Not the time for self-flagellation : Francois Gautier
October 24, 2010 1:26:07 AM
Hindus must seek pride in their religious identity and fight back those who are bent upon denigrating India’s civilisational history. The world owes a lot to Hinduism’s humanising influence
One remembers Sri Aurobindo’s famous Uttarpara speech: “That which we call the Hindu religion is really the eternal religion, because it is the universal religion which embraces all others.” One also can’t help noticing that the religion of Hindus is not in their heads, as it is for Christians — “I must pray, I must be good, I must not sin” — but it is rather something they live by: “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam — the whole world is my family”.
Today, though, Hinduism has become a dirty word in India and everyone wants to be dissociated from it, including many ‘secular Hindus’. Hindu terrorism is also being equated with Islamic terrorism, a wrong analogy if ever there was one, as Hindus have never invaded another country in the last 2,000 years and never tried to impose their religion by force, as Islam and Christianity have done, nor even by conversion, like Buddhism. Hindus have moreover always given refuge to all persecuted religious minorities in the world: The first Christian community on this planet, that of the Syrian Christians, in Kerala, the Jews who were never persecuted in India, as they have been elsewhere, the Parsis of Zarathustra, who fled Islam, or the Tibetans today. Still, one is beginning to doubt Hinduism.
At this juncture, comes The Timeless Faith: Dialogues on Hinduism by Deepam Chatterjee with a foreword by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar which puts to rest all doubts. The book redefines simply and clearly the eternal principles of Hinduism:
A Hindu is one who searches for the ultimate truth.
Unlike other religions, Hinduism refuses to sanction the monopoly of one god, or one scripture as the only way to salvation.
Hinduism is the eternal faith (Sanatan Dharma) or the universal law by which all human beings are governed.
Hindus believe that the soul takes birth in a physical body, dies and is reborn until it has attained perfect divinity.
Hindus believe that one can cleanse oneself from karmas through yogic practices.
One can be a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew or a follower of any other religion and still practise Hinduism.
It is thanks to that timeless wisdom that a Hindu today still accepts that Christ, Buddha or Mohammed may be avatars or envoys of god. Yet, the reverse is not true: A Christian and even less a Muslim will not enter a temple for they would believe that they would be committing a sin. Hindus have also been one of the most persecuted peoples in the world.
Westerners living in India would do well to remember that they owe much to Hinduism’s tolerance and traditional acceptance — a project like Auroville, for instance, could not exist elsewhere. Try to build a Hindu commune in the United States (Osho attempted it) or in France (ask Mata Amritanandamayi who is battling accusations of being a cult leader). Even Ms Sonia Gandhi should know that she owes her position to the overwhelming Hindu majority of this country who have an ancient tradition of worshipping the Shakti and also respect her religion although Christians have tried to convert Hindus in India to their own faith.
It is also a matter of sorrow and dismay that there is both an unconscious but also sometimes conscious attempt by those who practise yoga and pranayama to dissociate themselves from Hinduism and turn it into some kind of a New Age technique. Let them remember that these traditions were devised, practised and preserved by Hindu sages for thousands of years. Baba Ramdev has shown the way: He is a Hindu leader and not scared of saying it out loud.
This book is a timely reminder of how much the world owes, and will owe in the coming decades, Hinduism and the enduring vision that it truly represents.
The writer is an author and journalist based in New Delhi.