Part 1, Abridged Resume : Aim
This collection of articles gives a broad outline of Hindu thought, beginning with the ideas of Swami Vivekananda who was the pioneer of modern Hindu consciousness, leading unto the best of modern scholarly writing of Dr.Koenraad Elst, Sir V.S.Naipaul and others.
The aim of this compilation is to give a self-conscious modern Hindu a wide perspective on Hindu issues and indicate how there is definite continuity of thought from Swami Vivekananda to the present day. This is to enable him to get a clearer perspective on the challenges facing Hindu society today, without being needlessly hypercritical of, and defensive about espousing Hindu interests.
To paraphrase Sita Ram Goel (whose article is included here), many Hindus today are either unaware or indifferent to the challenges facing their society. It is imperative that this be changed. There are many, who are legitimately proud of Hindu art, architecture, sculpture, music, painting, dance, literature, and so on and there are also many who cherish the great spiritual traditions of Hinduism and its scriptures like the Gita and the Upanishads in which that tradition is enshrined. But they do not cherish with an equal enthusiasm the protection and preservation of Hindu society, which has honored and preserved these traditions and scriptures down the ages, and weathered many a storm of destruction, cultural hostility and slander, in the form of Islamic invasions and Christian missionary forces, for example. There is also a tendency to take a very defensive and apologetic stand on many issues concerning Hindu interests, especially given the generally biased media portrayal of Hindu causes. This compilation also seeks to correct this tendency towards self-flagellation, and remove any indifference and complacency, if present, in the mind of a self-conscious Hindu.
The basic thesis, which runs, as a common thread, through the writings of all these wonderful thinkers is as follows.
After a millennium of inertia and torpor brought about by the Islamic invasions and rule (c.1000 A.D onwards) and marginally better British Imperial Rule (c.1757-1947), an unprecedented Hindu awakening is slowly taking place in India today which has great positive potential and can confer immense benefit to not only the people of India but to the whole of humanity as well.
While this awakening has definite social, economic and political aspects, the universalistic ramifications of the Hindu renaissance arise from its spiritual aspect – of seeking to imbue all life and its activities with a sanctity and impart a vision, of this whole world as a manifestation of divinity, where nothing is secular; everything is sacred.
The Introduction by Swami Vivekananda is an excerpt from his speech in Madras, given on his return from America. Swamiji himself was an outstanding example of a man imbued with the humanistic-rational spirit of modernity together with the loftiest spiritual knowledge of Advaita Vedanta.
The second article gives some of Swami Vivekananda’s views on the Biblical creeds and India’s religious demography. The central premise of Swami Vivekananda’s entire life was that the essence of India lay in religion; that the religion of our people was the Hindu dharma; that this was just the lever by which India was to be reawakened, the truths the Hindu seers had uncovered were the goals to which that reawakened India had to be turned, and that these truths were that pearl of inestimable value which it was India’s mission to give to the world”, in the words of Arun Shourie.
It is his pioneering vision that is seen slowly unfolding in India today, albeit in fits and starts, but gathering momentum with time; his vision has been built upon and elaborated by later Hindu thinkers.
This awakening is still in its infancy and one of the recognizable characteristics of this initial phase is the development of an enhanced historical consciousness, which was absent in Hindus for much of the last millennium. One significant aspect of this Hindu self-awareness is a clear recognition of the unconscionable excesses of the Islamic depredations visited upon the people of India and upon Hindu culture. There is a need to end the widespread denial or obfuscation of this history - that nothing much happened with the arrival of Islam in India - when the truth of the matter is, in the words of Sir V.S.Naipaul, that, “India is a country that, in the north, outside Rajasthan, was ravaged, and intellectually destroyed to a large extent, by the invasions that began in about 1000 A.D. by forces and religions that India had no means of understanding. …What happened from 1000 A.D. on, really, is such a wound that it is almost impossible to face. Certain wounds are so bad that they can't be written about. You deal with that kind of pain by hiding from it. You retreat from reality…. The grinding down of the Hindu-Buddhist culture of the north … is such a big and bad event that people still have to find polite, destiny-defying ways of speaking about it. In art books and history books, people write of the Muslims 'arriving' in India, as though the Muslims came on a tourist bus and went away again. “
Sir V.S.Naipaul is the well-known Trinidad-born British writer of Indian origin, and winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature, and is regarded as one of the best writers of the English Language today. He was one of the first winners of the Booker Prize, now Britain's leading literary award, in 1971. Some of his earlier books are a rather harsh but pertinent critique on Hindu culture and mores. But his integrity and intellectual honesty compelled him to recognize that, in contrast to closed and oppressive Islamic societies, India’s more open and liberal society owes much to its Hindu ethos. His positive evaluation of the Hindu awakening and mobilization in the wake of the Ayodhya issue was a surprise to many, and it fetched him both bouquets and brickbats. Included are some articles related to him, which give his ideas on the importance of recognizing what has actually happened to Hindu India in the last millennium. He also says that as Hindus become more secure and self-confident, a lot of creative energy is being awakened giving rise to a fairly “messy” period of social and political turmoil, a necessary evil, it would seem, before the best ideas and people gradually take the intellectual reins and lead the country along enlightened lines.
Also included is an interview of him, in which he candidly and perspicuously gives his take on the need for wise men to understand and not condemn the “historical awakening” underway, and guiding it away from the hands of fanatics, and instead, use this awakening for India’s intellectual transformation.
Dr David Frawley is an American scholar of Vedic lore and in his article, India as a Sacred and Spiritual Land, says that “India, in many respects, is the mother of humanity and the mother of civilization, particularly for the spiritual and yogic life and ….has best preserved the type of spiritual civilization that once dominated the ancient world from Egypt to China, Indo-china, Peru and Mexico.” He says that India’s role in the further evolution of human consciousness is central and a beginning in that direction has just been made in recent times.
The article Hindu Society under Siege by Sita Ram Goel explores the challenges facing the modern Hindu awakening from the harmful residues of the past. The author is a prolific writer on Hindu nationalism and the founder of the “Voice of India” publishing house; he died in 2003 at the age of 82. In his earlier days, he was attracted to communism but later under the influence of his mentor Ram Swarup, who was a follower of Sri Aurobindo, he became an ardent Hindu revivalist. His unmatched scholarship and rigor is a dread to Marxist and secularist writers who seek to dominate the intellectual space in India today, and are opposed to the national vision of Swami Vivekananda.
In this article Sita Ram Goel talks of the three residues he terms Islamism, Christianism, and Macaulayism. The first is a continuation of the mindset that animated Islamic tyrants like Aurangazeb and is implacably opposed to Hinduism, as idolatrous, superstitious etc. The second is a desire to achieve the total destruction of Hinduism, through conversion, fair or foul and replicate what has been already accomplished in the North-east of India where great power is exercised by the Church over civil society fuelling secessionist tendencies of seeking to breakaway from the Indian Union. The eventual goal of this residue of Christianism is to have a Latin American-type of society where the living indigenous Native Indian culture has been almost totally destroyed leaving behind only a shattered people and some empty monuments. The third residue of Macaulayism is a much more amorphous attitude of contempt for or condescension towards all Hindu ideas and practices and a blanket acceptance of all ideas Western as superior. This is much in evidence in the Indian media, which generally shows all things Hindu in a poor light, highlights only the negative aspects of Hindu culture and ignores its merits... This is a consequence of the modern Indian education system succeeding beyond Macaulay’s wildest dreams in “producing a class of Indians brown in skin but English in taste and temperament”, which was his avowed intention when he fought for state funding for a radical Western-pattern of education rather than suitably modifying the existing traditional Hindu system of education by blending it with Science and other modern additions.
In his next article on Islamic Vandalism titled The tip of the iceberg, the author Sita Ram Goel gives a sample of some specific epigraphic and literary evidence of the massive destruction that was wrought over much of India, from Mathura in the north to Chidambaram in the south. The evidence has been obtained from Islamic sources themselves, which proudly attest to the vandalism, as a religiously ordained duty.
Dr.Koenraad Elst is a professor of history in the University of Leuven, Belgium and has done extensive scholarly study of Hindu revivalism and also the Ram-janmabhoomi issue issue. His work “Ram-janmabhoomi vs. Babri Masjid” has received wide acclaim as a classic, in which he draws upon from his deep knowledge of both Indian and European history to analyze the issue from a wide perspective. The following are excerpts from some of his works. In this article The historical question of Ayodhya, excerpted from his book “Ayodhya and after”, Dr.Elst has given an overview of the Ayodhya issue and musters considerable positive evidence to present the definitive scholarly statement on the prior existence of a temple held sacred in Hindu tradition and which was destroyed.
The next article from rediff.com and The Times of India news sources, on Proof of Temple found at Ayodhya is the decisive evidence found by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), by extensive excavations done at the site where the temple was said to have stood. The 574-page ASI report summarized in this article, reveals startling evidence found of fifty pillar bases and some characteristic Hindu artifacts like a lotus motif, a pranjala (waterchute), and many other discoveries, “indicative of remains that are distinctive features found associated with the temples of north India.”
The article by Arun Shourie on Gandhiji’s views on conversions shows the Mahatma’s clear stand against conversions and how he felt that it was based on a wrong and patronizing attitude towards other religions. His pain at the conversion of one of his sons to Islam engineered by his opponents is also evident. The author Arun Shourie is a former editor of The Indian Express, and Magsaysay award winner.
The Conversation with Sir V.S. Naipaul deals with the Psychological impact of conversion. The writer lucidly observes that the naturalistic religions like Hinduism and Buddhism had sacred places, trees, and mountains and groves, while the revealed religions like Islam and Christianity strove to remove this sacredness and its signs by leveling and destroying all such symbols from the environment. He observes this in Goa where the Portugese by extensive destruction and violence had managed to produce a "New-World emptiness, like the Spanish in Mexico” had done; “But as one stepped out of Goa, one stepped (back) into the sacred land again” with all its temples and other sacred spots intact. He also observes that “converts learn to lose regard or reject their land of birth” and “their ancient land is of no religious or historical importance, its relics are of no account; Their (convert’s) concept of history has completely altered and that alteration has inevitably diminished the intellectual life of the country. All the history of the ancient land has ceased to matter”
The Open letter to Pope John Paul II by Swami Dayananda Saraswati, one of the foremost teachers of Vedanta, in India today, was published in The Indian Express on the eve of the Pope’s visit to India supposedly to “plant the cross in Asia in this third millennium after Christ”, as the Pope put it. The author makes an impassioned plea to recognize that conversion is rank one-sided violence on others’ religious traditions and enough damage has been already done to the world in the name of conversions. What the Pope meant by his call was that, just as the first millennium (0-1000 A.D.) led to the conversion of Europe with the consequent eclipse of the Roman and Greek cultures (leaving behind only some empty monuments), and the second millennium (1000 A.D to 2000 A.D) led to the violent destruction and domination by Christianity of the New World of the Americas and also Africa the victims being the Inca, Aztec and native African religious traditions, this third millennium (2000 A.D. onwards) was for the Church to oversee the destruction of Asian Hindu-Buddhist culture by widespread conversion to Christianity. And since the earlier violent means are no longer feasible today, a subtle cloak of humanitarian service is to be adopted and the right to convert others is to be projected as a human right (forgetting that religious freedom only means the freedom to practice any religion of one’s choice by an individual in his private space, and not the right to encroach and destroy other religious traditions.) The author appeals for “a freeze on conversion and (creating) a condition in which all religious cultures can live and let live”, the world itself becoming a harmonious mosaic of different religions.