Shape of religious trajectories to come
While Mr.B.S.Raghavan has canvassed a holistic approach to religion, he has missed a unique and very significant aspect of the Indian faith.
The truth is that India never had a religion in the past times. It did not need one. It was the other faiths that created an identity for old-world Indians as a religious majority. The British corporatized this and labelled it as Hindu.
The vedas, and more importantly, the Upanishads, do not talk of a ‘religion’ or ‘faith’. On the contrary, they canvass the many faiths stating ‘Ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti’ (Truth is one, the learned give it different names). To go further, the Vedas canvass for many Gods while in Vedanta, there is denial of the concept of ‘God’ itself, as we know it now.
They talk of two subjects, the means to reliasation of ‘truth’ and an indication of ‘truth’, as experienced by the rishis. They also talk of satiation of worldly comforts which have to be pursued but have to be given up as one grows spiritually and the mind and intellect get cleansed. It is like a boat or ladder helping one to cross or climb. Once the purpose is achieved, you can kick these. Like the pole-vaulter one has to vault himself spiritually to a height by self-less action, and having reached the height, jettison the pole on the vaulting side itself and cross over to the domain of ‘reality’ across the cross bar of ‘worldliness’ without unsettling it. The pole and the cross bar are adjuncts only to vault to a height, not anymore.
Similarly, every child starts with its nursery rhymes and learns such elementary lessons in other subjects but, stage by stage, one can see the various subjects of study getting dropped, and at the level of specialization, you only study the core subjects. Religion as we now know is much like a PhD reciting nursery rhymes or a specialist surgeon reading an elementary book on biology.
Indian faith is ‘Sanathanadharma’ (eternal values) applying to all mankind, everywhere and at all times. Anything else is relevant only to some people, here or there, now or in the past. They are like the pole, boat or, the ladder.
The greatest disservice the British did us was to call us ‘Hindu’ and most of our problems arose because of this.
Palghat, Kerala 678003
Letter published in Hindu Business Line