Like moral policing, a defender of faith is not a new thing in religious world. We read about the zealots among the Jews and similar orthodox groups existed in every religious tradition in a different name and form. In their zeal to protect their own orthodoxy, their first enemies are not the opponents in other faiths but those in their own religion, whom, according to them are liberals and dilute their orthodoxy by various compromises. So naturally they will use all kinds of violence to silence them.
I find such kind of Hindu fundamentalists among the diaspora Hindus. In their struggle to keep their Hindu identity by creating ‘Universal Normative’ Hinduism, they invented their ideology that too based on Hindu scriptures (which mostly receive lip service back in their home situation in India). Once they failed to implement that ideology among their own family and community in diaspora, as they are more influenced by the culture of their new found home, then these diaspora Hindu fundamentalists try to ‘export’ their Universal Normative Hindu ideology back to their home. And here too their main opponents are not the people of other faiths but again those Hindus who do not agree or accept their kind of (fundamentalist) Hinduism. This reminds me a story which I read long before in Tamil. I think it was by Rajam and the title is ‘Amma Vandal’. But I am not sure both about the title and the author, but I still remember the story.
One orthodox Brahmin woman fall back in her chastity because of lust. And she got a son. But regretting very much for the sin that she has committed she tries to bring up her son in a strict orthodox manner of her own ideology. Similarly, as these fundamentalists Hindus in West (or any other part outside India) has to compromise various ways with their faith and orthodoxy because of their lust for money, comforts etc. they try to mentally bring up their own idealistic orthodox Hinduism back in home, as they know very well that their ideology won’t be successful in their diasporic situation. And they find a threat to their ideology back in home too—as the present day India with young generation exposed a lot to various values, cultures and views of the entire world, thanks to the social media. But as they cannot influence these modern generation of young Hindus from falling into various lusts they turned their attention to oppose their (imagined) enemies within Hinduism who are not ready to buy their kind of (fundamentalist) Hinduism. For this they have to build up several idealistic (worldviews) based on their own interpretation of Hindu scriptures and tradition. As most of the Hindus in India simply ignore them, they get more irritated. But no fundamentalist movement can survive without having an enemy to target by creating ‘the Other’. So now the Hindu fundamentalists began to attack the people of other faiths. Here too most of the people in other faiths too ignore them, as they don’t have time for them. So they now try to target those groups and people in other faiths—particularly among Christians who try to trace their root back in their Indian civilization views and values in their own way.
And now the Diasporic Hindu invaders got a new enemy to target. Of course such attack is on some Christians who try to contextualize their faith/bhakti through a process of inculturation. But such attack by Hindu fundamentalism is not new as it already began few decades before. For example, Sri Sitaram Goel in his book: Catholic Ashrams Adopting and Adapting Hindu Dharma. With a preface by Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1988, says
“The Indianisation of Christianity is a serious matter” [p.4] as the mission is “casting covetous glance before mounting a marauding expedition. What causes concern is the future of the Hindu culture once it falls into the hands of the church. The fate of Greek culture after it was taken over by the church is a grim reminder”[p. xv].
Though such attack never could influence the Christians of any group (orthodox and liberals), the rhetoric still continues by the followers of such fundamentalist. These self-appointed guardians of Hindu (or Indian) culture and tradition resemble those people in Tamilnadu (particularly among the politicians) who launched campaigns from early 1920 to protect and save Tamil as if Tamil language (or Tamil Thai [mother]) and culture faced serious threat to its identity and tradition from Hindi and English hegemony. The fact is that Tamil has its own inherent strength and long tradition to face all kinds of onslaughts and manage to survive as a living language till today. Similarly Indian culture and tradition, unlike its counter parts like Greek and Roman managed to survive because of its inherent strength and pluralistic tradition. (See more on this in my next article (Assimilation, Conversion, Incarnation, Rejection) What all these self-appointed guardians/saviours attempt is to protect and promote their own self-interest by creating an imagined enemy to attack. If the Indian civilization managed to survive from various kinds of attack in the past it can continue to survive in future too without the need of any saviour to redeem it. Any civilization which does not have inner strength to withstand any kind of attack or influence on its own cannot survive for a long time by receiving any kind of protection to it—that too from outside.
As I often say, our Indian Civilization has its own capacity to survive by keeping its own uniqueness of ‘live and let live’. Of course sometime it succumbed to some outside pressure for some time. But after paying initial cost, it resurrected back to its glory with added new strength by assimilating or absorbing outside influence or attack in its own way. Even in this process of assimilation, instead of ‘converting’ the new views and values to its form, it allowed every view to co-exist without compromising with their core value at the same time allowing every view to influence each other. The best example is the Sufi tradition and Hindustani music. Our civilization learnt this art of assimilation by allowing various kinds of diffusion from outside its civilization like Egypt, Assyria, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman etc. Thomas McEvilley’s book: Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, (2002), First Indian Edition, 2008.The Shape of Ancient thought, high lights this very clearly.1
So the self-appointed guardian of Hinduism or Indian civilization cannot protect our Indian Civilization by creating an enemy to attack to promote their fundamental idealism. The fact is that the Christian Fundamentalists on the other hand too, oppose any kind of attempt by few Christians to indigenize and contextualize their faith and bhakti based on Indian civilizational values. For them such attempt by few Christians is either liberals or compromise the uniqueness of Christianity. In fact what these Christian fundamentalist try to protect is not Christianity as a religion or Muktivedic (biblical) views/values but Christendom.
The reason for the Christian fundamentalist to oppose every attempt to contextualize is because of the fear of the Indian civilization’s capacity to absorb every alien civilization values and views a part of it. As their aim is to ‘convert’ Indian civilization in the image of their Christendom, in which they miserably failed so far, they could not see that our Indian civilization by giving space for these alien values and views to have their own legitimate space without losing their uniqueness and also not allowing destroying other faiths and traditions.
Meanwhile people like us who have every right to be a Hindu and follow the Vedic dictum: ‘let powers auspicious [or noble thoughts] come to us from every side…’, (Rg. 1. 89.1) try to assimilate the value from Muktiveda are caught between rock and hard place of both these Hindu and Christian fundamentalists. Of course we need no recognition, approval, acceptance from both the fundamental group within Hinduism and Christianity to have our identity as Hindu bhaktas of Muktinath. And this fact irritates them more and now we become the target of both these groups. Though these days I, like most of the Hindus, ignore them, yet I have to express my view sometimes like this article to remind them about their lakshman reka.
My present policy which I try to observe and also my request to those Christians who try to indigenize their faith/bhakti and the Hindu bhaktas of Muktinath is: IGNORE THE FUNDAMENTALISTS. As we often say, we can wake up those who sleep and not those who pretend to sleep. No fundamentalist ever listen their opponents view and there is no point in engaging with them in any manner. ‘My way is the only high way’ is their religious creed. Particularly Hindu Fundamentalists never notice or agree that genuine disagreement could exist and existed throughout Indian (scriptural, philosophical, etc.) tradition. This inherent immunity in our Indian Civilization is enough to have self-preservation and these Hindu Fundamentalists in the name of protecting our Civilization only bring new (outside, diaspora) virus (like bird flu and swine fever) to weaken this immunity. Denying the pluralism and relativism of our Civilization, they try to impose their hegemony on others who do not agree with them.
This is another kind of ‘native invasion’ on our Civilization. When there was invasion by outsiders, we know who our enemies are and prepared by various means to tackle them to check the damage. But this kind of new ‘native invasion’ by the NRI Hindu Fundamentalists is posing a serious danger to the pluralistic tradition of India, as they come as inside enemies taking advantage of being Hindus. Sitting in their own comfort zone, they provoke naïve Hindus here in India to fight among Indians of various faiths.2 They are like the Sri Lankan NRI Tamilians, who try to keep the Tamil (LTT) terrorism alive by collecting and sending money. Whereas the local Tamilians in Sri Lanka, who faced all the burnt in the recent war against terrorism want to return back to a normal life to gain their rights through peaceful political negotiation. But this kind of ‘native invasion’ by the NRIs now becomes a serious threat to the people back at home as they alone have to struggle all the fronts. I am not under estimating their own struggle in their ‘PROMISED LANDA’. They have to find out their own means and methods to face their own challenges (or funeral). But sitting in their own comfort zones, enjoying the best of both the worlds (as migrants in the west and NRIs back in India) and not identifying the real struggle back in home, they have no right to launch a new ‘native invasion’ of their fundamentalist ideology here to increase our burden more. Yes they too part of us. But they alone opted to ‘desert’ us for their own reasons. Still we do not deny our relationship with them and ready to help to resolve their identity crisis as much as we are allowed to do so. But we do not want to impose our solution on them as we cannot understand their context and struggle in its totality. In the same way, once left us, they too cannot impose their crises and ideology as they cannot understand the changing scenario back at home. They may be Hindus but their perception about life and faith is now influenced more by their new situation than what they learnt back at home before their migration. Their Hinduism is more an ecumenical than the original one back at home. Now for me, they too are like academic (non-Hindu) scholars who writes objectively based on their textual knowledge. But to legitimize their solution that is relevant to their situation, we cannot accept their ideology of a ‘Normative Universal Hinduism’ for us.
Whatever may be the historical facts or historicising efforts, our Hindu identity is based on two facts: Constitution and Varnashramadharma. In spite of all the academic attempts, for a professing Hindu in India her identity is decided by our birth in a caste and by our Constitution. But both these criterion is irrelevant for a diaspora Hindu. Even if they cling to their birth identity based on caste, it is not going to decide their future like that of an Indian here. That is why according to my understanding, ‘A Hindu is a member of a particular community irrespective of her faith and the rights/demands of the Constitution because of Hindu Personal law.’ If the NRIs understand this, then they will stop their ideological invasion to add new complication to this complex post-Independence identity issue here in India.
I too write this not to teach or preach such fundamentalists but not get distracted by them in our persuasion to follow our conviction. By writing this the Hindu fundamentalists will blame me that I am a secret Christian convert to destroy the Indian culture by have a secret understanding with Christian church and Mission. On the other hand, the Christian Fundamentalist already told me on my face that I am a secret RSS man, entered Church and Mission to destroy it like a secret agent of Hindu Fundamentalists. Well, I least bother about such false allegation as I know my personal faith and conviction as a Hindu bhakta of Muktinath, as my Indian Civilization helps me to celebrate my bhakti in the Lord without need of others approval. As Muktiveda also endorses my conviction I continue my pilgrimage with a free conscience.
Someone well said that ‘great people cherish conviction and small people entertain opinion.’ And let us continue to live with our conviction than carried away by any kind of fundamentalists’ opinions or invasion on our views in life.
Db. May 15, 2013
1.. …I will make a measured attempt to establish significant intrusions first from India to Greece in the pre-Socratic period, then from Greece back to India in the Hellenistic period….— Thomas McEvilley, Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, (2002), First Indian Edition, 2008. p. xxxi
It seems, finally, that significant elements of Near Eastern thought and imagery—primarily from Mesopotamia but also from Egypt—are embedded throughout the record of Indian culture, from the Indus Valley on. These include elements in the myth of cycling time (especially Manu’s version), in the doctrine of reincarnation as purveyed by Jain texts and Upanisads, and in the occult physiology of enlightenment in kundalini yoga…. So massive and crucial is the totality of this input that it would seem ill-advised in the extreme to attempt to account for the formation of Indian civilization without it. Still, it would be an equally egregious mistake to conclude that India lacks a distinctive and world-important character of its own. Nothing, it seems, comes out of nothing, and no culture is born by parthenogenesis. Ancient Greek culture has had at least as much input from the same sources without being denied its own “miraculous” selfhood.—ibid. p. 261
It appears, finally, that there was a vast network of Indian-Greek contacts by way of both land and sea routes; details are especially well known from the Roman period, but apparently this network existed in various forms back at least to Alexander. Much important cultural diffusion took place through these contacts, and four topics should be considered, which, though three of them are not directly part of the history of philosophy, will establish the diffusion context of that history: (1) astronomy, (2) literature and drama, (3) Gandharan art, (4) knowledge of Indian philosophy in the West.—ibid. p. 384
It has long been accepted by both Indian and western scholars that Indian astronomy derived from Greek sources….—p.384
2.. I wrote this article on May 15th. But I got the book: Public Hinduisms, ed. By John Zavos, Pralay Kanungo, Deepa S. Reddy, Maya Warrier, Raymond Brady Williams, New Delhi, Sage Publications, 2012 I was surprised to know that what I have written is very little and what the NRI Hindus Fundamentalists do is more. As I generally ignore such group, I never paid any attention to read more materials about them. So the following point by Shana Sippy will endorse my view:
…Hindu groups, in places like North America, the UK and Australia, have sought a more prominent voice in civic, political, academic and cultural life, wishing to shape the perceptions of Hindus and Indians by both those within and outside of the community.—‘ Will the Real Mango Please Stand Up? Reflections on Defending Dharma and Historicising Hinduism. P. 26