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The Azrael of Sectarianism in Sanatana Dharma

- A Critical Analysis

 

The multifariousness of Sanatana Dharma has always fostered a bewildering variety of cultural moorings, philosophical schools, traditional teachings and belief systems, that after being witness to the uniformity of other faiths, no one is willing to accept that such immense variations as are seen in Sanatana Dharma, are at all possible within one religion.

 

But, as is very much evident from the background of these varied tributaries of Sanatana Dharma, and from the present collective ethos of her followers, it becomes obvious that it was and still is Sanatana Dharma that has been not just the originator of diverse systems of life, but has also been their nourisher, and still is.

 

Not just that Sanatana Dharma encourages an individual to make his own road to salvation, not only that Sanatana Dharma has the most systematic and personalized road-map for the individual's reference should he need one, but it has always, till date shown such an open mind to even outside creeds that those outsiders became culturally indistinguishable from its very own offshoots, not by an artificial imposition from without, but from a total acceptance and assimilation from within.

 

The uniqueness of Sanatana Dharma shows up in its whole-hearted acceptance of any way of understanding and leading life, while itself still retaining its identity as a distinct way of understanding and leading life. And this is one place where all other creeds failed. Cultural contact between two different creeds has without exception led either to perpetual friction or to the supersedence of one culture over the other. But with Sanatana Dharma, such contacts have only enriched both the cultures. (1) This marvel of Sanatana Dharma is the result, unmistakably, of the equal status as itself, that it granted to all those it came in touch with. That is what has made it a living culture, forever adapting, forever mutating according to its followers' changing preferences. In a sense, it is an establishment that sees 'culture for people' and not 'people for culture'. It is only by giving its followers the most important place in its philosophy, that its followers have given Sanatana Dharma the most important place in their lives.

 

And there is no reason for us to suspect any adulteration of this attitude of its. Sanatana Dharma till date, retains the same essential qualities that it had during its heydays. Because Sanatana Dharma has grown from man's first and longest attempt to find out his basis, a tradition that has been perfected through millennia of trial and error, which is still willing to learn, is the most sophisticated one, and yet rooted in man's nature and at the same time, is the one that is going to survive. In Guy Sorman's words, "the Indian mind was better prepared for the chronological mutations of Darwinian evolution and astrophysics".

 

On first glance, it seems impossible that anyone could even want to dissociate from such profound a philosophy, especially after having taken birth and matured under its benign care. But, there has become visible within such an all-embracing system, a tendency of identifying less and less with the parent faith, and more and more with any one of the faiths that have evolved within its ambit. Of passive acceptance of outside attempts to dissociate them from Sanatana Dharma as well as an active insistence for dissociation from it originating from the sect itself.

 

But, a question that would arise in the mind of someone outside of Sanatana Dharma, and unfortunately even in a few people within it is - why insist on non-dissociation? Why, when certain sections want to be separate, should any attempt be made to retain them within Sanatana Dharma? To understand the answer to this question, one needs to understand the phenomena that were at play during the evolution and growth of 'The Eternal Religion', and still are. The mistaken premises in these few is that there is no genetic relation within the various sects of Sanatana Dharma, that there is no genetic relation between Sanatana Dharma and the various so-called ‘pre-Hindu religions’ and ‘Animist Cults’, and that, being limited in geographical expanse, and not accepting other people into its fold, there is a lack of universality in Sanatana Dharma. Each one of these premises is, no doubt fallacious, but, their question still needs to be answered, as to why insist on non-dissociation. For, mere genetic relation between any two sects need not be reason enough for it to be with Sanatana Dharma. There has to be a solid ground proving their unity and also a utilitarian advantage, to the sects as to Sanatana Dharma, so that this insistence on non-dissociation is justified.

 

The doubtless benefits of unity in contrast to disunity need not detain us from going ahead and showing how these benefits are actually the integral part of the very own Logic of each one of the sects of Sanatana Dharma. The philosophical framework created and maintained by what we all call the Sanatana Dharma, was as much contributory to the evolution of these sects within it as was the social framework created and maintained by the same Sanatana Dharma. And, the continuation of the same philosophical and social framework is the only insurance for the continuation of the fertile atmosphere which produced and nurtured all the varied sects and their aspirations. A call for dissociating from Sanatana Dharma by its constituents is also a call for the upsetting of the fertile conditions that led to their birth, though not as intentional, but at least as inevitably consequential. The risk of the dismantlement of this profound social framework created by a correspondingly profound philosophical framework is perhaps the singular most important reason for the need for rallying together of each and every one of the offshoots of that zeitgeist of Sanatana Dharma, in the name of that same profound metaphysical yearning, of which each one of the varied and various sects are part.

 

A question arises as to why this tendency of denominationalism is at all there. Answers to this question hold the key to the perpetuation and promulgation of Sanatana Dharma. Continuation of this tendency undoubtedly has the potential to nullify this fountainhead of human evolution. Looking a little longer at this phenomenon has showed me two sets of reasons, both, in part responsible for this fissiparous tendency. Though distinct and separate, the two sets of problems have sired this tragedy by vigorous interplay that the tragedy can aptly be called a collective result of both. Damages of neither, taken alone nor later computed, can come anywhere near the damage done by these two in consummation.

 

The first set of problems is the exogenous imposition on Sanatana Dharma of the idea that it is made up of diverse components, bound together merely by the co-incidence of geographical proximity. The second set is the endogenous refutation of Sanatana Dharma, by its component creeds.

 

The proponents of the first set tried to reason that there is no such thing as the Sanatana Dharma, rather, what is called as such, is actually a collection of diverse entities, artificially held together by co-incidence of being closely located. These worthies, no doubt, never really understood the underlying unity in all these units that made up the Sanatana Dharma, but what is notable is that each one of their arguments can be shown to be carrying within itself, a core of fallacy and thus, invalidability. People propounding the theory that Sanatana Dharma is actually an abstract entity with no real basis in reality are prejudicially mistaken as to the presence of what features, and to what degree, qualifies a thing to be called as a real entity. Their outlook, conditioned by their bringing up in the monolithical monotony of the One and Only truth, One and Only way, is understandably obstinate in refusing to accept even minor variations under a single roof. These people should at least accept that the existence of beliefs that are the very opposite of one another within Sanatana Dharma, and yet their being called by the same name, and the absence of any friction between them needs an explanation more than merely that of a coincidence of physical proximity. Especially, when feuds between other genetically and generically similar creeds, that share much of their basal tenets (Islam and Christianity), have been counted as the worst kinds of collective crimes against humanity. At once comes to mind, the essentially non-dogmatic nature of each one of the components of Sanatana Dharma. But, this does not mean that it was only a mutual lack of aggression that kept conflicts at bay, but that there is also a unifying belief that binds them. The absence of dogmatism alone is not enough to explain the congeniality seen among the various sects in Sanatana Dharma. One is bound to assume the presence of some underlying, unifying factor that actively led to their amiability. And the fact that it was the same weltanschauung that produced all of them necessitates the assumption of something more. So, the presence, instead of dogmatism, of mutual acceptance, are pointers that it is actually a Higher Truth that is the common essence of all the creeds in Sanatana Dharma and that the differences that seem so cardinal from the outside, are considered inconsequential to this Higher Truth. And, this is wordified in no less a place than the most important of the Vedas, the Rig Veda. ‘Ekam Sat Bahudha Viparah Vadanti’ (There is one truth, that is called by various names) is in fact, the genetic code of this fundamental trait of Sanatana Dharma, that of equality and large-hearted acceptance of all that recognize this Higher Truth. Indeed, this Higher Truth is the body and soul of the unity of all creeds within Sanatana Dharma. This is the Higher Truth, different facets of which the same Vedic composers called ‘Dharma’, and the utilitarian application of which, the same Vedic composers called ‘Sarva Dharma Samabhava’, or ‘the inseparability of Dharma’. And not the ‘equality of all religions’ as has been the opportunists' unscrupulous misreading of the same. To deny the existence of Sanatana Dharma as a fact in reality is to deny the existence of this Higher Truth. To refuse being part of the Sanatana Dharma is to abjure the quest of this Higher Truth.

 

Surprising as it may seem to us now, but the fact is that this sectarian philosophy proudly touted by a few as their ‘belief’ or their ‘tradition’ is actually the product, in part, of an attempted subversion of Sanatana Dharma, that seemed to a few outlanders to be the ethos of so infinitely vast a section of humanity that their own numbers seemed to be infinitesimally small in its comparison. (2) And this citing of ‘doctrinal irreconcilability’ between themselves and the rest, by the sectarian leaders of these seceders from Sanatana Dharma reveals itself only as an a posteriori afterthought to camouflage this truth. The outlanders were quick to see the impossibility of turning so vast a number of people against their own creed. The best bet was then, to call them by their various denominations, so that its dissipated factions show up as making up no more than a meager fraction of humanity. And by a deft move that a psychologist may call 'Compensation', the enumerators brought up their proportion to match their ego. This was also to serve as the foundation of an actual separation of these denominations. Evidence of such an ego palliation were seen long back, and the Census of the British Empire in India began counting Hindus not by their names, but by their denominational nomenclature. Part of this attempt was the enumeration of Sikhs and Animists (3) as separate from ‘other’ Hindus. When a line between Hinduism and Animism could not be drawn with any precision, such an attempt was given up (4), much to the opposition of the subverters. Up to about the early part of the eighteenth century, or for the first three hundred years of their existence, the Sikhs too counted themselves as  Hindus (5), but today, many, if not all Sikhs take objection to their being called Hindus. (6) So, while the attempted severing of ‘Animism’ from Hinduism was a failure, the same attempt with Sikhism was a success. Among other factors, the major contribution to this success was the approval, rather a lack of disapproval of such an arrangement by the latter. While the failure in the case of ‘Animism’ was the result more of the practical impossibility of making any such distinction, than any insistence of the Animists on being enumerated as Hindus.

 

It is not necessarily the active approval, rather a passive lack of disapproval of this distinction, born of ignorance of its implications over generations, that is particularly the cause of Sikhism now being counted as separate. No one realized then, that a few generations further down, not only will the Sikhs be called as separate from the Hindus, but will also take up arms against the latter demanding a separate homeland. If this reality of today is compared to the vision of Guru Nanak Devji, or Guru Gobind Singhji Maharaj, it immediately becomes evident that this separatism is in no way connected to either religion and theology, or to culture and tradition. In fact, this whole game of separation is the result of plain politics, sometimes induced from the outside, sometimes a product of the sect itself. And consequently, this truth awaits recognition by the now disjointed sects of Sanatana Dharma, so that this misdeed is undone and their natural union with Sanatana Dharma is effected.

 

Thus, what began as mere lack of active initiative for integral association with Sanatana Dharma, ended up as a war for separation. This holds important lessons for those sects that are now in Sanatana Dharma, but somewhere within themselves, nurture a feeling of distinctness. A few generations further down, this apparently benign acorn of the feeling of distinction may grow to become the malignant oak of the demand for separation.

 

The clamoring by certain Minority Groups in India for declaring tribals, the dalits and other oppressed Hindu classes as non-Hindus is only the logical continuation of that same malevolent attempt to sabotage Sanatana Dharma. As late as 2001, these same Minority groups raised a hue and cry for the inclusion in the Census, the category of tribal Christians and tribal Muslims. While I can understand tribal Christian and Muslims in say, Arabia, but tribal Christian and Muslims in India is really a contradiction in terms.

 

Contemporary constitutional imbalances in The Indian Constitution, that contain specific articles that makes available to what it calls the minorities, unjustified and unjustifiable privileges over and above what is made available to the majority only adds fuel to the fire. (7) This has led to horrendous repercussions with at least one evidently Hindu institution wanting to cross over the fence to be part of the pampered non-Hindu one. (8) There is also a race among different communities of Hindus to be included among the list of communities that are granted favors at the cost of the others. As long as an atmosphere of incentive after incentive being dispensed by the state to anyone clever enough to conjure up a convincing case for their distinct identity from the majority continues, the hope of uniting these communities under the universal banner of Sanatana Dharma will remain a difficult task.

 

Walking along a similar path in the society are a few elements whose deliberate aim is to magnify these differences and to create the myth that Sanatana Dharma and its siblings were at a constant state of internecine quarrels all along their history. Hand in glove with their stooges in the fourth estate, the media, electronic and print, are a number of misguided left-leaning, self-proclaimed 'eminences'. Having gained the monopolous control over most premier educational, academic and research bodies in the country, these ideologues, whose predecessors are counted as the betrayers of the nation, devoted their life towards devising devious means of whitewashing the truth of the unity of Sanatana Dharma and the incessant, unified resistance they put up in the face of hostile alien aggression, and creating, in its place, a fictitious set of fables that they propped up as 'History'. These same distorters were behind the fabrication of the never-proven theory that each sect of Sanatana Dharma was a revolt against the existing order, yet at the same time, vehemently denying the existence of any such order at all. (9) Their lies, which have not been interiorized by the masses, were yet successful in distorting to a significant extent, the true picture of a past whose remembrance we have not. A past whose exploration ought to reveal the synesthesia between all sections of Sanatana Dharma.

 

The second set of problems that led to the dissociation from Sanatana Dharma of a few of its components is an internal product of Sanatana Dharma itself, that is the result, earlier of a loss of continuity brought forth by decadence, and later, of deliberate forsaking of the grander Sanatana Dharma for the individuality of their own sect, under the favorable milieu created, maintained and facilitated by the first set of exogenous problems. Coupled with this, the bad beating that all the sects of Sanatana Dharma received under hostile alien occupation, bred a host of social evils in a people already dispossessed off their collective ethos, that they ultimately lost touch with their identity and their relation with the higher truth, of which Dharma is the materialization. What had overcome them instead, was an all-conquering inferiority complex, reinforced by the state of utter poverty and ignorance among the Hindus, that their impatient finger lost no time in raising itself towards Sanatana Dharma.

 

When Buddhism was spreading, its custodians failed to integrate it with the rest of the cultural ethos of India, and when it went abroad, they failed to carry with them, the seeds of which they were the offshoots - the inseparability of Dharma. This was what had separated Buddhism from Sanatana Dharma. For, the Buddha never claimed to be against, or even apart from the cultural ambience of his time. Rather, he admitted that he had found nothing new, that he was only one of a long lineage of sages. (10) So, this contemporary distinctness of Buddhism from Hinduism is the product only of a misrepresentation of the enlightened one and his words.

 

A similar misguided thinking, is now used as the justification for the separation of Sikhism from Sanatana Dharma.

 

Much of this endogenous problem is the result of the ambiguity surrounding the term ‘Hindu’. This may be because some people feel that Hinduism has after all, only a regional connotation, that too imposed from the outside.

 

At the outset, it should be understood that Hinduism is the outsider's way of looking at Sanatana Dharma. The way one looks at oneself and the way another person looks at him is bound to be different in more ways than just the calling of his name. For the person, he is always 'I' or 'me', with a specific image. And for the outsider, this name, as also his image is different, depending upon who the outsider is. But, when the person himself uses the name that others have given to him, he still means the 'I' or 'me' in his mind. Similar is the case with Sanatana Dharma. When a follower of Sanatana Dharma calls himself a Hindu, he actually means what he thinks he is. But, the very identity of Sanatana Dharma, as the image of its followers becoming mired in incertitude, is it any surprise that the meaning of Hindu, even when used by himself has become equally uncertain?

 

There has been questioning as to whether Hinduism can at all be called the synonym of Sanatana Dharma. This questioning is the result of half-baked knowledge of linguistics, that lends a mask of respectability to the inferiority complex of those who want to dissociate from Sanatana Dharma. As long as a person does not know that the term ‘Hindu’ comes from the word ‘Hind’, everything is all right. But, once the half-baked linguistic knowledge lets the cat out of the bag, everything turns topsy-turvy.

 

It is indisputably true that the term ‘Hindu’ comes from others naming the ‘people of Hind’ by the name of the country. It is equally undisputable that the word ‘Hinduism’ comes from others naming the ‘religion of Hindus’. But what is not known to people who conjure up a linguistic argument to reject Hinduism is the way the phenomenon of inflection works in language.

 

Like most words, the word ‘Hindu’ too comes from a root word, ‘Hind’. This change from ‘Hind’ to ‘Hindu’ is called 'Inflection'. And ‘Hinduism’ comes from the root word ‘Hindu’, by the same process of 'Inflection'.

 

But the word Hindu as was originally coined, changed its meaning from ‘the people of Hind’ to ‘the followers of Sanatana Dharma’ during its long course of usage. Proof of this change lies in the fact that the Indian converts to Islam and Christianity were referred to as ‘Muslims’ and ‘Christians’ and not as ‘Hindus’, despite being ‘the people of Hind’, which they actually should have, had ‘Hindu’ meant ‘the people of Hind’. If ‘Hindu’ meant ‘the people of Hind’, then the converts too would have been called ‘Hindu’, as they still were one of ‘the people of Hind’. But, this was not the case. With conversions came a need to distinguish the converts from the others, who could not be converted, viz. ‘the followers of Sanatana Dharma’, or, now, ‘Hindus’. Thus, the usage of the word ‘Hindu’ changed from meaning ‘the people of Hind’ to ‘the followers of Sanatana Dharma’.

 

Moreover, a fact overlooked by the rejecters of the word ‘Hinduism’ is that the people who coined the term ‘Hindu’ were the Arabs, and the people who coined the word ‘Hinduism’ were the Europeans. For the Arabs, till date, the word ‘Hindu’ still means ‘the people of Hind’. (11) And for the English, the word ‘Hinduism’ still means Sanatana Dharma. (12) In fact, the Europeans have their own word for ‘the people of Hind’, ‘Indians’.

 

Thus, the etymons for ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hinduism’, were differentiated by hundreds of years, used by two varied sets of people and meant a lot different.

 

To quote a similar example, since ‘Kashmir’ came from the word ‘Kashyap’, after a Sage by the same name, and ‘Kashmiri’ from ‘Kashmir’, does this mean that the Kashmiri militants fighting the Indian Army are doing so for Sage Kashyap?

 

That the Hindus were so universal in their outlook is only proven by the fact that they never felt the need to name themselves, and gladly accepted the name that outsiders gave them - Hindus. To understand this, we need to take a better look at the way culture evolves. During the pre-historic times, contact between various nations or cultures was limited to what was facilitated by either trade or war. Large scale migrations of people from one habitation to any place close to the habitat of another people was an exception, if at all encountered. So, none of the peoples of any land ever felt the need to be called anything more than that they were the inhabitants of a particular area, or country. Thus, we see the lofty Greek Culture known by its locale in Greece. The same is true of all cultures, be they the Egyptian, Roman or Hindu. It was only when people developed the ability to migrate in sufficiently large numbers that this movement became another means of carrying culture. And people who earlier called themselves as belonging to a particular region, after migration, saw an anomaly in being called by reference to a place that they no longer live in, or, after a few generations, no longer have any contact with. This fact, coupled with the retention of the culture they had carried with themselves gave rise to the need of another, more appropriate criterion of identity. This, they found in what some call religion, today. Thus developed the distinction between region and religion. Hinduism never felt this need for a new name as it was never successfully ousted from its home, neither did it suffer from any identity crisis in its populations that moved to foreign lands. This again was the direct product of Hindu's granting the status of equals, to all the cultures they came in contact with. While religions of other lands that survived saw an acute need to rename themselves, Hinduism needed no such adjustment.

 

So, even though the term ‘Hinduism’ definitely has a geographical etymology and a foreign contributory hint in it, yet it has come to mean a lot more than merely ‘the religion of Hind’.

 

Hinduism today means the uninterrupted continuation of the thought process of a people who pioneered civilization, and gave birth to the majority of systems of thinking in the world (13), retaining the basic attitude with which it was always endowed with - its inclusiveness - which still does no damage to its unique nature and distinct identity. Even after understanding its origins, if one doesn't relish the idea of calling oneself with that name, one always has the freedom to call it by its descriptory name, 'Sanatana Dharma'. But, dissociating oneself with, or ridiculing someone who prefers the name Hindu is only a conflict over nomenclature and should be avoided.

 

The gaffe of wrongly etymologizing words so integral a part of ones contemporary culture itself being enough cause for shame, using this wrong etymological conclusion to justify their breaking off from their cultural roots, citing the same culture as an alibi, is something more than ridiculous. For, if one wants to desert Sanatana Dharma, no one is anyway going to ask him why he did it. But, it would be a definite cause for greater shame that while Islamic and Christian groups vie with each other for being called Islamic and Christian, if Hindu groups should vie each other for being called non-Hindu.

 

While the Catholic and Protestants keep hurling abuses on each other, while the Shias and Sunnis keep spilling each others' blood over petty matters, we see every kind of difference between any sect of Sanatana Dharma being dissolved by a mere acceptance of the other's way also as valid. Therefore, a tendency to dissociate from Sanatana Dharma is actually a tendency to imitate these revelatory dogmas, an unnecessary creation of avoidable friction and feuds.

 

Despite the largely successful separation of the various Dharmic traditions, such is their undercurrent of unity and mutual love and compassion that a destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas provokes a violent outburst in the Hindus (14) and a slighting decree by the Islamic Taliban on Hindus - and not Sikhs - provokes an outcry in the Sikhs. (15) And whatever one might feel about the issue, leading the  fight for the temple of  a God purely of a Vaishnava sect, Lord Ram, are a Shaivite group called the Nagas.

 

Thus, to call these varied traditions as separate and distinct is not just to miss the fundamental spirit of them all, but to do a grave damage to their collective future too.

 

Hinduism is not a chain that forces its children to be bound to her, rather, she has given away this right to decide where any child wants to go, and while the majority still love her, minorities among a few sects would even shy away from acknowledging their mother as such.

 

It is a paradox that people who take so much pride in belonging to a particular tradition, however much ancient and valuable it be, fail to express a fraction of that pride in the social and philosophical order from which their traditions had sprung forth in the first place. These people should answer how their traditions would have taken birth at all, had it not been for the benign nurturing by Sanatana Dharma. Had Sanatana Dharma been as rigid as a few immensely popular faiths have been, had it been as intolerant of any deviation from its mainstream thought as a few immensely popular faiths have been, would there have been any sect at all?

 

People highlighting the dissimilarities between their own sect and Sanatana Dharma, and using those as an excuse for seceding from it, should also come alive to the fact that they have been ignoring the potent fact that the similarities between their sect and Sanatana Dharma, that they have been trying to downplay, are any day much more and stronger than the dissimilarities that they have been playing up. This tendency of identifying oneself lesser and lesser with Hinduism by its various sects can at best be called an obsessive disorder, the product of a misguided thinking that took off along a tangent even before it fully matured.

 

All these sects, whose religious scriptures are one in a series of many, that are unquestionably Hindu, have displayed rank prejudice by claiming right over a few of them, while conveniently ignoring the rest that are a continuum of their own chosen ones.

 

All their beliefs, that cannot be fully comprehended without reference to their original sources, are an organic part of the larger belief system. Taken the other way around, comprehending the basic spirit of Sanatana Dharma, one is sure to understand the beliefs of one's own sect better.

 

The sectarian peculators, having embezzled an amount from the treasury of Sanatana Dharma, think they have made a profit, while actually the entire treasure, that is still growing, was and is still theirs to use. It will not be long, if these sectarian hawks do not stop their misdeeds, when its own sub-sects start severing their own umbilical cords, leaving the sect itself a non-entity, the same way they are trying to do with Sanatana Dharma.

 

By asking for separation from Sanatana Dharma, one is actually asking for the death of the phenomenon that had led to their own birth, sustenance and growth.

 

And last, but not least, what is the advantage of breaking up with Sanatana Dharma? Who and how is anyone going to benefit from it? Especially when such a tendency has been shown also to be contrary to their own philosophy.

 

There is a minority within Hinduism, that is brewing a feeling that they are a group distinct enough to warrant a formal or informal dissociation from Sanatana Dharma, or at least a disparity between themselves and the rest of Sanatana Dharma. There are two hues of such people. The one that declares itself Hindu and the rest non-Hindu, and the other that declares itself non-Hindu.

 

Both these groups do not see the plain fact that by repulsing Sanatana Dharma (the latter group) or its inherent attributes (the former group), not only are they leaving Sanatana Dharma poorer and desolate, but themselves impoverished too. While the former assumes itself as the sole inheritor of what actually is the heritage of all of humanity, the latter is crippled by a pathological inferiority complex. Both are unhealthy as their origins and sustenance are mired in falsity (former) and self-doubt (latter), and their end result is the fragmentation of their originator, and the severance of both is bound to bring harm to both the fragments as much as to the originator.

 

To dissociate from Hinduism (latter) or to usurp it (former) will leave everyone in the transaction only poorer. It is a bad deal. To dissociate from Hinduism or to compel others to dissociate from it is not an act in accordance with its underlying spirit, will do no good to anyone, and has tragedies of immense proportions as the means of the achievement of its objectives.

 

Differences in the cultural, philosophical and traditional practices and beliefs cited as reasons for calling oneself as some group distinct from the rest of the Hindus, as already explained, are only an alibi, rather, a subterfuge for the inferiority complex that has today come to be associated with the term ‘Hindu’.

 

Despite many stalwarts' attempts to instill pride in the Hindus, and even giving us a clarion call, "Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain", (Say with pride, "we are Hindu"), some of us still will not get over this adamantine hangover. For, having learnt from history, the fiction that India was never a nation until the British united it, a feeling that Hinduism is the mainstay of the aspiration of the entire nation is hard to expect from such people. There is no problem in people calling themselves whatever they wish to, but disconnecting themselves from the mainstream is not a good sign. It sends wrong signals to others as well as to the adherents of your own and those of other sects of your religion.

 

The one thing that man needs to realize his complete potential is - Freedom. Freedom from all attempts to choke his thinking in any way. And if there is a system that goes a step further than even this, in encouraging man to use this liberty… why not go for it?

 

So, the whole question of sectarianism or of being counted and called as part of Sanatana Dharma boils down to a matter of choice. Which choice, whether one wants to ape doomsday philosophies and end up squabbling with others over issues not worth a dime, or accept ones rightful position in the grandest philosophy of them all, while still retaining ones identity, individuality and uniqueness, and go on evolving and refining so as to be the fountainhead of enlightenment for all of Humanity.

 

 

Sumeet Saxena

Footnotes:

 

   In Jewish and Muslim Folklore the angel who, at death, parts the soul from the body, used here metaphorically to imply the potential threat of sectarianism, which has the lethal potential to render Sanatana Dharma a non-entity.

 

1.   An example of this quality of Sanatana Dharma is its interaction with the Greeks, that led to the blossoming forth of a new type of architecture, the Gandhara School.

 

2.   Such a tendency has been spotted by me, at least in the case of Buddhism, in the preface to James Legge's translation of a Korean recension of ‘A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms’. Being an Account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Hien of his travels in India and Ceylon (A.D. 399-414) in Search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline.

 

3.   In 1891, the Census of the British Empire in India created a new category, ‘Animists’, into which they included the tribals, who were earlier classified as Hindus.

 

Also, in relation to the Sikhs, "In the previous censuses these people (the Sikhs) were being classified as Hindus, which, in fact, they are; but now we have given strict instructions to the enumerators not to treat them as Hindus, to put them instead in the other column."

 

4.   In 1901, the enumerators complained, "The dividing line between Hinduism and Animism is uncertain. Like Christianity and Islam, Hinduism does not demand of its votaries the rejection of all other beliefs."

 

And in 1911, "Our enumerators are not able to distinguish tribals from the rest of the Hindus, that enumeration is coming to depend on the idiosyncrasies of individual enumerators."

 

And in 1921, "In the case of all other religions, there is one main underlying difficulty, namely, the difficulty of saying where Hinduism begins or ends, for all these religions represent either offshoots from Hinduism or the great outlying mass of tribal religions from which by insensible degrees converts to Hinduism are continually being recruited."

 

In the report of the Census of the same year, Colonel Luard wrote, "The classification, 'Animist' has never been satisfactory, and it would be much better if it were to disappear altogether."

 

5.   M. Macauliffe, in his "A Leacture on the Sikh Religion and its Advantages to the State" of 1903, Government Central Printing Office, Shimla, says, "At former (Census) enumerations village Sikhs in their ignorance generally recorded themselves as Hindus, as indeed they virtually were. With the experience gained by time, a sharp line of demarcation has now been drawn between Sikhs and Hindus..."

     

Distinctly separate ceremonies among the Sikh Army recruits was also an attempt to create and fortify a feeling of distinctness in them.

 

6.   Refer Adherents.com page on Sikhism.

 

7.   Reference here is to the Article 30 of The Constitution of India (‘Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions’) that states-.

 

(1)     All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

 

(1A)   In making any law providing for the compulsory acquisition of any property of an educational institution established and administered by a minority, referred to in clause (1), the State shall ensure that the amount fixed by or determined under such law for the acquisition of such property is such as would not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed under that clause.

 

(2)     The State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.

 

8.   The RamaKrishna Mission went to court (vide Constitutional Writ Jurisdiction C.O. No.12837 of 1980 in the Calcutta High Court). , demanding their recognition as a non-Hindu minority group, so that the laws applicable to the majority, that would have enabled the West Bengal government to take over their institutions' management, become inapplicable after their declaration as a minority.

 

9.   Prof. Romila Thapar rejects the classification of Indian History by James Mill into three periods, 'The Hindu Period’, ‘The Muslim Period’ and ‘The British Period’, saying that there was never any such thing as ‘The Hindu period’.

 

10. Refer Sri Ram Swarup's article, ‘Buddhism Vis-à-vis Hinduism’, where he quotes the Buddha as saying that he had “seen an ancient way”, and “followed an ancient road”.

 

11. The 'Saptahik Hindustan', May1, 1977 reports thus - When the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid went to Mecca on a pilgrimage, a local resident asked him, "Are you a Hindu?" The Imam was startled by this question and replied, "No, I am a Muslim." When Imam Saheb asked him the reason for calling him a Hindu, he replied that all 'Hindustanis' were called 'Hindu' there.

 

12. The Webster's New World Dictionary & Thesaurus, (Accent Software International, Macmillan Publishers, Version 1.0 1997, Build #21) defines Hinduism as ‘the religion and social system of the Hindus, developed from Brahmanism with elements from Buddhism, Jainism, etc. added’.

 

13. Adherents.com (http://www.adherents.com/) finds Hinduism as the religion with the largest number of sects.

 

14. The Koran-burning incidences in Punjab, as a backwash to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas was proven as a deed of a Hindu group.

 

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