It is universally acknowledged that Hinduism is conceptually the most scintillating solitaire in the diadem of the religious philosophies of the world. The concern of Aryadharma is with man as such, and not man cut up into caste, creed, sect or race. Man is potentially divine. Man is the highest point of evolutionary ascent with the infinite probability and certitude of rising higher still. For this realisation of divinity, personal effort is the basic pre-condition. Personal effort required is, in Sri Aurobindo’s unique phrase, a ‘triple labour’ of aspiration, rejection and surrender.

Aspiration is the intense desire and indomitable will to be truly elevated and luminous. Rejection is total repudiation of nature’s cravings, lust, greed and the proclivities prowling in the stygian zone of the subconscious. Surrender is the absolute self-dedication of oneself to the divine ~ Brahma.

Manifestation of divinity is achieved by the increasing exhibition of man’s spiritual propensities. In the Hindu philosophy the rhythmic refrain is oneness. Every thought and every path that men follow through diverse tendencies and different habits through the variegated arenas of experience ~ mental and physical, and to Brahma,. “Whosoever comes to me through whatsoever form,” says the Gita, “I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me’.

Hinduism accepts all religions as true, wending their way to the same goal. Tolerance and respect for other religions is the inescapable corollary. Universality is its characteristic feature and humanism is the resultant ethos. Quite logically emerges the uselessness of acrimony, animosity, and hatred among men and among groups of men clinging desperately to their divisive doctrines.

The Vedas have delved into the mystery of man in an expansive, elaborate and exhilarating manner. Sir Arthur Eddington, the eminent physicist of the Occident, while dealing with the mystery of man has made the following observation ~ “What is the truth about ourselves? We are a bit of star gone wrong; we are complicated physical machinery ~ puppets that strut and talk and laugh and die as the hand of time turns the handle beneath. But let us remember that there is one inescapable answer. We are that which asks the question”.

Thus stops the scientist; but the Vedanta moves on and puts forth the significant reply. Man not only asks the question. Man solves the question. Man is not the body. Man is spirit ~ blest, eternal. He is the immanent and transcendent chaitanya, the living embodiment of divinity, dormant, innate.

Closely linked with this is the subject of universal love. As Dr Paul Deussen, the great Indologist states: “The highest and purest morality is the immediate consequence of Vedanta. The Gospels fix quite correctly as the highest law of morality, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. But why should I do so? Since by the order of nature, I feel pain and pleasure only in myself and not in my neighbour. The answer is not in the Bible; but it is in the Vedas, in the great formula ‘That Thou Art (Twat, Twamasi), which gives in three words metaphysics and morals together”.

Hence, to love others is to love myself; universal oneness is the unceasing symphony of Hindu religion. Vedanta deals with man as a whole and not on caste. In ancient times there was no division of society on the basis of birth. This came about as a result of socio-economic changes, increase in population and many other attendant factors.

Initially, this caste system was based on karma or duties and work performed by men and women. In the early Vedic era, in the same family one was Brahmin, another Kshatriya, another Vaishya, while another one could perform the job of Sudra.

The matter will be amply clear from a sloka in Rigveda. The sukta runs thus: “O Shome, work of all persons is not of the same nature. Our work is also of diverse kinds. The carpenter cuts wood, the physician tackles the ailments. The Praiser asks for the priest. I am a hymnographer, my son is a medical man (doctor), my daughter a frier of barley etc. (Jab Bharjan Kaari).’

According to the great German scholar, Max Mueller, caste as we find in the present day, does not form part of the most ancient teachings of the Vedas. Swami Vivekananda has categorically stated that though castes and our institutions are apparently linked with our religion, they are not so. The caste system is opposed to the religion of the Vedanta. Caste is a social custom. Caste is simply the outgrowth of the political institution of India. It is a hereditary trade guild, says the Swami in his incisive style.

Again, sustained forbearance is the hallmark of Hinduism. Coming down from the remote past to the comparatively recent, an instance may he cited.
Basically Machiavellian, but temperamentally mercurial, Jawaharlal Nehru had once declared that he was English by education, Muslim by culture and accidentally he was Hindu. This proclamation of genesis did not have any adverse impact on the Hindu psyche. He thrived and survived with éclat under the great grand marquee of Hinduism.

But a grim picture of gloom has emerged in Hindu society. The sighs of a dejected Rohit Vemula are a heartrending mishap. The startled cries of a dying Akhilek for keeping beef in his kitchen, which is consumed by crores of human beings all over the world including Brahmins of this country and which was a favourate dish of the Brahmins under certain conditions in the hoary past of Vedic era, cut us to the quick. The killings of free thinkers, writers, journalists ~ a Pansare, a Kalburgi and Gouri Lankesh ~ are mind-numbing and a blow to our conscience.

The formidable powers of inconscience and the horrendous forces of darkness have gained ascendancy over rationality and the voice of wisdom. Administrations have been woefully lackadaisical in tackling this spurt of violence and crime. The perpetrators of these misdeeds are under the spell of the virulent virus of bigotry, the other name of which is the so-called Hindutva. It requires to be stressed with emphasis that Hinduism is by itself sacred and sacrosanct. But viewed through the skewed perception of an intolerant ignoramus, it is sordid and baleful.

All this is a slur on our nation, to say the least. This has, in fact become emblematic of the sclerosis that deadens the human impulse of commiseration, compassion and empathy. But the general will of the Hindu Society (community) which is the transmuted and sublimated essence of what is good for all and good in all will resist the onslaught of perverse elements and signal the victory of sanity.

A true Hindu savours the Abmbrosian cap of love with gusto and joy unbounded. A conscientious Hindu bends his head with shame and penitence on seeing the depredations wreaked by the proponents
of so-called Hindutwa. But they will be swept off by the nectarine flow of love, concord and amity.Humanism is the essence of Hinduism, humanism its apotheosis.

The writer is a retired IAS officer.