So often have I stumbled upon Facebook profiles or living creatures that proudly proclaim their being ‘secular’, in the ‘Religion’ section/in a context of that, and I have always wondered, “Isn’t ‘secularism’ an attribute that characterizes states in their approach of treating their citizens equally irrespective of their religion?” In the light of that, extrapolating it to individuals, a secular person would simply mean one who treats humans equally irrespective of their religious affiliations, or the lack of that.
Having earned some reasonable understanding of the Sanatan Dharma (commonly known as Hinduism), I can vouch for its motto, “सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिन: सर्वे सन्तु निरामया: सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद दुःख भाग्भवेत” that is, “May all be happy, may all be healthy, may everyone possess goodwill towards everyone else, may no one suffer”. Evidently, this verse testifies the inclusive nature of Sanatan Dharma where there is no discrimination on the basis of religion. It is the message of Universal Brotherhood, that this verse so strongly carries. “वसुधैव कुटुम्बकं” i.e. “The whole world is family” further corroborates this concept of Universal brotherhood. And, realizing that mind has this unique ability to conceive notions, and they will differ from one mind to another, Sanatan Dharma provides another masterly verse, “एकं सत्य विप्राः बहुधा वदन्ति” meaning “It is the One Truth that different learned people express differently”, one that elegantly removes any basis of conflicts, to provide a ground for the other two verses. With this in place, the debate of whether or not God should be worshipped in form or formless, is rendered meaningless. It’s one God, omniscient, omnichronous and omnipresent, and as Sanatan scriptures proclaim, whichever form you invoke God in, you reach Him in that form.
With the above insight, one can safely conclude that anyone who believes in these core nuances of Sanatan Dharma, inherently satisfies the pre-condition of being secular. So what’s innate, what’s inherently there, need not be injected, or artificially transplanted, as doing so would not only be unnecessary, it would be preposterous in the sense that it assumes a lack of the same in the subject. Clearly, before the advent of any ‘religion’, the concept of Secularism could not have existed. Modern terminology gives the word ‘pagans’ for the believers in Sanatan Dharma for those times, ‘Hindu’ being barely a millennium and a half-old word. The advent of Zoroastrianism, followed by Buddhism and Jainism also didn’t call for a need for ‘Secularism’. In fact, in this land which we now call India, under the emperors who traditionally believed in Sanatan Dharma, Buddhism, which was essentially an extension of Sanatan Dharma’s principles, spread and prospered. With localized and sporadic exceptions of usurping the religious freedom of Sanatan Dharma adherents for short spans of History by emperors who had rested their faith in Buddhism, there are no major long-standing conflicts recorded by historians. Same can be said about Jainism too, for Buddhism and Jainism, both were an elaboration of moral guidelines and a deep dive into philosophical aspects of life ranging from sufferings and its causes to Ahimsa. Buddhism embraced and elaborated on the Karma-principle of Sanatan Dharma. Neither of them was in real conflict with Sanatan principles.
2000 years ago, with the advent of Jesus Christ, a new faith took birth – Christianity. In the pre-renaissance era, Christianity spread in Europe. The most fundamental beliefs of Christianity included salvation by faith, not by actions, a point which is contrary to the Karma principle. Christianity rests on “Jesus Christ as the only path to God and eternal salvation”, again, contrary to “one Truth, many manifestations” theory of Sanatan Dharma. Bible, the holy book of Christianity, proclaimed the Universe having come into existence some 4000 years before Christ, and how “God created the world in 7 days”. This was again in contradiction to what Sanatan Dharma texts had proclaimed, that the Universe undergoes cyclic creation (expansion) and destruction (contraction) over timelines that range into Trillions of years – a parallel to the modern String Theory of Cosmic Evolution. While the advent of Christianity spread the message of Christ’s love and faith in the areas that were dark, it also became a cause of conflicts with those who didn’t believe in the “only” truth doctrine. It so happened because to spread the message of Christ was considered obligatory for Christians.
1400 years ago, the world saw the rise of another belief system – Islam. Based on “There is only one God, and his name is Allah, and Mohammad is his prophet (last or not, Islam is divided on this issue) and Quran is the verbatim word of Allah as revealed to Mohammad, which no one can ever alter.” Quran comes down heavily on idol-worshippers (the pagans/Sanatan Dharma adherents) and Jews and Christians, with the latter termed as people of the book, but whose book has been corrupted, and labelling all of them under the blanket keyword of ‘kafir’ or infidel/disbelievers. And, to establish the rule of ‘believers’ over the entire world remains the ultimate goal of Muslims, as per the guidelines provided in the Quran and supplementary texts, Hadiths.
While Jesus is traditionally believed to be celibate, Islam’s prophet Mohammad had at least 11 wives, the first of them Khadija, a rich business woman who was some 15 years older than Mohammad who became the owner of her business after marrying her, to Ayesha, the daughter of Abu Bakr, who Mohammad married at the age of 54, when she was 6.
While we know Jesus to have lived the life of a saint with miraculous powers, the life of Mohammad was of a warrior who, following the commandment of Allah in his dreams, initiated an armed movement to make people believe in what was revealed to him as the only true faith. The revelations to Mohammad as documented in the Quran are very detailed. For example, they include explicit permission from Allah to make the women who were wives of war prisoners as your own wives, not to take back the gifts given to a wife while abandoning her, not to marry those women whom your father has married (unless it’s already so happened), not to marry your own mother or the wives of your own son, eat any flesh except that of swine etc. Allah’s directives include never trusting any Jews or Christians and following only what’s revealed for that’s the only true wisdom. These commandments come with a promise that Allah will cast fear into the hearts of those who do not believe, and a scary hellfire is reserved for them, while for those males who believe, there is paradise with ‘incentives’.
With Quranic wisdom openly challenging pre-existing beliefs, ground was paved for religious conflicts. Consequently, following centuries witnessed Crusades to liberate the holy land and Jihad to make people believe in Allah. The homeland of Sanatan Dharma too got a taste of it and after centuries of holocaust and suppression of religious freedom under various Islamic rulers, followed by relatively liberal British rule, the land got independence. In the meantime, Europe and America had seen a new concept, “Conflict of Science and Religion” where the advent of Modern Science had challenged the dogmas of Church and had even resulted in many scientists facing persecution at the hands of Church. However, with the evolution of a ‘modern’ world, one tired of the bloodshed and conflicts that marred what we term as “medieval era”, the concepts of “religious tolerance” had made Christian dominated nations adopt ‘Secularism’ as an obvious solution, where state would not discriminate among citizens on the basis of religion. Though this was in contrast with Muslim majority nations, which were essentially Islamic in nature.
By the time of Indian independence, the region where Sanatan Dharma had always been followed until just few centuries ago, which ranged from Iran (Aryaan) in the west, through Kandhar (Afghanistan), Tibet (Trivishtap) in the north, to Malaysia and Indonesia in the South East, had shrunk to the modern day India. All this while, while Sanatan Dharma survived the onslaughts, its flavours like Buddhism got largely eroded from their cradle land, while they prospered elsewhere, in China, Thailand, Japan etc. But, the independent India, in the guise of democracy, was an oligocracy and an aristocracy where the strings of power were in the hands of those who were educated under an education system conceived by British ‘visionary’, Thomas Babington Macaulay. The education system was proposed by Macaulay with the sole intention of destroying the Sanatan roots of Indian culture and value system and a sense of identity that came with it. While the division of British India was agreed upon on a religious basis by educated Indian leaders (although reluctantly by many of them), the ‘need’ for making India ‘Secular’, which was an obvious inference of the Macaulayized system of Education, resulted in India being declared a Secular nation. This came with total ignorance of the very basics of Sanatan Dharma, whose being the driving force would have eliminated the very need for secularism, as we agreed upon in the beginning of the article.
Now, that opens a question – where is an explicit secularism needed? The answer should be obvious. It is needed where different religions and religious beliefs exist and some point of contention exist among them. For example, if one religion proclaims not only its supremacy over others, but also it’s being the only ‘true path’, and there exist more than one such religions, than to avoid conflicts, a framework needs to be set. However, if there is a set of belief that has existed since time immemorial and is flexible, liberal and inclusive enough, it needs to be protected from those ‘Supremacist religions’. So what India needed was not Secularism as enshrined in the constitution, but a framework instead, which would ensure that already shrunk Sanatan Dharma flourishes unscathed in the remaining territory of its homeland. On the contrary, the deliberate and unnecessary explicit provision of secularism was enshrined with unfair concessions to ‘Supremacist religions’ which had exhibited their hostility towards Sanatan Dharma for centuries. This manifested in separate Muslim personal law and Christian law, government control of Hindu temples while providing autonomy to mosques and churches, taxation of Hindu pilgrimage while subsidizing Haj pilgrimage, government collecting temple donations and spending them on renovating madarasas etc. This phenomenon promulgated with ‘minority appeasement’ and ‘pseudo-secularism’ becoming key tactics for consolidating minority votes and winning elections. The latest in the series has incarnated in the form of Muslim reservation in education and jobs and Communal Violence Prevention Bill which assumes majority Sanatan Dharma adherents as the oppressor of ‘Supremacist minorities’, contrary to the factual reality.
Having walked through all the above, a question naturally arises. Can’t this Sanatan Dharma adherent majority see all this that’s so very obvious, that it needs to be written in the form of an article? The answer, which is a disappointing ‘No’, betrays the very reasons behind it. First, there is a problem of Identity. Unfortunately, Sanatan Dharma adherents in the quest for defending their very existence during tough times of Islamic rule, developed unwanted practices, which are now being used against them. One example should explain the case. Islamic invaders considered it the victory of Islam if they abducted Hindu girls. This led Hindu parents to wed their girls in rather early age to transfer the responsibility of protecting them to the groom. A menace of Child marriage, thus, came into existence. The adherents of Sanatan Dharma, who considered women as an incarnation of ‘Shakti’, who conferred on women the right to choose their husbands (through Swayamvar), became infected with the disease that made women being looked upon as inferior. The tradition of forced dowry as the price to protect the daughters from abductors came into practice. Dowry, child marriage, female infanticide, thus, came into existence.
Another was the caste system – which was intentionally a power-sharing formula meant to ensure a homogenous and equanimous division of resources among different constituents of the society, and had traditionally been occupation based, but due to the entire Sanatan society crumbling under foreign/Islamic rule, became so rigid and associated with birth that it created factionalism in the society. Those with inferior occupation were typecast into the same for generations, and thus became oppressed sections of society. This situation of theirs was exploited by proselytizing missionaries in pre-Independence India, and has been exploited both, by these missionaries and casteist politicians in a post-Independence India. Caste-based reservation which was a short-sighted solution implemented for just 10 years initially to raise the social standing of the oppressed classes, became a tool in the hands of politicians which they can use to win elections. The classic ‘divide and rule’ formula which the British taught Indian politicians, has been duly exploited by them in dividing the Hindu society in the name of caste. The reservation later got extended into jobs and education for SC/STs and then for OBCs by V P Singh and Arjun Singh, hardly with any real improvement in the situation of those classes in sight. 2 generations of these classes have been fed with a dose of identity separatism by selfish political parties and missionaries which are sworn enemies of Sanatan Culture and take utmost pleasure in denigrating the same. Religious conversions have run unabated all these years and a big chunk of these oppressed classes have been converted into Christianity and antagonized from their Sanatan roots.
A solution to this problem does exist, and has been practiced and propagated by those who’re committed to the resurgence of Indian pride and Sanatan values. Unfortunately, hard-wired with the Macaulayized education system, which founds on denying the Sanatan value system and a common identity for Indians by promoting Aryan Invasion theory among other things, the educated elite often gets swayed into terming those very people who try to unify Sanatan Dharm adherents, as communal. Most of these educated elites do this naively and innocuously but it harms the efforts of Sanatani nationalists. In the guise of secularism, some not-so-naive educated elites implement their vicious plans of destroying the remains of Sanatan value system by nullifying the unifying attempts of these nationalists and label them as communal. For this, they resort to every trick in their bag, from distorting facts, running a smear campaign, expunging history, even writing fiction in the name of history and refusing to acknowledge parts of history, disputing well-known facts, insulting national icons like Shivaji and Sawarkar as communal, terming ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata’ as divisive and what not!
The naive educated considers these flagrant attempts as defence of liberalism, and unaware of both, the salient foundations of Sanatan Dharma, and what sets it apart from ‘Supremacist religions’, sings in chorus the accusations of Sanatan nationalists being ‘communal forces’ with their favourite punch line, “All religions are equal” and their programmed faith in an explicit ‘Secularism’. No wonder, Secularism’s demon engulfs the practices of singing Saraswati Vandana (which is so fundamental to Indian culture), as it engulfs the practice of lighting the ‘Deepak’ while opening a program. With ‘liberal educated Islamists’ like Zakir Naik openly preaching how ‘touching feet of your parents is an insult to God, not only as per Islam, but also as per Hinduism’, and opposing Zakir Naik being synonymous to being communal, it’s going to get from bad to worse.
Ironically, celebrating imported ‘festivals’ like Valentine’s day, Chocolate day, Fathers’ day, Mothers’ day etc. assumes the tokenism of being ‘modern’ and ‘forwards’ in this “Secular Macaulayized mindset” (SMM) , and being wished on Indian New Year or on Basant Panchami by any Sanatani Nationalist becomes a token of orthodoxy or even narrow minded stubbornness. Quashing religion and adopting spirituality could be another fanciful symptom of SMM, and so could be criticising any nationalist movement with Sanatani undertones as communal. So while SMM justifies religious conversions in the name of “improving the living standard of the underprivileged”, similar improvement drives run by saffron-clad Sadhvis and Sanyasis become symbols of Communalism, so much so that self-styled anti-corruption crusaders who run to an Imam who calls for not-saying-Vande-Mataram, refuse to share dais with one such saffron-clad social worker. The patients of SMM would be ‘liberal’ enough to consider Ramayan and Mahabharat as ‘beautiful epics’, albeit fictional, but would argue to the best of their intellectual abilities to defend any question posed at the Quran or the Bible, citing ‘religious sentiments’. Sadly, for such brothers and sisters, India is characterized only by a few decade old tri-colour, and the saffron flag that characterized this land for numerous millennia, is a mere symbol of Hindu communalism, no matter if Shivaji, under that Saffron flag, established a ‘Secular’ empire.
The above are just few of the many symptoms that characterize an educated Secular-Macaulayized-Mindset. The solution is essentially to return to our roots, to acknowledge the fact that India is not something that is defined by our constitution and characterized by our tri-colour. India is essentially Bhaarat, Aryavart, whose soul is Sanatan Dharma, and when I say that, by virtue of being an adherent of Sanatan Dharma and enriched with Sanatan Sanskaars, I encompass Muslims, Christians and non-Hindus in this blanket, with just one mission of letting them shed their misgivings towards Sanatan culture, a culture one that their ancestors, few generations ago, also enriched. It is the teachings of Bhagwad Geeta that reveal the secrets of a successful and stress-free life, the Ramayan always illuminates the path with exemplary human virtues. No artificial secularism is needed in an India that understands, absorbs and practices Sanatan values. Sanatan Dharma doesn’t stop at religious tolerance, it goes beyond, to teach acceptance, and even reverence of other faiths, but it also teaches to defend the truth, and its sanctity. Time for us all, to shed away the Macaulayized mindset, start afresh, look beyond the injected dogmas, and feel the Sanatan sanctity, for the onus is on us to defend this beautiful heritage, and resurge Bhaarat to the golden glory, where we will again be ‘Vishwaguru’
Author: Abhishek Tondon
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