Role of Hinduism in India

A comprehensive speech on the role of hindus delivered by Babu Mool Chand Jain in December 1992 or January 1993 soon after Babri Masjid demolition. The demolition resulted in several months of communal rioting between Hindu and Muslim communities, causing the death of at least 2,000 people. Venue of the speech not clear.
[Translated from Hindi by his daughter Dr. Swatantra Jain with her notes in parenthesis]

Today, the world’s population is around 50 billion (500 crore). Out of these, about 90% are Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Rest are Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Jews. Beyond these, there is no other major organized religion in the world.

Today, India’s population is around 88 billion (according to the latest census released in 1991). Our country is the only country where people from all religions are found and they are not in those high numbers anywhere else as they are in India. Some people may be surprised but it is true that there are about 11-12 crore muslims in India. Such a large number of Muslims do not live even in Pakistan, Bangladesh or even Indonesia. Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt have even much less muslim population.

Jainism and Buddhism evolved 2500 years ago while Christianity took root about 2000 years ago and Islam came only about 1400 years ago. So, it is likely that before 2500 years only “Hindus” lived in India. Those days, Hinduism was called Sanatan-dharma. Some of you must be thinking that those old days must have been the golden days without religious tensions of any kind.

Such a view is entirely wrong. Acharya Kaka Kalelkar, Gandhi’s staunch disciple and India’s great scholar, has said that Hindus were divided among themselves as Shiv, Vishnu, Shaakta (Ganesh), Soorya & Devi devotees (bhaktas). Not only did they argue among themselves but they also created obstacles for people from different ritualistic backgrounds, destroyed one another’s sacred inscriptions and epigraphs (Shila-lekhs). In the end, Aadi Shankaracharya found out the way out of these conflicts via the philosophy of Pancha-yatan (Five gods). All the Gods and Goddesses in India then came under the five yatans (Gods).  Under this system, even if one worshipped only one god, all the five categories of gods were also unintentionally worshipped. Thus, the combined worship of all the five gods/goddesses started due to this approach of Shankarachharya. Under this system, it became impossible to disapprove or oppose the worship of other gods. As a consequence, the atmosphere of conciliation & cooperation took root instead of conflict and clash. Eventually, this broader outlook led to establishment of new social relationships among all the five kinds of devotees through marriages. It was due to this basic harmonious atmosphere that, except some unfortunate incidents, even the Parsis, Muslims, Christians and Jews in India lived peacefully among themselves. In general, the foreign rulers encouraged conflicts amongst different traditions while the patriotic forces kept the situation under control. Over time, fundamentalists started highlighted the differences among different sects and religions. The Hindu fundamentalists ultimately demanded Hindu Nation. According to them, since the Muslims wanted and got Pakistan, the rest of the country should have become a Hindu Nation.

India became an independent nation on 15th August, 1947 (and Pakistan was created). The fundamentalist attitudes on both sides led to riots, murders and mass migration of hindus/muslims on the two sides of the border before and after this historic date. Gandhiji wanted to stop this blood-bath but a poisonous propaganda against Gandhi took root. Because of this negative propaganda, Gandhi put his life at risk to reduce the blood-bath. Gandhi had, in the past, fasted unto death in 1932 to undo the conspiracy of British Government to separate Harijans [now Dalits] from Hindus [translator’s note: A summary of Gandhi’s larger place in the world is here; the pros and cons of the 1932 fast are described in detail here].

At the time of independence, some muslims accused Gandhi of being the harbinger of Hindu “Raj” while Hindu nationalists accused him of being insufficiently dedicated to their cause. Eventually, Gandhi, a great Ram devotee. was murdered on 30th January by Hindu fundamentalists. This murder was a great sin and its occurrence cooled down the poison spread by the fundamentalists for some time. Even by 1962, the number of successful candidates in National Parliament or State Legislative Assemblies who espoused a fundamentalist view could be counted on fingers. The majority Hindu public did not own these forces despite their slogan of Hindu Nation. The fundamentalist forces contested elections under different banners (party affiliations), but their candidates got much lesser seats in 1980 than in 1977 elections. When they realized that their “Hindu Nation” slogan had failed them, they started digging into and distorting history to create tensions between hindus and muslims.

It is unfortunate that, during Muslim rule, while in general there were many examples of hindu-muslim brotherhood, many incidents which can be considered as cruelty against Hindus also occurred. However, if we read the history carefully, we shall come to know that cruelty by muslims had been done not just against hindus but against their other muslim opponents as well. Muslim rulers from Khilji, Tuglaq and Lodhi families continued atrocities against one another. Aurangzeb went on the extent of getting his own brothers murdered and sent his own father to jail.

Regardless, the crucial question is whether today’s Muslim can be considered responsible for these past animosities inflicted by Muslim regimes. If we want to learn from historic events, we should not repeat past mistakes. The past should be manure (khaad), not food. Today’s problems are serious unemployment, corruption, inflation, ever increasing chasm of inequality between rich and poor, terrorism and adverse effects of multinational companies; but not temples or mosques. The solution of these problems does not lie with these fundamental forces: solutions lie in implementation of policies that can bring economic and social justice.  But the fundamentalist forces don’t want to give up the slogan of Hindu Nation. Equality amongst all religions was one of the important vows amongst Gandhiji’s 11 vows necessary for socio-political service.

I don’t know how to remind fundamentalists of this couplet “Nashaa pila kar giraana to sab ko aata hai, majaa to jab hai girte ko bacha le saakii’”(It is easy to arrange anyone’s downfall after getting them heavily drunk but the deepest joy lies in being able to lift up someone who has fallen).

They are busy in misleading, inciting and instigating hindu public by drawing wrong conclusions from historic events. They are getting hindu public drunk on the notion of “Hindutva”. These forces not only hurt the Indian constitution and traditions of brotherhood and tolerance by damaging the Babri masjid but have also lowered our prestige in the international circles. They are now using the mantra of Ram temple. They are not even taking seriously the open-hearted message of the Satya Sai Baba who told them “Which Rama you have in mind? The one whom you want to take out after searching from a mosque or that Ram who is universal and omni-present, and whom the whole human race reveres and who is the collective heritage of the whole human race”?

Even the law of limit (miyaad) does not have any meaning for them. In their greed for power, they have become ignorant of Pakistan’s Gurudwara Shaheedganj‘s history.

What is Gurudwara Shaheedganj’s history? Aurangzeb died in the year 1707. After some time, Meer Manyu became the Governor of Lahore. He was very cruel. On his order, the Mughal executives and servicemen got hold of Sikhs and killed them in a mosque. When Maharaja (Emperor) Ranjeet Singh came into power, only this mosque was converted into Gurudwara (place of worship for Sikhs) because many sikhs were killed here and named it ‘Gurudwara Shaheeganj’. Maharaja Ranjeet Singh died in 1839-40 and within 10 years, the Sikh Rule came to an end. When the British rulers crushed the revolution of 1857, the Muslims asked the British rulers that their Mosque be returned to them. The British rulers told the Muslim representatives that this matter would be hard to solve. It had now become the question of legal limit (Miyaad) of time; therefore they should appeal to the court according to the law. The Muslims filed a lawsuit against the Sikhs. The case was taken to the Privy Council of British India. The final decision taken was that that would remain as gurudwara and will not be converted to a mosque because the legal time limit for its return to its older use had expired. This Gurudwara has remained as it was since 150 years even after the establishment of Pakistan when the population of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan is negligible. If the Law of Limit could be applied to Shaheedganj Gurudwara, why the same law can’t be applied to Babri Mosque and other religious places?

The human values are being destroyed in the volcanic fires of “Hindutava” ! Where will this poison take us?  The world’s intellectuals in the international field have started calling us as hypocrites, because Indians say something and do something else. These people are not serving the Hindu religion by calling secularism as pseudo-secularism. Great saints and intellectuals of our country have tried to expand the notion of “Hinduism” and make it a humane religion for the whole humanity. Is trying to limit Hinduism a true service to Hindu Religion?

Names of how many such great saints should I recount who made such efforts during last 150 years? Raja Ram Mohan Rai, Ram Krishna Param Hansa, Swami Vivekananda, Tagore, Sri Arvind Raman Maharishi, Gandhiji, Krishnamurti, Vinoba Bhave, Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan, Satya Sai baba, Acharya Tulsi etc are some of them. In their efforts lies the grace and pride of Hindu religion. Hinduism’s life lies in its growth and expansiveness. If the growth of Hinduism is blocked, the existence of sanatan dharma (ancient hindu religion) would be in danger.

After looking at Indian history closely and deeply, it becomes clear that our motherland’s slavery is due to the blockage of Hindu religion. The Hindu leadership became egoist – they thought they were most advanced in knowledge, and that they need not learn anything from any one. They closed the doors to knowledge. Its consequence was that those who had learnt from us, went far ahead of us, and we were not only left behind but we also had to tolerate slavery for centuries. My complaint for Hindu fundamentalist brothers is why they do not read history properly? May god grant them wisdom to understand these facts.

Do they think that 11-12 crore muslims can be ousted from India or can be forced to live as 2nd class citizens? And would it not be against the dignity of the high principles of Hindu Dharma? If this happens, would this religion that proclaims ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam’ (the whole world is a family) remain a matter of our pride?

Some days back, 450 Muslims were ousted from Israel on the plea that Muslims were not Israeli citizens [translator’s note: it wasn’t 450 but 415 muslims who were ousted from Israel. This mass deportation was illegal under Israeli and international law. Details available here). Rehabilitation of ousted muslims became an international problem because no other middle-eastern nation wanted to accept them. The problem of 11-12 crore people will become a much more serious and dangerous international problem.

There is another poisonous propaganda being spread that Muslims population is much more than that of Hindus because they marry 4 times. I am surprised at the propagation of this falsehood. Will some of my friends count and tell me how many Muslims have married four times? [translator’s note: the rate of polygamy among hindus was actually higher than in muslims until 1960s: see Times of India article here. Even in 2006, the difference in rate of polygamy among hindus and muslims wasn’t large: see Scroll article here]

So far as the question of producing more children is concerned, when women have received education until 10th grade or more, their families start producing lesser children. Such families may be Muslims as well as Hindus. Hindu families are comparatively more educated than those of Muslims and hence they produce lesser children due to awareness. Among poorer Hindu families, the number of children produced is more in comparison to the educated Hindus. Therefore, there is only a small difference between the growth rate of population among Muslims vs Hindus.  The solution of this issue of population growth rate does not lie in what our Hindu fundamentalists want but it lies in eradicating the poverty among muslims and educating muslim women at least up to high school.

Religion holds a very important place in human life. The wise propagators of every religious tradition have tried to save their religion from wrong beliefs and blind-faiths. Any religion which does not usher in morality, humanity and compassion in life can not be called true religion. According to Swami Vivekananda, religion helps manifest the intrinsic divine power which exists within every human being since birth. Some call this power ‘Atma’, some call it ‘chetanya’ while some others call it ‘Ruh’.  All the religions have talked about the ways of removing/eradicating human (vikaar) weaknesses or moral deficiencies) like excessive attachment (Raag or moh), aversion (dwesh), jealousy, anger (krodh), ego (ahankaar). These weaknesses cover up our true nature (atma or ruh). Man’s spiritual power and awareness keeps on increasing in proportion to the reduction in these deficiencies (vikaars).  This spiritual awakening has not come only among Hindu saints but also among Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and others. All the religions have produced great men. Awakening of souls has been in all the religions.

Spiritual teachers (gurus) belonging to different religions have suggested different means to reduce these moral deficiencies (vikaars) in accordance with their own time and place, which were also termed as different path (panth).  Present day religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Jainism) have been derived after the names or paths set in places by a few spiritually awakened teachers (gurus). Hindu religion is not named or formed after any particular guru or path. It is an ancient religion and hence we call it “Sanatan”.  There are a few commonalities in all the spiritual paths. There also are some differences which do not match between different religious paths.  But these differences came into being because of differences in the place and time during which these paths evolved. Different religions have emphasized different aspects of life. For example, Jain religion emphasized on non-violence (Ahimsa) and declared, ‘Ahimsa  parmodharma’ (nonviolence is the supreme religion‘, the Hindus emphasized Truth (Satya); Christianity  taught the lesson of love, forgiveness  and compassion, while Islam raised the slogan of social equality, Buddhists and Jains also emphasized on hard work and labor.

Can’t we learn from the important messages of other religions? Do Hindus have same social equality as among our Muslim brothers? Can’t we learn the lesson of forgiveness and love from our Christian brothers? Can’t Muslims and Jews learn the lesson of Ahimsa Parmo-dharma  (Nonviolence is the greatest religion) from Jain brethren? We all can further and develop our religions by learning some good things from one another religions. But this is possible only when we acknowledge the good points of other religions. Friendship and love increases by seeing the good points of one another. The grievance increases by seeing bad points of other religions. Each religion has some weakness. By seeing weakness, we can never increase brotherhood.  If we ever want to decrease the weaknesses of others, we can get some success by becoming their friends not by becoming their enemy. This is the law of nature.

There are many elements of any religious teaching.  One element connects man to man (translator’s note: “via orthopraxy which is ethical conduct), the other element connects man to the infinite divine power, and a third element is related to the value systems (culture). There are important differences in value systems among different religions. I think that the wrong values should decrease in proportion to the development of science.  When Galileo first said that the Sun does not revolve round the Earth but it is the Earth which revolves round the Sun, the religious leaders of that time found him to be guilty of heresy.  Socrates had to drink a cup of poison because he had preached against the prevalent values of that era and proclaimed that “all the human beings are equal”. Similarly, Lord Christ was executed. The reformers in our own country had to bear the punishment, torture and social pressure for raising voice and struggled against the unjust beliefs & values of their times including burning of widows (sati-pratha), lifelong “slavery” of women (devdasi), slavery and untouchability etc. But eventually they got success and the very beliefs which were considered as religious/legal values are now considered a sin against humanity.

It is evident from this whole history that none of the wrong beliefs/values can be rectified immediately by force, and it is equally true that no noble/right belief or value can be suppressed by force and cruelty.

Therefore, I want to address all those fundamentalist brothers who are not necessarily greedy for power but who consciously or unconsciously want to make the followers of other religions 2nd class Indian citizens and who believe that without making the members of other religion a 2nd class citizen, national situation won’t improve. I earnestly appeal to them to carefully study the human history and pay heed to the sermons and actions of the best of their own religious gurus, saints and great souls.  Do I need to remind my hindu brothers that when Ram Krishan Paramhansa (Swami Vivekanand’s Guru) got enlightenment and realized God by following Hindu Tradition, he wondered if the same enlightenment could be attained by following Islamic and Christian traditions. He first tried Muslim (sufi) tradition.  He read Namaj five times a day, observed rigorous fasting (Roza) and worshiped according to Islamic tradition. I pay my regards to this great Indian Saint that he left a legacy, for the sake of the future generations of India, that clarified  that enlightenment can be achieved not only by following Hindu tradition but also by Islamic and Christian traditions.

The saints/great souls do not belong to any one religion/country; rather they are the collective heritage of the entire human race. Then, why is this resentment? Why this poison of hatred and discrimination? Has anyone attained self-purification by such resentments?

Gandhi has said that maximum experiments in self-purification and self-realization have been done in India. These experiments have not yet stopped. These experiments will continue till the existence of this universe, and the form (values and beliefs) of religion will go on changing. This is the true growth of any religion. All the religious traditions are respectable, though none is perfect.

One of the greatest men of this country, Mahatma Gandhi added new dimensions to the religion in the name of Satyagraha (Assertion of truth or truth-force) and asahyog (Non-Cooperation of evil). The followers of this Gandhian path have begun to be referred to as Gandhi themselves, e.g., Frontier Gandhi, Baluchistan Gandhi. Just a few days back I read that a great man from Sicily (an island near Italy) who got Jamnalal Bajaj Award of 1990-91 is called as Gandhi of Sicily. Do our Indian brothers do not feel proud of this?

Those who want to truly serve Hindu religion, they must find out the solution of the crucial/serious problems of this country which are unemployment, poverty, Inequality, corruption, terrorism and increasing economic influence of large corporations. The biggest problem facing humanity is the unjust distribution of income and property. The poor are being exploited and being deprived of their legitimate share of wellbeing. May God Almighty bestow wisdom to my brothers so that they may well utilize their energy and apply it in the true service of mankind.

I also have something to share with my Muslim brothers. There is no dearth of fundamentalism in Islam.  Some of them declared a boycott from Republic Day. Some muslims become silent in front of the fundamentalist forces within Islam. The way some Hindus have risen to the occasion by fighting against fundamental Hindus, if good & noble-hearted Muslims also rise and stand against fundamental Muslims, then they would strengthen the hands of Hindu patriots in reducing conflict.

One word to all kind-hearted and wise citizens of the country: Good citizens have become inactive. They will have to become active. Those who know but do not act upon what they understand will be cowards in the eyes of future generations. Those who do not use their inherent divine energy/wisdom/power, their energy goes on reducing. We should not get disappointed. We have to fight against wrong powers/elements even if we have to suffer in the process.  It has never been assured either in Hindu or any other religion that the fighters for the truth won’t ever have to face any pain.

Mother India has never been in such a trouble as she is today. Her beloved children have been disgracing her in the name of religion. Are present day riots not a matter of shame for all of us? Can’t we experience the agony of our mother India?  We need to rekindle the source of compassion in our hearts. A man devoid of compassion can never walk on the difficult path that brings prosperity to their family, society and the nation as a whole. When hearts are closed, how would a nation grow?

I shall end my speech by quoting Acharya Kaka Kalelkar, ‘Who can try to synergize multiple religions in India?” According to Achaarya Kalelkar, ‘This effort should be done from within Hindu culture and religion.”

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