Hindus Still Don’t Own the Narrative about themselves

This essay is more in the nature of an attempt. To examine the socio-political and cultural narrative about India that was set in motion roughly around the colonial period.

This narrative continues to remain profoundly Adharmic. More dangerously, the Hindus don’t own this narrative about themselves. Even worse, influential sections have swallowed this toxic and self-destructive narrative wholesale. And so, for example, if we have virulently, openly anti-Hindu judges in the SC no less–not to mention most areas of public discourse and the bureaucracy–it is because this poisonous narrative has endured for over two centuries. And it is this narrative that informs them.

In turn, the roots of this narrative are to be found by asking just one question: how was it that a race of people who came to India as supplicants, who sought permission to trade with us ended up as our imperial overlords? This question is definitely not new but it needs to be asked again owing to two major factors, nay, consequences staring at our face:

  1. The near-total absence of this question in our history textbooks used in schools and colleges.
  2. The comprehensive Christianisation of our educational system which consequently became the dominant strain in India’s “mainstream” public discourse.

The Narrative and its Consequence

One major and illustrative consequence of this narrative is what befalls Hindus who resist Christian conversions. Sample just two data points.

  • The Congress-led UPA Government awarded the Padmashri to Graham Staines’ widow, Gladys Staines in 2005. Thanks to Graham Staines, large parts of the tribal belt of Odisha have now become hotbeds of intra and inter-tribal hostilities culminating in violence. Former neighbours after conversion become sworn enemies.
  • The Indian Express headline on 25 August 2008, just two days after Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati’s barbaric murder, reads thus: “Slain vhp man was conversion king.” And it goes on to downplay the brutality of his murder by drawing spurious equivalences between fundamentalist Christian conversion sprees and the attempts of the Swami to preserve and safeguard the millennia-old continuum of Sanatana ethos in the state.

For the longest time, Hindu Swamis were considered out of reach of targeted, violent attacks much less daylight assassinations in this fashion. In this backdrop, here is yet another incident apart from Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati’s barbaric gunning down.

In July 2008, Swami Punyalokananda of the Ramakrishna Order was tied to a tree by a gang of Muslim and Communist goons and beaten to pulp in West Bengal’s South 24 Paraganas District.

The media back then didn’t emit as much as a whimper — let alone reporting it, it lapsed into a deafening radio silence.

Image Source: Hindu Jagruti
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The fact that both incidents related to Hindu Swamis occurred during the rule of the Congress-led UPA Government is perhaps coincidental. Perhaps not. What is not coincidental is the truth of the frightening levels of power that the Jihadi-Communist-Missionary network so assiduously cultivated and acquired mostly since the 1960s that gave it the confidence to mount such daring assaults.

I leave the reader with this question: what is the assurance that some time in the future, a similar attack will not be launched against say, the Sringeri Swami?

A Sense of History

Which is why it is important to trace and understand these continuing and alarming consequences of the aforementioned narrative from a sense of history. While there is more than an ample supply of past and present literature dealing with this issue, some pointers are in order. Because, as we note, this detrimental narrative about India continues to strengthen its grip not just within India but globally.

This essay will focus on several key strands of this narrative including but not limited to Christianity, Colonialism, Marxism, Eurocentrism, and their offshoots in the form of secularism, caste-cow-curry bias, the Dalit discourse, feminism, and how these play out in the academia, media, intelligentsia, and shape public opinion.

The chief feature that becomes immediately evident in any study about India is the fact that it is the only surviving non-Abrahamic ancient culture and civilisation. Almost all non-Abrahamic cultures and civilisations were wiped out at their initial encounters with Christianity or Islam.

Only Sanatana Dharma has lived to tell the tale.

And the day India loses the memory of this tale — with all its horrific and monumental tragedies —is the day it will meet the fate of say Egypt or Persia.

Bharata’s cultural continuity has been more or less maintained intact in almost all realms: in dress, family life, social interactions, basic ethical conceptions like dharma, rituals, institutions, places of worship, traditions, art, music and so on. The reason why this continuity has been preserved owes to India’s fundamental philosophical conceptions rooted in the Vedas and the Dharmashastras. And these realms are the practical or outward manifestations of our Dharmashastras.

Here is P V Kane writing in his matchless volumes of the History of the Dharmashastra:

Our ancient sages laid the foundation [for philosophical and social harmony] by insisting that there is and must be harmony between man’s spirit and the spirit of the world…social reforms and politics have to be preached through our age old…philosophy. If our leaders and people throw away or neglect the Hindu religion and spirituality altogether, the probability is that we shall lose both spiritual life and social betterment. [Volume 5: Part 2. Emphasis added]

P V Kane wrote these prophetic lines in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Compare what “betterment” Bharata has achieved by a single-minded demonisation of Sanatana Dharma ever since.

At any rate, to realise this harmony of spirit and the world, ancient India beautifully conceptualised a fundamental attitude. This attitude is how one regards life itself. Our ancients regarded life as a grand celebration in all its aspects; life was worth living to the fullest with all enjoyments — for example, as the celebrated Chamaka Prashna shows us — as long as our enjoyment didn’t violate Dharma.

What this also shows is that one of the central features of India’s philosophical underpinnings is the total absence of pessimism. This is equally the central message of all the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. This is also Bharatavarsha’s greatest and timeless gift to mankind. This is why concepts like absolute evil and nihilism never took root in this sacred Bhoomi.

However, both the Abrahamic cults stand out in sharp contrast in this fundamental conception of life. While Christianity conceives birth itself as sinful, the core doctrines of Islam take this to violent and extreme ends. Indeed, murderous and religion-sanctioned notions of Jihad, Crusades, White Man’s Burden etc arise precisely due to this attitude towards birth and life itself. And from this conception arises the need to convert — violently if necessary — the entire world to their respective religions.

Which then brings us to an even more fundamental point: the definition of the term “religion” itself. To be clear, there can be no fundamental equivalence between our Dharmic system and the Abrahamic religions. And yet, in almost all of contemporary discourse on comparative religions etc, Sanatana Dharma is given the label of “religion” in the same sense of Abrahamic religions. And this incongruent discourse has become mainstream, like some received truth.

Needless, this state of affairs has a long history and in the specific case of India, it is history that continues to repeat itself in the facets of colonialism, conversion and the ensuing societal fissures, all driven by alien ideologies.

To repeat a well-known quote from the towering historian Dr R.C. Majumdar,Real history…teaches us that the major part of India lost independence about five centuries before, and merely changed masters in the eighteenth century,” [Italicised] referring to the first external Muslim invasions and subsequent imperialism over large parts of India.

Guru and “Father”

Yet, a key difference between the protracted Muslim rule in India and the British rule is the fact that while Muslim Sultans settled in India, the British never made India their home. Their sole purpose was to relentlessly exploit India using every foul method in the book.

Along with this, the British also spearheaded a fundamental change that almost overnight, profoundly altered the national and social character of India. This was the well-known introduction of English education which was simultaneously accompanied by the comprehensive destruction of our traditional modes of learning.

Think about it from a routine, real-life standpoint. Under this new educational system, who actually “taught” our children? It was the Christian missionaries with the full backing of the colonial British crown and its deeply-entrenched bureaucracy. It is thus not a mere coincidence that even today, it is the Church that monopolises the educational sphere.

Spot the difference between the cultural and mental change Indians underwent when the innate reverence towards a Guru was replaced by something called a “Father.” It’s the same difference that operated — and continues to operate — when Rta, Satya, Dharma, Shraddha, etc were replaced by “moral science,” a cloak for spreading the Christian cult.

Indeed, one recalls Ananda Coomaraswamy’s early warning[i] that an English-educated Indian would be cut off from his roots and become

an intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or the West, the past or the future. The greatest danger for India is the loss of her spiritual integrity. Of all Indian problems the educational is the most difficult and most tragic.

And when we observe the ideological and political battles being fought in the education establishment today, we notice how this tragedy has escalated almost irreversibly. The truth is brutal: civilisational axes like the RTE were made possible by modern-day Hindus.

Yet another fundamental notion lies in the distorted conception of Hindus about their own history, culture, society, etc. However, when we look at this from a civilisational perspective, a different reality emerges. Both the dominant, proselytising cults do not make a distinction between the varna (incorrectly referred to as “caste”) of Hindus because the core doctrines of their cults enjoin treating both a Brahmin and a Dalit as a heathen or kaffir. What explains the fact that various Christian denominations continue to invest massive resources in converting say, Dalits en masse, or use subtle intellectual tactics to convert the urban “upper castes?”

Why did this happen?

India as an Outpost of the West

For over 300 years, the Christian West never gave up studying India and Hinduism in all its aspects. Even today, scholars like Sheldon Pollock continue to undertake this study for achieving purely religio-political ends. And guess who helps them in their studies? Our own Pandits who feel flattered that a white-skinned man displays — or feigns — deep interest in our Shastras without critically analysing their true intent. There is of course valuable literature exploring this phenomenon so I’ll stop at this.

How does one even reverse this mindset? And where does this lead to?

Observe the fairly recent history of say South Korea, Philippines and East Timor, and it becomes clear that India is the last non-Abrahamic bastion to be subverted and bloodlessly conquered by the Christian West or bloodily taken over by the forces of Jihad. These countries have now become mere Christian outposts of powerful nations of the West. From another perspective, India has about 1000 years of experience dealing with Islam and containing it fairly successfully. It is the Christian missionary machinery that Hindus have been unable to successfully combat although the Sangh Parivar and various Hindu groups have attained some impressive successes but that’s too little too late.

More fundamentally, this is also a failure of our education, which looks down upon Sanskrit or classical studies, and has all but banished these disciplines from mainstream learning.

Here is an extreme example of where such spiritually-devoid intellectual perversities have led. The following is a poem by the Feminist-Christian-Communist activist, Meena Kandaswamy:

This poem denigrates Hindus.

This poem shows them in poor light.

This poem celebrates Krishna’s freedom to perch on a naked woman.

This poem flames with the fires of a woman hungry for sex.

This poem makes the Shiva lingam the male sexual organ.

This poem prides itself in its perverse mindset.

This poem gossips about the sex between Sita and Laxman.

This situation has occurred in an India because its post-Independence elite was largely informed and conditioned in the Western-Christian mould. Once again, it pays to recall P.V. Kane’s caution[ii]:

In these days of growing popular education, when [an ancient] myth becomes exposed, the men who once believed it not only give up that myth but also might give up everything contained in ancient works as unbelievablethe chief catalytic agencies are modern science and Western thought and literature. The old structure…is tottering and laxity in morals has made great headway…whatever happens, we must so regulate society that the family as a social unit is preserved. [Emphasis added]

The bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the one thing that saved it from extinction at the hands of Abrahamic cults is the value it places on Grihastashrama Dharma: loosely speaking, the family unit. And we must revive its importance, stress on it repeatedly and inculcate its value among our children if we need to halt the tide of brazen evangelism and other assaults against Santana civilisation and culture.

Closing Notes

Finally, a couple of points by way of what can be done.

We need to first invest massively in people who can critically study, generally speaking, these dangerous trends and machinations. We need to simultaneously develop an independent cultural and national narrative instead of aping and developing upon intellectual currents prevalent in the West.

Secondly, in the contemporary period, the West regards both ideas and ideology as a means to a political goal. But to the inherited cultural and civilisational consciousness of majority of Indians, politics is only one of the means to a loftier spiritual goal. This is perhaps why we have largely been unable to fathom how and why the Western mind can discern politics in say our Deities, festivals, temples, places of pilgrimage, and write thousands of “expert” academic theses.

About two decades ago, China initiated such a study of Western systems, and continues to reap its rewards today. Equally, over a period, it endowed numerous American universities with grants and chairs in the field of Chinese Cultural Studies, etc. The control of these institutions completely rests in Chinese hands. This among other reasons is why it receives negligible negative coverage by the Western press and other institutions. For instance, when the Western media in 2015-2016 published an expose of the cruel “dog festival,” in China, it retaliated by publishing a similar report in a British paper covering the shocking state of Britain’s slaughterhouses.

Thirdly, and this has been a refrain for several decades, a complete and thorough reform of Education needs to occur, starting at the primary level. In other words, we must take back control of the narrative about ourselves from alien hands.

I shall close this by quoting Ananda Coomaraswamy[iii] again:

An India free in name but subdued by Europe in her…soul would ill justify the price of freedom…we should not rest satisfied until the entire control of Indian education is in Indian hands. No European should have a voice [in it]. [Emphasis added]


Notes:

[i] Ananda Coomaraswamy: “Education in India,” Essays in National Idealism

[ii] P V Kane: History of the Dharmashastras Vol 5, Part 2: pp 1710

[iii] Ananda Coomaraswamy: “Preface,” Essays in National Idealism

Sandeep Balakrishna
Writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. Author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore," "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History," and "Seventy Years of Secularism." He has translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.