Religion & geopolitics

Harmony needs a sustained effort, Communal violence, Guru Nanak, Sant Kabir, Baba Farid, Garib Nawaz

(Representational Image: iStock)

Atruer understanding of Hindutva would be useful. Then such unfortunate incidents as advocate Rajiv Dhawan tearing up a map of old Ram Lalla mandir, in the presence of senior judges in the Supreme Court might not occur. The advocate might have meant his action as his tribute to Indian secularism, but it has turned out to be an affront to an idea that is about the only hope for world peace. Most people cannot spontaneously see the connection nor has anyone yet made an effort to point it out to them.

The Abrahamic religions assert that theirs is the only God whether Jehovah, Jesus (son of God) or Allah. If a follower has any doubt, he is not a true believer. By the same token, all who do not believe in Jehovah are gentiles, those not believing in Christ infidels, in Allah, kafirs. These are what the deductive section of logic would call given premises. What flows from them would be the corollaries, which in the light of the premises flow flawlessly. For example, if one accepts that Allah is the only God and his Prophet is Muhammad, the corollaries of Islam are literally flawless and utterly logical.

One conclusion would be jihad, whether Akbar the greater or individual one and inner, otherwise Asghar the smaller or external one meaning war. Judaism does not favour conversion but Christianity and Islam do believe in proselytization and expanding the number of Christians and Muslims around the world. Expansion, domination and possibly war are the corollaries. Since Independence, India has had to fight several wars with Pakistan, including one on Bangladeshi soil. Although in 1971, we helped it to get free, subsequently there have been tensions including their soldiers beheading our jawans and parading around like killed animals, many infiltrators and some terrorists crossing over.


The behaviour of Karachi and then Islamabad towards India and cross-border infiltrations by the thousands is a continuing saga. On the other hand, neither Nepal nor Sri Lanka or Myanmar have been troublesome on the Indian borders. They happen to have Hinduness at the core and have not aligned themselves with Pakistani activity. The number of Christians in India are fewer than Muslims, but in any case, they haven’t involved themselves with any separate political activity. There is no Christian political party.The question is, what is so distinctive about Hinduness that it can emerge as a fountain of peace. There is no assertion about God, unlike in the Abrahamic faiths.

From Vedic times, the emphasis of Sanatana dharma is on karma. Deeds lead to destiny; karmas are eventually rewarded or punished by bhagya was a concept that satisfied the upper educated sections of society. The common folk needed something more tangible. The concept of swami and das subsequently treated as God and worshipper, was introduced by the bhakti saints Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Tuslidas, Surdas, Eknath, Tukaram, etc. These saints helped to attract the message of the common folk towards Hinduness.

Thus, they did not go over to Islam. Incidentally, the status of swami or God was given not to the divine, but to its avatars (incarnations). Ramachandra was considered the seventh avatar of Vishnu, while Krishna the eighth and Buddha the ninth. Similarly, there are objects of worship like the cow, the tree and the river. These were treated as objects of veneration with the social objective of preserving and protecting them. Divinity could certainly not have been awarded to such a large number. Unlike the Abrahamic faiths, Hinduness is not the result of a deductive premise initiated by the concept of God or Allah.

If there is logic in Hinduness, it is attainted to be initiated from the reality on the ground and argued upwards to a conclusion. This is nearer the inductive wing of the science of logic. To illustrate further, suppose four Hindus from four different corners of India happen to meet and roses come up as a subject of discussion. The Hindu from the east might claim that he has seen only white roses, the west would say he had seen only yellow ones, while the one from the south would say only pink roses are what she had seen. The person from the north might have seen only red roses.

After some discussion all the four agree to disagree and conclude that what each has seen must be true of their respective regions and not of the other person’s. On the other hand, if these four persons were Abrahamic they would part in disagreement. One view would be that red is the colour of rose, and the rest must be weeds. Someone else would opine that the other coloured were not roses but other flowers. The central message would be that what I have seen is true; the rest are alien and possibly inferior. The attitude is the flip side of the will to dominate in order to make one’s community stronger and more in numbers. That is one sure way to serve one’s god.

The Hadith exhorts men to marry women who are fecund so that one day the community would be more numerous than any other on earth. At the same time, family planning by artificial means is not allowed, only coitus interruptus is permitted. Especially due to high infant mortality, the Hindu practice in the old days was no different. However, there were no restrictions, as a result of which reforms were easy enough to frame and enforce. For example, family planning amongst Hindus faces no resistance. In contrast to the will to dominate, experienced by the Abrahamic faiths, Hinduness has opted for self-actualization of the individual.

The motivation is more individual and much less collective. The idea is for each person to tune his ***karma*** for how well he cares to do in life. It is possible that many might not be consciously ambitious and live life as it comes. This probably is the factor which makes many a Westerner conclude that a Hindu is a fatalist. What is necessary to know is that life is a marathon continuity as the soul moves from one body to another upon every death. Early mukti or salvation is the reward for exceptional karma. To emphasise the point, the aspirational Hindu strives to ensure excellence of his karma and thus fully self-actualizes himself or herself in an activity in line with aptitude.

A collective effort has almost always received a minor rating in the Hindu ethos. At the best or worst of times, there has been hardly any Indian aggrandizing effort. Imperialism beyond the borders of India has been, as it were, an anathema to Indian rulers. The Cholas particularly, did travel far and wide across South-east Asia, but their thrust appears to have been culture and trade, rather than governance. Coming to the question of peace in the world, it can be achieved only by nations that do not aspire to either conquer and dominate other nations. The European nations like Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Britain and France needed to be richer, and went to conquer colonies.

Despite being rich in resources, the New World is unable to restrain itself from trying to dominate other countries. A thermonuclear world which has several countries with atomic arsenals, forces us to ensure that no war breaks out. In 1945, two small atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were sufficient to give the world unprecedented jitters, the proof of which is since then, no atomic weapon has been used. Today, the known arsenals are estimated to be large enough to destroy the earth three times over. This is only to emphasize how ensuring positive peace is a desperate need. There is no ethos, idea or ideology, which can enable such a peace, other than self-actualizing Hinduness.

(The writer is an author, thinker and a former Member of Parliament)