This article may need an introduction for those who have never heard about the concept of “Hindutva” especially here in the West, or that have received through media only the poor inadequate equivalence of “Hindu fundamentalism”, when there is not “fundamentalism” in Hinduism as this concept is understood in the West.
In India some people talk of “Hindutva” in a derogatory manner, considering Hinduism as a threat for other religions in the land. They are not reflecting the real meaning of Hindutva, as Maria Wirth so well explains in her article below. Hinduism is not a threat for anybody but a lap for everyone.
India has not only permitted, but encouraged the development of other religions in its soil: it sheltered refugees from different religions and backgrounds, welcoming all, because that is the spirit of Hinduism: Parsis from Iran, Jews and others could settle and live freely in India with their beliefs. Hinduism does not promote conversion. The Dharmic traditions, are the ONLY ONES who really apply that of “live and let live”, unlike Islam and Christianity which are supported by their sacred books to impose their religion on others through conversion by hook or by crook.
It cannot be denied the existence of certain “elements” that in the name of Hinduism are perpetrating radical actions: that it is not real Hindutva or Hinduness; those are only radicals that despite belonging to the majority in religious terms, are the fewer in number. And they arise as a distorted response or defence of PREVIOUS historical and current events of impositions and disrespect on the part of the two Abrahamic religions mentioned before, or as a response to having imported in India the worst of our western costumes that will destroy the Hindu sacred worldview, costumes and thoughts that the “secularism and left wing” support in India. Be it clear that I am not justifying it, only explaining it, that is very different.
The core, the heart, the spine and the admiration caused in the West by the image of India is mostly thanks to its Dharmic ethos or essence that has come to be known as Hinduism. So it is not only absurd but also harmful to try to remove that essence by denying its importance or criticising it with prejudices that do not respond to reality. Harmful not only for India but for the whole world who gets benefitted by the recognition of the universal laws with which Hinduism is attuned. Even not talking of the immensely vast source of various knowledges (Mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine, Arts, Music, Botanicals…) and richness that Mother India has been for the world without the proper and due acknowledgement.
Highlighted sentences in bold letters, by me.
NOTHING WRONG WITH HINDUTVA OR HINDUNESS – ON THE CONTRARY
by Maria Wirth
Is being a Hindu ok and is Hindutva not ok and even dangerous? Many Hindus seem wary to be associated with Hindutva, in spite of the fact that Hindutva simply means Hindu-ness or being Hindu. They tend to accept the view which mainstream media peddled for long: ‘Hindutva is intolerant and stands for the ‘communal agenda of an extreme right Hindu party that wants to force uniform Hinduism on this vast country which is fully against the true Hindu ethos.’
Is this true? The Supreme Court ruling of 1995 declares it as not true:
“Hindutva is indicative more of the way of life of the Indian people. …Considering Hindutva as hostile, inimical, or intolerant of other faiths, or as communal proceeds from an improper appreciation of its true meaning.”
From personal experience, I also came to the conclusion that it is ‘an improper appreciation of its true meaning’, when Hindutva is branded as communal and dangerous.
For many years I lived in ‘spiritual India’ without having any idea how important the terms ‘’secular’ and ’communal’ were. The people I met valued India’s great heritage. They gave me tips which texts to read, which Sants to meet, which mantras to learn, etc., and I wrote about it for German magazines. I used to think that all Indians are proud of their ancestors, who had stunningly deep insights into what is true and who left a huge legacy of precious texts unparalleled in the world.
However, when I settled in a ‘normal’ environment away from ashrams and connected with the English speaking middle class including some foreign wives, I was shocked that several of my new friends with Hindu names were ridiculing Hinduism without knowing anything about it. They had not even read the Bhagavad-Gita, but claimed that Hinduism was the most depraved of all religions and responsible for the ills India is facing. The caste system and Manusmiti were quoted as proof.
My new acquaintances had expected me to join them in denouncing ‘primitive’ Hinduism which I could not do as I knew too much, not only form reading, but also from doing sadhana*. They declared that I had read the wrong books and asked me to read the right books, which would give me the ‘correct’ understanding. They obviously didn’t doubt that their own view was correct.
*sadhana: spiritual practices
My neighbour, a self-declared communist, introduced me occasionally to his friends as “the local RSS** pracharak”. It was half in jest, but more than half intended to be demeaning. My reaction at that time: “If this is what RSS stands for, then it must be good.”
**RSS: a Hindu Organization
Standing up for Hindu Dharma indicted me as belonging to the ‘Hindutva brigade’ that is shunned by political correctness. My fault was that I dared to say that Hindu Dharma is the best option for any society. I did not make a baseless claim, as Christianity and Islam do and which goes mostly unchallenged. I explained why Hindu Dharma is inclusive and not divisive, whereas Christianity and Islam divide humanity into those who supposedly have the ‘true faith’ and those who are wrong and will pay for it eternally in hell, if not already on earth.
Of course my stand is neither communal nor dangerous for India. Hindu Dharma is indeed not only inclusive, but also most beneficial for the individual and for society and needs to gain strength at the expense of Christianity and Islam, which are exclusive and therefore harmful. And yes, politicians, too, need to base their lives on Hindu Dharma if they want to be efficient in serving the society. Propagating blind belief in a strange story has no place in politics, but propagating and following Dharma is in the interest of all.
My secular friends can’t really be blamed for their faulty understanding. They were taught that Hinduism is just another religion, but inferior to the two main “only true” ones. Children usually don’t doubt what they learn. Yet Hindu Dharma is in a completely different category from the Abrahamic religions:
Hindu Dharma was never based on unreasonable dogmas and did not need blasphemy laws to keep its followers in check. It is helpful to society as it imparts wisdom and gives guidelines for an ideal life that acknowledges the invisible, conscious Essence in this visible universe. It does not strait-jacket people into an unbelievable belief system. It allows freedom of thought and many parallel streams with different ways to connect to this essence emerged which co-existed harmoniously.
Since I grew up in the Catholic Church and know the narrow mindedness that is indoctrinated into children, I wonder why Indian laws even after Independence still favour the dogmatic religions which the invaders brought with them over their ancient, benign Dharma, for example in education or in regard to places of worship. Don’t politicians see the real communal danger? Don’t they realise that both dogmatic religions cannot live peacefully with others. Both need to dominate. And both are very powerful worldwide, politically and financially. As long as they have not yet the numbers in India, they may downplay the central tenet of exclusiveness in their ideologies. But exist it does, and their numbers are frightfully and rapidly increasing.
The so-called secularists fight for the right of Christians and Muslims to assert their separate identity, which ultimately needs to engulf everyone. And what is this separate identity? It is merely an unverifiable belief that negatively impacts the mind-set. This unverifiable belief sees in Hindus not only outsiders, but outsiders that need to be looked down upon. How can educated Indians be blind to the danger and risk having in future more partitions on the basis of unsubstantiated religious beliefs, including the risk of more terrible bloodshed?
Strangely, the exclusive religions are not accused of being divisive and communal, but Hinduism is. Why? Hindus are required to see Brahman, the one Supreme, in everyone. In contrast, the followers of dogmatic religions are not required to respect those who reject their ‘true religion’. They are even allowed to hate them. The ease, with which Muslims kill unbelievers even in our times, is frightening. And strangely, even the most gruesome murder by ISIS inspired Muslims are played down by media worldwide. Yet if a Hindu kills a Muslim, media gives it huge space. Why?
Humanity needs to win over the madness that the Supreme Being loves some humans more than others, because they believe in a certain book. But how to make them see sense, and adopt the inclusive Hindu mind-set?
In recent weeks some staunch ‘secular’ Indians declared themselves suddenly as Hindus. Maybe they pave the way for others to follow. However, they seem to propagate (and portray it as a positive aspect) that for a Hindu everything goes: believe in a Supreme Being or not, be vegetarian or not, go to temples or not, follow Vedic guidelines or not. It seems to imply: be truthful or not, etc. They portray Hindu Dharma as having no fundamentals.
Yet this is clearly wrong. Hindu Dharma has fundamentals, but in contrast, they are benign and helpful.
Being Hindu means to know and value the profound insights of the Rishis and to follow their recommendations in one’s life. These insights may not be obvious to the senses, like the claim that everything, including nature, is permeated by the one consciousness (Brahman), but it can be realised as true; similarly as it is not obvious that the earth goes around the sun, but it can be proven. Being Hindu does not require blind belief.
Being Hindu also means having the welfare of all at heart, including animals and plants, because each part is intimately connected with the Whole. Especially the cow is revered and the Rishis gave good reasons why it must never be killed. (At the end there is a link to a video which would probably stop any truly human being from eating her flesh.)
Being Hindu means following one’s conscience and using one’s intelligence well. It means diving into oneself trying to connect with one’s Essence. It means trusting one’s own Self, Atman, and doing the right thing at the right time.
Being Hindu means being wise – not deluded or gullible or foolish. This wisdom about the truth of this universe and about how to live life in the best possible way was discovered and preserved in India. Yet its tenets are universal, valid for all humanity.
Isn’t it time for our interconnected world to realise this and benefit?
By Maria Wirth
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecCPLt5rE58 “Myth of Holy Cow and Beef in Hinduism
CONCLUSION, by Durga
So if “Hindutva” is only the “quality of being a Hindu” that would be called “Hinduness” in English, it is high time to help disassociate it from its wrong and vested associations, and to let it shine by its real meaning: a beacon light for the welfare OF ALL. Hope this article contributes to that goal.
Happy Navaratri to all!*
*Navaratri: “nine nights”, the nine days and its nights that start today and occur twice a year, following the astronomical Hindu calendar (like for every celebration). It is devoted to the female aspect of the formless Ultimate Truth, the Devi or Goddess or Mother Shakti, in Her nine more prominent manifestations. Each day one form of the Devi and its correspondent qualities is celebrated and worshipped for the uplift of all feminine aspects in the creation and manifestation of the Brahman. For the uplift of all the humanity and all beings (not only of Hindus).