The war against Hindu culture – David Frawley

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Vamadeva Shastri / David FrawleyWestern monoculture breaks up traditional families, social systems, and accounts of history, imposing its view alone as liberal, rational, scientific and humanistic. – Dr David Frawley

Hinduism has the oldest, most profound and many-sided culture in the world. This vast Hindu culture is rooted in the village customs of the common people and extends to the highest spiritual knowledge of exalted seers and yogis. It includes intricate arts and crafts that connect us to nature and the Earth, as well as the most sublime philosophy and yoga that directs us beyond time and space.

Hindu dharma is a pluralistic religion and way of life, with many names and forms for the Divine, numerous gurus and sects, respecting the local traditions of every segment of society.

Hindu culture has never been bound by the restraints of religious dogma. It never had to reject science as heretical to protect irrational religious beliefs. Nor did it have to ban art, music or dance as unspiritual under religious constraints about showing the Divine in human form or expressing the joys of life. There was no theological restriction on Hindu thinkers to bow down before one prophet, saviour or book, which allowed them to expand their awareness to embrace a universal consciousness.

Western commercial culture and the clash of cultures

A new type of war is going on in the world today, a new dangerous form of the old battle for world domination. It is not simply a clash of armies, or even the noted “clash of civilisations” but a “clash of cultures”.

Western culture today is largely monolithic with the same social and political views wherever its influence prevails. This modern monolithic culture first reduced its own heritage, with the decline of older European intellectual and artistic traditions in the 20th century. It is now dominated by American popular culture, which lacks artistic or spiritual depth, but has a tremendous sophistication of media and technology. It is allied with a political vision of democracy and human rights, which unfortunately usually gets subordinated to its commercial agendas.

Now, this Western commercial culture is in ascendancy worldwide. We can see it in the brand stores with Western names, from fast food restaurants to high-end fashion outlets in cities everywhere. It is promoted on a grand scale with money, marketing, politics and the military, when necessary.

Western liberals claim to honour multiculturalism—as if they appreciated a diversity of world views—but wherever Western culture goes it eliminates or expropriates local and native cultures. Western multiculturalism can perhaps be better defined as people of all cultural backgrounds adopting Western culture and losing their own traditions.

Western monoculture breaks up traditional families, social systems, and accounts of history, imposing its view alone as liberal, rational, scientific and humanistic.

Cross & CrescentMonotheism and the reduction of culture

Along with the spread of Western culture is found the promotion of Western monotheistic religions. It was particularly true during the colonial era, but continues in a subdued form today. This may seem strange as Western commercial culture appears to be anti-religious and hedonistic, but Western religions can be helpful in its global spread. Western monotheistic religions are also monolithic and similarly tend to destroy or subordinate native cultures in the lands that they convert, drawing them in the direction of the West.

The result is that the West is happy to export a more regressive form of evangelical and conversion-based Christianity than most people living in the West follow. It defends jihadi Islam while ignoring indigenous groups like the Yazidis being destroyed by it. Meanwhile, Islam is trying to impose its regressive Sharia laws worldwide, which Western liberal culture is slowly tolerating as part of its idea of cultural sensitivity, aided by the allure of petrodollars.

Exclusivist monotheist beliefs can be compared to terminator seeds for pluralistic spiritual cultures like the dharmic traditions of Asia. They come in under the guise of religious freedom but, after they take root, terminate the pluralistic cultures they have entered into and set up their own hegemony instead. Meanwhile, Western commercial culture turns traditional cultures into folk art for casual adornment and entertainment, forgetting their sacred dimensions.

HinduphobiaHindu culture under siege in India

This new cultural war has targeted Hinduism as constituting the largest traditional, spiritual and pluralistic culture remaining in the world. The new attack continues the anti-Hindu agendas of missionary movements and foreign rulers from bygone eras. It is often allied with foreign money and influence, filtered by foreign NGOs.

Hindu culture is under siege in several directions.

The first is by an aggressive media in India that doesn’t understand Hinduism’s cultural beauty or spiritual depth. It promotes a leftist Western culture and a neo-Marxist view of the world and, while raising the call for political freedom, brings in the conformity and materialism of socialist thinking. The media is particularly powerful in the new cultural wars, as it has become the social voice of the high-tech era.

The second line of attack on Hinduism is from an anti-Hindu academia that reinforces the same influences. Though great India gurus like Vivekananda, Aurobindo and Chinmayananda explained the deeper yogic meaning of Hindu traditions decades ago, West-leaning academics ignore their wisdom and instead use Marxist theories, deconstructionism, or Western religion, psychology and mythology to interpret the vast Hindu tradition—and deem it unprogressive.

Those from the Left in India seldom have any culture apart from the Left in the West. They are often funded by Christian and Islamic groups, making them defenders of Western religious causes. There is little Indian about them and almost nothing Hindu. This anti-Hindu cultural trend began with Nehru, inherited from the British, and has become more pronounced over time, particularly in Delhi high society.

With the Left is allied an aggressive judiciary in India that feels it has the legal right to rule over Hindu practices, including to ban whatever it feels inappropriate, however ancient or revered. The same judiciary, however, will tread carefully with the inequalities or violence that occurs in Islam.

This cultural war is targeting Hindu festivals that keep Hinduism alive in the common people, and denigrating Hindu gurus that sustain the Hindu spiritual path of enlightenment and self-realisation. It goes after popular Hindu customs like Dahi Handi, while excusing Islamic separatism and terrorism at a political level. It has created questionable legal cases against many Hindu gurus, while meekly respecting divisive preachers from other religious traditions.

An ongoing conflict for the future

We can expect this cultural war against Hinduism to become more pronounced in the future. Discriminatory practices or violence in Hindu society will be highlighted, if not fabricated, but those in other religions will be excused away. Caste and untouchability will be used to divide Hinduism, ignoring Hinduism’s own social reform movements, and the many innovative programs to help the poor by the new government, which the Left deems as too pro-Hindu to support.

Fortunately, the vastness of Hindu culture can ultimately prevail over the superficial cultural movements in the world today that lack an understanding of higher consciousness. Hindu Yoga, Vedanta and Ayurveda and its ally, Buddhism, are also spreading worldwide at a higher level of ideas, insights and aspirations. Promoting their teachings globally will aid in preserving the traditions of India. But we should not underestimate the dangers. A long-term vision and deep strategy is required—an unwavering determination to deal with an ongoing global clash of cultures. – Swarajya, 10 September 2016

» Pandit Vamadeva Shastri (Dr David Frawley) is recognized as a Vedacharya (Vedic teacher), and includes in his unusual wide scope of studies Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology, as well as the ancient Vedic teachings going back to the oldest Rigveda.

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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

Vedic pluralism – Koenraad Elst

Koenraad ElstOn 16-18 February 2016, the Sanskrit Department of Allahabad University hosted an international conference on the Rg-Vedic verse ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadanti. I was invited to participate in the opening ceremony, before the serious work began. My talk strikes a lighter note but nonetheless makes a few points, one even fully original and appreciated as such by the audience. – Dr Koenraad Elst

Bhadrajanāḥ, mama nāma Kūnrāḍ Elst asti, aham Pascimadvīpād Beljamdeśād āgatosmi.

Unfortunately, that is about all the spoken Sanskrit I can muster. I only learned the Devabhāśā as a literary language, a storehouse of political and philosophical insights and terminology, but not as a daily medium of communication. For anything more sophisticated, I will have to switch to a language in which I can express my thoughts more comfortably. Isliye, mein abhī Angrezī me bol duṁgā. Kṣamā kījiye.

However, I do have the intention of learning spoken Sanskrit properly after my retirement, so that I have mastered it by the time I die. That way, when I go to heaven, I will be able to converse with Varuṇa, Mitra and the other gods shining brightly up there.

Muslim mother with son dressed as Sri Krishna on JanamashtamiPluralism

We are gathered here to ponder on the Rg-Vedic verse Ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadanti, “Reality is one, the sages formulate it in many ways”, or, “Truth is one, the sages give it many names.”

We are here in the city of Allahabad, founded in 1575, by Moghul emperor Akbar, who was posthumously turned into the patron saint of Indian secularism. More recently, it became famous as the home-base of first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the theoretician and propagator of “secularism”. The temptation must be palpable to treat this maxim as the cornerstone of this uniquely Indian ideology. Indeed, whenever it is brought up in the public debate nowadays, it is as an argument of authority for secularism. Yet, it voices a rather different idea: pluralism. Let me explain.

In its European countries of origin, secularism (French: laicité) wanted to be a way to contain the Christian Churches, to make and keep the State free from interference by the Church. In the budding United States, the emphasis was slightly different: to keep the Churches free from interference by the State. At any rate, the core idea was separation of Church and State. The most fundamental characteristic of a secular state is the equality of all its citizens before the law, regardless of religion.

In that sense, India is not a secular state at all. Its Constitution mandates quite a bit of State interference in religious laws and institutions, at least those of the Hindus, and formally as well as effectively discriminates against its religious majority.

It does not satisfy the very first criterion of a secular state, viz. the legal equality of all citizens regardless of religion. On the contrary, in family matters, there are different sets of laws for Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Parsis. The most famous example is of course that a Muslim man can have four wives, others cannot. The discrimination lies not only in the State’s perpetuation of a consequential inequality, but also in the genesis of that inequality through State intervention, viz. by the abolition of polygamy where it existed in Hindu society versus its deliberate non-abolition among Muslims. One can recognize an incompetent India-watcher by his pompous claim that “India is secular state”. It is not, period.

Fortunately, that is not what our verse is about. It is not about secularism, whether genuine or Nehruvian. It is all about pluralism, not plurality and co-existence of different law systems, but legitimate co-existence of different viewpoints.

Thus, a person may be given a passport name at birth. In intimate circles, he also acquires a house-name. Among his friends he may get a nick-name. When he succeeds in life, he is given a title, or be named after an award he earns. If he is a writer, he may be known by a pen name. In China and other civilizations, he may later receive a posthumous name. Moreover, he may be described as someone’s son, someone’s brother, father, boss, employee, neighbour. But all these names refer to the same person. Many names, one reality. And likewise with Ultimate Reality.

Vasudhaiva KutumbakamQuotations out of context

When I get to hear a famous quotation, I would want to know its context: both the phrases surrounding it and its place in life (German: Sitz im Leben). For famous quotations have a way of, let us say, emancipating themselves from the author’s original intention. They may even come to mean the very opposite.

Thus, having come all the way from the West, I am often reminded here of Rudyard Kipling’s verse: “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” It is one of the most famous poems in English but was written in India; Kipling was a native Mumbaikar. However, as it stands here, the verse means just the opposite from what he had in mind, and this becomes clear from the context:

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

So, in simple prose: the eastern point and western point of the compass will never meet, alright, but when two people of calibre encounter each other, the accidents of birth are not of much consequence anymore.

Ahiṁsa paramo dharma, “non-violence is the highest ethics/righteousness”, is another quotation cut in half to suit contemporary purposes. In a Gandhian context, it has come to stand for absolute pacifism. But in the original Mahābhārata, it is only half the picture: the other half is dharma hiṁsa tathaiva ca, “and righteous violence”. So, non-violence in some situations, but righteous violence in others. And that happens to be far more realistic.

Suppose you are walking in a quiet forest lane, and suddenly you are set upon by a gang of rapists. Before the worst can happen, a knight in shining armour appears on the scene, beats up the rapists and puts them to flight. Wouldn’t you be grateful for this bit of “righteous violence”? Wouldn’t you at once trade all the Gandhian pieties for this bit of forceful salvation? To be sure, it is still the lesser evil, we have to keep striving for a system in which violence is completely unnecessary. Yet provisionally, in the real world, violence may still be the lesser evil compared to full adharma, unrighteousness.

Vasudhaiva kutumbakam, “the whole world is one family”, is a very oft-quoted verse, and very much taken out of context. It nowadays functions as the creed of Hinduism, at least for public consumption. Hindus often think it has been taken from the Vedas or from the Bhagavad Gītā, but it comes from a fable collection, the Hitopadeśa. And there, its meaning is not that positive.

When a jackal targets a deer for his meal and cleverly wins its trust, a crow gets alerted by the sinister sight of this sudden interloper. However, the jackal protests that suspicion is misplaced: vasudhaiva kutumbakam! The crow has to bow out, but remains vigilant from a distance. When the jackal finally tries to strike, the deer is saved by the crow’s intervention. Moral of the story: only a knave would assert, and a fool believe, that “the whole world is one family”. Fortunately there are still a few clever skeptics who don’t let down their guard, and who see through this unrealistic maxim. I wonder what it says about modern Hindus that they all run away with this saying and even advertise it as the essence of their worldview.

Instead, I stand by another Sanskrit maxim. It is one that can’t be shaken by any possible context, because it is always a reliable guiding principle: Satyameva jayate, “truth verily triumphs”, “truth shall prevail”. This is from the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, and nothing in the context gives a different or contrary message. It has become India’s national motto, and I feel so strongly about it that I have put it on my business card. When it conflicts with more popular phrases, I will drop those others any time.

And now, let us see what this care about the context would mean for the maxim that we have thematized for this conference.

Gods venerate MahalakshmiPolytheism

The oft-quoted part of our mantra (RV 1:164:46) says that: Ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadanti, and is nowadays read as an affirmation that a single reality underlies seeming plurality But the mantra further says (and then sums up in the quoted part) that they worship this reality as Indra, as Yama, as Mātarīśvan, as Garutman, as Agni and other gods. That is to say: it affirms a form of religion we know as polytheism. According to this verse, it is perfectly alright to picture the divine as a heavenly bird Garutman, or as a fire, Agni, or as any of many other forms.

This bears emphasizing, as during the last two centuries there have been many Hindu “reformers” and “modernists” who contrived to define Hinduism as “monotheistic too”. That is to say, monotheistic like the Christian or Islamic role model. In evaluating a doctrine, most people are guided not by its truth but by its effectiveness as a social passport, as a gateway to status. So, when monotheism became prestigious, many Hindus started saying: Hinduism too is monotheistic. Indeed, this very verse is often given as proof of the Vedas’ “monotheism”. See, the seeming manifoldness of the Vedic gods hides an underlying “one god”, so we are as good as them!

It seems that Hindus—at least the unrooted ones who try to live up to borrowed ideals—are eagerly appropriating words which they do not properly understand, such as “monotheism”; and which they would not consider so desirable it they did understand them. In Bible and Quran, it is said that there is only one god and others are false. Is that what you would want to venerate as the Vedic doctrine? In this verse, however, there is no such thing as a “false god”, on the contrary. In Bible and Quran, there is said to be only one god and no others, but here it is said that he is the same as the others, and that they are all legitimate. After all, the sages use many names, right?

Underlying this polytheism, there is a oneness, a common essence, “one reality” indeed. And yet, the more conformist Hindus who try to live up to the norm set by Christianity or Islam, are wrong to deduce that “Hinduism is also monotheist”. They are “me too” monotheists; at least, if they are monotheists. Like the Ārya Samāj, who translate every one of the Vedic god-names as “God” and thus declare themselves monotheists. Hopefully they simply haven’t realized that monotheism would mean you do not allow pluralism. That is what it has always meant for Christians and Muslims: smash the statues and temples and rituals reminding the people of Jupiter, of Apollo, of Horus, of Ishtar and Marduk. Is that Hinduism? Is that—and I will now use it positively—secularism?

The Vedas would say: “They call it Jupiter, they call it Apollo, they call it Horus, they call it Ishtar, they call it Marduk: the sages call the One Reality by many names.”

Really becoming monotheists would mean for Hindus, rewriting the (say) Hanumān Cālīsā, and inserting into it an injunction: “Hanumān wants you to go and destroy the temples of Śiva! And destroy the statues of Sarasvatī too, and the sculptures of the rest of them. Hanumān alone!” For a monotheist is not someone who worships one god—sticklers for precision in the science of religion would call that a henotheist. A Hindu who worships a chosen deity is not a monotheist but a henotheist. (And usually a serial henotheist at that, sometimes worshipping other gods as well.) A monotheist worships one god to the exclusion of all others: they are deemed false and/or evil.

The Greek word monos does not mean “one”, it means “one alone”. It is not inclusive but exclusive. It is the very opposite of what our Vedic verse expresses. That mantra is not directed against anything, but if at all you want to bring monotheism into the picture, then it is against monotheism.

Vedic RishiDīrghatamas

The verse we are considering, was written by one of the earliest Vedic seers, the rishi Dīrghatamas, in the last one of his 25 hymns, the “Riddle Hymn” (RV 1:164), his name means “long darkness” and this is sometimes explained as referring to blindness. However, he is also known for his astronomical insights (including the first-ever division of the heavenly circles in 360°, on top of that in 12), and it is hard to do astronomy when you’re blind. Rather, “blindness” seems to have been an accepted circumlocution referring to a certain attitude of deep concentration and piercing research. The Greek poet Homer was likewise described as “blind”.

Two very basic ideas pervading Hindu thought first find expression in Dīrghatamas: renunciation and monism. To be sure, these may even be older, it is by no means certain that he invented either of them. But he has the distinction of being the first one to articulate them.

Renunciation is the guiding idea of the verse (RV 1:164:20) where he contrasts two birds in a tree: one eats the berries, the other merely looks on. One man enjoys life, the other merely contemplates. This is the foundation of the entire science of meditation, India’s greatest gift to the world. Numerous later thinkers developed it further and founded their own schools of meditation, but its essence is already encapsulated in this verse.

Monism is what finds expression in the verse under consideration: Ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadanti. It characterizes what underlies the multiplicity of viewpoints and ways of understanding as a single reality. It is unity in diversity. It is the integration of the many into the one. The belief that a visible plurality masks a deeper oneness was part of the Vedic outlook since the very beginning.

A third idea that may also stem from the Riddle Hymn, and that has strongly marked Hindu tradition throughout, is Dīrghatamas’ notion of the “syllable”, apparently the Oṁ sound. Given the context, with mother cows expressing their tenderness (vatsalya) for their young by lowing at them, and the young lowing back, it looks like the unspoken syllable is another vocalization of moo. But I am confident that this august company of Sanskrit scholars has a loftier explanation. Then again, the Vedic sages must have had a lot more humour than their bookish descendants.

In the West, it is said that the whole tradition of philosophical thought is but a series of footnotes on the Greek philosopher Plato (whom you might know from Urdu sources as Aflatūn). Here, you could say that all Indian thought is but a series of footnotes on Dīrghatamas.

Muhammad & FamilyIslam

Now we come to the point where I should start saying the very thing you have gotten me here for. I came thousands of miles to brook the subject that all Hindus seem to be afraid of. Well, not all Hindus, but at least those who are into inter-religious dialogue. That subject is Islam.

Tomorrow, this conference, this hall, this very table, will feature an inter-religious forum. There will be a Buddhist and some other Dharmics, as if they are the ones with whom problems of coexistence have to be resolved. There will be a representative of Christianity, already a bit touchier. But the real elephant in the room is of course Islam. When it is emphasized before a Hindu audience that ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadanti, it means effectively: don’t you Hindus dare to harbour suspicions against Islam! Hindus have to suspend their opinions of Islam, but no one dares formulate just what opinions Muslims should suspend regarding Hinduism.

Frankly, I wonder just what they sermonize on these occasions against Muslims to make them more appreciative of Hinduism. Hindus always justify their acts of “Muslim appeasement” by saying: “But we have to live with them!” It seems they never think about its logical counterpart: teach them to live with us. And I wonder what verse from the Quran they intone to propagate an inter-religious understanding among Muslims.

I will not embarrass anyone by asking the question whether such is also the intention behind this conference, and of course I remain perfectly willing to get convinced otherwise. But until then, I believe the Hindu psychology of Muslim appeasement is so strong that even the present organizers have not been able to escape it. Indeed, a Hindu present here in the audience asked me this very morning not to go into the Ayodhya controversy, about which I have published, as there would also be one Muslim present. (I certainly am going to mention Ayodhya, but not the controversy.)

One Muslim among hundreds of Hindus, and already Hindus want to conceal their opinions. Already all those Hindus are ready to bend over backwards to please that one Muslim, without even asking him! This must be an underground society, used to living in hiding. And yet, what for? Are they “Islamophobic”, meaning “afraid” of Islam?

Well, I am not. I don’t think Muslims are a bunch of humourless touch-me-nots who freak out as soon as you mention the rougher edges of pluralism. I will not alter my speech just because one Muslim is present, or many Muslims, or only Muslims. They are our own countrymen, they are fellow human beings born with the same capacities and propensities. A certain conditioning by a certain religious doctrine has formed a surface layer, but deep down they are the same. So, address Muslims not at the level of their indoctrination, but at the deeper level of their general humanity.

I am here to join in this effort and make everybody feel that we are in the same boat together. Since we have already done so much to satisfy Hindu tastes—lighting lamps, garlands, coconuts, a Sarasvatī statue—let us now say certain things that Muslims would feel good about.

People who know my critical work on Moḥammed (Arabic: “The praised one”) would not lend me any credibility if I started praising him. Yet, there is one merit of his that I greatly recommend. As you might know, he was an orphan, brought up by relatives. While they looked after him with one hand, they deprived him of his parental inheritance with the other. And so, Mohammed remained very sensitive to this problem and always emphasized that you should not deprive children of their inheritance. Well, in this respect at least, we should all be followers of Mohammed: don’t lose your rightful inheritance. Don’t let them make you embrace any artificial imposition instead of what is naturally yours. Stay true to your legacy, to your roots.

Otherwise, I may have my second thoughts about Mohammed, but for now, let us focus on Allah. Indeed, I am all for Allah. If there is one thing great about Islam, it is Allah. Nay, he is not merely “great”, he is “greater”.

El / Yahweh Allāh, the Ilāh

Let us analyze the word Allāh, as students of the Devabhāśā would. You may know that deva, “god”, literally means “bright one”. Now, the bright ones living in heaven are of course the stars. And indeed, in Sumerian hieroglyphics, five thousand years ago, the concept of “god” was rendered as a radiant star. This sign was pronounced dingir in Sumerian, and el in Akkadian Semitic. It is the same El that we find, through Hebrew, in Gabriel (“My strength is God”), Uriel (“My light is God”), or Michael (“Who is like God?”).

Now, this El is rendered into a generic substantive (cfr. god > godhead, deus > deity, deva > devatā): Hebrew eloha, Arabic ilāh. In Arabic, then, this generic noun is coupled with the article al to become al-ilāha, “the deity”, “the god par excellence”. This expression is contracted to become a name again: Allāh, “The God”, “God”.

As you all know, Allah is great. And even greater: Allāh akbar, “Allah is greater”. The phrase has gained a bit of a bad name, but in fact it is quite profound. Muslims often use it as a reminder that their plans and designs may ever be so clever, but it is god who has the last word. In those instances, it is a sign of humility. No matter how important a given concern may be, it is always dwarfed by the divine.

The name Allāh acquired the monotheistic meaning of “only god” with the Islamization of Arabia in the 620s. Before that, it had a generic meaning. Thus, it is described how someone kneels down before a statue of the moon-god Hubal and then “prays to allāh”, i.e. “prays to the deity before him”, viz. Hubal. So, the word allāh belongs in the polytheist landscape.

This moon-god Hubal presided over the Ka’ba, the shrine built around a meteor stone fallen from heaven. In a unsculpted stone, Hindus will readily recognize the Śiva liṅgam, the symbol of the moon-carrying god (Candradhāra), the Lord of the Moon (Somanātha), Śiva. Hubal’s or Śiva’s crescent has become the main symbol of Allāh. And like Śiva, “the deity” Hubal comes with a triad of goddesses: in India they are Pārvatī, Durgā and Kālī, in Arabia al-Lāt (al-Ilāhat, “thé goddess”, the sun), al-‘Uzza (“the strong one”, the planet Venus) and al-Manāt (“fate, doom”, the night). Remark how in Arabic, like in German, the word “sun” is conceived as female, the word “moon” as male, which facilitates the personification of the moon as the god Hubal, and of the sun as the goddess al-Lāt.

I don’t know if Hindus and Muslims are all that different, but Indians and Arabs clearly are not. Their religious imaginations have generated very parallel families of gods.

Among Hindus with an excitable fantasy, this has led to the belief that “the Ka’ba used to be a Śiva temple”. This is exaggerated, but through the theme of the moon-god, Śiva does have a link with the Ka’ba. Indian traders visiting Arabia used to worship there, and Arabs used to worship at the Somnāth temple on the Gujarat coast. Later, Mahmud Ghaznavī believed that the Arab goddesses, chased out of Arabia by the Prophet, had found refuge there.

So, it is not at all far-fetched to sing: Īśvar Allāh tere nām, “Īśvara (=Śiva) and Allāh are equally your names”. The Gandhians and Nehruvians have churned out a lot of nonsense, such as the absurdity that “all religions are equally true”; but they are right to repeat this song line. Nor is it weird to go on pilgrimage to the Ka’ba in Makkah, just as Hindu pilgrims go to Ayodhyā, to Sabarimala, to mount Kailāś, or indeed, at the time of the Kumbha Melā, to Ilāhābād. The Hajj pilgrimage existed since long before Islam, which has only borrowed it, and it deserves to be perpetuated. (This should not be done through a “Hajj subsidy” though, not at tax-payer’s expense, for that defeats the whole purpose of a pilgrimage, intended as a form of sacrifice.)

In the West, some anti-Muslim crusaders are saying that we should bomb the Ka’ba. On the contrary, we should ensure that it remains unharmed and honoured as a sacred site. Indeed, like Gurū Nānak before us, we should go there ourselves. An armed expedition will do no more good than the Western military interventions in Iraq and Libya, which have turned out totally disastrous and counterproductive. What the Muslim world needs is not even more polarization and war. What it needs is a thaw. In a situation of peace and prosperity, the minds can evolve. People can then expand their perspectives and learn about the spirituality that their neighbours have to offer. For starters, they can practise the meditation techniques that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is now offering all over the Middle East. So, as an unapologetic Islam critic, I am nonetheless emphatically wishing the Muslims salām, “peace”.

AkbarThe Dīn-i-Ilāhī

Emperor Akbar, already at age thirteen a ghazī (“raider against the infidels”) reputed to have killed the Hindu emperor Hemu Chandra with his own hands, gradually grew away from Islam. He started his own private and non-dogmatic religion: the Dīn-i-Ilāhī, the “religion of the deities” or the “divine religion”. A Sanskrit translation could be Daivika Dharma. And who could be against that? Not Mitra, the lord of the day-sky, nor Varuṇa, lord of the night-sky. Nor Uśā, lady of the dawn, for that matter. All the 33 Vedic gods smiled when crude monotheism had to make way for this Daivika Dharma, this Dīn-i-Ilāhī.

This step was not without risks, however, since court cleric Aḥmad Sirhindī denounced it as “blasphemy”. After Akbar’s death, it would wither away under the reassertion of orthodoxy. Yet, it was based on a commendable and correct observation: that no religious doctrine can claim a monopoly of the truth. This observation was very close to our maxim Ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadanti.

In the spirit of this new religion, he called the city he founded Ilāhābād, “city of the deity”, “divine city”. It lay on one of the most sacred places of Hinduism, the saṅgam (confluence) of Gaṅgā and Yamunā. The British interpreted the name wrongly as Allāhābād , with the Arabic article al-. But another explanation is possible, and we will invent it herewith.

Ila DeviThe foremother Ilā

“On the saṅgam is a city / where the girls are so pretty /…”

At least five thousand years before Akbar, this area was the habitat of Ilā, the daughter and eldest child of Manu. He in turn was the founding patriarch of mankind, or at least of a part of it. His daughter, in spite of her primogeniture, had to leave the succession to the throne to her younger brother Ikṣvāku, who stayed in the paternal capital Ayodhyā and founded the Solar Dynasty. Being myself an eldest son but second child, I know how it must have felt: Ikṣvāku always looked up to his elder sister and felt a bit indebted to her.

On her part, Ilā moved out to Pratiṣṭhānapura, next to the virgin land where Akbar was to build his divine city. This is where her son Purūravas founded the Lunar Dynasty.

One descendant of theirs, Nahuśa, moved westwards to the Sarasvatī valley, where one of his own descendants was Yayāti, after whose five sons the “five tribes” were named. Pūru headed the central Paurava tribe. One of his progeny was Bharata, after whom India is still called Bhāratavarṣa. In his clan grew a tradition of composing hymns, and these were collected in the Vedas. Later sources describe Dīrghatamas as his court priest. The Vedic seers rightly glorified their ancestress Ilā, who became a goddess and member of a typical goddess triad: Ilā, Bhāratī and Sarasvatī.

So many cities have already been renamed, and I will presently propose to rename Ilāhābād as well, viz. as, well, Ilāhābād. It can retain its name, that saves us all the renaming on road maps, street signs and letterheads. Only, it would get a new interpretation: “city of Ilā”. So, after her, this city’s name should be re-analyzed as Ilā-h-ābād, “city of Ilā”. Normal rules of phonetic harmony would contract this into Ilābād, but that could also refer to an ābād founded by a man named Ila (short -a). So to make sure that we know a lady is being eternalized in this divine city, we intersperse an h sound, like a sigh of joy, and make it into Ilāhābād.

Hospitable people of Ilāhābād, and especially you, ladies of Ilāhābād, I salute you as carriers of the heritage of the Vedic grandmother Ilā. Without her, no Dīrghatamas would have been there to compose the verse: Ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadanti. As the Prophet has enjoined: don’t let your rightful inheritance be snatched away from you. Revive Ilā’s memory and continue the work she began: the Vedic civilization, no less. – Koenraad Elst Blog, 19 February 2016

Hinduism is the hope of the world – Jay Jina

Surya DevaPeople of India

Jay Jina“The monotheisms are not going to volunteer to give way for a level playing field. So, apart from Hindus reclaiming their identity and working by example to practically show that there are alternatives for people to tread their own paths to truth and peaceful coexistence, the self-professed liberals, particularly outside India will have to get off the pot and put some skin in the game. … A good start would be for the economic development of India to continue unimpeded. Yes, those inimical to progress will do all in their power to prevent this, but those who claim to be real liberals and progressives have to open their eyes and realise that economic progress and prosperity are the most effective road to peace and a potent antidote to fundamentalism.” – Jay Jina

Obama also has a Christian agenda for South AsiaIntolerance has been in the news these past several months, from a pontificating president who bowed to religious despots in their backyard the very day after lecturing the democratic unwashed untermensche of India about how to treat minorities,[1] the sustained tirade of the scandalous “award wapsi” brigade over the Bihar polls, and more recently by the framed up interrogation of a BJP spokesman by a reactionary Islamist with a record of misogyny, homophobia, and outright discrimination, using his position in the media to impose his preconceived notions, which, at their core, profess that some people are less human than others because of their religion.[2]

To see how all of these, together with endless one-eyed editorials and op-ed pieces in the western bastions of liberalism at the BBC, Guardian, and the NYT, not to mention the long going saga over “caste legislation”[3] fuelled by the increasingly insignificant Church of England in collusion with their rather unexpected friends at the Secular Society in the UK, it would appear to Spielberg’s E.T., fresh off his spaceship, that some new and poisonous evil had surfaced on a previously peaceful planet. And that this evil incarnate was distinctly polytheistic, pagan Hindu. Vamsee Juluri neatly sums up this seemingly viral effect that Hindus and India seem to have had in 2015 in “Year of Living Intolerably”.[4]

Let’s momentarily ignore the loss of millions of lives as a result of violent regime change and displacement of despotic though previously stable rule in Iraq and Libya which had held together disparate groups of people at relative peace with each other within established national borders.

Let’s also dismiss the plight of the Yazidis, Kurds, and assorted minorities who suffer rape, beheadings and worse under the cosh of fundamentalists in the Middle East, or the atrocities in Paris, about which some intellectually challenged liberals navel gazed on BBC Newsnight, a flagship current affairs program, and surmised the attacks as drug wars between gangs or being caused by the racist nature of the French capital.[5]

Sigmund FreudLet’s Pretend

Let’s instead pretend that the various social problems of the planet faces can be cured by a mode of multiculturalism that trumps hard-fought liberties and civic mores which have taken centuries to evolve and in their stead, run with a “free for all” where some of those who at one time may have campaigned for workers rights, stood for gender equality, and advocated an end to LGBT and racial discrimination, there now seems to be a situation where some now openly support homophobic, misogynist segregationists, all in the interests of what they call diversity and inclusion.

In effect, there is the endorsement of a form of multiculturalism which, in seeking to protect certain cultures, privileges only some versions of it: usually from the most vocal and regressive elements, and which hinders adjustment to the changing environment with the resultant outcome being the opposite of that which was desired in the first instance.[6]

Instead of expanding the shared space between cultures, the result is the promulgation of the worst aspects of difference between peoples living within isolated cultural silos with ever sharper fissures between the “me” and “mine” on the one hand, and the alien “other” on the other.

Amidst all this, Jonathan Kirsch’s book, God against the Gods,[7] is an apposite account of the threats that monotheisms in all their religio-politico-ideological forms, still continue to pose to human evolution towards a safer, fairer, more just global society.

Kirsch cogently argues that far from being the upholder of ethics and morality which it considers its USP and sole preserve, Monotheism in its various hues has always found it difficult to put into practice the kind, gentle words encapsulating “respect for the stranger” and “love thy neighbour”. In fact, he starts the book with an epigraph from Sigmund Freud who said “Religious intolerance was inevitably born with the belief in one god”.

Kirsch traces the advent of monotheism from Pharaoh Akhenaton to the various prophets and kings of Judaism and their millennium long struggle for supremacy over the more refined and diverse pagan Greco-Roman classical culture of the Mediterranean and near east.

In a show of monotheist totalitarianism and in order to destroy the power of the priests, Pharaoh Akhenaton (reign 1353–1336 BCE) decreed the elimination of worship of all gods in favour of only one, Aten, and with the Pharaoh himself as the sole interceder on earth. This proved unsuccessful as the people returned to their old polytheistic ways soon after Akhenaton’s death.

Yahweh / JehovahThe Only True God

The challenge was next taken up by the Jews, the challenges of whose prophets and kings over several centuries to impose monotheism and the primacy of the Only True God (OTG) on the chosen people is well documented in the Old Testament. This clash is played out between OTG and Polytheism within the civilizational milieu of a rich Greco-Roman tapestry and also as an intra-Judaic struggle between the rigorists and the assimilationists.

After centuries of struggle, with various forays into zealotic orthodoxy led by personages like Moses, Joshua, and Ezekiel which included strict punitive sanctions including death for those of the flock who disobeyed the laws of the OTG, all the way to the Masada partisans, infamous for their martyrdom to the last man, woman and child, the rigorists were defeated by the military might of the Roman legions in Judea thus forcing the Jewish people to reach an accommodation with the greatest empire in the known world of the time.

Thereafter, an assimilated Judaism flourished in the farthest reaches of the pagan realm of Imperial Rome, not unlike the way in which Judaism has assimilated into all corners of the modern world.

All was well until an upstart off-shoot cult of Judaism rose on the scene in the early centuries of the common era, and a long, bloody clash ensued between this cult and the reigning pagan power of Pax Romana—a breach of the peace that had hitherto existed between the myriad peoples of the Roman Empire.

This new cult, which, after an internecine war over self-identity, defeated the Judaists within its ranks and shed its connections to Judaism by rejecting circumcision and Jewish dietary laws (both of which made it easier to win adherents, being less painful and tastier on the palate), came to be known as the “soldiers of Christ” and Christians.

In their zeal to be “different”, these early Christians displayed what looks similar to various minority, victimhood tendencies on show prevalent even to this day. They explicitly refused to respect the polytheist norm “that all modes of worship are to be respected” and challenged the role of paganism with its diverse deities as a unifying characteristic upon which citizenship and Pax Romana were founded.

Visible means by which they did this was to display outright hostility towards the religious and civic emblems of Rome, even attacking and destroying pagan shrines; refusing to participate in the Pax Deorum—Peace of the Gods, praying for the prosperity of the Empire, lest such behaviour pinch the sensibilities of their cuckolded, jealous OTG.

In this regard these early Christians considered civic duty an act of apostasy and were little different from the rigorists and zealots of the Old Testament—just like Joshua hundreds of years before, this new breed of worshippers of OTG would not countenance any form of compromise and instead became “holy warriors” to preserve the purity and exclusivity of their new faith.

How different are they from those today who would not pay respects to an anthem or flag or who consider that emblems and insignia of their ancient or even new homelands should be modified to suit the sensitivities of one or other of the hues of OTG?

What distinction can one possibly draw between these shrine destroyers and the barbaric acts of Ghazni at Somnath, Ghor across the Indian plains, or the Bahmani sultans’ blood lust at Vijayanagar? Anyone see the close parallels with the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas or Palmyra?

Constantine the Great: : He is the father of Christian Europe and one of history's most murderous men.Christian Propaganda Value

The early Christians learnt and exploited the impact of terror on a civic populace as also the propaganda value of victimhood and martyrdom to the fullest, much of which still continues to be recycled under totalitarian monotheisms of various hues even today be they religious or political in nature.

The response of the generally tolerant pagan establishment of the Empire to this was to persecute what was a visible minority. The punishments included various forms of torture, being fed to wild animals as well as crucifixions.

In a circular way, the Christian zeal was a necessary prerequisite for Christian martyrdom and the martyrs fuelled the next waves of zeal and martyrdom, though Edward Gibbon, for example, characterised the worst atrocities as “extravagant and indecent fictions” invented to inspire the faithful.[8]

As Kirsch himself notes, it is a truism that (even imagined) oppression is an ideal breeding ground for “true belief” to flourish whereas the seductive influences of peace, freedom and prosperity are far more dangerous to the survival of fundamentalism.[9]

This went on till the early part of 4th century CE, during which time, the Christian cult came close to being totally eliminated. However, by a fate of coincidence, a Roman pagan general who history knows as Constantine the Great entered the scene, and by a convoluted sequence of events more to do with prevailing realpolitik than with articles of faith, rose to the become Emperor and ended the persecution of the Christian cult and so began their rise in status and influence in the Empire.

Julian the ApostateChristianity Destroys Classical Civilizations

During this period, further internecine feuds ensued within the monotheistic Christian fold over which the emperor sought to broker peace among the believers at the famous Council of Nicaea but fundamental doctrinal controversies (which pagans would have found rather inane) still festered for decades after Constantine’s death and are still some of the reasons for schisms between various Christian sects.

This swing towards what became an exclusivist monotheist creed and the official religion of the Roman Empire culminated in Theodosius (347-395 CE), effectively becoming the head of the world’s first totalitarian empire underpinned by the dogmas of orthodox Christianity and the criminalization of paganism as well as all other forms of religious practice and belief.

However, this was not before Julian, “the Apostate” (331-363 CE), nephew of Constantine and the last Pagan emperor of the Roman Empire nearly won the day for polytheism and diversity.

Though brought up as a Christian, he had the good fortune to learn about the diverse, classical, ancient, syncretism-filled cultural heritage of the centuries old Roman Empire, and grew up to prove himself an excellent military commander, where, despite being outnumbered, he achieved crushing victories in Gaul over the Alamanni in 357 CE at the Battle of Argentoratum. In 360 CE Julian was declared Augustus by his troops at Lutetia, Gaul (modern-day Paris).

Constantine’s inspirations from the symbol of the cross of his adopted religion led him to brutality towards pagans and rivals alike; by contrast, Julian’s exposure to the diversity and “mix-n-match” of polytheism marked a peaceful ascent to Emperor, from where, in his brief tenure, he once again reaffirmed the ancient beliefs of the Empire, restored religious freedoms and challenged the monopoly of Christianity in the civic space of the Empire. Unfortunately, Julian lost his life in battle in 363 CE in an ambitious campaign against the Sassanid Empire of Persia.

The Roman Empire went through much turbulence led by several weak and vain leaders, on the inexorable road to terminal decline. Fuelled by an explosive cocktail of Church, State and Mob acting as instruments of terror, Rome disintegrated ending the glory of Classical Civilization and the Roman Empire and the advent of a thousand years of cultural darkness across Europe.

Just two examples serve to illustrate the destructive effect of monotheistic zeal: the murder of the philosopher Hypatia and the destruction of the library at Alexandria. It is ironic that the same zeal for OTG led to the murders of scores of unnamed philosophers and the razing to dust of the Academy at Nalanda in Bihar.

And yet, the cabal of “eminent” historians, without the guts of an Edward Gibbon, have been peddling lies in the name of their own monotheism of sham Nehruvian secularism?

Julian and polytheism lost: Constantine and monotheism won. What a cruel mirror these two Romans hold only to reflect India’s Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb? What might India have become and how might monotheisms have reached an accommodation with pagans and polytheists, had Dara Shikoh prevailed?[10] What trouble and strife of the past 300 years might have been avoided by humanity? If only.

History of IndiaEminent Historians

Have any of their “eminences” polluting the corridors of History faculties an iota of grey matter to ponder on these questions and build an objective, positive narrative that could unleash the potential of a truly syncretic India as opposed to the “chicken tikka” version[11] where the underlying culture is disparaged while despotic, murdering monotheists like Aurangzeb are feted?

Where the collective pagan, pantheistic, polytheistic, atheistic but above all, Dharmic fabric that constitutes the major core of Indian society can fully contribute in “defining India”? Where, the negative narratives of Caste, Cow and Idolatry which the colonist western, racist, proselytizing monotheists have imposed on the Indian narrative whilst at the same time appropriating Indic ideas like Ayurveda, Yoga, and Meditation practices as if they were their own, are repaired with contrition and respect?

The polytheistic pagans of Rome readily adopted the OTG as part of their pantheon and accepted the worshippers of OTG as equals. How similar is this to modern-day Indians—Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs—who crowd the narrow streets to pay homage and offer prayers at the Sufi shrines around India?

How is it possible that no one bats an eyelid, that Ajmer’s Adhai Din Ka Jonpda at the site of the shrine to Moinuddin Chisti, looks so like a temple that it must have been one, but that it’s acceptable for people of all faiths to gather and offer prayers in their own way? How else can one explain that Sufi music—ostensibly founded on Indic raga and meter and not something imported into India by the monotheistic invaders—still holds an emotional connection with the soil and people of India?

In contrast, the custodians of the OTG at the Vatican, after centuries of destruction and pillaging, today, in a show of blood curdling triumph, brazenly prostitute the sacred statuary and holy objects of the vanquished infidels within its unholy walls (one has to pay to enter).

Nobel Peace Prize potential candidates Pope Francis and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon talk during a meeting at the United Nations in New YorkWill the Pope Assure the Safety of Non-Christians?

By a rather ironic twist, in its naked show of victory over the polytheists, the Vatican “celebrates” the classical pagan culture which it was instrumental in destroying. Among the relics—nowadays granted pride of place in the holiest bastion of this OTG, stand beautiful works of art and antiquity—row upon row of any number of Greek, Roman and Egyptian deities.

The most telling is the disgustingly triumphal display of Cybele, the Great Mother of the Gods whose earliest worship was in Phrygia and Lydia, which had spread to Greece by the 5th century BCE and later to Rome where she also came to be known as Artemis and Diana. It’s as if the papal hierarchy is mocking the infidels with its superiority in a morbid gallery of false gods and abominations.

Would the Pope or his church, assure all Pagan peoples of the world that their sacred artefacts are safe in their own shrines, that they will never sanction their destruction or relocation as “works of antiquity and primitive art” in the house of loot and plunder in Rome?

Let’s make it simple: When will the Vatican stop obfuscating and sign the UN Convention on Human Rights?[12] Or is one to take it that some members of the human race are lesser human than others, and that, in fact, yet some others are non-persons, without any rights, fit for purging of their abominations and idolatry?

Would the Church of England admit to and end the prejudices that their church holds within its own doctrines and assure Hindus that, as a religious body, it fully respects the right to religion for all peoples and stop the assault on Dharma under the guise of “caste”?

Indeed, would the leader of any church or any other group of monotheist followers of OTG anywhere, assure not just the last pagans and humanists of the world but also adherents of competing versions of OTG, that their cultures, traditions, way of worship, sacred places, spaces, art, and imagery are safe? That they are part of the common human legacy that should be respected and given the space to live and the air to breathe? Is there a world politician with the courage to give their citizens this promise?

As a reviewer of Kirsch’s book on Beliefnet notes,[13] Kirsch himself acknowledges “that traditional monotheists generally dismiss his writing out of hand as uninformed and anti-faith. Yet he insists that he is a ‘Jewish monotheist.’”

Kirsch further fully acknowledges “that polytheists—including pre-Christian Romans—can be as brutish as fervent monotheists (his preferred term for fanatical fundamentalists). The only difference between violent polytheists and violent monotheists is that the former kill to gain political control and the latter Jonathan Kirschkill to assert theological dominance. However, the difference is subtle but important: Polytheists sought control over the public sphere alone; monotheists sought control over private thoughts as well.”

What the Monotheists Think about Pagans

Kirsch may well be right about the rationale of traditional monotheists dismissing his arguments. The question though arises: isn’t this something that secularists also have persistently chosen to do? It is instructive to compare the world views of monotheists and pagans/polytheist vis-a-vis each other (much of it derived from Kirsch’s book):

What monotheists thought/think of and how they react to pagans and polytheists:

  • Believe in the superiority of OTG; all others are false gods or disparagingly still “false idols”, a parade of the horrible, those who worship any other than the OTG are at best “lost” and need to guided on the one right path, and at worst, are an abomination, dark, demonic idolaters, morally deficient guilty of harlotry, sorcery, black magic;
  • Regard pagans and polytheists with fear, loathing and contempt: peaceful coexistence is a one way street—if you are not one of us….
  • It is not sufficient to have belief in OTG, but there are rules on the accepted mode of worship which are to be followed;
  • OTG demands absolute obedience: he is jealous, wrathful and vengeful, he doesn’t abide competition; when bad things happen (especially to the non-believers, it is divine retribution);
  • Clear delineation between who is “one of us” and who is “the other.”

What pagans and polytheists (the religions of the high culture of classical Greco-Roman civilization and of Hinduism) thought/think of and how they react to monotheists:

  • Religious plurality, a spongy mass of tolerance and tradition;
  • Not only tolerance, but acceptance of multiple deities and respect for multiple paths to the truth;
  • Acknowledging the “Unknown Gods” as evidenced in abundant archaeological finds of shrines from the Roman Empire and also in Hinduism, for example the Narasimha pillar at Chennakesava Temple, Halebid;
  • With or without assistance of priests/priestesses and no interceding prophets;
  • Co-existence of gods and goddesses in one place, no concept of divine retribution for non-pagans;
  • Accepting of the OTG and their worshippers as equals, not sense of the “other”;
  • Seeing the world as holistic including all life forms—pray for the health, happiness, safety, security, justice, mercy, and a decent life for all.

Throughout its history, the Roman Empire had attracted all faiths from all corners of the known world—the Greco-Roman deities co-existed with the worship of the gods and goddesses of Egypt, Persia, Sumeria, Phrygia and Lydia. They even accommodated the “strangest of all”, the monotheist Jews and later, the sect of Judaism that morphed into orthodox Christianity.

It is perfectly evident that the war between monotheism (or should it more correctly be monotheisms?) and polytheism is still raging.

Even if India, the last bastion of polytheism and paganism, as Krishen Kak explains in his piece,[14] was to be converted, the war will still rage between the competing and conflicting claims of the multiple factions claiming to speak for OTG.

Therefore, if the pagan Roman Empire could accommodate the followers of two groups of OTG, why is it not possible that the contemporary world can also accommodate the ways of life and multiplicities of belief including OTG, polytheist, and none? One can’t simply “un-invent” god, so let’s be practical. After all, is this not what the pseudo-liberals claim to crave?

But for this to be possible, it is logical to conclude that accommodation can only be reached by an admission of contrition and developing mutual respect that extends not only among followers of the various shades of OTG, but transcends to include those who may be pagan, Hindu, atheist, non-theist, pantheist, Buddhist, or whatever.

Mother IndiaIndian Culture is Hindu Culture

The doomsayers who have been parroting about India’s intolerance need to wake up and realise that India has lived with and survived assaults from multiple monotheisms and yet retains much of its “pagan” culture. Let’s call it what it is: Hindu culture, accepting of diversity and easy on the senses which, sets India apart from its neighbours. These neighbours, who in the space of three generations have literally cleansed their domains of the abomination, the heathen and the idolater, and yet failed to find a sense of identity with which they can be at ease.

It is definitely not the “chicken tikka” statist diktat version of Nehruvian secularism which sets India apart and offers hope for humankind—for far from showing how to deal with the ongoing war of God against the Gods, this hollow version of how society ought to function has aggressively sought to deny the ambient pagan culture an iota of legitimacy in the civic space whilst granting special privileges to monotheisms.[15]

The monotheisms are not going to volunteer to give way for a level playing field. So, apart from Hindus reclaiming their identity and working by example to practically show that there are alternatives for people to tread their own paths to truth and peaceful coexistence,[16] the self-professed liberals, particularly outside India will have to get off the pot and put some skin in the game.

To adapt what Rod Liddle mockingly referred to as “these silly mares” of liberalism and turn it into a positive, they will need to snap out from “… navigate(ing) their way through life on such slender mental resources, …” refrain from being so “… stupid because they do not see the world as it really is, but only as they would wish it to be,” and get a “handle on reality,” coming out their slumberous “… state of denial.”

Some of these “mares” are for sure beyond redemption, but one can live and work in hope and expectation, targeting those that have the capacity to turn on their dormant intellects for the greater good. For, the alternatives are not appealing; the stakes are too high to let the lunatics run the asylum.

Make In IndiaA good start would be for the economic development of India to continue unimpeded. Yes, those inimical to progress will do all in their power to prevent this, but those who claim to be real liberals and progressives have to open their eyes and realise that economic progress and prosperity are the most effective road to peace and a potent antidote to fundamentalism.

Indians, comprising a sixth of humanity, with a millennium old experience of the battle of God against the Gods offer the best hope for resolving this vexing question. The battle isn’t over yet, in fact it’s only just begun. On India’s success depends the world’s capacity to overcome this conundrum. Those who impede India’s economic and social development do so at a greater peril.

As the Roman philosopher, Symmachus said, “What does it matter by which wisdom each of us arrives at the truth?”[17] and observe how it rings in total consonance with the Rig Veda phrase, “ekaṁ sad viprā bahudhā vadanti” translating to “There is one (ekam) Reality (sat), about which wise persons (viprā) in various ways (bahudhā) speak (vadanti).[18] — IndiaFacts, 5 January 2015

» Jay Jina is a UK-based third generation NRI. Besides pursuing a professional career as a European IT director with a multinational and a part time university academic, Jay’s interests span history, current affairs, the Indian Diaspora and the history and politcs of science.

References

  1. Obama smacks down India for religious intolerance, says Gandhi would have been shocked, Times of India, 5 February 2015, “Obama smacks down India for intolerance….” at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Obama-smacks-down-India-for-religious-intolerance-says-Gandhi-would-have-been-shocked/articleshow/46141742.cms
  2. Vamsee Juluri, “Why I think Ram Madhav’s Al Jazeera interview was framed” at http://www.dailyo.in/politics/modi-ram-madhav-akhand-bharat-pakistan-al-jazeera-interview-rss/story/1/8163.html
  3. Jakob De Roover and Sarah Claerhout, The Caste Connection on the Sacred Foundations of Social Hierarchy, University of Ghent, Belgium, at https://www.academia.edu/19752142/The_Caste_Connection_On_the_Sacred_Foundations_of_Social_Hierarchy
  4. Vamsee Juluri, “The Year of Living Intolerably”, at http://swarajyamag.com/magazine/the-year-of-living-intolerantly/
  5. Rod Liddle, “The political wisdom of people who don’t even know what a circle is” in The Spectator, at http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/01/the-political-wisdom-of-people-who-dont-even-know-what-a-circle-is/
  6. Wikipedia article on “Multiculturalism”. See in particular the section on opposition to multiculturalism at  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiculturalism#Opposition
  7. Jonathan Kirsch, God against the Gods: The History of the War between Monotheism and Polytheism, Penguin Books, 2004
  8. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1, Chapter 16, at  http://www.ccel.org/g/gibbon/decline/volume1/chap16.htm#chri
  9. Jonathan Kirsch, quote from page 74 of God against the Gods: The History of the War between Monotheism and Polytheism, Penguin Books, 2004
  10. Abraham Eraly, The Mughal Throne: The Saga of India’s Great Emperors, London, Phoenix. Quote from p. 336: “India was at a crossroads in the mid-seventeenth century; it had the potential of moving forward with Dara Shukoh, or of turning back to medievalism with Aurangzeb.”
  11. I used the term “chicken tikka masala” to describe the so-called “ethical Foreign Policy” cooked up the chicken tikka masala that is the multi-culti flavour of Britain today: Just like the nondescript dish that goes by that name in the UK, naa yahaan ka, naa wahaan ka, or to put it bluntly, neither fish nor fowl. The term applies for the secularist idea of syncretism too. See http://indiafacts.co.in/pseudo-secularism-uk-style-lessons-india/
  12. Concordat Watch, “How the Vatican evades human rights obligations through Canon Law, diplomatic immunity and other dodges” at http://www.concordatwatch.eu/topic-47307.834
  13. Book review of “God against the Gods” (author unidentified) on Beliefnet at http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Books/2004/05/One-God-To-Bind-Them-All.aspx?p=3
  14. Krishen Kak, “Hindus are the Last of the Pagans” at http://indiafacts.org/hindus-are-the-last-of-the-pagans/
  15. There are various examples of dispensation of privilege for religious minority, for example the Haj subsidy, the independence of places of worship and perhaps, most openly invidious of all, the status of “missionary” as a visa category for entry into India. In each of these cases, the comparative position for the “majority” belief system is overtly discriminatory: Hindus do not even get adequate protection for the Amarnath Yatra, Hindu temples are under state control often with antipathetic administrators imposed against the wishes of the temple stakeholders, and even small attempts at reversion of poor sections back to Hinduism get blown out as workings of Hindu “fascism”.
  16. Vamsee Juluri, “Rearming Hinduism”, Westland, 2015. This little volume to my mind reads as a succinct and balanced manifesto protecting and projecting all that is of value about Hindu Dharma. It deserves to be widely read and merits being made required reading for all undergraduates in India and those outside India with an interest in India.
  17. Charles Freeman, The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason, Pimlico, London, 2003. The line is a quote from the 4th century philosopher,
  18. Graham Schweig, Translation of Rig Veda 1.164.46. on the Dharma Civilization Foundation website at http://www.dcfusa.org/many-truths-of-the-one-reality/

 

Trishul

Has terror a connection to religion? – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth“It is important to find out, whether there is something in the doctrine of Christianity and Islam, which is missing in Hinduism and Buddhism, and which allows or even fosters terror against outsiders. How was it possible for a Timur or Babur or Aurangzeb to have hundreds of thousands of civilian Hindu men slaughtered and their women and children taken as slaves only because they were Hindus? What mindset does it require to be able to do this?” – Maria Wirth

For Allah!“Terror has no religion” is often repeated by politicians and media. At the same time, the most dangerous terrorists of our times like the Islamic State and Boko Haram shout triumphantly “Allah ho Akbar” after brutally killing those whom they consider infidels or opponents of the caliphate. Common sense would suggest that at least these groups inflict terror in the name of Islam.

However, so far, the “correct” view is that these groups don’t follow Islam, but “Islamism“. They are misguided and have distorted the good Islam into a bad Islamism. So they are not Muslims, but Islamists or extremists who follow an “extremist ideology”. Islam has nothing to do with it. Terror may have an ideology, like communism or Nazism, but it has no religion. Obviously this explanation is meant to keep Islam away from scrutiny and its image “sacred”.

Chief Rabbi of Israel & Pope John Paul IIIn the same way, Pope John Paul II tried to keep Christianity and the Church above board, when in the year 2000, he finally asked “forgiveness from God for sins committed against Jews, heretics, women, gypsies and native people“. He, too, did not blame the Church but “sons and daughters of the Church” who committed “mistakes”.

These sons and daughters of the Church surely would proclaim, if they were still around, that they only followed the instructions of the Church—whether it was the brutal Christianization of Latin America, where millions were killed, or the “Holy Inquisition” which consciously used horrific torture and murder to make people fall in line with the unintelligible dictates of the Church.

Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiThe Jihadis of ISIS, too, don’t agree with the view that they misinterpret Islam. They are sure that they follow the true Islam and can quote numerous ayats from the Quran to support their view, for example 8.39: “Oh believers, fight them until there is no more mischief and the Deen of Allah (way of life prescribed by Allah) is established completely.”

If ISIS indeed represents “true” Islam, it is a cause for great concern and needs to be investigated. Why do politicians and community leaders shy away from putting religious texts on the table and under scrutiny? Why the Quran or the Bible is never mentioned when religion is discussed? On 20th July 2015, David Cameron vowed to deal with the poison of extremism. He said: “What we are fighting, in Islamist extremism, is an ideology. It is an extreme doctrine.”

Yet he did not mention the Quran once in his long speech. Why?

It is important to find out, whether there is something in the doctrine of Christianity and Islam, which is missing in Hinduism and Buddhism, and which allows or even fosters terror against outsiders. How was it possible for a Timur or Babur or Aurangzeb to have hundreds of thousands of civilian Hindu men slaughtered and their women and children taken as slaves only because they were Hindus? What mindset does it require to be able to do this?

Yes, there is indeed something in the Christian and Islamic doctrine that condones and even fosters violence, and it is easy to find out: Apart from the true core in all religions, i.e. the acknowledgement and worship of a higher power, Christianity and Islam inject the virus of supremacy into their belief system and contempt for “others” who they claim will be thrown into hell-fire for all eternity. They both claim that the full truth was revealed by the highest authority of the universe only to them and everyone has to believe it. Those who don’t are highly offensive to their God and will suffer for all eternity in hell-fire.

Obviously these two religions—Christianity started the trend—were not content with people worshipping a higher power by whatever name they chose. They wanted to control people and attain world dominion. And what a disaster it turned out to be for humanity! This claim “we have the full truth; God / Allah has chosen us (Christians / Muslims) over them (all others)” is poison for humanity. There is not a shred of Cross & Crescent evidence that this claim is true. In fact, it is clear that it cannot be the absolute truth, yet because it is enshrined in their respective ‘holy book’, nobody questions it.

Reading the Quran it becomes quickly clear that Allah has hatred for unbelievers and also for hypocrites among the believers (which gives Jihadis the justification to kill also Muslims apart from kafirs). He keeps reminding the believers again and again, how they will enjoy paradise and the unbelievers will suffer in hell. He even details the torture in hell in horrific detail. All this is there in the Quran.

Similarly, the Bible also claims that there won’t be any mercy for those who did not accept Christ during their one and only lifetime (the Church forbade the belief in rebirth in 553 AD). The hell for non-Christians is as bad as the hell for non-Muslims. There will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”(Mathew 13.50)—and mind you, for all eternity….

Christianity and Islam never tried to sort out which one of the two is “only true”. They are content to claim “our belief system alone is true and only those, who adopt it, find favour with the Highest”. The reason may be that the top officials in the religious institutions don’t really believe what they tell their flock. If they would believe in eternal hell, several Popes would have lived their lives differently….

Injecting a feeling of supremacy into the faithful pampers to a human weakness—the weakness to feel superior to others, whether as an individual or a group. Belonging to a big group of like-minded people who confirm each other that they are favoured by God and superior, is for many reassuring. Especially in Islam, the brotherhood of the faithful plays a big role in making people stick to their religion.

The claim of both Christianity and Islam that God / Allah has made his will known at a certain point in time to a certain person and wants all to follow their respective religion, and if they don’t, they will be thrown into hell-fire is the poison that needs to be taken out from those ‘religions’.

Incidentally, the term ‘religion’ (Latin to bind or tie) was used from the 11th century on only for the Catholic Church and from the 16th century onwards also for Islam. People were tied into the belief-system, into which they were born, and not allowed to choose how they want to call or imagine the invisible, great Power—a freedom that India traditionally granted. So there is no need to bow one’s head and fold one’s hands in reverence, as soon as someone says ‘this is my religion’. Intelligent reasoning must not be forfeited.

HellNow what can be done? How can the poison be taken out?

This needs to be debated. However I consider one point important: the “others” (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Atheists, etc.) who are said to be thrown into hell-fire, would do well to protest the outrageous, untrue claim that they will suffer in hell for eternity. There is, however, a problem: how can they feel outrage at something, what they don’t believe in. In all likelihood, they consider this hell-claim ridiculous, not worthy of any repudiation. And of course they have a point.

But they overlook a crucial aspect that can become highly dangerous for them: they ignore the mindset which this claim produces in people who believe it. And they should not delude themselves that it is impossible to believe it. It is possible. I know from own experience.

True, nowadays in Europe, the Church (wisely) does not stress “hell” anymore, because many lost faith and even more would leave the Church, but in India it is stressed. The Christian converts, whom I asked, all believed in hell for Hindus, including an IIT professor who converted when he was working in the US. He even convinced his parents to convert. It is clearly a case of making otherwise intelligent persons stupid.

The Quran is full of quotes of hell for unbelievers. Further, Muslim youngsters hear five times daily the azan ending with the words:

“O Allah! Guide us to The Right Way. The Way of those whom You have favored, not of those who have earned Your wrath or of those who have lost The Way” (Quran 1.6,7).

Naturally, they may start to detest their Hindu brothers and sisters who have ‘earned the wrath’ of the Highest, because they don’t heed his words and convert to Islam.

If one day the call for Jihad were given, (Tarek Fatah mentioned in an article that even in Toronto mosques, imams pray for victory over the kafirs) their conscience would be already dysfunctional. They would see nothing wrong in ridding the earth of those who are arrogant enough not to heed the words of the one true God, which according to them are enshrined in the Quran or in the Bible.

Pakistani child terroristsHindus generally don’t realize the power and danger of a mindset, though they need only look to Pakistan. It is the best example of what can become of normal, well-meaning Indians when they are brainwashed into a hateful doctrine. How did Kasab I and II develop the mindset that it’s good to kill Hindus? Who or what is responsible? Or how is it possible for Christian missionaries to cheat simple Hindu folk to get them to sign up for baptism? Even the huge slave trade from Africa and the arrogance of western colonial powers towards the ‘natives’ probably had its root in the brainwashing of being superior and chosen. Rightly, ISIS in a video on the net talk about their brainwashed kids as their greatest asset.

Typically, Islam and Christianity try to avoid scrutiny of their religions for obvious reasons. They are interested to preserve their ‘true and holy’ image that they have enforced over centuries. Attempts are on not only to ban defamation, but even criticism of religions. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has already petitioned the United Nations and Saudi Arabia gave in July 2015 a call to the world to ban all criticism of religion.

Before this hopefully never succeeds, countries like India, China, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar and others should petition the United Nations to ban untrue claims about the afterlife of their non-Muslim and non-Christian citizens, as it breeds contempt and hatred for them.

When children read in their holy book in school how terrible ‘unbelievers’ are, some of them may later be ready to kill those whom they consider rejects by their God. ISIS is taking the Quran literally. They consider it their duty to establish a caliphate and sharia and bring the whole world under it. They are convinced they have made their life meaningful and scoff at those who criticize them as having an ‘extremist ideology’. They ‘know’ they follow the word of Allah.

Can they be blamed? If not them, who or what is to be blamed for their mindset? As long as they don’t doubt certain ayats of the Quran, any de-radicalization program is bound to fail. They will consider clerics who tell them not to follow the Quran to the letter “confused old men”, as a German Turk explained in an interview.

Adi Shankara & MadanmishraOver thousand years ago, Adi Shankara challenged Mandana Mishra for a debate. There is need for a debate today on different aspects of truth, including on whether there is eternal hellfire on the basis of one life or whether there is rebirth on the level of this universe. At least people need to be made aware about this hell claim and how ridiculous it is.

The true core of all religions needs to be strengthened. This core is common to all and beneficial. It is the claim that there is a great invisible power behind this visible universe. This true core was known since ages and is explained in the Indian tradition in its purest form. It is not an invention by Christianity and Islam. In fact, these two religions can learn from Hindu Dharma how many different ways of expressing one’s faith can live peacefully side by side. Hindu Dharma doesn’t tie its followers into a rigid belief system, but helps them to become free by realizing the truth in oneself.

Harmful, untrue dogmas like “this invisible power is jealous and wants this or that …  and if you don’t do it, it will throw you into hellfire” need to be weeded out.

Only then humanity can be one family.

» Maria Wirth is a German author and psychologist who lives in Uttarkhand.

Zeus

Is Hinduism a monotheistic religion? – Vamadeva Shastri

Ganesha

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swami Dayananda SaraswatiHinduism and its confrontation with monotheistic traditions

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

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

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

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

Yahweh / Jehovah / AllahThe one god of exclusive monotheism

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

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

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

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

BrahmaTheism in Hinduism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swinging on the CrossHow should Hindus approach monotheistic traditions?

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

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

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

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

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

Al-Wahhab the mad mullah of Islamic terrorism and his Saudi patrons – Javed Anand

Javed Anand“Because of his extremism, al-Wahhab was driven out of Iraq and later had to flee the town of his birth, Uyainah. Then he found an ally and protector in Muhammad bin Saud, a small-time but politically ambitious local ruler from the Saudi clan in neighbouring Diriyah. In 1741, the two entered into a “win-win” relationship. Al-Wahhab bestowed religious legitimacy on Saud, who in turn would forcibly impose the former’s ultra-radical theology as the “only true” Islam on all Muslims.” – Javed Anand

Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-SheikhIn his Haj sermon on October 4 to the nearly two million Muslim pilgrims from across the globe assembled in Mecca, the Saudi Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, proclaimed that the killing of innocent human beings is the worst fitna (strife) and is strictly forbidden in Islam. Moving on from the general to the specific, he described the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the “enemy number one” of Islam and humanity.

Sounds good, but it’s hardly good enough. Along with some other Sunni-majority Muslim countries in the region, Saudi Arabia is now part of the US-led coalition ostensibly committed to “degrading” and “destroying” the very monster they had until recently collectively nurtured in Syria and Iraq. Given the long-standing, mutually legitimising relationship between the Saudi royal family and the country’s ulema, the Grand Mufti’s belated discovery of Islam’s message of peace and the denunciation of the ISIS was only to be expected.

Muhammad ibn Abd al-WahhabBut it does not address the uncomfortable question Muslims, including many from within the Arab world, are asking: How can those who are part of the problem be part of the solution? Who can deny that the Saudi royalty and clergy on one hand, and the ISIS on the other, are part of the same theo-genetic pool as they all draw inspiration from the same “Shaikhul Islam”, Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab?

The story goes back to the 18th century. Al-Wahhab was born in a family of Muslim theologians in Uyainah, a small town in the Najd region of Arabia. He grew up into a manic monotheist determined to root out what to him were the illicit innovations, heretical and idolatrous practices that had crept into Muslim practice. He enunciated a version of Islam that was puritanical, rigid, inflexible, intolerant, violent.

Al-Wahhab had a simple solution for Muslims who did not subscribe to his militant theology: they should be killed, their daughters and wives enslaved, their property confiscated. “You will see much evil from my son Muhammad,” his own father, a recognised orthodox Sunni scholar, , is reported to have lamented shortly before his death.

Because of his extremism, al-Wahhab was driven out of Iraq and later had to flee the town of his birth, Uyainah. Then he found an ally and protector in Muhammad bin Saud, a small-time but politically ambitious local ruler from the Saudi clan in neighbouring Diriyah. In 1741, the two entered into a “win-win” relationship. Al-Wahhab bestowed religious legitimacy on Saud, who in turn would forcibly impose the former’s ultra-radical theology as the “only true” Islam on all Muslims.

The arrangement yielded rich political dividends; a local fiefdom grew into a state. By 1790, the fanatics had captured most of the Arabian Peninsula where Shias and Sufis were the worst victims. Muslims in the newly conquered areas were given an option: swear allegiance to Wahhabi Islam or face the sword. In 1801, the holy city of Karbala in Iraq was attacked, several thousand Shia Muslim men, women and children were butchered, many shrines, including that of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, were destroyed.

The holy cities of Mecca and Medina too were targeted, citizens terrorised, historic monuments and shrines razed to the ground. The terror campaign ended only in 1815, when on behalf of the Ottomans the Egyptians crushed the Saudi-Wahhabi forces. Three years later, the Ottomans destroyed the Wahhabi capital of Diriyah.

Ibn SaudA century later, as the Ottoman Empire collapsed in the midst of World War I, the Saudi-Wahhabi coalition led by Abd-al Aziz (Ibn Saud) made a dramatic comeback, capturing Mecca, Medina and Jeddah between 1914 and 1926. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 with Abd al-Aziz as its reigning monarch. (It’s the only country in the world that is named after a single clan). The astute king realised that the 20th century world was very different from the 18th one (when the first Saudi state was founded). Recognising the need to woo the new world powers, the US and UK, he redefined Wahhabism. The “new” Wahhabism would retain its arid, puritanical, ultra-orthodox, rigid, intolerant, “true Islam” strain. But it would abandon its earlier Jacobin-like reign of terror and mutate instead into an ideology of Islamist supremacism.

Ibn Saud’s “revisionism” brought him into headlong confrontation with the purists who were crushed with brute force. Those willing to see the light were co-opted into the new doctrine.

In due course, with the discovery of oil, the Saudi rulers switched to the use of soft power in a bid to “Wahhabise” Islam. In recent decades, it has poured billions of petro-dollars into Muslim quarters across the globe (India included), seeking to destroy the reality of a diverse faith and replacing it with a single intolerant, supremacist creed.

For millions of Muslims across the world, the seemingly benign Saudi Wahhabism is bad enough. But for those who still remember and revere its theological founder, Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab, it is not good enough. Among the latter is the ISIS and its numerous followers, not only in Iraq and Syria but in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and elsewhere too.

Abul A'la MaududiThis takes us back to where this column began. The ISIS is not a foreign object that can be purged through a simple surgery. It’s a cancerous growth within the theo-genetic make-up of Wahhabi doctrine. In its savagery and brutality, the ISIS is only acting strictly in accordance with the teachings and practice of al-Wahhab who enjoyed the active political support of the founder of the first Saudi state.

To effectively counter the ISIS and sundry other violent Islamist outfits, Saudi Arabia and Muslims elsewhere must question the three modern-day ideologues of political Islam: al-Wahhab (Arabia), Syed Qutb (Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt), Abul A’la Maududi (Jamaat-e-Islami, Indian subcontinent). One way or another, the world-view of Muslims still hallucinating about khilafat (caliphate), shariat (Islamic law), jihad and shahadat (martyrdom) can be traced back to one or the other of these worthies.

When you have a problem tree in the orchard, chopping branches won’t help. Get to the roots of the problem. – Deccan Chronicle, 15 October 2014

» Javed Anand is the General Secretary of Muslims for Secular Democracy. He is not a friend of Hindus or Hindutva but he writes a good history of Wahhabi Islam not found elsewhere.

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