In recent years, it has become increasingly evident that the current secular state has resulted in significant difficulties for the practice of Hinduism. Open discrimination, banning of practices and downright condescension of Hindus and Hinduism have been the hallmarks of the secularism implemented in India. Noting this, many people have increasingly raised their voices for an alternative to secularism, one that respects Indian tradition. In other words, a Hindu state.
Proposing that a Hindu state and polity be crafted is easy – it is far more difficult to explain what exactly one means by a Hindu state. Hinduism is by no means a simple religion to explain. Staggeringly vast in its complexity, scholars have been trying for years to articulate in clear language the essence of the religion. Forget about a Hindu state – people still have trouble establishing the mere fundamentals. Even though the cries for a Hindu state have become increasingly louder, when it comes to actually articulating a functioning Hindu polity, the work done is less than stellar. What exactly are the priorities of a Hindu state? How will it differentiate itself from an ordinary secular state in its functioning? What will be its aims and goals? Unless we give a satisfactory outline of the basics of a Hindu state, significant progress toward its realization cannot take place.
The purpose of this essay is to articulate in simple language the fundamentals of the Hindu state. When we talk of fundamentals we mean certain non-negotiable cultural and social aspects that should be protected and prioritized by the Hindu state no matter what the circumstances are – be it economic, natural or any other disturbance. It is the protection and growth of these essential qualities that determine that this is indeed a Hindu state and nothing else. Just like how the Japanese state has its Imperial lineage that gives it its cultural identity, we need an essential “Hindu core” – something that establishes the Hindu state as the proper inheritor of a special and unique cultural legacy. I propose that there are three main pillars that define a Hindu state. The degree to which the establishment of these aspects takes place will determine to which extent a state is Hindu enough. They are:
1) The chastity of women
2) The Vedas of the Brahmins
3) The vows of the Sannyasis
The list may sound rather vague, but worry not – the rest of this essay will be spent in elucidating each of these aspects and their relevance in some detail.
1) The chastity of women
It is not merely enough to say that women ought to be chaste without any legal repercussions for the crime of adultery – a proper punishment for the offense is a must in a functioning Hindu state. The chastity of women is not merely a simple virtue, but the very binding thread of the fabric of social life. There are two main positive elements that the state acquires by promoting chastity. The first is ensuring the psychological and mental well being of people that exist in the state. There are few good things in this world better than being in the presence of a loving family. Close-knit kinship communities are life and blood of a healthy social environment and it is a wonderful feeling to love and to be loved by those who are close to you. The results of granting unrestricted freedom are there to see in developed countries around the world. Broken families, depressed youth and single parents have proliferated. The lack of chastity among women is a major factor in causing this phenomenon to take place, and it is something that any functioning state would wish to avoid at all costs.
The second and perhaps more relevant aspect is the fact that the chastity broadly ensures the continuation of certain practices that have been passed down for centuries in the family. In other words, it ensures the continuation of the institution of Jaati – often known in common parlance as the practice of “caste”. Now, the current educated opinion on the topic of “Jaati” is that it is an evil to be abolished and not particularly something that needs to protected. I will not go into detail about the knotty problems of caste relationships – other people have written about the problem far better than I ever will. However, in this context, when I use the word Jaati, it refers not to discriminatory practices that have been built up, but the existence of kinship communities and the unique practices that are associated with each one. It is absolutely essential to ensure the continued existence of the rituals and practices of each Jaati among the populace. This is the second reason to ensure the chastity of women. A question may be raised here – why must we ensure the continued existence of Jaati practices? Don’t they do more harm than good? Can’t we do without them? The answer to these questions lies in the next section.
2) The Vedas of the Brahmins
The consequence of having all Jaatis follow their own necessary duties will result in the fact that the Vedas are being recited and studied by the Brahmins. If all Jaatis are following their personal dharmas, then it only follows that the Brahmins too are doing so. To put it as bluntly as possible, the main reason to ensure the continuation of Jaati dharmas is to ensure that the Brahmins follow their duty of reciting the Vedas. Now the Vedas are hardly a light topic to discuss about. However, this essay will merely touch upon the social consequences of patronizing the Vedas and the Brahmins.
The Vedas have long since been recognized as the foundational texts of Hinduism. However, it has another equally important function – to be the final arbiter when it comes to problems of religion. Human beings need religion. Religion is a necessity in human life, and it represents mankind’s attempts to capture the infinite and eternal divine within the finite and temporal. The Vedas, due to their unique character, have the capacity to absorb and synthesize various strands of religious thought while preventing any sort of violent conflict to take root between religions. India’s pre-Islamic past has been a beacon of religious tolerance that has never existed before in other countries, both in the past and in the present. This is largely due to the Vedic message of religious synthesis. Various flavours of religious thought were allowed to interact, coalesce and disagree amicably and violent religious conflict was scarce. Vedic philosophy is the only philosophy provides the necessary space for the full flower of religion to bloom in all its glory. This is the main reason that the state must ensure that the Brahmins study and recite the Vedas, for it is only the Vedas that can provide full sustenance to mankind’s never ending religious fervor. Now that we have established the necessity of the Vedas, the next question arises: what comes after the Vedas?
3) The vows of the Sannyasis
The last and most important aspect that any Hindu state must give importance to are the vows of the Sannyasis or renunciates. The Sannyasis are those who have renounced all ties of caste and religion, and let go of all worldy attachment. The Sannyasis represent knowledge or Jnaana in its full glory. There is not much to write about here, apart from the fact that it is absolutely essential that the state ensures that the Sannyasis are well protected, since they are only the ones in this world that have understood the purpose of life in its entirety. Without the guiding hand of the Sannyasins ruin is certain.
Each of the three aspects that have been explained above provides the basis for another aspect of Hindu social life.
Chastity of women -> Jaati (Caste)
Vedas of the Brahmins -> Matha (Religion)
Vows of the Sannyasis -> Jnaana (Knowledge)
The chastity of women protects Jaati, thus providing a fulfilling social environment for man. The Brahmins and the Vedas preserve Matha (Religion), allowing every man to worship the divine in whichever way he wishes. Finally, the Sannyasis give rise to the glorious fruit of Jnaana (Knowledge), which is the purpose of life. When we observe the above list, we see a certain progression. Man’s inner life can be said to begin with hedonism with zero higher pursuits. He then progresses from mere pleasure-seeking to proper kinship communities and rituals – Jaati. From Jaati he progresses to a religious awakening – Matha. Finally, from Matha he attains Knowledge – Jnaana – and reaches Moksha (Freedom). Thus, by taking care of the three aspects of Chastity, Vedas and Vows, a proper Hindu state would take care of all man’s essential inner needs in one go.
The modern secular state does not merely ignore these aspects, but directly works to destroy and disincentivize them. If a proper Hindu state arises in the future, it must pay attention to these fundamentals in order to protect Hindu culture, which, as demonstrated, is something that fulfills all aspects of human life.