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Make Ayodhya the global spiritual capital

Make Ayodhya the global spiritual capital
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to make Varanasi the Global Spiritual Capital during his 2014 electoral campaign. The same can be done better for Ayodhya which is now at the centre of global attention with the construction of the Rama Temple.

The major difference between Hindu and Abrahamic religions is that the Hindus undertake idol worship while the Abrahamic religions deny the same. They worship the one unseen God or Allah. The situation of Hindu religion at the time of Lord Rama may have been similar. The Yoga Vasishtha says that young Rama once returned from a pilgrimage to Ayodhya and developed disinterest in matters of the world. He asked what would be the benefit of engaging in worldly works when the entire universe was a mirage and did not actually exist at all. At that time Sage Vasishtha explained to Rama that this entire universe was pervaded by the same Supreme Power called Brahman and this universe was as real as Brahman. Thus, he advised Rama to engage in his worldly duties seeing Brahman in everything — the earth, the trees and the relatives. Thereafter, Rama abandoned his idea of giving up the material world an engaged in actions such as killing Ravana. The core message of the Sage was that there is only one Brahman and no other. The Hindu Brahman is the same as the God of the Bible and Allah of the Quran.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to make Varanasi the Global Spiritual Capital during his 2014 electoral campaign. The same can be done better for Ayodhya which is now at the centre of global attention with the construction of the Rama Temple. The case for Ayodhya stands on the fact that there are remarkable similarities between the lives of Lord Rama and Ibrahim of the Abrahamic religions, namely, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Syed Tariq Abdulla of Rampur has established that Abrahamic Prophets Adam and Nuh lived in India. Might it be that Abraham too lived in India and is known as Rama to the Hindus? If so, Rama is not merely as the Lord of the Hindus but the Father of the Abrahamic religions as well. Ayodhya can be developed as not only the Global Spiritual Capital but also as a centre of pilgrimage for Hindus, Jews, Christians and Muslims at par with Jerusalem and Mecca. The government has developed the Pilgrimage Circuit covering Bodh Gaya, Lumbini and Varanasi. Ayodhya can similarly be developed as a global pilgrim destination. Saudi Arabia is today earning an income of about 10 billion US Dollars or Rs 75,000 crore every year from pilgrimage to Mecca. We could earn four times this money if we can establish Ayodhya as the pilgrim centre for the Hindu and Abrahamic religions.

A large number of parallels are seen in the life trajectory of Lord Rama and Prophet Abraham or Ibrahim. The original name of Ibrahim, written as Abraham in the Bible was Abram, or Ab-Ram, which means "father Ram." Thus, the name "Rama" is embedded in the name Ibrahim. Similarly, the names Dasaratha and Terah, Sita and Sarah; and Lakshmana and Lot are similar.

Rama went to the south with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. Abraham went to south with his wife Sarah and nephew Lot. Rama's wife Sita was abducted and taken to Ravana's palace, Rama killed Ravana and retrieved Sita and returned to Ayodhya. Similarly, Abraham's wife Sarah was forcibly taken to the Pharaoh's palace, the Lord stuck the Pharaoh with troubles and Abraham retrieved Sarah and returned to Ai where he was living. The names Ravana and Pharaoh; and Ayodhya and Ai are also similar. Rama broke his relations with Lakshmana sometime after their return to Ayodhya because the latter had violated his order of not allowing anyone to intrude upon his secret consultations. Abraham also broke his relations with Lot sometime after their return to Ai because the herdsmen of the two fought with each other. These and many other parallels in their lives open the possibility that Rama and Abraham could be the same person.

Indeed, the Bible says that Abraham's father Terah lived at a place called "Ur Chaldea." Abrahamic religions believe this was a place named "Ur" in Iraq. But we have not one but many places with the name "Ur"—Kanpur, Nagpur, Rampur and so on. It is possible that Abraham may have lived in a place named Ur that was located in India. The Quran says that Ibrahim and his son Ishmael make a House of Worship which is believed to be the one at Mecca. Ibrahim may have travelled from Ur in India rather than from Ur in Iraq to make the House of Worship at Mecca as believed by our Muslim brothers.

The major difference between Hindu and Abrahamic religions is that the Hindus undertake idol worship while the Abrahamic religions deny the same. They worship the one unseen God or Allah. The situation of Hindu religion at the time of Lord Rama may have been similar. The Yoga Vasishtha says that young Rama once returned from a pilgrimage to Ayodhya and developed disinterest in matters of the world. He asked what would be the benefit of engaging in worldly works when the entire universe was a mirage and did not actually exist at all. At that time Sage Vasishtha explained to Rama that this entire universe was pervaded by the same Supreme Power called Brahman and this universe was as real as Brahman. Thus, he advised Rama to engage in his worldly duties seeing Brahman in everything — the earth, the trees and the relatives. Thereafter, Rama abandoned his idea of giving up the material world an engaged in actions such as killing Ravana. The core message of the Sage was that there is only one Brahman and no other. The Hindu Brahman is the same as the God of the Bible and Allah of the Quran.

Hinduism was the Global Spiritual Leader till about 1,000 years ago. Till then, it appears, the Hindu society followed the path of action told by Sage Vasishtha and followed by Lord Rama. The situation changed dramatically after Lord Shankaracharya gave his teachings. Sage Vasishtha had taught that "Brahman is truth and the world His manifestation." In distinction, Shankaracharya taught that "Brahman is truth the world is unreal." The material world became "unreal." Lord Shankaracharya, it appears, made this teaching only to create a detached mode of action. He himself lived actively in the 32 short years of his life. Like Sage Vasishtha, he wanted people to engage actively in the world but with a sense of detachment. However, it appears, his teachings got perverted and later Hindu teachers taught that the world was actually unreal and there was no benefit to be derived from engaging in action within it. The result was that the best minds of India became inert and we lost to the Lodhi, Mughals and the British and Hinduism has been declining since then.

The making of the Rama Temple presents an opportunity to reinstate the teaching of Sage Vasishtha, which is in essence parallel to the teachings of the Abrahamic religions, at the centre of the global religious movement; and to raise Lord Rama from a Hindu avatar to the global Lord.

Rama and Ibrahim could be the same person. Teachings of Sage Vasishtha are parallel to the teachings of the Bible and Quran. Therefore, we can promote the Ram Temple as the Temple of Ibrahim as well and promote the teachings of Sage Vasishtha. In this way, we can make Ayodhya as the Global Spiritual Capital that the Prime Minister had promised to do for Varanasi in 2014; and also, as the global pilgrim destination along the lines of Jerusalem and Mecca.

(The writer is formerly Professor of Economics at IIM, Bengaluru)

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