CONTRIBUTION OF SWAMI VIVEKANANDA TO HINDUTVA AND NATIONAL RENAISSANCE DR.SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY, Ph.D. (Harvard)

Swami Vivekananda told a rapt Harvard University Law School audience just before going to Chicago to deliver his famous address in 1893 that Hinduism, by its premises has never and can never be opposed to Science due to the fundamental belief in the search for truth. It was this belief in truth that led to the development and growth of science and knowledge in ancient India far ahead of any other country. Swamiji fervently believed in the Hindu identity of India, which today we call Hindutva. Every nation must have an identity to be regarded distinct. Even in United States of America, a relatively young nation created by an influx of immigration from diverse countries, to define the identity of an American, Samuel Huntington penned a book titled Who Are We? [Penguin Books, India 2004] to define American’s identity as a “White Anglo-Saxon Christian who speaks English”. It seems contrived since majority of Americans are not ‘White’, but Huntington is emphatic. Huntington’s contribution to definition of an identity lies is in seeing the two components of this identity: Salience, which is the importance that the citizen attributes to national identity over the other many sub-identities. Second, Substance, which is what the citizens think they have in common, and which distinguishes them from others of other countries. We in India today have Salience imbedded in the concept of Chakravartin, which Chanakya had spelt out with great clarity, while Substance is what Hindus have always searched for and found unity in all our diversities in, thanks our spiritual and religious leaders, especially Swami Vivekananda.. And that substance in Indian Identity invariably is the Hindu-ness of our people, which we now call as Hindutva. Is today’s India as a nation state, a British imperialist by-product, or is an ancient nation of continuing unbroken civilization? In other words, in the past was the word ‘India’ used the way we today use ‘Africa’ or ‘Europe’ to denote a sub-continental region of separate nations and cultures or was India always a nation of one culture of a people with a common history? The battle to settle the answer to this question is on today– between the nationalist Indian and the internationalist liberal. Dr.Ambedkar, whom Swami Vivekananda would have adopted as his true sishya had he lived then, had in his paper presented in the Department. of Anthropology of Columbia University’s seminar in 1916 titled “Castes in India, Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development”. It was published in Indian Antiquary Vol XLI, May 1917, p81-85. On page 84, he concludes as follows: “I venture to say that there is no country that can rival the Indian peninsula with respect to the unity of its culture. It has not only a geographic unity, but it has over and above all a deeper and much more fundamental unity—the indubitable cultural unity that covers the land from end to end” We are one indigenous people according the recent DNA genetic studies. It is thus Hindu culture and religion gives the geographical area of India its distinctiveness. I define therefore an Indian as one who is a Hindu or one who acknowledges that his ancestors are Hindus. This concept would include willing Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews. Thus, religion of any Indian can charge, but not the Hindu civilization culture. Thus Hinduism provides the foundation or the defining characteristic of an Indian. Swami Vivekananda defined Hindutva, upon returning from Chicago in 1896 in an address in Lahore as follows: “Mark me, then and then alone you are a Hindu when the very name Hindu sends through you a galvanic shock of strength. Then and then alone you are a Hindu when every man and woman who bears the name Hindu, from any country, speaking our language or any other language, becomes at once the nearest and dearest to you. Then and then alone you are a Hindu when the distress of anyone bearing the name Hindu comes to your heart and makes you fell as if your own son or daughter were in distress” [Collected Works, vol 3, page 379]. Paraphrasing thus what Veer Savarkar had said, the following is what enlightened Hindus need to tell India’s minorities and others: “If you come along with us, then with you. If you do not, then without you. If you oppose us, then inspite of you. Hindutva shall prevail”. Thus, we should invite Muslims and Christians to join us Hindus on the basis of common ancestry or even their voluntary return to our fold as Hindus, in this grand endeavour as Hindustanis, on the substance of our shared and common ancestry. Hindu Rashtra thus defined, is our nation which is a modern Hindustan Republic today, whose foundation of which is also in the long unbroken Hindu civilisational history. Throughout this history we were a Hindu Republic and not a monarchy [a possible but weak exception being Asoka’s reign]. In this ancient Republican concept, unlike in Europe, the king in India did not make policy or proclaim the law. It was the Brahmin who lived by his vows of pursuing knowledge and not material prosperity. Hindutva has to be inculcated in our people from values and norms that emerge out of a Hindu renaissance, that is, a Hindu theology which is shorn of the accumulated but unacceptable baggage of the past as also by co-opting new scientific discoveries, perceptions and by synergizing with modernity. And Deendayal Upadhyaya outlined how to modernize the concepts of Hindutva as follows: “We have to discard the status quo mentality and usher in a new era. Indeed our efforts at reconstruction need not be clouded by prejudice or disregard for all that is inherited from our past. On the other hand, there is no need to cling to past institutions and traditions which have outlived their utility”. This is the essence of renaissance. This is the only way that Hindustan can become a modern Hindu Rashtra. However, to defend this Hindutva it is essential to resolve an intrinsic paradox of Hindutva arising out of the individual freedom afforded by Hindu theology. The individual-centric distinctiveness of Hinduism, makes it possible to see millions of Hindus, for example, to come to Kumbh Mela on their own, without a fatwa or invitation, or travel subsidy, or even any publicity about date and place of the Mela, and peacefully and without guidance or dictation, perform their pujas and then depart. It is purely voluntary even as the state does not provide any organization. This is individualism par excellence. With this kind of widespread voluntary commitment of Hindus, seen not only in Kumbh Mela, but in other pilgrimage occasions such as in Sabarimalai, Vaishno Devi, etc., and the reality of our tolerant civilisational history, can we feel secure that we Hindus can and will unite with a collective mindset when it becomes necessary to defend against sinister, sophisticated, and violent threats that the religion faces today from within and from abroad ? We cannot be sure, because the Kumbh Mela spirit not only represents the innate strength of Hinduism, but paradoxically also its main weakness. That is, those who assemble at Kumbh Mela do it as an act of individual piety. Hindus do not go to Kumbh Mela to be with other Hindus in a religious congregation, but because they believe that their individual salvation lies in going there. But the current threats to Hindu religion requires a coordinated collective response. Therein lies the paradox to be resolved. Patriotic Hindus should understand this structural limitation in the theology of Hinduism, that is individualism, is mistakenly taken as apathy, but it is now required of us to find ways to rectify it for the national good. It is worthy of notice that, recognizing this limitation, Hindu spiritual leaders in the past have from time to time come forward to rectify it, whenever the need arose e.g., as the Sringeri Shankaracharya did by founding the Vijayanagaram dynasty or Swami Ramdas did with Shivaji and the Mahratta campaign. Such involvement of sanyasis is required even more urgently today. In fact, this is the real substance of India as Swami Vivekananda had aptly put it when he stated that: “National union of India must be a gathering up of its scattered spiritual forces. A Nation in India must be a union of those whose hearts beat to the same spiritual tune…. The common ground that we have is our sacred traditions, our religion. That is the only common ground… upon that we shall have to build” On this principle of Hindutva, we can shape events and form a new Brihad Virat Akhand Hindustan. Without such a virile mindset which is Virat Hindutva, Swami Vivekananda consistently held that Hindus will be unable to confront the subversion and erosion that today undermine the Hindu foundation of India. This foundation is what makes India distinctive, and hence we must safeguard it with all the might and moral fibre that we have. National renaissance flows out from that.

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