As we all know, culture is the backbone of any nation. India has to identify and nourish a culture of its own not alien to its soil. By blindly following the western concepts of secularism and democracy, India has neglected its cultural character, which is based on the wisdom-tradition of its rishis and sages. In some western democracies, the Church may not have any direct role in governance, but they continue to swear by the gospel and stand behind Christianity, while allowing religious freedom to others, who do not believe in Christianity. However, in India, the State shies away from identifying with its ancient spiritual and cultural identity. It is not just because of a hollow interpretation of secularism and democracy. There are internal contradictions in Hinduism itself that prevent the Indian state to identify with Hinduism.
The cultural and spiritual identity of Bharat is not Judaic, Christian or Islamic, but Hinduism, as long as India remains a Hindu majority country - forget that India is the ancient-most civilization which gave birth to Hinduism and followed it for ages and ages. Sadly, the Hindus have been denied of their legitimate right to proclaim and uphold the unique cultural and religious identity of their mother land by the Nehruvian politicians left behind by the colonialists. The prevailing anti-Hindu political ideologies such as Marxism, Communism and pseudo Secularism are only the bye-products of this political misdirection. The colonialists and their agents have succeeded to mangle Hindus in such a way that the Hindus mock their own religion and culture. The Hindus have to be rescued from this cultural hara-kiri and spiritual stupor. This is the biggest civilizational challenge India faces today.
While some of the oldest civilizations of Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia, Rome and others have withered away, the Indian civilization has survived for long adapting itself to the changing times. It shows the great strength and vision of the rishis and sages, on whose philosophy the Indian culture is based. Their worldview is founded on universal spiritual verities. Realizing the divine nature of life, they taught that Atma (one’s self or consciousness) can evolve to divine status through various incarnations. Truth is universal, therefore, the rishis never promoted an exclusive theory of religion. There cannot be a Hindu God, then a Christian or Islamic God. They conceived God as Pragyanam Brahm (Eternal Consciousness) or Sat-Chit-Ananda (Truth, Consciousness and Bliss), which transcends all dualities, name and form.
Attracted by the beauty of Indian thought and culture and the richness of the land, great travelers like Megasthenese, Fa Hien, Huen Tsang and others visited India. In a letter Huen Tsang wrote to a Buddhist monk in Magadha in 654 AD, Huen Tsang mentions that he carried a horse-load of scriptures to China for the study of Indian culture, philosophy and religion. Thousands of students came to study in the ancient universities of Nalanda and Takshashila and carried the teachings of Indian sages on varied subjects such as metallurgy, textiles, medicine, surgery, mathematics, aviation, and of course, philosophy and spirituality to their countries. Thus Indian culture and philosophy had influenced the world from the very ancient times. Francois Voltaire rightly mentioned that ‘everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges…’
However, the pertinent question is why India has lost its olden glory. Here lies the need to examine what had gone wrong with the nation’s culture and spiritual heritage. There is a need to reinterpret and reinvigorate India’s ancient heritage. From the spiritual practices of Dwapara and Treta Yuga, Hindus have to evolve into the spiritual vision of Kali Yuga, the concluding era in a chaturyuga cycle (consisting of satya, treta, dwapara and kali yuga). Kaliyuga is the period of great spiritual churning. In Kaliyuga, the spiritual practices followed in Treta and Dwapara yuga become redundant and ineffective. Kali yuga is the age of enlightenment and supramental evolution under a Guru of transcendental realization. In Kali yuga souls get purified and perfected and these souls are promoted to the next chaturyuga beginning with Satyayuga to become perfect divinities, enjoying uninterrupted divine bliss. By clinging on to the spiritual practices of bygone ages, human beings limit their spiritual evolution. The cataclysms and attacks on Hinduism since the onset of Kali yuga about 5200 years ago after the time of Sri Krishna are related to this yuga-parivartan or aeonic change, which the Hindus are yet to be aware of. The main difficulty before Hindus in accepting the wisdom-tradition seems to be their difficulty in rallying behind a strong spiritual leadership forgetting caste, clan and regional boundaries.
Hinduism is attacked mainly because of two reasons: One is its polytheism, the veneration of trimurti gods (Brahma,Vishnu and Maheshwara) and other devi-devas instead of Brahman, the Almighty God. The learned as well as the ignorant are trapped in the puranic version of Hinduism that places gods and goddesses at the altar of veneration. Besides its weak rational foundation, this type of worship fragments the masses spiritually and socially. The votaries of this system, mainly the orthodox Brahmins justify the tradition and would not tolerate any attempts at its reformation as they are the only ones to lose by way of profession and social privileges. Thus the Buddha, Mahavira, the Sikh Gurus, Swami Dayananda Saraswati and others had to leave Hinduism and many millions converted. This is not to suggest that all Brahmins are against the reformation of Hinduism. On the contrary, some of the greatest reformers of Hinduism have been the Brahmins themselves.
The worship of devi-devas was popularized through the puranas, which are part of mythology written down for mass consumption of various sects in Hinduism. Each sect contradicts the other while promoting their ishta-devata over the other. For the Saivites, Siva is the Lord of creation, while for the Vaishnavites it is Vishnu. There are yet other gods like Surya, Ganapati as well as the Devi of Sakteyas who claim the role of creation. This spiritual fragmentation has led to inimical social groupings in a subtle way often leading to suicidal enmity and clashes, wherein the downfall of one group is desired by the other. The Hindus who work for the triumph of Hinduism should realize that this spiritual fragmentation stands in the way of Hindu unity, which is a precondition for making India a truly Hindu nation.
The Hindu philosophy (Sanatana Dharma) is not based on the mythology in the puranas. Its base can be said as the Upanishads, the jnana portion of the Vedas and the philosophical sciences such as Sankhya, Vedanta, Yoga, Nyaya etc. all of which speak about God in terms of Atman, Purusha or Brahman, the Absolute God Principle, which is contradictory to the creation theories in the puranas. The puranas portray Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara or Devi as the authorities of creation. In the same puranas as well as in the Vedas and Upanishads, it can be seen that the gods themselves were secondary creations of Brahman. Even the god Brahma has to meet with his end, say the puranas. Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara were the spiritual authorities of previous yuga-cycles. The puranic myths glorify the history pertaining to a remote past, which cannot be relived now. Moreover, the spiritual incumbency of trimurty ends with the onset of Kaliyuga. It is said that even the gods and angels are eager to be born In Kali yuga, especially in Bharata Varsha for working out their liberation through the great preceptors who would be born in this age. In Kaliyuga human beings are able to perform the feats what gods had performed in earlier ages. Man has much evolved than the gods. Like the great god Siva did with his third eye, today man can destroy the whole earth with the press of a button. He can go to different planets using vehicles equivalent to the ones used by devas. Therefore, the worship of devas in Kali yuga would not yield any special boons to the worshippers because human beings in Kaliyuga are endowed with greater spiritual prowess. Those who worship still lower spiritual entities such as ghosts, goblins and other evil powers are sure to lose their human character and beauty.
This is not to deny the existence of devas nor their exalted spiritual status. Devas are splendorous spiritual entities inhabiting the heavenly plane (swarga). They are the embodiment of ashta aishwaryas, the eightfold riches and fortunes. By worshipping them and by living a life of dharma, one can no doubt attain heavenly pleasures here and hereafter. But there is one problem. They can enjoy this paradise only until the exhaustion of their punya. Once the punya is exhausted this person is expelled from the heavens to be born again, one does not know in what wombs (ksheene punye marthya lokam visanthi, ref Bhagavat Gita). Sri Sankara refers this vicious circle as ‘punarapi jananam, punarapi maranam, punarapi janani jattare sayanam, iha samsare bahu dustarre….. (there is the chain of births and deaths; man is born in the mother’s womb again and again; this worldly existence is very difficult to transcend). Only after transcending the celestial plane of devas and angels, one can experience the real joy of spiritual realization, declare the rishis. However, no mahatmas or prophets in this Kali yuga could transcend the most perilous and treacherous plane of the celestials including those prophets who negate the devi-deva tradition. That is another story which resembles the star-wars.
The Upanishads say: ‘the face of Truth is hidden by a golden vessel’. The golden vessel compared here is the splendorous world of the gods and angels, the seventh heaven. Kali yuga is the age to transcend this plane, which is the yuga dharma or the requirement of this age. According to the philosophy of Hinduism, the Supreme Truth is above the heavenly plane; therefore it becomes difficult to accept the authority of gods as the ultimate way of spiritual redemption. The strife between the inner sects in Hinduism as well as other religions has arisen because it promotes the worship of gods and angels, which limits man’s spiritual potential to the notion of heaven, which also happens to be the ultimate goal of Christianity and Islam. Christianity and Islam have a half-baked theory of creation. Since they do not entertain the idea of transmigration of souls, they do not accept the truth of spiritual evolution through the guidance of different preceptors, who incarnate from time to time in the long cycles of yugas. Hindus can never accept the view that only through the teachings of Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed the human race can be redeemed. In fact, no other religions have caused and continue to cause so much violence and bloodshed than Islam and Christianity because of the bigoted view of religion.
Fortunately, Hindus are the descendents of the great rishis who spoke about a universal religion, the Sanatana Dharma, whose principles are extolled as the highest peak of mystical experience. However, the Hindus have never come to terms with such a lofty religion of the rishis because of the corruption occurred over the ages. It is time the Hindus sit down and introspect in order to meet the challenges before their ancient-most religion, which happens to be the most peaceful and contemplative life science with a universal applicability.
Second is the caste gradation of Hindus, which divides them into socially fragmented groups. Religion unites people, but Hinduism created fissures among its adherents by the caste classification. We can find that the original inhabitants of India never instituted any caste system. It began with the ancient Vedic priests (yagnikas), who considered themselves as racially superior. They devised caste system in order to protect their racial purity and to exercise control over the people, whom they brought under subjugation. It is one of the earliest instances of colonialism in per-historic times, similar to the conquests of native populations by white Europeans in the continents of America, Africa and other places. Although, some Indians try to prove that Aryans were not different from the native Indians, all evidence suggests that it was a racially conscious group, which injected this poison into the Indian society. One may make any number of arguments for and against the Aryan invasion theory, but the truth is apparent and cannot be erased from the canvas of Indian history.
The otherwise lofty teachings in the scriptures are marred by the deification of a particular caste, the Brahmins. Again, instead of questioning its irrational foundation, some Hindus are eager to prove that caste system is good. No government would be able to promote the study of Hindu scriptures in schools and colleges despite its great treasure house of knowledge; it is because of the unequal and objectionable caste hierarchy in them. In almost all the scriptures, the Brahmin is eulogized to the level of a god, and the sudra is condemned without any privileges in the society. This hidden apartheid in the body of Hindu scriptures prevents it being accepted universally. It is naive to believe that the scriptures available now are the original work of Vyasa and other rishis. These scriptures have been manipulated and interpolated during subsequent redactions by the Brahmin editors. What one can do to make the Hindu scriptures universally acceptable is to remove the caste references in it. The word ‘brahmana’ in the scriptures should be replaced by ‘sage’, ‘brahma jnani’, ‘sadhu,’ ‘sanyasi’, ‘guru’ etc. The real meaning intended in the scriptures by the word ‘brahmana’ is brahma Jnani or a sage, who are realized souls. But, in the subsequent editions over the ages the pundits have deliberately used the words ‘brahmin’, ‘dwija’ etc. which has a definite caste connotation. Moreover, many stories have been incorporated in the puranas and epics that speak of cruel punishment for violation of caste laws. An example is the story of the killing of Shambhuka, a sudra sanyasi by Sri Ram. This is a concocted story incorporated in the Ramayana for legitimizing caste laws. Sri Ram, the supreme Guru of Treta Yuga was beyond all caste discrimination. In Ramayana, he is seen venerating Sabari, a sudra woman ascetic.
All sensible Hindus should think whether these types of stories and caste gradation would foster Hindu unity, leave alone the question of attracting other people to Hinduism. Conversion of other people to Hinduism is not possible because of the caste gradation. A few westerners who embrace Hinduism do not follow the traditional Hinduism; they follow only the path of jnana or yoga under the guru-sishya tradition, which is the real core of Sanatana Dharma. Brahmanical Hinduism remains like a parasite on the tree of Sanatana Dharma. India can regain its olden glory only by uniting its people spiritually and socially, for which there should be an internal discussion among the Hindu leadership regarding the true foundation of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) and its principles.
Traditionally, Hindus believe that the Vedas are the only authority in the matters of Hinduism. However, Vedas are bound to Yuga Dharma, i.e. they are age-specific. The sages in every age receive the revealed 'word' from Brahman, which is a catalog of spiritual principles and duties to be followed in a particular yuga. With the change of yuga, the sages again receive the Veda or the ‘Word’ from Brahman regarding the spiritual duties. This was how in Treta Yuga Sri Ram was worshiped and in Dwapara Yuga Sri Krishna was worshiped as the spiritual authorities of those ages relegating the Vedic gods (Indra, Varuna, Vayu, Agni, etc.) to the background. Their words and deeds were the moral code for the people. Spiritual truths were conveyed by them. The teachings of Sri Ram and Sri Krishna are available even now in the form of Jnana Vasishtam (Vasishta Ramayan) and Bhagavat Gita (also Udhava Gita, the last word of Sri Krishna to Uddhava ) respectively. Therefore, what the divinely commissioned sages reveal in this Kali yuga are the Vedas or the dharma shastra to be followed now.
In every age, a Trikala Jnani Guru takes birth in Bharat Varsha, the sacred land of rishis. They would appear by divine design and would lead us forward at the appropriate time, if and when we are ripe enough to receive their message. Navajyotisri Karunakara Guru was one such sage who tried to sensitize the people about the rich wisdom-tradition. The spiritual flowering of humanity has to take place through newer spiritual masters. We have to open our heart and heed their words of wisdom. We have to share the burden of improving the life of downtrodden and uphold the dignity and importance of women as well as sensitize them spiritually. This can be possible only by liberating the people from retarding cultural practices and exploitation in the name of religion. In order to infuse new life into the culture of the nation, it is very essential that the society be guided by the wisdom of a sage or Trikala Jnani Guru. Whenever the people of India absorbed the wisdom of its sages, it had risen to great heights and whenever it failed to do so, it fell into the depth of great moral and physical decadence. The present spiritual decadence of India is related to this spiritual perplexity.
The real enemies of Hinduism are internal. The new generation of children is not going to accept any irrational beliefs and practices. Already, the majority of Hindus remain Hindus for the namesake, having lost all sense of their religion. We should not be complacent and wait to see the complete alienation of our children from their cultural and spiritual moorings. It is difficult for Hindus to forget the temple tradition and caste gradation. However, they would be doing great injustice to the sages and rishis if they do not spiritually upgrade themselves by respecting the concept of yuga-parivartan or yuga-dharma by following the Jnana path through the medium of a transcendental Guru Parampara. When the Hindus are thus able to respect and rally behind a blameless spiritual leadership, they would have advanced one step forward in transforming India into a mighty Hindu nation. The followers of all other religions, including the Christians and Muslims ought to respect the Yuga dharma, which is the key to the door of a universal religion.