A series of thought provoking and profound articles titled Sri Guruji: A Drishta authored by Sri S Gurumurthy begins in Organiser from this week. The author had originally written on this subject as a long introduction to a book titled Reminiscences of Sri Guruji by Sri K Suryanarayana Rao, a veteran RSS worker, who has intense experience of and with Sri Guruji. The introduction of the author to the book on Guruji is being rewritten and serialised by the author specially for Organiser.
In his articles, the author studies, investigates, analyses and the far-reaching thoughts and expositions of MS Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on the philosophical and ideological foundations of Hindu Nation and the unified but diversified cultural ethos of the Hindu society. The author explains how Golwalkar’s thoughts and expositions, heavily questioned and harshly criticised in his lifetime, have been validated and vindicated long after he had given expression to them. Madhav Sadhashiv Golwalkar, affectionately called by his students in Benaras Hindu University as “Guruji’ – which name later stuck to him for life – laid the ideological foundations of the RSS and, by silent and sustained work, built it into a mighty socio-cultural, national movement under his leadership spanning over three decades.
He led the organisation through the pre and post Partition days, the most turbulent time in the recent history of India and also of the RSS. Post Partition, the most popular and powerful leadership of post Independent India, that had inherited the entire goodwill of the freedom movement, used that power and influence and banned the RSS on false and malicious charges that were later established to be fake and attempted to wipe it out. But the attempt failed and the RSS emerged out of the ordeal without blemish and became more and more powerful to finally emerge as the most powerful organisation in the country. How Guruji led the RSS at that critical time is a profound lesson and unprecedented example of outstanding leadership in crisis. And how the swayamsevaks, inspired and led by him, faced the onslaught of the pre-constitutional Indian government, that had no constitutional injunctions against use of state power, is story of high risk, sacrifices and courage for the RSS itself and the organisations inspired by it to study, imbibe and emulate in future. Guruji established the basic truth that, when everything goes against, an organisation sails through the crisis aided only by unwavering conviction in its foundational thoughts.
In the upcoming series, the author brilliantly and with illustrations, explains how, like all saints and seers spoke ahead of time, Guruji also looked beyond his times and at the future of India and the world, while placing his profound thoughts before their times had arrived. In his mission to keep the profound thoughts and the mission based on them alive through the complex and turbulent times, Sri Guruji repeatedly transcended the compulsions, the complexities and the arresting influences of the context in which he lived. The author explains how Guruji voluntarily, and even gladly, risked being misunderstood and faced unpopularity repeatedly tell the unpleasant truth contrary to the main and but superficial discourse of the day, to keep alive the foundational truths about this ancient nation deep in the inner consciousness of the people of the country.
The author draws a parallel between the dissent of Guruji to the main discourse of his times and the dissenting views against the majority judgement in judicial cases. Comparing Guruji’s dissent to the ruling ideas of his times to dissent by a judge in judicial proceedings differing from the majority judgement, the author says like the dissent by a judge in a judicial case is regarded as an appeal by the dissenting judge to the future conscience of the judiciary, the dissenting expressions of Guruji was an appeal to the future conscience of the people of India. The author quotes judicial authority that describes the philosophy of dissenting judgements thus: “A dissent … is an appeal to the brooding spirit of the law, to the intelligence of a future day, when a later decision may possibly correct the error into which the dissenting judge believes the court to have been betrayed.” The author says that it was in this spirit that Guruji, while keeping alive the fundamentals of this ancient nation in his times and through his thoughts and expositions, was making an appeal to the future conscience of the people and the leadership of India in various walks of life.
Who is a Hindu?
Both Indian and Western commentators tend to use such terms as “militant Hinduism”, “Hindu fundamentalism”, “religious revivalism”, or “reactionary Hinduism” to describe the ideology of the (RSS) movement, although these terms may seem inappropriate category for the study of Hindu religious phenomena. Hinduism is without foundation texts, defined dogmas, and institutional structures that are characteristic of most varieties of fundamentalism in other belief systems. This point of view finds frequent expression in modern Indian thinking, with emphasis on Hindu view of life as grounded in a spiritual experience that is essentially rational and humanistic.”
Resembles the speeches delivered decades ago by Guruji Golwalkar among his followers? Yes, it is Golwalkar’s thoughts. But not his words. Now go further.
“No precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms ‘Hindu’, ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hinduism’ and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage”; “Ordinarily, Hindutva is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and is not to be equated with or understood as religious Hinduism.”
Rings like Guruji’s words uttered somewhere some half a century ago? Yes, it is his views. But not his words.
Neither of the two quotes are in Guruji’s words. But both carry Guruji’s thoughts. These views were expressed long after—actually three decades—after Guruji passed and several decades before that Guruji had expressed these very thoughts.
Fundamentalism Project in US agrees with Guruji decades later
The first quote, which contains Guruji’s thoughts but not in his words, is that what the editors of the five volume Fundamentalism Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences involving international group of scholars had approvingly allowed. It is an extract from the essay “The functioning of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: To Define the Hindu Nation” by Ainslee T Embree. Embree’s essay is contained (at pages 618-619) in the book titled Accounting for Fundamentalisms: Dynamic Character of the Movements, p.617-52, Volume 4 Fundamentalism Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Chicago University Press ISBN: 0-226-50885-4). This book is the fourth of the mammoth five-volume research work on the emerging phenomenon of religious fundamentalism produced by the authors of the Fundamentalism Project in 1995, more than two decades after Guruji had passed away. The author has independently evaluated the ideological premises of the RSS – read Guruji’s thoughts – and accepted his thoughts almost in the very words Guruji had uttered them.
When the Fundamentalism Project says that “to use such terms as “militant Hinduism”, “Hindu fundamentalism”, “religious revivalism”, or “reactionary Hinduism” to describe the ideology of the (RSS) movement, although these terms may seem inappropriate category for the study of Hindu religious phenomena” it is only repeating what Guruji had said decades earlier. Guruji had also pointed out the difference between rejuvenated Hinduism and reactionary Hinduism and explained how rejuvenation of Hinduism is wrongly labelled as “revivalism” and “reactionary”. Guruji had been consistently and with mathematical precision, articulating the difference between “positive” Hinduism and “negative” or “reactionary Hinduism”. By taking the most sensitive issue of cow slaughter as an example Guruji says that while reinstating faith among Hindus in cow protection is positive Hinduism, the views of those Hindus who had opposed cow slaughter not because of love of cow, but because Muslims kill them constituted “reactionary” and “negative” Hinduism (Bunch of Thoughts (p. 70) Book comprising the speeches of Guruji given over decades compiled in 1960 and printed and published as the first edition 1966: publishers: Jagarana Prakashana; Kempegowda Nagar; Bengaluru-560019). More on the Fundamentalism Project and how their view agrees and approves of Guruji’s thoughts in the later parts of the series.
Supreme Court approves of Guruji’s views on Hinduism half a century later
The second quotes are from the judgement of the Supreme Court (in RY Prabhoo Vs PK Kunte AIR 1996 Sc 1113 is now popularly known as the Hindutva case). In that case, Supreme Court was called upon to consider whether ideology of Hindutva was communal. Guruji had always referred to Hinduism as an “all embracing” “way of life” of the people of this country and “not (a) narrow religion” (p72/137); he also used to refer to it as Hindu culture (p51/p78). The Supreme Court, decades later, came to acquire the same view that Hinduism “may broadly be described as a way of life and nothing more” and “in fact it does not satisfy the narrow traditional features of any religion or creed.” (Hindutva case p.1127). The Court also said the terms ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hinduism’ may be to promote secularism or to emphasise the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos” (Hindutva case p.1132). So, word for word what Guruji had been saying for decades earlier the Supreme Court agreed with the views of Guruji.
Now look at the chronology. The first Volume of the Fundamentalism Project came out in 1991; and the last and the fifth Volume, in 1995; the fourth Volume, which is cited here, came out in 1994. The Supreme Court judgement on Hindutva came out in 1995. Guruji who became the Sarsanghachalak of the RSS in the year 1940 passed away in the year 1973. It means that Guruji, who was articulating the RSS ideology since 1940 for 33 years till the end of his life in 1973, more than two decades before the Fundamentalism Project volumes and the Supreme Court judgment were out. And yet the thoughts and expressions of Guruji which were mindlessly, and at times maliciously, criticised were endorsed by the Fundamentalism Project and by the Supreme Court. So what Guruji spoke decades earlier was not only in tune with the intellectual, cultural and religious analysis of Hinduism contained in the Fundamentalism Project of 1990s but also consistent with the secular constitutional perspective of the Supreme Court regarding Hindutva. When Guruji spoke that what he did, his views were criticised as anti-secular and communal. But the very views of Guruji were later accepted and endorsed by intellectual appraisal by the Fundamentalism Project and legal scrutiny by the Supreme Court. It only means that what Guruji spoke was ahead of his time.
These are just illustrations to show how Guruji’s thoughts unacceptable then became acceptable later. The later parts of this series will more exhaustively deal with how Guruji’s views on various subjects have been vindicated by time. But before that serious exercise begins, here is a background of Guruji to those uninitiated about him.
Guruji – a spiritualist who subsumed himself and his self for the nation
Guruji became the second Sarsanghachalak of the RSS an original, but less understood and mostly unfairly judged, man-making and nation-building movement founded by Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, who chose Golwalkar as his successor. Guruji, a spiritualist by nature, training and temper, was a disciple of Swami Akhandananda, a direct initiate of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Guruji, an intelligent young man, matured into a towering intellectual who subsumed, like all saints in the Indian tradition, his total self in building the RSS. The spiritual dimension of Guruji that lay hidden deep in him perhaps subtly influenced his thought and action.
This spiritual element in him seems to have enabled Guruji to defy and overcome the arresting and compelling influence of the contemporary times, vault over the current issues, look at the future transcending and overcoming the excruciating pain of ignoring, context from that vantage point and appeal to the conscience of the people and the nation. That is why many who knew him regard him as Drishta – a Seer. As the second Sarsanghachalak of RSS from 1940 till 1973 when he breathed his last, Guruji led the RSS for 33 years. He relentlessly expounded the ancient Hindu philosophy and way of life, not merely in the context of his times, but with a vision of the future. He ceaselessly toured different parts of the country year after year, met people, shared his thoughts with them and built arguably the strongest grass-root organisation in the world. The intellectual and moral courage implicit in his articulation and the clarity with which he expounded his ideas, are legendary. Even those, who questioned Guruji’s thoughts in his lifetime and later, could not deny the courage of his conviction and sincerity of his purpose. Guruji assumed the leadership of the RSS in 1940 when the movement for Partition of India, that eventually succeeded, was assuming dangerous proportions. So some of his thoughts ought to be read in the context of the extreme heat that the movement for Partition had aroused.
From those turbulent times, for over a quarter century after the country attained political freedom, Guruji had expressed his views with unwavering consistency on issues concerning the future of India though he spoke in contemporary conditions. A recall of what Guruji spoke in his lifetime in the light of later history brings out the fact that much of what Guruji spoke had had greater relevance to the future, though he spoke in the given context. While articulating his views, Guruji tended to defy the compulsions of the context and contemporary attractions of his times and placed before the people the eternal agenda of Hindu India. Guruji had shared his thoughts with the people of India for over three decades as the head of the RSS and it is almost four decades since he passed away. But his work did not end with him; it continues through the RSS, which he had shaped into a mighty influence over the society. He has left behind a vast and trained human asset of high quality, which renews itself through the very work of the RSS. This quality human resource carries on his work.
Guruji – not a Prophet but a drishta (seer)
But Guruji was not a Prophet. He did not prophesy. In fact, the Hindu tradition does not recognise or believe in any Prophet or prophesy. Hinduism does not postulate prophesies. Prophets in other traditions discover the what they regard as the only true religion and God and prescribe them to their followers and equally mandate that all other religions and Gods are false. The truth propounded by a Prophet becomes the final and the only truth. This applies to all monotheistic faiths which are explained in detail in the parts that follow. But Hinduism is founded on the basis that the ultimate truth is one but sages view and describe it differently. Therefore there is nothing like one way of worship being true and others false or some God being true and other Gods false. Hindus therefore believe that great seers come and guide the people from time to time and the tradition of seers continue as an unending stream. So, no one’s thought is the final prophesy or valid for all times as in the case of faiths propounded by prophets. Hinduism is not propounded by any person. Sages and seers expound the principles of Hinduism. Hinduism believes that if people persist with following the thoughts of the past beyond their period of validity, they will be frozen in the past and rejected by the course of history; else, they will cause immense violence and harm to the society and to the world at large as different dogmatic faiths and prophesies have done. So before accepting what a seer had said in the past for guidance in future, Hindus understand that the seer’s role is a chapter in the continuing tradition of great men born from time to time to guide the people. So Hinduism rejects the very notion of prophesy and prophets, understands only Drishta.
The first test to know whether one is a Drishta – seer – is to know whether one’s thoughts are just contextual, namely to satisfy the contextual needs and demands or to win the approbation of the people in his times or for power or whether he spoke detached from the contemporary situation with the future in vision. The crucial test is whether one has defied the compulsions of the present and willingly courted unpopularity to stand by and tell the truth. And the ultimate test is whether the future has validated those thoughts. The heart of the analysis here is whether Guruji’s thoughts spoken over half a century ago were expressed with the future in mind or the context as the compulsion and whether they have been validated or rejected by history after him. The parts that follow this part probe into the thoughts and sayings of Guruji. The probe ultimately establishes that Guruji was a Drishta who transcended the context and its compulsions and limitations and rose to a vantage point from which he could see into the future. In the process what he spoke then was unacceptable and unpopular then but became later as the time for his thoughts expressed ahead of time arrived.
The endorsement of Guruji’s views on ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Hindutva’ by the Fundamentalism Project and Hindutva case are just two illustrations that whet appetite of the readers for the highly interesting and informative fare that this series unfolds on how history has repeatedly validated Guruji. The two examples establish how Guruji’s thoughts dismissed by the establishment in his times became accepted later by the course and force of history. Fundamentalism Project and Hindutva judgements are not literary works. They are the outcome of historical developments after Guruji. Here is the background of how these two historical developments had occurred, which will show that Guruji’s thoughts were validated by what history unfolded after him.
Historic drive behind Fundamentalism project
Even though “fundamentalism” – where religion overrides science – has been in public discourse for decades, it was only in 1987 that a study on fundamentalism by global scholars was instituted by the American Academy of Social Sciences. The fundamentalism project was the response of the Western – read Christian – scholarship to the movement of history and the outcome of the West-driven global historical process. This study was no accident. It was compulsion of history. The rise of militant Islam and a resurgent church, both contrived by the West to counter communism, had weakened the “secularisation theory” that evolved in the West in 1950s and 1960s. The theory had prophesied that the more westernised a traditional society became, the less religious it would become, and modernity would have the last laugh and tradition, its last breath. The modernisation process opened before the US the possibility of drawing the Middle East Islamic nations into its orbit and away from the Soviet’s.
But the secularisation theory received a huge setback in 1979, six years after Guruji had passed away. Three historic developments took place in the same year – the Iranian Revolution, the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and a Cardinal from Communist Poland becoming the Pope, John Paul II. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan forced the US to legitimise, promote and weaponise Jihadi forces, the likes of Taliban. The Iranian Revolution triggered robust bottom-upward Islamisation campaign all over world. Pope John Paul II criss-crossed the world tirelessly, drew large crowds of young people everywhere, particularly Europe. In this historic process, the Pope dynamited the communist rule in Poland which eventually brought down communism; the Islamisation tsunami initiated by Iranian Revolution swept across the Muslims world; the Jihadis’ victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan legitimised the concept and forces of Jihad; and political Islam began rising with the support of the West. These historic developments forced the West study the meaning of, and respond to, these historic developments which challenged the secularisation theory.
The core thesis of the study was that reaction among adherents of different religions to globalisation of Western modernity constituted “fundamentalism”, thus substituting ‘modernity’ for ‘science’ as conflicting with religion. It was while analysing Hinduism and the ideology of RSS as part of their work, that the project scholars concurred with the views of Guruji, but in their own words thus: terms like “militant Hinduism”, “Hindu fundamentalism”, “religious revivalism”, or “reactionary Hinduism” used to describe the ideology of the (RSS) movement ‘seem inappropriate’ for ‘Hindu religious phenomena.’ And being ‘without foundation texts, defined dogmas, and institutional structures’ like in most varieties of fundamentalism in other belief systems, according to modern Hindu scholars, the Hindu view of life is grounded in ‘spiritual experience that is essentially rational and humanistic.’
Undeniably, it was the historic developments studied by the fundamentalism project, not anyone’s opinion, that validated Guruji’s view that Hinduism was different from other religions. But, decades ahead of the fundamentalism study, Guruji had distinguished Hinduism from the dogmatic faiths. The fundamentalism project, after studying the features of the monotheistic faiths and their conflict within and with secularism, had to distinguish Hinduism from them, which Guruji had done decades earlier. More on Fundamentalism Project, Guruji and RSS later.
Historic background to the Hindutva case
The Hindutva case was not a bipartite litigation between two parties as litigations normally are. It represented an ideological clash between two conflicting thoughts. One was the establishment view articulated by Pandit Nehru, which regarded Hinduism as just a religion like the monotheistic faiths which clashed with one another and also with secular rule. The other was the RSS view articulated by Guruji that the inclusive Hinduism was never, and would never be, in conflict with any religion or with secularism as it was superior to secularism, since it accepted all faiths and not negated any. But, how did this case of clashing ideologies land in the Supreme Court? The Hindutva case was the product of Ayodhya movement, which had originally targeted to build a temple for Sri Ram at his Janmasthan on which a mosque that was dysfunctional for decades stood. But gradually, the Ayodhya movement evolved as the response of the people and the forces of history to minority appeasement and other pseudo-secular distortions in Indian polity. The hitherto unchallenged idea of minorityism as equal to secularism was challenged by the movement. Hindutva or Hindu cultural nationalism emerged as the antidote for pseudo-secularism. The Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena, which had adopted Hindutva as their ideology were targeted as fundamentalist, communal and unsecular. Therefore, the election of some of their candidates was challenged on the ground that the concept of Hindutva was anti-secular and therefore constituted communal appeal for votes.
The establishment view had contended that Hindutva was just a religion and communal idea and that was countered by the other view, articulated for decades and decades ago by Guruji, that Hindutva was an all inclusive concept and way of life of Indians, not a narrow religion, nor opposed to other religions, or to secularism. The Supreme Court accepted the latter view, that of Guruji, by an appraisal of the concepts of Hinduism and Hindutva. So it is again the course and force of history, which have established the truth of views of Guruji on Hindu cultural nationalism represented by Hindutva.
Series unfolds the historic forces that validated Guruji’s thoughts Beginning with the two illustrations of Fundamentalism project and the Hindutva ruling, the series discovers several such illustrations and unfolds how Guruji’s views on different subjects have been vindicated by historic forces and how Guruji was ahead of time. Based on research and analysis, the series presents how Guruji’s thoughts were validated by time and brings out:
How historical accounts always proved, and as the Supreme Court of India later affirmed, Guruji’s view that minorities of India were always part of the mother Hindu society and culture;
How Guruji’s perception that all people of Bharatavarsha and Bharatakhanda have common culture and traditions have been accepted and endorsed even by Pakistan government later;
How precisely as Guruji had warned against disregarding and weakening the core culture in the name of composite culture or multiculturalism there is growing realisation in the West that shift to multiculturalism has weakened the core societies and core cultures in US-West;
How Guruji’s views on cultural nationalism objected to by Westernised thinkers as illiberal in his times are re-appearing in the West as the corrective to multiculturalism;
How Guruji’s enunciation of the concept of assimilation of minorities into the mainstream or core society is now viewed by Western thinkers positively as being inevitable to avoid societal and national disintegration and violence;
How, as Guruji had warned against, the ambivalence in cultural nationalism confuses the West promotes multiculturalism which is destabilising societies;
How Samuel Huntington’s “No” to multiculturalism echoes that what Guruji had said decades earlier;
How Guruji’s insistence on cultural nationalism as the bulwark against cultural decline and national chaos, is now proved by Western experience;
How Guruji’s warning that minority appeasement would promote minority separatism has now become a national and also global concern;
How Guruji’s emphasis on the inevitability of culture and civilisation as essential identities for a people and nation is being validated by the emerging perception that unless such diverse identities are recognised, the world would slip into violence and disorder;
How Guruji battled to save the nation, Hindu society and minorities by his formulation of majority-minority relations that transcended the contextual compulsions;
How contrary to the popular notion, Guruji and Pandit Nehru had actually broadly agreed on cultural unity and minority assimilation, but differed only on applying the terminology ‘Hindu’ nation;
How contrary to the popular view, there was complete convergence of views between Guruji and Gandhiji on cultural and civilisational unity and continuity of India and on assimilation of minorities;
How Guruji’s untiring efforts to establish that “Dharma” was different from “religion” is now being accepted in public discourse;
How Guruji views on “Dharma” as a trans-religious concept expressed decades years ago have been gradually accepted by the judiciary and in politics;
How Guruji’s appeal to align the Anglo-Saxon structure of the Indian Constitution insensitive to the age-old culture of India with inclusive Hindu view of life is now becoming broadly accepted in judicial and public discourse;
How Guruji adumbration of “the other mind of contemporary Indian leadership” is now the mainstream view according to the Fundamentalism Project;
How Guruji has been proved right on the character of Islamists and of Pakistan as a state and on the situation prevailing in Pakistan;
How Guruji was on the dot on the nature and emergence of China which was to happen a decade after his lifetime;
How Guruji’s dissent against the establishment thinking of his time was an appeal to the brooding conscience of India and its validity is being recognised after him; and
How, therefore, Guruji was a drishta, who saw and spoke ahead of his times and was validated by history after him.
Yet, Guruji, whose views were validated after his lifetime, was criticised in his times, maliciously, as anti-secular and communal! And now in the weeks ahead follows detailed expositions on how the course of history, not just in India but all over the world, has validated Guruji’s thoughts.
(The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)