Wednesday, November 21, 2012


A recent trend has manifested itself among some (not all) contemporary Hindu intellectuals to downgrade the work of the traditional Acharyas. This used to be (in the past) an ongoing rubbishing of their work as inadequate and now has taken a different hue and shape. The new message comes even from Hindu intellectuals who in other respects have done sterling service for the cause of Hindu India. The new argument is as follows : traditional Acharyas are removed from the realities of the contemporary world and especially from the attacks, open and disguised from the abrahamic faiths, and so they should now start supplementing their traditional training with a deep study of the abrahamic faiths, in order to be prepared for the attacks. 

The above, in the opinion of this writer, is a shortsighted view and may in fact be a dangerous precedent to set for the Hindu Samaj. It is not only distracting the Acharyas from their tasks but also indirectly spreading the abrahamic faith. The Church will be delighted. And the Macaulayites will be delighted because the 'civilized' world's faith is being spread around, even without their even lifting their little finger. Hindu intellectuals are doing their job for them !

The traditional Acharyas' training and responsibility is to faithfully transmit the Veda Agama to the Hindu Samaj. That is their task. The task of tackling the abrahamic attacks belongs to the Hindu intellectuals. The traditional Acharya- "aam admi" nexus has been the backbone of Hindu civilization since time immemorial and will continue to be so. It has withstood the onslaughts of barbarian invasions, and as well the two Occupations (the Islamic and the Colonial). It continues to withstand the attacks of ongoing modernisation processes. It does not have to REINVENT itself because it is based on the bedrock of Veda Agama. It needs no RE EDUCATION since the Vedic Rishis transmitted the homa which passed on to the Agama and is presently practised in a variety of ways in the Hindu Samaj. It is to their dedication to the tradition down the centuries that present day Hindus owe the current existence of ongoing living Hinduism. 

One intelligent commentator with no axe to grind (but wishes to remain anonymous) pointed out that the study of abrahamic faiths is a valuable addition to the university of the Acharyas's education. Education, so his argument goes, is an interdisciplinary thing and in today's world it cannot be a closed silos process. In other words it cannot be compartmentalised. Acharyas must become quasi intellectuals and vice versa ! 

Of course, the above argument already assumes that traditional Acharyas are brain dead and need to be 'educated' by the intellectuals !

Now, the silos theory is certainly valid in interdisciplinary studies today in the university curriculums. This is the practical knowledge that all societies, including the Hindu, must adopt. Indeed, in the past the famed Hindu disciplines in the various arts, sciences and mathematics were based on this integral knowledge. Does this apply to the traditional Acharya's vocation ? 

The answer is no. The Veda Agama which is the domain of the Acharyas' work is apaurusheya (not of human origin) and has been inherited from the Vedic Rishis. The homa and the accompanying mantras did not occur by happenstance or incidentally. They were set up by the Vedic Rishis as originating from divine sources. While there is no one canonical text in Hinduism, every Hindu acknowledges the Veda Agama, the Veda as directly given by the Rishis and the Agama being the historical development of the Veda, as integral to his/her identity of being Hindu. The traditional Acharyas transmit this to the Hindu Samaj. Any meddling with this is just that, meddling, however well intentioned it might be. 

The contemporary Hindu intellectual's interest in studying the abrahamic faiths serves a dual purpose : it could just be intellectual curiosity and the need to function in the contemporary world, but it is also and MOST IMPORTANTLY, for the purpose of protecting and defending Hindu Dharma, and therefore by extension, the traditional Acharyas. Studying for the former purpose can be both for dialogue as well as trenchant critique. The latter is exclusively for the purpose of the protection of Dharma. In this context the Hindu intellectual must not only study but critique the abrahamic faiths. 

The dialogue is iffy, since it could end up ceding much that need not be ceded, but certainly the trenchant critiques are to be welcomed.

Any other route is fraught with unintended consequences. It will end up as an undermining of the traditional Acharyas' ongoing work and it is an assault on the aam admi Hindu's religious and spiritual life. The fact that the traditional Acharyas are fortunately insulated from such ill fated attempts at  'updating' and 'improvement' is to be encouraged. 

There is nothing that stands in the way of Hindu intellectuals pursuing the study of the abrahamic faiths or the reinventing of their own intellectual life. Practically speaking, Hindu intellectuals have done that through the centuries. Today, they are actively and with extraordinary creativity pulling out Hindu knowledge in the arts and sciences from the stranglehold of Macaulayism. The scholars and intellectuals engaged in that task are too numerous to be mentioned here, but none of the responsible ones have argued that the traditional Acharyas must also be involved in these enterprises. 

Further, the Acharyas who propagate Hinduism outside of India can continue their work as they wish. They are not affected one way or other. It is their choice whether to study the abrahamic faiths or not. 

Distracting the traditional Acharyas within Bharat from their sacred task of maintaining the Veda Agama is not the way to go.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)

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