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Comments on “R.S.S.: A Vision in Action” edited by H.V. Seshadri

Twitter friend Shekhar has requested me to read the above book, available here. A few quick comments.

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.’[1] 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.’[2]

[1] The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1989 [1990], vol. 7, p.287.

[2] The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1989 [1990], 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).

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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11 thoughts on “Comments on “R.S.S.: A Vision in Action” edited by H.V. Seshadri
  1. ravindra

    Sablok, you seem obsessed and fear the word Hindu like all the pseudo seculars. What is your problem if this nation is identified as Hindu nation?

    America is identified as a Christian Nation, but people of all cultures are living there happily. Pak is an islamic state, so is Saudi. Why don’t u teach your sermons to these countries to remain faith neutral?

    It is highly befitting to call this nation as HINDU nation and deservably so, as there is no other nation for Hindus except this one in the entire world.

    If you have a problem with this, you have already moved out of this country, so please get away from commenting.

  2. sukarna

    Just I want to draw everybody’s attention to the news by ‘article in The Detroit Free Press in 1894’. Swamiji says- ‘.. The fundamental principles of our religion forbid that(surely we will agree ‘that’ means Proselytism). ..’ If it is so why the word comes of ‘toleration of Proselytism’. Is not ‘toleration’ unscientific and dilution and violence (upon who tolerates).

    If we are quite scientific in criticizing a true disciple of Swami Akhandananda (Swami Vivekanda’s spiritual brother). Then what is the problem of sticking to the ‘fundamental principle’ of opposing Proselytism.

    And also as far as we know in his Chicago speech Swamiji rejected the word ‘tolerate’ of other religious leader, rather he said, ‘we believe in all religions’. I am afraid the ‘The Hindu’ might have misquoted Swamiji. Swamiji could have told that ‘Hinduism do not use any method of violence against proselytism’

    And in reality Swamiji is no more in front of us to clarify. so even if he had said that, with most respect and humility I want to stick to his earlier statement of ‘Fundamental principle’ not of ‘toleration’.

    So how could we blame RSS for peaceful steps against proselytism ??!!

    And we the real reformers should not be worried so much about RSS. When we are so much committed that ‘Truth will prevail’, then why are we afraid of RSS. If we see RSS or anyone is presenting a wrong or twisted concept, then let us clarify and correct that concept, provide ample of scientific points about it, no need to mention that ‘anyone’s name or RSS and create confusion which results in the weakening of our combined effort against the real issue of good governance.


  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I’m sorry, Ravindra. I am willing to be a Bharatiya, and happy to follow good things in Hinduism (or any other philosophy) but I am NOT “Hindu” and refuse to force a particular religion down the throat of everyone in India.

    Charvaka questioned the Vedas. Even Vivekanada and Manu did.

    Let’s not put the human mind into a straightjacket.  “Liberty is the first condition of growth. Just as man must have liberty to think and speak, so he must have liberty in food, dress, and marriage, and in every other thing, so long as he does not injure others.” – Vivekananda

    Let RSS at least stop using Vivekananda’s name. They just don’t understand what he stood for.

    India is greater than any single school of thought. Let there be freedom to think and experiment with ideas. Vivekananda said his son could well be Muslim. He would have opposed the idea of a Hindu nation.

    He said (figuratively) that he wanted a Vedantic mind and Muslim body for India. Think big. Forget this narrow minded bigotry.

    And if other nations want to narrow their walls, LET THEM! They will suffer. Not India. We are too big to be blocked into narrow walls. We are world leaders in thought and let us therefore LEAD, not follow. Just because somone jumps into a well, are you supposed to jump too?


  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    So how could we blame RSS for peaceful steps against proselytism?”

    I have no problem with RSS doing such things. I merely question then, why it thinks it is a RASHTRIYA organisation? Just call itself a Hindu organisation and be hoest about it. And NEVER take the name of Vivekananda.


  5. sukarna

    When Swami Vivekananda is Rashtriya by saying- ‘… The fundamental principles of our religion forbid that. ..'(surely we will agree ‘that’ means Proselytism)’. Why RSS can not be just by merely sticking to Swamji’s statement.

    And what about Mahatma Gandhiji, who said- ‘I hold that proselytizing under the cloak of humanitarian work is unhealthy to say the least. It is most resented by people here. Religion after all is a deeply personal thing. It touches the heart. Why should I change my religion because a doctor who professes Christianity as his religion has cured me of some disease, or why should the doctor expect such a change whilst I am under his influence? (source: Young India: April 23, 1931).’?

    Please see link-

    Regarding the controversy of the word- Hindu and Bharatiya. We should go the origin of the word- Hindu. Visitors from other country to India, mostly Greek has invented this word for this land not for the religion. Mostly in British time, this word got associated with so called religion.

    Wikipedia can referred for some more details, whose head line says- ‘Hindu (About this sound pronunciation (help·info)) refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word “Hindu” is attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion (i.e. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism or Sikhism).[1] In common use today, it refers to an adherent of Hinduism. There was no word or a mention of word ‘Hindu’ in any of the India’s ancient scripts like Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas etc. to further reference this argument.’

    With best regards and humility.

  6. Dwadasaksha

    ” I am NOT “Hindu” and refuse to force a particular religion”

    Well you probably just don’t know what you are talking about. Your assumption that Hinduism is a religion is wrong. Your assumption that Bharatiya is a more inclusive word than Hindu is even more wrong. Just read the introduction from hindupedia: It is a comprehensive system of life, consisting of religion, spiritual philosophy and knowledge system, social and political setup. So Hinduism HAS religions, it IS not a religion. This is why when people say any religion can be practiced while they remain Hindus, they know what they are talking about.

    I am afraid you don’t.

  7. Dwadasaksha

    ” only the untruth needs protection. The truth will find its own way”

    Not quite. Can you tell me the truth of tolerant traditions that existed in Europe and Middle-east which were wiped out by the intolerant Abrahamic traditions? Lesson is, truth itself, has its relevance in time and possibility of unearthing. And now even if you dig out the truth, you cannot undo the damage – no matter how lofty those traditions were and how uncivilized their predators are.

    So this fanciful claim does not hold water. Any system thrives on its own strength, its survival instinct, its relevance in time.

    It is not RSS that “seriously misunderstood” Hinduism, I am afraid it is you.

  8. Dwadasaksha

    “I merely question then, why it thinks it is a RASHTRIYA organisation”

    Why do you think it is not in the interest of the rashtra to curtail conversions? The basic civilizational model of this rashtra is non-evangelising. Which means you don’t go foist your faith on commoners – you put it for test with rigorous debating, qualify yourself for preaching. Then you go teach – and then your tradition will get as much following as it has relevance in time. This is a civilized society.

    What abrahamics do is the reverse – they avoid learning or teaching at all levels and try hoodwinking common man who is untrained to argue his position out with a trained missionary. This fundamentally uncivilized and immoral practice has to be fought out and the process reversed – that is just about restoring a civilized order and NOT foisting one religion.

    On the other hand RSS do call themselves Hindus because that is the overall civilizational umbrella to which everyone in this nation belongs – whether he accepts or not.

  9. Abhishek Vaishnav

    Mr. Sabhlok,
    There was a time when Swami Ramdev ji was ‘irrational’ for you even you called him a fool. One fine day you visited Patanjali Yogpeeth & your perception changed by 360 degree, now you call him a ‘level 5 leader’. When I asked you about this surprising U-turn, you answered that your perception was based on media report but after visiting Patanjali Yogpith you learnt the fact.

    You are still repeating the same mistake in the case of RSS. Why don’t you come down to Nagpur & visit RSS HQ & meet Mr. Bhagwat ?
    For heaven’s sake don’t argue you have read so many books of theirs.

    Abhishek Vaishnav

  10. Vivek Garg

    Dear Sanjeev ,
    I think no organisation is authorised to use name of “Swami Vivekanand ” except official Top Authority Institution of 4 Shankaracharya Peeth and 13 Akhaads of Hindus ,if you will say Shankaracharya has done nothing for Hindus ,than its matter of Hindus to decide on that but As a post its as Pious as “President of India for All Indians even if any corrupt sitting on it from many years,No person of any any other religion or “No religion” have right to say on Shankaracharya …Swami Vivekanand was “HIndu Monk” Not bounded by only Indianness. well Described by Washington Post on 12th September 1893 “A follower of the Indian mystic Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda was a Hindu monk who introduced Hinduism to the United States in the late 19th century” . Sanjeev I can post Lakhs of Sentences from Letters & Speeches of Swami Vivekanand which are very different from your views for example – Verse from “Complete Works of Swami Vivekanand in part -3 -Hindu Samaj mein se ek Muslim ya Isaai Bane , iska Matlab yah nahi ki Ek Hindu Kam Hota hai Balki HIndu Samaj Ka Ek Dushman Aur Bada ” …This means you also stop taking name of Swami Vivekanand . I already said Sanjeev more questions from your side , will rebound with more questions towards you …RSS is running “Vivekanand Kendra “l from Last 43 years May be before when you joined Indian Administrative service . Swamiji He said (figuratively) that ” he wanted a Vedantic mind and Muslim body for India. Think big. Forget this narrow minded bigotry ” .One Intelligent man can rightly understand his puzzled words with clear indication that one muslim should adopt Vedanta as his Faith and Practise it .By mind he will become Vedantic and from his body he can make correct use of his muscles driven by Vedantic Mind .Just a True words …Still you have doubts ,Complete works of Swami Vivekanand from Part 1-8 is there …


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