Friday, Oct 31, 2014

To be a fundamentalist Hindu

There is nothing wrong with the religions; it is only those who exploit them for their territorial or temporal purposes who are guilty. There is nothing wrong with the religions; it is only those who exploit them for their territorial or temporal purposes who are guilty.
Written by Chinmaya R Gharekhan | Posted: July 28, 2014 12:40 am

That’s the only way to fight Hindu fundamentalists.

Yes, I am a fundamentalist Hindu. No, not a Hindu fundamentalist, but a fundamentalist Hindu. Let me explain.

According to Wikipedia, fundamentalism as a movement arose in the United States among conservative Presbyterian theologians in the late 19th century and soon spread to the Baptists and other denominations around 1910-20. Its purpose was to reaffirm five key theological tenets, such as the inerrancy of every word of the Bible, virgin birth of Jesus, bodily resurrection of Jesus, historical reality of Jesus’s miracles, etc. Those who subscribed to these five fundamentals came to be known as fundamentalists. Some Christian fundamentalists do not believe in the common Abrahamic origin of Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Wikipedia describes Jewish and Islamic fundamentalism as radical ideologies and suggests, how justifiably one is not sure, that the term “Islamic fundamentalist” was born as a consequence of the Iranian revolution of 1979.

About Hinduism, Wikipedia says: Hinduism is a conglomeration of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid set of beliefs, thus the basic definition of fundamentalism cannot apply to Hinduism as a whole. It does mention “a recent phenomenon in India, namely the rise of Hindu fundamentalism that has led to political mobilisation against Muslims”.

According to the prevalent discourse on the subject, the term “fundamentalist” is used to describe those who invoke religion to indulge in acts of extremism and violence against followers of other faiths, indeed often, against followers of their own faith. These fundamentalists demand strict adherence to certain aspects of their faiths or holy books, selected by them, in order to impose their worldview on the societies they live in, and beyond.

The term “fundamentalist”, however, need not indicate such behaviour. A fundamentalist should be one who believes in the fundamentals of his or her religion, and not someone who handpicks elements from it to wage violence against all those who do not subscribe to them. Scholars of inter-faith dialogue are unanimous in their opinion that the fundamental message of all faiths is the same: universal peace, brotherhood, compassion, tolerance, etc. In that sense, those who believe in the fundamentals of their respective religion ought to be described as “fundamentalists”.

Fundamentally religious persons are not necessarily religious fundamentalists; they are not extremists and hence do not subscribe to violence to force others to their points of view. The Hindu faith does not have one single sacred text or founder. Therefore, one cannot refer to any text to ascertain the fundamentals of Hinduism. This may be both a handicap and an asset. On balance, I believe it is an advantage. It suggests that observance of rituals is not at all essential continued…

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