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Reclaiming Hindutva: It will Need a Fight to the Core!


Hindutva as a word has been abused in the recent years – both, by those who run it down and those who want to assert it.

In its most foundational sense, it is something sacred and indeed at the heart of mankind’s survival.  Not because it belongs or is linked to what is now called a “religion”, but because in its most practical, philosophical and spiritual sense has always given freedom to mankind.

Meaning of Hindutva

Hindutva literally means the Core of Hindu – the Tatva of being Hindu – where Hindu is not a “tag” but a state of being.  If I live my life a certain way, then I am a Hindu.  Being a Hindu doesn’t just come from my name or the temple in my house, or my belief or faith.  It is beyond all that.  It is my QUALITY.

And that is important to understand, if one has to save it from attack – both from within and outside.

Those who have made it their mission to bring the “Hindu” history and culture of India down have done a very simple thing.  They have created a box called Hindutva – which they have campaigned to define as something “Bad” and evil.  Then, its very easy to drown anyone they wish to bring down and finish him off.  Simply push him into that box and ipso facto he is evil as well.  There is no need for any sane argument.  No logic or intelligent articulation of what is the real situation is attempted by such people.  “He is proponent of Hindutva” + Smirk + Self confident pat on one’s chest and one’s entire debate is done.

Such is the impact of this campaign that no one even stops to find out – “Why is Hindutva evil”?  And more importantly What is Hindutva?  And that is where I want to start.

What is Hinduism

But to get there, I want to discuss what is Hinduism – because that is where the understanding of the Core comes from.

Hinduism is not just a word.  Hinduism didn’t come in to existence the day someone called a certain population as “Hindus”.  The people were already living a certain way of life.  There was a thread of a common spiritual heritage – which enshrined some basic central precepts:

  • The highest goal of a person, after survival and living well, was to look at getting rid of all sorrows in life.  Nevertheless, in the spectrum of well being and happiness one could choose to be at any point – fulfillment of a desire, any desire or level of desire; or choose to be totally liberated of the desires.
  • One can decide what one finds to be sacred and useful.  One person’s nightmare could be another’s doorway to God or Eternal Bliss.  Each to his/her own.
  • Everyone can find their own way and every path/method is valid in its own way, even though one may not agree with its principles.
  • One cannot fight to impose one’s way of liberation or ideology on another.

Religion vs Hinduism

Not once until the first Islamic invader came our way, did anyone ever fight to impose one’s way to find Divine.  That was not a sticking point.  People would engage in debates, discussions and arguments on which way is more logical or better suited to a certain lifestyle but it was never the central reason for a battle.  Even Adi Shankara engaged in debates on various hues of Religious and Spiritual practices to establish some that he thought were better, but he had no possession or weapons with him.

There were several ideologies and methods, but there was no “religious” division.  No one was persecuted because he believed in something that I didn’t.

This entire social and cultural heritage got branded by outsiders whose wont was to live by categories and branding and imposing their own brand as superior – as Hinduism.  Simply because someone gave that culture a name – didn’t mean that it was born then.  No more than one can say that God was created on the day English language came up with the word “God”!  The language simply assigned a word to a phenomenon or an idea that had existed since birth of mankind.

Branding of Hinduism was the assault of lower level of being on culture that enjoyed the most inclusive society in terms of search for divine.

That Hinduism should be considered a “Religion” – an extremely egotist and parochial way of approaching the question of search for Divine – is itself an assault on an inclusive cultural phenomenon that not just survived but flowered for many millenia!  Calling Hinduism as a religion or comparing it with any religious framework is an insult to that inclusive sensibility.

It is like pushing a culture of inclusivity into the muck of exclusivity.

Why should a cultural mind which has not known anything beyond fighting battles for their ideas of God, be allowed to even define the landscape of a world that should be free from such mess?

Why should a mind which has at its very best only known the concept of Tolerance (I hate you but I will tolerate you) be allowed to evaluate a culture that is defined by Acceptance (I don’t care who you are, but I accept you as an equal)?

Its a disgrace to the sensibility of mankind that the level of our existence is defined by an idea that is inherently so low as Religion.  Specifically, an ideology – a restrictive and exclusive one – cannot in anyway define the Liberation that was sine qua non of the culture that came to be branded as Hinduism.

Ideology is a strait jacketed box that people create for the sake of survival.  Its a one time attempt by an individual or group to live a life of no thinking.  If I have an ideology – which has a certain point of view of the world in a certain way, then I don’t need to engage the world thereafter the way it presents to me.  I then start interacting with the world based on the pre-decided ways I have defined for myself.  I am bound to reduce the profundity of any situation to a mockery of my preconceived notion versus what offers to me at that moment.

And Divine is never experienced in interacting with life in a pre conceived way.

The tragedy of mankind has been that the brute force of unthinking ideologues has attempted in the last 2500 years to subjugate the vulnerable elegance of experiential existence.  What can only be experienced cannot be defined.  What is defined of it, is not the Truth.  How can one even put it in ideology?  Whatever idea of the destination you will have will be a failure to begin with for any Spiritual traveller.  And yet, whatever you will say, will be correct – very restrictively and in a very limited way.

Those Who Use Hindutva

Those who use Hindutva politically use it in exactly the same sense as those they are battling.  They reduce the core concept of Hinduism down to a religious ideological framework denying and extinguishing any questioning or discussion.  That direction also hits on the central inclusivist core.

That the Abrahamic Exclusivism has to be handled is not the most intelligent conclusion for the future of an Inclusivist society to prosper in India (and the world by extension) – but before you go out to tackle such fundamentalism you need to be drenched in the core juice of your own identity.

Shri Krishna said in Gita that reading or memorizing the Vedas is of no use.  Knowing its Core is everything.  Beings like Krishna don’t come along easily, but would it need another Krishna to again put the core message for us?

Need for Awareness

The only way that Hinduism can be saved and Hindutva be reclaimed from the two opposing forces – yet mutually propelling each other – is not blind belief or faith.. but Awareness rising out of razor sharp questioning intellect.  At every point, this intellect has to question.

So much so, that we have to plant the “bug” of questioning – serious, not shallow or ideologically oriented – in everyone’s minds.  Friends and foes alike.

This will require one to be ready to fight.  Fight against one’s own lackadaisical life and enter into a fight to the core.  Core of one’s own being!  Nothing short of that will do.  For, if we have to save this Core of the most Inclusive Framework ever established in any society in the history of mankind, then it will require a core that is as revolutionary and unique.

Its a tough fight, but it has to be undertaken.