Saturday, February 16, 2008

How to be a good Hindu

I ask myself: Why am I still a Hindu? Because it is difficult for a Hindu not to be a Hindu. Because it is a religion, which is not based on books, but on discourses. In Hinduism, the ins and the outs are not clearly marked. It is a religion without central tenets, prophets and core prescriptions like the Islam or the Christianity. I cannot be a Muslim if I don’t believe in the Prophet or I cannot be a Christian if I do not believe in Christ. I can be a Hindu even if I don’t read certain important texts (like the Bhagwad Geeta or Tulsidas’ Ramayana or some such texts). I can be a Hindu even if I don’t go to temple or believe in God.
The best thing and the worst thing about Hinduism is that there is no Hindutva. It is the best thing because it is difficult for the few powerful people, like priests or politicians to hijack the entire religion for their purposes by usurping the core elements. It is the worse thing because there is no fixed centre to provide moral and spiritual anchoring. Some critics may think that this is a very good thing, this lack of centre, and celebrate this centrelessness in a Nietzscheian way. However, I believe that it is precisely because of this lack of unambiguous central moral elements that there is unbridled corruption in our society. We end up having a society, which does not have conscience.

Dr. Ambedkar and certain Leftist thinkers believed that if you denounce Hinduism you are able to get rid of it. I wish it were that simple. Along with tyrannical and repressive aspects of Hinduism, like casteism or androcracy (a better word than patriarchy?), you also have more democratic and open elements which allow you to critique or denounce the repressive elements. One can see the Bhakti poetry as an example of assertion of more demotic and liberal elements of Hinduism. In fact, you can be democratic even by evoking God, as in Kabir or Meera. In fact, this combination of non-democratic with the liberal components is what makes Hinduism so exasperating. It becomes difficult to be Hindu in entirety and it becomes even more difficult to jettison the whole historical cargo. The step outside Hinduism is not easy one to make.

One can remain within this unwieldy inheritance, in a Derridian fashion, and continue to read the tradition against grain by emphasising the demotic and liberal elements of Hinduism, by amplifying the contradictions within the inherited set of beliefs and complicating the whole issue. One can be a good Hindu by relentlessly asking what Hinduism is and problematizing the unequivocal responses to this question. By continually reminding people that that there is no Hindutva alone, can I be a good Hindu. I can be a good Hindu only by reminding others and myself that there is no the Hinduism but Hinduisms and that there is no single version that is acceptable to all Hindus.


Screen Sifar said...

that was wonderful, clear and concise.
Thanks for offering the picture.I think I'm Hindu too, when I'm listening to Shubha Mudgal, or doing Yoga.
Iam Hindu!
Move over RSS!

dr.ksanjaykumar said...

I am totally disagree with his view. he has compared hindu religion with other religions. this comparasion itself proves its flexibility. other religions are like a mouse trape once a person enters in it there is no way to come out of it. irrespective of whether a hindu visits a tample or not, follow any spiritual text or not, he enjoys the status of Hindu. he has totally misinterprited the word Hindu. Hindu means life style.

El Scorcho said...

last paragraph, first line: i do not understand how you use the phrase "derridian fashion". i am familiar with derrida but not conversantly so, so it'd be nice if you could explain what you meant there.

Anonymous said...
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Khanindra Talukdar said...

The word 'Hindu' is not at all mentioned in any of the scriptures of 'Sanatana Dharma'. Its correct that there is not any profounder of it as 'Hindu' comes from the 'Sindhu', as believed. Thus Hindu is a life style, a culture and tradition for the people living in 'Hindustan', on the bank of the river 'Sindhu'. When we talk of 'Sanatan Dharma', others all sectarian religions are the outcome of it. That is why if someone keeps on talking about the Vedas or Upanishads in front of a cultured Muslim, he thinks talking about his Koran. This is my personal experience. Only thing, we can interpret the scriptures of 'Sanatan Dharma' any way we like, but it is not possible in others. Here we have atheism and theism, polytheism and monotheism and so on.