Urgent task before Hindu religious leaders PDF Print E-mail

Three years ago, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam took upon himself the arduous responsibility of convening an apex body of Hindu religious leaders broadly representing all sampradaayas in Hindu tradition. This was not an easy or even a normal task given that the famed diversity of sampradaayas within Hindu religion had to be first acknowledged and then subsumed into the larger and uniting Hindu identity. But going by the reports received about the Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha which was convened by Pujya Swamiji in Mumbai in the middle of October, it was a remarkable gathering of Hindu religious leaders which sat for three days to discuss issues concerning the Hindu community.

The Hindu community has reposed great faith in this Sabha and hopes that it will give voice to Hindu interests and concerns and that it will evolve into becoming the apex body to protect the Hindu community from a hostile and inimical Indian polity. Some of us have thought long and deep about what ails the Hindus of this country and have come to the conclusion that it is their inability to come together for any cause – short or long term. The freedom movement as it began and later evolved in the 18th and 19th century with Hindu religious leaders leading the movement from the front around the issue of cow slaughter and cow protection and the Ram Janmabhumi movement in the 1990s saw the Hindus uniting as one with an overarching Hindu consciousness but unfortunately for Hindu society, this consciousness faded and has almost disappeared under the onslaught of secular politics.

The urgent task therefore before Hindu social, political and religious leaders is to kindle and fan the Hindu consciousness in all Hindus if they wish to see this nation assume its true identity as a nation of Hindus and a Hindu nation. Given the state of powerlessness that Hindus find themselves in today, what should be the agenda of the Hindu Dharmacharya sabha?

Evoking the ‘Hindu’ consciousness in religion and politics

In stark contrast to Christians and Muslims in India, Hindus suffer from a fatal inability to organize themselves as a single religious/cultural unit for any purpose. There must be only one agenda that must pre-occupy Hindu social and religious leadership now – to organize Hindu society which can be achieved by evoking the ‘Hindu’ consciousness at two levels – religious and political. At both levels unfortunately, to the utter detriment of Hindu interests the religious consciousness of Hindu society is fragmented. In politics therefore the religious consciousness is completely absent among Hindus; and their political affiliations, which overcome their religious identity, result in Hindus comprising 85% of this nation’s population, voting for different political parties and politicians who not only do not serve Hindu interests but are even actively hostile to it. The Hindu vote bank therefore, like our religious consciousness is fragmented. Hindu votes do not influence the electoral victory or failure of candidates and therefore serving Hindu interests or attending to Hindu concerns or resolving Hindu issues which have been politicized do not constitute the electoral agenda of Indian polity. The Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha (HDAS) must acknowledge that our religion must influence our polity and the HDAS must evolve into becoming the representative body to do so.

In contrast, Muslims and Christians, when they vote politically are only aware of their religious identity and vote as a community for that politician or political party who serves their cause. The Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha must understand that serving the Christian or the Muslim cause inevitably means that Indian polity has to take a position hostile to Hindus and Hindu interests. Venerable Dharmacharyas of the Acharya Sabha must promote the word ‘Hindu’ as being our common religious identity among their bhaktas and must awaken the Hindu consciousness in the minds of all Hindus. The word ‘religious’ is used deliberately in place of ‘cultural’ for the only reason that Hindus must now juxtapose their identity vis a vis Christians and Muslims who do not consider their identity cultural but religious. And the word ‘Hindu’ is also used with deliberation because today ‘Bharatiya’ is only the Indian version of secular India, an identity to which Muslims and Christians also subscribe – the pluralist, composite Bharatiya culture which they say is not synonymous with Hindu but of which Hinduism is also a part like Islam and Christianity.

In religion the ‘Hindu’ consciousness is fragmented broadly and very deeply as Brahmin/non-Brahmin, Saiva/Vaishnava, Tamil/Samskrit, This matham/That matham and North/South to cite only some of the divisive factors. This fragmentation of Hindu consciousness is not a trivial issue with trivial consequences. How serious and appalling the consequences of our refusal to organize ourselves as ‘Hindus’ was seen most terribly in the aftermath of the arrest of Pujya Kanchi Acharyas by the Tamil Nadu government in November 2004. The collective indifference/inaction of the Hindu community was there for all to see not only when the venerable acharyas were arrested and incarcerated but even when an intensely hostile TN state government under orders from Jayalalithaa refused the Kanchi Acharyas permission to perform pooja to the ‘Lingam’ inside the sanctum sanctorum in the Rameswaram temple. Jayalalithaa and earlier Karunanidhi could interfere even in the religious affairs of Hindu temples only because the Hindu community is not organized or powerful enough to put the fear of an electoral backlash into our politicians. Needless to say what happened with the Kanchi Acharyas can and will happen to other Hindu religious leaders and their mathams in different forms for different reasons.

These differences/rivalries within the Hindu religion have been normal and to a great extent harmless historically; but in the face of the terrible threat posed to Hindus by a hostile polity, and religious conversion and Islamic jihad and separatism by Christians and Muslims, even these small rivalries among the Hindus is an impediment to organizing our society for a specific purpose. Extremely distressing is the Hindu propensity to willingly allow outside forces to deal with our internal adversaries. We never seem to realize that external forces, when they deal with our internal adversaries do so for tactical reasons and extract a terrible price thereafter. Secular Indian polity which serves the minority cause can be considered only an ‘outsider’ to Hindu interests.

In November 2004 and thereafter Hindu society once again failed to come together cohesively in protest to put pressure on the Tamil Nadu government and the Chief Minister, to retract her move and to apologise to the Hindus for the terrible humiliation they suffered as a result. Needless to say, had something of this nature been done to a religious leader belonging to the minority religions, their religious leaders and their society would have come to the streets in a massive show of strength and violently. Undoubtedly, this would have brought the government and the administration to its knees.

The ugly face of the divisions within Hindu society and the pathetic face of Hindu powerlessness to prevent such a calamity from happening were obvious to all. The ugly truth was that the divisions within Hindu society and the absence of an overarching Hindu consciousness ensured that large sections of Hindu society remained impervious to the arrest and failed to see it as an affront to our Dharma or as a terrible humiliation to all Hindu bhaktas. Important sections of Hindu society saw the arrest as concerning only the Kanchi Matham while some of them saw it confined only to Tamil Nadu politics. The problem of a fragmented consciousness has been further compounded by the abject cowardice and self-centeredness of the average Hindu who will neither take to the streets in protest nor adopt a confrontational attitude, not even when events demand such a course of action.

Jayalalithaa, like all politicians understood this fatal drawback in the Hindus and utilized it to the hilt in her assault on the Kanchi matham and its venerable Acharyas. She knew that Hindus were timid/cowards (whichever way one looks at it), powerless, and more importantly she knew that because of their inability to organize themselves, there was no Hindu leader who would mobilize the society instantaneously after the assault to confront her or her government. The Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha must face up to this terrible truth about Hindus and contemplate the dire need for organizing Hindu society into a cohesive and powerful body which will give voice to the powerless Hindu society.

Why should Hindu society organize itself

Hindu society must organize itself if only to ensure –

  • That there is a common understanding and acceptance of what constitutes Hindu concerns, Hindu interests and threats to the Hindu way of life

  • That befitting the size of their population in this nation, this 85% of Hindus has a decisive say in the Indian polity which alone will end the profitable politics of minority-ism, the current idiom of ‘secular’ politics

  • That Indian polity will respond to the power that such an organizing will acquire and deal with great care and sensitivity Hindu issues which have been politicized

  • The organized ‘Hindu’ consciousness will also ensure that intra-Hindu differences of opinion and problems will be resolved and dealt with quietly and internally

What are Hindu interests, Hindu concerns and what are the threats to the Hindu way of life?

Hindu interests –

  1. This country should continue to remain a Hindu majority nation and the territory under the protection of Sanatana Dharma

  2. Our temples should be returned to their previous state of abundance and prosperity

  3. Cow and cattle to be protected and their numbers to be increased

  4. Agriculture to continue to remain the mainstay of our society and the basis of our culture

  5. The institutions of family and marriage to remain sacred, more focus on women

  6. Social stability, focus on reaching out to dalits and owning up dalit villages

  7. A polity that reflects Hindu values and facilitates a Hindu way of life

Hindu Concerns –
  1. Hindus do not have a sense of territorial nationalism, that Sanatana Dharma is protected only if its territory is protected

  2. Hindus do not yet see the dangers of religious demographic imbalance because of the growing Muslim population and because of religious demography

  3. Hindus have no state power

  4. There is no national or regional political party except which articulates or represents Hindu interests

  5. Hindus have a self-defeating contempt and/or indifference for politics while the well-organized minority religions have a sound sense of how to use politics to further their religious interests

  6. Hindu temple funds and properties are under government control and there is no accountability on the part of the government to the Hindu bhaktas whose money it is, on how temple funds are being utilized by the government

  7. We do not have the constitutional right to start and run educational institutions free from government control and interference

  8. We are not organized to use the judiciary to serve our cause

  9. There is increasing violence against all animals including the spreading malaise of publicly drinking the blood of animals slaughtered for sacrifice; meat-eating is on the increase and as a symbol of rising standards of living

  10. The cow and cattle population is decreasing alarmingly

  11. Increasing de-Hinduisation of elite Hindus and increasing alienation of dalits from mainstream Hindu society because of NGO social activism

Threats to the Hindu way of life
  • Losing territory to minority religions

  • Increasing political clout of the minorities in Indian polity; their power is in inverse proportion to growing Hindu powerlessness

  • Politics of secularism which is hostile to the Hindu way of life – from continuing sale of beef, illegal slaughter of cow and cattle, transport of cow and cattle to Kerala and West Bengal

  • The presence of the army and the police in important Hindu temples either from fear of terrorist attacks or because they are ‘sensitive’ which is an impediment to free movement of bhaktas

  • Growing impoverishment of small, ancient and historical temples for lack of funds

  • Inadequate government remuneration for temple poojaries and priests and the resulting depletion in their numbers; many temples have no poojaries

  • Erosion in the performance and observance of everyday Hindu religious and cultural rituals at home

  • General loss of faith

The Hindu Dharmacharya Sabha must contemplate on all these issues. But the most urgent attention is required to organize Hindu society with the overarching ‘Hindu’ consciousness with a view to giving Hindus a political orientation which alone can enable Hindu society to deal with a hostile Indian polity. Attempts will be made by influential bhaktas to dissuade their acharyas from acquiring a political orientation. While this attitude may not harm the individual mutt or religious leader, refusing to handle Indian polity will endanger the entire Hindu community as the polity becomes increasingly secular and minority oriented. History has shown that the best way to eat an elephant is to eat it one bite at a time. Persons who think the Hindu religion cannot be destroyed must look around to see how Indian polity has eaten away a great part of the elephant.

Radha Rajan
23rd October, 2005

Major Meeting of Hindu Saints in Mumbai,22nd October 2005
Rajiv Malik, HPI Correspondent,

MUMBAI, INDIA, October 22, 2005: "Though Hindus are in a majority, they are being given a step-motherly treatment in India due to the politics of votebanks and minority appeasement being pursued by the politicians and the successive governments that have ruled the country since its independence. The situation is quite serious, as on the one hand, the government is trying to control Hindu temples and maths (monasteries0 and, on the other hand, a top Hindu saint like the Shankaracharya of Kanchi Mutt has been treated like an ordinary criminal, and treated as convicted even before he has been tried. It is high time that Hindus of all sampradayas set aside their petty differences and joined the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, the apex body of Hindu Dharma, so that the Sabha could become a single voice that could claim to speak for the entire Hindu society and fight against the shabby and discriminatory treatment being meted out to Hindus and Hinduism in India." Thi s was the general consensus built up among the 74 top saints, many of them heads of various Hindu sampradayas. They included the representatives of all the four Hindu Shankaracharays. They had gathered in Mumbai to attend the second convention of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha which took place from October 16 to 18, 2005, at Sanyas Asharam, Vile Parle West at the initiative and under the convenership of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. He is a leading Hindu saint and head of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam which has its branches spread not only in India but in many parts of the world.

The total number of participants in the three-day event was around three hundred. Besides seventy-four acharyas of mathas (monasteries), mahamandaleshwars (heads) of several akharas (monastic orders) from different parts of the country representing seventeen sampradayas, over one hundred sadhus and sadhvis belonging to Arsha Vidya Gurukulam and around one hundred family people also participated in the c onference.

The 74 main delegates represented the following sampradayas (teaching lineages) and heads of akharas: Shankara Sampradaya, Akhara-Mahamandaleshwars, Ramanuja Sampradaya, Madhava Sampradaya, Ramananda Charya, Sen Sampradaya, Kabir Sampradaya, Satradhikar of Assam [Narad Goadiyas], Saiva Sampradaya, Aadheenams of Tamil Nadu, Varkari Sampradaya and Swaminarayan Sampradaya.

In an exclusive interview granted to Hindu Press International [HPI] and Hinduism Today, Swami Dayananda Saraswati said, "The Acharya Sabha has a large membership comprising virtually all sampradayas. The Sabha is committed to speak for Hindu Dharma and represent the interests and views of the Hindu population of the country. For the same reason Acharya Sabha shall have the mandate to engage in discussion with anyone or any government or any other entity including those representing different religions, on matters of importance to Hindus."

Swami Dayananda Saraswati pointed out that the acharyas strongly condemned the taking over of Hindu temples and maths by the government, and then running them virtually as government departments. He said, "Temples and maths are created by the offerings of the devotees. Whenever there are complaints of misappropriation of funds or misuse of money, the government tries to take them over. It is like cutting the head of a person if there is a headache. We feel that it would be better if a judicial committee is formed to look into such cases and solve the problem. Moreover, the temple wealth and income should not be allowed to be treated as a source of patronage by political leaders and used for purposes other than the welfare of the temples and Hindu society to which the wealth rightfully belongs. The most unfortunate and discriminatory part of the whole situation is that under the present laws only the Hindu temples and maths can be taken over by the government, whereas no such takeover of the places of worship and institutions of other religions is possible."

Swami Ji said that the Acharya Sabha had resolved to undertake the requisite legal research by a competent and committed team to contest the constitutionality of the discrimination inherent in the control of only temples which are places of worship and cultural importance and value to the Hin dus.

Dealing with the subject of conversion, Swami Ji said, "An alarming number of conversions are being carried out in the name of religious freedom. Now this argument of religious freedom is absurd, as in India no one is unsafe in pursuing his or her religious beliefs. Jews have openly declared that India is the only country in the world where they never faced any persecution."

He said that to tackle the problem of conversion, in the root of which were the financial incentives offered by those who convert, the Hindu acharyas will try to travel to distant villages and tribal communities where people need any kind of help. We will reassure the people that their indigenous religious faiths shall be preserved, and that their educational, health, economic and social needs will be attended to. Our mutts are already doing some kind of service wherever they are situated. We have even created All India Movement [AIM] for Seva, a public charitable trust which w ill serve the needy without bothering about their backgrounds in terms of their caste, creed and religion." In their kathas and pravachans (both forms of preaching) acharya members shall specifically discourage outdated discriminatory practices still prevalent in the Hindu society and strengthen the spirit of caring among their devotee population. For this purpose, Hindu Dharma Rakshana Samitis shall be set up at district and village levels."

According to Swami Ji the acharyas deliberated on the flawed interpretation of secularism in India. He said that all religions other than Hindus were political and served as vote banks for the different political parties. He said, "No secular country other than India pays money for pilgrims undertaking Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Even Islamic countries do not give such incentives to their nationals. Why do they do it here? Why do not they do it for the Hindu pilgrims undertaking the Kailash Mansarover Yatra? Is it a sin to be a part of the majority community in this country?"

Finally, Swami Ji mentioned the approval of the Hindu Acharyas for establishment of a Hindu Centre Of Learning, considering the need for instilling Hindu cultural values in young students and for preparing them adequately to face the rapidly changing world, still retaining those values. Elaborating on this, Swami Ji, said in a lighter vein, "Our youth needs to know what is right and what is wrong. For instance the tradition of Dandiya (a traditional dance form) is religious but disco is not. A nd the unfortunate thing is that the youth today are mixing both Dandiya and disco."

The three-day event was held under tight security as besides Hindu Acharyas and saints, some of the well known leaders/representatives of Hindu organizations like RSS [Rashtriya Sevak Sangha] and VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] also participated in the convention as special invitees. As representative of HPI and Hinduism Today, I was the sole media person who was accommodated as a special invitee in the event while other media persons were invited only to the press conference held after the event was over.

For the information of the readership, this mega Hindu event was held in a 80 feet X 58 feet air-conditioned auditorium especially set up at a cost of around US$23,000 to hold this convention. Many who were present named the event as a Mini Kumbha Mela due to the presence of so many high profile saints attending it. The place outside the auditorium was always overflowing with the devotees of the various saints attending the event. It was heart moving to see the devotees rushing to have the darshan and blessings of the saints moving in and out of the conference hall. Due to strict security arrangements and the limitation of space inside the auditorium, a large number of devotees were not allowed to enter the venue of the event. The air-conditioned hall was equipped with a high technology audio system. Not only could one clearly listen to what the saints were saying but there were big colored plasma screens on which you could see the larger than life sized, live photos of the saints addressing the convention.