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Hindu renaissance and utilitarianism

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Samved Iyer
Samved Iyer
Eternal as evolution is, I cannot purport to have grown in thorough measure, and I am hopeful of augmenting my perspicacity in the company of beings far more erudite than me.

A reader who has read previous posts written by me would manifestly be aware of my advocacy of a right-wing emergence, a veritable Hindu Renaissance in India. This would be achieved by means of intellectual consolidation of the masses and invigoration of institutions dedicated to research in history and even Hindu philosophy, such as Sangam Talks, The Jaipur Dialogues, Indic Academy etc. In one of the posts, I had stated that celebrated author Amish Tripathi has mentioned, time and again, that India possesses 3 million non-printing press manuscripts whose, let alone in-depth analysis, even mere translation has not commenced. This number, he says, is greater than the rest of the world combined. Imagine the sheer amount of philosophical, scientific and mathematical knowledge we must be missing out on!

In his words, we certainly did not go to Mars in the past, but our country was indeed the provenance of surgery. I would go on to ask: who is so omniscient as to insist that the ancient Indians definitively did nothing other than give zero to the world, invent surgery and the like? There may be much more. Trust Indians to abnegate their past on account of contorted construals of modernity!

My advocacy of a Hindu Renaissance, however, is not on account of any dogmatic belief. This is only because I am aware that there is much to be learnt from our past that may be applied for a good future, which is a belief and not a fact. One does on occasion come across some among the Hindus on Twitter, who would like to suppress the Muslims. I do not remotely endorse it. I am aware of the fact that a substantial percentage of the Muslim community is illiterate, and can easily be goaded by fanatical religious clerics into hating the Hindus and even rejecting the notion of India. I am not comfortable with the dominance these clerics enjoy over the layman Muslims. I, in fact, am an advocate of incorporating them into the Hindu Renaissance. Let them use the proposed Hindu Renaissance to enlighten the Muslim masses as well. Let them also appreciate the ancient Hindu culture and disown their clerics.

Be that as it may, the attraction to our glorious past must strictly be utilitarian. We must not merely cling to it without purpose. For instance, the government could revive the Rig Vedic Sarasvati river, at least in part, and undertake a comprehensive project of linking the seven rivers, always described with reverence in our scriptures, for solving the problem of drought. I am no fan of the theological aspect.

Do I hate the concept of bhakti? Not really. One is indeed free to pursue the path of bhakti. My mere apprehension that we have in the past made the gravest error of trusting devotion more than action. As described in Dr. Ambedkar’s book Pakistan or the Partition of India, intemperate reliance on the power of an imagined god was precisely what led to the pious devotees to ignore the looming threat of invasions from the Middle East. They, with benumbing inanity, believed that their god shall descend on Earth to defend his worshippers and drive out those who dared cast an evil eye on the Dharmic lands. The Hindus, therefore, must turn to pragmatism.

My advocacy of a Hindu Renaissance is on account of a materialistic element incidental thereto. I see in it a potential to herald an intellectual revolution in India. Let us not forget that the ultimate truth is death. Both the successful and well-connected billionaire as well as the reclusive and lonely vagabond, shall experience the same final truth; the truth of death. The rest is, in fact, illusion, or as the Dhārmic shāstras say, the rest is māya. Nations, cultures, communities, religions are all māya. I agree with Professor Anand Ranganathan when he says that every individual is merely a bunch of cells that shall eventually wither away.

But if indeed death is the ultimate truth, why must I be concerned with this Hindu Renaissance? Why think of such profound concepts when we could simply live and die? Because all said and done, we are to live, and to make our lives utilitarian, we must conform to extant realities. Why must I be concerned about the providence of this nation called India? Do I believe in the concept of India? The answer is in the affirmative, for this is the era of nation-states. Humans have constituted societies, and because we live in societies, we cannot afford to ignore religion and culture. The ancient civilization that started on the banks of the Sarasvati and whose residents developed a set of philosophical values by which to abide, must indeed have the right to reclaim its past heritage. For it is expedient in the interests of stability for the diversity across the subcontinent to consolidate itself as a single nation-state.

Eventually, there shall be no India, for the Earth has a limited lifespan. Five billion years later, the Sun shall no longer exist and life on Earth shall come to an end. Much prior to it, life on Earth may evolve to a stage where it requires no independent nation-states and may succeed in constituting a world government. It is only the evolution of intellect and only an evolved species that can not merely conceptualize but also implement the idea of one world. Thus, that India as a nation-state shall efface one way or the other is an apodictic truth. For the foreseeable future, however, it is expedient in the interests of the teeming sixth of humanity in this nation-state to witness this country becoming tremendously powerful and developed on the parameters of health, education and overall sustenance. The philosophy is strictly utilitarian.

People can be provided with the motivation to propel the nation in its voyage when this idea is made sacrosanct. Thus, we have the concept of nationalism. It is nationalism that enthuses the spirited youngster to be ready to relegate his life to the background as he makes the defence of his country, whether at sea, in the air or at the borders, a sacrosanct mission. Thus, nationalism must extensively be propagated.

This rise in the spirit of nationalism in India must be used to advantage by the Hindus. This is the perfect opportunity to investigate with greater depth into the teachings of the past. I gave an example earlier of linking the rivers after reviving the Sarasvati. I cite another. There is an idea popular with the right-wing: the idea of reclamation of temples. Why not study the architecture of the temples and inculcate all of it in the syllabus of architecture? I would go so far as to say that we must frantically dig for information from the past that can be useful to us in the present and in the future. Research into the past must be seen as an investment.

The renowned freedom fighter, author, poet and social reformer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar had once written to a British communist leader Guy Aldred as follows:

I hold that although Mankind must march on through nationalism and federalism, through larger incorporations to their ultimate political goal is not and cannot be nationalism but Humanism, neither more nor less. The ideal of all political science and art must be a Human State. The earth is our Motherland, mankind our Nation and a Human Government based on equality of rights and duties is or ought to be our ultimate political goal.

If we are to adhere to Savarkar’s universalist view, we must first cement the nation. I have no doubt about the fact that ancient Indian wisdom possesses the requisite intellectual corpus that is needed to enable Indians to employ a universalist view. In that sense, India may indeed be a vishwaguru in the distant future. For this, however, the nation-state of India must be firm enough to withstand such intellectual projectiles as are hurled at its integrity.

The problem with the Left, as I see it, is its forceful imposition of this universalist view. The Indian Left is an incongruously different breed. I would go so far as to say that it is extraterrestrial. When I refer to “Left”, however, I refer to its ideology in general. It insists on a world without borders, which though paradisaical, may indeed be a desiderative concept. However, it is impatient; it wants it now. Did not Marx give the call, “Workers of the world unite”? One must pose his adherents the question, “and then what”? Overthrow the bourgeoisie? It is not that elementary. In his An Introduction to Political Theory, O.P. Gauba points out that as opposed to the Marxist worldview, the division of people into classes is not austere and there indeed is mobility from one class to another. As opposed to Marxian thought, the middle class has not disappeared and indeed has burgeoned. In such a scenario, the simplistic worldview of an overthrow by the proletariat is not even conceptually possible.

Thus, look to the renaissance in the Indian Right. Is it, however, a complete procedure to merely do so at the level of common citizens? Should not the same extend to government? Who but the government can officially change our history textbooks and inculcate a sense of pride among the student generation?

Doing so, however, shall be a test of patience for the Hindus, for the process shall be prolonged. No government shall undertake such a comprehensive revaluation of our textbooks. Therefore, it is imperative that the Hindus take matters into their own hands. They must enlist their children into the RSS, where they shall be raised rooted to our culture. As they grow up, they must be encouraged to join government services and even active politics. It is only once they assume positions of power in the bureaucracy and politics that they shall be able to effectuate a change. Much of our bureaucracy is accused of being elitist. The onus of making it more rooted to the civilizational ethos of India is on us. The process, as I said, shall be prolonged, but indeed useful.

Hindu Renaissance is an opportunity that may not herald itself again should we fail to seize it. To use the phraseology of Sardar Patel, although he used it in a different context, “This must, must and must be done.”

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Samved Iyer
Samved Iyer
Eternal as evolution is, I cannot purport to have grown in thorough measure, and I am hopeful of augmenting my perspicacity in the company of beings far more erudite than me.
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