Where are the Hindu institutions?
Of late, there have been reports of Hinduphobia coming from multiple sources[i]. For example, every now and then, there are reports of a new film or television series that seeks to portray Hinduism in a negative light. Undoubtedly, such cultural onslaughts result in definite cultural and psychological damage which becomes evident when observed over longer periods of time. However, it appears that most Hindus are so used to a sort of contempt shown to Hindu culture that a form of numbness has taken over. In fact, Hindus themselves have ended up being the biggest consumers of the cultural trash that is produced by entities such as Bollywood, Netflix etc. This fact points to a deep rot within the society itself. Why have modern Hindus become so disconnected from their roots? We can try to find scapegoats outside. We can point to the 70 years of secularism, the authoritarian grip of leftists on academia, the so-called Urban Naxals and all the rest of the “Breaking India” forces. However, a deeper examination would reveal who really has let the country and society slide so far. The culprits are not hard to find.
Who are the biggest consumers of crass pop culture in the form of vulgar, nihilistic film and TV series? Answer: Hindus.
Who are among the biggest supporters of an Indian constitution which effectively treats Hindus as second-class citizens in article 29 and 30? Answer: Hindus.
Roots of the decline
Given these initial observations, we could now perhaps attempt a first look within to try and uncover the reasons for the continuing drift of the society. One obvious fact jumps out when looking at the behavior of other religions. Take the Sikhs, for example. Recently, in a case of kidnap and forced conversion of a Sikh girl in Pakistan, the Sikh community stood united and ensured that the girl was returned to her parents safely[ii]. It is thanks to the existence of worldwide Sikh bodies such as the various national Sikh Councils etc. that quick government action could have been mobilised for such issues. In contrast, virtually no action has been forthcoming from any Indian government against the continued persecution of Hindus in Pakistan[iii]. Another good example where action was taken, was the defense of Buddhism against Islamic terror under the leadership of Asin Wirathu in Myanmar[iv]. It must be emphasized that such leadership in times of crisis can only arise if there are certain institutions established in society.
When it comes to Hindus, one immediately detects a missing piece in the puzzle: there is no establishment which acts against Hinduphobia. No concrete action can be taken other than writing a few stray articles and/or books. A few among today’s generation of popular Gurus even go to the extent of denying the existence of Hinduism as a religion![v] Thus, a popular Guru further propagates a common misunderstanding that “only Abrahamic religions can be religions”. Taken at face value, Abrahamic religions can be most accurately described as belief systems or, to be more precise, political ideologies. The worldview of the Abrahamic religions is a zero-sum game where the entire world has to accept their viewpoint even as they burn the world down. From a historical viewpoint however, the very word religion was not even coined by any follower of an Abrahamic religion. It is a Latin term first used by the late Pagan Romans. It meant “respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods etc.”[vi] When seen it in this light, it becomes amply clear that Hinduism is indeed a religion as it truly conforms to the original spirit of the term.
What our past teaches
Looking back however, it appears that things were not always this bleak. In the previous generations, popular Gurus included such stalwarts as Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati and Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Both were ordained sannyasis in the dashanami tradition. Both Gurus never flinched from self-identifying as Hindus. In fact, Swami Chinmayananda was instrumental in the founding of an organisation, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which was once seen as a guiding force for Hindus worldwide. Also among the founders of the VHP were the former Maharaja of Mysore, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, and the Kanchi Paramacharya[vii]. However, one hardly hears of the VHP today as it has been mostly sidelined and lacks the leadership it once possessed.
On the other hand, the mathas established by the ancient and medieval Gurus continue to do yeoman service in the continuation of their own traditions. One needs to look to such living examples of institutions to find inspiration to tackle the modern-day issues under discussion.
Also, India has a rich history of arts in terms of literary, dramatic and poetic culture. The world has no parallel to the sophistication and the grandeur achieved by such poets as Kalidasa, Abhinavagupta, Vishakadatta etc. All these cultural and literary achievements could have only come about thanks to a tradition of academic scholarship rooted in a Dharmic worldview and a culture where artistic talent is encouraged and incentivised.
In terms of martial valour, the institutions of the Rajya and the Rashtra ensured that a steady stream of talented warriors were produced in India. These warriors were skilled in arms and learned in military strategies. It was this military might that finally defeated both the attempted world conquests of Alexander and of the Mohammedans.
Going forward, it appears certain that a revival of Hinduism and Hindu culture must happen. This appears inevitable at this moment in time. Even as this process happens, care must be taken that the rich contributions of Hindus to the world in terms of culture, arts, philosophy, scholarship, martial training etc. are not lost. The influence of the artistic and aesthetic heritage of classical India should one day ensure that the vulgar nihilism symbolized by today’s Bollywood gets its place in the dustbin of history. However, for any of this to occur, there is a need to come out of this self-imposed hibernation and begin a process of self-examination. It is important to understand why Hinduphobia has become so fashionable and hip in the present day. Why is it that despite having a self-proclaimed “Hindutva” government, there no attempt made to change the way the culture is headed?
It is evident from history that truly great leaders can only emerge from entrenched institutions. The institution of the Hindu monarchy produced such leaders as Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar and military heroes of yore such as Raja Jayapala, Raja Prithviraj Chauhan etc. The dashanami institution founded by Adi Shankara produced leaders such as Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda. Such heroes and legends need to be celebrated and their stories once again need to be taught to children. Concurrently, there is a need today to establish institutions that can act against Hinduphobic activities and the worldwide persecution of Hindus. What form this institution could take has to be decided eventually. A study must take place of how the erstwhile Hindu kingdoms functioned and made culture, progress and economic well-being bloom in society. Also, a study of the existing institutions such as the mathas and organisations like the once-formidable VHP, can perhaps provide some guidance in this
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