Saturday, May 11, 2013

When Germany is Christian, is India Hindu?

(Denying One’s Own Roots)

By Maria Wirth

Though I live in India since long, there are still some points that I find hard to understand - for example why many educated Indians become agitated when India is considered as a Hindu country. The majority of Indians are Hindus. India is special because of its ancient Hindu tradition. Westerners are drawn to India because of it. Why then is there this resistance by many Indians to acknowledge the Hindu roots of their country?

This attitude is strange for two reasons. First, those educated Indians seem to have a problem only with ‘Hindu’ India, but not with ‘Muslim’ or ‘Christian’ countries. In Germany for example, only 59 percent of the population are registered with the two big Christian Churches (Protestant and Catholic), however, the country is bracketed under ‘Christian countries’. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, stressed recently the Christian roots of Germany and urged the population ‘to go back to Christian values’. In 2012, she postponed her trip to the G-8 summit for a day to address the German Catholic Day. Two major political parties carry ‘Christian’ in their name, including Angela Merkel’s ruling party.

Germans are not agitated that Germany is called a Christian country, though I actually would understand if they were. After all, the history of the Church is appalling. The so called success story of Christianity depended greatly on tyranny.  “Convert or die”, were the options given not only to the indigenous population in America some five hundred years ago. In Germany, too, 1200 years ago, the emperor Karl the Great ordered the death sentence for refusal of baptism in his newly conquered realms. It provoked his advisor Alkuin to comment: ‘One can force them to baptism, but how to force them to believe?’

Those times, when one’s life was in danger if one dissented with the dogmas of the Church, are thankfully over. And nowadays many in the west do dissent and leave the Church in a steady stream - partly because they are disgusted with the less than holy behavior of Church officials and partly because they can’t believe in the dogmas, for example that ‘Jesus is the only way’ and that God sends all those who don’t accept this to hell.

And here comes the second reason why the resistance to associate India with Hinduism by Indians is difficult to understand. Hinduism is in a different category from the Abrahamic religions. Its history, compared to Christianity and Islam was undoubtedly the least violent as it spread in ancient times by convincing arguments and not by force. It is not a belief system that demands blind belief in dogmas and the suspension of one’s intelligence. On the contrary, Hinduism encourages using one’s intelligence to the hilt. It is an enquiry into truth, based on a refined (methods are given) character and intellect. It comprises a huge body of ancient literature, not only regarding Dharma and philosophy, but also regarding music, architecture, dance, science, astronomy, economics, politics, etc.

If Germany or any other western country had this kind of literary treasure, it would be so proud and highlight its greatness on every occasion. When I discovered for example the Upanishads, I was stunned. Here was expressed in clear terms what I intuitively had felt to be true, but could not have expressed clearly. Brahman is not partial; it is the invisible, indivisible essence in everything. Everyone gets again and again a chance to discover the ultimate truth and is free to choose his way back to it. Helpful hints are given but not imposed.

 In my early days in India, I thought that every Indian knew and valued his tradition. Slowly I realized that I was wrong. The British colonial masters had been successful in not only weaning away many of the elite from their ancient tradition but even making them despise it. It helped that the ‘educated’ class could no longer read the original Sanskrit texts and believed what the British told them. This lack of knowledge and the brainwashing by the British education may be the reason why many ‘modern’ Indians are against anything ‘Hindu’. They don’t realize the difference between western religions that have to be believed (or at least professed) blindly, and which discourage if not forbid their adherents to think on their own and the multi-layered Hindu Dharma which gives freedom and encourages using one’s intelligence.

Many of the educated class do not realize that on one hand, westerners, especially those who dream to impose their own religion on this vast country, will applaud them for denigrating Hindu Dharma, because this helps western universalism to spread in India. On the other hand, many westerners, including Church people, very well know the value and surreptitiously appropriate insights from the vast Indian knowledge system, drop the original source and present it either as their own or make it look as if these insights had been known in the west.

Rajiv Malhotra of Infinity Foundation has done painstaking research in this field and has documented many cases of “digestion” of Dharma civilization into western universalism. He chose the term digestion, as it implies that that which is being digested (a deer for example) is in the end no longer there, whereas the ‘digester’ (a tiger) becomes stronger. Similarly, Hindu civilization is gradually being depleted of its valuable, exclusive assets and what is left is called inferior.

If only missionaries denigrated Hindu Dharma, it would not be so bad, as they clearly have an agenda which discerning Indians would detect. But sadly, Indians with Hindu names assist them because they wrongly believe that Hinduism is inferior to western religions. They belittle everything Hindu instead of getting thorough knowledge. As a rule, they know little about their tradition except what the British told them, i.e. that the major features are caste system and idol worship. They don’t realize that India would gain, not lose, if it solidly backed its profound and all inclusive Hindu tradition. The Dalai Lama said some time ago that already as a youth in Lhasa, he had been deeply impressed by the richness of Indian thought. “India has great potential to help the world,” he added. When will the westernized Indian elite realize it? 


  1. Maria is indeed so right in her puzzlement at Hindu Indian's inability or unwillingness to connect to his/her roots.This in fact is at the bottom of a very large number of problems of India and its heart-rending failures despite 65 years of complete freedom to chart out its own path. In my opinion there is no people on the face of this earth who do not seek their own ancient identity or are proud of it or willing to fight for it except Hindus in India.It is as if about 800 years of colonization, humiliating atrocities and cruel treatment have taken away the Hindu Prana from the Hindu Body.

  2. I am one of the educated, unable to read Sanskrit class you talk about. And I have qualms in calling my country a Hindu one not because I do not realize the value of the Vedas and Gita but because declaring a state religion has more to do with the politics of it than the underlining sublimity of the faith itself. It is often to the exclusion of not only other religions but their followers. If the majority that practises a religion sees it in the entirety that you do, there would be no problem. But that isn't the case. Anywhere.

    1. mam you in India no school can teach Hindu scripture, but on the other hand quran and bible are allowed to teach... and you are talking about secularism in the country like this there is famous quote "Unjust law is not at all a law" there are different laws for Hindus and all the other religions.

    2. Please understand the article before commenting. Nowhere does the author say that Hinduism should be state religion of India. Maria is making a profound point about civilizational identity of India. To prove her point she juxtapositions India with Germany and proves her point that because the Christians are a majority in Germany and they are ashamed of the fact hence no one has an issue with Germany being bracketed as Christian, while on the other hand people like you feel very uncomfortable if called Hindu, but when push comes to shove have no qualms in taking advantage of the fact.

    3. I completely agree with the claim of the " civilizational identity of India". India is known to and respected in the world for this.

    4. The word identity is anathema to a Hindu well familiar with Hindu thought and the concept of Moksh, which is nothing but liberation from every kind of identity. The concept of swadharma stresses an individual's communion with God without third part intervention. Is not a humane and enlightened country a better name than Hindu Country?

  3. My response to this Maria Wirth.

    If I have read this blog correctly Ms.Wirth puts forth two arguments for why India should be a "Hindu" country.

    1. That Hinduism is the ancient religion of the Indian peninsula followed by a majority of its citizens and since Germany calls itself a Christian country with only 59% of its population registered as Christian therefore we Indians should also do the same.
    2."Hinduism" is a superior religion because it is a religion based on intellectual search and spread with pacifist arguments in comparison of christian crusades.
    3. By not calling India a Hindu country we are denying our roots.

    Now here is why she is wrong.

    Fallacies of the first argument.

    1. Identifying the word "Hinduism" with a religion is incorrect. The etymology of word hindu comes from the people of middle east describing the culture that lived east of river Indus. The right word is "Sanatan Dharma" which describes a set of philosphies that talk of illusion of identity and pursuit of dissolving the illusion with the larger universal consciouness. Under this philophy comes Shaivites, Vaishwanites, Shaktites, Smartities, Charvakas, Jains, Buddhists, Vedics , Tantrics etc. and even the Sufi Bauls of bengal. Some of these philosophies are so varying from each other that various wars have been fought to decide which was more superior or right. Identifying the word "Hindu" with a religion has been encouraged by the British to divide and rule the land for 300 years.
    2. Just because the Germans follow the policy of state religion does not mean that we Indians need to follow the principles of German national policy making. This argument is based on the principle that German mindset is superior to the Indian.
    3. The Vedic Aryans were not the first humans in Indian peninsula. Findings from the human genome project tell us that the first humans came to the Indian peninsula some 70000 years ago and are closely related to tribals of the Western ghats and the Aboriginals of Australia. if we use the not-denying-our-roots principle India should actually be a tribalist/ Animist country... not Hindu nor Buddhist.

    1. The Word 'Hindu'
      History is mostly guessing; the rest is prejudice.
      (Will Durant)

      The word 'Hindu' has its origin in Sanskrit literature. In the Rig Veda, India was referred to as the country of'Sapta Sindhu', i.e. the country of seven great rivers. The word 'Sindhu' refers to rivers and sea and not merely to the specific river called the Sindhu (Indus), now in Pakistan. In Vedic Sanskrit, according to ancient dictionaries, 'sa' was pronounced as 'ha'. Thus 'Sapta Sindhu' was pronounced as 'Hapta Hindu'; similarly 'Saraswati' was pronounced as 'Haravyati' or 'Harahwati'. This is how the word 'Hindu' came into being. The ancient Persians also referred to India as 'Hapta Hind', as recorded in their ancient classic 'Bern Riyadh'. That is why some scholars came to believe that the word 'Hindu' had its origin in Persia. The Greeks who invaded India under Alexander the Great, dropped the 'H' completely and used the name Indoos or Indus which later led to the formation of the word 'India'.
      The Origin and Other Names of Hinduism
      As explained above, there is no equivalent word for 'Dharma' in English. Dharma is not confined to the performance of religious rituals and ceremonies but is used in a much wider sense. It is a synthesis of worship, morals, a code of conduct and duty. It is based on the laws of nature. Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism all come within the fold of this Sanatana (eternal) Dharma (laws of nature). Because the earliest known Hindu scriptures are the Vedas, it is also known as the Vedic Dharma. As depicted in the family tree of Hindu scriptures, the Vedic literature is the root of almost all Hindu scriptures.
      Some Hindu scholars and philosophers have defined Hinduism as a noble way of life. The Sanskrit word for 'noble' is 'Arya', hence Hinduism is also called Arya Dharma. In fact, the ancient name of India found in many Hindu scriptures is 'Aryavarat', meaning the abode of noble people. Some scholars have misunderstood the use of the word 'Arya' in Hindu scriptures, and have made the mistake of thinking that 'Arya' is the name of a race which came from outside India. Hindu scholars reject these ideas based on the evidence from recent archaeological findings. The Aryan invasion of India is at best an unproven theory and at worst a myth.
      There is a period in Hindu history during which Hinduism is often identified as 'Brahmanism' by some Western scholars. This is the period when the true teachings of the Vedas were forgotten and ritualism propagated by some Brahmin (priestly) classes became popular. Whilst it is true that Hinduism went through a period of experimentation or perhaps some degradation, it would be illogical and incorrect to assign to Hinduism the name of just one class within the whole Hindu community.
      Often followers of a particular sect or movement may use a name to identify themselves. For example, generally non-reformist adherents of the ancient Hindu traditions and rituals are known as 'Sanatanist'. The followers of a reformist movement, Arya Samaj, may call themselves 'Arya Samajist'. Many other names, like Vaishnavite, Jain, Lingayat, will also be found.
      The most important point to remember is that Hinduism is not founded by any one person and it is not based on any one book. Its name as well as its traditions have changed throughout its long history.

    2. Finally, it should be noted that whilst the term 'Hinduism' is popular in the English language, Hindu religious leaders prefer to use the name 'Sanatana Dharma' or Hindu Dharma instead of Hinduism. The General Secretary of the World Council of Hindus, Shri Ashok Singhal, has explained that in spite of the rich diversity of religious sects and traditions in Hinduism, there is a certain unity because their principles are based on the 'eternal laws of nature' which can be rightly defined as Sanatana Dharma. This name also signifies unity in diversity.
      The Land of Hindus: Hindusthan
      Etymologically, what is Sindhu in Sanskrit is Hindu in Persian and India in English. This establishes the simple fact that Hindus originate from the country now known as India. In the present Indian Constitution, the country is referred to as 'India that is Bharat'. Before it
      was termed India, the country was known as Hindusthan, i.e. the land of Hindus and Hinduism. In the Baarhaspatya Shastra (400 BCK), Hindusthan was described as the vast stretch of land spreading between the Himalayas and the Indian ocean. Prior to that it was Bharat Varsha, named after Bharat, the son of Rishabhdev. Some people believe that the country was so named because it is the land of the Vedas, which are called 'Bharati', meaning dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. The ancient name for India is 'Aryavarat', literally meaning 'abode of the Aryans'. Unfortunately, in the Western mind the term Aryan has negative connections with Nazism, but in the Sanskrit language the root 'Arya' means 'worthy, holy, noble'.
      Some scholars believe that Aryans invaded India from some other part of Asia or Europe. A German scholar, Max Muller, first proposed the hypothesis that conquering legions of white 'Aryans' invaded North India on horseback around 1500 BCK and ultimately displaced India's Dravidian tribes. This theory of Aryan invasion of India is now strongly contested by many scholars on the grounds that the internal evidence in the scriptures like the Vedas points to India as the immemorial home of the Hindus (Aryas). Furthermore, no one has been able to fix the starting point of this imaginary journey, which some believe to be propaganda by German nationalists, whilst others have alleged that the Aryan-Dravidian split provided a convenient precedent for British subjugation of India.
      New astrological and archaeological evidence has come to light which suggests that the people who composed the Vedas called themselves Aryan and were indigenous to India. Evidence to discredit the invasion theory comes from Rig Veda which mentions in verses 6-51-14/15 that the winter solstice occurs when the sun rises in Revati nakshatra (Aries); this was only possible in 6000 BCK, long before the alleged invasion. Carbon dating has confirmed the presence of horses in Gujarat (a state in western India) in 2400 BCK, disproving the hypothesis that Aryans brought the horses to India. NASA satellite photographs prove that the Sarasvati river basin is real, not a myth. Kunal, a new archaeological site in Harayana (another state in India), has revealed the use of writing and silvercraft dating from about 7000 BCH. Finally, six seals excavated from the Indus Valley depict animals and indicate that some form of early Hindu yogic arts existed there more than 4000 years ago.
      The Time Line, depicting the chronology of Hindu history, published by the newspaper Hinduism Today (December 1994, London edition) and articles in The Organiser (Vol. XLV No.25, January 1994, published in New Delhi, India) present the views of contemporary researchers which, in short, conclude that the Aryan invasion of India is at the most an unproven theory and in all likelihood just a myth.

  4. Here is why second argument of Hinduism being a pacifist religion is wrong
    1. The Bhagvad Gita which is quoted in this blog was recited by Arjuna's Guru Krsna on a battlefield when Arjuna expressed his existential dilemma that he may have to kill his beloved teacher Dronacharya. In this battle more than a million people lost their life and only 12 remained standing and this carnage was executed in 18 days only.
    Ramayana another great "Hindu" epic has enough violence and war in it between a Vishnu Avatar Rama and the Shaivite King Ravana.
    The Great emperor Ashoka belonged to Ajivika "hindu" philosophy who was so disgusted by the loss life in the battle of Kalinga that he changed to Buddhism.
    2. Indian kingdoms have been known for their colonial ambitions. The Mauryas, the Guptas, the Cholas, the Palas had their domain spread far beyond South Asia.
    3. From the First century BC to the tenth century AD India was a predominantly Buddhist country. The last great Buddhist kingdom was that of the Palas which was defeated by the Vedic Senas who then went on to destroy several Buddhist viharas, kill and torture Buddhist monks and burn the Buddhist texts. Things were so bad that Atisha Dipankara had to secrete the last remaining Pali/ Sanskrit Buddhist texts to Tibet to be held in safekeeping.
    4. Wars are fought only under the facade of religion. The real reason why wars are fought is for resources. Europe and Middle east were always lands with little resources and therefore those kingdoms attacked more prosperous lands like India. Since India had everything one could possibly need the kingdoms of India did not have to exercise too much Imperialism.

    Finally you (Maria Wirth) are not the first to wonder about this question and it has been bought for judgement in the Supreme court of India and the court had this to say in its judgement. "unlike other religions in the World, the Hindu religion does not claim any one Prophet, it does not worship any one God, it does not believe in any one philosophic concept, it does not follow any one act of religious rites or performances, in fact, it does not satisfy the traditional features of a religion or creed. It is a way of life and nothing more"

    Indians are a lot smarter philosophically than Western idiots who have only hung around with money making pandas on the ghats of Varanasi combined with the Lonely Planet to get their understanding about India. Westerners have no idea about the Indian culture and therefore come to simplistic conclusions based on their limited interactions in India. Various religions have come to India for centuries. They have thrived and assimilated themselves in varying degrees into Indian culture and not all have used war to settled down here e.g.the jews, the syrian catholics or the zorastrians. Even Islam got assimilated into Astika philophy. You only need to hear the Vaishwanite songs of the Sufi bauls of Bengal to know that the real religion of India is Humanism and not Hinduism.

    The only people who did not get assimilated were the Europeans and the British. Your (Maria Wirth) logic in this blog smacks of your European mindset to create suspicion and hatred among Indians for each other and is the same tactic used by the British to colonise and extract resources from this land.

    1. One of the most controversial ideas about Hindu history is the Aryan invasion theory.
      This theory, originally devised by F. Max Muller in 1848, traces the history of Hinduism to the invasion of India's indigenous people by lighter skinned Aryans around 1500 BCE.

      The theory was reinforced by other research over the next 120 years, and became the accepted history of Hinduism, not only in the West but in India.

      There is now ample evidence to show that Muller, and those who followed him, were wrong.

      Why is the theory no longer accepted?
      The Aryan invasion theory was based on archaeological, linguistic and ethnological evidence.

      Later research has either discredited this evidence, or provided new evidence that combined with the earlier evidence makes other explanations more likely.

      Modern historians of the area no longer believe that such invasions had such great influence on Indian history. It's now generally accepted that Indian history shows a continuity of progress from the earliest times to today.

      The changes brought to India by other cultures are not denied by modern historians, but they are no longer thought to be a major ingredient in the development of Hinduism.

      Dangers of the theory
      The Aryan invasion theory denies the Indian origin of India's predominant culture, but gives the credit for Indian culture to invaders from elsewhere.

      It even teaches that some of the most revered books of Hindu scripture are not actually Indian, and it devalues India's culture by portraying it as less ancient than it actually is.

      The theory was not just wrong, it included unacceptably racist ideas:

      .it suggested that Indian culture was not a culture in its own right, but a synthesis of elements from other cultures
      .it implied that Hinduism was not an authentically Indian religion but the result of cultural imperialism
      .it suggested that Indian culture was static, and only changed under outside influences
      .it suggested that the dark-skinned Dravidian people of the South of India had got their faith from light-skinned Aryan invaders
      .it implied that indigenous people were incapable of creatively developing their faith
      .it suggested that indigenous peoples could only acquire new religious and cultural ideas from other races, by invasion or other processes
      .it accepted that race was a biologically based concept (rather than, at least in part, a social construct) that provided a sensible way of ranking people in a hierarchy, which provided a partial basis for the caste system
      .it provided a basis for racism in the Imperial context by suggesting that the peoples of Northern India were descended from invaders from Europe and so racially closer to the British Raj
      .it gave a historical precedent to justify the role and status of the British Raj, who could argue that they were transforming India for the better in the same way that the Aryans had done thousands of years earlier it downgraded the intellectual status of India and its people by giving a falsely late date to elements of Indian science and culture

  5. Hinduism is The Best. I like my Dharma. You should like as our Monishi. Joy Hindu

    See more:

  6. Putin’s Speech on Feb. 04, 2013

    This is one time our elected leaders should pay attention to the advice of Vladimir Putin.... how much does it fit in for us Indians?

    On February 4th, 2013, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, addressed the Duma, (Russian Parliament), and gave a speech about the tensions with minorities in Russia: "In Russia live Russians. Any minority, from anywhere, if it wants to live in Russia, to work and eat in Russia, should speak RUSSIAN, and should respect the RUSSIAN laws. If they prefer SHARIA Law, then we advise them to go to those places where that's the state law. Russia does not need Minorities. Minorities need Russia, and we will not grant them special Privileges, or try to change our laws to fit their desires, no matter how loud they Yell 'Discrimination'. We better learn from the suicides of America, England, Holland and France, if we are to survive as a nation. The Russian customs and traditions are not compatible with the lack of culture or the Primitive ways of most minorities. When this honorable legislative body thinks of creating new laws, it should have in mind the National Interest First, observing that the Minorities are not RUSSIAN.

    The politicians in the Duma gave Putin a five minute standing ovation.


  7. We Indians are actually a slave race, 500 year of Mohammeden(Turkic and Mughal) and 200 year of European colonial rule has made us slave to our cores.

    We feel isolated and weak, until we have western or mid-eastern people holding our hands, we try our level best to relate with them, and they don't like to spit in our mouth.

    We are SLAVES, that is it.

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