SHRI KLAUS KLOSTERMAIER ON THE ETHOS
AND THE FUTURE OF HINDUISM
Ashok V. Chowgule
Over the last couple of centuries, the essence of Hinduism has been perverted. In the first 150 years, this was a programme being conducted by the missionaries, as a part of their efforts to convert India into Christianity. In the next 50 years the programme of calumny was taken over by the Communists, who happened to be Indian citizens. Their intention was to convert India into Communism, and Hinduism was a threat in this crusade. Shri Klostermaier notes that 'the majority of Indian political scientists and sociologists are Marxist oriented' (p 411). It is now clear that both these efforts failed - the first substantially, the second miserably. However, there is a great deal of confusion amongst the people of what Hinduism stands for, and why this ethos is necessary not only for Hindus, but those following other faiths.
Shri Klaus Klostermaier's A Survey of Hinduism is used as a standard text-book in the United States by students interested in Hinduism. It will help people to appreciate the ethos of Hinduism and its relevance in today's world. if we give a few quotes from the book. To understand that Shri Klostermaier is not a votary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, we will first give what lie thinks of the organisation. It goes without saying that we do not agree with his assessment, but that is another subject. These quotes are taken from the book published by Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd (Delhi, First Indian Edition, 1990). The book was first published in 1989 by the State University of New York Press, Albany, New York, United States.
1. The more recent history of Hinduism is also fraught with intolerance. The Arya Samaj and its offspring, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, have intimidated and often provoked non-Hindus. They have been responsible for numerous Hindu-Muslim riots, for atrocities in the name of the true religion, and finally, for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, whom they considered an enemy of Hinduism. (p 59. Italics in original.)
2. The quite phenomenal expansion of Mahesh Yogi Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation Society, the success of Swami Bhaktivedanta's International Society of Krishna Consciousness, and the mass pilgrimages of plane loads of Americans to Balyogeshwar Guruji's camp were not merely the result of smart organisation and cleverly manipulated publicity; they also reflect an obvious need on the part of many people in the West, especially among the young. In the new Hindu movements, they hope to find what they have missed in their synagogues and churches: practical guidance in self-discovery, an integrated world view, systematic training of psychic powers, emotional satisfaction, and perhaps, true mystical experience. It would be very sad if Hindu propaganda in the West were to lead only to the establishment of a few Hindus sects, missing the great opportunity for the growth of new, genuinely modem forms of spirituality by entering into dialogue with the still living Western religious tradition. (p 29.)
3. Hindus, as we have seen, can be very critical of Hinduism, too, but that should not mislead us into thinking they are waiting for Westerners to solve their problems. (p 400.)
4. Political Hinduism, I hold, cannot be understood by applying either a Western-party democratic gauge or a Marxist-socialist pattern. Its potential has much to do with the temper of Hinduism, which was able throughout the ages to rally people around causes that were perceived to be of transcendent importance and in whose pursuit ordinary human values and considerations had to be abandoned. (p 412.)
5. It would not be surprising to find Hinduism the dominant religion of the twenty-first century. It would be a religion that doctrinally is less clear-cut than mainstream Christianity, politically less determined than Islam, ethically less heroic than Buddhism: but it would offer something to everybody, it would delight by its richness and depth, it would address people at a level that has not been plumbed for a Ion time by other religions or prevailing ideologies. (p 413.)
6. Hinduism will spread not so much through the gurus and swamis, who attract a certain number of people looking for a new commitment and a quasi-monastic life-style, but it will spread mainly through the work of intellectuals and writers, who have found certain Hindu ideas convincing and who identify them with their personal beliefs. A fair number of leading physicists and biologists have found parallels between modem science and Hindu ideas. An increasing number of creative scientists will come from a Hindu background and will consciously and unconsciously blend their scientific and their religious ideas. All of us may be already much more Hindu than we think. (p 414.)
Shri Klostermaier also quotes Swami Vivekanand predicting this situation. "We Hindus have now been placed, under God's providence, in a very critical and responsible position. The nations of the West are coming to us for spiritual help. A great moral obligation rests on the sons of India to fully equip themselves for the work of enlightening the world on problems of human existence." (Complete Works of Swami Vivekanand, (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1970-1971), Vol 3, p 139.)
The universality of Hinduism that Shri Klostermaier talks about has also been forecasted by Swami Vivekanand. In his first Chicago address, at the World Parliament of Religion, on September 11, 1893, he said, "I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation."
On die contrary, Indian journalist have realised only recently the ethos and future of Hinduism. Shri Amitabh Mattoo says the following in his article in the now defunct The Independent (December 19, 1992): "The tragic legacy of Nehru era was that it made all sane Hindu voices of the intelligentsia deny their Hindu roots, speak in an alien voice not rooted in Indian society and inflict their imported notions of culture on the people in a most contemptuous way".
Similarly, Smt Tavleen Singh, in her article in the Indian Express (October 15, 1995) said, "(S)urprisingly, I share Shri Singhal's concern about the preservation of Hindu (only I say Indian) values. I really believe that one of the failures of Congress secularism was that it treated everything Hindu, thereby Indian, with disdain. Our schools and universities do not teach anything to do with India. There are no possibilities to study ancient, or modern, Indian literature, theatre or art. Sanskrit scholars are slowly dying out and to modern Indians Ramayana and Mahabharata are only gaudy television soaps."
Of course, both Shri Mattoo and Smt Singh do not admit that they were equally guilty parties to what Nehru and the Congress party did. The change in their thinking has come about due to a resurgence of Hinduism, as reflected in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. On this, Shri V S Naipaul, in an interview with The Times of India (July 18, 1993), had the following to say: "What is happening in India is a new historical awakening .... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening .... (T)he intellectuals have a duty to perform. The duty is the use of the mind. It is not enough for intellectuals to chant their liberal views or to abuse what is happening. To use the mind is to reject the grosser aspects of this vast emotional upsurge .... (I)t is not enough to use that fashionable word from Europe: fascism. There is a big, historical development going on in India. Wise men should understand it and ensure that it does not remain in the hands of fanatics. Rather they should use it for the intellectual transformation of India." It is becoming quite clear that the intellectuals have failed in their duty.