Monthly Archives: June 2013

Syncretic or Heretic

During my talk with one Hindu ‘covert’ to Christianity, he lamented the lack of understanding in contextualization and to the need of ‘converts’ by the Christians.  He thought that I too will agree with him and say something in support of his view. But my support to the Christians came as surprise to him.  I said:

Why the church and Christians should adjust and accommodate to the need of the converts?  They have every right to have their tradition in which they feel comfort and have conviction in their church orthodoxy.  If a Hindu wants to become a ‘Christian’, then she should adopt and adapt to the church life and Christian community’s demands than expecting the church and Christians to show some concession to her out of sympathy.

For me Hinduism gives immense freedom to worship the Lord by remaining as a Hindu.  There is strong support for this in Muktiveda and Hindu tradition.  And if any Hindu wants to give up this freedom as a birth right and opted to sell it for whatever reasons to become a Christian, then she should not expect the church and Christians to change in order to accommodate her among them.  (Though I never told this illustration, it will help to emphasis my point.)  If any Indian wants to become the American citizen, (here I don’t talk about others who stay there temporarily) then she should accept the Law of that country.  She cannot expect the American govt., because of her Indian origin to give some concession in civil and criminal laws.  She has to officially give up her Indian citizenship and become an American.  Of course in India, she might have the status as an NRI, yet in America, at least legally she should become an American, however she might struggle to integrate with their life and values.  Likewise a Hindu can remain a Hindu and become a bhakta of the Lord or should become a ‘convert’ to Christianity.  Of course she will have this new tag as ‘Hindu convert’ (which they take as a credit) or First Generation Christian.  And imitating other caste group among Christians like ‘Nadar Christian’, ‘Dalit Christian’, these converts could have their own caste identity as ‘Brahmin Christian’, ‘Mudaliyar Christian’, ‘Reddy Christian’ etc.  But she cannot expect some kind of an NRI status back in her family and community.  Of course some ‘converts’ manage to handle both the group by remaining ‘Hindu back in their home’ and ‘Christian in their Church’ and there by enjoying the best of the both worlds but not identifying with the struggle of any one.  May be they are the one who strictly follow the Sevanand’s (Paul) principle of ‘becoming all things to all men’.

I also said that from the beginning I understood the gospel as a Hindu.  So there is no need for me to contextualize the gospel.  Once I allowed the gospel to incarnate within my Hindu worldview, then my understanding of bhakti in the Lord became natural and spontaneous one.  Of course I struggled a lot to articulate it openly though I had some understanding about it from the early time.  That is why even from 1982 I began to record my thoughts in my diary under the heading: Where we failed; why we failed and how we failed in communicating the gospel.  But I never shared with anyone because of the fear of being misunderstood.  Though I began to write Tamil Bhajans from 1980, I never used or shared even one of them with any Christians, except sharing my thoughts with few individuals (like Kannan, Sudharsan etc.)  Later it was Rajesh who encouraged me to share my writing with others (that too only after 1992), which resulted, with his help in publishing few articles and (two) books.

After he left, I further reflected on these points, which is the title of this article.  A Hindu has two choices before her: either to remain as a Hindu and worship/follow the Lord.  Or become a Christian.  And she cannot run away from all kinds of struggle in both these steps.  But a hostile home is better than a suspecting but friendly neighbor.  Church and Christian communities are that suspecting friendly neighbor.  Irrespective of all hostility and struggle in her home situation, keeping Hindu identity is her god given birth right.

But every Hindu bhakta of the Lord will be branded as a ‘syncretistic’ by the Church and Christians.  And any Hindu ‘converts’ who fight to contextualize her bhakti in the Lord within the church tradition and orthodoxy will be branded as a ‘heretic’.  Those who want to avoid these two labels should give up their birth right and settled as a ‘compromiser’ within the church.  Many converts do it for their own reasons.  Others—both the Hindu bhaktas of the Lord and ‘contextualizing’ converts, will be branded by these names.

About the danger of ‘contextualization’ within the frame of a church (by any Hindu convert) I would like to give one illustration—but not with any intension to hurt anyone, particularly Seventh Day Adventists.

How the name Seventh Day Adventist (SA) can be contextualized in Tamil?  As they ‘WORSHIP’ the Saturday more than ‘worshiping’ the Lord in Saturday, if a new convert to SA, wants to give a Tamil name to her denomination what she could do.  ‘Yezhaam naal varuhai kararhal’ (saatvaan din aanewala in Hindi) in Tamil won’t communicate anything to anyone outside Christianity.  As Hindus too have this concept of giving importance to ‘days’, like Friday and Tuesday to go to temple, and doing puja to certain deities on certain days etc., then can a SA convert call her denomination as ‘Sani Sabai(mandali)’ (Saturn Church)?  But this will look worst in the eyes of the Hindus (and also to the Christians in general and SA in particular) as the word ‘Sani (Saturn)’ is connected with the planet Saturn, which is considered as inauspicious one.  So the SA convert has to settle with the title of her denomination as ‘Yezhaam naal varuhai kararhal’ or ‘Yezhaam naal sabai’ than dare to contextualize the name of her denomination.

Whereas I as a Hindu bhakta I don’t feel any compulsion to contextualize the gospel or my bhakti.  As I understood the gospel as a Hindu, I can freely use the words and symbols of my own Hindu tradition, which are not distorting my understanding of the gospel.  Of course this is not acceptable to other Hindu converts to Christianity or to the Christians.  But it is not my problem.  Even as I am branded as a syncretistic, ignoring them I continue my pilgrimage in the Lord as a Hindu.  So I would better remain a ‘SYNCRETISTIC’1 (according to the Christians only) than selling my birth right to become a ‘heretic’ within a church try to contextualize the gospel and by bhakti within the frame of Church tradition.

Db.

Gurukulam.

November 5, 2012
The following two points will help us to understand the word Syncretism.  First from Nicholson:

1.. …Although “syncretism” in modern English usage refers to the merging of religions or philosophies that are properly separate, the original Greek term synkretismos used by Plutarch meant something different. It referred to a custom of people on the isle of Crete to overcome local feuds and to form a sacred alliance in order to withstand foreign aggression {Jan Assmann, “Translating Gods.”  In The Translatability of Cultures, edited by Sanford Budick and Wolfgang Iser, 25-36. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. 1996. 34}….— Andrew J. Nicholson. Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History, Ranikhet, Permanent Black, (2010), 2011. p. 190

The next one by N. T. Wright will help us to understand from the seva of Sevanand:

…in 2 Corinthians 10:5, that of ‘taking every thought captive to obey Christ’.  This line of thought has been explored often enough in terms of Paul picking up his opponents’ slogans in order to do something new with them.  What is not so often noted is precisely what it is that he does with them.  He seems to have believed what he (or someone else) wrote in Colossians 1:17—all things were created through Christ and for Christ.  He need not be afraid, then, in taking over, and using, key concepts from opposing systems of thought.

This does not lessen his opposition to the system in question.  It does not mean that he has compromised, that he has taken a step down the slippery slope towards syncretism…. whatever faults Paul may have had, syncretism was not one of them.  But Paul’s theology of creation was sufficiently robust for this not to be a problem.  He took the high ground: all truth was, for him, God’s truth, and when he took on an idea from pagan culture he made sure it was well and truly baptized before it could join the family.  He claimed the high ground of the creational monotheist, not the split-level world of the worried dualist.  Confrontation does not simply mean head-to-head total disagreement.— N.T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said,: Was Paul of Tarsus the real founder of Christianity, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997, p.81

Media Hegemony

Next to reading, I like to watch TV debates on important issues.  In fact some of my short articles (rather brainstorms) are based on such debates.  But since last few months, I almost lost interest to watch such debates, particularly In CNN-IBN and NDTV on several issues related to our National interest like security, terrorism, Naxalite issue, Leadership crisis, Disaster management etc.

Some time it is better to just watch the news and do some other meaningful work than spending time by watching and listening such debates.  Because the same kinds of questions are asked by the anchors and the same kind of answers are given by the panellists.  Of course as the problem/challenge and the solution remain the same, the question and answers too remain the same.  But some time if the panellists come from outside political affiliation, then we can hear some alternative and new approach to the unchanging problems/challenges.  But when the Politicians are there in the panel, they are going to give the same kind of rhetoric answer to the same kind of rhetoric questions by the anchors.  So I become tired of such media rhetoric and use my time more usefully.  Of course this is not going to bring any change in media, but I thank God not for the person who invented TV but remote control where I can change the channels.

Media rhetoric is the statement ‘we are the first to give this report’.  For example, after the recent flood fury hit Uttaranchal, the CNN-IBN reporter giving report from Kedarnath said that ‘we are the first one to give this report directly from Kedarnath’.  But interestingly NDTV reporter also said the same.  But they think that we don’t know that reporters from these two and few more (hegemonic) channels, using their influence among the political parties (because of their media hegemony) could easy access to reach such remote place by the army helicopters to give the report.  So where is the place for such question ‘we are the first one to send this report’?  If they are honest they should say ‘we are the first one to twist the hands of the government by using our influence among the politicians to reach first Kedarnath.’

This is not a media bashing—another media rhetoric when we question their integrity.  For example, immediate after the disaster within two days, both CNN-IBN and NDTV managed to get the precious time of the Uttaranchal Chief Minister Sri Bahuguna to give interview to Karan Thapar (Devil’s advocate) and also Barka Datt.  If the media were so serious about their responsibility—particularly in such time of emergency, should have left the CM to pay more attention to the rescue operation than wasting his time with such hegemonic Medias.  For me, even if he took one hour rest than wasting his time with such media, he could have better equip himself to meet the challenges.  I didn’t watch both the programs as they more irritated me by making the governments to bend before their media hegemony.  The politicians too have some fear about the media influence.  To how many more channels Bahuguna would give such interview?  And how many more reporters from other non-popular channels could have reached Kedarnath through the army helicopter?  Only CNN-IBN and NDTV (and few such powerful media) alone managed even to interview top army personals who are stationed at Joshimutt to monitor the operations.  Other small Medias cannot have such power to talk to them.  Such media hegemony by such powerful channels is nothing but another kind of political blackmail—in the name of giving information to the public.

Now National TV—also joined in such rhetoric.  When DD National News reporter reached Gangotri, he also repeated the same rhetoric ‘we are the first one to give live report from Gangotri’.  Though they too succumb to the pressure by other medias, yet it is the only reliable channels for impartial news—except giving too much time to the Congress spokesperson often in their news (and thanks to the remote I will switch the TV to some other channel and will come back after few minutes to watch other news in DD News).

The media often claim that they are the fifth pillar of the democracy.  But the way they conduct themselves—particularly the private channels like CNN-IBN and NDTV, often become a wall between the government/politicians and public to decide what kind of news we ought to get than what we need to get?  But they should realize that unlike in the past where there was not much alternative available to the public (like newspaper and few TV channels and Radio stations), now the social media finally become the deciding factor by giving space for every individual than to depend on the printed or visual media.

So the media rhetoric now becomes a media menace.

Dayanand Bharati. June 26, 2013

CWG Vol. 10

In this Volume we continue to read Gandhi’s visit to London for Deputation and the way he could influence few White people to support his cause and also his influence on them (220,389,432) .  Once the deputation failed to achieve its purpose,  Gandiji returns back to South Africa and continues his struggle.  And in this whole volume again we read Gandhiji’s  ideals and views on various issues like Hinduism (190-91, 398-401), Satyagraha (134-35, 160, 173-76, 180-83, 203), education (‘study for earning your livelihood, it is not proper’ 187)Liberty (380-81) Swadeshi, Hindu-Muslim unity (p. 55, 69 139-40, 187, 337, 383-84, ‘And even when a name is given, we shall have to find a common word over which the question of Hindu or Mussalman will not arise. The word math or ashram has a particularly Hindu connotation and therefore may not be used. “Phoenix” is a very good word…’317), Language: “we must cultivate pride in our language’ (145, 145-48, 172, 183),  racialism (373-74, 390-91),  His views about India and  Indians are idealistic though he poured down his life for them. (171, 403-04, 456) Knowing this he writes:

My present state of mind is such that even if the whole world were against what I have written, I would not be depressed. This I say not out of pride; it is the statement of a fact.’ (400).

Gandhiji’s view on media (journal in his time) remain true even today: ‘Newspaper editors as editors are hardly interested in anything that is not sent to them for publication (p.28) and ‘…We do not want to make a fetish of the journal and worship it….’(p.333, 339,368).  The same is the case with govt. which ‘in order to catch votes, publicly paraded the news’. (431)

Gandhiji was not only an ardent reader, but often quotes the important points from others: ‘Rev. Meyer had observed : “…If a man made no mistakes, he made nothing. No man had not had to regret some word or act which might have been said or performed better,…”(p.236)

Though we read Gandhiji’s rhetorical views on sex (391-93, 399), yet the way he could even discuss this with his son (Manilal) back in those days shows the need to talk about it with one’s own children openly at present:

A person who marries in order to satisfy his carnal desire is lower than even the beast. For the married, it is considered proper to have sexual intercourse only for having progeny. The scriptures also say so. Thus considered, all the progeny that is born now is the issue of passion. (p.26) … I am putting this serious subject before you, though you are but a child, simply because I have a high opinion of your character. I would not place these thoughts before any other child of your age, for he would not understand them….(27)

On his way back to South Africa Gandhi wrote the book Swaraji in Gujarati which was later translated in English to publish in India.  Gandiji’s view on Western Civilization (29, 68, 165-67, 169-71, 394-95)  and all kinds of modern facilities like Railway, Medicine and Courts are too idealistic for the present generation to read and accept.  For example his opposition against processed food which is produced keeping only profit is even true to day (107) But he continue live and practice with a personal conviction against them, though he too cannot escape from the reality of their presence and utility in his life too  ‘Every time I get into a railway car, use a motor-bus, I know that I am doing violence to my sense of what is right.’ (p.171).  In his letter to his friend  A. H. West Gandhi says,:

The more I observe, the greater is the dissatisfaction with the modern life. I see nothing good in it. Men are good. But they are poor victims making themselves miserable under the false belief that they are doing good. I am aware that there is a fallacy underneath this. I who claim to examine what is around me may be a deluded fool. This risk all of us have to take. The fact is that we are all bound to do what we feel is right. And with me I feel that the modern life is not right. The greater the conviction, the bolder my experiments.—387)

And  writing to his third son Ramdas he says, ‘…Do not be angry with me if I have not brought anything for you. What could I do if nothing European appealed to me? I like everything Indian.’ (p.334)

We also read his correspondence with Tolstoy whom he accepted as one of his guru, though he does not agree with him on all points, ‘No one should assume that I accept all the ideas of Tolstoy. I look upon him as one of my teachers. But I certainly do not agree with all his ideas.’ (243) He always maintained a reverential attitude towards Indian leaders (227-28)  His friendship with Hendry Polak (who ‘has given very little of his time to his wife who, in order the better to enable her husband to perform his self-imposed duty, has reconciled herself to a life of almost indefinitely prolonged separation.’—122)and the way he could be part of their life (pp. 229-30 & 366-67 ‘I have entered so much into your and Henry’s lives – I hope for our common good and the good of humanity. Your brief letter haunts me’) again proves his warm relationship with people.  In his letter to A. H. West he shares his struggles openly (pp. 386-88). This we also read in his relationship  with his children (165, 186-87, 338-39).  In his letter to Manilal Gandhi he after encourage him to continue to do his duty at Phoenix (by not sending him to London to study Law but prefers to sent Chhaganlal) ‘As a father, I have felt [it] to be in his interest that he should not yet go to England.’) concludes, ‘While writing this I feel like meeting and embracing you; and tears come to my eyes as I am unable to do that. Be sure that Bapu will not be cruel to you. Whatever I do, I do it because I think it to be in your interest. You will never come to grief, for you are doing service to others. ‘(120-21, 318-19).  He was happy to send Manilal to goal as  he believed that ‘to go to gaol or suffer similar hardships with a pure motive for the sake of the motherland is the truest kind of education. ‘(356-57) Keeping good relationship with his extended family he encourages his brother KHUSHALCHAND GANDHI to spare Narandas Gandhi also for the service at Phoenix.(142) as he alone, ‘among all the brothers … the one who understands me to some extent.’(142)

Gandhiji’s personal integrity and transparency in his life is again clearly demonstrated in his correspondence and public statements.  He request Polak to cancel his Insurance which “has been long preying upon my mind. I have no longer, I conceive, any use for it’ (39) and request him to ‘dismiss me from your conversations…for the sake of the cause’ as he requested Mr. Gokhale also, when he was with him in Calcutta and when he heaped upon him praise that he thought was excessive (150-51). He was happy to hear when his son Harilal was rearrested like others (p.228)  His  open statement when his integrity was questioned about the money spent for the Satyagra struggle: ‘The community knows me; and if it does not yet do so, it is not possible for me to introduce myself to it now.’ (451) Lord Amarpalli’s  comments on Gandhiji’s struggle shows his clear conviction which he never compromised for anything in life, ‘It is impossible not to admire the man, for it is evident that he recognises no court of appeal except that of his own conscience.’(491)

We read a lot about his continuous struggle(216-17, 319-27, 336-37, 339, 342-48, 350-54, 367-68, 381, 436-37, 439-40, 442-44, 453, 455, 472, 486)  and the suffering and sacrifice of everyone involved in it (32, 200, 467-68).

The entire book Swaraj which Gandhiji wrote is found in this book which is reproduced in Indian Opinion (pp. 246-316).  As usual we read all the idealistic view of Gandhiji on various issues like Civilization, Swaraj, British role and place in Independent India, his (negative) views about Railway, Lawyers, doctors,  machinery, education etc.  But this book was banded at India by the British govt. there.

As usual we read Gandhiji’s appreciation of the role of Tamilians’ involvement in his struggle at South Africa and their support back at India. (196, 413-15, 463, 480)

And we also read about Gandhiji’s favorite theme of ‘holding truth’ at any cost and lack of it among Indians. (409-11), vegetarianism ( ‘You know my ideas in the matter. I would have preferred Ba’s passing away without the soup’p.100.) and against violence (137-38, 369)

Personality cult versus principle

In Hindi a proverb says, ‘there is nothing great by making iron into gold by using paras, but it is difficult to make paras out of paras.’  The same is true when it comes to Leadership. Any leadership which is centered on the ‘personality’ of that individual will never produce successful leaders to carry out the vision or principle for which that leader stood (or she created). Congress men venerate and many went to the extent of worshipping Sonia and her son Rahul as if they are deities.  By saying this I am not against them and not a support of their opponents.  But as a well-wisher of democracy, accepting all its limitations and failures, my concern is what will happen some ‘ifs’ were suddenly began to challenge us.

In my opinion Sonia (including Indira Gandhi family legacy) symbolizes the ‘disunity’ among the Congress men.  ‘IF’ by any reason they are removed from the scene (God forbid it), then what will happen to the Congress’ future is the question that needs to be addressed seriously.  In the past such question came—particularly after Nehru.  But thank God that that time, because of the maturity of leaders and most of the followers of the first generation Congress men, Sri Lal Bahadur Sastri carried the legacy.  But once Indra Gandhi encroached (or invited) as the (rightful) successor to Nehru legacy, dynasty-veneration began to degenerate—not only Congress Party, but overall Indian politics.

If Gandhi family is removed then alone the true nature of the Congress men will prove what kind of legacy Gandhi family will leave for the destiny of Indian democracy.  As Indian Congress men do not accept another Indian as their leader, they tolerate Sonia and Rahul for the time being.  May God give long life to the members of Gandhi family, at least to save the Congress party to break away into several groups?  But if something happen to them, then what Congress will do is the real test to the leadership of Sonia or Rahul.  When in Tamilnadu, even under the leadership of ‘Annai’ (mother) Sonia, Congress has various factions (minimum five to six groups), then what can we say about the all India scene.

So, the true test and mark of any political leader is how successfully s/he is going to implement the principle of democracy within the party first.  Otherwise all kinds of temporary veneration and worship of every personality leave more problem than clear principle for the followers to carry out.  Of course (Indian) democracy will survive, but any legacy which will leave a disintegrated party will become a serious threat to the unity and integrity of our nation.  The success of any democracy depends upon the long term vision of the (political) party developed and strengthened by democratic principle than short term worship of some of its leaders.  We don’t need to wait another 50 or 100 years to see the destiny of Congress, but within a decade or two, unless its democratic principle is restored, the legacy of Sonia and Rahul will become a ‘proverb’ for many, as Indira Gandhi remains after her emergency legacy.

My fear is that BJP, which always claims a ‘party with a difference’ follow the same route by projecting Modi as the only alternative challenge to Gandhi family.  Thanks God that at least some leaders like Advani is there to raise the alarm, but when it comes to Congress party worshipers of dynasty politics are there than any one dare to raise her/is voice against One woman operated corporation called Indra Congress.

Gurukulam, June 26, 2013.

 

Diaspora Dharma

As a student of learning many aspects of Hinduism, I have read about ‘popular Hinduism’, ‘Rural Hinduism’, ‘philosophical Hinduism’, ‘elitist Hinduism’, ‘Neo-Hinduism,’ etc.  But now there came into existent another kind of Hinduism because of the diaspora Hindus.  I am so happy to read, hear and learn from them about the way they keep their head above in their alien environment to have some meaning and purpose in their life as a ‘Hindu’.  In this process, they have more challenges to face as the reality of the (everyday) life often clash with their (Hindu) values and views within their (western or any other) diasporic society.  However they have to pay some (or heavy) price for it, yet many came out successfully and established a strong ‘Hindu’ identity in their diasporic atmosphere.

Living away from their home situation, which is more shaped by a particular family and community tradition, these diaspora Hindus have to sought and depend upon the scriptural source for their entire claim to have their Hindu values and views.  In their home situation back in India, the scriptural authority and sanction only remain as a normative point of reference in their ‘elitist’ discourse (or dialogues).  In most cases here in our home situation our (here I mean Hindu) except the so called popular scriptures (mostly related to devotional aspect and need like ‘Hanuman Chalisa’, ‘Dhurga Sostram’; ‘Kanda Shashti Kavasam [in Tamil], rest of the main line scriptures (both sruti and smrti) only receive a lip service when it comes to their authority and sanction.  But in their diasporic situation, though only these popular devotional scriptures play a crucial role when it comes to their bhakti to their various deities, yet in their ‘identity’ they have to claim only to the main line Hindu scriptures—however poor their knowledge and understanding about them.

Nothing wrong in such (selective) approach to the scripture—which always served the need of every kind of people (both the so called ‘popular’ and ‘philosophical’) when we sought their authority and sanction that will serve our purpose.  This one can trace from the long history of ‘mimamsic’ (exegetical) tradition among the philosophical Hindus and the origin and growth of various kinds of ‘popular devotional scriptures’ (beginning from Alvars, Nayanmars and Siddhas in Tamil and Kabir, Sur, Meera, Nanak, etc. in North).  But when some diasporic Hindus suddenly try to create some kind of a  ‘Normative Hinduism’ with  ‘Universal scope’ that too based on their selective interpretation of the Scriptures and try to measure the bhakti/faith of Hindus everywhere—particularly back in home needs to be questioned.

And in the recent past ‘Veda’ in its totality served that purpose to create a ‘Normative-universal’ Hinduism.  But as it was challenged by other Hindu communities who don’t need the authority or sanction of Vedas for their Hindu identity, now another Indian concept (note not exclusively Hindu concept) ‘dharma’s’ help is sought to create this ‘Normative-Universal’ Hinduism.  And the interesting fact in it is that giving their own interpretation to ‘dharma’ that too tracing its origin and sanction only in Veda they try to ‘UNIVERSALIZE’ ‘dharma’ among all kinds of Hindus (living anywhere in the world) but also make it an ‘EXCLUSIVE’ product of Hinduism that too based only on Veda.

No doubt in it that traditionally ‘dharma’ is claimed (or assumed) to have its origin and claim only in Veda. But this too is based on the ‘mimamsa’ tradition of Hinduism which heavily depends upon the commentaries (bashyas) and digests (nibandas) by various acharyas in their attempt to establish their own philosophical tradition.  This we can trace even back from Purvamimamsa tradition which later was carried by Uttaramimamsa tradition.  But according to my limited understanding of Hinduism (still as a student learning) the concept of dharma in its various forms (law, order, custom, tradition etc.) never originated only from the Veda.  It existed independently in more a localized form among various communities—not only among Indians but everywhere among the people in the entire world using different terms.  I would rather say that instead of ‘dharma’ having its origin in Veda, the Veda (or the authors of the Veda) used that concept by coining the terms ‘dharma’ which will serve anybody’s purpose.1 And suddenly some diasporic Hindus try to hijack this ‘dharmic concept’ because of the word ‘dharma’ is superimposed on it as if exclusively a property of Hinduism—that too based on Veda and try to challenge and deny others contribution to this ‘universal’ concept from their particular worldviews like cultural, social and religious.

Though bit log, yet the scholarly presentation of Olivelle will help me to communicate my views:

The tradition of Vedic exegesis and hermeneutics known as Mimamsa exerted a strong influence on the Dharmasastric tradition, and gradually that influence led to the dominance of the Veda as the principal if not the single source of dharma within the theological understanding of the term….if we place the origin of Dharmasastra within the context of a Brahmanical response to the “democratic” ethics and religion preached by Buddhism and the new ascetic religions, we can better appreciate both the sociological context of the rise of this genre of literature and the significant role it played in the new Brahmanical religiosity and soteriology. (p.32)

…The Mimamsa tradition of Vedic exegesis, which exerted a strong influence on the Dharmasastric tradition from its very inception, began to interpret the multiple source of dharma as having their origin in a single source, the Veda.  This is stated explicitly by Manu (MDh2.7): “Whatever dharma Manu has proclaimed with respect to anyone, all that has been taught in the Veda, for it contains all knowledge.”  Veda contains all knowledge and thus, a priori, should contain all dharma.  This position is already hinted at in the above statement of Gautama {GDhS 1.1-2 : “The source [or root] of dharma is the Veda, as well as the tradition and practice of those who know it [the Veda],” } when he specifies that only the tradition and practice “of those who know the Veda” are authoritative.  The authority of tradition and practice are here implicitly connected with the Veda.  Apastamba (ApDhS 1.12.10-12) provides the earliest evidence of the hermeneutical argument for the position when he claims that all rules were originally found in the brahmanas; but some sections of these were lost over time, and they can be recovered by observing actual   practice: “All rules are described in the brahmanas.  The lost brahmana passages relating to some of them are inferred from usage.”  Here we have the Mimamsa concept of anumitasruti, that is, Vedic passages that are inferred to have existed on the basis of either smrti or practice.  The “lost Veda” argument will be used by the later authors to underpin the authority of other sources of dharma within the theological fiction that the Veda is the sole source of dharma.  The Mimamsa view of dharma, then, is that the Veda is the sole means of knowing it; when a specific Vedic text is wanting with regard to a particular aspect of ritual or behaviour, one can then use supplementary sources, such as smrti and normative conduct, on the basis of which one can infer the existence of a Vedic text.—Patric Olivelle, ‘Dharmasastra: a textual history’, in Timothy Lubin, Donald R. Davis, Jr;, and Jayanth K. Krishnan,(eds.),  Hinduism and Law: An Introduction,  New Delhi, Cambridge University Press, 1010, pp.32-33

And let me give only local example from Tamilnadu.  There is a nomadic (now partly settled) community in Tamilnadu known as ‘vedar’ (hunters).  The same community is called by other names in other parts of Tamilnadu and in other neighbouring states in South India (having their own localized ‘dharma’ in their life).  In their community the concept of ‘widowhood’ is absent.  When the life partner dies or separated, immediately they will have another one.  To say in other words in their community they don’t have the ‘dharma’ of ‘single’ or ‘widow’.  Even when a woman is pregnant and if her husband dies or separated she will have (in most cases immediately) another person as her husband and the new husband, though is not the biological father to the child (in the womb) is ‘morally’ the father of that child—though the modern concept of ‘legal’ has not much useful in their community.  For me this is the ‘dharma’ of their social order, though they never heard or use this term for it. In fact they never even try to ‘conceptualize’ that ‘dharma’ either to articulate or to communicate it to others. This is their social order from time in memorial and they continue to live accordingly.  According to the larger Hindu community and also as per the constitution they too are Hindus in every respect.

But what kind of Vedic origin—sanction-authority they need to carry or trace this ‘dharma’ among them?  And based on the argument the ‘absence’ of their dharma in main line Hindu communities points out its origin and sanction in that part of Veda which now we have lost?

Some may reject this by saying that they are outside ‘varna’ system and so not to be used to decide about the dharmic origin in Veda within Varna system.  This further proves the fact that the dharma is not an exclusive property of Vedic Hinduism but universal one.

What is true to these ‘vedas’ (or irular, kallar) is true to every community in the entire world.  The Jeravas and Sentinalis—the primitive societies living in Andaman-Nicobar Islands, still living nakedly, have their own ‘dharma’ to live their life.  They may not know and need not know and use this term.  This is true with others communities living everywhere in the world having different faiths.  But just coining one word ‘dharma’ and tracing its origin and sanction only in our Vedas2 nobody has right to deny its universal scope by making it as an exclusive property of an ‘elitist diasporic Hinduism’.

Db. Gurukulam.

May 13,2013

  1. …To claim that during the Vedic period “dharma was par excellence the sacrificial act which maintains and even conditions the cosmic order (Lingat, Robert. The Classical Law of India, trans. J. Duncan M. Derrett.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press,  1973:3) simply ignores the facts and projects later Mimamsa views onto the Vedic discourse….

The hypothesis I want to propose is that once dharma had become a central concept in the religious discourse of Buddhism and once it had penetrated the general vocabulary of ethics especially through its adoption by the Maurya emperors, certainly by Asoka and possibly also by his predecessors, in developing an imperial theology, Brahmanical theologians had little choice but to define their own religion, ethics, and way of life in terms of dharma….— Dharmasastra: a textual history.  Patrick Olivelle  in Hinduism and Law: An Introduction, Timothy Lubin, Donald R. Davis, Jr;, and Jayanth K. Krishnan,(eds.),  Hinduism and Law: An Introduction,  New Delhi, Cambridge University Press, 1010, p.31

2.. …the scrutiny of the early meaning of dharma within its Dharmasastric use suggests that it was not the Veda but the “community standards” prevalent in different regions and communities that were taken to constitute dharma. The early texts on dharma speak of desadharma, jatidharma, kuladharma—the dharma of regions, castes, and families/lineages.  Clearly, these texts regard dharma as multiple and varied; each of these kinds of dharma can hardly be expected to be based on the Veda. (p. 32)

This theological claim camouflages the historical sources of dharma … the theological imperative that to be based on the Veda means to transcend time and historical context and change.

The historical reality is very different from this theological position.  The dharma taught in the dharmasastras has little to do with the Veda but reflects the actual practices of local groups; the dharmasastras themselves are nothing but the textualization of such practice, along with a theoretical reflection on it that can be called jurisprudence.  Evidence from texts belonging roughly to the last three centuries before the common era indicates that this is not merely a historical conclusion of modern scholarship; it appears to have been the view of at least three major authors belonging to the early period of Dharmasastric textual production: the grammarians Katyayana and Patanjali, and Apastamba, the author of both a grhyasutra and a dharmasutra.—ibid. p. 34

Pride with a Remorse

 

As an Indian I am very proud of our civilization.  We often say that while other great civilizations of the world disappeared, only our civilization is still thriving.  But when I was meditation on this subject this morning I realized that this pride too comes only in comparing with others.  No one can deny the fact that our Hindu identity is possible only by creating ‘the Other’, as we never had this identity as Hindu as our own.  But this pride about our civilization also highlights the unrecognized sad fact that so many other people group of our land had to pay a very high cost for it.  But there is hardly any recognition of it in our tall claim about all the glory of our civilization.  Gandhiji, though a humble man, too glorified the greatness of our civilization only by comparing it with Western Civilization (see Hindu Swaraj in Collected Works of Gandhiji, Vol. 10, pp. 246-315).  But hardly had he recognized the way millions of people who were pushed behind the scene to glorify our civilization.  In fact, sometime when I think of all the atrocities done in the name of caste and untouchability in Indian should make us feel ashamed than glorifying our civilization based on other merits.

But in this process of glorifying our Hindu/Indian civilization what the Right Wing Fundamentalism (call it cultural nationalism, or religious nationalism or political nationalism) try to create is a hatred not only among (religious) minorities but also a vast section of non-upper caste people.  This pride in our civilization instead of making us more humble creates a sense of humiliation and shame for a right thinking Indian.  I don’t think that in the past the greatness of our civilization never created any kind of hate among various people group—though ‘exclusion’ of others for religious purity existed and still exists.  Whereas the current Right Wing Fundamentalism not only creates some kind of hate among ‘the Other’—which it has created for its purpose, but also some kind of aversion among the vast majority of Indians belong to main stream society about such Fundamentalism.

DB. April 6, 2013.  Gurukulam.

 

Need to change

‘After marriage he completely changed’ is the regular complaints that one can hear from an Indian mother.  But I cannot understand the logic in such complaints.  Because, in most cases the marriage is arranged by the family and the parents alone brought the daughter-in-law to their home and not merely a wife to their son.  This means that the mother does not want to see her son to remain always only as a son to her but also a husband to another woman.  Then naturally, he has to change from a son to a husband.  And from a husband he has to become a father.  Of course if his wife claims her husband totally at the cost of his relationship as a son, then she needs to be corrected. But if the mother, though not deny her son’s role as a husband to her daughter-in-law expect him not to change looks ‘ill-logical’ to me.

Today when one of my shishyas came to see and shared his regular family problem of strife between his wife and rest of his family members, he said, ‘my mother, sister, brother and others in my family insist that my wife needs to adjust a bit.  And she tries her best.  But when she cannot cope with too much pressure, then she reacts.  I don’t know how to handle it’.

As a single man, though I don’t have the ready made solution to this universal (Indian) problem, yet I pointed out by saying this: Your mother and other members of the family are right to demand that your wife needs to adjust a bit.  But you have to point out to them that when your mother needs to adjust to accommodate to the aspiration of your wife a bit. But when your wife has to adjust with your mother, then she needs to adjust simultaneously (directly or indirectly; demanded or not) with rest of the family member too.  To say in other words, when your mother has to adjust a ‘bit’ she has to do it only as a ‘mother-in-law’ but your wife has to adjust with your mother not only as a ‘daughter-in-law’ but simultaneously as a ‘sister-in-law’ to your sister and brother and in various role with other members of your family.  And for a smooth relationship and function of a family, the elders need to realize and recognize this extra mile a daughter-in-law has to go in a family.  And as a husband you have to help your family members to understand this.  How you will do it is a different issue.  But if you fail in this and continue to demand only your wife to adjust a ‘bit’ then you will only add her burden and problem more by including you in her a ‘bit’ adjustment group.  By saying this I am not taking side of your wife or deny the right of your mother and other members of your family on you and your wife.  But elders have more responsibility in understanding the multi-faced role of a young wife has to play in a family.  If they fail in this, then all their experience in life and the grey hair on their head has no meaning.  The simple logic that you need to keep in your married life is this:

(At least in India) a son can be replaced by another person to a mother but not a husband to a wife.  Wife can become a mother but mother can never become a wife.

As your mother alone brought a daughter-in-law to her to change her son as a husband, never shun away from the responsibilities in this is new role.  And by doing this you are only obeying your mother, as she alone expected you to change from a son to a husband.

May 30. 2013

Dayanand Bharati

Looks illogical

Once I read a Chinese proverb that ‘men talk about events and fools talk about men’.  I liked it very much and often quoted in my talk with several people.  But now I began to think about the ‘ill-logic’ in this proverb.  Because, no incident could happen without any involvement of men—both directly and indirectly.  For example, when some natural disaster strikes in one area, then it will become a talk or news when human beings are affected by it.  Otherwise it will remain another incident in nature.  Even those incidents that happen in nature also will become a talk, news or concern only when it will affect humanity in one way or the other—like global warming etc.  So for me any talk on ‘incident’ is nothing but about human.  What is an event, where human beings are not involved?  So many things or events are happening which is not noticed by us.  But only it becomes a point of talk if it is linked to the interest, safety, need etc. of human beings.  And I find some kind of illogic in such proverbs.

 

Db

May 23, 2013