No human can remain alone without being influenced by others. Though there are some original thoughts, most of them, in the course of their development, influence and are influenced by other thoughts paving for the emergence of new kinds of thoughts.
For example, some of our critics see that what we do as Hindu bhaktas of the Lord and say it is simply a parallel of what they are doing in the church. In my response to such criticism, first, I say that we cannot remain in isolation in life. So naturally we are influenced by others.
But I try to do everything to experience and express my bhakti in Muktinath as my birthright. Of course, even what I inherited as my birthright wasn’t completely original as I’ve been influenced by so many other cultures and traditions. But, I can also point out that as a Hindu bhakta of the Lord, my life has so many parallels from my own Indian tradition rather than only aping the Church.
In fact the nine forms of bhakti (Navadana bhakti1) already cover almost all that we do as Hindu bhaktas, which one can also see in the Indian church tradition also. Both individual personal sadhana and corporate worship are part of our Indian (Hindu) tradition, as is well-documented from various references from Vedic times to the present day.
Although Indian Christianity inherited so many of its religious expressions from the West, still it is part of our Indian dharmic tradition and cannot escape from Hindu influences. I must acknowledge that the intercessory prayer that we do is the same as what Christians do, though such prayer is not completely absent in the Hindu tradition (kuttup prarthanai is a form of corporate prayer).
Often the criticism is levelled from the Hindutva group, assuming we are just Christianity disguised in Hindu form. Though we can counter their arguments by proving that it is our birthright to follow this path and we have no need to defend it, there is no point of explaining to them about our conviction, because once they have made up their mind about our approach to it is mere waste of time and words.
However as a counter argument, I would like to point out that what they promote as ‘Hindutva’ is nothing but a ‘hybrid variety’ which cannot naturally multiply itself like the original or desi (local) variety. Here I don’t need to take time to point out that this ‘Hindutva’ Nationalism is imported from Europe, particularly from Nazi German which is purely racial and divisive in nature. That is why no matter how they try to promote this kind of ‘hybrid nationalism’ artificially among Indians, it never induces a strong sense of true nationalism among the common masses as Mahatma Gandhiji managed to invoke by giving a call to fight against the British.
Gandhiji’s nationalism was inclusive and it never divided people based on any criteria. It didn’t create ‘the Other’ among Indians by creating any sense of hatred about the British. However, this ‘hybrid nationalism’ can survive only by creating ‘the Other’ just for the sake of survival.
I am a strong Nationalist, even to some extent an ultra-nationalist. But while I agree with some of their cultural nationalism, I am dead against the way it is promoted and sustained by creating ‘the Other’ so that it can be sustained.
If we study our own Indian tradition of both the ancient and recent past — this so-called ‘NATIONALISM’ is not the original part of our Indian or Hindu worldview. It is artificially induced in our society, and it still struggles to take root among the common mass.
As I pointed out in Understanding Hinduism, though the Right wing groups try to promote it by encouraging people to celebrate and participate in certain events which they think will sustain such Nationalism, considering the size of our population not even a fragment of our people have followed this hybrid nationalism. I have previously mentioned Kargil day, which most of us have now forgotten.2
In the more recent past, our P.M. Modi sent an invitation for people to send Diwali greetings to our soldiers, which is good and we all should do (I have done it). But again considering the size of our population, I think only a tiny fraction would have sent such greetings.
It is sad that in this way, we Indians have not had the spirit of Nationalism and don’t honour our soldiers in proper way which they deserve. Personally, I have great respect and I serve them when I get the opportunity. In 2014, one soldier travelling with me was coming to finish some work in Chennai from Delhi. I helped him carry some of his heavy luggage and also arranged to keep it at Raman’s house until he was to continue his trip to his native place in Karaikkal. I even dedicated the book Understanding Hinduism to the soldiers of India who are guarding our civilization.
But before we seriously take up any issue or principle, we should stop and think, read, understand, and reflect rather than suddenly changing our position based on emotion.
Here I need not give any reference about the way Nationalism came from outside India and wasn’t a part of our civilization’s worldview. Liah Greenfeld’s ‘Nationalism & Modernity’, (Critical Quest, New Delhi, (1995, 2012) will give short but precise details about the concept of Nationalism and its origin and development in the West. Of course the Indian Hybrid Nationalists (Hindutva) will reject any kind of scholarship from the west in a sweeping generalization as they cannot stand to face the sincere and scholarly critical views about them (except those who have converted to their ideology). But simply closing their eyes and rejecting others view won’t hide the truth forever.
So the parallel is inevitable in life. However, there are certain parallels which may look parallel but might be a product of something indigenous, not unlike this kind of hybrid nationalism which cannot be reproduced, like any other hybrid items that we have at present—in vegetable, fruits and in animals (birds, chicken and egg).
1. “[In the] Bhagavata Purana…we come across as many as nineteen different classifications of bhakti, ranging from a threefold devotion to a thirty-six fold devotion, although a ninefold devotion (7.5.23; 11.6.9) comprising sravanam (hearing, 11.6.9), kiertanam (chanting, 12.3.52), smarnam (remembering, 12.12.54), padasevanam (service at Bhagavan’s feet), archanam (offering worship), vandanam (praising, 11.27.9), dasyam (servitude and humility), sakhyam (friendship), atmanivedam (self-surrender, 11.29.34) is more frequently recognised and recommended.” (Nath, Vijay (2001). Puranas and Acculturation: A Historico-Anthropological Perspective, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal. 2001, 173-174)
2. In my travels I have often noticed a lack of nationalism among Indians. As I wrote in Understanding Hinduism:
“On July 26, 2001, while I was at Ranikhet (in Uttarkhand) some of my shishyas (on my instruction) and I lit a candle to celebrate Vijay Divas (victory day for the Kargil war with Pakistan in 1999). But none of our neighbours lit any candle, though it was announced both in TV and radio calling people to celebrate the day nationwide. This suggests that a spirit of nationalism is not part of our tradition. Politicians and other patriots can at times host successful events, but a spontaneous spirit is lacking.
“This is not limited to Ranikhet as I have seen in various parts of India that people themselves do not voluntarily participate in patriotic acts. Badrinath shows that our feelings go towards dharma rather than towards nation:
“Nationalism arises in India not in response to any inner impulse of Indian society but as a Western graft. An outcome of a variety of very complex political and economic and emotional factors to which German romanticism had contributed greatly, nationalism had become by the nineteenth century a dominant passion of Europe. That passion was introduced into India artificially. Much of the Western history of nationalism came to be grafted upon Indian society whose traditions and values were rooted not in the concept of nationality, or rashtra, but in the idea of dharma, and the understanding of social relationships that followed from it.” (Badrinath, Chaturvedi (1993). Dharma, India and the World Order. Bonn: Pahl-Rugenstein. 1993, 103)”
Understanding Hinduism, New Delhi: Mushiram Manoharlal, 2005, pp. 295-296.