehru’s knowledge of Indian history was limited to two spiritual figures, viz. the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, and three political leaders: Ashoka, Akbar and himself.

The concept of cakravarti (“wheel-turner”, universal ruler) was in fact much older than Ashoka, and the 24-spoked wheel can also be read in other senses, e.g. the Sankhya philosophy’s worldview, with the central Purusha/Subject and the 24 elements of Prakrti/Nature. The anglicized Nehru, “India’s last Viceroy”, prided himself on his illiteracy in Hindu culture, so he didn’t know any of this, but was satisfied that these symbols could glorify Ashoka and belittle Hinduism, deemed a separate religion from which Ashoka had broken away by accepting Buddhism.

More broadly, he thought that everything of value in India was a gift of Buddhism (and Islam) to the undeserving Hindus. Thus, the fabled Hindu tolerance was according to him a value borrowed from Buddhism. In reality, the Buddha had been a beneficiary of an already established Hindu tradition of pluralism.

In a Muslim country, he would never have preached his doctrine in peace and comfort for 45 years, but in Hindu society, this was a matter of course. There were some attempts on his life, but they emanated not from “Hindus” but from jealous disciples within his own monastic order.

So, both Nehru and Ambedkar, as well as their followers , believed by implication that at some point in his life, the Hindu-born renunciate Buddha had broken away from Hinduism and adopted a new religion, Buddhism. This notion is now omnipresent, and through school textbooks, most Indians have lapped this up and don’t know any better. However, numerous though they are, none of the believers in this story have ever told us at what moment in his life the Buddha broke way from Hinduism. When did he revolt against it? Very many Indians repeat the Nehruvian account, but so far, never has any of them been able to pinpoint an event in the Buddha’s life which constituted a break with Hinduism.

The term “Hinduism”

Their first line of defence, when put on the spot, is sure to be: “Actually, Hinduism did not yet exist at the time.” So, their position really is: Hinduism did not exist yet, but somehow the Buddha broke away from it. Yeah, the secular position is that he was a miracle-worker!

Let us correct that: the word “Hinduism” did not exist yet. When Darius of the Achaemenid Persians, a near-contemporary of the Buddha, used the word “Hindu”, it was purely in a geographical sense: anyone from inside or beyond the Indus region. When the medieval Muslim invaders brought the term into India, they used it to mean: any Indian except for the Indian Muslims, Christians or Jews. It did not have a specific doctrinal content except “non-Abrahamic”, a negative definition.

It meant every Indian Pagan, including the Brahmins, Buddhists (“clean-shaven Brahmins”), Jains, other ascetics, low-castes, intermediate castes, tribals, and by implication also the as yet unborn Lingayats, Sikhs, Hare Krishnas, Arya Samajis, Ramakrishnaites, secularists and others who nowadays reject the label “Hindu”. This definition was essentially also adopted by V.D. Savarkar in his book Hindutva (1923) and by the Hindu Marriage Act (1955). By this historical definition, which also has the advantages of primacy and of not being thought up by the wily Brahmins, the Buddha and all his Indian followers are unquestionably Hindus. In that sense, Savarkar was right when he called Ambedkar’s taking refuge in Buddhism “a sure jump into the Hindu fold”.

But the word “Hindu” is a favourite object of manipulation. Thus, secularists say that all kinds of groups (Dravidians, low-castes, Sikhs, etc.) are “not Hindu”, yet when Hindus complain of the self-righteousness and aggression of the minorities, secularists laugh at this concern: “How can the Hindus feel threatened? They are more than 80%!” The missionaries call the tribals “not Hindus”, but when the tribals riot against the Christians who have murdered their swami, we read about “Hindu rioters”. In the Buddha’s case, “Hindu” is often narrowed down to “Vedic” when convenient, then restored to its wider meaning when expedient.

One meaning which the word “Hindu” definitely does not have, and did not have when it was introduced, is “Vedic”. Shankara holds it against Patanjali and the Sankhya school (just like the Buddha) that they don’t bother to cite the Vedas, yet they have a place in every history of Hindu thought. Hinduism includes a lot of elements which have only a thin Vedic veneer, and numerous ones which are not Vedic at all. Scholars say that it consists of a “Great Tradition” and many “Little Traditions”, local cults allowed to subsist under the aegis of the prestigious Vedic line. However, if we want to classify the Buddha in these terms, he should rather be included in the Great Tradition.

Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha was a Kshatriya, a scion of the Solar or Ikshvaku dynasty, a descendant of Manu, a self-described reincarnation of Rama, the son of the Raja (president-for-life) of the Shakya tribe, a member of its senate, and belonging to the Gautama gotra (roughly “clan”). Though monks are often known by their monastic name, Buddhists prefer to name the Buddha after his descent group, viz. the Shakyamuni, “renunciate of the Shakya tribe”. This tribe was as Hindu as could be, consisting according to its own belief of the progeny of the eldest children of patriarch Manu, who were repudiated at the insistence of his later, younger wife.

The Buddha is not known to have rejected this name, not even at the end of his life when the Shakyas had earned the wrath of king Vidudabha of Kosala and were massacred. The doctrine that he was one in a line of incarnations which also included Rama is not a deceitful Brahmin Puranic invention but was launched by the Buddha himself, who claimed Rama as an earlier incarnation of his. The numerous scholars who like to explain every Hindu idea or custom as “borrowed from Buddhism” could well counter Ambedkar’s rejection of this “Hindu” doctrine by pointing out very aptly that it was “borrowed from Buddhism”.

Career

At 29, he renounced society, but not Hinduism. Indeed, it is a typical thing among Hindus to exit from society, laying off your caste marks including your civil name. The Rig Veda already describes the munis as having matted hair and going about sky-clad: such are what we now know as Naga Sadhus. Asceticism was a recognized practice in Vedic society long before the Buddha. Yajnavalkya, the Upanishadic originator of the notion of Self, renounced life in society after a successful career as court priest and an equally happy family life with two wives. By leaving his family and renouncing his future in politics, the Buddha followed an existing tradition within Hindu society.

He didn’t practice Vedic rituals anymore, which is normal for a Vedic renunciate (though Zen Buddhists still recite the Heart Sutra in the Vedic fashion, ending with “sowaka”, i.e. svaha). He was a late follower of a movement very much in evidence in the Upanishads, viz. of spurning rituals (karmakanda) in favour of knowledge (jnanakanda). After he had done the Hindu thing by going to the forest, he tried several methods, including the techniques he learned from two masters and which did not fully satisfy him,—but nonetheless enough to include them in his own and the Buddhist curriculum.

Among other techniques, he practised anapanasati, “attention to the breathing process”, the archetypal yoga practice popular in practically all yoga schools till today. For a while he also practised an extreme form of asceticism, still existing in the Hindu sect of Jainism. He exercised his Hindu freedom to join a sect devoted to certain techniques, and later the freedom to leave it, remaining a Hindu at every stage.

He then added a technique of his own, or at least that is what the Buddhist sources tell us, for in the paucity of reliable information, we don’t know for sure that he hadn’t learned the vipassana (“mindfulness”) technique elsewhere. Unless evidence of the contrary comes to the surface, we assume that he invented this technique all by himself, as a Hindu is free to do. He then achieved bodhi, the “awakening”. By his own admission, he was by no means the first to do so. Instead, he had only walked the same path of other awakened beings before him.

At the bidding of the Vedic gods Brahma and Indra, he left his self-contained state of awakening and started teaching his way to others. When he “set in motion the wheel of the Law” (Dharma cakra pravartana, Chinese Falungong), he gave no indication whatsoever of breaking with an existing system. On the contrary, by his use of existing Vedic and Upanishadic terminology (arya, “vedically civilised”; dharma), he confirmed his Vedic roots and implied that his system was a restoration of the Vedic ideal which had become degenerate. He taught his techniques and his analysis of the human condition to his disciples, promising them to achieve the same awakening if they practiced these diligently.

Caste

On caste, we find him is full cooperation with existing caste society. Being an elitist, he mainly recruited among the upper castes, with over 40% Brahmins. These would later furnish all the great philosophers who made Buddhism synonymous with conceptual sophistication. Conversely, the Buddhist universities trained well-known non-Buddhist scientists such as the astronomer Aryabhata.

Lest the impression be created that universities are a gift of Buddhism to India, it may be pointed out that the Buddha’s friends Bandhula and Prasenadi (and, according to a speculation, maybe the young Siddhartha himself) had studied at the University of Takshashila, clearly established before there were any Buddhists around to do so. Instead, the Buddhists greatly developed an institution which they had inherited from Hindu society.

The kings and magnates of the eastern Ganga plain treated the Buddha as one of their own—because that is what he was—and gladly patronized his fast-growing monastic order, commanding their servants and subjects to build a network of monasteries for it. He predicted the coming of a future awakened leader like himself, the Maitreya (“the one practising friendship/charity”), and specified that he would be born in a Brahmin family. When king Prasenadi discovered that his wife was not a Shakya princess but the daughter of the Shakya ruler by a maid-servant, he repudiated her and their son; but his friend the Buddha made him take them back.

Did he achieve this by saying that birth is unimportant, that “caste is bad” or that “caste doesn’t matter”, as the Ambedkarites claim? No, he reminded the king of the old view (then apparently in the process of being replaced with a stricter view) that caste was passed on exclusively in the paternal line. Among hybrids of horses and donkeys, the progeny of a horse stallion and a donkey mare whinnies, like its father, while the progeny of a donkey stallion and a horse mare brays, also like its father. So, in the oldest Upanishad, Satyakama Jabala is accepted by his Brahmins-only teacher because his father is deduced to be a Brahmin, regardless of his mother being a maid-servant. And similarly, king Prasenadi should accept his son as a Kshatriya, even though his mother was not a full-blooded Shakya Kshatriya.

When he died, the elites of eight cities made a successful bid for his ashes on the plea: “We are Kshatriyas, he was a Kshatriya, therefore we have a right to his ashes”. After almost half a century, his disciples didn’t mind being seen in public as still observing caste in a context which was par excellence Buddhist. The reason is that the Buddha in his many teachings never had told them to give up caste, e.g. to give their daughters in marriage to men of other castes. This was perfectly logical: as a man with a spiritual message, the Buddha wanted to lose as little time as possible on social matters. If satisfying your own miserable desires is difficult enough, satisfying the desire for an egalitarian society provides an endless distraction from your spiritual practice.

The Seven Rules

There never was a separate non-Hindu Buddhist society. Most Hindus worship various gods and teachers, adding and sometimes removing one or more pictures or statues to their house altar. This way, there were some lay worshippers of the Buddha, but they were not a society separate from the worshippers of other gods or awakened masters. This box-type division of society in different sects is another Christian prejudice infused into modern Hindu society by Nehruvian secularism. There were only Hindus, members of Hindu castes, some of whom had a veneration for the Buddha among others.

Buddhist buildings in India often follow the designs of Vedic habitat ecology or Vastu Shastra. Buddhist temple conventions follow an established Hindu pattern. Buddhist mantras, also outside India, follow the pattern of Vedic mantras. When Buddhism spread to China and Japan, Buddhist monks took the Vedic gods (e.g. the twelve Adityas) with them and built temples for them. In Japan, every town has a temple for the river-goddess Benzaiten, i.e. “Saraswati Devi”, the goddess Saraswati. She was not introduced there by wily Brahmins, but by Buddhists.

At the fag end of his long life, the Buddha described the seven principles by which a society does not perish (which Sita Ram Goel has given more body in his historical novel Sapta Shila, in Hindi), and among them are included: respecting and maintaining the existing festivals, pilgrimages and rituals; and revering the holy men. These festivals etc. were mainly “Vedic”, of course, like the pilgrimage to the Saraswati which Balaram made in the Mahabharata, or the pilgrimage to the Ganga which the elderly Pandava brothers made. Far from being a revolutionary, the Buddha emphatically outed himself as a conservative, both in social and in religious matters. He was not a rebel or a revolutionary, but wanted the existing customs to continue. The Buddha was every inch a Hindu. – Pragyata, 18 May 2018

Maitreya Buddha in the Nubra Valley


 

India’s soft power doesn’t have the impact it deserves – Maria Wirth

William James Quote

Maria WirthIndia needs to regain its position of Vishwa Guru in the interest of humanity as a whole, as the knowledge which the rishis have handed down is the key for a meaningful and fulfilling life. – Maria Wirth

Recently, there was a conference in Delhi on the many different aspects of India’s amazing soft power—like cuisine, ayurveda, crafts, languages, dance and many more. Spirituality is in all likelihood India’s most important soft power because it gives answers to the basic questions of human beings regarding the meaning of life, and most importantly, who we essentially are. India’s Advaita Vedanta is probably the most logical description of spirituality: in absolute truth, our universe, including our persons, is consciousness or spirit (Brahman, sat-chit-ananda). The physical “reality” is an appearance on that invisible spirit. It is more like a mirage appearing in the desert, while in truth there is nothing but desert sand (Brahman, spirit).

The truth that we all are essentially the same invisible spirit was discovered by the Rishis in India. This knowledge is of immense value. It naturally resonates with anyone who is open-minded and wants to know the truth. The rishis also made it clear that we can realize what we are, because we ARE it.

Yet this knowledge is also the reason why India is so much opposed. News about India in mainstream media is mainly negative. Why? Because the West and particularly the Church don’t want people to get interested in India. If someone is interested and becomes familiar with India’s wisdom, he is likely to lose faith in dogmatic religions, because Sanatana or Hindu Dharma makes sense—and the Church loses its hold.

The Church had this experience already 200 to 300 years ago, when the Vedas first reached Europe, because the intellectual elite there were highly impressed. The Church realized that the spread of Indian thought would threaten its influence, and a strategy was put in place to demean India’s tradition, which was now called Hinduism and unfairly associated with an “oppressive caste system” and “idol worship”. There is a clear attempt that this knowledge, which originated in India, does not become common knowledge, and that aspects of this knowledge, which have been taken over by the West, are no longer associated with India.

For example in the 1970s, the New Age movement was very much related to India. Even in 1982, at a conference in Mumbai about ancient wisdom and modern science, which was organized by the International Transpersonal Association, it was openly acknowledged that the conference was held in India, because India’s wisdom (the concept of atman) is the consistent background for the new findings of unity underlying the diversity.

At that time, I was very happy thinking that, since now science validates Indian wisdom, the knowledge of all of us being connected surely will trickle down to the common man.

I was wrong. Today, almost 40 years later, India has been completely cut out in Wikipedia’s entry on transpersonal psychology. New age, too, has been disconnected from India. It is revealing how Wikipedia’s piece on transpersonal psychology ends:

“… transpersonal psychology has been criticized by some Christian authors as being a mishmash of New Age ideas that offer an alternative faith system to vulnerable youths who turn their backs on organized religion.”

Those Christian authors are not interested to find out, if there is indeed a transpersonal dimension to our existence, but fear, even more youth could leave the Church if they come to know about it.

Here is where India needs to come in strongly and make its presence felt. Truth needs to come back into the discourse. Indian wisdom points to a verifiable, scientific truth which can be experienced in one’s life. The dogmatic religions on the other hand make unverifiable, unsubstantiated claims about truth which will be allegedly experienced after one is dead.  It needs also to be mentioned that Christianity and Islam got billions of followers mainly by bullying people into believing, and once inside the faith, not allowing them out for many centuries. Ever since Christianity allows people to leave the Church, there is a steady exodus. That means that the respectability of a religion, which is defined as “a belief that is held strongly by many people” is not deserved, if its “many people” were bullied and threatened with dire consequences if they don’t accept it.

To bring “spirituality” back on track, India should own and promote some aspects, which are already catching up in the West because they make sense.

One issue is for example the view that Divinity is within. If all is interconnected and ultimately one, THAT which is the cause for all must be the essence in all. Ayam Atma Brahma, says the Upanishad. This view does not fit into the doctrine of Christianity and Islam, but many Westerners have already adopted it. If India promoted this knowledge in a big way, the doctrines of the exclusivist religions would be put into a proper (never mind if not so favourable) perspective. There could be unconventional means, too. For example I saw recently a boy wearing a tee shirt with “God is inside you” written on it.

Another issue is vegetarianism which is connected to the first point. Do we have the right to brutally slaughter billions of animals, which have emotions and feel pain, only because we like the taste or because the Old Testament allows it? There is already a debate in the West and vegetarianism is growing. A German environment minister even banned meat at official functions of her ministry. India is the natural leader to promote vegetarian food and to ban especially beef. Everyone knows that Indians revere cows. It is often made fun of. If India owned the stand of her rishis—even if not for compassion, but purely for ecological reasons—it would be a game changer as it would help to reduce meat-eating. It would also be beneficial for the human mind.

Another issue is rebirth which also catches on in the West. Here, too, India is a natural leader, as rebirth on the level of appearances is a given in Indian ancient texts. Rebirth, too, is incompatible with Christianity and Islam, as their doctrine is based on “only one life as a test and thereafter either heaven or hell”. Yet rebirth makes sense. It explains why there is seemingly so much injustice in this world, when God is supposed to be just. About 25 per cent Americans believe already in rebirth. There is enough evidence in form of research and documentaries. Professor N.K. Chadha of Delhi University worked together with Ian Stevenson of Virginia University, where over 3000 cases of rebirth are documented. If India promoted this view as common sense, it would weaken the very base of the dogmatic religions and help people to come out of narrow-mindedness. Incidentally, the Church banned the belief in rebirth in 553 AD. It means it was widespread till then.

There are other aspects, which India can stand up for, for example that different lokas (planes of consciousness or even universes) with different timescales exist, for which there is already certain openness in the West.

Yet for India’s soft power to have a chance to influence the world, one issue needs to be urgently addressed. If this issue is not addressed, the world will continue to ignore India’s soft power or will keep de-linking it from India. This issue is the claim that Hindu civilisation is not respectable, that Hinduism is wrong and Hindus, being idol-worshippers, will go to hell, unless they convert. That is what followers of Christianity and Islam are taught in religious class, and it is incomprehensible why such wrong, unacceptable teaching has not yet been strongly condemned by Hindus. Not objecting to this claim would amount to not honouring truth, not honouring the wisdom of their rishis and accepting falsehood. Further, such teaching fosters hate crimes and divides humanity, apart from being mere fiction.

Muslim countries have petitioned the UN to ban criticism of Islam. A far worthier petition would be a petition from Hindus to ban the teaching that Hindus are inferior and burn in hell. If Hindus and Buddhists could come together on this issue or countries like India, China, Japan would object to such unsubstantiated claims, it could make the world take note and start a debate.

When an individual denigrates somebody on the ground of his religion, he commits an offense and is punished. Then how is it possible, that the doctrine of a religion can denigrate members of other religions wholesale and yet be respected and not being pulled up?

A recent judgment by the Delhi High Court, allowing a medical doctor to conduct missionary activities while doing his service, said “All persons in this country have a right to practice their faith in the manner they consider fit so long as it does not offend any other person.”

The judge obviously did not consider the method or arguments with which a missionary tries to lure a “heathen” into his religion. He is telling him that Christianity alone is the true religion and Hinduism is wrong, and if he wants to save himself he needs to convert. In some cases the language is much stronger and devas are called devils.

His poor patients may not complain to the court. Yet is this acceptable? Does this not offend Hindus and other ‘heathen’?

Due to the fact that big parts of India were ruled for some 1000 years by followers of Islam and Christianity, when Hindus had to lie low, India lost its position as vishwa guru. Yet it needs to regain it, in the interest of humanity as a whole, as the knowledge which the rishis have handed down is the key for a meaningful and fulfilling life. – Maria Wirth Blog, 24 January 2019

» Maria Wirth is a German author who has lived in Uttarakhand for decades.

Swami Vivekananda

 


 

On the Enigma of Hanuman – Manoj Das

Hanuman

Prof Manoj DasIdentifying Hanuman as a Dalit … would have mystified the seer-poet Valmiki. … The association of social injustice and prejudice the word conjures up in our mind simply does not relate either to the genesis or to the glorious career of Hanuman.

Progress seems to be stalked by paradox. A decade later a child could be hard put to believe that not long ago there was life on earth without mobiles, selfies, internet, etc. or whatever might have become their shape by then. At the same time, the force with which we are reinforcing certain extant elements of medievalism, it will be difficult for the child to believe that there was a time when “Dalit” meant anything other than a congeries of castes. This author views “Dalit” as a significant word even in its current usage, conveying reality and implying protest, but this usage must not be perpetuated. We must envisage a future when the tradition of caste has become a past.

However, identifying Hanuman as a Dalit in either the old or the current sense of the term would have mystified the seer-poet Valmiki and defied the farsightedness of any savant of any genre. The association of social injustice and prejudice the word conjures up in our mind simply does not relate either to the genesis or to the glorious career of Hanuman. But the remark was obviously made in good faith, probably because Hanuman and his tribe led by Sugriva had been rendered practically outcaste by the tyrannical Vali, living as oppressed till Rama’s intervention.

Be that as it may, since a time of great excitement and stormy exchange is unrolling before the nation as an inevitable backdrop to the approaching elections, vocabularies will be ransacked by orators in search of powerful similes and metaphors and the hoary characters from our epics will be dragged into the arena. Already modern Indian literature is replete with mythological characters reconstructed with contemporary notions of realism or psychology.

Here is a sample of the quality of creativity behind such ventures, from a popular prose version of the Mahabharata in English: At the royal court of Hastinapura, when Duhshasana tried to disrobe Draupadi, why did Krishna intervene miraculously making the length of her sari inexhaustible? Because she was his relative and because once Draupadi had “bandaged” Krishna’s wound by tearing a part of her own “expensive dress” and because both were self-born. The mighty assurance that the episode had given to millions through the ages that while all the human beings could fail a person in distress, the Divine alone never failed if one turned to Him, had no place in the interpretation.

The vision of the epic poets encompassed larger vistas than our logic-based perception can. They saw invisible forces from several occult planes, supra-rational as well as infra-rational, participating or intervening in human affairs. Not only Valmiki and Vyasa, but also Homer narrated their role in gross terms because they were as real to them as the human encounters. Once upon a time the listeners or readers of the epics possessed the faculty that recognised such intermingling. But evolution’s agenda required fuller development of our rational capacity. The process pushed our intuitive and supra-sensory genius to the back of our surface mind. Today one may not accept this theory, but to try fit the epic characters or situations to the Procrustean bed of our notions is unpardonable ingratitude.

Hanuman was, in the mystic parlance, a “vital being”—a member of an extinct species, the vanaras, equidistant from man and the ape as far as their physical traits went. But individually Hanuman’s was an enlightened consciousness. The sun represents jnana (wisdom) in spiritual symbolism and Hanuman was educated by him. His wisdom helped him recognise the divine in Rama and thereafter he became the personification of bhakti (devotion). For the sake of his Master to whom his surrender was total he performed karma (action) of incredible proportions, natural and supernatural. Thus was he perceived as jnanayogi, bhaktiyogi and karmayogi—all in one, an example of synthesis. According to a prophecy he is the Brahma (Creator) of the future, a promise of fulfilment for the mankind still in the making.

Meditations on the epic characters revealed several inspiring scenes in the visions of mystics. Here is one on Hanuman, funny at the start but ending with a profound revelation of the raison d’être of his being: All the lieutenants of Rama during his mission to rescue Sita attended his coronation in Ayodhya. One moonlit night, while enjoying dinner at an open yard, a young vanara pressed a berry and its seed leaped up. “You are showing me how to jump, are you? Look!” said the vanara and instantly made a show of his capacity at high jump. “That’s all?” asked the vanara next to him and he too jumped up. In a moment several vanaras were at the feat, each trying to do better than the others.

A little away sat Hanuman, relaxed. A friend walked up to him and said, “These chaps are unaware of your presence. Shouldn’t you shame them by a sudden jump?” Hanuman smiled but kept quiet. As a few noblemen who enjoyed the festive goings-on also repeatedly requested Hanuman for a show, softly he spoke, “Not even an iota of my power can I spend except for the service to my Lord!”

That was Hanuman. Let us not disturb his poise. It is unfortunate if there should be any quarrel on his identity in a totally different milieu. It is simply absurd that Valmiki should be questioned as to why he did not portray him as a normal human being! – The New Indian Express, 17 December 2018

» Manoj Das is an eminent author and recipient of several awards including the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship. He currently teaches English Literature and the Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo at the Sri Aurobindo International University, Puducherry.


 

Sacralising the cosmos, nature and life – Michel Danino

Sacred Ecology

Prof Michel DaninoMy own “belief” is that time will show the wisdom of the sacralisation of Nature early India systematically undertook. As the US astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell said in 1971, during the Apollo 14 mission, saving the planet will take nothing less than “a transformation of consciousness.” – Prof Michel Danino

If all things in this universe are impelled by consciousness — the master idea explored in the previous article in this series (“Consciousness, the Key to Indic Thought”, 6 August) — it stands to reason that all things are potentially sacred. The cosmos itself, to begin with, and this finds its way beyond India’s philosophico-spiritual texts: in his Aryabhatiya (early sixth century CE)the celebrated early Indian mathematician Aryabhata suddenly abandons his dry procedures and formulas to note, as though enthralled by the contemplation of this infinite universe, “Knowing the motion of the Earth and the planets on, one attains the supreme brahman after piercing through the orbits of the planets and stars.” Brahman (not to be confused with the creator god Brahma) is the supreme essence of this universe. Two centuries later, another fine mathematician, Lalla, will echo this thought: “He who acquires a comprehensive knowledge of the celestial sphere … sees, in front of his eyes as it were, the whole universe; he gets spiritually enriched and attains moksha….”

Let us return to earth, which must be equally sacred, as I wrote on “India’s own sacred ecology (5 December 2016); from that point of view, there is no distinction between heaven and earth, the creator and the created. (Indeed, Indian thought has enjoyed invoking such pairs of “opposites”, only to fuse them back together: Shiva-Shakti, Ardhanarishvara, Purusha-Prakriti, Harihara….) To hold nature and life sacred and occasionally to deify them has not been India’s prerogative: most other pre-Christian cultures did so too, from the Egyptian or the Greek to the Native American and aboriginal cultures, leaving behind moving invocations of Nature’s beauty and bounty as the sustainer of all life.

India, however, went further or deeper in giving this concept a body, not content with deifying oceans, mountains, rivers, animals and plants, but integrating all of them in her pantheons, worships, rituals, paintings, sculptures, monuments and literary compositions. It is easy enough to ridicule our “sacred cows”, but the same sacredness extends to all animals, even the humble rat, as Deshnoke’s temple to Karni Mata testifies, sheltering thousands of them. Before we snigger again, let us reflect on the concepts these beliefs attempt to express. Nanditha Krishna’s recent bookHinduism and Nature, provides a wealth of illustrations of this love story between the two.

But are these mere “beliefs”? They resulted, as every student of history knows, in ecological practices ranging from wildlife and forest conservation to water management and traditions of food growing and sharing—practices we are groping back towards in the current ecological crisis. Indeed, contemporary environmental thinkers, especially those of the “deep ecology” school, have often acknowledged finding inspiration from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain concepts—even as they have rejected the biblical legitimisation of man’s God-given dominance and exploitation of all creation. My own “belief” is that time will show the wisdom of the sacralisation of Nature early India systematically undertook. As the US astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell said in 1971, during the Apollo 14 mission, saving the planet will take nothing less than “a transformation of consciousness.”

The transition to the land is but a small step: imbuing the geography with sacredness began in early Vedic times. Pilgrimage sites and routes, networks of landmarks connected with the two Epics were some of the devices used with great efficiency; in today’s Tamil Nadu, villagers sometimes point to hillocks sitting in the plains as being detached lumps from the mountain Hanuman carried back, flying, from the Himalayas to Lanka. Rocks, caves and shrines were visited by Agastya or Rama or the Pandavas—anyone, in fact, as long as the place and therefore the society living there can somehow be attached to a Greater Story. This construction of a sacred geography, studied by a few scholars such as the anthropologist K.S. Singh or the geographer Rana P.B. Singh, finds no place in our textbooks, even though it was a major contributor to the cultural integration of early India and the building of an Indian identity.

Enough has been said and written on India’s classical arts: the temple builder, the sculptor’s mastery, the dancer’s body or the musician’s instrument. The artists strive to convey through their medium something of the divinity, or to connect us to it by creating a range of emotions in us. In the process, the borderline with profane art is often blurred: even a humble residence can invoke cosmic principles of vastuvidya. Ultimately, nearly nothing of daily life seems to be left out of the exercise: from birth to death, with marriage and childbirth on the way, every stage is an occasion to reconnect to a greater purpose beyond the drab daily routines. Even sexuality can be part of the sacred, as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (no, not the Kama Sutra) makes clear.

 Food production, sharing and consumption are also part of this vision in which nothing, ultimately, is “secular”. An old legend concerning Thiruvalluvar, the author of the celebrated Kural, narrates how, whenever he sat at his meal served by his wife, he would always keep next to him a toothpick, but would never use it in the end. His wife was intrigued, but perhaps too shy to ask. After a few decades of this ritual, however, curiosity got the better of her and she asked her husband the burning question. “My dear,” he answered, “should you ever have spilled a grain of rice while serving me, I would have picked it with the toothpick, since food is a gift of the gods and not to be wasted; but I never needed to do so, since you never spilled a single grain.” Are there not some lessons here for our current cult of unbridled consumption and wastage? – The New Indian Express, 3 September 2018

» Prof Michel Danino is a French-born Indian author, scholar of ancient India, and visiting professor at IIT Gandhinagar.

Karni Devi


 

VIDEO: Sanatana Dharma is the best option for humanity – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth’s profile can be viewed on her website.


 

The Rajiv Malhotra Interview – R. Jagannathan

 

Rajiv Malhotra

R. JagannathanRajiv Malhotra, author and Hindu intellectual, is the man who developed the “breaking India” theory in his eponymous 2011 book. Malhotra has written prolifically in opposition to the academic study of Indian history and society, especially Hinduism, as it is conducted by scholars and university faculty of the West, which, he maintains, undermines the interests of India “by encouraging the paradigms that oppose its unity and integrity”.

In an interview with R. Jagannathan, he speaks about the dangers that Indian and Hindu nationhood face today.

Excerpts:

• Can you give us a brief history of how you developed the “breaking India” theory? 

The “breaking India” thesis is not something I came up with overnight. It is not a matter of merely coining a term; it is the product of my lived experience in the US for over 45 years. I have been collecting a whole lot of experiences and organising them into a thesis that makes coherent sense. A theory is like an algorithm to make sense of your experiences. I was trying to figure out an algorithm for who is doing what to India. There were some major events in this journey. I found some African-Americans returning from India and talking about an Afro-Dalit movement that they were part of. I came across Marxists, including many Indians, aligned with Maoist forces in India. I came across Christian missionaries sending huge sums of money to India claiming it was about social work.

A few persons in India who studied this were simply tracking isolated data points concerning foreign interventions by Islam, Marxism or Christianity, but nobody was tracking end-to-end into a comprehensive view of these foreign forces. I invested many years chasing data about the forces at work. Then I hired a Tamil speaker in India to translate many of the works being funded by foreign sources, and eventually he became my co-author, (Aravindan Neelakandan, for the book Breaking India). So my project did not start in India. This is how it is different from others. It was a project started in the US to uncover who supported such nefarious NGOs, what agenda was driving them from their home country, whether they were linked to institutions such as CIA, how they were linked to academic people and think tanks, and their links to churches. I found all these links to be present.

I looked at various so-called friends of India in the US, Britain and the EU, and tracking their flow of money to India, tracking how they train leaders in India, how they export ideology to India, how they have conferences in India and abroad to train their sepoys in India. After tracking all this, I realised that there is a huge story that has never been told before. Around the year 2000, I was invited to give a talk at the IISc, Bangalore. But it was very difficult to get my topic selected because these forces were unknown and the term “breaking India” was considered too radical and provocative. In 2005, I was invited to India International Centre, Delhi, to give a talk on two consecutive nights—on “Where is India in the eagle’s eye”—the eagle being the American eagle. This was accepted as a safe and politically correct title, and I used the opportunity. Those two lectures, about 1.5 hours each, are on YouTube, and they are among the most thorough ones on the subject. It gives the whole theory at that point of time.

Then I was invited to deliver the Hegde Memorial Lecture in Delhi, on “Where is India in the clash of Civilisations?” (a term spelt out by Samuel Huntington in a book). This is when I laid out the case that in the “clash of civilisations”, breaking India forces were not local within India; they were global with a footprint in India. I showed that the clash between Islam, Christianity and Left-wing Marxist ideologies was a global one, and India was in their crosshairs. Yet the Indian people didn’t know it. That is why I started the whole project of “breaking India”—to explain such activities that were in the global arena. I connected activities that appeared isolated and local but were part of the global kurukshetra. That was the big breakthrough—bridging the global and the local and bringing the three global forces and their activities in India where Hindu dharma, Indian civilisation and the Indian nation-state has become their common enemy.

I got serious opposition from those who have now joined the bandwagon and like to go around giving talks on breaking India forces. Many people working for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), many people in Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) America, many people in the US Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, and many other custodians of Hindu dharma at that time were opposed to what I was saying. They did not want to be a part of it, because it was too controversial. They thought everything was going well for Hinduism worldwide, and that I was sensationalising things.

So, this was my lone battle for more than two decades, and finally I decided that I was going to turn this into a book. But the book could not get a mainstream publisher and I had to work very hard. The big mainstream publishers did not want to touch it. Finally, I got Amaryllis—because the editor was the same editor at Rupa who had edited my earlier book Invading the Sacred. She agreed to do this book because she knew me. And it became an instant best-seller. They refused to put the cover image of a broken India even though I explained that I found it in the office of an African-American professor in Princeton, who was part of the Afro-Dalit movement. They found it too provocative.

• How do you define a “breaking India force”?

Breaking India forces are centrifugal forces, making things fall apart. Centripetal forces would be those that bring people together. Centripetal (in India’s context) would be things like a positive grand narrative of India, a good economy bringing people together, a good sense of collective identity of who we are, a good sense of who our enemies (outside) are, such as China, Pakistan, and so on. Forces that bind us, like common problems of economy, hunger, etc, are also centripetal. So, centrifugal forces are breaking India forces. The big idea I brought into the limelight was that these forces are not local, they are global.

So, there are global breaking India forces and their local footprints exist in the form of sepoys and NGOs and so on. The local and the global are connected ideologically in terms of funding. The interesting thing is that globally there may be a war between Christianity and Islam, but locally they have been aligned because they both fight against a common enemy. So, imagine two predators that are fighting each other, but they are collaborating to kill an elephant since this brings food for both. Until they have killed the elephant, finished him off, they are collaborating to kill a common prey. Only after they have finished it off will they fight each other. This has happened in many parts of the world where two global predators work against a local opponent and destroy him. When they have finished off the local opponent, once the food is gone, they turn against each other for increased territory. That is what breaking India forces are like.

• Is there anything common between one kind of breaking India force and another? After all, the Kashmiri separatist is not the same as the evangelical church activist in South India or the jihadis in Kerala or West Bengal?

Many breaking India forces seem independent of each other. But a person could have many diseases that may be independent of one another; yet they have the collective effect of killing the person. Let’s say a person has cancer, and he has fallen down the stairs, and the two causes are independent. He may have been attacked from the outside, which is a third force, and he may be starving as he has no food to eat. Each of these forces challenges his vitality. All these forces that are breaking the person’s life may not be aligned with each other, they may not all be from a common cause.

Similarly, if there are Islamist breaking India forces, Christian breaking India forces and Marxist breaking India forces, they may all be independent of each other. But they tend to make practical alliances. These may not be strategic alliances, and merely tactical alignments for local projects. So, in the Maoist belt in India, ISI is helping local Islamist forces undermine the Indian state. There is collaboration between radical Islam with a Pakistani nexus, and radicalised Maoists, some of them with a nexus based in Nepal, some in China, and some who may just be supported by Marxists worldwide. Radical Islam and the radical Left are in alliance even though you may wonder why the Left should support Islam which is hardly a Marxist ideology. Rival predators will often make tactical alliances and so we must think of them as breaking India forces.

The important insight your question raises is that patriotic Indians should exploit the conflicts between these rival predators. We should exploit the conflicts between Christianity and Islam and Maoism among their global headquarters. Globally they are fighting each other, and we are not even aware of that. Our people are not taking advantage of the fault lines on the enemy side. Even though in India they seem aligned, globally they are at war with each other.

• To reverse the idea, are not violent forces like gau rakshaks, who sometimes lynch people, and Karni Sena, which has vandalised film sets, also not some kind of breaking India forces?

Yes, you are right. All violent forces in India that are undermining the Indian state, the unity of the Indian people, are in fact playing into the hands of breaking India forces. One of the things breaking India forces want to do is divide and conquer. They want to pit Indian people against each other, be it along the lines of caste, religion, class, or north versus south. Whoever is creating divisiveness is facilitating breaking India activities. They should be called breaking India forces.

The problem with a lot of Hindus, a lot of nationalists, is that they do micro-optimisation, which means a very localised optimisation of some interest that they have—it could be a political interest, an ethnic interest. They are optimising (their local interests) in a way that compromises the macro interests of India. So the interests of India as a macro entity are often being undermined by people with a narrow-minded view; they don’t have a wide-angle lens. They have narrow, tunnel visions. Through this lens they can see certain things that they should do from a very narrow short-sighted (perspective). In doing so they are undermining the bigger interests of India. So, yes, you do have breaking India forces which think they are actually helping to build India. But they are not.

• What is the common ground between breaking India forces based in India and the western democracies?

India is the world largest territory, both geographically and by population, that is up for grabs by the expansionist, predatory ideological movements in the world. By that I mean pan-Islam, right-wing expansionist Christianity, and left-wing forces which include post-modernism, Marxism and “liberalism”. These predators are expansionist and they want a global footprint. India is where the “clash of civilisations” is going to play out. The western democracies have interests of various kinds in other countries; there are government/state interests which want a footprint in several countries; there are churches acting autonomously in their own separate interest; there may be the imams and mosques that have interests separate from their own governments; and then there are these intellectuals and pseudo intellectuals, and extreme left intellectuals. They have their own funding and NGOs. If you look at ideological camps within the US, Britain and Germany, there are multiple competing ideological perspectives. These are often fighting each other. There are many different points of view fighting in their own countries. In India they want their own sepoys, so the Left will create its sepoys, the Christians their sepoys, and Muslims their own. These sepoys will sometimes collaborate because they realise they have a common interest in fighting against India.

What we must do is make the India-based Muslim, Christian and radical Leftist understand that in their HQ they are at war with one another. Only in terms of exporting their ideologies in India are they in a tactical alliance.

• In the US, the Left and Right are at daggers drawn on matters of religion and bigotry. But on India and Hinduism they seem to have united. Your comment?

In the US, the Left and Right are bitter enemies, and I have addressed this issue in my book.

• There also seems to be a nexus between the Indian Lutyens elite and US academics who control many of our historical narratives. How is this nexus nourished, and why do Indians think they are better served by aligning with foreign universities?

The Indian elites often go overseas for patronage, funding, prestige and political funding from private agencies, governments, CIA, all kinds of things. This is a very old game and has been happening since British times when an Indian raja or leader would seek British help to fight his fellow Indian rival. Sometimes, this is an Indian initiative, and they will seek a travel grant or a position in a university. Sometimes it is initiated by western agencies. The Lutyens elite is a term applicable not only to people in Lutyens Delhi; you find them all over India. I find them in Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, everywhere. They are mercenaries for sale at the right price.

I say that India is for sale by its own elites. There is a global market that wants positioning in India for vote banks of the future, consumer marketing, as well as leverage over separatist movements so they can chip off parts of India like Nagaland for Christian Baptists and Kashmir for Islamists in Pakistan.

There are huge business opportunities in such anti-India global-local collaborations. These global-local activities are very dangerous.

• Even though there are many Hindu organisations, from the RSS to Baba Ramdev to Sri Sri to Ramakrishna Mission, and even individual groups are doing various things like fighting the case of temples in courts, why is it that these efforts seem uncoordinated, and they are often found fighting among ourselves?

Well, the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, which was started by Swami Dayananda Saraswati, was to bring together various Hindu groups. It was doing a great job during Swamyji’s life; he made a huge amount of progress. Unfortunately, after Swamyji left, his successors have lost momentum. I don’t want to be judgmental but what I can tell you is that the new leaders of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha have compromised the momentum that Swamyji built so carefully. This is partly because the stature that Swamyji had is not there among his successors, and so they don’t command the same respect. The different Hindu organisations thus don’t look up to them as they looked up to Swamyji. This is one of the reasons why a whole lot of activities among Hindu groups are falling apart in terms of collaboration.

There is not enough civic leadership, or spiritual leadership. There is not competent kshatriyata to create a strong Hindu coalition.

You could say that a Hindu government ought to do this, but the Hindu government is also busy trying to establish its secular credentials. So, you really have a vacuum at the top of the Hindu renaissance movement.

• There is a charge that “Hindu” is different from “Hindutva”, and that “genuine” Hinduism is different from Hindutva, even if it is not violent. Your comment?

Well, within the Hindu sanatan dharma tradition, as recorded in its shastras, there is definitely a political dimension. There is a political dimension in the Mahabharata and in the Ramayana. You must take on enemies, both external and internal. In the case of the Ramayana, there was the external enemy in a separate geographical area. In the Mahabharata, there was the internal enemy, your own cousins.

So, this business of having to fight adharma as a political kind of activity is not something non-Hindu. It is at the centre of Hindu itihaas. So, Hindutva could be considered as a modern version of political Hinduism and you can’t say political Hinduism is not Hindu. If you say Hinduism must be non-political, you will also be distancing yourself and denouncing itihaas, which is full of political activity.

But there is also bhakti Hinduism, there is yoga-meditation Hinduism, there is Hinduism of the type I’ll-do-my-karma-helping-neighbours-helping-poor-people. Non-political karma is also Hinduism. There are many margas  in Hinduism, and you don’t have to be political, but there is a need for and legitimacy in political Hinduism. This has been forgotten because of 1,000 years of slavery. The masters told the slaves to stop being political because politicised slaves are very dangerous—they will learn to work together, they will undermine their master, they will bring him down, disrupt him. Politically awakened slaves can be dangerous. Obedient slaves are better, as they keep to themselves, they mind their own business. They are given space, do their little puja, do their yoga and meditation. They can thrive below the glass ceiling as long as they mind their own business and stay below the glass ceiling.

This business of assertive Hinduism is about a Hinduism that is combative against its enemies. Let’s forget the brand name Hindutva, for a moment, since that brings up a particular political party, and use terms like political Hinduism, assertive Hinduism. Assertive and political Hinduism are very much a part of Hinduism. They are necessary, and they have always been there. Just the coinage of the term Hindutva is new and is seen as something owned by a particular political party. I don’t necessarily use the term, Hindutva. I prefer to call it political Hinduism, assertive Hinduism, kshtriyata to show that this is important for Hindu dharma. It always has been.

• There is also a suggestion that the more radical Hindu groups are trying to make Hinduism take on an Abrahamic character. Is this charge correct?

I don’t think that assertive Hinduism should be denounced as having an Abrahamic character. After all, would you say that the kshatriya in our ancient texts is Abrahamic? By saying that you are telling Hindus that you should not be a kshatriya, you must get rid of all kshatriyata. That is a way to keep us as slaves, keep us weak, keep us dependent. I don’t buy that.

Abrahamic metaphysics is incompatible with dharma though it has its own rationale and basis for assertiveness and aggression. But dharma definitely has its rationale and basis for political assertiveness.

The best way to understand the nature of kshatriyata is illustrated in the Mahabharata. These are people fighting for dharma, and that is about using assertiveness. It has nothing to do with Abrahamism.

The difference between Abrahamic and Dharmic is not a difference between assertiveness and passivity. The real difference is explained in my book Being Different. It has to do with the metaphysics of history-centrism versus the metaphysics of embodied knowing. Each of the six chapters gives you a major area of difference between the Abrahamic system and the dharmic system and there is nothing like aggressive versus passive as a difference. We are not supposed to be slaves sucking up to some masters, sitting passively at their feet. The Mahabharata shows how to be very active and assertive, and this is something we need to reignite in our people. Those who say that by reigniting that you are being Abrahamic are actually doing a disservice to our people.

• Hinduism has traditionally been difficult to define. We are Hindu largely by self-definition. Various Hindu denominations are also difficult to categorise as one distinct religion, and some are seeking separate status (like Lingayats in Karnataka). Is it time to agree on putting together come common elements so that this gap is bridged?

In my book Being Different, I give half a dozen major ways in which dharmic systems are aligned with each other through sheer commonality and (this is) very different from non-dharma systems.

Dharmic unity is determined by the common elements we have and these elements are different from the Abrahamic systems. Further, in my book Indra’s Net, I discuss the idea of Hinduism’s open architecture and how it is open enough to accommodate a whole lot of the diversity. At the same time, there are minimum principles of compliance. I give the example of the Internet. The Internet has an open architecture and allows a lot of diversity, but at the same time it will not tolerate people who are subverting it by bringing viruses. They have mechanisms like the anti-virus to keep it clean, keep it from being subverted.

Hinduism needs a balance. The open architecture is very inviting and new forms can come and take root in Hinduism. At the same time it needs an anti-virus against those who are projecting exclusivity and being subversive. By projecting exclusivity they are not giving space to other parts of the open architecture. They are trying to hijack the open architecture and make it closed. This has been important part of my work, to show the unity and diversity of Hinduism in a manner that is responsible, that is dynamic and vibrant and stays competitive. It is not passive.

• You yourself have written that some poison pills need inserting into Hinduism to prevent hijacking of cultural properties. Is this not another way of trying to Abrahamise Hinduism? In any event, is there anything wrong in Abrahamising Hinduism, if that is what is needed today?

Poison pills do not change the character of Hinduism. Inserting poison pills mean taking the quintessential qualities of Hinduism and demanding that the other person must accept them as part of appropriating from our tradition. If someone wants to appropriate yoga, you have to tell them that the Samkhya system of yoga, karma and reincarnation is also necessary. There are constructs required for understanding how yoga works beyond a superficial level. So, when you are saying karma and reincarnation are a poison pill, you are not Abrahamising Hinduism at all but doing just the opposite. The whole purpose of a poison pill is that when the Abrahamic swallows it to get the benefit of yoga, if he swallows the poison pill along with it, he cannot be Abrahamic any more. He will have created a contradiction in his own metabolism.

A poison pill is that which is necessary for Hinduism and which is not digestible into an Abrahamic stomach. When you couple it with what is delicious and tasty in Hinduism like yoga, so when they swallow yoga, they are also swallowing the karma and reincarnation poison pill along with it.

The poison pill will gradually dismantle the metabolism of the Abrahamic system. That is how it works.

• Between predatory jihadi Islam and aggressive evangelism and conversion practices, which is a greater threat to India?

I feel that radical Islam and radical evangelical Christianity are both equally dangerous. One invites the other. One weakens, and the weakened body is then vulnerable to the other. Which is why the two of them in combination are a deadly thing for India, and Indians haven’t realised this. Most Indians, even Hindus, aren’t even clear in their thinking in this matter. If you align with western Christian forces to fight radical Islam, it may look very good in the short term, but note my prediction—such an alliance will very soon lead to a radical Christianisation of India, a radical digestion of Hinduism into Christianity, and make us a second-class, second-tier, below-the-glass-ceiling kind of Christian colony. Hinduism will become a Christian colony and tolerated and allowed to live there. But it will be gradually sucked dry, with each generation being made more Christian.

And some foolish Hindu gurus will love it. They are so confused. They are marketing sameness already, and they will get a lot of marketing opportunities; they will be given more support by the west to expand their ideas because these ideas are softening Hinduism, weakening it. An outright alliance with the West is to be discouraged. India should have a tactical alliance with the Christian West, tactical in the sense that we should know we have our own selfhood to protect. We cannot let our defences down, we can’t let our guard down with these guys, but outwardly we should be friends with them, we want to be in alliance with them against a common enemy, which is radical Islam. This is the solution: join forces with the Christian West to fight radical Islam but, at the same time, don’t succumb to them. Make it very clear as part of our negotiation that they need us as much as we need them, and one of the conditions for us to collaborate with them is that they have to end this aggressive evangelism that they are doing currently. We need that kind of alliance.

I have talked to some of the important leaders on the right-wing side in the US, and I can convince them. It is the Indian government that hasn’t made its move. I am able to convince them that if they were to stop radical, aggressive Christianising in India, we can help them in their fight against radical Islam. They think they need us, but it is for our government to show some leadership with intellectual clarity.

• Many people have pointed out that Hinduism’s historical faultlines—caste, anti-SC/ST feeling—are as much a problem as anti-India forces, since the latter are simply trying to fish in troubled waters. Your comment?

Yes, it is true that our fault lines, whether it is caste, or north-south divide, are being exploited. For us to take control of these, we have to admit we have some fault lines, which the orthodoxy has not done. We need new smritis. The shrutis (the Vedas) are eternal and permanent, but the smritis have to be changed and can evolve. For example, we need a new social science and sociological smriti on families in this modern era, when different members can geographically be thousands of miles away from each other and you can’t have a joint family kitchen or living under one roof. We need smritis on the whole relationship between citizenry and government, on diversity—how the different varnas and communities have to come together, how we have to respect all the languages and the different sub-cultures in different parts of India even as we come together under the broader rubric and fabric of a unified Bharatiya sanskriti. How all this has to happen requires an amazing amount of new smritis. I do not see pro-dharma competent think-tanks that are being funded. I see old, stodgy, fossilised, orthodox, and incompetent old guard of Hinduism being encouraged and funded, given jobs, prominence, awards and promotions.

I do not see evidence of a new kind of thinking within Hinduism being encouraged. In fact, a literal revival of the old is not something that’s going to do us any good. We need a lot of changes, a lot of new thinking, a lot of refurbishment, that is what smritis are for. Smritis, throughout our history, have always been very radical, very dramatic, and we need new 21st century smritis and the government has yet to step up to enable this.

• What do Hindus—and non-Hindus—need to do to tackle breaking India forces? Or is this the job only of Hindus—to seal the internal cracks through some kind of social reforms, which can take decades?

There is a disconnect and mismatch between Hindu leaders who have talent, insight and vision, on the one hand, and other Hindu institutions that have resources, land, ashrams, billions of dollars, and brand value. In other words, if you look at the large Hindu establishments under the hands of the big gurus or politicians, they are not avant-garde, fighting the intellectual battles. They are only looking after their own corporate interests, maximising their own particular venture, and not Hinduism at large. Yet there are individuals, intellectuals who are out there without any support, without all that funding, without all that kind of corporate assets, who in their own personal capacity are trying to fight. Similarly, the government has huge resources. Look at the ministry of culture or HRD. With all their resources they haven’t done one major thing of a strategic kind to help. Having a music performance here and a dance performance there and some sammelan where some guys come and talk of the same old stuff—this is not enough. It hardly has any impact. It is some kind of show-and-tell and personal brand building for a few individuals; but they lack strategic planning, strategic thought. I would say that at the government level and the level of the large ashrams and gurus we do not today have the kind leadership we need. The academics are already sold out, and they are on the wrong side. The Hindus who are in academics tend to be very weak; they are not only politically weak but also intellectually weak. They are not the sharpest people. There are a few good ones, but not in large numbers.

If the leadership of Hinduism is not going to come from the current generation of academics, it has to come from the gurus or the government. I don’t see either of them doing it. The industrialists who are Hindus are privately Hindus, but they are very careful in who they fund and who they support. Ultimately, they are looking out for themselves, and calculating what will this do for their brand, what would be bad for their brand. They don’t want to be too controversial; who knows if the government changes tomorrow. They are also sitting on the fence. This is the problem we face as Hindus—lack of altruism, selfless leadership where people stick their necks out and put all they have got—their tan, man, dhan—on the line … for the sake of dharma. That is what the current need is. – Swarajya,  9 March 2010

» Jagannathan is Editorial Director of Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.

Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines by Rajiv Malhotra & Aravindan Neelakandan