One of the attempted follies of our times is the conflation of Hinduism, essentially an eclectic way of life, into a codified belief system that seeks to mirror the major faiths it has interacted with; for instance, Islam and Christianity. Indeed, since the May 2014 electoral thrashing of Congress by the self-professed Hindutva party, BJP, this gross and distorted projection of Hinduism by fringe groups has grown.
Fortunately, the cultural mainstream that voted BJP to power with its first clear majority understands what is happening. For, the Upanishadic ethic that informs our poetry and philosophies is deeply ingrained in 'layers upon layers' of the proverbial Hindu consciousness.
A good Hindu, by the limited definition of the fringe, must shun 'alien' influences – whether of language, dress or events identified with the Western world, including a certain date in the Gregorian calendar identified with going on dates. This definition is then disingenuously sought to be extended into private spheres and personal freedoms.
Such a worldview seeks to put the Hindu creative brilliance in jail as it were, a central prison that attempts to shape Hindu uniformity to assume the uniformity of the other, to prove its ultimate superiority by beating 'rival' faiths at their own game.
The political class that is the fountainhead of this vocal fringe – just as it is at the helm of the cultural mainstream – must stop to reflect why such a constricted world view will not find expansion of space, and sooner rather than later prove self-defeating. And if the political class pauses long enough, it will find a certain subtlety – the Hindu's famed capacity to draw in and hold on to soft distinctions that carry multitudes in harmony – and civilisational creativity are far more
definitive markers of India, that is Bharat, than any attempts to redefine it.
The Hindu concerns himself with questions far subtler than the manner of his dressing, his language, his eating preferences – he knows relishing kebabs doesn't make him some sort of a Hindu kafir.
He doesn't or wouldn't shun say the English language to think only in Hindi, but would be deeply interested in learning Sanskrit to read the Upanishads and absorb from the source. Just as he would be wanting to learn French or Latin to collect and assimilate other wisdoms from their sources. Hinduism absorbs from multiple sources; in its search for verities, it stops at nothing. As S Radhakrishnan said, what is built forever is forever building.
Pushed to its logical extreme, as Arvind Sharma writes, a Hindu can claim that one is most a Hindu when least a Hindu. That is to say, one is most a Hindu when one has dissolved one's Hindu particularity into Hinduism's all-embracing inclusiveness and universality.
For such a Hindu, everything goes but not everybody arrives – all gods can be worshipped but god-consciousness – the realisation of impersonal energy as the source of creation – isn't for those who can't or don't outgrow the infantilism of their minds. For such a Hindu, existence is akshara or indestructible, just as existence is soul.
The Hindu's quest is what Svetaketu asks in the Chandogya Upanishad: What is immortal in this mortal world? What is that by knowing which one can know everything? Kasmin vigyaate sarvamidam vigyatam bhavateeti. The answers to this cannot be explained in words as the realisation is beyond definition, it can only be experienced.
And what's for experiencing is the state of Turiya which is consciousness of pure, primordial energy, unrepresented by human imagination that sometimes so bitterly divides humanity. That energy is what creates us, and that energy is what one dissolves in. Those who know one as the self become the self, say the Upanishads, and the Universe is its witness.
As a philosophy Hinduism even encompasses the atheism of Chaarvak, another name of Acharya Brihaspati – not to be mistaken for the guru of the devas, but another profound teacher.
According to his view – which is possibly the first of all materialist philosophies – consciousness too is part of matter, and it's the collision or fusion of matter in the right proportion that gives rise to
super-consciousness. It proffers that creation of the world is an outcome of certain cosmic events and that there's no purpose behind creation.
In fact Kapil Muni, whom Lord Krishna refers to in the Bhagwad Gita, expounds through Sankhya that the two forces, purush and prakruti, being their own guides, do not require any external intelligence or energy to give them direction; they behave as self-fulfilling prophecies.
Over centuries, Semitic themes and traditions have become our touchstones, our stock-in-trade. God-giving-religion-to-humankind has become a cultural universal. Indian traditions absorb all these and more, and for a direct experience of such assimilative processes, all one has to do is experience the Kumbh. This great tradition reveals best, Hinduism's containing contradictions and carrying multitudes.
Hinduism is grand unification of knowledge, which is fundamentally
beyond logic or any configuration of god; it can't be defined if it can't be given a form; and, therefore, Vivekananda said that he is a voice without a form, which made him describe the Upanishads as Vedanta, which is the end of knowledge itself, leaving one only with stirrings of an awareness of what needs to be done with that knowledge: to serve humanity as one's larger self.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.