Category: Perspectives

Sanjay Dixit

Sanjay Dixit

About the Author

Sanjay Dixit, Additional Chief Secretary to the Government of Rajasthan, has many feathers in his cap. He graduated as a marine engineer, and sailed the high seas for a few years before changing course to civil services. He is also well-recognised as a cricket administrator who once defeated Lalit Modi in a famous election for the post of the president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association. He considers Rajasthan's first Ranji Trophy title triumph as his crowning achievement. He is also credited with bringing a revolutionary new technology for production of date palms on a large scale in western Rajasthan, transforming livelihoods.

Dixit is a prolific columnist on contemporary topics. He has a deep interest in Indian languages, culture, economics, history, philosophy and spirituality. His six-part series - 'All Religions Are Not the Same' - has won critical acclaim. He also heads The Jaipur Dialogues as its Chairman, creating an India-centric think tank in the process, and hosts the YouTube series 'Weekly Dialogues'.

Francois Gautier

Francois Gautier

About the Author

François Gautier was born in Paris, France. He was South Asia correspondent for Le Figaro, one of France’s leading newspapers. He also wrote columns for Indian newspapers: the ‘Ferengi’s column’ in the Indian Express, then the “French Connection” column in the Pioneer, as well as regular contributions for Rediff., New Indian Express, Times of India blogs, etc.

François has written several books – amongst the latest : A New History of India (Har Anand, 2008), The Art of Healing (Harper Collins, 2011), Quand l’Inde s’éveille, la France est endormie (Editions du Rocher, 2013), « Apprendre à Souffler (Hachette Marabout, 2016) & « Nouvelle Histoire de l’Inde » (Editions de l’Archipel, 2017), « Les Mots du Dernier Dalaï-lama » (Flammarion, 2018), « In Defense of a Billion Hindus » (Har Anand, 2018) & « Hindu Power in the 21st Century » (Har Anand, 2019)

Francois, who is married for 30 years to Namrita, shuttles between Pune and Delhi. He is building a Museum of (real) Indian History in Pune (factmuseum.com).

Makarand Pranjape

Makarand Pranjape

About the Author

Author, poet, and humanities professor. He has been the Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla since August 2018. Prior to that he was a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India for 19 years.

Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth

About the Author

Maria Wirth, a German, came to India on a stopover on her way to Australia after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University and an internship with Lufthansa. By chance she landed up in spiritual India, realised the great value of Vedic wisdom, and never went to Australia.

She shared her insights with German readers through numerous articles and two books, as she felt this wisdom is lacking in the West. Only some 15 years ago, she became aware that even many Indians don’t know about their amazing heritage and worse, they look down on it and often consider Christianity and Islam as preferable. This shocked her and she started to compare on her blog the three main religions and also wrote her first book in English, titled “Thank you India”. For her it is clear that Hindu Dharma is the best option for humanity and she keeps explaining why.

Dr. Omendra Ratnu

Dr. Omendra Ratnu

About the Author

Dr Omendra Ratnu from Jaipur is an ENT surgeon who runs a hospital.

He runs an NGO, Nimittekam, with the purpose of helping displaced Hindu refugees from Pakistan and integrating Dalit Sahodaras into Hindu mainstream.

Issues of Hindu survival and conflict with violent faiths are his core concerns for which he roams around the world to raise funds and awareness.

He is also a singer, composer, writer, Geeta communicator and a ground activist for Hindu causes.

He has released a bhajan Album and a Ghazal album composed and sung by him.

Perspectives

The Myth of a Hindu Way of Thinking

Hinduism is a myth. There is no religion such as Hinduism at least in the way we understand religion. It does not have one prophet, set of unchanging beliefs or rituals, a single scripture, or any mandatory requirement. In fact, the word Hindu was used by Persians for the people who lived about the Sindhu or Indus river. If that is true, then it is only a local or regional tag.  But if we go deeper into this so-called Hinduism, we will find all kinds of contradictory practices or beliefs, rituals, and denominations, that there might be only a few assertions made. That Hinduism is not a religion in the ordinary sense of the word. That a better word for it might be Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Way, although the term has been abused lately by some zealots without understanding it fully. That the Rig Veda has influenced a large part of Sanatana Dharma and its various darsanas, although there may be exceptions with the so called anastika traditions. That the underlying theme of the Vedic way was a journey into the inner worlds. No other record of the time from any other part of the world describing such Mysteries exists. And, most importantly, that this inner journey, relentless and fearless, confirmed the underlying unity of the whole Universe in the strictest Monism ever articulated by mankind to this day.  The term absolute monism is usually reserved for Advaita Vedanta, propagated by Adi Sankara. But absolute monism not only of the origin of things, but also their substance and essence, may be seen in all the Srutis. Perhaps a better term for this monism is non-dualism, what the word advaita truly means.  So, the myth of Hinduism is that there is really no such thing as Hinduism if by that we mean a single religion. We may perhaps call it a way of seeing and being where the Many is One and the One is Many.  It is due to this non-dualism taken to its completest understanding that we see the whole plethora of completely contradictory and opposite philosophies being taken as valid in the practices that form the corpus of Sanatana Dharma. And each individual is free to create and live his own. In a sense, this is completely liberating. And yet, it puts the entire responsibility on the individual to take the onus of his or her own understanding, development, refinement, and eventual direction. If this is understood, one can understand the confusion that one sees among even some of the most astute thinkers of our times.  In his essay Is There an Indian Way of Thinking? An Informal Essay, published in Contributions to Indian Sociology (1989), A.K. Ramanujan complained of the trait of inconsistency in the Modern Indian way of life. And that modern Indian intellectuals “seemed to agree on one thing: the Indian trait of hypocrisy. Indians do not mean what they say, and say different things at different times.” And he wondered if they “may be using a different ‘logic’ altogether. Some thinkers believe that such logic is an earlier-stage of ‘cultural evolution’ and that Indians have not developed a notion of ‘data’, of objective facts.” And he quotes Sudhir Kakar, a psychoanalyst, to note that “Generally among Indians, there seems to be a different relationship to outside reality, compared to the one met with in the West. In India, it is closer to a certain stage in childhood when outer objects did not have a separate, independent existence but were intimately related to the self and its affective states…. The Indian ‘ego’ is underdeveloped; the world of magic and animistic thinking lie closer to the surface; so the grasp of reality is relatively tenuous.” He also noted a third trait to the inconsistency and ‘the apparent inability to distinguish self and non-self’ and that was ‘the extraordinary lack of universality’ among Indians. And he surmises that “Indian philosophers do not seem to make synoptic systems like Hegel’s or Kant’s.” And he concludes that “In cultures like India’s, the context-sensitive kind of rule is the preferred formulation.”  There may be some truth to Ramanujan’s observations although it cannot be said that Indian philosophers cannot or do not generalize. One only has to look at the formulae of the Upanishads, ‘tat tvam asi’ and ‘so hum’ to realize that the Indians generalized at the far deeper and unitary levels than those of western philosophers. In fact, there is none more unitary than the Indian when he says, ‘sarvam khalvidam brahma’ or ‘etad vai tat.’ The difficulty with the Indian generalizations or consistency is that it goes beyond intellectualism and speculation to psychological and experiential formulations that are not conceivable to the average human mind. And if the generalization is so general that it is applicable everywhere and anywhere, it tends to get overlooked in the practical world unless one is practicing intensely the spiritual disciplines called yoga in India. And thus, it means nothing in vyavhara, and is not noticed.  There are no external rules, moral or ethical dicta, no edicts or farmaans. And such a profound unitary rule gives paradoxically the utmost freedom and latitude to the individual. And thus, there is no abstract reality out there; it is all lived intensely, personally by the practicing seeker. Thus, all subsequent declarations that deal with more superficial matters become nuanced and seem applicable only to a particular situation or time-space or to a particular kind of person.  The Indian paradigm belongs to another order of experience that underlies the Western approach to blanket universalisms without being universal. This is almost akin to the Einsteinian world being another order to the model of the Newtonian world. Or the paradigm of quantum mechanics that forms the substrate in the modern understanding to the Rutherfordian, atomic model in physics.  Obviously, any such generalizations as mine about India itself would be flawed and self-contradictory since Indians defy generalizations at least on the surface. And if it is true, that the Indian culture even today is together because it springs from the artesian wells of Vedas and Vedanta, then this too is easy to understand.     India confuses, confounds, and confronts with its myriad array, that are spiritual and materialistic, subtle, and gross, cultured, and gross. Even time and space, the universal frames of reference, are inconstant. Rules change by yugas and kula, jati and ritu. And ritu, as Louis Renou points out, in Sanskrit et Culture, is not just a season, but also a crucial moment in Vedic sacrifice (the word ritam meaning right and the dynamic aspect of Sat). There is a constant flowing together in samsara (which is the literal meaning of the word) and the body too is not just physical, it has also subtle and causal aspects.    Perhaps one may say here that any generalization about the Indian way of thinking itself would be, paradoxically, an error.  The Indians traditionally have thought a lot (and even argued a lot), the more qualified understanding of an Indian way of thinking at the highest level is that it is not only immensely refined but also one that comes after a long preparatory development in self-refinement. Unfortunately, this refinement was restricted to only a select few in the Vedic times perhaps due to the nature of the society. And any attempt to spread the word had to use simplifications with its national epics, music, arts, darsanas, mythology, education, social and political sciences, and economic theory. This is where it began getting confusing. For the epics such as Mahabharata included multiple and diverse viewpoints of powerful personages in unique situations. Epics such as the Ramayana had almost 300 various tellings, each with its own storyline and interpretations, and the only common theme among all of them was perhaps the central place of the protagonists, Rama and Sita, and the tectonic shift in human society and evolution with their incarnation. It does not faze me that in some of these Ramayanas, the narrative changes. What is most unnerving is that the Indian mind of today does not understand the event that Rama’s life was in the national consciousness, and how it transformed humanity at a crucial juncture of its development. Those who need to understand Rama have no clue; they either turn into zealots or fiery partisans, blind to who Rama truly is. And those who have no clue about Rama write tomes on him and his human limitations. Nor does it disappoint me that the original impetus of thought and its energies are now lost in the confusion of modern India. For such is still latent and subterranean in my opinion and can always resurface, if we were to understand what it truly is.   Ramanujan concluded his essay with the projection that “One might see modernization in India as a movement from the context-sensitive to the context-free in all realms; an erosion of contexts, at least in principle.” He also criticized the generalizations of “a Hindu view of life by apologues like Radhakrishnan for the benefit of both the Western and modern Indian readers.” Personally, I would hope that if India moves to a context-free way of thinking, it would be through the discovery of its own innate genius and the tremendous discoveries of its ancient past, although, necessarily, the modern formulation would be different. And if the generalization of a Hindu view of life by Radhakrishnan is too facile and superficial, so is Ramanujan’s hope that India would lose its unique way of seeing the world by getting modernized in the Western mode.  William James with his sub-universes and Alfred Schutz with his ‘finite provinces of reality and relevance’ as central concepts, the paradoxical theories in modern physics with its wave and particle theories of light, and economic theories, micro- or macro- after E.F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful, according to Ramanujan, might be worthy of being re-read in the light of these context-sensitive and context-free modes. Yet, in the same breath, he argues against the inconsistencies of Indian thought or, shall we say, Indian thoughts.  It is the same bias towards looking outward for one’s salvation. Ramanujan looks towards the modern West even for his theories about the Indian way of thinking. The colonial mindset continues to haunt even the best and brightest of Indian minds. This might be a clue to the Indian way of thinking.  There is none at present, actually. What we need perhaps to do is to retrieve it. To be able to question anything and everything in the original Indian manner, to be able to reject everything and start afresh perennially, neti neti (not this, not this), to never be satisfied and be complacent, to experiment and explore boldly. For if there was ever an Indian way of thinking, it was this. Not proceeding from fear but with innocence and profound questioning. And not rejecting one’s own way of being even if it meant rejecting the more successful and superficially enticing thinking models of the est. To articulate clearly and simply. Calmly and directly.   Perhaps there is no bigger question facing the nation today than what Hinduism truly is, if it is not a religion, and how must it grow or be replaced by something greater, stronger, truer. And how does defining Hinduism or thinking about it change Bharata, which designation literally means a people deeply involved in discovering the Light and its manifestations. This self-lit way, this thinking lit by the glow of the Self or Atman, is the Indian way of thinking. This is our genius. And it can be recovered and re-discovered into the modern life. 
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Let Me Help You, Thol!
Perspectives

Let Me Help You, Thol!

Thol Thirumavalavan, I seek to respond to your diatribes against Sanatana Dharma on twitter lately and, perhaps, assist you in your mission. I am very sympathetic to your self-avowed goal to destroy it. See, this is the secret! The more you strip away all the accretions that have gathered over Sanatana Dharma, the more you strengthen it. I hope that those who seek to live Sanatana Dharma in its truest and intensest light are inspired by you to drop any falsehood that they might have accepted consciously or unconsciously over the years. To purify their hearts and souls of any darkness or ill will. But coming back to you, Thol! I never cease to be amazed at the caliber of the leadership chosen by our population to represent itself on such a large scale. What does it tell us about ourselves? That we deserve you. We have earned you. And until we keep choosing the ‘lowest common multiple’, this is the best we can expect. But to eviscerate Sanatana Dharma, you will need to do more, my Genius! And this is where I come in. For to eradicate something so pervasive, you must first understand it, must you not? So I will try to help. With you I see some hope. For in the high-puffed vanity and hubris you have shown to take on the very scaffolding of our existence and that of the Universe, you have displayed some chutzpah. I admire it. At least you have the courage to state something you believe in, even if it is to consolidate some votes from your groupies. They will surely lick your feet for the next couple of election cycles. I wish we had seen the same courage of conviction from Sitaram ji whose heart is redder than CPC, with nary a tinge of Indian blue. Or from the last dynast of the Mughal Sultanate who leads your coalition in New Delhi, that center of Hindi-speaking, women-hating adharmiks. And, pseudo-atheist MK who wishes to ride your popularity and vitriol to win the next election. And the great Tharoor, who is contemplating his next book already, “Why I am not a Hindu?” What is the point being a Hindu anyway, since it will all be soon exterminated by the great Thol? Anything to sell a few more copies at the next literary festival though. So, my friend! When you say you will destroy Sanatana Dharma, it is akin to saying I will destroy the ocean because the waters are getting polluted with plastic. Or that I will decimate the entire atmosphere since the farmers are burning too much stubble in Punjab and Haryana. Or that I will wipe out the sky since there is too much light pollution at night. To understand Sanatana Dharma, you will first need to soften your tongue and your heart, Thiru! And then you will need to cleanse them. Wash them not with the acid that you are spewing lately but with the soap that mom should have used when you were growing up. And then, drop the sly disguises and deceptions of your mind. For one may not know the ‘Eternal Philosophy’ until one lets go of one’s ego. That may be almost impossible for you, I know. But if MK can go visit temples for some extra votes, anything is possible to his minion. To also understand that Manu Smriti is not Sanatana Dharma. It never was. It is a stick to beat Hinduism with by certain sections of society and to polarize the electorate when convenient. And who is to blame for that? The Hindus themselves, for they gave you this opportunity to whip them with. They definitely need to get their act together and use the wounds inflicted by you to repudiate all that we are not. And to be what we truly are. I must be confusing you, Thiru! More thought than you might have had in the last 50 years, I understand. But bear with me. If you wish to go deeper in your understanding, we can proceed further in our journey through the barbed wires of your brain. Or we can leave you be in the heaven of your own partial and distorted untruths. Either way, I think you are doing a great service to Sanatana Dharma through the sulfurous clouds emitted via your nostrils. It is cleansing our view for sure. Did all this help you in any way, my communist God-loving women-exalting Hindu-denigrating brother? I suspect none of this did. But I confess to you. It helped me for sure. You have cleansed my heart of all anger even as I turn your vitriol lovingly right back to you. Appuram Parkkalaam!
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