Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that, “If a lion is alone, wild dogs can invade and destroy the lion," at the World Hindu Congress, which concluded in Chicago recently, elicited many a protest from the opposition – they felt ‘the wild dogs' in a way alluded to them!
But Bhagwatji’s statement, “Hindu society has the largest number of meritorious persons, but they never come together. Coming together of Hindus in itself is a difficult thing," should have elicited responses from the Hindus. The very fact that Hindus did not react to this rather harsh but valid observation compels one to examine the fabric of ‘Hindu’ as it exists today.
NDTV's Sunday prime time discussion this week was on Kapil Sibal's new book, ‘Shades of Truth.’ The panel had prominent leaders of the opposition like P Chidambaram, Sitaram Yechury and, of course, the author himself. The discussion which purportedly was about Modiji’s 4-year performance was somehow steered, quite deftly I must say, into topics like Hindutva, cows and religious intolerance! Then came ‘their idea of Hindutva.' It seems today even topics like gardening or geophysics cannot be discussed without a smattering of Hindutva – of course distorting it substantially!
These public discourses on the subject by a motley group of outliers is bound to further confuse the already confused Hindu.
Thus Spake the Hindu
Novelist K P Ramanunni who has been threatened with the amputation of his limbs if he did not convert to Islam in an interview said, “Hindutva people are ruining the Hindus more. What we have left now is a dirty representation of Hindutva. I'm more Hindu because I'm a bit Muslim.”
As if he has not confused the reader already, he added: “I am a practising Hindu. I go to the temple. I am also a bit Muslim because I am a real Hindu.”
So where is the origin of this confusion?
It is partly because Hinduism is all encompassing – it embeds in itself a broad range of philosophies and traditions giving a ‘fuzzy edges’ feel. The colonial legacy later accentuated this aspect to their advantage and to a point where the former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said, “I am a Hindu by accident of birth,” while the Marxist ideologue EMS Namboodiripad, a Hindu by birth, proclaimed, “Who said I am a Hindu?”
Mahatma Gandhi was known for saying that ‘Hindu’ does not denote a religion, but is the name of an eternal culture. Gandhiji’s ideal of ‘Rama Rajya’ apparently is no different from a Hindu nation but according to him there is no Hindu ‘religion,’ as there are Hindu ‘religions.’ Religions are part of Hindutva, but not all are Hindutva.
Then there were Muslim-Christian leaders like Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Justice K T Thomas, who proudly proclaimed that they were culturally and traditionally Hindus. This confusion was cooked to perfection when Shashi Tharoor in his book wrote, “Why I am a Hindu? it’s because I was born one!"
Over the decades, these false scripts etched the collective Hindu mind which is both imaginative and open. That made it more vulnerable to pseudo-intellectual inputs as seen from our understanding of secularism and tolerance. Today, we notice the most vitriolic statements against Hindutva and articles on intolerance are penned by Hindus themselves! Clearly, most Hindus became tolerant towards other religions but intolerant towards their own!
Javed Aktar, poet lyricist sums up the Hindu mindset beautifully: “The film that questions the Hindu religious practices, PK starring Aamir Khan became a super hit because of Hindus… I really wonder in any Islamic country you would make the same kind of film on Islam, forget about it becoming a box office super hit!”
So, who is a real Hindu? Is it by birth or practice of Hindu dharma that he becomes one?
A Brahmin by Practice
Scriptures say that the status of Brahmin is acquired by deeds and not by birth. As per Manu Smriti, one has to earn the qualification of a Brahmin. Aitareya Rishi and Ailush Rishi who were sons of a Daasi became Brahmins of highest order – by practice!
According to Gautama Dharma Sastras, every Brahmin should possess eight virtues: truthfulness, teaching the virtuous, following rituals, studying the Vedas, non-violence, self-control, kindness and gentleness. But the most interesting story on ‘Brahmin by Practice' is of Satyakaama, the son of a prostitute Jabala. Satyakaama as boy once asked his mother about his father’s identity. His mother admits that as a prostitute there was no way she would know who fathered him. Disappointed but ever eager for knowledge he went to sage Haridrumata Gautama to join his school for Brahmacharya.
The sage asks him about his family background and Satyakaama honestly tells him about his parentage. The sage not only takes him under his wing but declares that the boy's honesty is the mark of a "Brahmana, the true seeker of knowledge!” Satyakaama later became a celebrated sage, according to the Hindu tradition. A Vedic school is named after him, as is the influential ancient text Jabala Upanishad – a treatise on Sannyasa (Hindu monk, monastic life)!
Questions to Hindus
How many of us are ready to take the litmus test – ‘Hindu by Practice'?
'Ekam sad vipraa bahudhaa vadanti' – truth is one, scholars interpret it in different ways. But isn’t it time we looked to real scholars for that knowledge?
‘Dhiyo yonah prachodayat’ which translates to ‘Instigate the Intellect’? Isn't it time we repeated this text from Gayatri Mantra to see what has become of a Hindu?
Let me close by saying that a computer scientist working on Fuzzy-Logic and Fog-Computing is neither fuzzy in logic nor is fog-brained. THEN WHY ARE SOME HINDUS BOTH?