Friday, April 22, 2011

What is Hinduness?


Text of the Bouddhik delivered by Shri Ranga Hari at Vishwa Sangh Shivir in Pune.
Hindutva and Hinduness defined

I have been asked to speak on the subject which is fundamental to us. The subject is Hindutva or Hinduness as I would like to put it. I wish to deal with the subject broadly in three sections. Firstly, I wish to place before you the real relation between Hinduness and Hindus and what the word really connotes. Secondly, I would like to mention a few significant features of Hinduness. And finally, I will go into the secret of its astonishing tenacity to survive, strike and succeed.

Meaning of Hinduness

Hinduness simply means the social collective personality of the Hindus. We can better understand it from the example of man. Man as one of the created species has his own shape and form. Every man has the same organs placed in the same order. So on the plane of generality there is no difference between man and man. But in reality it is not so. One individual does differ from the other. Twins are many times so identical that even parents sometimes commit mistake. But as those twins grow, their inner growth moulds them into two different personalities. Take the case of Pandava twins Nakul and Sahadev. Although they lived in same circumstances and care - Sahadev became an astronomer par excellence while his replica Nakul became a specialist in animal husbandry. Here comes the existence of what is called personality. It is a clear march from generality to particularity. The real man is identified not by his external physique but by his inner personality.

What is true of individuals is true of societies and nations. Among various people living in the world, the Hindus the oldest among them due to dispensation, geography, history and times naturally developed a distinct personality of their own and that is known as Hinduness. I intentionally do not call it Hinduism, because that word as understood today may land us into the sphere of religious faiths that were born in Hindusthan. Hinduness is the personality, the distinctive identity of the people known as Hindus, whereas Hinduism is the collective name of faiths and sampradayas that have sprung from Hindusthan. Not that Hinduness has no connection with those faiths or it bypasses them, but it has a positively larger circumference covering the life of the society in its entirety. To make the point clearer, Hinduism cannot accommodate in it an atheist, whereas Hinduness can. Hinduness is the very psyche of the society that finds expression in all its emotions and actions. It is this Hinduness that we have to understand with clarity. Then only we will be able to become its effective transmitters.

Dharma: Most Unique Contribution

The first and foremost feature of Hinduness is the concept of dharma. Dharma is a unique word which has not been aptly translated into any other language up to this day. Approximately it means Eternal Cosmic Law. Dharma literally means which upholds, sustains and supports. Here the question arises what is to be upheld, sustained and supported? The answer is the entire creation with all its varied manifestations. It is said by the ancient seers that the primordial Cosmic Energy with a desire to multiply projected itself into many and the creation of the universe was the outcome. At the same time because everything created was a part of the earlier single whole there existed an unbreakable bond in all. A binding force existed that held together all those created parts. The force of gravitation between planets is one such. So right from the moment of creation there existed a Cosmic force that worked for the harmonious function of all the different, separated parts, animate and inanimate. To keep up the balance and the rhythm of creation was its sole purpose. This force was identified as dharma, by the ancient Seers. They declared:

"Dharma is the Eternal Law that is the support of the Universe. All are supported by dharma, that is why dharma is considered supreme; it cannot be transgressed."

Many people wrongly understand this dharma as religion. In fact, religion is mat or sampradaya and not dharma. Dharma is the unstoppable sustaining force of the dosmos whereas religion is an organised set of beliefs and commandments regarding spirit, man and matters. It may appear very strange but the fact is dharma is beyond religious belief. The writ of dharma runs even upon the agnostic. Even he has to follow its dictates. It does not deny Hinduness to him provided he adheres to this Eternal Law. According to Hinduness the dividing line between good and bad is this dharma and not religion. Good are the men who are dharmic and bad are the men who are adharmic. Ravana, the emperor of Lanka, was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, yet he was considered bad because he did not conform to dharma, the Cosmic Ethics, and the support-base of the Universe. On the other hand Philosopher Kanada, a confirmed atheist, was conferred Rishihood because with all his non-spiritual theory he never compromised with dharma he upheld it.

Carefully recall the Divine assurances of Sri Krishna - He said He would incarnate to protect and uphold dharma checkmating adharma. He did not mention belief or non-belief of God there. After all belief in God is ultimately personal, a matter between you and your God.

That being not a fundamental issue, Hinduness is more concerned with the Eternal Law that governs the universe.

Here I would like to tell you that in the southern four states of India where Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu are spoken; there is no mistaking dharma for religion. In those languages there is a separate word for religion - mat. All who speak those languages say mat for religion and dharma for dharma.

The confusion arises where for both, there is only, one single word called dharma. But if we pay a little bit of attention we can avoid the confusion.

In short, once more repeating that singularly unique conception of dharma is the most valuable contribution of Hinduness to world -thought, I move on to my second point.

The Undivided in the Divided
To see plurality, to appreciate it and accept it and search for the underlying unity is the second important feature of Hinduness. Sri Krishna in His psycho-therapic text of Bhagavad Geetha says:
"Pure knowledge is that which sees the undivided in the divided" -18-20

Regarding Gods

This enabled the Hindus to conceive of one Single Divinity that pervaded in the numberless Godheads that were adored and worshipped by clans, communities and tribes residing in this vast land from the Himalayan Peaks to the southern seas. On the strength of realisation his Rishi forefather taught him:
"Reality is one, the wise express it in many ways."

So he could construct all over the land big temples dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Durga etc. with subsidiary Gods coexisting in the same complex. In Brahma Desh (Myanmar) I visited a Devi temple wherein Lord Buddha was venerably accommodated. There again, in the biggest Buddhist Temple - The Golden Pagoda - in the Parikrama Marg all Nava Grahas including Rahu and Ketu are worshipped. Compare this with the Goan experience. There the Roman Catholic Portuguese for a period of 450 years, till the end of their colonial rule, had not allowed even a single church of any other denomination to be built.

The Hindu has no quarrel with different Gods who are by themselves comrades-in-arms. There is no Jealous God in Hindu pantheon. On the contrary the Hindu rishi invokes through the mantra:

"Agni his chosen God to come down along with other Gods like Maruts to accept his oblations, not once but nine times."

Here I remember the remarks of Khalil Jibran in his Sand And Foam, "Once in every hundred years Jesus of Nazareth meets Jesus of the Christian in a garden among the hills of Lebanon. And they talk long; and each time Jesus of Nazareth goes away saying to Jesus of the Christian 'My friend, I fear we shall never never agree.'' Compare this with the Vedic prayer. We will understand the uniqueness of Hinduness.

Imagine a pilgrim from Rameswaram set out for Haridwar. On the way he visits Meenakshi in Madurai, Lord Venkateswara in Tirupati, Lord Shiva in Srisailam, Lord Vishwanath and Kala Bhairav in Varanasi, Ramlala in Ayodhya, Maruti in Hanuman Ghari and finally when he reaches Haridwar he feels gratified that the All-merciful Omnipresent One has blessed him all the way. How can you say the Hindu is a polytheist? He worships the One God. Yes - not the Lone God as the Semitic believer does. Here again Gods are many but Divinity is one.

Regarding Man

The vision of Hinduness is integral, not differential. As in the case of Gods it views humanity as one undivided whole. It is fully aware of the diversity around. It knows that on the face of this vast earth various types of people live, different are their languages, dissimilar are their customs, varied are their tastes, yet they are all earthlings destined to live together in peace and prosperity. The Hinduness sent forth this prayer to all the four corners of the world through its Vedic chant.

Hinduness prepares man for genuine world citizenship and a global family. It is not given to it to split humanity into believers and heathens and promote heavenly apartheid, which perhaps is the sole prerogative of Semitic Creeds.

1 comment:

Sheela said...

Dear Mam.,

I also feel Hinduness and vegetarianism goes together. Due to such healthy consumption for mind & body by our ancestors, we still inherit brilliant genes for better understanding & tolerance which is part of Dharma.

Hindus consuming NV.,etc or even rearing low conscious animals such as goat, hen would have infiltrated much later.