2nd March 2011
Time to re-boot Hinduism
The caste system was perhaps an efficient solution to the agricultural age in India. It helped create an environment for hundreds of millions of people to live harmoniously in villages, and it helped produced sufficient surplus to feed hundreds of prosperous towns and cities. Not for nothing was India the world's wealthiest nation for thousands of years.
With the caste system even the smallest village could guarantee itself a blacksmith, traders, cleaners, and priests to conduct marriage and death ceremonies. That meant that just because the local blacksmith died the village did not have to go miles away to get its ploughs and carts fixed. The caste system also produced soldiers when needed.
It was a self-perpetuating solution or equilibrium to a difficult problem of living in remote corners of India without the support network of roads, rail-line, electricity and telephones. Not a paradise, by any means – particularly for the 'lower' castes. But it worked.
This model was not uncommon during the agricultural era. European feudalism comes to mind but I'm sure broadly similar social structures must have been created in China. I know that Japan definitely had its own "caste system" of sorts.
It also made sense (perhaps!) in the agricultural age to deify the cow and make it a sacred animal, so as to have sufficient proteins available in the village, given that most people could not afford meat and had to eat just rice and coarse lentils. This clearly did not occur all at once. It took time for the culture to stop eating cows and other animals (indeed, in the hunter-gathering era, till about 10,000 years ago, no one could have survived without eating meat).
That is why Hinduism took the shape it did in the last 2000 years – basically a way of life to support an agrarian society.
The context has changed
That meant that agriculture became mechanised – and far more productive than before – and people began to move to cities in a big way to produce things for the villages. They no longer needed their local blacksmith. A factory in the city could produce things 10 times cheaper and supply it to every corner of the world. Knowledge became specialised. The division of labour became acute and all-pervasive.
In this changed context, Hinduism as it evolved over the past 2000 years is no longer relevant. For instance, the caste system has became a HUGE BLOCKER on India's progress. And outdated beliefs about cows and such things create further complications and block India's forward move.
No wonder India has slipped into deep poverty as the rest of the world has progressed rapidly ahead. India's per capita GDP is 15 times less than that of USA today.
This is because Hinduism has not kept pace with the times.
Time to re-invent Hinduism from scratch
I'm actually a "kind of" Hindu – since ancient Hindus included atheists, agnostics and skeptics. Indeed "Hindu" only meant someone who lived on the other side of the Sindhu (Indus) river. I'm one of them, for sure.
I'm also broadly comfortable with Advaita philosophy and Buddhism. But I'm far more comfortable with Charvaka's school of thought, noting that there has been no greater and more revolutionary thinker than him in India so far (assuming he existed!). I also believe in the validity of many Indian things like zero, the number system, yoga, and much of ayurveda.
So I'm at least some form of "Hindu". But I'm not a caste-loving, cow-worshipping Hindu. I am a SCIENTIFIC Hindu. I'm a Charvaka, a Buddha, a Vivekananda, an independent human being. I see myself as an Indian, and human – the highest category of all.
So I'm happy to participate in the re-invention of Hinduism, and help re-write its scriptures from scratch. I'm sure we can create a new Hinduism best tailored to the needs of India in the modern, scientific world. In this Hinduism we'd have all our myths and mythologies but consider them to be nice stories, not something to be taken as gospel. In this Hinduism we'd have all the temples and the lot, but have them as quiet places for contemplation and self-reflection, or for a lecture or two on the Vedanta, Buddhism, Charvaka's ideas, or Hayek's liberalism. We'd all be called Brahmins since this is the knowledge age. Even a plumber has to be highly qualified and experienced. And so on… We can take the best from all of mankind's thinking and create a NEW WAY OF LIFE.
Do you want to participate in a project to re-boot Hinduism?
I believe that a "new -look" Hinduism is crucial for India to be able to lead the world once again.
Happy to discuss further.