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Where is the Hindu Intellectual?

My idea of religion is borderline-atheism. In today’s India, it is very down-market to be talking about religion. Customs and traditions unnerve me. There seems to be no logic in continuing to do things the way they have been done for centuries, simply because that is how we have been doing them, for centuries. Still, there are places I would not want to go and touch. Modernism today has two problems, one, it tries to change benign symbols which identify a people merely for the sake of change. Just as “This is how we have been always doing it” is not an argument to continue with a thing. On the flip side, that can also not be an argument to oppose it. Secondly, there is such a surge of fake righteousness that the real meat of any movement is lost in the noise.

Those who control the narrative, claim to be the weakest and are the first to cry victim-hood. It is a common trend. So you pelt stone, hold the state to ransom, out of your free-will (you can very well chose not to), on cops and soldiers, who do not have a choice, but to be where they are, and when retaliated, cry victim. You are a journalist, you control the media. When you decide to write non-sense, out of stupidity or some evil design (your desperation and stubbornness to stay stupid would point to latter) the media offers space with wide circulation to you. When holes are plucked into your manufactured narrative by a common citizen, who also reads your paper/watches your show, and thereby is a customer of yours, you attack with vengeance. It is now getting so common that I felt I should write. There is an angry, almost violent reporting of slapping and thrashing of people under the fancy term of Cow-vigilantism. Just imagine, in a nation of 125 Crore people, where murders and rapes do happen routinely, we are outraged, angry and revolted by some people getting thrashed. Even the politician whose party members and supporters have been charged by worse physical abuse by their own better half, pretend to be shocked as if they have not scene worse violence in all their life. A rape right in the heart of Delhi is under-reported or unreported, while a man, claiming to be “hounded” by autorikshaw-driver becomes a prime-time debate. If you have read some book on how to write non-fiction, and if you believe the capabilities of our journalists, you will know how the same rules which can be used to make the same story have impact, and when not used, deliberately, can make the story tame and meaningless. I will cover that game in another post. Right now, this is about the Right to pray and Sabrimala debate.

There is some kind of concerted effort to equate small portions of Hindu faith with violent fanaticism of other religions. Christianity went through dark ages, but Renaissance rescued it to a great extent. Words of Christ was no longer absolute and could be evaluated, analyzed and judged. A religion to evolve, need so escape spiritual dictatorship. Hinduism has always been a fluid religion. People who have tried to hold the flowing brook of Hindu faith to ransom, thereby muddying the waters, were either ridiculed or defeated by Hindus themselves. The key reason, in my view, was that Hinduism has always been a very private, very personal religion. It has never been a political religion. So, if you are a good Hindu, faith promised you a good, happy and contented life. It never proposed you a Hindu kingdom, even in the days of rule of Hindu kings. It never wanted you to fight for a Hindu kingdom, which superseded your regional loyalties. Even the stories from ancient times will not speak positive about fanatics (rare if any) in Hinduism- you have a greedy Pandit, the arrogant Brahmin. Eventually, the stories will have them humbled. God will be on the side of truth and reason. Hinduism has not been driven by the desire to establish the kingdom and therefore never was a political tool. It was always spiritual and has always been evolving. It was always a search for the truth, no word was perfect, nothing was unchallenged. For Dvait (Duality), there was advait (Universality), for Dasya Bhakti (worship as a servant), there was Sakhya Bhakti (worship as a friend). Hinduism floated from one extreme to other and you test it with your logic and follow. There was never a messenger who brought in a revelation, which you either follow, or bend, transform to fit in to. There were no scripture demanding surrender of reason, else your well-being would be doubtful. You can simply forego a principle and pick another. Nothing impacted your Hinduism, made you a lesser Hindu, or an unbeliever.

A religion, as supple, as flexible as Hinduism, doesn’t need its followers to protect and defend it. But that has also been undoing of Hinduism. As the battle of supremacy unfolds, among Abrahaminic religions, Hindus watch awestruck what is unfolding about them. They saw it similarly when Hinduism shrunk across the South East Asia and eventually contracted primarily to only one nation. And we are only talking of nations with Hindu population, not even Hindu nation. If we talk about the former, there is none. There is much about political, expansionist religions, which Hindus do not understand. We try to find a balance, a foolish balance. The arguments of absurdity goes like-  so what ISIS wants to establish a monotheist empire across the world, the taxi driver harassed the guy (supposedly) in Mumbai, because he carried a bag made of Cow leather. "Harassed", and on the other hand, we have missiles, stoning, killing of hundreds every other day, and an attempt to establish a foolish equivalence is undertaken. Some Hindus who try to imitate the orthodox religion- no one can question my Guru, These Muslims, and this and that, are trying to imitate those they are trying to fight, and that is even more pathetic. We need to identify clearly the defining features of being a Hindu and not be apologetic about it. Debate, spiritualism, philosophic honesty are the hallmark of Hinduism, not militancy and orthodoxy. We need to inculcate these and not back out. Unfortunately, by default or by design, very few Right Wing debaters called in for debate on TV channels inspire any confidence to me. Very few are well-read in Hindu philosophy, let alone the thoughts of any other religion. To me it seems, it is by design. On twitter, one would find many handles which are extremely well-educated, exceptionally erudite, they never find space in main stream media.

 This Right-to-Pray is one such attempt of making so much noise about a non-issue. The opponents of Right to Pray say the women are not allowed because the presiding deity is celibate man. A celibate, a brahmachari, is supposed to stay away from women of certain age. Similar was the case of Shani. These stories may or may not be true. But the people who are shouting at the top of their lungs that these beliefs are untrue, would happily go around wishing Merry Christmas, come December and be considerate to those who go fasting on Ramadan, for what they believed happened centuries back during some battle. It is a faulty argument on either side for those fighting for right-to-pray and wanting to force their way into the temple, trampling over the faith of the believers. If you believe in God, why would you want to go in when you know He doesn't want you; If you do not believe in the God, why go at all? I personally have no reason to believe (borderline atheist, remember) but then I have no reason to sit in the judgment of those who believe. Till the date, they walk to my place, my home, my work place and tell me, that Lord Ayappan has descended here and I need to live in a certain way to accommodate him, I would rather let them be. The world has lost the most out of this tendency to control, to create uniformity out of diversity. 

The courts which object to multiple Hindu festivals, feigns ignorance when Beef festivals are organized in full media glare in states where Beef sale is banned. The logic given is that Cow slaughter is banned but beef eating is not. I wonder if the lordships in our exalted courts believe that the beef distributed in these freedom-to-eat festivals was prepared out of cattle which voluntarily sacrificed their lives by means of euthanasia or penance or some other acceptable means to strengthen the secular fabric of the nation. Hinduism across ages had attracted best of the intellectual minds. While today, the intellectual mind is considered a synonym to leftist-atheist-communist, which derives its legitimacy by opposing anything which it fails to argue or explain against as Brahminical; in history we have had brilliant minds getting attracted to Hinduism. Instead of putting our mind to reach the sublime truth, we have left it to the half-educated to defend Hinduism. It is the sad plight. Those who mind, do not matter, and those who matter, do not mind. When have we seen in our time, someone of caliber of, say, a Thoreau (who considered Christianity as radical due to pure morality in contrast to Hinduism which he said, was pure intellectuality), coming out to argue the attempt of the half-baked intellectual to malign Hinduism and insult its symbols without even comprehending their true meanings. Most debates are with Right-wingers is like- I oppose you because I am hurt, while it should be – I oppose you because you are a moron. That is my argument on Sabrimala debate. I oppose you not because I am hurt, but because of the absurdity of your argument. I would support your entry into Sabrimala, if it were a school and you want to go there for education, or for an employment, for the sake of argument, and are prevented. But no, why would you want to go into a temple to pray to a God you don’t believe in, trampling over faith of those who do believe in Him?  The middle-aged Marxists of leftist colleges mock Vedas in TV studios, while Schopenhauer wrote, of Upnishads, “from every sentence deep, original and sublime thoughts arise, and the whole is pervaded by a high and holy and earnest spirit..In the whole world, there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of Upnishads.” Voltaire even went to the extent of saying that “Our holy Christian religion is solely based upon the ancient religion of Brahma” . However, there is this another quote of Voltaire that worries me much- Hindus are peaceful and innocent people, equally incapable of hurting others or defending themselves. I so wish his last statement was not true. I never thought I would write anything formal tangential on religion, but here it is. Do read and think about it. Biggest strength of Hinduism is intellectualism, and we must not surrender it. 

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