Reality versus Idealism

Every system has its own idealism. But generally idealism is created by later followers of a system who, in order to make sense of their views, create an idealism by systematically arranging some of its precepts. For example, here inIndiawe talk about Vedic, Upanishidic, Vedantic, bhakti, etc., idealism, as if there exists any one single idealistic trend in them.

In general, most systems start by addressing the needs and reality of life. If one reads the Vedas, the Vedic people are down-to-earth realists in their outlook and approach to life. In several of the Vedic hymns one reads their poetic excitement (produced by Soma juice) about real issues which they were facing in real life. Contemporary modern poems are the best equivalent. They are appreciated not for their forms, but for the content as they address real issues of life. The same is true of the Upanishads. In their contemplative meditation, the sages thought through the real issues of their life. It could be atman or brahman, but for them it is not some intellectual talk or thought but rather the core of their struggle in their spiritual life. However, later commentators and teachers created idealistic philosophy out of it-like advaita by Sankara.

The same can be applied to non-religious systems-whether political, social, or economic. Over the course of time, what the originators of system created for their own understanding became, through the process of systematization, an idealistic view of that system which the originators neither intended nor were aware of. But now we who live in the modern era take that idealism as the reality of those systems, and try to promote and apply that to our life, which is completely different from the reality of those times from which that system and idealism evolved.

Caste is one such Indian reality. Though traditionally brahmins were blamed for  ‘producing, propagating, promoting and preserving’ that ideal for their selfish end, yet a sincere student of history will realize that in such analysis ‘reality bites’. My intention is neither to defend the brahmin not to blame others. However, some people, who want to promote some kind of ‘casteless’ Hinduism, suddenly want to create another kind of idealism, even confessing the sin of ‘promoting and preserving’ casteism all these
centuries in India, and now they want to repent and produce another idealistic Hinduism of brotherhood and sisterhood (see the note below). But reality inIndia bites again. This morning in CNN-IBN morning news (Feb. 16th, 2007) they showed several Dalit families in Haryana living in an open field for the last few months, even braving the cold, in order to protest the atrocity of high caste people in the Gandhian way of ahimsa.

To such people, the type of confession in the note below, particularly with an international audience in mind, has no relevance. Even the high caste people against whom these Dalit families were protesting will have their own genuine issues related to some conflict or land dispute, etc. The reality here undoubtedly is again an economic problem. All these centuries what the so-called suppressed people faced was not some idealistic humiliation from the upper castes, but they struggled first on an economic level and then on the social level. Or, the economic reality of those times created that social discrimination. Then for all these centuries they remained ‘faceless, voiceless, powerless, moneyless,’ and continue to remain so even now. Mere ideological slogans calling for a casteless utopian Hinduism by confessing some past sins without addressing the reality of life may perhaps satisfy some elitist Hindus, especially those sitting somewhere in their promised land. But we Indians are going to have to struggle with our reality in life-in which caste is a permanent issue.

Having said this, I am not against such confessions and calls for ‘reform’ in Hinduism. Something is better than nothing. Whether ‘idealistic’ or ‘reality’, we have to begin from somewhere and I see this apology by Navya Shastra as a good beginning with all sincerity and seriousness. But the reality in life here is that even the so-called suppressed people want to keep their caste identity, as it is now beneficial both for economic advantage through reservation and political advantage through voting power.  Thus the call to give up that identity will be ignored by the people for whom reality is more important than idealistic slogans or confessions.


Mathigiri,February 16, 2007.

7.00 p.m.

Note: “Hindu Organization Apologizes for Untouchability.” [From Hindu Press International,, Dec. 21, 2006] TROY, MICHIGAN, December 20, 2006: (HPI note: The following appeared as a press release written by Navya Shastra and sent out through Religion News Service.) Navya Shastra, the international Hindu reform organization, has issued an apology to the Dalit communities of India (see The organization issued the apology after consulting with Hindu activists and its own Dalit members. It reads: We, at Navya Shastra, deeply regret and apologize for the atrocities committed on the sons and daughters of the depressed communities of India, including the tribals, the “untouchables” and all of the castes deemed as low.