Universal Spirit of Hindu Nationalism: A thought by H.V. Sheshadriji
by Sri H.V. Sheshadri
The main hurdle in our understanding of the Hindu concepts is because we have been accustomed to view them through the Western glasses. The Westerners’ version of our history, our tradition, our philosophy have been accepted as gospel truths. Our English-educated intellectuals, in general, have never cared to understand what all are ours, even our Dharma, through our own eyes. We have further landed ourselves in an intellectual mess by trying to translate our original words into English. For example, Dharma is translated as religion. But Dharma itself is an untranslatable term. It is as different from religion as cheese from chalk. Whereas religion denotes a particular set of sectarian bel iefs, practices of worship and preachings contained in one religious text as propounded by a prophet, Dharma represents the eternal laws of life-applicable to all times and climes.
So is the case with the concept of Nation as evolved in the West and of ‘Rashtra’ evolved in our own country.
”Hindu”: The Motivating Concept
Before we take up a comparison of these two concepts, some light needs to be thrown on the question, “Why insist on the word Hindu, why not take the word Indian? “As far as the real content of the two is concerned, it should not really make any difference. However, the word ‘Hindu’ has an inspiring historical background. It has been the motivating concept for our independence struggle for the last one thousand years. The motivation was not merely political-wresting back the political sceptre from the aggressor’s hands. It was much deeper; it touched the deepest cultural and spiritual chord of the land. For example, the proud epithet applied to the great emperors who founded the Vijayanagar empire was “Hindu raya suratrana”\.e., the protectors of the Hindus and their values of life. In Punjab, Guru Govind Singh who founded the Sikh Panth in its present form declared “May the name of Khalsa Panth be respected all over the world, let Hindu Dharma be awakened and all troubles vanish”. In the case of Khalsa Panth, it is mentioned as a Panth, forming part of Hindu Dharma. Chatrapati Shivaji took a pledge at the early age of fourteen to establish ‘HindaviSwaraj’ and had the conviction that establishment of the same was “the will of Almighty”. Nation’s ideological content – “Hindu”
That the word ‘Hindu’ has been firmly imprinted in our national mind was radiantly reflected in our freedom struggle against the British as well. The fight was essentially for certain ideals associated with the word Hindu and not for mere political independence or economic rights.
Shri Aurobindo when released from Alipore Jail, said in his famous Uttarpara speech, “while in prison, Shri Krishna conveyed to me ‘I am giving India freedom for the service of the world…………… it is for Sanatana Dharma that she will arise’. It is Sanatana Dharma that is nationalism for us”. Aurobindo added, on another occasion, “But this is not merely for gaining freedom from political and economic serfdom. She has a much higher goal before her. She is becoming free so that she can broadcast to the whole world the message of Sanatana Dharma”.
Now we come to ‘Rashtra’. ‘Rashtra’ in our view, is the physical expression of the eternal Hindu spirit, the embodiment of Sanatana Dharma i.e., the eternal laws of life, its manifestation on the practical plane of national life. Swami Vivekananda had again and again thundered “Remember, the centre of our national life is not politics or economy but Dharma”. In fact, he had defined nation as comprised of a people whose hearts beat to the same spiritual tune. Now, one might very well ask, if Dharma is eternal and applicable to all times and all climes and races, why insist on calling it ‘Hindu’?
The answer is quite simple. It is because Hindus happened to discover these eternal laws. It is just like denoting certain scientific laws or theories after their discoverer’s names. For example, Newton’s Laws of Gravitation, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. In fact, formerly, our Dharma was called Sanatana Dharma or Manav Dharma. It was only when foreigners came here that a need arose for differentiating Dharma from other religious faiths and the epithet Hindu was joined to it.
You may be surprised to know that even Shri Achyut Menon, former Communist Chief Minister of Kerala, felt convinced that the essence of our national entity lies in ‘Hinduness’. A few years back he wrote that he had now come to realise the fallacy of the Communist interpretation of Bharat’s history of considering Bharat as a conglomeration of eighteen nationalities. Shri Menon specially pointed to the fact that Adi Shankara had, even as far back as 1200 years ago, travelled to all the four corners of the land and established four mutts in the four corners covering the entire length and breadth of the country which shows that our country has been a single national entity since hoary times. Finally, he said that at the root of this national unity lies the Hindu ‘faith’. Shri Menon also clarified that Hindu ‘faith’ is different from mere ‘religion’. This is exactly our concept of Hindu Nation. Our Holistic World Perception
So it is clear that the word Hindu not only stands for a society, for a group of people, but for certain ideals, certain principles and life values. And the high watermark of this Hindu ethos lies in its unique holistic world perception perceiving the entire creation as one single harmonious living entity. Our past history bears eloquent testimony to the fact that it was this one-world spirit that had marked the glorious chapter of interaction of our people with other peoples of the world. The motivation has ever been the all round welfare of the entire world including its spiritual elevation. The clarion call of our sages of yore has been Krinvanto Vishwamaryam (May we ennoble the entire world). They looked upon the entire world as one family, Vasudhaiva Kutum-bakam and all the three world as one’s own land ‘Swadesho bhuvana tray am’.
In England, in 1984, when the Queen’s representative Sir William Bulmer visited an exhibition at Bradford put up by the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh there, he was touched by the motto Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. “You conceive the whole world as one family! What a wonderful concept” he exclaimed. Our prayers even upto this day is for universal well-being. “Sarvepisuk-hinah santu sarve santu niramaya Sarve bhadrani pashyantu ma kaschit dhuka bhag bhavet”- (May all be happy, may all be free from affliction, may all see only auspicious things, and may none be struck with sorrow). In fact, in none of our prayers is there any reference to the achievement of greatness and glory of only our nation at the cost of others. In recent times too, the same spirit has been forcefully expressed by the pioneers of our national renaissance. Our country has been variously described as Jagadjjanani (Mother of universe), the Divine Mother, the Trinity of goddesses of prosperity, knowledge and power, and so on’ showering blessings on the entire universe.
Glowing Testimony of Past History
It was because of this all-embracing outlook that our past history offer such a refreshing contrast to that of the Western nations. For example, we read of very glorious chapters in our national history-of the Guptas, Mauryas and such others who commanded powerful armies. But had their armies at any time ever marched across our frontiers to subjugate, exploit or fleece other people? No. never! On the contrary, our people sailed to distant lands carrying the torch of culture and knowledge – both temporal and spiritual.
Will Durant, the philosopher & historian of America, writes: “Indiawasthe motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages; she was the mother of our philosophy; mother through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all”.
The memories cherished by the lands-even upto this day-of their ancient contacts with the Hindus speak of the reverence with which they cherish it as their precious heritage. Once, the celebrated archaeologist late Haribhau Wakankar visited the habitats of Red Indians in America. They were performing some rites. Wakankar wanted to go in. They barred him saying “No foreigners are allowed”. “I am a Hindu” said Wakankar “Oh, then you are quite welcome” they said and took him inside with all due respect. There a Homa was going on; they were chanting “Huva! Huva!” ‘Huva’, is a corrupted form of Swaha. So many of their recitations were akin to the Vedic notes. One of their current proverbs runs like this : “The whites, even when they are alive, throw their neighbours into hell (evidently a reference to their own tragic experience) whereas the Hindus will take even a dog to the heavens when they die”. This must evidently be a reference to Dharmaraja Yudhish-tira, who refused to enter the heavens untill his dog too was allowed to enter in.
Though eighty percent of the people of Indonesia are Muslims, they still revere Ramayana and Mahabharata and look upon their original Hindu heritage with pride as the essence of their national identity. Visiting India is aTeertha Yatra for many Indonesian Muslims. Some times they are requested by their relativies to bring home some Ganga Jal. The youngmen there are called upon to emulate Arjuna. The military academy has an imposing statue of Acharya Drona there. Rama and Sita are their highest human ideals, and Ramayana and Mahabharata form the warp and woof of their cultural life. And all this, remember, after eight hundred years of Islamic rule over there. Such is the enduring power of the Hindu Cultural imprint.
Our sages went to Cambodia and other neighbouring eastern countries. The kings of those countries welcomed the Hindu civilization and its great human values. They established ideal kingdoms according to these Hindu values. Even to this day, they have endearing and inspiring memories of the Hindu sages who visited their lands and cherish their noble cultural ideals as their precious legacy.
The RSS pracharak incharge of S.E. Asia region, has an inspiring experience to narrate. He once stayed in a famous hotel in Bali. One day when he was leaving the hotel, he locked the doors of his room. The manager of the hotel observed “Why are you insulting our country? Just look at the other rooms. Is there a single room which is locked? For the past several years there has never been a case of theft in our hotel. In fact, our whole country is like that”.
Such is’the imprint, the impact of Hindu Culture. And this is how we spread our culture and civilization. We never tried to spread our culture by force or coercion. We never carried Bhagawad Gita or Vedas in one hand and the sword in the other.
Before invading India, Alexander asked his preceptor Aristotile what things he should bring back from India. Aristotile said”Bring a Yogi”. Arriving in India, Alexander sent his messengers for asking a few yogis to go along with him. The yogis spurned the proposal. However, one particular yogi Kalamos was persuaded to meet Alexander. He advised the latter on his royal duties and explained the basic philosophy of Bharat. Finally – may be as a practical demonstration of what he had spoken – he asked his disciples to set up a pyre. He ascended the pyre, sat crosslegged, closed his eyes and ordered his disciples to set fire. Flames began to leap up and devour his body as he sat unmoved in meditation. The whole body of the yogi was reduced to ashes.
Nationalism: Stage for Human Evolution
Now, how was this possible? Because, nationalism, in our view, is a stage for self-ex-panision of the human spirit. It is not for self-ag-grandisement. It is a journey towards selflessness; towards sacrifice for the larger whole. Family is the first stage where the individual identifies himself with the joys and sorrows of the family members and thereby expands himself. He then identifies himself with the village, the community and then goes on expanding his spheres of identity and reaches the stage of the nation. But the nation itself does not represent the end of the journey. That is a major stage, from which he moves on to the entire mankind and later embraces the entire living world and finally the whole of creation.
Nationalism is thus a stage of human evolution. That is how we find that all our national philosophers, poets and heros had never limited their thoughts and even their activities to the national boundaries. Even recently, Swami Vivekananda, Ramtirtha, Gandhiji, Rabindranath and several others have been commended even by outsiders as world philosophers.
Now a days, the aggressive tendency is manifest more acutely in the economic rather than the military sphere. And it is far, far more exploitative and fleeces entire countries to abject economic poverty and serfdom. It also made no difference whether the exploiting country followed capitalism or Communism.
The Western Contrast:
By contrast, the very word ‘nation’ has become a dirty word, a dangerous concept in the West. The reason is, whenever nationalism became powerful in these countries, its aggressive instinct was invariably roused. Even nations adhering to the same religion such as Christianity or Islam savagely fought amongst themselves. The two great world wars were fought between Christian nations.
The recent Gulf war in addition to between Christian countries and an Islamic one, was also one between Islamic countries themselves. Now a days, the aggressive tendency is manifest more acutely in the economic rather than the military sphere. And it is far, far more exploitative and fleeces entire countries to abject economic poverty and serfdom. It also made no difference whether the exploiting country followed Capitalism or Communism.
It was the same aggrandising spirit that made the colonisers carry out total liquidation of local population in continents like Australia and America where millions were simply hunted as wild animals. Where they could not carry out such whole sale massacre as in Africa, they were made slaves and millions of them transhipped to America to serve as their bonded slaves. Here in Bharat…
Just see the contrast in our case. In our country also, there are people living in deep jungles and valleys, who were termed as tribals by the British – which word they resent. They have been living in our country for thousands of years without ever being troubled or exploited by the rest of the Hindu people. They have always been considered very much part and parcel of our society and our culture. A significant remark in ‘Seng Khasi’, a Khasi journal of Meghalaya, is revealing “We have been living with Hinduism for thousands of years in peace; never has it disturbed our religious modes. It has always been like a mother to us. By contrast, Christianity has uprooted our hoary culture and traditions. It has sucked us into the western modes of life”. Remember, this is from Khasis, an important tribal group of North East, who do not even call themselves Hindus! This all-embracing breadth of vision ingrained in the Hindu psyche is an offshoot of its unique world perception – of seeing unity in diversity in the entire creation.
When Jagdish Chandra Bose was invited in 1901 to deliver a lecture at the British Royal Society in London, he demonstrated how even the metallic lead exhibits electrical responses similar to the living muscular responses of man. On observing the same, the President of the Royal Society, himself afamous scientist, sprang up from his chair in disbelief. Basu just smiled and said “Yes, the so called animate and inanimate world are but varying degrees of manifestation of one single reality”. Later on, at the close of his lecture at the celebrated gathering of scientists, Basu explained that he had just demonstrated in the laboratory a fraction of the grand truth of what the great seers of Bharat sitting on the banks of Ganga some 3000-4000 years back, had realised. He quoted a Sanskrit saying of a seer which meant, “They who see but one in all the changing manifoldness of the Universe, unto them belongs eternal truth, unto none else, unto none else”.
The Lurid Contrast in Religious Sphere
The same attitude was manifested in the matter of religious convictions also. We never quarelled over the names or modes of worship of God. In fact, God himself has no name: It is we who give him a name. And we also believe that any honest and sincere prayer offered to him in whatever manner is to be respected. It is this faith in the broad spiritual fraternity of man that made us welcome Jews, Muslims, Christians and Par-sees to our land. We allowed and even helped them build their churches, mosques, synogogues etc. The Jews gratefully acknowledge that all over the world it was only in Bharat that they were not persecuted, that full religious freedom was given to them.
In contrast, when we study the basic beliefs of the semetic religions, we will realise why the present day Western civilization has landed itself in such a traumatic condition of all round conflicts. For example, they have divided humanity into two camps – ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’ with only the former eligible for eternal happiness hereafter and the latter condemned to eternal damnation. Further, God himself is seperated from creation: a principle of dichotomy of God and the rest of creation . And the most dangerous of all, man is set apart from the rest of creation and placed on a pedestal for whose benefit and enjoyment nature is created.
These religious seeds of conflicts between man and man, and man and nature, were further given a boost by Darwin through his theory of the survival of the fittest. This provided a scientific justification for the aggression by the stronger over the weaker. Or, in short, for the law of the jungle in human affairs also. Infact, when the original inhabitants of certain countries were massacared by the white races, Darwin rejoiced and said, ‘I look forward to a day when all such aboriginal tribes would be wiped off from the face of the earth.’
Thus the Scientists and Western religious preachers together furnished a common philosophical grounding for the whites for invading, enslaving and exploiting the other people.
If such is the attitude towards their fellow human beings, then nothing need be said about the fate of the animal world at the hands of such believers. There is an interesting incident of England. Some decades back, the House of Commons in England passed a bill prohibiting cruelty to animals. However, when the bill came up for discussion in the house of lords there was no unanimity. The matter was then referred to the Archbishop of Canterbury- the supreme religious head of England. He decreed that since the animals had no soul and as such could not have any sensation of pain, the question of cruelty did not rise. As a result, the bill was dropped!
Modern Scientists uphold Hindu Vision
However, things are fast changing now; we find science coming closer and yet closer to the holistic Hindu view point. Leading physiologists, biologists, psychologists and physicians have all rejected the theory of the survival of fittest in nature. On the contrary, the principle they declare is in fact one of co-operation, co-existence and interdependence. Wherever there appears to be competition, among the living species, it is intended to maintain the balance of the larger mechanism. In fact, the whole world inclusive of the so- called animats and inanimate beings is looked upon by the present day scientists as a living being in its own right. The entire creation is a closley woven web of living and non-living forms. The concept of independent physical entity is discorded in sub-atomic physics.
Social scientists have begun to affirm that society too is a living organism having its own mind. It has self-creating systems, capable of self renewal and having adaptability as one of its important features. The concept of mind too has undergone a qualitative change at the hands of psychologists and other scientists. It is not considered as limited to ones body only. The individual minds are just part of larger minds. The concept of a cosmic mind is also being postulated. All this realisation has made the modem thinkers come to the inevitable conclusion that it is the seperation of the individual from the cosmos that leads – has led to the exploitation and destruction of nature. This integrated approach has, in fact, been the major plank of Hindu thought and practice all along.
Now-a-days this holistic approach is being particularly appreciated in the field of health and medi-care. Human being, being an inseparable part of the cosmic system, healing implies the re-ordering of his system in tune with the larger social, cultural and natural environment and ways of living. A mere physical cum psychological diagnostic system is being discarded as grossly inadequate. In fact, disease itself is being looked upon as a disjointed, disintegrated condition of his system- manifested as stress: as such a total re-integration is what is called for. Biologists have come to feel that it is not merely the brain but every cell of a living body too that has a spark of intelligence. The individuals’ psychological problems are being related to his social, cultural and emotional environment and treated as such. If there is a case of mental disorder of an individual, the entire family also becomes an area of treatment.
In the field of technology too, there is virtually a techno-rebellion for humanising technology-or technology with a human face. Ecological and social tests are also being considered imperative for any technological project and not merely its economic viability-or gains. Finally all social, economic and political problems too are being increasingly recognised as being inextricably intertwined. For example, the energy factor affects the areas of work, health, education and family life. It is the exclusive approach of treating every field as distinct and separate and planning accordingly that has led to the present day all round confusion and destruction of human happiness.
For All -Round Evolution of Human Spirit
On the background of this latest scientific revelation, I believe, it should now be easy to comprehend why the basic Hindu conviction of its total view of life taken in its all inclusive entirety – offers the only royal way for human peace, harmony and happiness. The Hindu view further affirms that a mere structural arrangement to be thought up at the intellectual plane in tune with total view will not work. For, as experience of various external political and economic models has borne out, mere exterior environmental arrangement will not basically alter human attitudes. Of course, to an extent good and beneficial systems do help. But more crucial is the evolution of the human spirit at the level of personal experience and realisation of the truth of an unifying reality underlying the multitude of diversity in nature.
The process of setting the human spirit on this spiritual journey is what is called samskaras designed to attune the human conduct with Dhar-ma- the laws of cosmic harmony as applied to human life. We can now realise why in our olden days, ‘Dharma Rajya’ – political regime carried on according to the laws of Dharma- was held up as the highest ideal at the national plane. The set up of Dharma Rajya was such as to protect, uphold and encourage every individual to fulfill all his natural* urges and aspirations- inclusive of the physical, intellectual, mental and the spiritual aspects. This was comprehensively denoted by the words Artha (accumulation of the objects of enjoyment), Kama (fulfilment of desires) and Moksha (highest spiritual bliss resulting from identity of the individual spirit with the cosmic whole) with Dhrama as the guiding and controlling factor for Artha and Kama so that they may not run riot but be made to help the attianment of Moksha. No station in life was left outside the perview of Dharma.
The norms of Dharmic behaviour were designated according to their age and role in relation to other: while pitrudharma, matrudharma denote the duties ot the father and mother towards their offspring, the children’s obligation towards the parents is putradharma. So also are prajadharma and rajadharma – the ordained duties and functions of the subjects and of the rulers respectively. It must also be remembered that this highest state itself is conceived of as conducive to world welfare: Atmano moksharthafn jagdditayacha. Economic Man -Root of Present Day Human Tragedy
It now becomes obvious why the modern Western civilization based entirely and exclusively on the material i.e. the economic aspect has resulted in the personality of man being cribbed and cabined into an economic animal. Naturally it has not helped him attain any measure of real human happiness. The latest telling example of Communism is before us . Communism born with a loud bang for ensuring the welfare and dignity of the underdog, has collapsed like a house of cards. The masses in those countries themselves have risen in revolt and thrown it into the dustbin of history -their dreams of a proletariet of heaven having turned into a nightmare of serfdom and starvation. The new heavens of the West to which they are now rushing have already given them a shock of disillusionment. The tribulations of the capitalist West have already began to torment them.
E.F. Schumacher says that America having just 6%of world’s human population is cornering 40% of world’s resources and yet the average level of happiness of the Americans has not improved. On the contrary, families are broken up, the relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children are snapped. Individual feels isolated and alienated with the sence of vacuum and boredom oppressing him -there is that growing inner feeling of futility, absurdity. Any number of remedies are being tried out like group therapy, drugs, sexual games and what not. Educational experts say that children are more at home with drugs, sex, spacelabs than with their parents and their brothers and sisters. In short, the overall dominance of the economic factor, of considering economic growth alone as the yardstick for measuring standard of life-to the exclusion of all other values of life, has verily led to the destruction of human personality. It has made man a mechanical part of the huge mechanical world he has created which has destroyed the natural rhythm of his life.
Sublimating the ‘Animal’ into ‘Divine’
The concept of Dharma – of regulating the individual’s conduct for sublimating the animal in him into more and more of the divine in him -stems from the basic conviction that man is essentially divine; and that through suitable disciplines – samskaras- he can rise above his physical instincts and gradually manifest the divinity within himself. Our ancients have addressed the entire humanity as ‘Amrutasya putrah’ the childern of immortal bliss .This again is in striking contrast with the Western approach that man is but a rational animal , and born in sin . It is this basic difference in the concept of man that has led to the contrasting approaches to the organisation of human societies. While the Hindu approach concentrated on the moulding of man, the Western approach centred round the external set up of the government.
Now, as we have already seen, the external science of the West has come quite close to the internal science of Bharat. The present enquiry of the West is centring more and more on systems that will allow man to unfold all his potentialities and lead him to enduring peace and happiness. It is precisely because of this new thrust that the Westerner is turning more and more towards the Hindu thought and practice which have always been centred round man. In short, it is no exaggeration to say that the Hindu Life View is now being generally accepted as of universal relevance.
Project ‘Hindu Rashtra’ ideal Before World !
It must be clear as daylight as to why the spirit of Hindu Rasthra is universal. For, the ideal of Hindu Rashtra is conceived of as a nation standing up as a living model reflecting the Universal Hindu View in all its facets of life-political, economical, social, educational, cultural etc. It is, in fact, the practical manifestation of universal thought-a philosophy in action.
Before I close, I must appeal to all our enlightened brothers and sisters assembled here today for the VIGIL’s Tenth Anniversary celebrations, not to treat the present discussion as a mere academic exercise. Any thought, however sublime or beneficial to mankind, will remain sterile unless it is sought to be brought into practical application by those who can grasp its vital importance.
A positive thought is like a living seed which however will dry up and wither away if left on the sands of dry intellectualism; it will sprout , grow into a full tree and yield flowers and fruits if only it is nurtured in a soil rich with the water and manure of human effort. In the present context, if we are really convinced of the truth of the universal spirit – or in other words.the global mission – of Hindu Rasthra, then it is upto us to stand up as its dountless champions in propagating the same.
And I am sure by putting our shoulders to the wheels of the present day all round Hindu Resurgence , we shall certainly be able to witness in our own life-time the glorious Hindu Rashtra coming into its own in all spheres of our national life and its fast growing impact on the world outside.
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