Hindutva is synonymous to Hindu Dharma. It is much broader in its manifestation when compared to the narrowness of Semetic religions
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 about which texts to read, which Saints 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 Manusrmiti 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 advised me to read the right books, which would give me the ‘correct’ understanding. They obviously didn’t doubt that their own view was correct.
My neighbour, a self-declared communist, introduced me often 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 RSS is in tune with my views, then it must be good.”
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 Semitic religions, 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 Dharmic living 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 by imparting wisdom and giving 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 would favour dogmatic religions 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 Indian secularists fight for the right of Christians and Muslims to assert and propagate 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 not only creates outsiders, but it creates outsiders that are 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. Can anyone explain 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 respective ‘true religion’. They are even allowed to hate them. The ease, with which Christians and Muslims killed unbelievers, is frightening. And it is happening in our times.
Humanity needs to win over such madness. But how to make the majority of humans adopt the inclusive Hindu mind-set?
Maybe it’s a good start that in recent weeks some staunch secular Indians declared themselves suddenly as being Hindu. Maybe they pave the way for others to follow. However, they still need some coaching what being Hindu means, unless they use Hindu as a purely geographical term and not in relation to other faiths.
It is propagated (and portrayed 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, keep your word or not, etc. They portray Hindu Dharma as having no fundamentals, maybe implying that therefore, Hindu Dharma needs to be tolerant of everything, including of the intolerant and of its own demise.
Yet this is not correct. Hindu Dharma has also 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 at first sight, like the claim that everything, including nature, is permeated by Brahman, the one consciousness, but it can be realised as true, in the same way that 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. It means being sincere and using one’s intelligence to its limit. 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 even 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 become wise?
(The writer is a German who lives in India and blogs on issues related to Hindutva)