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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Restore the lost dynamic of Hinduism

Throughout human history, religion has remained a potent force, despite all the pounding it has received from thinkers like Marx who called ...

Written by Jagmohan |
January 2, 1998

Throughout human history, religion has remained a potent force, despite all the pounding it has received from thinkers like Marx who called it opiate for the people and Freud who termed it as a collective neurosis of the masses. In this regard, I am reminded of a talk between Cardinal Gonsalvic and Napoleon. The Cardinal was pleading the case for the Catholic Church. Napoleon got annoyed on some point and shouted at the Cardinal: “Your Eminence, are you not aware that I have the power to destroy the Catholic Church?”. The Cardinal smiled and replied: “Your Majesty, we, the Catholic clergy, for the last 1,800 years, have done our level best to destroy the Catholic Church. We did not succeed. You will not succeed either.” This conversation brings out the staying power of religion.

Quite a few scholars consider Hinduism as a jumble of creeds and rituals. Such a view which gives a superficial picture of Hinduism, arises primarily from the failure to perceive the phenomenon in its historical perspective and the inability to separate the pure from the fake, the profound from the profane, and the lofty from the low. Any old religion, during the course of its long march, gathers a lot of dust. Hindusism is no exception.

I would grade Hindu thoughts and practices at three levels. Level-I would cover the core of Hinduism, its fundamental message of oneness and underlying unities unity in the diversity of man, unity in the diversity of nature, unity in the diversity of religion. In Level-II would fall the beliefs and practices which are not contrary to its basic philosophy and which came into existence in response to the religious needs of the common folk who could not grasp the intellectual content of its core and who had to depend on temples, images of gods and goddesses, and their symbols. In Level-III would come all the spurious rituals, rites, cults and superstitions and practices, such as `sati’, aided and abetted by fake godmen.

Reform of Hinduism would involve total elimination of Level-III, refurbishing and rejuvenation of Level-II, and chiselling and polishing of Level-I.

The need for reform of such an old religion is obvious. In fact, Hinduism itself recognises that change is a part of cosmic reality. The universe is continuously changing. It has its own creative process, its own self-generating flux. One dynamic equilibrium is continuously giving way to another dynamic equilibrium. Hindu thought suggests that “our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another circle can be drawn.”

Most of the Hindu myths and rituals, parables and legends, have deep meaning, and they usually create tremendous impact on the common folk. But their inner rationality must be explored and laid bare; otherwise, those who are not rational enough due to lack of education or other reasons would get exploited or fall prey to spurious and fake myths and rituals. It is, therefore, necessary that no myth or ritual is retained underneath which reasoned faith cannot be discovered. It must be spotted out and thrown away like the deceptive stone in a tray of gems.

Reasoned faith takes man to higher and higher stages of spirituality. The `inner’ eye becomes more active and complements the rational phenomenon. The perceptive faculties of man get synthesised. The Upanishads say: “The rational man has to grow into spiritual man. That is the task set to each individual if he has to fulfil his destiny as a human being.” In fact, rationality is a pre-requisite of spirituality. One cannot be spiritual without being rational first.

In its highest and purest form, Hinduism means belief, not in one preacher and prophet, but in the cosmic spirit that pervades every item of life.

This “vedantic” belief of one divinity pervading all living being is nothing but a spiritual call for equality, fraternity, liberty and justice.

If the same divinity forms the core of my personalty as well as yours, we cannot but be equal.

The writer is a former governor of J&K

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