Though I have
been living in India for a long time, there are still some things I find hard
to understand. For instance, why many so called educated Indians on television discussion
forums become agitated whenever ‘Hindutva’ is mentioned. The majority of
Indians are Hindus. India is special because of its ancient Hindu tradition.
Westerners are drawn to India because of it. Why then is there this resistance
by many Indians to acknowledge the Hindu roots of their country? Why do some
people even give the impression that an India that values those Hindu roots is
the most dangerous thing on earth? Don’t they know better?
attitude is strange for two reasons. First, these speakers have a problem only
with ‘Hindu’ India, but not with ‘Muslim’ or ‘Christian’ countries. Germany,
for example, is a secular country and only 59 percent of the population is
registered with the two big Christian Churches (Protestant and Catholic).
Nevertheless, the country is bracketed under ‘Christian countries’. Angela
Merkel, the Chancellor, stressed recently the Christian roots of Germany and
urged the population ‘to go back to Christian values’. In 2012, she postponed
her trip to the G-8 summit for a day to address the German Catholic Day.
In September 2011, the Pope was invited to address the German Parliament.
Two major political parties carry ‘Christian’ in their name, including Angela
Merkel’s ruling party. Government agencies even collect the Church tax (8
percent of the income tax) and pass it on.
not agitated that Germany is called a Christian country, though I would
understand if they were because the history of the Church is appalling. The so
called success story of Christianity depended greatly on tyranny. “Convert
or die” were the options given not only to the indigenous population in America
some five hundred years ago. In Germany, too, 1200 years ago, the emperor Karl
the Great ordered the death sentence for refusal of baptism in his newly conquered
realms. It provoked his advisor Alkuin to comment: ‘One can force them to
baptism, but how to force them to believe?’ Heresy was put down with an iron
hand. I still remember a visit to the Nuremberg castle prison as a school kid,
where we were shown the torture chamber and torture instruments used during Inquisition.
when one’s life was in danger if one dissented with the dogmas of the Church,
are thankfully over. Nowadays, many in the west dissent and leave the Church in
a steady stream – in Germany alone over 2 million officially signed out in the
last ten years and during a survey in 2011, 5.5 million Germans ‘thought about’
leaving the Church - partly because they are disgusted with the less than holy
behavior of Church officials and partly because they can’t believe in dogmas
like ‘Jesus is the only way’ and that God sends all those who don’t accept this
reason for my inability to understand the resistance to associate India with
Hindutva or Hinduness is that Hinduism is in a different category from the
Abrahamic religions. Its history, compared to Christianity and Islam, was
undoubtedly by far the least violent as it spread in ancient times by
convincing arguments and not by force. It is not a belief system that demands
blind belief in dogmas and suspension of one’s intelligence.
contrary, Hinduism encourages using one’s intelligence to the hilt. The rishis
enquired into truth, discovered universal laws and showed how to live life in
an ideal way. Hinduism (please don’t get irritated by the use of this ‘modern’
word; today it covers the many streams of Sanatana Dharma) comprises a huge
body of ancient texts, not only regarding Dharma and philosophy, but also
regarding music, architecture, dance, science, astronomy, medicine,
mathematics, economics, politics, etc. If Germany or any other western country
had this kind of literary treasure, it would be so proud and highlight its
greatness on every occasion.
have to be content with only one ‘ancient’ epic written around 800 years ago
and probably referring to incidents around 400 AD. That is how far ‘antiquity’
reaches back in Europe, and of course children hear of this epic, ‘Nibelungenlied’, in school. Naturally
westerners consider the existence of Sri Krishna and Sri Rama as myths. How
could they acknowledge a civilization much more ancient and much more refined
than their own?
Indians cater to western arrogance and ignorance by downplaying and even
denying their tradition. There is a “Copernicus Marg’ in New Delhi and Indian
children do not get to hear in school that the rishis of the Rg Veda knew
already that the earth is round and goes around the sun, thousands of years
before westerners ‘discovered’ it (Rg 10’22’14)
When I read
some Upanishads, I was stunned at the profundity. Here was expressed in clear
terms what I intuitively had felt to be true, but could not have expressed
clearly. Brahman is not partial; it is the invisible, indivisible essence in
everything. Everyone gets again and again a chance to discover the ultimate
truth and is free to choose his way back to it. Helpful hints are given for
different types of persons, but not imposed.
In my early
days in India, I thought that every Indian knew and valued his tradition.
Slowly I realized I was wrong. The British colonial masters had been successful
in not only weaning away many of the so called elite from their ancient
tradition, but even making them despise it. It helped that the ‘educated’ class
could no longer read the original Sanskrit texts and believed what the British
told them. This lack of knowledge and the brainwashing by the British education
may be the reason why many ‘modern’ Indians are against anything ‘Hindu’. They
don’t realize the difference between western religions that have to be believed
(or at least professed) blindly, and which discourage if not forbid their
adherents to think on their own, and the multi-layered Hindu Dharma which gives
freedom and encourages using one’s intelligence.
Many of the
English educated class do not realize that on one hand, westerners, especially
those who dream to impose their religion on this vast country, will applaud
them for denigrating Hindu Dharma, because this helps western universalism to
spread in India. On the other hand, many westerners, including Church people,
well know the value and surreptitiously appropriate insights from the vast
Indian knowledge system, drop the original source and present it either as
their own or make it look as if these insights had been known in the west. In
this manner, Hindu civilization is gradually being depleted of its valuable,
exclusive assets and what is left is called inferior.
missionaries denigrated Hindu Dharma, it would not be so bad, as they clearly
have an agenda which discerning Indians would detect. But sadly, Indians with
Hindu names assist them in the agenda that Hinduism is inferior to western
religions. They belittle everything Hindu without getting thorough knowledge.
As a rule, they know little about their traditions, except what the British have
told them, i.e. that the major features are caste system and idol worship.
realize that India would gain, not lose, if it solidly backed its profound and
all inclusive Hindu tradition. The Dalai Lama said some time ago that already
as a youth in Lhasa, he had been deeply impressed by the richness of Indian
thought. “India has great potential to help the world,” he added. When will the
westernized Indian elite realize it?
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