PaschimBangerJanya release a video this is Web version
Duration 18 minutes
PaschimBangerJanya release a video this is Web version
Duration 18 minutes
There’s a small part of India where intellectual snobbery reigns. Books are considered the source of ultimate wisdom. But here’s the thing: great people get books written on them, book-readers don’t necessarily do great things. Amid the current wave of intellectual snobbery sweeping India, many would do well to think about this.
There are not many people in India today who would proudly assert unintellectual credentials or refuse to sing reverential hosannas to those who flaunt bookish haloes. But there exists a vast portion of India that is cocooned from the scorn of writers and their diehard readers.
Does the smarts to run a company or a country stem from the ability to tell a Tagore from a Turgenev, or even a Saraswatichandra from Saratchandra, as a writer sneeringly pondered about our current prime minister? Had that been so, West Bengal with its cache of ‘intellectuals’ would certainly not have been where it is today.
So everyone’s a critic
Sadly, this misplaced reverence for anyone who writes, wins awards — and occasionally returns them decades later — or merely reads, has led to many aberrations. Not the least of which is the continuation of moribund institutions like the Sahitya Akademi, whose internal corruption is masked by the glow of its ‘intellectual’ halo.
Since 1964, a little over a decade after they were set up by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, several high-powered investigating committees looked into the affairs of the Akademis. Yet, their foibles, including scores of questions over selection of annual awardees, invoke no opprobrium.
In 2012, a parliamentary standing committee — headed by no less a bluetickmarked ‘intellectual’ as the CPI (M)’s Sitaram Yechury — even pronounced that “Akademis…are always mired in one controversy or the other. Our founding fathers gave them autonomy to keep politics away from culture, but politics seems to have crept in from the back door.”
Malfeasance flourishing in the garb of ‘culture’ is obviously a tricky asura to vanquish. Especially when culture —’good’ literature, music, art, etc — is determined by who writes, performs, promotes, befriends or opposes it. But if this astonishingly subjective rule is hijacked by new cabals, it is derided by the older one.
Given their lemming-like solidarity now, this forbearance of writers and readers, and the non-return of awards earlier despite evidence of egregious excesses by the Akademis, is curious. The silence of the bona fide bookish, Oxford-educated previous prime minister is odder still. Or was that a case of (intellectual) unity in adversity?
The current prime minister ‘breaking his silence’ about the Dadri lynching and incidents of cultural intolerance targeting Pakistanis will not stop the return of more cobwebbed plaques — not until the media loses interest, that is. Nor will it quell the fulminations of some writers and their devoted readers, and Twitterverse shadowboxers.
With ‘Better the devil I know than the Hindutward devil I don’t’ as their motto, there will be no stopping this snooty cabal’s frenzied multimedia vituperation as long as the Orange Other stubbornly occupies Centre-stage. All this, of course, even as they paradoxically proclaim the demise of dissent under ‘fascist suit-boots’.
The future will determine whether reading books — or humbly seeking approval and endorsements from their writers and perusers — really matters. And, hopefully, the result of this bout of self-righteous resignations and returns will be a clean-up of the Akademis.
People are angry at the murder of Muhammad Akhlaq in Dadri over allegations that he ate beef. Some say they are angry at Akhlaq’s murder, while others say they are angry at the murder of the cow. Some people are angry at the cancellation of Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali’s show of 9 October in Mumbai due to the Shiv Sena’s threat, while others are angry at Pakistani actors and singers being invited in India.
In the natural world, animals are made of meat and bones. Humans too, made of bones and meat, are animals. What angers them? Let’s look at their habits and ideas.
It is a bogus claim that we as humans are concerned about life, whether the life be of an animal or of a human being. For example, lots of people who argue that they believe in non-violence are non-vegetarians and eat meat in full awareness that an animal has been murdered.
In purely humanist considerations, the life of an animal cannot be less precious than the life of a human being. Among vegetarians, Jains deserve respect as they strive not to hurt even insects. It does not automatically mean that all Jains are vegetarians and pacifists, or that vegetarians do not murder.
On 23 June, Pakistani police killed a boy after he posed for selfie with a toy gun in Faisalabad, but Pakistani people did not protest. But if a Palestinian child is injured in firing by Israeli police, there are global protests by leftists and journalists file numerous outraged reports.
When the U.S. launched the war in Iraq, there were protests across the world by anti-war activists. When Saudi Arabia launched the current air strikes on Yemen, anti-war activists went to sleep. Pakistani army regularly kills people in Balochistan, but Pakistanis do not rise up. In India, secular journalists who claim they are concerned about human rights do not get angry when victims are Hindu.
Indian secularism is colour-blind.
Secular journalists who are angry at Akhlaq’s killing adopted total silence on a number of murders recently. Last August, army jawan Vedmitra Chaudhury was lynched to death in Hardevnagar, near Meerut, for saving a girl from molesters. In March, a Hindu man was abducted and murdered in Hajipur of Bihar for marrying a Muslim girl. Last June, a man was lynched to death near Eluru in Andhra Pradesh. A mob killed a man in Bhandup West area of Mumbai in June.
Secular journalists’ colour-blindness prevents them from seeing these murders: they do not get angry; they want Muslims to be murdered; only then they speak up. Indian secularism has tasted the Muslim blood.
Indian secularism is not only colour-blind, it is also half-Pakistani.
Secular leader Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, spoke with Ghulam Ali after his show was cancelled and will host him in Delhi. Secular leader Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, organised Ghulam Ali’s show in Lucknow.
But Kejriwal and Akhilesh didn’t invite our own Oscar-winning musician A. R. Rahman when his music show of 13 September in Delhi was cancelled due to a fatwa by the Barelvi group Raza Academy.Secularism does not like Indian Muslim singers; it does not like Indian writers like Salman Rushdie. Mamata Banerjee, another secular leader, supported Ghulam Ali, saying music has no international boundaries but she will not support Taslima Nasreen, the Bangladeshi writer.
Indian secularism is truly Pakistani, not even a quarter-Bangladeshi.
Indian secularism is also counter-nationalist: secular lawyers turned out at midnight before the Supreme Court to save the life of convicted terrorist Yakub Menon but remain silent on death sentences of common Indians.
Secular journalist Nikhil Wagle wrote: “Without secularism, India is a Hindu Pakistan.“
Indian secularism is not even Indian: it is incomplete without eating beef. It loves to eat beef because Pakistanis eat beef. It is essentially Pakistani. It aligns with Pakistanis.
In 1947, our people thought that they could give away a piece of India’s territory to buy permanent peace. The secular government of Manmohan Singh came close to conceding a part of Kashmir to Pakistan in talks with General Pervez Musharraf, the architect of arguably the largest jihad in modern times in Kargil. Indian secularism is without sex, without consummating with Pakistan.
In his landmark book “On War”, German military strategist Carl von Clausewitz observed: “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” The reason Indians do not want Pakistani singers here is because Pakistan is practically in a state of war against India for nearly seven decades.
Through television and social media, common Indians can understand Pakistan’s war by other means. Pakistan has not formally declared a war, but Indians have grasped the obvious fact of our times that we are in a state of war because Pakistan continues to send jihadists into India. Aamir Khan’s movie Sarfarosh showed us that Pakistan sends arms dealers posing as ghazal singers.
Indian secularism is also Islamist.
In 2012, the secular Congress government did not allow Salman Rushdie to speak in Jaipur because secularism is in an incestuous relationship with Islamists. Mamata Banerjee does not support Taslima Nasreen because the West Bengal CM is in league with Islamists in the state.
Kejriwal’s secularism is in open alliance with Islamists. In 2013, Kejriwal visited Bareilly to meet Islamic cleric Tauqeer Raza Khan to seek Muslim votes. Last year, he sent Alka Lamba to meet Imam Bukhari’s brother to seek Muslim votes. In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi’s secularism surrendered before Islamic clerics in the Shah Bano case. Indian secularism is incomplete without its ideological cohabitation with Islamists.
On 1 October, secular gossip columnist Shobhaa De tweeted: “I just ate beef. Come and murder me.” The question also is: Will she draw a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad at the Gateway of India?
In a tweet dated 4 October, secular journalist Sagarika Ghose wrote: “Citizens of India, we need a campaign like Je Suis Charlie. Hold your head high and say ‘I am a beef eater’.” The question is: Will secular journalists draw the same cartoon in front of Delhi’s Jamaa Masjid?
The outrage is not about beef or cartoon. Indian youths are concerned over secularism’s double standards; they will support your right to eat beef if you are willing to draw a cartoon, even from your kitchen. The secular NDTV, supported by Aircel, began Save Our Tiger campaign. Why not a Save the Cow campaign?
India is a great nation. Its reality is this: Bollywood actor Aamir Khan makes the movie #PK in which Hindu god Lord Shiva is locked up in a bathroom and threatened, but he cannot make a movie on Prophet Muhammad. This is the imbalance in our national conversation that threatens India’s social cohesion. It is fostered by journalists.
India is witnessing the emergence of fascism from newsrooms, a movement of totalitarian ideas that divides us in order to win. Indian journalists are beaten up by Indians in New York or Dadri for their double standards. On social media, they are being called pimps and presstitutes, bimbos and bazaaru media because they sell their souls for a bungalow or a Rajya Sabha seat.
This secular fascism, in league with Islamic totalitarianism, wins by dividing us, but police must deal ruthlessly with any Indian who takes law into their own hands.
(A version of this article was published on October 15 by Dainik Jagran, India’s largest Hindi-language newspaper under the title “Secular Qabeeley Ke Log”)
Our mythology is replete with rich metaphors that contain valuable insights on how we can successfully negotiate the turbulent waters worldly existence. They need to be understood metaphorically as well. To understand them literally is to lose the message contained in them. The blindness of King Dhrithrashtra is not merely physical: he was blinded by his love for Duryodhana (attachment), which he placed above all else, including dharma. That was the key to his undoing.
Consider the case of Hanumana, son of Vayu, the “wind god.” As a child, he tried to swallow the sun! Full of mischief, he used to play pranks on sages involved in their austerities until the day came when they could bear it no longer. They cursed him by declaring that he would no longer remember his celestial powers.
When his father Vayu heard of the curse, he restrained all movement in the universe.The world began to suffocate as it is impossible to survive without wind. The Gods rushed to him and beseeched him to revoke his stand. But Vayu refused and declared that until the curse on his son is revoked, he would not budge.
The Gods approached the sages and understanding the gravity of the situation, they relented by declaring that if anybody recalled his powers, they would be restored to Hanumana. Only then did Vayu relent and the universe returned to its original state. Years later, when Sri Rama was seeking the whereabouts of his beloved Sita, he asked Hanumana if he could cross the ocean and visit Lanka to find out if Sita was alive and well.
Hanumana was in a dilemma; how could he cross the ocean? Just then Jambavan, the king of the bears, began reciting Hanumana’s exploits as a child and it is said that as he was singing his praises, Hanumana rose in height, beauty and splendor. His confidence thus restored, he crossed the ocean without difficulty and returned after having performed some extraordinary exploits in Lanka.
The insight of this tale is this: the intensity of your problem is determined by the smallness of your mind. If you allow your problem to grow in stature, you become small and thereby allow the problem to become big. On the other hand, if you can outgrow your problem and become a Hanumana, your problem becomes small because you are taller than the problem. If you want to successfully negotiate your life’s challenges, become a Hanumana.
In the matter of devotion too, the figure of Hanumana is both inspiring and uplifting. They say in Kali Yuga, devotion is fastest means of achieving merger with the Supreme. When gifted with a garland of pearls by Sita Devi, he placed it upon his ear and bit into it with his teeth. When Sri Rama who was quite taken aback by this behavior asked him what he was doing, he replied by saying, “I want to see whether I can see Your form in these pearls. Otherwise they are of no use to me. Your Name alone is what I want.”
On hearing these words, it is said that Lord Rama embraced this peerless devotee and said: “Maruti! What other gift can I give you? I shall give you Myself as the gift. Accept Me.” This is why it is said that we can be sure of Rama’s presence through Hanumana. It is also said that Lord Rama conferred upon Hanumana the gift of immortality and said that as long as His name survived in the world, the name of Hanumana would survive with Him.
Once Lord Rama asked him why Hanumana always bowed and knelt to Him when he knew that there was no real difference between him and the Lord. Hanumana replied by saying: “My Lord when I am away from You, I know that there is no difference between you and I but when I come in front of You I can only approach you as Your slave!”
Lord Krishna once asked Garuda, His mount, to bring some lotus flowers from the garden of Kubera, king of the yakshas. On the way, Garuda’s ego began to inflate and he thought how there was nobody who was equal to this task than him in the entire universe. Pleased with himself, he reached the garden and began plucking the flowers.
Hanumana saw Garuda picking up the flowers and reprimanded him for taking the flowers without securing Kubera’s permission. Bloated by his ego, Garuda replied: “I am taking these flowers for Lord Krishna. I do not need any permission.” Hanuman was annoyed. He caught Garuda in his grasp and headed directly for Dwaraka. The earth trembled in panic. The Lord’s Sudarshana chakra stood in his way but he caught hold of it and held that too, in his armpit.
The Lord was watching Hanumana’s actions with a bewitching smile and told his companions: “Hanumana is in a state of anger and he can be pacified only by the darshan of Rama and Sita, his consort. Otherwise he will lift Dwaraka single handed and drown it in the ocean.”
Lord Krishna asked several of His consorts to assume the form of Sita but none of them could accomplish that transformation. They eventually called upon Radha Devi and both Lord Krishna and Radha Devi immediately assumed the form of Rama and Sita. Hanumana was overjoyed when he saw the divine couple. He prostrated joyfully to Rama and Sita even as he was firmly holding Garuda and the Sudarshana chakra under his arms.
Lord Rama then asked Hanumana what he was holding under his arms and Hanumana gave the Lord, the following reply: “This is nothing my Lord. It is but a small matter. While I was engaged in doing my japa, a little bird came and disturbed me. I caught hold of it and kept it under my arm. Then a little chakra came and disturbed me and I kept that too under my arm. My Lord! If you wanted lotus flowers, all you have to do is to command me and I will bring it in as trice.”
Pointing to Garuda, Hanumana said: “This weakling does not have the capacity to pluck flowers from the garden of such a mighty king as Kubera.”
Lord Rama then addressed Hanumana: “My son. Leave these poor things with me. I am very happy that you brought them to me. Now go and resume your japa.”
Garuda thought he was all powerful and the Sudarshana Chakra thought it was invincible. Lord Krishna’s consorts thought their physical beauty would suffice to make the transformation but they could not.
In one powerful instance, the Lord taught them all the need to eschew the ego and surrender it to His sacred feet. Such was the nature of Hanumana’s devotion: pure, innocent and utterly without guile.
The wonderful story of Hanumana teaches us many valuable lessons. He was able to cross the sea by the power of chanting His name; his first thought was victory to Lord, never for himself. It was always Jaya Sri Rama or “Victory to Lord Rama” on his lips.
From being a monkey, he became an unparalleled devotee of the Lord. This is an instruction to human beings to conquer their monkey minds or as the late Satya Sai Baba said, from being a pashu (creature) to becoming a pashupati or the Lord of all beings. It teaches us the value of expanding our minds to outgrow our difficulties by embedding the inestimable value of devotion and surrender.
There is no figure quite like Hanumana.
This was published in Hindu Human Rights, on 10 August 2013, and in Sutra Journal, October, 2015.
Orientalists have started treating Buddhism as a separate religion because they discovered it outside India, without any conspicuous link with India, where Buddhism was not in evidence. At first, they didn’t even know that the Buddha had been an Indian. It had at any rate gone through centuries of development unrelated to anything happening in India at the same time. Therefore, it is understandable that Buddhism was already the object of a separate discipline even before any connection with Hinduism could be made.
In India, all kinds of invention, somewhat logically connected to this status of separate religion, were then added. Especially the Ambedkarite movement, springing from the conversion of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in 1956, was very driven in retro-actively producing an anti-Hindu programme for the Buddha.
Conversion itself, not just the embracing of a new tradition (which any Hindu is free to do, all while staying a Hindu) but the renouncing of one’s previous religion, as the Hindu-born politician Ambedkar did, is a typically Christian concept.
The model event was the conversion of the Frankish king Clovis, possibly in 496, who “burned what he had worshipped and worshipped what he had burnt.” (Let it pass for now that the Christian chroniclers slandered their victims by positing a false symmetry: the Heathens hadn’t been in the business of destroying Christian symbols.) So, in his understanding of the history of Bauddha Dharma (Buddhism), Ambedkar was less than reliable, in spite of his sterling contributions regarding the history of Islam and some parts of the history of caste.
But where he was a bit right and a bit mistaken, his later followers have gone all the way and made nothing but a gross caricature of history, and especially about the place of Buddhism in Hindu history.
The Ambedkarite worldview has ultimately only radicalized the moderately anti-Hindu version of the reigning Nehruvians. Under Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, Buddhism was turned into the unofficial state religion of India, adopting the “lion pillar” of the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka as state symbol and putting the 24-spoked Cakravarti wheel in the national flag.
Essentially, Nehru’s knowledge of Indian history was limited to two spiritual figures, viz. the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, and three political leaders: Ashoka, Akbar and himself. The concept of Cakravarti (“wheel-turner,” universal ruler) was in fact much older than Ashoka, and the 24-spoked wheel can also be read in other senses, e.g. the Sankhya philosophy’s worldview, with the central Purusha/Subject and the 24 elements of Prakrti/Nature.
The anglicized Nehru, “India’s last Viceroy,” prided himself on his illiteracy in Hindu culture, so he didn’t know any of this, but was satisfied that these symbols could glorify Ashoka and belittle Hinduism, deemed a separate religion from which Ashoka had broken away by accepting Buddhism. More broadly, Nehru thought that everything of value in India was a gift of Buddhism (and Islam) to the undeserving Hindus. Thus, the fabled Hindu tolerance was according to him a value borrowed from Buddhism.
In reality, the Buddha had been a beneficiary of an already established Hindu tradition of pluralism. In a Muslim country, he would never have preached his doctrine in peace and comfort for 45 years, but in Hindu society, this was a matter of course. There were some attempts on his life, but they emanated not from “Hindus” but from jealous disciples within his own monastic order.
So, both Nehru and Ambedkar, as well as their followers, believed by implication that at some point in his life, the Hindu-born renunciate Buddha had broken away from Hinduism and adopted a new religion, Buddhism. This notion is now omnipresent, and through school textbooks, most Indians have lapped this up and don’t know any better.
However, numerous though they are, none of the believers in this story have ever told us at what moment in his life the Buddha broke away from Hinduism. When did he revolt against it? Very many Indians repeat the Nehruvian account, but so far, never has any of them been able to pinpoint an event in the Buddha’s life which constituted a break with Hinduism.
Their first line of defence, when put on the spot, is sure to be:“Actually, Hinduism did not yet exist at the time.”So, their position really is:Hinduism did not exist yet, but somehow the Buddha broke away from it.Yeah, the secular position is that he was a miracle-worker.
Let us correct that: the word “Hinduism” did not exist yet. When Darius of the Achaemenid Persians, a near-contemporary of the Buddha, used the word “Hindu,” it was purely in a geographical sense: anyone from inside or beyond the Indus region.
When the medieval Muslim invaders brought the term into India, they used it to mean: any Indian except for the Indian Muslims, Christians or Jews. It did not have a specific doctrinal content except “non-Abrahamic,” a negative definition. It meant every Indian Pagan, including the Brahmins, Buddhists (“clean-shaven Brahmins”), Jains, other ascetics, low-castes, intermediate castes, tribals, and by implication also the as yet unborn Lingayats, Sikhs, Hare Krishnas, Arya Samajis, Ramakrishnaites, secularists, and others who nowadays reject the label “Hindu.”
This definition was essentially also adopted by V.D. Savarkar in his book Hindutva (1923), and by the Hindu Marriage Act (1955). By this historical definition, which also has the advantages of primacy and of not being thought up by the wily Brahmins, the Buddha and all his Indian followers are unquestionably Hindus. In that sense, Savarkar was right when he called Ambedkar’s taking refuge in Buddhism “a sure jump into the Hindu fold.”
But the word “Hindu” is a favourite object of manipulation. Thus, secularists say that all kinds of groups (Dravidians, low-castes, Sikhs, etc.) are “not Hindu,” yet when Hindus complain of the self-righteousness and aggression of the minorities, secularists laugh at this concern: “How can the Hindus feel threatened? They are more than 80%!”
The missionaries call the tribals “not Hindus,” but when the tribals riot against the Christians who have murdered their Swami, we read about “Hindu rioters.” In the Buddha’s case, “Hindu” is often narrowed down to “Vedic” when convenient, then restored to its wider meaning when expedient.
One meaning which the word “Hindu” definitely does not have, and did not have when it was introduced, is “Vedic.” Shankara holds it against Patanjali and the Sankhya school (just like the Buddha did) that they don’t bother to cite the Vedas, yet they have a place in every history of Hindu thought.
Hinduism includes a lot of elements which have only a thin Vedic veneer, and numerous ones which are not Vedic at all. Scholars say that it consists of a “Great Tradition” and many “Little Traditions,” local cults allowed to subsist under the aegis of the prestigious Vedic line. However, if we want to classify the Buddha in these terms, he should rather be included in the Great Tradition.
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha was a Kshatriya, a scion of the Solar or Ikshvaku dynasty, a descendant of Manu, a self-described reincarnation of Rama, the son of the Raja of the Shakya tribe, a member of its Senate, and belonging to the Gautama gotra (roughly “clan”).
Though monks are often known by their monastic name, Buddhists prefer to name the Buddha after his descent group, viz. the Shakyamuni, “renunciate of the Shakya tribe.” This tribe was as Hindu as could be, consisting according to its own belief of the progeny of the eldest children of patriarch Manu, who were repudiated at the insistence of his later, younger wife.
The Buddha is not known to have rejected this name, not even at the end of his life when the Shakyas had earned the wrath of king Vidudabha of Kosala and were massacred. The doctrine that he was one in a line of incarnations which also included Rama is not a deceitful Brahmin Puranic invention but was launched by the Buddha himself, who claimed Rama as an earlier incarnation of his. The numerous scholars who like to explain every Hindu idea or custom as “borrowed from Buddhism” could well counter Ambedkar’s rejection of this “Hindu” doctrine by pointing out very aptly that it was “borrowed from Buddhism.”
At 29, he renounced society, but not Hinduism. Indeed, it is a typical thing among Hindus to exit from society, laying off caste marks including civil name.
The Rg-Veda already describes the Muni-s as having matted hair and going about sky-clad: such are what we now know as Naga Sadhus. Asceticism was a recognized practice in Vedic society long before the Buddha. Yajnavalkya, the Upanishadic originator of the notion of Self, renounced life in society after a successful career as court priest and an equally happy family life with two wives.
By leaving his family and renouncing his future in politics, the Buddha followed an existing tradition within Hindu society. He didn’t practice Vedic rituals anymore, which is normal for a Vedic renunciate (though Zen Buddhists still recite the Heart Sutra in the Vedic fashion, ending with“sowaka,”i.e., svaha).
He was a late follower of a movement very much in evidence in the Upanishads, viz. of spurning rituals (Karmakanda) in favour of knowledge (Jnanakanda). After he had done the Hindu thing by going to the forest, he tried several methods, including the techniques he learned from two masters and which did not fully satisfy him−but nonetheless enough to include them in his own and the Buddhist curriculum.
Among other techniques, he practised Anapanasati,“attention to the breathing process,” the archetypal yoga practice popular in practically all yoga schools even today. For a while he also practised an extreme form of asceticism, still existing in the Hindu sect of Jainism. He exercised his Hindu freedom to join a sect devoted to certain techniques, and later the freedom to leave it, remaining a Hindu at every stage.
He then added a technique of his own, or at least that is what the Buddhist sources tell us, for in the paucity of reliable information, we don’t know for sure that he hadn’t learned the Vipassana (“mindfulness”) technique elsewhere.
Unless evidence of the contrary comes to the surface, we assume that he invented this technique all by himself, as a Hindu is free to do. He then achieved Bodhi, the “Awakening.” By his own admission, he was by no means the first to do so. Instead, he had only walked the same path of other Awakened beings before him.
At the bidding of the Vedic gods Brahma and Indra, he left his self-contained state of Awakening and started teaching his way to others. When he “set in motion the wheel of the Law” (Dharma-cakra-pravartana, Chinese Falungong), he gave no indication whatsoever of breaking with an existing system.
On the contrary, by his use of existing Vedic and Upanishadic terminology (Arya, “Vedically civilized”;Dharma), he confirmed his Vedic roots and implied that his system was a restoration of the Vedic ideal that had become degenerate. He taught his techniques and his analysis of the human condition to his disciples, promising them to achieve the same Awakening if they practiced these diligently.
On caste, we find him in full cooperation with existing caste society. Being an elitist, he mainly recruited among the upper castes, with over 40% Brahmins. These would later furnish all the great philosophers who made Buddhism synonymous with conceptual sophistication.
Conversely, the Buddhist universities trained well-known non-Buddhist scientists such as the astronomer Aryabhata. Lest the impression be created that universities are a gift of Buddhism to India, it may be pointed out that the Buddha’s friends Bandhula and Prasenadi (and, according to a speculation, maybe the young Siddhartha himself) had studied at the university of Takshashila, clearly established before there were any Buddhists were around to do so. Instead, the Buddhists greatly developed an institution which they had inherited from Hindu society.
The kings and magnates of the eastern Ganga plain treated the Buddha as one of their own (because that is what he was) and gladly patronized his fast-growing monastic order, commanding their servants and subjects to build a network of monasteries for it. He predicted the coming of a future Awakened leader like himself, the Maitreya (“the one practising friendship/charity”), and specified that he would be born in a Brahmin family.
When king Prasenadi discovered that his wife was not a Shakya princess but the daughter of the Shakya ruler by a maid-servant, he repudiated her and their son; but his friend the Buddha made him take them back.
Did he achieve this by saying that birth is unimportant, that “caste is bad” or that “caste doesn’t matter,” as the Ambedkarites claim? No, he reminded the king of the old view (then apparently in the process of being replaced with a stricter view) that caste was passed on exclusively in the paternal line.
Among hybrids of horses and donkeys, the progeny of a horse stallion and a donkey mare whinnies, like its father, while the progeny of a donkey stallion and a horse mare brays, also like its father. So, in the oldest Upanishad, Satyakama Jabala is accepted by his Brahmins-only teacher because his father is deduced to be a Brahmin, regardless of his mother being a maid-servant. And similarly, king Prasenadi should accept his son as a Kshatriya, even though his mother was not a full-blooded Shakya Kshatriya.
When he died, the elites of eight cities made a successful bid for his ashes on the plea: “We are Kshatriyas, he was a Kshatriya, therefore we have a right to his ashes”. After almost half a century, his disciples didn’t mind being seen in public as still observing caste in a context which was par excellence Buddhist.
The reason is that the Buddha in his many teachings never had told them to give up caste, e.g. to give their daughters in marriage to men of other castes. This was perfectly logical: as a man with a spiritual message, the Buddha wanted to lose as little time as possible on social matters. If satisfying your own miserable desires is difficult enough, satisfying the desire for an egalitarian society provides an endless distraction from your spiritual practice.
There never was a separate non-Hindu Buddhist society.
Most Hindus worship various gods and teachers, adding and sometimes removing one or more pictures or statues to their house altar. This way, there were some lay worshippers of the Buddha, but they were not a society separate from the worshippers of other gods or Awakened masters. This box-type division of society in different sects is another Christian prejudice infused into modern Hindu society by Nehruvian secularism. There were only Hindus, members of Hindu castes, some of whom had a veneration for the Buddha among others.
Buddhist buildings in India often follow the designs of Vedic habitat ecology or Vastu Shastra. Buddhist temple conventions follow an established Hindu pattern. Buddhist mantras, also outside India, follow the pattern of Vedic mantras.
When Buddhism spread to China and Japan, Buddhist monks took the Vedic gods (e.g. the twelve Adityas) with them and built temples for them. In Japan, every town has a temple for the river-goddess Benzaiten, i.e. “Saraswati Devi,” the goddess Saraswati. She was not introduced there by wily Brahmins, but by Buddhists.
At the fag end of his long life, the Buddha described the seven principles by which a society does not perish (which Sita Ram Goel has given more body in his historical novel Saptasheel, in Hindi), and among them are included: respecting and maintaining the existing festivals, pilgrimages and rituals; and revering the holy men.
These festivals etc. were mainly “Vedic,” of course, like the pilgrimage to the Saraswati River that Balarama made in the Mahabharata, or the pilgrimage to the Ganga which the elderly Pandava brothers made. Far from being a revolutionary, the Buddha emphatically outed himself as a conservative, both in social and religious matters. He was not a rebel or a revolutionary, but wanted the existing customs to continue.
The Buddha was every inch a Hindu.
A response to Jaitirth Rao’s ‘This Matter Of Beef’
Jaitirth Rao in his article, this matter of beef starts with making a right statement that the present laws protect neither the cows nor the dairy farmers. This post of mine is not just a reply to his article but a call to all those who think of themselves as truly liberal (on both sides of political ideologies) to examine their arguments about beef and environmentalism and yes, ‘economic viability’.
Before I proceed, please read my ceremonial disclaimer (written for those friends who have some special intellectual capabilities to assume otherwise).
—What happened in Dadri was a crime and is punishable by law. No less, no more and I don’t support lynching, beating up or murdering on taking law into own hands in any form, given any reason.
—I respect Mr Jaitirth Rao very much. The article is a counter to his arguments and is not to be taken otherwise.
The inability of dairy farmers in sustaining the old cows which are not economically ‘useful’ is real. My deeply hurt emotions aside, let us accept that it is a problem that a farmer faces. The death of animals in stray accidents and by consuming harmful plastic waste (our precious gift to nature and our callous denial to think about recycling processes, lest we forget) is regrettable.
Ranjit Sinhji’s culinary choices don’t define my sensibilities, nor does Bhavabhuti’s supposed liking for veal. Not even the supposed verses of Rig Veda or whatever part of scriptures that mention cow meat define my sensibilities. As a Hindu, it is a matter of pride for me that the Hindoos (Continuing Mr. Rao’s advised spelling) have gone ahead and defied their Vedic references to beef and have stood against slaughter(assuming such references exist). I call this evolution of thought. We all evolved from cannibalism too. Just that there were no religious texts in that period. In course of evolution, we moved away from it and equated cannibalism with Rakshasatva or demonic nature. Agriculture is considered a breakthrough in human civilization. Why? Logically because we stop being predators and become creators, limiting the harm done by us to the environment.
Any asset (and a domesticated animal, since Mesopotamian times has been viewed as an asset) automatically becomes a less attractive investment if it loses its residual value.
This is the kind of statement that could hurt the sensibilities of a Hindu who claims to have even an iota of care for the nature and to any lover of environment. Cattle are the one main reason behind our evolution from predators to creators. A Hindu mind considers them as a partner in the civilization and not mere assets that exist to provide economical value. One can argue that cattle was considered as ‘wealth’ in any civilization and hence the argument. A Hindu heart considers even ‘wealth’ as worship worthy. In fact it owes its reverence to every animate and inanimate object that contributed to universal sustenance and the ‘holy cow’ is a symbol of this universal reverence.
Humane slaughter does sound like a desirable alternative to the otherwise painful death. But it does so assuming that the animal’s right to life is a function of its economic viability to the human being. Mr. Rao also feels that keeping the animals whose meat is protein rich at the cost of humans remaining protein deficient being a tad stupid is regrettable. No, the civilization and evolution we pride about, if it has just turned us into sophisticated predators, there is too less to be proud of being a human and lecture about humanity.
“Keeping alive surplus cattle which contribute to the dreaded methane in the environment (Dear Reader: I shall spare you the scatological details) is clearly a very very bad thing as far as Eco friends are concerned”
I shall reserve my reaction on this statement and it might just be a worthy task for each of us to contemplate on the multitude ways in which we release dreaded stuff into environment. May be we can make a case for humane slaughter of humans too! (I am not serious, but the logic suggests it this way).
Science is a great way to look at development. But looking at it from just a curious statistical evidence might not make case for slaughter. Slaughter to win a couple of cricket matches then makes it look like it is fine to kill a being for our sportive delight. I would rather prefer to lose a few matches or to come up with any breakthrough that could enable a sportsperson to depend less on height. Alternatively, can we think supplements?
The questions about the effectiveness of the law remain. But we need to choose how we would proceed to make them effective. Of course it is easy and tempting to mock at the Hindoo’s tailored protection of the holy ‘cow’. It is also sane to challenge the Hindoos to arrange for alternative protection centres as opposed to abandoning them on the road to die. (We can alternatively watch the way we dispose plastic unless we are fine with the thought that we are the blessed species with sole rights to pollute environment with plastic while the animals can be humanely slaughtered for their dreaded methane).
I know that it hurts the high egos of intellectuals to recognize the simple minded environmental symbolism of Hindoos. As a Hindu, I would look up at anyone taking this love for the holy cow forward to a stage of saner implementation where being a human does not mean coming up with ridiculous arguments to justify slaughter. If supporting slaughter makes me a liberal, the word seems to lose its sheen. Would prefer to be called otherwise for siding with life.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement in Dublin last month when Irish students welcomed him with Sanskrit shlokas seems to have raised the hackles of our so called “secularists” with several going out of their way to say “We are secular, Mr. PM and we also love Sanskrit”.
Ms. Seema Mustafa wrote a long letter to prove that secularists are not Sanskrit-baiters. While she may have written out of true anguish and she probably also likes the language, the history, of secularist opposition to Sanskrit does not back her claims.
One merely has to recount the numerous petitions filed over the decades even when Sanskrit was an elective subject to see the kind of lobbying for the inclusion of Persian and Arabic among other options alongside Sanskrit to in the name of secularism.
Secular History of support for Sanskrit
One of the major decisions in this regard came in 1994 (way before Narendra Modi sprang on the scene) in which the Court completely refuted the claims that teaching Sanskrit was against secularism because Arabic or Persian were not accorded a similar status in the educational system.
The verdict was delivered by Justice Kuldip Singh and Justice B. L. Hansaria in response to a writ petition filed by Santosh Kumar and others in 1989 against the Secretary, Ministry of Human Resources Development and Government of India. The court said that “a secular state is not hostile to religion but holds itself neutral in matters of religion” (para 16). It quoted from the Sanskrit Commission’s Report to show that Sanskrit was a binding and unifying force in India. Paragraphs 19 and 20 of the judgment spelt out the views of the Court in no uncertain terms”.
Another petition was filed by Aruna Roy and others, whose secularism was never doubted, (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 98 of 2002) again objecting to the inclusion of Sanskrit in the education system.
Beyond education, the self-professed secularists tried every trick to block Sanskrit gaining a place of prominence in the polity. For example, Kannada sociologist M.N. Srinivas coined a term Sanskritisation, which denotes the acquiring of Brahminical or Hindu ethos by the so called lower castes. The use of Sanskrit here implicitly implied that Sanskrit was a language of higher echelons of the society only (read Brahmins) and lower castes acquired it to gain recognition. Otherwise, the moving to higher echelons of the society by lower strata is generally denoted by the term ‘upwardly mobile’ class.
When Karnataka government proposed to set up Sanskrit University, most of the secularists sprang up to oppose it. When the bill on Sanskrit University came up for debate in the state Legislative Council in 2009, the opposition moved a bill asking for the setting up of the Urdu University alongside it.
Congress member V S Ugrappa and Janata Dal (Secular) leader M C Nanaiah, the parties of which secular credentials are never questioned by ‘progressive’ intellectuals, argued that Sanskrit University could be set up then ‘there should be nothing in the way’ to set up Urdu one.
Clearly, intelligentsia’s idea of secularism was that Urdu, Arabic and Persian should be placed along and in equal proportion to Sanskrit.
Opposition to setting up of Sanskrit university was not limited in Karnataka alone. When the proposal to establish an university at Kalady, the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya, in Kerala came up, Marxist Communist Party opposed it vehemently. It is because of their opposition that the setting up of this university got delayed and it was only after Shankaracharya of Sringeri Mutt donated Rs 1 crore towards it, that the then Chief Minister K. Karunakaran took some steps in this direction.
Even when this university was established, the Marxist lobby usurped it leading to the appointment of Prof. K.N.Panicker as its Vice Chancellor. He established a Chair in the name of E M S Namboodiripad in the university, who had opposed its idea from the start, and brought the university to such a pass that an expert study group sent by the UGC recommended urgent and drastic measures to mend it.
It is pertinent here to point out what Tamil writer and Joe D’ Cruz said recently of status of Sanskrit in India. According to The Hindu, he said,
“People have been misguided for 60 years about Sanskrit and have been kept away from learning it. There was a notion that Sanskrit was the preserve of the higher echelons of the society and it was the language of the Hindu texts.”
D’Cruz is a Christian and a Sahitya Akademi award winner. He is also president of the Samskrita Bharati, Uttara Tamil Nadu and it is common knowledge that Samskrita Bharati is a RSS-affiliated organisation. But it proved my point that one who wants to nurture one’s love for Samskrita has to go to RSS or similar organisation – because Secularists never loved Sanskrit!
(Author: Devidas Deshpande, Journalist and Translator. He lives in Pune.)
(Some events within this piece are a flashback – they occurred in July 2007. They are a TRUE dialogue based exclusively on an e-mail conversation between two friends, VC = a dear friend, Vijay a lifelong Vegetarian and JJ= me, a non Veggie)
But, first, a sense of the present: A lot of hot air is being expelled in the aftermath of the Dadri incident in UP. A local fracas which led to the tragic death of one man, and which would not make news if the man were a Hindu has been globalized to epic proportions.
As usual, the self declared defenders of the freedom to propagate anti-Hindu, anti-India invective, and to continue a vitriolic assault on Narendra Modi as the personification of the devil incarnate are busy at work. Saturday’s BBC Radio 4 programme was no exception – Sanjoy Majumder, like an ideological descendent of Macaulay, displaying his acquiescence in all its glory, parroted the usual BBC tripe. Isn’t is funny how low some folk will sink to keep themselves in their pathetic servile jobs in a putrid, ossified, so called News organisation rotten from the core?
Totally in keeping with the standard template, the unwashed, unreconstructed, uncouth chatterati that make up the bulk of western arbiters of other cultures employs the usual tactics. The Beeb hammers the “fundamentalist” Hindu Nationalist agenda, which might suggest that many Hindus and also other non-Hindu Indians are not nationalist, or possibly that these non-nationalist Indians of the Beeb’s imagination pine for the return of the munificent British Empire, or maybe, even a not so benevolent Ghaznavi or a composit-multi-culti Mughal? They make out that this “nouveau Hinduism” is a radical, terroristic front against “minorities” and goes counter to the alleged age old Hindu traditions of polytheistic beef eating?
Back to 2007….
Shambo, the bull at Skanda Vale Temple in Wales grabbed the headlines in the UK media for several weeks in the summer of 2007. His plight raised some key questions about ethical values and humanity and how diversely people perceive them as well as the reactions these compass points elicit. Here’s the email conversation between friends.
VR: What the bull***t is all this about? Why have Hindus in general and the Hindu Forum got involved in this? Surely, this is a diseased animal and needs to be despatched to meet its maker?
JJ: I think you are missing several points.
We need more people who care about a tree, a bull, a child, and not merely look at their economic value. Surely, by their calm, assured, and non violent, philosophic approach, the campaigners for Shambu have shown that there is indeed a different way than brandishing threatening banners and flags, masking faces and shouting “death” to anyone who insults this or that?
VR: We are just proving that we are just a bunch of ignorant and superstitious animists. Would the same hue and cry been raised about a goat? I think not. We are just leaving ourselves open to being classified as cow worshippers.
There are more important things in life than preservation of a single cow. If Hindus or Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB) feel so deeply about this issue then how about trying to save all cows in the UK? We are happy to live amongst a community of cow eaters and suddenly we get an attack of religious sentimentality about one bull being slaughtered? Are these the sentiments of a “religious minority”? Hmmm, where have I heard this before? Let’s take a leaf out of others book, we have now also become the victims, eh?
Are you going to form this ring of chain round this cow to save it from being slaughtered? Oh yeah, Gandhi must be kicking his heels in the proverbial grave. The world has gone mad. Stop the world, let me get outta here!
JJ: Animist?? I’d rather be an animist than a sanctimonious believer in an exclusivist “true” god, whatever that is. It seems that such labels as “cow worshipper” and “animist” affect you and get under your skin. By the way, when are you planning to eat meat or have you now started?
As to animal slaughter in general, this is not the issue at stake here. This is about one animal in one place which by circumstance happens to be a temple that eschews violence of all forms.
I commend to you a 2 hour documentary called“Holy Cow” – catch it on NG channel when it comes round again. You will be surprised and educated. The cow holds a special place across so many cultures. The Masai were so affected by the events of 9/11 that they gifted cows to New York as a solace and a mark of their way of saying “we are thinking of you”.
The relationship between humans and the cow is so ancient it goes back to before when man first settled down to an agrarian lifestyle. The ancients around all the river civilisations held cattle in high esteem not just economically but spiritually. Note the presence of the cow or the bull in the iconography of the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Sumerians, and the Indians and also of the rock paintings in Europe and Africa. Even today, the pastoralists generally do not kill their cows in the same way as the mass market for meat consumption.
VR: That’s a lame comeback!! I really do not know what significance me eating meat has to the story of a diseased bull? I could ask you the same question? Seeing you are so concerned about the welfare of animals, when are you going to stop turning your stomach into a graveyard of animals and stop eating meat?
I have a great regard for all living species not just cows. And yes, I am aware that cows are and have always had a special place in Hinduism but that’s not to say we have to worship the animals. By all means, let’s make a concerted attempt at reducing the pain suffered by the animals and HFB would be making a worthwhile contribution if it added its voice to various other animal rights organisations.
This bull has tested positive for TB and I ain’t going to sign an online petition to save it…
JJ: No, you are totally mistaken – this is NOT a case of Hindus worshiping cows! Just because some ignorant sorts seem to think so does not make it true.
Yes, the Hindu Forum and others in the community do need to take up causes against animal cruelty much more than they do at the moment. However the kind of mindless campaigning that some of these organisations conduct is itself dangerous and destructive – you know of incidents of such people terrorising Oxford scientists who use around 100 primates every year in their groundbreaking medical research all for the good of humanity yet, these animal lovers will but do nothing about the inhumane conditions of millions of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. The same was the case with the politicised move to ban fox hunting.
Yes, eating meat has little relevance to the plight of this bull. And yes, abstaining from meat is something that I do aspire to. For this, I applaud your retort to what you refer to as my lame comeback.
No, this bull is not confirmed as diseased, it is only suspected of being diseased. Also, take a note of the report today, Monday 14 May. It is evident that culling animals does not stop bovine TB. In their quest to control the disease, Ireland has virtually eliminated their badger population but yet the incidence of bovine TB is unabated. When are scientists going to be listened to? How will killing this bull, which is isolated, save other cattle from the disease?
We ought to step away from the narrow definition of “I am a Hindu and that person over there is not a Hindu”. Instead we should see this bull as a metaphor for the ethics of life in general and not something that is specific to the “sentiments” of Hindus or whoever. In this regard, the Skanda Vale temple seems to fit the bill perfectly – it is called the “Many names of God” and you will see that it has the insignia of all the major faiths. Looking at it this way, we can overcome prejudices, some foisted on us and many self inflicted, and focus on mutual education and not get too worried about ignorant comments about animism and cow worship.
I am appalled that unproductive cattle are so badly treated in India. It seems that Hindu society cannot reconcile as to what is worse, killing them or letting them go hungry and scavenging? That has to change. But before that can happen, Indians have to free themselves from the shackles of slavery that has held them back for a millennia.
As it turned out, Shambo was put to sleep without a murmur from the Hindu community. No burnt effigies, no threats, no damage to property or to life or limb. Life carried on….
Back to October 2015..
The metaphor of Shambo still persists; Hindus continue to advance in presenting an alternative world view , but the global calumny against Hindu Dharma continues unabated. Even Animal Lovers and Animal Rights activists have shied away or remain ignorant of the debate. But for a few honourable exceptions from the West like Francois Gautier and an increasing array of indigenous Indic commentators, (see for example the wonderful item in this electronic journal http://indiafacts.co.in/beef-against-beef/ by the erudite Ashish Dhar), there is still much inhumane, unadulterated racist anti-India filth being passed off as reportage. Equally, there are has-hardly-beens like Nayantara Sehgal who make flatulent gestures whilst either remaining spineless in the face of, or worse, actually siding with the real rabid fascist ideologues of exclusivist but conflict riddled politics and monotheisms.
People power is increasingly showing itself on social media, Dharmic awareness rises by the day and that the presstitutes are not easily allowed to pass of their lies as gospel. It is right that despite a centuries long slumber, Hindus still hold their Dharmic values dear within their DNA and are not adopting the tactics honed by others in socially disruptive or even violent protests against gun control, police brutality, cartoons or an assortment of other grievances.
The Hindu is not some dirty creature to be shunned; he/she is just like the millions in the west, east, north and south, be they members of vegetarian societies, peaceful activists for the environment and for animals, Yoga practitioners or just conscientious humane individuals, who are fed up with the polarisation of right-left divisions and the my-god-is-right rivalries and are seeking alternative solutions to global problems.
More active engagement, mutually educating and making common cause with the silent millions around the world who do not profess to be Hindu, but who are a massive yet hitherto a dormant force and potential alliance base, and using this to crystallise, promote and share the universal applicability of Dharma in preserving of our little planet’s diversity has to be the vision for the Hindu. Now that would be proper Dharma-Raksha in practice!
Shambo’s Atman would find Shanti in that.
Jay Jina is a UK-based third generation NRI. Besides pursuing a professional career as a European IT Director with a multinational and a part time university academic, Jay’s interests span history, current affairs, the Indian Diaspora and the history and politcs of Science.