30th June 2013
Comments on “R.S.S.: A Vision in Action” edited by H.V. Seshadri
What is good about RSS
Their abjuring the caste system – I fully support:
In 1934, when Gandhiji visited a 1500-strong Swayamsevaks camp at Wardha, he was pleasantly surprised to find that the Swayamsevaks were not even aware of the castes of one another, not to speak of any ideas of untouchability. [Source]
There is also one thing I can sympathise with:
It was to be expected that the rising Hindu awareness would not leave the political field unaffected. Now, slowly, the Hindus have begun to comprehend the threats being posed by the hankering of political parties after the Muslim and Christian bloc votes which is seriously jeopardising the integrity of the nation. The irony of the situation in which the so-called minorities enjoy more rights in educational and religious affairs than the majority Hindus has now dawned upon them. The Hindus have also begun to recognise that the chief reason behind this perversion lies in their own disunity. Their splintered vote had left them voiceless orphans in the political arena. [Source]
This idea of creating minorities and majorities is anathema to a free society. Recognising people's religious beliefs by a government is even worse. There is need to revoke any such laws which are based on religion, whether minority or majority. We need a stern system which follows the rule of law. No special dispensations based on religious preferences.
What is well intentioned about RSS but divisive
And there are assertions that RSS has space for other religions, too.
The positive concept of social consolidation envisaged by Sangh has room for the Muslims and Christians of this country also. The Sangh harbours no hatred for anyone merely because he belongs to a different faith. The word 'Hindu', in Sangh's view, connotes the national entity of Bharat and not merely a religious faith. In this broad national sense, whoever identifies himself with this national life-current, irrespective of his creed, is a 'Hindu'. In simple terms, identification with the national mainstream of our country means: unalloyed devotion to the Motherland, a spirit of fraternity and identification of one's interests with all the rest of the countrymen and an attitude of adoration towards the great nation-builders, past and recent, and the values of life bequeathed to us by them. [Source]
Now the problem with this is self-evident. What about these the following alternative definitions?
1) The word 'Hindu', in Sangh's view, connotes the national entity of Bharat and not merely a religious faith. In this broad national sense, whoever identifies himself with this national life-current, irrespective of his creed, is a 'Hindu'.
2) The word 'Christian', in Sangh's view, connotes the national entity of Bharat and not merely a religious faith. In this broad national sense, whoever identifies himself with this national life-current, irrespective of his creed, is a 'Christian'.
3) The word 'Muslim', in Sangh's view, connotes the national entity of Bharat and not merely a religious faith. In this broad national sense, whoever identifies himself with this national life-current, irrespective of his creed, is a 'Muslim'.
My question to RSS is: Are you all happy if I call you Muslims? You are basically lying, aren't you!? You want to have the cake and eat it too.
By defining your nationalist identity as Hindu, you've basically put off a good number of people, including me. Why not just call it Bharatiya?
The actual core of the RSS: preventing conversions
There is almost fanatic focus in the RSS on prevention of "conversions" from Hinduism.
This arises from a misplaced concern that Hinduism needs protection. But in reality, only the untruth needs protection. The truth will find its own way.
For instance, after wandering far and wide with an open mind, examining various hypotheses about God with both mind and heart, I have come to the view that all religious explanations are defective. But that if there is any truth it would have to be somewhere on the lines of Advaita, with a good measure of Buddhist and Charvakan scepticism thrown in.
I've been undertaking a rational search, and don't need (indeed firmly RESIST!) any attempt by any "priest" or "religious organisation" to force ideas on my mind. The idea that someone or some group can expect humans (particularly thinking people like me) to fit into its "category" of Hindu is absurd. I've come to the view that there is much merit in some of the schools of thought of Inida. Whether you call it Hinduism or anything else doesn't really matter. I do not like my philosophy of God (if any) to be labelled. Spare me your prattle and leave me alone.
So the point here is that if there is ANY truth in something, it will utlimately stand on its own feet. You don't need to run after it! The entire RSS effort in this regard is misplaced.
The key issue in India is IGNORANCE and lack of education which leads also to lack of critical thinking and inability to sort out the right from the wrong. Indian children need to be taught CRITCAL THINKING, not a particular set of beliefs.
Now, RSS, which makes a big deal about converstions, claims to follow Vivekananda. But Vivekananda made clear that although he did not approve of proselytisation, he tolerated it. He was sure that the system he stood for (Hinduism) was strong enough to face any challenge.
In an article in The Detroit Free Press in 1894, he is quoted as having said: ‘I belong to the Hindu religion… We never indulged in missionary work. The fundamental principles of our religion forbid that. Nor do we say anything against any missionaries whom you send from this country [USA] anywhere.’ A question was put to him by The Hindu (Madras) in February 1897: ‘Question: Does the spirit of Hinduism permit the proselytism of strangers into it?’ He replied, unambiguously: ‘Proselytism is tolerated by Hinduism.’
 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1989 , vol. 7, p.287.
 The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1989 , vol. 5, p.208-09.
More importantly, Vivekananda was happy for his own son (had he had one) to be a Muslim. He had is a truly liberal approach. He would have been least bothered about the precise name of the religion his son believed in. It would have been good enough to Vivekananda that his son was a good man. Why does the way we think about our relationship (if any) with God matter? ONLY actions matter. Only character matters.
In place of this very broad and scientific approach, H.V. Seshadri calls proselytisation MISCHIEF.
Observance of Indal Pooja, a traditional festival in Madhya Pradesh, had been abandoned by the vanavasis because of the enormous expenditure it involved. The Christian missionaries had stepped in and begun arranging the Pooja in their Church, with a view to bringing the innocent Hindu vanavasis under their net. The VKA stopped the mischief by organising the Pooja in its pristine form and with minimum expense. [Source]
As a result of these efforts, the spectre of mass conversion was laid low in Tamil Nadu even though stray cases are still being reported from far-flung villages. But whenever such news leaks out, alert Hindu workers reach there promptly to stop further mischief. For example, in Sivakashi, there was to be a mass baptism. When the news reached the Swayamsevaks they rushed to the place and saw to it that not a single Hindu left the Hindu fold. A most encouraging feature was that the local Hindu population also stood by the Swayamsevaks as one man in this attempt to save their Hindu brethren. [Source]
I have a general sense from reading the book that RSS has seriously misunderstood Hinduism.
Hinduism (if by that is meant the broader Indian tradition) is NOT rituals or particular forms of worship. It is a WAY OF LIFE, a way of thinking about things that is totally unperturbed by silly concepts invented by other "religions" – concepts like heaven or hell, concepts like the body being required by the 'soul' at the time of 'glorification' [“God created man as a union of body and soul and our redemption includes the redemption of the body as well as the soul. This full redemption will occur at the last day in our glorification”], or that there are 'houris' in heaven!
Hinduism (or the broad philosophical of India) is a way of life that looks within through calm meditation. It is a system that asks questions even of its own "sacred" books like the Vedas (Vivekanada rejected any part of the Vedas he did not agree with).
Hinduism is freedom itself – once this broader understanding is applied.
So fear not for Hinduism! This way of thinking will incrementally spread but it will NOT be known as Hinduism.
It will be known as freedom and self-awareness. Let RSS calm down and focus on spreading EDUCATION across India. Forget the "Muslims" and "others". Many of them (like members of most organised religions) are merely suffering from ignorance. To that extent, I greatly appreciate the wonderful work of Ajay Singh's Ekal (Ajay Singh is from RSS).