Category Archives: Hindu Dharma

Why SC Should Review Its Decision in Sabarimala Case

In its decision in Indian Young Lawyers Association Vs State of Kerala, Supreme Court of India lifted the restriction on entry of Women of a certain age in Sabrimala temple in Kerala. In one the most intricate cases which the Hon’ble Court has faced since its inception, the Court ruled to satisfy the perpetually unsatisfied liberal conscience of Constitutional morality by scrutinizing the rationality of a practice based on religious belief on the touchstone of Fundamental rights. A typical Matrilineal society like Kerala is witnessing massive protests after this decision, women of the prohibited age group have themselves come on the streets and are ready to wait to protect the celibacy of their devote God. Unfortunately this sentiment has been completely blacked out by Local and National Media.

A Review Petition has also been filed in the Supreme Court, which the Court has decided to hear after Dusshera. A case which lacked competent petitioners in the form of genuinely aggrieved parties, a case where rationality determined religious practice and a case where Supreme Court assumed immense power to even dictate the dimensions of people’s faith should be urgently scrutinized in the interests of justice for the sake of the consequences which it will have. In that context it becomes pertinent to point out why the Supreme Court is legally wrong in Sabrimala judgement and why it needs to review its decision at the earliest.

Though arguments as to devotees of Ayappa being separate denomination and practice constituting an essential and integral one has already been rejected by the majority judgement of the Court but irrespective of rejecting the protection under Article 25 & 26 of Constitution, the legal arguments forwarded by the majority in this judgement do not substantiate the decision of the Court on the following counts-

1. Petitioners had no Locus Standi in this Case
The Writ petition in this case has been filed by a registered Association of Lawyers which has been followed by Intervenors working around the area of Punjab focusing on issues of gender equality and justice, none of them are devotees of Ayappa, none of them have ever seen where the Sabrimala shrine is and would not even bother to go there after the restriction on entry has been lifted. It is astonishing to know that petitioners in this case have said that they learned about such a restricting practice in Sabrimala by from three newspaper articles, written by Barkha Dutt, Veer Sanghvi and Sharvani Pandit in July 2006. In the absence of any genuine aggrieved petitioner the Writ Petition does not deserve to be entertained for want of standing (locus standi ?) at in the first place. The grievances raised are non-justiciabl ande at the behest of the parties who are not at all devotees of Ayappa, they cannot claim violation of their Freedom of Religion and Right to Practice in a case where they do not believe in the Deity itself at the first place.

2. Plurality of Traditions and not Gender Discrimination
In a culturally diverse Country like India, which revers millions of deities, almost every place of worship has some distinct and diverse beliefs, rituals and practices. This is the beauty of traditional plurality of Hindu religion unlike the Abrahamic ones which have been streamlined under the unified command of One Book, One Prophet and One Religion. In one of 51 Shakti Peeths in India is a typical example of Maa Kamakhya Temple in Assam, where a menstruating Goddess is worshipped as a deity, women are allowed to enter the premises during their menstrual cycle and no men are allowed in this temple. Only female priests or sanyasis maintain the temple where the menstrual cloth of Goddess Sati is considered highly auspicious and is distributed to the devotees. So the whole argument constructed around the notion of menstruation being impure and considered as a polluted state of body where over-enthusiastic petitioners have gone to an extent of comparing it as Untouchability under Article 17 of the Constitution in Sabrimala case is nothing but convenient misconception. There are several Hindu Temples like Attukal Bhagvathi temple in Kerala, Jagat Pita Brahma temple in Puskar, Rajasthan or Bhagvati Maa temple in Kanyakumari which do not allow men to enter into the temple premises but that does not make it a case of “Discrimination based on Sex” prohibited under Article 15 of the Constitution but is a perfect example of “traditional plurality” existing in Hindu modes of worship.

Similarly the restriction in Sabrimala is never intended to perpetuate any gender discrimination or undermine a menstruating women as an impure physical existence of a body. The basic Customary practice mandates a 41 days Vratam to enter into the premises and since women ranging from puberty and menopause cannot observe this Vratam, therefore they are not allowed, even men also who do not observe this cannot be allowed. The logic behind this practice is that since menstruation is a painful time where stringent conduct of Vrithum cannot be observed and since deity himself has appeared in a strict Celibate form cannot be compromised women belonging to a certain age group are not allowed. This is not the case with almost 1000 other temples of Ayappa because the form of the deity there is not celibate. So the intention behind the practice is to necessitate the observance of Vratam, it is believed that Lord Ayappa himself observed this 41 days strict ascetic conduct before he entered into the idol and since the restriction is not on the entire class of women (limited only to a certain age group) it would never amount to gender based discrimination under Article 15 of the Constitution. It is as simple as this.

3. Problems of Essential practices doctrine
Though Court in this case has rejected both the arguments as to separate denominational status of devotees of Ayappa and the practice as being an essential one but contrastingly the very nature of practice is so important to the very existence of the temple that it will be catastrophic to the faith of devotees who believe in the absolute celibacy of Lord Ayappa, for them it would be an end to their faith and devotion in the form of deity. Though Our Supreme Court has always been fond of assuming the role of clergy but the kind of power they have subsumed here is problematic, the decision in Sabrimala has given the power to the Court to decide How Our God should be? They have acquired an unrestricted power to determine belief, faith and forms of worship of an individual and a community by this decision. This might not look so problematic when it comes to Hindu religion which believes in polytheism but we would face serious consequences of this decision when it will come to decide the form of God of other religions. Sabrimala is a perfect case of penetration of State through instrumentality of Courts into people’s life right upto the level of determing the rationality of the faith of the people and subverting freedom of Conscience under artificial conceptions of Constitutional Morality.

We know that this is an Era of Nationalization of Hindu Temples and bravery of Courts in India is limited to Hindus only. They have always been selective in their approach of reforms in Religions. In a very astonishing Case, Supreme Court, in Zoroastrian Co-operative Housing Society Vs District Registrar Co-operative Societies ruled in favour of by-laws of a society registered under a statute which provided that flat owners in the Parsi society can sell their flats only to people belonging to Parsi Religion and nobody else. Now this is a clear violation of Article 15 of Indian Constitution which prohibits discrimination on the ground of religion but Hon’ble Supreme Court went on to upheld it on the flimsy arguments of freedom of contract despite the fact of the public nature of Housing society and such discriminatory practice would give rise to ghettoization in the country perpetuating communal divide. It is sad but true, we are living in an age where Housing Societies in India have more rights than Hindu Temples.

It looks very strange when somebody tells a matrilineal society like Kerala in general and Hindu Culture in particular to treat women equally. Ours is the only cultural in the world which revers female existence as Goddess and if you will look at the entire cabinet of Hindu deities, Finance Ministry belongs to Lakshmi, Education Ministry to Saraswati and defense Ministry to Kaali. We Hope that our Supreme Court would realise that a religion which believes in “Ardhnarishvara Swaroop” of God i.e., synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe and illustrates how Shakti is inseparable from Shiva would never allow Gender discrimination within its sanctorum sanctums. Sabrimala is nothing but a typical example of plurality of ritualistic traditions and beliefs in diverse Hindu ways of worship which must be respected, it has nothing to do with gender based discrimination or artificially crafted notions of pure or polluted body, hopefully Hon’ble Supreme Court in its wisdom considers it in review of its decision.
– Shubham Tiwari
(The writer is a student at NALSAR, Hyderabad)

Is Hindutva the same as Hinduism?

Is Hindutva the same as Hinduism?

  • Skanda Veera

“I am not anti-Hindu but anti-Hindutva”, “Hindutva is not the same as Hinduism” and several flavors of such distinction are heard, while prominently from the sec-lib camp, also among a fraction of confused Hindus.

While the words are not exactly synonymous, the difference is not really what it is made out to be in public discourse. Here is a brief inquiry into these terms and the phenomena represented by these.

Semantics and Reference – Hindutva

The semantics are simple. Hindutva literally means Hinduness. It doesn’t denote people or organizations but to a phenomenon. Hindutva is known in popular perception to be a movement. While Savarkar is known to have coined the word, it “refers” to several movements and organizations including RSS and VHP not just HMS of yore. However if we look through the self-references with this word, none of these indicate that this word is used to represent movements or organizations but to represent Hindu self-assertion. Importantly, it is a self-referential term and not an attribution. The word Hindutva therefore, applies to any Hindu who thinks of and stands for being Hindu, whether or not one uses that word for oneself. In fact it is not applied to individuals in any case.

Associated words like “Hindutva-vadi” are not self-referential and attributions to individuals by those who have a problem with Hindu self-assertion and hence Hindutva. This is like calling individuals “Manu-vAdi”. Calling someone “jAti-vadi” has some inaccuracy and mischief, because “jAti-vad” in its negative connotation refers to casteism and caste bigotry, not really the phenomenon of jAti. This is camouflaged to attack the phenomenon instead of perversion. But in case of Hindutva, the phenomenon is itself made to mean negative not because of any negative with the phenomenon but because of the inherent hatred for Hindu self-assertion. Thus comes about the word Hindutva-vAdi. The problem with it is the same as with using an “ism” – it attributes an argument in favor of something while there is none. There is no argument, and no need for an argument in favor of Hindu self-assertion, it is merely the survival instinct of a people. It can hardly be called an ideology for the same reason. Yes, it is definitely a visible phenomenon. There is a Hindutva. There is hardly, however, a Hindutva-vAda and there is no Hindutva-vAdi. If there is any, any Hindu owning a Hindu identity is a Hindutva-vAdi. Obviously this is not the sense in which the term is used by those that attribute the word to individuals.

Semantics and Reference – Hinduism

Hinduism is known to be a “religion”. Hinduism is an abrahamic coinage that is mistakenly attributed. For all its “broader application to all Hindus not just fundamentalist Hindutva brigade“, Hinduism is an external attribution and not self-referential. The inherent mischief behind the word is quite apparent while not paid attention to. If Hinduism were a religion, how is the word coined? If the religion of Christ is Christianity, why is the religion of “Hindus” called Hinduism, putting it on par with some ideology (as in Marxism) or an organized system (as in feudalism) and why is it not given a word that indicates its “religious” nature? If “ism” is indeed applicable to religion, why is there no “ism” with Christianity? Of course, this mischief isn’t limited to Hinduism, the occident played this mischief with entire orient – Shintoism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Sikhism are all referred to as “ism”. Being a closer sibling, Islam overcame this easily and became that instead of Mohamedeanism.

That aside, is Hinduism really a religion? It is a religion as a religion (Christianity) saw it. Hindus really haven’t identified themselves as a religion in the sense that religions of the world identify themselves. That also doesn’t make it a non-religion either. It is a comprehensive eco-system with various kinds of traditions spiritual or otherwise, social & cultural units thrive in harmony. This system has seen full life cycles (inception, rise, fall, dissolution) of several traditions, philosophies, groupings. It is therefore a dharmic system, often wrongly used as an alternative to the word religion. It would however be wrong to say there are dharma-s just as there are religions, for dharma is singular for ecosystem and plural for category. For instance, there is just dharma, there is nothing like Hindu dharma or Sikh dharma. In that sense, it is singular. But when it comes to the roles individual plays in life, there is a rAja dharma, vyakti dharma etc, In this sense it is plural. It is accurate however, to say nigamAgama, jaina, bauddha etc are all dhArmic traditions, more like a forest where trees grow and branches (child-traditions) grow out of them.

Several of traditions in this ecosystem are knowledge traditions, several have been martial too. Any attempt to disassociate the “deep philosophy of Hinduism” from its martial element is to be seen as mischief, intended (in most cases) or otherwise. There are out-facing elements that defend the ecosystem just as there are in-facing elements that enrich it.

It is not as if Hindutva brought with it any intolerant or violent element which did not already exist in “Hinduism”. The amount of blood Hindus have shed for the defense of dharma, and the amount of gore Hindus withstood is unparalleled in human history. As a matter of fact Hindutva doesn’t even rank as a genuine martial uprising, an overwhelming majority of Hindutva activity is defensive and service oriented. It is the very fact that it represents a defense and assertion of Hinduness that makes the enemies of dharma hate it.

Who has problem with Hindutva

Simply put, one who is saying he has problem with Hindutva but not Hinduism, is saying that he has a problem not with Hindus but has problem with those who stand for being Hindu and those who stand for Hindu causes.

Valentine Chirol’s hate for Tilak, missionary hate for traditional Hindus are not very different from sec-lib hate for Hindutva. All these have made their best attempts to isolate their hate targets from the Hindu ecosystem. They only make it look like their hate target is a separable entity from the ecosystem.

Camouflage and calumny can be overcome by clarity and awareness. So it comes back to Hindus being self-aware, being aware of their own ecosystem, collective identity and collective craving, that holds key to overcoming these problems.

Paper on Hinduism – Swami Vivekananda in Chicago

Paper on Hinduism
Read at the Parliament on 19th September, 1893

Three religions now stand in the world which have come down to us from time prehistoric–Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. They have all received tremendous shocks and all of them prove by their survival their internal strength. But while Judaism failed to absorb Christianity and was driven out of its place of birth by its all-conquering daughter, and a handful of Parsees is all that remains to tell the tale of their grand religion, sect after sect arose in India and seemed to shake the religion of the Vedas to its very foundations, but like the waters of the seashore in a tremendous earthquake it receded only for a while, only to return in an all-absorbing flood, a thousand times more vigorous, and when the tumult of the rush was over, these sects were all sucked in, absorbed, and assimilated into the immense body of the mother faith.

From the high spiritual flights of the Vedanta philosophy, of which the latest discoveries of science seem like echoes, to the low ideas of idolatry with its multifarious mythology, the agnosticism of the Buddhists, and the atheism of the Jains, each and all have a place in the Hindu’s religion. Where then, the question arises, where is the common centre to which all these widely diverging radii converge? Where is the common basis upon which all these seemingly hopeless contradictions rest? And this is the question I shall attempt to answer.

The Hindus have received their religion through revelation, the Vedas. They hold that the Vedas are without beginning and without end. It may sound ludicrous to this audience, how a book can be without beginning or end. But by the Vedas no books are meant. They mean the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times. Just as the law of gravitation existed before its discovery, and would exist if all humanity forgot it, so is it with the laws that govern the spiritual world. The moral, ethical, and spiritual relations between soul and soul and between individual spirits and the Father of all spirits, were there before their discovery, and would remain even if we forgot them.

The discoverers of these laws are called Rishis, and we honour them as perfected beings. I am glad to tell this audience that some of the very greatest of them were women. Here it may be said that these laws as laws may be without end, but they must have had a beginning. The Vedas teach us that creation is without beginning or end. Science is said to have proved that the sum total of cosmic energy is always the same. Then, if there was a time when nothing existed, where was all this manifested energy? Some say it was in a potential form in God. In that case God is sometimes potential and sometimes kinetic, which would make Him mutable. Everything mutable is a compound, and everything compound must undergo that change which is called destruction. So God would die, which is absurd. Therefore there never was a time when there was no creation.

If I may be allowed to use a simile, creation and creator are two lines, without beginning and without end, running parallel to each other. God is the ever active providence, by whose power systems after systems are being evolved out of chaos, made to run for a time and again destroyed. This is what the Brahmin boy repeats every day: “The sun and the moon, the Lord created like the suns and moons of previous cycles.” And this agrees with modern science.

Here I stand and if I shut my eyes, and try to conceive my existence, “I”, “I”, “I”, what is the idea before me? The idea of a body. Am I, then, nothing but a combination of material substances? The Vedas declare, “No”. I am a spirit living in a body. I am not the body. The body will die, but I shall not die. Here am I in this body; it will fall, but I shall go on living. I had also a past. The soul was not created, for creation means a combination which means a certain future dissolution. If then the soul was created, it must die. Some are born happy, enjoy perfect health, with beautiful body, mental vigour and all wants supplied. Others are born miserable, some are without hands or feet, others again are idiots and only drag on a wretched existence. Why, if they are all created, why does a just and merciful God create one happy and another unhappy, why is He so partial? Nor would it mend matters in the least to hold that those who are miserable in this life will be happy in a future one. Why should a man be miserable even here in the reign of a just and merciful God?

In the second place, the idea of a creator God does not explain the anomaly, but simply expresses the cruel fiat of an all-powerful being. There must have been causes, then, before his birth, to make a man miserable or happy and those were his past actions.

Are not all the tendencies of the mind and the body accounted for by inherited aptitude? Here are two parallel lines of existence–one of the mind, the other of matter. If matter and its transformations answer for all that we have, there is no necessity for supposing the existence of a soul. But it cannot be proved that thought has been evolved out of matter, and if a philosophical monism is inevitable, spiritual monism is certainly logical and no less desirable than a materialistic monism; but neither of these is necessary here.

We cannot deny that bodies acquire certain tendencies from heredity, but those tendencies only mean the physical configuration, through which a peculiar mind alone can act in a peculiar way. There are other tendencies peculiar to a soul caused by its past actions. And a soul with a certain tendency would by the laws of affinity take birth in a body which is the fittest instrument for the display of that tendency. This is in accord with science wants to explain everything by habit, and habit is got through repetitions. So repetitions are necessary to explain the natural habits of a new-born soul. And since they were not obtained in this present life, they must have come down from past lives.

There is another suggestion. Taking all these for granted, now is it that I do not remember anything of my past life? This can be easily explained I am now speaking English. It is not my mother tongue, in fact no words of my mother tongue are now present in my consciousness; mut let me try to bring them up, and they rush in. That shows that consciousness is only the surface of the mental ocean, and within its depths are stored up all our experiences. Try and struggle, they would come up and you would by conscious even of your past life.

This is direct and demonstrative evidence. Verification is the perfect proof of a theory, and here is the challenge thrown to the world by the Rishis. We have discovered the secret by which the very depths of the ocean of memory can be stirred up-try it and you would get a complete reminiscence of your past life.

So then the Hindu belives that he is a spirit. Him the sword cannot pierce-him the fire cannot burn-him the water cannot melt-him the air cannot dry. The Hindu belives that every soul is a circle whose circumference is nowhere, but whose centre is located in the body, and that death means the change of this centre from body to body. Not is the soul bound by the conditions of matter. In its very essence it is free. unbounded. holy, pure, and perfect. But somehow of other it finds itself tied down to matter and thinks of itself as matter.

Why should the free, perfect, and pure being be thus under the thraldom of matter, is the next question. How can the perfect soul be deluded into the belief that it is imperfect? We have been told that the Hindus shirk the question and say that no such question can be there. Some thinkers want to answer it by positing one or more quasi-perfect beings, and use big scientific names to fill up the gap. But naming is not explaining. The question remains the same. How can the perfect become the quasi-perfect; how can the pure, the absolute, change even a microscopic particle of its nature? But the Hindu is sincere. He does not want to take shelter under sophistry. He is brave enough to face the question in a manly fashion; an the question and say that no such question can be there. Some thinkers want to answer it by positing one or more quasi-perfect beings, and use big scientific names to fill up the gap. But naming is not explaining. The question remains the same. How can the perfect become the quasi-perfect; how can the pure, the absolute, change even a microscopic particle of its nature? But the Hindu is sincere. He does not want to take shelter under sophistry. He is brave enough to face the question in a manly fashion; anmmortal, perfect and infinite, and death means only a change of centre from one body to another. The present is determined by our past actions, and the future by the present. The soul will go on evolving up or reverting back from birth to birth and death to death. But here is another question: Is man a tiny boat in a tempest, raised one moment on the foamy crest of a billow and dashed down into a yawning chasm the next, rolling to and fro at the mercy of good and bad actions–a powerless, helpless wreck in an ever-raging, ever-rushing, uncompromising current of cause and effect; a little moth placed under the wheel of causation which rolls on crushing everything in its way and waits not for the widow’s tears or the orphan’s cry? The heart sinks at the idea, yet this is the law of Nature. Is there no hope? Is there no escape?–was the cry that went up from the bottom of the heart of despair. It reached the throne of mercy, and words of hope and consolation came down and inspired a Vedic sage, and he stood up before the world and in trumpet voice proclaimed the glad tidings: “Hear, ye children of immortal bliss! even ye that reside in higher spheres! I have found the Ancient One who is beyond all darkness, all delusion: knowing Him alone you shall be saved from death over again.” “Children of immortal bliss” –what a sweet, what a hopeful name! Allow me to call you, brethren, by that sweet name–heirs of immortal bliss–yea, the Hindu refuses to call you sinners. Ye are the Children of God, the sharers of immortal bliss, holy and perfect beings. Ye divinities on earth–sinners! It is a sin to call a man so; it is a standing libel on human nature. Come up, O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep; you are souls immortal, spirits free, blest and eternal; ye are not matter, ye are not bodies; matter is your servant, not you the servant of matter. Thus it is that the Vedas proclaim not a dreadful combination of unforgiving laws, not an endless prison of cause and effect, but that at the head of all these laws, in and through every particle of matter and force, stands One “by whose command the wind blows, the fire burns, the clouds rain, and death stalks upon the earth.”

And what is His nature?

He is everywhere, the pure and formless One, the Almighty and the All-merciful. “Thou art our father, Thou art our mother, Thou art our beloved friend, Thou art the source of all strength; give us strength. Thou art He that beareth the burdens of the universe; help me bear the little burden of this life.” Thus sang the Rishis of the Vedas. And how to worship Him? Through love. “He is to be worshipped as the one beloved, dearer than everything in this and the next life.”

This is the doctrine of love declared in the Vedas, and let us see how it is fully developed and taught by Krishna, whom the Hindus believe to have been God incarnate on earth.

He taught that a man ought to live in this world like a lotus leaf, which grows in water but is never moistened by water; so a man ought to live in the world–his heart to God and his hands to work.

It is good to love God for hope of reward in this or the next world, but it is better to love God for love’s sake, and the prayer goes: “Lord, I do not want wealth, nor children, nor learning. If it be Thy will, I shall go from birth to birth, but grant me this, that I may love Thee without the hope of reward–love unselfishly for love’s sake.” One of the disciples of Krishna, the then Emperor of India, was driven from his kingdom by his enemies and had to take shelter with his queen in a forest in the Himalayas, and there one day the queen asked him how it was that he, the most virtuous of men, should suffer so much misery. Yudhishthira answered, “Behold, my queen, the Himalayas, how grand and beautiful they are; I love them. They do not give me anything, but my nature is to love the grand, the beautiful, therefore I love them. Similarly, I love the Lord. He is the source of all beauty, of all sublimity. He is the only object to be loved; my nature is to love Him, and therefore I love. I do not pray for anything; I do not ask for anything. Let Him place me wherever He likes. I must love Him for love’s sake. I cannot trade love.”

The Vedas teach that the soul is divine, only held in the bondage of matter; perfection will be reached when this bond will burst, and the word they use for it is therefore, Mukti–freedom, freedom from the bonds of imperfection, freedom from death and misery.

And this bondage can only fall off through the mercy of God, and this mercy comes on the pure. So purity is the condition of His mercy. How does that mercy act? He reveals Himself to the pure heart; the pure and the stainless see God, yea, even in this life; then and then only all the crookedness of the heart is made straight. Then all doubt ceases. He is no more the freak of a terrible law of causation. This is the very centre, the very vital conception of Hinduism. The Hindu does not want to live upon words and theories. If there are existences beyond the ordinary sensuous existence, he wants to come face to face with them. If there is a soul in him which is not matter, if there is an all-merciful universal Soul, he will go to Him direct. He must see Him, and that alone can destroy all doubts. So the best proof a Hindu sage gives about the soul, about God, is: “I have seen the soul; I have seen God.” And that is the only condition of perfection. The Hindu religion does not consist in struggles and attempts to believe a certain doctrine or dogma, but in realising–not in believing, but in being and becoming.

Thus the whole object of their system is by constant struggle to become perfect, to become divine, to reach God and see God, and this reaching God, seeing God, becoming perfect even as the Father in Heaven is perfect, constitutes the religion of the Hindus.

And what becomes of a man when he attains perfection? He lives a life of bliss infinite. He enjoys infinite and perfect bliss, having obtained the only thing in which man ought to have pleasure, namely God, and enjoys the bliss with God.

So far all the Hindus are agreed. This is the common religion of all the sects of India; but, then, perfection is absolute, and the absolute cannot be two or three. It cannot have any qualities. It cannot be an individual. And so when a soul becomes perfect and absolute, it must become one with Brahman, and it would only realise the Lord as the perfection, the reality, of its own nature and existence, the existence absolute, knowledge absolute, and bliss absolute. We have often and often read this called the losing of individuality and becoming a stock or a stone.

“He jests at scars that never felt a wound.”

I tell you it is nothing of the kind. If it is happiness to enjoy the consciousness of this small body, it must be greater happiness to enjoy the consciousness of two bodies, the measure of happiness increasing with the consciousness of an increasing number of bodies, the aim, the ultimate of happiness being reached when it would become a universal consciousness.

Therefore, to gain this infinite universal individuality, this miserable little prison-individuality must go. Then alone can death cease when I am one with life, then alone can misery cease when I am one with happiness itself, then alone can all errors cease when I am one with knowledge itself; and this is the necessary scientific conclusion. Science has proved to me that physical individuality is a delusion, that really my body is one little continuously changing body in an unbroken ocean of matter; and Advaita (unity) is the necessary conclusion with my other counterpart, soul.

Science is nothing but the finding of unity. As soon as science would reach perfect unity, it would stop from further progress, because it would reach the goal. Thus Chemistry could not progress farther when it would discover one element out of which all others could be made. Physics would stop when it would be able to fulfil its services in discovering one energy of which all the others are but manifestations, and the science of religion becomes perfect when it would discover Him who is the one life in a universe of death, Him who is the constant basis of an ever-changing world. One who is the only Soul of which all souls are but delusive manifestations. Thus is it, through multiplicity and duality, that the ultimate unity is reached. Religion can go no farther. This is the goal of all science.

All science is bound to come to this conclusion in the long run. Manifestation, and not creation, is the word of science today, and the Hindu is only glad that what he has been cherishing in his bosom for ages is going to be taught in more forcible language, and with further light from the latest conclusions of science.

Descend we now from the aspirations of philosophy to the religion of the ignorant. At the very outset, I may tell you that there is no polytheism in India. In every temple, if one stands by and listens, one will find the worshippers applying all the attributes of God, including omnipresence, to the images. It is not polytheism, nor would the name henotheism explain the situation. “The rose called by any other name would smell as sweet.” Names are not explanations.

I remember, as a boy, hearing a Christian missionary preach to a crowd in India. Among other sweet things he was telling them was that if he gave a blow to their idol with his stick, what could it do? One of his hearers sharply answered, “If I abuse your God, what can He do?” “You would be punished,” said the preacher, “when you die.” “So my idol will punish you when you die,” retorted the Hindu.

The tree is known by its fruits. When I have seen amongst them that are called idolaters, men, the like of whom in morality and spirituality and love I have never seen anywhere, I stop and ask myself, “Can sin beget holiness?”

Superstition is a great enemy of man, but bigotry is worse. Why does a Christian go to church? Why is the cross holy? Why is the face turned toward the sky in prayer? Why are there so many images in the Catholic Church? Why are there so many images in the minds of Protestants when they pray? My brethren, we can no more think about anything without a mental image than we can live without breathing. By the law of association, the material image calls up the mental idea and vice versa. This is why the Hindu uses an external symbol when he worships. He will tell you, it helps to keep his mind fixed on the Being to whom he prays. He knows as well as you do that the image is not God, is not omnipresent. After all, how much does omnipresence mean to almost the whole world? It stands merely as a word, a symbol. Has God superficial area? If not, when we repeat that word “omnipresent”, we think of the extended sky or of space, that is all.

As we find that somehow or other, by the laws of our mental constitution, we have to associate our ideas of infinity with the image of the blue sky, or of the sea, so we naturally connect our idea of holiness with the image of a church, a mosque, or a cross. The Hindus have associated the idea of holiness, purity, truth, omnipresence, and such other ideas with different images and forms. But with this difference that while some people devote their whole lives to their idol of a church and never rise higher, because with them religion means an intellectual assent to certain doctrines and doing good to their fellows, the whole religion of the Hindu is centred in realisation. Man is to become divine by realising the divine. Idols or temples or churches or books are only the supports, the helps, of his spiritual childhood: but on and on he must progress.

He must not stop anywhere. “External worship, material worship,”say the scriptures, “is the lowest stage; struggling to rise high, mental prayer is the next stage, but the highest stage is when the Lord has been realised.” Mark, the same earnest man who is kneeling before the idol tells you,“Him the sun cannot express, nor the moon, nor the stars, the lightning cannot express Him, nor what we speak of as fire; through Him they shine.” But he does not abuse any one’s idol or call its worship sin. He recognises in it a necessary stage of life.“The child is father of the man.” Would it be right for an old man to say that childhood is a sin or youth a sin?

If a man can realise his divine nature with the help of an image, would it be right to call that a sin? Nor even when he has passed that stage, should he call it an error. To the Hindu, man is not travelling from error to truth, but from truth to truth, from lower to higher truth. To him all the religions, from the lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, mean so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realise the Infinite, each determined by the conditions of its birth and association, and each of these marks a stage of progress; and every soul is a young eagle soaring higher and higher, gathering more and more strength, till it reaches the Glorious Sun.

Unity in variety is the plan of nature, and the Hindu has recognised it. Every other religion lays down certain fixed dogmas, and tries to force society to adopt them. It places before society only one coat which must fit Jack and John and Henry, all alike. If it does not fit John or Henry, he must go without a coat to cover his body. The Hindus have discovered that the absolute can only be realised, or thought of, or stated, through the relative, and the images, crosses, and crescents are simply so many symbols–so many pegs to hang the spiritual ideas on. It is not that this help is necessary for every one, but those that do not need it have no right to say that it is wrong. Nor is it compulsory in Hinduism.

One thing I must tell you. Idolatry in India does not mean anything horrible. It is not the mother of harlots. On the other hand, it is the attempt of undeveloped minds to grasp high spiritual truths. The Hindus have their faults, they sometimes have their exceptions; but mark this, they are always for punishing their own bodies, and never for cutting the throats of their neighbours. If the Hindu fanatic burns himself on the pyre, he never lights the fire of Inquisition. And even this cannot be laid at the door of his religion any more than the burning of witches can be laid at the door of Christianity.

To the Hindu, then, the whole world of religions is only a travelling, a coming up, of different men and women, through various conditions and circumstances, to the same goal. Every religion is only evolving a God out of the material man, and the same God is the inspirer of all of them. Why, then, are there so many contradictions? They are only apparent, says the Hindu. The contradictions come from the same truth adapting itself to the varying circumstances of different natures.

It is the same light coming through glasses of different colours. And these little variations are necessary for purposes of adaptation. But in the heart of everything the same truth reigns. The Lord has declared to the Hindu in His incarnation as Krishna,“I am in every religion as the thread through a string of pearls. Wherever thou seest extraordinary holiness and extraordinary power raising and purifying humanity, know thou that I am there .” And what has been the result? I challenge the world to find, throughout the whole system of Sanskrit philosophy, any such expression as that the Hindu alone will be saved and not others. Says Vyasa, “We find perfect men even beyond the pale of our caste and creed. ” One thing more. How, then, can the Hindu, whose whole fabric of thought centres in God, believe in Buddhism which is agnostic, or in Jainism which is atheistic?

The Buddhists or the Jains do not depend upon God; but the whole force of their religion is directed to the great central truth in every religion, to evolve a God out of man. They have not seen the Father, but they have seen the Son. And he that hath seen the Son hath seen the Father also.

This, brethren, is a short sketch of the religious ideas of the Hindus. The Hindu may have failed to carry out all his plans, but if there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time; which will be infinite like the God it will preach, and whose sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and of Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahminic or Buddhistic, Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development; which in its catholicity will embrace in its infinite arms, and find a place for, every human being, from the lowest grovelling savage not far removed from the brute, to the highest man towering by the virtues of his head and heart almost above humanity, making society stand in awe of him and doubt his human nature. It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognise divinity in every man and woman, and whose whole scope, whose whole force, will be created in aiding humanity to realise its own true, divine nature.

Offer such a religion, and all the nations will follow you. Asoka’s council was a council of the Buddhist faith. Akbar’s, though more to the purpose, was only a parlour-meeting. It was reserved for America to proclaim to all quarters of the globe that the Lord is in every religion.

May He who is the Brahman of the Hindus, the Ahura-Mazda of the Zoroastrians, the Buddha of the Buddhists, the Jehovah of the Jews, the Father in Heaven of the Christians, give strength to you to carry out your noble idea! The star arose in the East; it travelled steadily towards the West, sometimes dimmed and sometimes effulgent, till it made a circuit of the world; and now it is again rising on the very horizon of the East, the borders of the Sanpo, a thousandfold more effulgent than it ever was before.

Hail, Columbia, motherland of liberty! It has been given to thee, who never dipped her hand in her neighbour’s blood, who never found out that the shortest way of becoming rich was by robbing one’s neighbours, it has been given to thee to march at the vanguard of civilisation with the flag of harmony.

Kashmir. Perpetually in the news, for the wrong reasons.

‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’. I have heard this line parroted by leaders of all political hues. It has always sounded like an arbitrary statement designed to rebuff Pakistan, and to reaffirm India’s military might over a coveted geographical area.
Recently I came across facts that have changed my perspective on Kashmir totally. Facts that have astounded me. But more than that baffled me, for they reveal glaring lacunae in the history we have been led to believe so far.
Understandable that the British established a syllabus for us that was designed to obliterate our glories and inculcate shame in us for all things Indian. But, 70 years past independence, we are guilty of still toeing their line. Why?????
The facts I speak of are proof that Kashmir is the fountainhead from which flows our culture, in fact everything that defines our identity as Indians.
Due to my education in an elite school, i had considered myself reasonably well  informed. Yet, i had no clue at all about the significance of Kashmir vis a vis Indian history and that it was home to Panini, whose Ashtadhyayi is considered the most scientific and flawless treatise on grammar in the world.
Patanjali, who gifted to humanity his Yog Sutra..
Sharangdev, considered the father of both Hindustani and Carnatic music.
Acharya Abhinav Gupt, one of the greatest scholars of all times, who wrote 46 literary classics, including the renowned Abhinav Bharti. His principles of ras are being taught in 80 universities around the world.
Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India, and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that when students graduated from Kashi, they took 4 symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning.
Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.
Rajtarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhana in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian Emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, and included Assam in the east.
How many Indians have even heard his name???
How many of us know that Srinagar was established by Ashoka ?
That Mahayana Buddhism was spread across Mid Asia, China and Japan by Kashmiri monks?
Who are these educationists who are deliberately withholding such vital slices of history from our text books?
How will the present as well as future generations realize that Kashmir is the keystone of our heritage through millenia, finding mention even in our oldest scriptures?
It is not a piece of land. It is the abode of the soul of India.
“Kashmir is an integral part of India” now  has a new meaning for me. It is no longer a statement, but an impassioned avowal!
Source Correction :
The article was incorrectly attributed to Ira Pande through groups on Whatsapp ..
On another google group, it is attributed to a different writer, Amit .
However, we are retaining the post for the fresh perspective it gives on the issue.

Vanchinathan – Remembering the Great Hero on His 106th Death Anniversary

 Vanchinathan Iyer, popularly remembered as Vanchi, was a fearless freedom fighter, who participated in Bharat’s independence movement and gave up his life as a symbol of the uprising of Swatantra Bharat against the British and the atrocities committed by them in the name of governance. At the age of 25, he assassinated Robert Ashe and embraced brave death.

Hailing from Tamil Nadu, he was born to parents Raghupathy Iyer and Rukmani Ammal in Shenkottai (then part of the Travancore Kingdom) as Shankaran Iyer in the year 1886. He completed his schooling and higher education in Shenkottai .

Vanchi is notable as being one among the first and prominent Tamils who took part in the struggle for freedom and in some instances initiated the fight against the British Raj.

While working in Travancore, he came under the influence of many nationalists like V. O. Chidambaram Pillai, Neelakanta Brahmachari, Subramaniya Siva and Subramaniya Bharathi. They were his mentors and together they belonged to the Bharatha Matha Assocation (1900).

Robert William Ashe was the collector and district magistrate of Tirunelvelli district in year 1911. He was engaged in activities that were largely favourable to the ruling British class , ignoring and ensuring that the interests of the locals are never addressed nor issues pertaining to them redressed. He is also accused of propagating missionary activities of forcible conversion. Ashe was also instrumental in working against V. O. Chidambaram Pillai’s shipping company (established as the first indigenous Bharatiya shipping company between Tuticorin and Colombo) which led to its liquidation, and later in Pillai’s arrest.

On 17th June 1911, the Maniyachi Mail left Tirunulvelli Junction for Maniyachi with Ashe and his wife Mary Lillian Patterson aboard. They were on their way to Kodaikanal with their four children. At 10:38 AM the train pulled in at Maniyachi. The Ceylon Boat Mail was due to arrive at 10:48 AM. As the Ashes sat facing each other in the first class carriage, waiting for the Boat Mail to arrive, a neatly dressed man with tufted hair boarded the carriage and pulled out a Belgian made Browning pistol and shot Ashe at point blank range in the chest. The bullet hit Ashe and he immediately collapsed. Vanchi ran along the platform and took cover. After some time he was found dead having pulled the trigger in his mouth. The pistol was found to be empty, indicating his intention to shoot only Ashe and himself and nobody else, not even Ashe’s wife.

A letter with the below words was recovered from his pocket,

The mlechas of England having captured our country, tread over the sanathana dharma of the Hindus and destroy them. Every Indian is trying to drive out the English and get swarajyam and restore sanathana dharma. Our Raman, Sivaji, Krishnan, Guru Govindan, Arjuna ruled our land protecting all dharmas and in this land they are making arrangements to crown George V, a mlecha, and one who eats the flesh of cows. Three thousand Madrasees have taken a vow to kill George V as soon as he lands in our country. In order to make others know our intention, I who am the least in the company, have done this deed this day. This is what everyone in Hindustan should consider it as his duty.    –

                                                                          sd/-, R. Vanchi Aiyar, Shencottah

 The letter clearly indicates the motive behind the assassination was the removal of English mlechas (who eat the flesh of cow) who were destroying Sanatana Dharma. This clearly goes parallel with the common statement, “Poisonous weeds have to be removed at the earliest or else they could prove to be fatal.”

This brave and selfless act of Vanchi acted as the much needed adrenaline rush for Bharat’s independence movement. The assassination and contents of the letter caused great apprehension and unrest.

Ashe was the first and only colonial British officer to be assassinated in Dakshin Bharat throughout the freedom movement. The British were left shocked and rattled by this incident.

The Maniyachi Railway station was later renamed as Vanchi Maniyachi station. But it is greatly sad and shameful that this is the best act of secular government of Bharat to recognize the brave act of Vanchi and that this is the highest honour given to his bravery. And it is immensely angering that even this little gesture has become a thorn in the flesh of Dravidians and evangelists. It is unfortunately being used as a catalyst by #BreakingIndia forces to fulfil their agenda by demoralizing and demeaning Bharat’s history and belittling the valour of our brave heroes.

One such dangerous trend started by them is to brand nationalists from upper castes as casteists forgetting their contributions and sacrifices – this can be equated to the insult of our army jawans fighting to safeguard our borders. Falsified stores are being spread to tarnish the image of these brave warriors. One such illogical story is currently being floated around by the Periyar followers of Tamil Nadu where Ashe is eulogized as the champion of downtrodden people.

According to this fantastic spin, Ashe apparently angered Vanchinathan by taking a poor woman in labour pains to hospital via driving through agraharam. Yes, agraharam, the area around the temple where Brahmins live. Since Vanchi supposedly had so much hatred towards the lower castes, this is the reason for him assassinating Ashe.

Now this story is not only ridiculous but also completely devoid of any sense and logic. Ashe was a tax collector for the district of Tirunelvelli in the Madras Presidency, which was under British rule. Shenkottai was in Travancore state (a sovereign state). It can be clearly seen that Ashe had no business whatsoever to be in Travancore. Even if for argument’s sake we accept this falsified theory, geographical location and the city’s plan do not support this theory. In Shenkottai, the agraharam was located in a remote area outside the town. Now why would Ashe drive a woman in labour pain through the remote agraharam outside the town to the hospital inside the town? This clearly shows the baseless allegations made by these sectarian groups to tarnish the image of our freedom fighters.

Are we going to stay silent and let these fringe groups hijack the achievements and sacrifices of our freedom fighters by sullying their names with ulterior motive to break Bharat on the lines of caste? If no, then it’s high time we started teaching our children the real history which has always been ignored in our school.

Note: This article first appeared at and is being republished here with the permission of the author