It is common knowledge that Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the leader of our Constitutional committee wrote several critical books/ essays on Hinduism, the most prominent among them being ‘Riddles on Ramayana’. While Dr. Ambedkar did write about Islam, I feel there are still some riddles that require answers. In this series, I try to examine some of them from a Hindu’s perspective. Risala means ‘message’ in Arabic and refers to the Holy Quran.
Fanaticism in the name of ‘One God’ or ‘the Other’ stems from the inability of followers to recognize relative reality while claiming absolute reality and exclusivity pre-supposing the existence of an anthropomorphic creator God in the heavens, with human emotions like love and wrath, doling out material benefits to those who conform and spelling painful doom to those who don’t. Faith, to the extent such disability is encoded in the scripture, misleads people. While the scholars view the broadest spirit of the scripture, the ignorants claim legitimacy for their actions from the exact letter of the scripture taken, sometimes, out of context.
When a Hindu talks about Swarga, Naraka, Rakshasas, Devatas, Brahmaloka and Vaikunta etc, it is labelled as mythology, or science of the unreal. Can the same be said of Heaven/Jannat, Hell/Jahannum, Jibril/Gabriel, Iblees, Angels, Satan/Devil, Judgment Day/Al Qiyama etc.,? Or should an exception be made on the premise that they form the foundation of Faith?
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” – Carl Sagan.
The critical Hindu view
“….I would not relish your designs upon me, if you had any, to convert me to Christianity. I would also dispute your claim that Christianity alone is the true religion.” – M.K. Gandhi
So why do most Hindus remain non-believers even after reading Abrahamic scriptures? Why doesn’t the Abrahamic logic enchant and cast a spell on them into believing? Apparently, some pre-inherited knowledge is interfering with the truth claims of the Abrahamic scriptures. This knowledge while non-imposing, allows itself for scrutiny. It is presented in the form of a dialogue, unlike the monologues of holy Quran. Therefore, there cannot be any believers in Hinduism. There are only inquirers of truth: ‘Satyanveshis’.
When the means to verify a claim no longer exits, the Hindus, instead of condemning it, consign it to antiquity and continue to draw useful allegorical references. What is called mythology by Indologists is called ‘PurANa’ (antique/old) by Hindus.
Let us examine some differences here. When the Bible/Quran talk about souls being burnt at stake and tormented in hell (believers’/non-believers’ doesn’t matter here), the Hindu instantly recalls the following verses from the Gita.
“The soul (Atman) can neither be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can it be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by wind. This individual soul (Atman) is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. It is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.”
While Hindus believe Gita to be the word of God and many never question its authority, Gita never purports to impose itself on the readers. It rather aims to kickstart an inquiry in to the nature of the indescribable Atman (Self/Soul) and aims to provide answers that are intelligible.
What if one doesn’t get convinced? Well, it doesn’t make a difference to Truth (God). It may not make a difference to the reader (of Gita) as well. Then why Gita? Gita is just one window to the Ultimate. Gita says there are many others. Choose the one that best suits you. Simple
While it is difficult to imagine the current generation being guided by the PurANic theology, it can certainly choose to be so guided. Alternatively, it can choose to be guided by the more refined Vedantic philosophies which readily offer themselves to the test of reason and evidence. The choice one makes depends upon one’s spiritual make up. Imagine what doom would befell the country if one is condemned for the other. Condemn not, for every claim is true only in relation to the other; while the Absolute is beyond perception.