by' Squeezing the life blood out of Hinduism'
Dr. Vijaya RajivaThe Vedic Agamic tradition which is the lifeblood of Hinduism has been under attack since earliest times, since the barbarian invasions, and the colonial Occupation. Both the proselytising faiths (Islam and Christianity) have sought to either destroy it directly by force and violence or through the process of Inculturation, which is the process by which a native culture is infiltrated in various devious ways and finally sought to be defeated. This defeat has not yet taken place despite their best efforts.The Devas and Devatas of the 4 Vedas are ever present in the Indian subcontinent and the Vedic rituals are an invocation to these celestial beings. As a contemporary Vedantin ( a monist, to be distinguished from monotheist) the Kanchi Shankaracharia has put
" . . . . a yagna is making an oblation to a deity in the fire with the chanting of mantras. In a sense, the mantras themselves constitute the form of the deities invoked. In another sense, the mantras, like the materials placed in the fire, are the sustenance of the celestials invoked. . . . (Hindu Dharma : Chapter on the Vedas)". This extraordinary observation brings to the fore the insights of the older major Upanishads such as the Chandogya and the Brihadaranyaka (and the Upanishads in general) on the world of the Devas and Devatas.The present writer has written about the need to preserve the line of continuity between Vedic polytheism (or panentheism) as some writers have called it (notably Sita Ram Goyal), the Upanishads and the Vedanta of Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva (and the Dvaitins). This is a project that needs to be continued in our times and it has been blessed at the start for our times as seen above by the work of the Kanchi Sankaracharia.This statement is all important because the worship of the deities and the Vedic ritual have been sought to be trashed by the proselytising faiths (Islam and Christianity) and the response to it after the barbarian invasions and the long night of colonisation is for Hindus to be apologetic about the Vedic deities, the rituals, the consecration of the murthis in temples and so on.This apologetics today, has taken two distinct forms, the Interfaith Dialogue and the exaltation of a rarefied Vedantism which squeezes the life blood out of Hinduism as an historical practice and an ongoing reality which our Vedic Rishis have bequeathed to us.The Interfaith Dialogue has a serious faultline because it presupposes that Hindus who have been for centuries the victims of religious persecution and are currently under indirect attack through the processes of conversion, are somehow to blame, in a Kafkaesque scenario which has been deliberately initiated by the proselytising faiths. And at each such session the benighted Hindu is left bewildered or pressured into making ignominous concessions. Or, as in the case of the recent session of the Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) a superficial feel good feeling is generated which disguises the serious issues of ongoing conversion in the country and the attempt to downgrade the majority population of the country. Participants at such venues are naturally not concerned with such serious threats to the Hindu population. BIRD, it must be pointed out is a Christian initiative.
It is not simply a question of conversion only. The monotheists have no intention of relinquishing their objectives while covertly carrying on their proselytisation, the acquistion of temple properties, the slow and ongoing attempt to change the Hindu ethos and demographics of the country and most insidious of all, the attempt to brainwash Hindus into thinking that Hinduism is a state of mind that is in the process of evolving into some higher form under their expert guidance.One example of the apologetic response from Hindus is the hasty statement that Hindus are not polytheists (as if polytheism were some serious disease!) and that Hindus too are like the proselytising faiths, they too believe in the ONE god, which the present writer has labelled One god-ism. This abject surrender of our Vedic Agamic heritage is further compounded by a rarefied Vedantism (mistakenly presented as Hindu spirituality) such as that pedalled by Frank Morales which does not even use the word Hinduism, but uses the phrase Sanatana Dharma, as if the word ' Hindu' was in some way a polluted one !And yet, the aam admi and the majority of Hindus are attached to this word because of its association with the river Sindhu. As is well known, the Persians could not pronounce this Vedic word and pronounced the s as h and the British changed it to the Greek Indus. The Sindhu is the sacred river for the Hindus, and with the recent work done by Indic scholars on the discovery of the river Sarasvati mentioned in the Rig Veda some 78 times(and which had disappeared in post Vedic times) the phrase Sindhu Sarasvati has become even more significant for Hindus.Now, it is easy for someone like Frank Morales (aka Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya)to discount this because he is not grounded in the reality of the sacred geography of the Punya Bhumi and can quite blandly dismiss it ( as he did in his lectures). His internal landscape is bereft of the historical association of Sindhu (Hindu) which is in the consciousness of most Hindus or at any rate those Hindus who have not been deracinated by the brainwashing of the colonial educational system. In that sense, his consciousness is blank and he can comfortably move around in his abstract version of Sanatana Dharma. This is not his fault. It is simply the reality of the situation.This is a serious problem and is applicable to other well intentioned Vedantins also, especially if they are of foreign extraction and whose mental landscape is attuned either to monotheism or to an abstract Vedantism, simply because they have not been exposed to the Vedic Agamic traditions of worship in the Punya Bhumi. Their view of Hinduism is leached by their background and what they have absorbed of Vedanta is coloured by this process. Again, they are not to be blamed for this. It happens to be the reality of the situation. Hence, Morales can talk of the ONE supreme godhead as do many unthinking Hindus also, but not pay serious attention to the other avatars or the Devas and Devatas of the Hindu pantheon who are worshipped in thousands of temples in the Punya Bhumi. And other Vedantins, both foreign born and Hindu can equally disappear into an abstract realm of universalism. The colonised 19th century Hindu was particularly vulnerable since she or he had learnt from his educational institutions that the modern Christian state is the highest point of human history. German philosopher Hegel had said in his book The Philosophy of History that the lowest form was the African, then came the Oriental (India and China) and finally the ideal , the modern Christian state ! The contemporary deracinated Hindu of today is also swept away by the tide of globalisation or by the glamour of coffee table conversations of a refined, abstract Vedantism.
Such Acharyas then, of the Morales variety, should not be allowed to exercise an undue influence on the Hindu Samaj, whether in the diaspora or on their visits to India. It must be stressed that they are not to be blamed for whatever shortcomings they have in their understanding of Hinduism. They are shortcomings which can be overcome, should they choose to take that route.
It is easy to see why Hindus since the 19th century were held hostage to this Hegelian/ Christian world view. Leading Hindu thinkers were avid students of Hegel and this did not exclude Swami Vivekananda also, who carried this inner baggage even after he met the Paramahamsa. The present writer's paternal uncle was a monk of the Ramakrishna Order and is therefore familiar with the writings of Swamiji, which often assume an earlier and a later, an upper and a lower framework. Whereas, the average Hindu views the Vedas as ever present, neither lower nor upper, neither undeveloped or developed, but as the fountainhead of his/her religion, period.
The reality of Hinduism, grounded in the Punya Bhumi is the Vedic Agamic tradition, something recognised even by Sankara when he allowed that 6 deities could be worshipped : Surya, Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti, Ganapathi, Skanda. Sankara is mentioned precisely because he is considered the epitome of the Advaita (non dualist) tradition. Neverthless, the Maya of Sankara and the Infinite of both Ramanuja and the Dvaitins (Madhava and others) are united in their deference not only to the Upanishads but also the Devas and Devatas of the Vedas.
It is in maintaining this line of continuity that the Hindu of today should say what some perceptive commentators have said: We are proud idol worshippers ! These 'idols' (murtis) caricatured by the proselytisers, are the sacred gift of our Vedic seers. The Vedic Devas and Devatas are our celestial benefactors and guardians and the sacred mantras are our oblations to them, and our temples are the sacred centres of consecrated beings. They are to be worshipped, whatever the ONE god-ists may say. To use their terminology, these Devas and Devatas are our gods and goddesses !
It is vitally important that the present generation of Hindus do not allow the lifeblood of Hinduism to be squeezed out under any circumstance whatsover.
(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)