Saturday, September 17, 2011

Learn to Live with the Reality

“The Christians have a Pope, the Muslims the word of the Quran, communists have the Das Kapital,” says Francois Gautier, who continues, “Hindus are totally disunited. [Hindus] are busy making money and aping the western way of life.” [The New Indian Express, June 17, 2010. Chennai, p. 9] Comments like this bring about more calls for the ‘unity of Hindus’ as an ‘organized’ religion by comparing Hinduism with other religions like Christianity and Islam.

Such religious unity is impossible considering the pluralistic worldview of Hindus in every aspect of life—particularly in regards to religious faith. However, it must also be noted that the way we Hindus often think that Christians and Muslims (including Communists or any other ideological group) have unity is not accurate. The bloodshed between Sunnis and Shias among Muslims (we need not mention the way Ahamedias and other minority sects in Islam are treated by other Muslims) is a known fact. In the same way, the Pope is not accepted by all the Christians, even by many Reformed Catholics. In fact, among Protestants there are more than 40,000 denominations that could rightly be called ‘sampradayas’, as we have in Hinduism. However, it is worse than the sampradayas in Hinduism. Recently, one Christian, not agreeing (or accepting) the ‘missiology’ (mission theology) of a few evangelicals to reach people groups based on caste, decided to take the matter to the Church at large since he was not being listened to. Before he could appeal to the so-called ‘Church at large’, other Christians began to oppose his views. The view of Christian and Muslim unity based on ‘One God, One Scripture, One Pope’ is a myth; calling for unity among Hindus when compared with these other faiths is foolishness.

Instead of asking for impossible ideals, let us learn to live with the reality. In fact, a fundamental strength of Hinduism is its pluralism! Most Hindu religious fundamentalism came because of the effort to impose ‘uniformity’ in the name of unity. Thank God that in spite of a small section of Hindu fundamentalism, Hinduism both as a religion and as a civilization did not succumb to fundamentalist ways. This strength of Hinduism should be promoted rather than giving a call for a ‘Supreme Hindu Council’ to issue a number of adesh, which would be binding to 800 million Hindus in India and a billion worldwide.

Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam, June 19, 2010

After pointing out the way Hindu Gurus like Nityananda, Shankaracharya and finally Sri Sri Ravi Shankar were maligned by media and there is a witch-hunt against Hindu gurus, Francols Gautler writes:

Finally, Westernisation through television and advertisements, is sweeping across India, and this may be the greatest danger, as westernization has killed the souls of many Asian countries. The Christians have a Pope, the Muslims the word of the Quran, communists have Das Kapital of Karl Marx. But Hindus are totally disunited.
Hindus are busy at the moment making as much money as possible and aping the western way of life, not even bothering to teach their children Hindu values and culture, whereas every Muslim child is told about the Quran. Hindu groups in the US or the UK, are constantly fighting each other and thus have very little lobbying power….It is said that even the Hindu deities and goddesses are jealous of each other. It is thus of vital importance that Hindu gurus and swamis regroup under one umbrella which could be called the ‘Supreme Hindu Council’. Each group and guru will retain its leadership and autonomy but will meet three times a year and issues a number of adesh, which will e binding to 800 million Hindus in India and a billion worldwide.
There are too many gurus and swamis all over India and the world and it would not be possible to assemble them all in one group. Thus I propose that the 12 gurus in India who have the most disciples, represent all the other swamis and gurus. Amongst them, of course, we should find Satya Sai Baba, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Amrita Anandmayi, the Shankaracharya of Kancheepuram, Guruma of Ganeshpuri, Shri Ramdev, Satguru Jaggi, etc. The leadership of this group will be rotated every year and so can membership for that matter, as there are quite a few other gurus of India who have a huge following.
It is not only Hinduism which is at stake, but the ‘Knowledge Infinite’ which came down, through the ages and has survived today only in India in a partial form. This knowledge only can save the world. Let Hindus understand that not only do they have the numbers, but also that they are one of the most successful, law abiding and powerful communities in the world. Nobody should denigrate their gurus.

Semitic constraints will hamper Hinduism. Govind Krishna (
The New Indian Express, July 2, 2010. Chennai, p. 9
A religion cannot hope to survive on a policy of cultural protectionism, if it does so it will become a creed.

In ‘Let All Hindus come together’ (TNIE, June 17), Francois Gautier proposes that a council of Hindu leaders should assume spiritual authority over all Hindus a la the Supreme Council of Iran. The stakes have to be quite high for such an upside down Lutheran Reformation; and they are: ‘It is not only Hinduism that is at stake, but the ‘knowledge infinite’, ‘ he writes.

What Gautier fails to realize is that it is only the ‘knowledge infinite’ that is at stake. Hinduism matters only so far as it is a suitable vehicle for expressing it. And the surest way to ensure that as a religion, Hinduism loses its ability to channel the universal spirit is to hand it over to the dictates of a set of self-appointed godmen; some of dubious credentials and none of any real stature.

As a Hindu, I find offensive the very suggestion that any man, god-realised or not, can issue adesh that would control the way I or any of the one billion Hindus practice their religion. The very thought is a blasphemy (and the only one that Hinduism would label so), that strikes at the very heart of the Sanathana Dharma-the liberty of each individual sadhaka to find his path to the Absolute. How dare anyone tell me how to face my god? How to love him, how to act for him!

The steps that Gautier suggests are incalculably insidious to Hinduism’s foundations. The establishment of any kind of spiritual authority threatens the very identity of Hinduism as a religion without an organized church. Unlike the Semitic religions, starting from the Vedic ages, spiritual truth in India was founded on the mystic’s perception rather than the edicts of priests. It has been Hinduism’s strength, not its weakness.

This is something which Swami Vivekananda emphasized: “If you want to be religious, enter not the gate of any organized religions. They do a hundred time more evil than good, because they stop the growth of each one’s individual development…. Religion is only between you and your god, and no third person must come between you”. (Complete Works, Volume I).

If spirituality has declined in India it is not because of youngsters aping Western lifestyle or Indians discovering the wonders of cable TV; if the life force of Indian spirituality rested on such fragile foundations, it would have died out long ago. A religion cannot hope to survive on a policy of cultural protectionism, if it does so it will become a creed.

Swami Vivekananda once recounted the incident of a protestant missionary preaching hell fire in an Indian village. As the preacher continued to hurl vitriolic abuse at their gods and beliefs, the villagers listened quietly and curiously, asked some questions and then went back to their homes calmly. The frustrated missionary was heard remarking that if the people had such faith that they could listen to their religion being criticized, India could not be converted in a thousand years.

If Christian proselytizing is making inroads into the country’s poor as it could not even when India was lying prostrate under British imperialism, we should seek the reasons for its inside Hinduism itself.

After the second half of the Nineteenth Century, led by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and follwed by titans like Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Narayana Guru, Swami Sivananda and others, Hinduism witnessed a spiritual Renaissance comparable in importance only to the Bhakti movement and the advent of Sankara.

Advaitic in tenor and rigorously rational in its language, Neo-Vedanta was both India’s response to the naturalist philosophy of the West and an attempt to set its own house in order by extricating Hinduism from the mire of Brahminism, ritualism, oddball fakirism and miracle-mongering it had got stuck in. It was also in many ways, an evolution; the next step in Hinduism’s dynamic growth as a religion.

From those exalted heights, from a Vivekananda who burst upon the spiritual consciousness of the world proclaiming that “Krishna, the Christ and Buddha are but waves on the infinite ocean that I am”-we now have avatars who conjure knick-knacks out of air and deign to give their adoring devotees darshan.

If the spiritual ideal of the nation was once the half naked ascetic, today’s spiritual discourse has degenerated into mass hysteria over godmen and new age gurus, whose contribution to the corpus of Hindu thought is about zero, but to PR management is significant.

No wonder that entry to Gautier’s supreme council is based on popularity, not spiritual knowledge. And the media, for from hounding them as he alleges, has happily licked up every last morsel of viewership they promise, thus helping in creating the phenomenon of the ‘celebrity guru’.

For instance, Nithyananda claimed to be a paramhamsa till he was caught on video romping with a Tamil actress. Gautier is right to say that Nityhyananda was persecuted for having consensual sex, but the culprits were not Sonia Gandhi-backed Christians or migrant Muslim Gulf workers, but a Hindu public baying for the blood of their fallen idol and a shamelessly complicit BJP government.

For months, Karnataka witnessed the farcicial spectacle of the state executive trying to assuage public wrath by cooking up any number of cases against poor Nithyananda; from trntric sex rituals to illegal possession of kerosene.

Interestingly, none of Gautier’s supreme council of Hindu leaders spoke up against the injustice to their comrade.

But Nithyananda received a surprise visitor the day after his relese. Pramod Mutalik, who has been rendering yeoman service to Indian culture and Hinduism by organizing assaults on defenceless girls and by hiring out riots, gave the finishing touch to this drama of the absured by crowning Nithyananda a second Vivekananda.

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