Category Archives: Hindu Thought

Sanatana dharma: Concept of Trimata

– By Sriramakrishna Turaga

Can you explain me in simple language on the concept of dvaita, visishtadvia and adviata? This is my friends question. I believe many people have this question in their mind.

There are many religions within the fold of sanatana dharma. The more popular of these are the three religions of Dvaita, Advaita and Vishishtadvaita.

Dvaitam: Dvaita sindhanta is initiated by Shri Madhvacharya and hence it is also known as Madhva matam. (13th century)

Visishtadvaitam: Vishishtadvaitam was founded by Sri Ramanujacharya. (11th century)

Advaitam: Advaita sindhanta originates from teachings of Shri Shankaracharya (8th century)

Let us try to briefly understand each of these concepts.

Dvaitam:
Dvaita sidhanta believes that both the soul and the paramatman are separate. Everything visible to the eye in creation is dependent on the invisible Paramatman Vasudeva, who is the originator of this creation.Shri Madhvacharya proposed “स्वतन्त्र्यमस्व्यंच द्ववववधम् तत्वममष्यमि” meaning Swatantram and Asvatrantram are two tatvas of this creation.

According to this, the world we see is real and so is the God who created it. They are two separate things. Almighty God is Swatantra (free of all bindings), the embodiment of Satchidananda, Sarvagnya (omniscient), sarvashaktishali (omnipotent) and sarvavyapi (omnipresent). He created the world out of joy with his leela.

While God is Swatantra, the jeevatma or soul created by him is not, but, lost is the leela of the paramatman, the Jeevatma is immersed in the notion that he is free. When the Jeevatma realizes that he is not independent and performs his Karma in complete submission to paramatman, such karma becomes nishkama karma. The fruit of such karma is not attributed to the jeevatma. Moksha can only be attained by the devotion of the jeevatma to the paramatma after attaining this self-realization.

Visishtadvaitam:
Sri Ramanujacharya in this Vedanta philosophy proposed that the jeevatma, prakruti (nature) and the paramatman are the three truths. The Paramatma (Srimannarayana) exists in conjunction with the jeevatma called ‘Chit’ and the prakruti called ‘Achit’. Jeevatam suffers the bhavabhandam (trap of materialistic world) due to its ignorance but by the grace of a sadhguru and God, the jeevatma can get closer to God and attain moksha.

Advaita:
In Advaita sidhanta, Shri Shankara Bhagavatpada proposes the concept of “ब्रह्म सत्यम् जगन्न्त्रमथ्य”. As the name suggests, that which is not Dvaita is Advaita. Sri Shankaracharya suggests that there is only one padartha (substance) in this jagat and that is the Bhrahma and the rest of the world is a myth. Moksha is when we can come out of that myth and know the Brahma padartha.

The question that arises after briefly reading about concepts of these three sidhantas is whether the Gurus rejected the teachings of the others when they proposed their respective religions? Did they not at the time know of each other’s sidhantas?

It would be wrong to say that the Gurus have rejected each other’s teachings. This is clear when we examine the respective teachings in light of the chronological timelines and prevailing situations when each of these sidhantams was conceptualised.

In 8th Century the society was mature where Vaidik knowledge was more prevalent. Hence Sri Shankaracharya introduced the direct concept of Advaita. By 11th Century the society was riddled with rigidity and not capable of appreciating high concepts and Sri Ramanujacharya introduced Visishtadvaitam. He explained that the paramatma residing in all of us and nature is same padharta. By 13th Century the society has become even more rigid and ignorant. That is when Sri Madhvacharya conceptualized the Dvaita Sidhanta to lead the society on the path of Dharma. He simplified bhakti by telling people to walk on the path of nishkama karma to reach paramatma which is separate from jeevatma. In other words, all the concepts were introduced as per the prevalent situation in the society.

The fundamental principle of the sanatana dharma are “एकं सत् ववप्राः बहुदर वदन्न्त्रत ” [meaning The truth is the same but Viprah (sages) define it in different ways or call it by different names] and “आनो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्त्रतु ववश्वताः” [meaning Let the knowledge surround us from all directions].

Sri Shankaracharya, Sri Ramanujacharya and Sri Madhvacharya were the virtuous gurus whose purpose was to guide the society on the path of dharma and they imparted teachings based on society’s maturity and ability to understand and implement. At the outset, their teaching may look different but, there is no change in their practical effect. In other words, their teaching emphasize on how one should follow the dharma marga from the time one wakes up in the morning till he falls asleep at night. The devotee may choose any of the paths laid out but once the practice matures all these paths lead to moksha.

Only a Sadguru can lead us to the path of bhakti and not the person who only claims to be a Guru. As a poet once said, if you surrender and become a disciple showing desire to learn, your yearning will show you path to knowledge and lead you to the Guru who can guide you. Swami Vivekananda’s yearning for knowledge lead him to his Guru Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

When a person realizes that he is different from his Guru and he needs to obtain knowledge from his Guru, he is in the state of Dwaita. That is to say he realizes his yearning to obtain knowledge. (ज्ञातुं)

Once a person realizes his need for knowledge and identifies the Guru who can impart the knowledge to him, he is in state of Vishishtadwaitam. (द्ष्टुम्) Knowledge cannot be attained by realizing the need for it or by identifying the Guru. The person must put to practice the teachings of the Guru, i.e. he must become the Guru. This is the stage of Advaita where there is no difference between the disciple and the Guru (प्रवेष्टुम् ).

For Moksha also we should first realise the lack of bhakti (dwaita) and search for a Guru (Vishihstadwaita), then attain Guru and become one with Guru (Adwaitam). We should grow from the state of Dvaita and join Vishishtadvaitam and then Advaitam to finally merge in Paramatma.

Do we really need to understand all the three or any of these three for moksha? Definitely not necessary. That is why even have stories of an elephant, spider, a snake attaining moksha without any of these understandings but just by pure bhakti. Ofcourse, understanding them might guide us to choose the right path for mokha but not the necessary condition. So bhakti is more important than understanding these concepts.

This is what Lord Krishna says in the Gita.

नरहं वेदैनन तपिर न दरनेन न चेज्ययर।
शक्य एवंववधो द्ष्टुं दृष्टवरनमि मरं यथर।।11.53।।
भक्त्यर त्वनन्त्रययर शक्यमहमेवंववधोऽजुनन।
ज्ञरतुं दृष्टुं च तत्त्वेन प्रवेष्टुम् च परंतप।।11.54।।

It is not possible for anyone to see my form as you are now seeing , by Vedapathanam, by tapas, by dana or by yajnya karma.But O’ Parantapa! Arjuna! Only absolute devotion can lead to knowing me (ज्ञातुं), attaining tatvajnyanam, seeing my true from (द्ष्टुम्) and becoming one with me (प्रवेष्टुम्).

Finally, you may ask which of these three practices is the best?

Some people may believe only one of them is right and other two are wrong, or since i believe in one of them will not follow the other two. Well we can leave it to their personal choice, but it negates fundamental rule of sanatan dharma

आकाशात् पतितं तोयं यथा गच्छति सागरम् |
सर्वदेवनमस्कार: केशवं प्रति गच्छति ||

Just as all the water falling from the sky goes into sea, similarly salutations offered to all devata goes to kesava

As pointed by a learned person, to be able to evaluate a 5th class examination papers, you must have passed 5th class at the least. Similarly, if you want to evaluate a graduation level paper you should have even higher qualifications. Myself and people like me who are miles away from the very first step of Bhakti Marga, are incapable and unqualified to pass judgement on which is the last step of Bhakti Marga leading to moksha. Bhakti marga is the only means of reaching paramatma. Once we embark on this journey and reach the last step we will know for ourselves as to what is the suitable sindhamta. It would be foolish to not follow the bhakti marga just because we do not have clarity on these sidhantas, which are the final levels of this journey.

It is not our place to discuss the capabilities of the sadgurus or evaluate their teachings. The point is not to denigrate anyone, but to say that any person who tries to evaluate the sindhantas has not reached the level of gnyanam. In my view, a person who has attained the gnyanam would understand that all three Sidhantas teach the same truth and find it pointless to compare and debate on them.

By Sriramakrishna Turaga

Campaign for construction of Shri Ram temple at Ayodhya unified Bharatvarsh

Credits to Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra (@ShriRamTeerth)
·
Mar 6
Even as the world’s biggest campaign since January 15, 2021, for construction of the grand temple of Bhagwan Shri Ram at Ayodhya completed on February 27, 2021, it unified Bharatvarsh from east to west and north to south.
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Mar 6
We have succeeded in achieving our goal of Samarpan in 400,000 villages. Contact was also made in all the wards of the urban areas. Although the statistics of the families contacted are yet to come, but it is estimated that we have touched about 100 million families.

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Mar 6
Samarpan (contributions) have been received from every quarter. During this drive, many such occasions and episodes also came which moved the minds and hearts of the volunteers. At many places, even the beggars, daily wagers & small farmers also made their prayerful offerings.

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Mar 6
About 900,000 Karyakartas in 175,000 teams contacted people from door-to-door. The Samarpan amount was deposited in Banks through 38,125 Karyakartas. The app, created by Dhanusha Infotech, has acted as a digital bridge among the Karyakartas, banks and the trust.

·
Mar 6
To maintain transparency of the entire campaign, while 49 control rooms were working across the country, 23 qualified karyakartas led by two chartered accountants at the main centre in Delhi, were constantly in touch with the entire network to monitor the accounts

Even if the final figures are yet to come, it can be said, based on the banks’ receipts till March 4, that the Samarpan amount would cross INR 2500 crores. This month, the audit of the campaign in every district of the country would also be completed.
7:23 PM · Mar 6, 2021·Twitter for Android
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Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra
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·
Mar 6
Replying to
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From the North-Eastern region of Bharat, Arunachal Pradesh have contributed INR 45 million, Manipur INR 20 million, Mizoram INR 2.1 million, Nagaland INR 2.8 million, Meghalaya INR 8.5 million, & from South, Tamil Nadu contributed INR 850 million, and Kerala INR 130 million.
Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra
@ShriRamTeerth
·
Mar 6
The devotees who missed this Samarpan (contribution) drive, can still make their contributions through our website https://srjbtkshetra.org/donation-options/.

Devotees from outside Bharat are requested to wait a little more. They will be notified upon completion of FCRA formalities.

Declaring tribals as non Hindus shows lack of understanding of Bharat

-Dr Manmohan Vaidya

It is not mere coincidence that Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh that are at the epicentre of the activities which form the subject matter of this write-up, have been hotspots of conversion activities.

The Jharkhand state government recently passed a bill with majority that deems Sarana Dharma followers as non-Hindu and claims “Sarana” to be a separate religion. At around the same time Andhra Pradesh government declared that with the view that the members of Scheduled Tribes are non-Hindu they will be listed as just “Scheduled Tribe” in the 2021 census. These developments are an indicator of a lack of realisation of Bharat and correct understanding of Hindutva (Hinduness), which is combined with an insatiable hunger for political power on the part of these decision-makers.  Hindutva is not some religion. Even the honourable Supreme Court of the country honoured and established the fact that it is a view of life. One hallmark of this view of life is that it is based in spirituality. Notwithstanding language and worship-related differences, countless lineages of people born in the Bharatiya sub-continent have identified themselves as Hindu from time immemorial. Deep identification with this view of life has led to a distinct outlook and personal character of these people.

“Truth is one, but the wise call it by different names.” This shloka from the Rig Veda means the truth or god is one but there may be many paths to its realization and all paths are equal. This tenet of the Hindu view of life was well-ingrained in the Hindu psyche and the people here have been practising this for long. Jews, Parsis and Syrian Christians fleeing religious persecution and conversion in their countries of origin sought asylum in different kingdoms of Bharat, at various points in time. The itinerants, though ethnically, religiously and linguistically alien here, the treatment given by the kings or the locals who granted them asylum were equally liberal and respectful. They were welcomed, accepted and nurtured within each of those geographies.  This behaviour was an outcome of their adherence to the Hindu view of life. To see unity in diversity is the hallmark of this view of life. We’ve held that one Spirit (Chaitanya) manifests in different life forms and therefore the ability to see the underlying oneness among seemingly apparent diversities is the default view of Bharat. This is why diversity is not perceived as differences here. Bharat has the unmatched capacity to take all the apparently diverse expressions together while protecting the uniqueness of each of those units while assimilating them into one cohesive whole. The third uniqueness of Bharat is the recognition of the fact that every soul (man or woman) is potentially divine. The very goal of human life is to manifest the divinity within to ultimately merge with the Supreme Divinity. Different people may walk different paths to manifest their divinity and each of those paths may be called their religion or faith. The body of thought with an amalgamation of these unique qualities has been popularly perceived as “Hindutva” around the world. Whether someone refers to it as Bharatiya, Sanatan, Indic or any other name, the essence is the same.

Now the question is which among these unique features is un-relatable or offensive to the Sarana people or other Scheduled Tribes?

The first President of independent Bharat, Dr S. Radhakrishnan referred to Hindutva as “Commonwealth of All Religions”. Swami Vivekananda in his 1893 Chicago address at the World Parliament of Religions described Hindutva as the “Mother of all religions”.

The view that sees diverse people as one, that accepts and assimilates different paths and faiths is what Hindutva is. This civilisation that predates 10,000 years has seen people worship different deities at varied points in time. To be able to keep pace with evolving faith-based norms and to accept changes is what Hindutva is all about. Swami Vivekananda propounded this very fact by reciting this shloka in his famous 1893 Chicago address.

Meaning: O Almighty! Innumerable paths lead one to you—Sankhya, Vaishnav, Shaiva, Vedic ways of life, etc. As per their orientation people choose any one path, but like many rivers eventually converge into one sea, all these paths lead to the same, Eternal Truth. It is true that regardless of the path we choose we can all realise the Divine.

The beauty of this Bharatiya view of life is that it recognises the fact that in tandem with man’s continuous evolution he is sure to discover and worship newer deities. Nurturing the old while making space for newer deities is Hindutva.

Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur explicitly stated: “To experience unity in diversity and to establish unity amongst variety—this is the inherent Dharma (the spirit) of Bharat. Bharatvarsh never interpreted diversities as hostility and, neither considers the outsider as an enemy. Thus, without sacrificing our own, without destroying others, Bharat aspires to assign a distinct place to everyone in one vast ecosystem. Thus, it is willing to accept all ways of life, and acknowledges the greatness of each in its own way.

“As Bharatvarsh possesses this trait, we would never get frightened by visualising any society as our opponent. With every new dissension, we inevitably will grow. The Hindu, Bauddha, Muslim and Christian would not fight with each other and die in Bharat. Rather they would find a balance, a meeting point here. This balance will not be non-Hindu, but very specifically Hindu. However foreign may be its body parts, its life and spirit will of Bharat.”

This holistic approach and assimilation are intrinsic to the Hindu view of life. Given this definition, what deems Sarana and Scheduled Tribe members as radically distinct from Hindutva is a mystery. Because Hindutva does not emphasise on the Almighty to be one definitive form, rather appreciating the common thread underlying all manifestations of the Divine is Hindutva.

Some years ago, a survey was conducted in North-Eastern states in the Assam region that has a sizable population of the Scheduled Tribes. Representatives of 18 Scheduled Tribes present at the conference expounded their responses over: 1. Their concept of God. 2. Their view of Earth. 3. What do they pray for? 4. Their concepts of virtue and sin. 5. Their opinion over faith-based practices of those from other religions. And lastly, 6. If they wish to compel followers of other faiths and religions to forcefully convert to their religion.

Their responses were consistent with the views of a common Hindu living elsewhere in the country. It was surprising for the surveyors to note that despite apparent language differences their beliefs are more or less similar and reflective of the age-old spiritual tenets of the Hindu belief system. That which unifies the diverse religious and faith-based beliefs and practices of this geo-cultural unit of Bharat is Hindutva and our spirituality-centric holistic, unifying and all-encompassing Hindu view of life.

The Semitic basis of Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Islam prevents those religions from having a similar view of human life. In fact those religions divide the human race into binaries, which cannot coexist in harmony. It is for the same reason that these religions have a bloody, violent, deceptive and greed-ridden history of conversion. Among the tribals of the North-Eastern states of Bharat also the Christian Church propaganda to impose the view that those tribes are non-Hindu has been underway for a long time now, first with the support of the British colonial ruler and later by those in power after our Independence. This is the direct cause of the emergence and strengthening of separatist militant groups in the region. As part of their agenda, they lured the people of the land with the temptation of a new and separate identity and uprooted their cultural roots to start “soul harvesting”. But the tribals of the region have understood that this barter with the Christian missionaries may be too costly. It can lead to a complete disappearance and annihilation of the rich, faith-based realisations of their ancestors. They also realise assimilating with the Hindu society will prevent such a fate and in this way they can preserve and pass on their unique customs and traditions to the future generations. This belief is taking a firm hold over their consciousness with each passing day and has resulted in the emergence of indigenous faith movements like “Donyi Polo” and “Seng Khasi” in those areas. Leaders of groups like the Sarana and other Scheduled Tribes must learn from the experiences of the organisers of these indigenous faith movements reconnecting to their roots so as to preserve their unique cultural and faith-based practices and further enrich their culture and people.

With “ ” meaning, “the entire creation is habitated/dwelled by the Supreme Spirit or Isha” as the basis of faith mankind invoked, venerated and worshipped the formless Divine Truth even at the time when gods and goddesses hadn’t yet been personified. Thereafter that same truth began to be pursued by the means of worship of various gods with a definite form. However, the worship of nature and that of the five basic elements is eternal. Many self-realised men or so-called Avatars added newer paths to the list of faiths, yet the worship of nature in the form of worship of earth, water, fire, air and space continued. Therefore, nature-worship is eternal, only newer practices and dimensions emerged with the march of time. Nature worship also features in several forms in the Hindu culture. It is for this reason that Hindu society sees itself as one with those who strictly worship only nature. But certain elements are bent on projecting the variations in practices as differences and disillusioning people.

In fact it is not only true of the Sarana or the Scheduled Tribes. For the last several years, organised drives to brainwash members of many communities are underway across Bharat into believing that they are not Hindu. Operations to splinter Hindu society are being carried out at an international level by  distorting and erasing from people’s memory the propensity of Hindutva to appreciate oneness in diversity, and instead highlighting and misrepresenting the diversities among different faiths as differences among people. If Hindus remain united, society remains united and hence the country remains united. And the country will progress only if it is united. All those elements who have a vested interest in preventing the country from progressing are engrossed in the fragmentation of Bharat.

Several fact-based, well-researched books that illuminate the details about such efforts (breaking India forces) and drives are available in the market. One key player in that scheme is the Christian church. Their aim—to increase the number of believers in Bharat by converting more people—finds an explicit mention on the websites of all their proselytising agencies. Some agencies that have assumed fake identities are working to first create disillusion, then opposition and then fragmentation in the society, which would ultimately result in separatism. They connote conversion as “harvesting”. These organised efforts of “harvesting” have been ongoing since the British era. But Bharat’s cultural roots run deep and are strong. Many ascetics and enlightened people took to reigniting the spiritual and cultural conscience of our society from time-to-time. No tribe or caste is devoid of the inheritance of such knowledge, as such ascetics were born in every tribe and caste that ever lived on this land to share the nectar of their realisations. It is for this reason that the conversion efforts of missionaries have been comparatively less fruitful in Bharat, thus compelling those agencies to adopt newer tactics to fulfil their agenda. The elements that aim to fragment Bharat work closely and cohesively to actualise each of their agendas. Incessant efforts of the ascetics and social reformers to facilitate socio-religious and spiritual and cultural enlightenment, generation-after-generation, has resulted in a firm cultural foundation of the society. Therefore, successful conversion requires uprooting the deep religio-cultural roots of the potential converts. Where the foundation is weak and roots bared loose, harvesting is easier. Therefore, brainwashing drives wherein false and unreasonable claims are being concocted. We will all have to remain alert and aware of these dangers.

Famous Bharatiya poet, Prasoon Joshi, writes in one of his poems:

“Gather the soil around you, oh tree,

Else you will wither.

The deeper your roots,

Greener your leaves will be.” It is not mere coincidence that the two states that are at the epicentre of the activities which form the subject matter of this write-up have been hotspots of conversion activities. Uprooting is imperative for harvesting. If we see and analyse the forces working on this agenda and their funding sources, one can understand that creating such misconceptions for uprooting various groups from their cultural moorings is part of a larger conspiracy hatched over a period of time.

Dr Manmohan Vaidya is Sah Sarkaryawah (Joint General Secretary), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Courtesy: The Sunday Guardian

Rathasapthami and Surya Bhagwan

I was reading the Adityahrudayam, from the Ramayana (Yuddha kanda, canto 107) and came across this verse that describes the water cycle.

नाशयत्येष वै भूतं तदेव सृजति प्रभुः।

  पायत्येष तपत्येष वर्षत्येष गभस्तिभिः॥ 23

“Salutaions to the Sun God, who destroys everything”

Link https://www.indiawaterportal.org/sites/default/files/iwp2/hydrology_in_ancient_india_nih_1990.pdf

14th Dec 2019 Tweet

That was and creates them all again and whom, by his rays, consumes the waters, heats them up (into water vapor) and brings them down again as rain.” Naturally I went looking for Vedic references to the hydrological cycle and came across this book which is a veritable gold mine.

14th Dec 2019

The Ṛg Veda, Atharva Veda, Linga Purana, Matsya Purana, Mahabharata, Kishkinda Kanda of Ramayana, etc all contain scientific explanations and elaborate descriptions of the water cycle. For example, here is what the Vayu Purana has to say:

the water evaporated by sun ascends to atmosphere through the capillarity of air, and there gets cooled and condensed. After formation of clouds it rains by the force of air. Thus, water is not lost in all these processes but gets converted from one form to other continuously”

(51. 14-15-16). Similar descriptions of surface and groundwater, hot and cold springs, origins of perennial vs seasonal rivers, weather phenomena, etc. are all described, and Varahamihira’s Vraht Samhita (550 AD) has three chapters devoted to Hydrometeorology.

It is not news that credit to scientific discovery is highjacked by the west. But despite all the ancient evidence stacked against them, guess who is credited? Frenchman Bernard Palissy is often credited as the “discoverer” of the modern theory of the water cycle, the “pioneer” of hydrology, published Discours admirables, de la nature des eaux et fontaines, tant naturelles qu’artificielles, des metaux, des sels et salines, des pierres, des terres, du feu et des maux (Paris, 1580). Prior to him, Aristotle (384-300BC) is known to have speculated the nature of the water cycle but struggled with explaining how rivers flowed in the absence of rainfall. His predecessors, Anaxagoras and Plato both maintained that the source was fluvial water was a giant cavern within the earth, but Aristotle was the first to reject this notion.

Palissy was also one of the first Europeans who maintained that fossils were once living organisms, and contested the prevailing view that they had been produced by the biblical flood/astrological influence. (note: Padma Purana, Skanda Purana, Garuda Purana etc all state that Salagrama stones, which are Ammonoid/mollusc fossils of the Devonian-Cretaceous period from 400-66 million years ago, are to be worshipped as Lord Vishnu himself, each representing an avatar of Vishnu. it is implied that they have organic origin but not sure if explicitly stated)

Palissy was a Protestant, imprisoned for his beliefs and sentenced to death. He died in a Bastille dungeon during the French Wars of Religion which was a prolonged period of war between the Catholics and Protestants/Calvinists.

Lastly, Newton in 1666 is credited with proving the compostite nature of white light but the Ṛg Veda (II, 12.12), at least 3000 years prior (a conservative estimate) describes sun light containing seven colors of rays. We know pythogoras theorem wasn’t his original work either

-Credit to Sai Priya ji (@priya_27_)

Grama Devata and Kula Devata are like Brahmastra and Pashupatastra against religious conversions in villages

Swami Kamalananda Bharati is the founder of Hindu Devalaya Parirakshana Samiti, an organisation dedicated to ‘Jeernoddaara’ (restoration and revival) of Hindu temples. Swamiji has for the past few years been one of those at the forefront of the public movement against the Andhra Pradesh Hindu Religious Endowment Department’s total mismanagement and corrupt administration of Hindu temples, including the renowned Tirupati Balaji Devasthanam by the State Government.

To create awareness on the state of our mandirs, he has undertaken three padayatras, covering 8000 villages and totalling a distance of over 10,000 Km, in Andhra Pradesh, visiting each district and each village during these yatras. Swamiji is also at the forefront of anti-conversion work in Andhra Pradesh.

In an interview to Organiser, Swamiji talks about the threats to Hindu temple traditions, the forces and his work to counter forces and the future course of action for Hindus. Excerpts:

Q.What according to you is the biggest threat to Hindu temple traditions today?

With respect to conducting temple rituals and following traditions as per our Agama Shashtras and also the way temples are managed, we have to look at them in various angles. One of the threats to follow the age-old traditions in our temples is the interference by politically motivated temple management. The Government department’s aim has been to alter traditions and replace them with new rituals that fetch more money. Both officials of the Endowments Department and few politicians are involved in such activities. The next threat is from the Christian missionaries. They used to operate out of public glare earlier, but from the last decade, they are attacking our temple traditions openly. For instance, in Narasapuram they attacked the main murti at Shiva Temple, in Bheemavaram they attacked Bhagwan Krishna’s Murthy, in Chittoor, they desecrated the Grama Devata temples in 3 villages. In Guntur too they attacked Hindus and attempted to build a Church over a Hindu temple. In Kurnool, they forced the government to stop money that was being given to manage a temple from the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) funds. Hindu temples in almost all districts in Andhra Pradesh are under attack from Christian missionaries, and they are doing it openly. On the other hand, the Islamists do not attack Hindu temples or traditions openly, but they target those who follow them, either through Love Jihad or covert operation through educational and personality development programmes. But the real critical issue with the Hindu society is that most do not identify themselves proudly as Hindus. It is also true that most among Hindus stay away from temples that are in their towns and villages. It is one thing to undertake a pilgrimage to Sabarimala or Tirupati which most do. But an average Hindu is not connected emotionally to the temple near him/her. This was the primary concern of my ‘Sampoorna Grama Yatra’ where Sampoorna Devayala Sandarshana Grama was our aim. I visited every village and visit all the temples in the village and get every Hindu family to visit all the temples in their village and connect them with it. Subsequently, we also undertook a Rath Yatra called the Sampoorna Devayala Sandarshana Rath Yatra with the same aim.

Q.You have travelled thousands of kilometres covering more than 8,000 villages. What are the threats villagers face in maintaining their traditions?

The biggest issue with the temples today is that there is an enormous shortage of archakas for our temples in towns and villages. Today 95 per cent of the villages have no archakas in their temples. The archaka system that was prevalent has died down due to migration of people to cities and other places in search of different jobs, and no one is ready to take up the job of the archakas. Due to this, temples in villages are lying vacant without any pooja being performed, and villagers too do not visit them. There are villages where ten temples are closed due to non-availability of archakas. It is such villages that are the target of Christian missionaries. They have built 6-7 Churches in such villages, and each church has well-paid pastors. But there are Bhajana Mandalis in many villages where along with Bhajans, people involve in Kolaatam (Dandiya) kind of traditional activities. Those who conduct Bhajans in villages come from one particular caste. Similarly, among the Scheduled Caste communities also, Bhajan Mandalis is very much prevalent, and it is lead by the people from the same community. I can say Hindutva is alive in villages due to such Bhajan Mandalis. People irrespective of gender, caste, take part in Bhajans and it is a platform that unites all Hindus.

Here I need to stress the difference between Hindus in urban and rural areas in maintaining our traditions. During the last 30 years, there is a change in our villages. The income of villagers has increased due to which their quality of life has also become better. Consequently, they have started taking an interest in our Dharma, temples, traditions and are involving themselves more in them. The point to be noted here is that those who are building temples and managing them in our villages in recent times are the people who are from the Backward Classes and SC/ST communities. I have witnessed this in Andhra and Telangana. I had also observed that when they remained within their caste-based professions, their income levels were low and they did not progress. But once they went out of their castes and joined new professions, they earned well which also leads to huge improvement in their quality of life. They then started going to temples, involved in building temples, managing them, undertook yatras and wearing malas, etc. Those families that did not even have proper clothes to wear and stood outside temples only to receive their share of prasad have today progressed to a level where they are funding temple renovation, wearing good clothes and take part in temple festivities with pride and honour. Historically too, whenever there has been economic progress in our backward communities, the strength and spirit of the Hindu society too has always increased. Villagers primarily have faith in their grama devata followed by their kula devata. Each caste also has a jati devata. Villagers duly perform pooja to their devatas with a lot of faith and devotion.

For example, Vishwabrahmins worship Vishwakarma, Vaishyas worship Kannikaparameshwari, Goudas worship Renuka Yellamma, Chamars perform pooja to Arundhati and Mathamma Devi, Mahars worships Channakeshava. Likewise, each caste worships its devatas. The faith they have in their grama devata or kula or jati devata has played a significant role in in clebrating diverse traditions of the Hindu fold. Villagers worship their devatas with lot of devotion and also a source of social cohesion. Villagers spend huge money in pooja festivities of their devathas. Mavulamma Talli (Devi) is the grama devatha of a village in the Bheemavaram municipality. Just the Sabzi Mandi near the temple here donates lakhs of rupees for the upkeep of the temple dedicated to Mavulamma Devi. It is in this way the local communities support and build temples of their devatas. The Grama Devata and the Kula Devata are like Brahmastra and Pashupatastra against religious conversions in villages. In cities and towns too, not all temples are well managed as thought. In several colonies in cities, temples suffer from similar issues of lack of archakas or funds. Many temples get enough funds only for basic pooja and for the archakas. Only few temples which get good number of devotees can get good funds for their regular activities and management.

Q.If temples are freed from Government control, do you think Hindus can take control of the temples and manage it well?

Firstly, we have to get all those trustees of temple management trusts which are well-managed by Hindus themselves and are not under the purview of the Endowments Department of the Governments. We have to take them into confidence. We have to note their experiences, their dedication, their values and the way they manage their temples. All these have to be laid before the Hindu society. There may not be many such temples but we have to do this to educate our society. For instance, there are about 80 temples in Andhra alone which are managed by the Ganapati Sachchidananda Peetha of Mysore. All rituals and traditions are followed as per their own norms. The purohits of all the 80 temples are trained in Agama shashtras in the Veda Pathashalas of the Ganapati Sachchidananda Ashram in Mysore. The committee members of these temple trusts go to Mysore every year and present their reports which is evaluated by the Ashram. This is a model that is already in front of us which can be emulated. Today people give sufficient money or donations for temple jewellery and other causes. But it has become difficult to find dedicated and trustworthy people to manage temple trusts. We need a process to find such people and train them in managing temple affairs. We should institute something like a ‘Temple Management course’ to find and train people who will become adept at managing temple affairs and administer the temples as per our Agama shastras. They have to be trained well about our shashtras, mahakavyas, traditional lifestyle, itihasa of Bharat and the temple itself. This has to be done professionally as a mainstream college course.

Q.How have your efforts enabled people to follow their traditions in their temples?

Today all are discussing temples, their traditions and threats. But when we started our movement in 2001-02, not many were bothered or even heard us. By 2006-07, due to the efforts of our temple movement, people and political parties were educated about it and in 2007 they took a unanimous decision to amend the Endowments Act. I have visited thousands of villages where I teach people about the importance of the temple and its traditions. I talk to people about the need to safeguard their temples due to which many have come forward to help us in our movement. Today, most mathadhipathis, sants, small and big Hindu organisations speak about saving temples both in India and abroad. But the efforts are still individualistic, and everyone is forwarding their memorandums to the Government which are different from each other. The Government cites the differences in memorandums and brushes aside their demands, which is exactlty what they want. However, if we all come together, arrive at a common minimum programme and submit one single memorandum after due deliberation, the Endowments Department and Government will be forced to listen and act on our demands. It is only due to such concerted efforts that we will get lasting solutions. Between 2007-09, I undertook a padayatra of 10,000 kms in 30 districts of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh in 3 years. More important than the kilometres I walked is the way the padayatra was conducted. During the yatra, I visited every temple in a village by involving all the resident Hindus of the village. We together performed a parikrama of all the village temples like the Shri Rama temples, Shiva Temples, Grama Devatha temples, Kula devatha temples, Vana Devatha, etc. Through this parikrama, I was able to connect all Hindus of the village to all the temples, including those they didn’t visit earlier. I have also observed that Hindu organisations and sant samaj takes up one issue today and forgets about it later. Then again after sometime they take up some other issue. If it’s temples today, it will be something else tomorrow. I suggest that all organisations and concerned people take up only one issue at a time, like the issue of temples now, and work on it for five years or so until we have found a permanent solution. For example, if we take up the save temples movement, we should all work on it for five years continuously, taking into consideration various aspects like, saving temple traditions, temple lands, utilisation of temple funds, taking temples out of government control, education for temple management, etc. Only by working together by being focused, without other distractions, will we be able to tackle all angles related to the single issue and arrive at a solution. I have been fighting many policies of the Endowments Department of Andhra and Telangana for the past 15 years. Due to our movement, the government brought in an amendment in 2007 to the Endowments Act, which mandated that the archakas be paid a proper salary. Earlier to our movement, the archakas were getting a pittance and even that was not guaranteed. Archakas in rural areas get Rs.5000 and those in urban areas get Rs.10,000 per month under the ‘Doop Deep Naivedyam Scheme’ of the Government after our continuous struggle. I have also been fighting legally to safeguard temple lands and have found success in all cases we have fought. Even in case of TTD, I have been successful in forcing the Government to make many changes in the way they run the affairs of the temple. For instance, the Left Unions and politically affiliated officials tried to stop the age old practice of people from the ‘Yadava’ community to be the first to have the darshan of Venkateshwara after the doors are opened every day. We have been able to force the TTD to continue with the tradition. But there are many machinations afoot to create Sabarimala kind of anarchy in Tirumala temple too. When I worked for saving temples, I focused only on temples where I visited temples both in rural and urban areas and talked to all stakeholders, approached government, filed cases in courts and worked continuously until we found a solution. We involved people in the process by making them understand that the issues related to temples are issues of the entire society too and their important role in the same. I have been successful in this endeavour. Today, due to our movement may youths from towns and villages have come forward and are volunteering to work towards reviving temples, safeguard temple lands or even to monitor utilisation of temple funds and resources.

Q.Hindu traditions and anything sacred is the target of the anti-Hindu brigade?

There have been concerted attempts to undermine or scuttle the ancient Hindu traditions. Rajahmundry Ghats and Nellore lake issue are the most recent attacks by Evangelists and Jihadists. Hindu organisations have been fighting back each time. More than 10-15 Hindu organisations like ‘Swahikti’, Dharma Jagran, Hindu Chetana Vedika, etc., are working to counter these forces. We are working to safeguard and revive temples. Many Dharmacharyas too are working seriously on several issues. Hindu samaj is ready to face them but we also need the political will to counter them. It is in the best interests of the Hindu society if all Hindu organisations come together, discuss and deliberate on these issues and chalk out a strategy and work concertedly. 

Source: Organiser, 28th Jan 2019