19th August 2010
What is Vedic socialism?
Harsh has, today, introduced me to a book by Dr. K.C. Mahendru entitled, Baba Ramdev – Resurgence of New India (Freedom Movement-2). Apparently it talks about the political philosophy of Swami Ramdev, known as Vedic Socialism. This phrase was totally new to me, so I spent a few minutes of my spare time to find more. Here are my initial findings and comments.
Origin of this term
It appears that this term was first introduced by Swami Agnivesh, although Balak Brhamachary of Santan Dal is also associated with this idea. Possibly both of them got it from someone else. There is also a book entitled Vedic socialism by Nitya Narayan Banerjee. And there is a Vedic Socialism Party on Facebook!
Apparently Vedic socialism resembles integral humanism. I have with me the book, Deendayal Upadhyaya's Integral Humanism – documents, interpretations, comparisons (edited by Devenedra Swarup) and have been singularly unimpressed by the paucity of logical thinking displayed as part of this idea. The fact that BJP follows integral humanism explains (to me) why is is a copycat socialist party, merely mimicking Nehru – and displaying zero understanding of good policy. I do hope that Vedic socialism is not like integral humanism: a fuzzy feel-good essay on the greatness of ancient India, but without the slightest scientific analysis of the economy.
I must admit that when I think of the concept of 'Vedic socialism' I find it quixotic and quaint that Hindu preachers like Baba Ramdev try to align India's ancient scriptures with the worst Western idea that was ever created – socialism!
(Let this be VERY clear to all Indians: socialism is an idea that started with Rousseau and peaked with Marx. It is NOT an indigenous Indian idea, for as I clearly show in DOF
, Indian philosophy is in tune with liberalism, not socialism. If Charvaka's views are considered – as they should be – then India clearly laid the foundation stone of classical liberalism and freedom in the world. India and socialism have nothing in common. Nehru brought socialism to India from the British Fabian socialists – and ruined India – as clearly described in BFN
.) It is odd that on the one hand Baba Ramdev wants swadeshi, yet on the other, he picks up the WORST foreign idea. At least understand the history of freedom that I've outlined in DOF.
What do the Vedas say?
Why would the Vedas have picked up the worst idea
that would occur (in the future!) to the mind of man? Surely, our Vedic seers were not utter fools
like the socialists are. To find out more I’ve quickly checked up my father’s book on Vedic Metaphysics
) which he wrote after studying the Vedas for more than 10 years. It appears that the Vedas speak out against corruption, which is good. But the solution they seem to offer to eradicate corruption is not logical nor viable. This is what the Vedas say:
Rig Veda on corruption:
From my father’s book:
“Rig-Veda 1-104-3 refers to corruption as misappropriation of public funds, taking bribe for money belonging to the state and trusts and when the individual’s action results in the reduction of state revenue or the revenue of the institution where he/she is a trustee. Rig Veda.1-42-3 mentions bribe takers are thieves. Sam Veda while, mentioning 99 sources of corruption and evil, also calls it a disease which goes on increasing with all material treatment and makes the power of soul and human spirit weaker and weaker (Sama Veda 913 and 179).”
Mahabharata on the solution to corruption:
Again, citing my father’s book:
“Bhagavad Gita traces the causes of corruption and evil to the primordial matter the three gunas in the human body. While sattavic guna of purity, truthfulness, transparency results in ennobling the individual and society, the rajasic guna of activity with self interest and false ego and desires along with tamasic guna of passivity, dullness, idleness become the cause of corrupting the individuals and the society.
“Lack of knowledge of Vedic Brahma vidya that Bhagavad Gita refers as Jnan and Vijnan is another major factor for the spread of this evil. Jnan is the knowledge of complete understanding of God, soul, divinity in virtuous actions and considering the world as Maya – the cosmic illusion.”
It would appear that, according to the Vedas, two ways exist to improve governance:
a) peoples' character has to be improved; and
b) they must become more religious.
This amounts to expecting corruption to be solved by preaching
. That can NEVER work. But fortunately, no matter what it is, this confused thinking is not
socialistic, it is simply a typical confused religious perspective. This "solution" does not display any understanding of human nature or human incentives. Indeed, my father, after all his Vedic readings, now seems to understand and appreciate the logic of freedom that I advocate in BFN
Clearly I've not found out much yet, so I'm keen to find out more about the Vedic solution to good governance. And more about Vedic socialism. Happy to have anyone point me in the right direction.
I usually seek information on ancient Indian perspectives by consulting Vivekananda's works – for he was a scholar par excellence. It turns out that he was an advocate of what some people call Vedantic socialism (unfortunately, the writer of this article
mostly provides his own opinions and doesn't specify clearly what Vivekananda actually said). There is also a book called Swami Vivekananda, the prophet of Vedantic socialism
by V. K. R. V. Rao (Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India in New Delhi, 1979), but I unfortunately don't have ready access to it.
In the meanwhile, an analysis of two books through Google books shows the following:
1) One author has concluded: "It is extremely doubtful that he had first hand knowledge of the socialist literature – Utopian or Scientific" (Narasingha Prosad Sil, Swami Vivekananda: a reassessment, Susquehanna University Press, 1997, p.86). I don't know precisely which books Vivekananda read when he was young, but this statement seems likely to be true.
2) Another states: "[T]hough Vivekananda praised socialism here and there, his social ideal was spiritual democracy and not a socialist society." (Urmila Sharma and S.K. Sharma, Indian Political Thought, Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 2001, p. 187). This sounds more close to the truth than those who claim that Vivekananda was a socialst.
Clearly, there is scant or non-existent evidence of Vedantic socialism. I find it hard to imagine that a major votary of freedom like Vivekananda could possibly be a socialist. I cite his words at the head of the draft manuscript of my next book, DOF
, thus: ‘Liberty in thought and action is the only condition of life, growth and well-being: Where it does not exist, the man, the race, and the nation must go down.’
No socialist can possibly make such a beautiful statement about freedom – for socialists well and truly HATE freedom. All they care for is economic equality. And they will impose their will on everyone else. That's their only way of functioning. But no matter what Hinduism does, it does not force its way on others.
I doubt if any cogent theory of 'socialism' can possibly be traced to the Vedas or Vedanta. Instead, I find there are many strands of liberalism that can be, at least faintly, linked back to the ancient Hindu (and other Indian) scriptures and texts. No unambiguously clear signal that promotes freedom in the modern sense seems to arise from ancient India, but bits and pieces do arise that might, when combined, offer a cogent theory of Vedic capitalism.
Happy to discuss this issue further with those who provide SCHOLARLY evidence and not mere opinion.
A reader, Gopi, has directed me to Dharam aur Samajvad – by Vaid Gurudatta. This book distinguishes between Hinduism and socialism. Could I request the blog readers who visit this blog post to please read this book and summarise it for me if you have time.