Denying one’s Roots – Why?
Though I have been living in India for a long time, there are still some things I find hard to understand. For instance, why many so called educated Indians on television discussion forums become agitated whenever ‘Hindutva’ is mentioned. The majority of Indians are Hindus. India is special because of its ancient Hindu tradition. Westerners are drawn to India because of it. Why then is there this resistance by many Indians to acknowledge the Hindu roots of their country? Why do some people even give the impression that an India that values those Hindu roots is the most dangerous thing on earth? Don’t they know better?
This attitude is strange for two reasons. First, these speakers have a problem only with ‘Hindu’ India, but not with ‘Muslim’ or ‘Christian’ countries. Germany, for example, is a secular country and only 59 percent of the population is registered with the two big Christian Churches (Protestant and Catholic). Nevertheless, the country is bracketed under ‘Christian countries’. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, stressed recently the Christian roots of Germany and urged the population ‘to go back to Christian values’. In 2012, she postponed her trip to the G-8 summit for a day to address the German Catholic Day. In September 2011, the Pope was invited to address the German Parliament. Two major political parties carry ‘Christian’ in their name, including Angela Merkel’s ruling party. Government agencies even collect the Church tax (8 percent of the income tax) and pass it on.
Germans are not agitated that Germany is called a Christian country, though I would understand if they were because the history of the Church is appalling. The so called success story of Christianity depended greatly on tyranny. “Convert or die” were the options given not only to the indigenous population in America some five hundred years ago. In Germany, too, 1200 years ago, the emperor Karl the Great ordered the death sentence for refusal of baptism in his newly conquered realms. It provoked his advisor Alkuin to comment: ‘One can force them to baptism, but how to force them to believe?’ Heresy was put down with an iron hand. I still remember a visit to the Nuremberg castle prison as a school kid, where we were shown the torture chamber and torture instruments used during Inquisition. Inhumanly cruel!
Those times, when one’s life was in danger if one dissented with the dogmas of the Church, are thankfully over. Nowadays, many in the west dissent and leave the Church in a steady stream – in Germany alone over 2 million officially signed out in the last ten years and during a survey in 2011, 5.5 million Germans ‘thought about’ leaving the Church - partly because they are disgusted with the less than holy behavior of Church officials and partly because they can’t believe in dogmas like ‘Jesus is the only way’ and that God sends all those who don’t accept this to hell.
The second reason for my inability to understand the resistance to associate India with Hindutva or Hinduness is that Hinduism is in a different category from the Abrahamic religions. Its history, compared to Christianity and Islam, was undoubtedly by far the least violent as it spread in ancient times by convincing arguments and not by force. It is not a belief system that demands blind belief in dogmas and suspension of one’s intelligence.
On the contrary, Hinduism encourages using one’s intelligence to the hilt. The rishis enquired into truth, discovered universal laws and showed how to live life in an ideal way. Hinduism (please don’t get irritated by the use of this ‘modern’ word; today it covers the many streams of Sanatana Dharma) comprises a huge body of ancient texts, not only regarding Dharma and philosophy, but also regarding music, architecture, dance, science, astronomy, medicine, mathematics, economics, politics, etc. If Germany or any other western country had this kind of literary treasure, it would be so proud and highlight its greatness on every occasion.
We Germans have to be content with only one ‘ancient’ epic written around 800 years ago and probably referring to incidents around 400 AD. That is how far ‘antiquity’ reaches back in Europe, and of course children hear of this epic, ‘Nibelungenlied’, in school. Naturally westerners consider the existence of Sri Krishna and Sri Rama as myths. How could they acknowledge a civilization much more ancient and much more refined than their own?
Inexplicably, Indians cater to western arrogance and ignorance by downplaying and even denying their tradition. There is a “Copernicus Marg’ in New Delhi and Indian children do not get to hear in school that the rishis of the Rg Veda knew already that the earth is round and goes around the sun, thousands of years before westerners ‘discovered’ it (Rg 10’22’14)
When I read some Upanishads, I was stunned at the profundity. Here was expressed in clear terms what I intuitively had felt to be true, but could not have expressed clearly. Brahman is not partial; it is the invisible, indivisible essence in everything. Everyone gets again and again a chance to discover the ultimate truth and is free to choose his way back to it. Helpful hints are given for different types of persons, but not imposed.
In my early days in India, I thought that every Indian knew and valued his tradition. Slowly I realized I was wrong. The British colonial masters had been successful in not only weaning away many of the so called elite from their ancient tradition, but even making them despise it. It helped that the ‘educated’ class could no longer read the original Sanskrit texts and believed what the British told them. This lack of knowledge and the brainwashing by the British education may be the reason why many ‘modern’ Indians are against anything ‘Hindu’. They don’t realize the difference between western religions that have to be believed (or at least professed) blindly, and which discourage if not forbid their adherents to think on their own, and the multi-layered Hindu Dharma which gives freedom and encourages using one’s intelligence.
Many of the English educated class do not realize that on one hand, westerners, especially those who dream to impose their religion on this vast country, will applaud them for denigrating Hindu Dharma, because this helps western universalism to spread in India. On the other hand, many westerners, including Church people, well know the value and surreptitiously appropriate insights from the vast Indian knowledge system, drop the original source and present it either as their own or make it look as if these insights had been known in the west. In this manner, Hindu civilization is gradually being depleted of its valuable, exclusive assets and what is left is called inferior.
If only missionaries denigrated Hindu Dharma, it would not be so bad, as they clearly have an agenda which discerning Indians would detect. But sadly, Indians with Hindu names assist them in the agenda that Hinduism is inferior to western religions. They belittle everything Hindu without getting thorough knowledge. As a rule, they know little about their traditions, except what the British have told them, i.e. that the major features are caste system and idol worship.
They don’t realize that India would gain, not lose, if it solidly backed its profound and all inclusive Hindu tradition. The Dalai Lama said some time ago that already as a youth in Lhasa, he had been deeply impressed by the richness of Indian thought. “India has great potential to help the world,” he added. When will the westernized Indian elite realize it?
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