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IS RAMAKRISHAISM NON-HINDU?

A lot of heat and controversy has been generated in the Hindu society by the stand taken by the authorities of the Ramakrishna Mission that “Ramakrishnaism is definitely no part of Hindusim… Ramakrishna is different and separate from Hinduism with a separate God, separate name, separate church, separate worship, separate community, separate organization and above all separate philosophy”.  Accepting the stand of the mission, the Calcutta High Court has ruled that “The fact that Sri Ramakrishna never expressly abjured Hindu religion, and had sometimes described his disciples as Hindu monks would not be decisive”.  

The issue has arisen because the Ramakrishna Mission has attempted to protect its educational institutions from the merciless interference of the west Bengal Government, by claiming minority status for the mission. The matter has now gone to the Supreme Court. Not only the entire Hindu society, but leaders of all religions in the world eagerly await the final outcome. 

Now, we want to raise here some very fundamental questions. Who is a Hindu? What is Hindusim? Why is it called so? 

Hinduism is not the name of a religion. Religion means a system of faith and worship. Hindusim is a way of life, an eternal spiritual culture, founded by great rishis who lived on the banks of River Sindhu and built up a glorious civilization which spread from Himalayas to the Southern ocean and in later days to other part of the globe. Swami Vivekananda himself has pointed out how the word “Sindhu” became “Hindu” in Persian language and “Ind” in Greek, culminating in the modern term “Indian”. Veer Savarkar, in his Hindutwa, points out the very definition of the word Hindu: 

Aasindhu sindhuparyetaa yasya bhaarata bhoomikaa 

Pitrubhoo punyabhooschaiva sa vai Hinduriti smritah 

– All those who adore this land of Bharatavarsha spreading from the River Sindhu to the Indian Ocean, as the land of their forefathers and hold land, are Hindus. Thus, even a Muslim, a Christian or a Parsi, if he adores Bharat as his sacred land, is a Hindu. Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya, the great patriot-revolutionary of Bengal, called himself a Hindu, though he worshipped Jesus Christ as his Ishta Devata. Justice M.C. Chagla and patriotic Muslims like Jeelani claimed that they were Hindus by birth, though Muslims by faith. A patriotic Parsi like Nani Palkhiwala owns with pride in his heart, “India’s Priceless Heritage” which includes our Vedas and Upanishads. 

In the Hindu culture, there are many matha or religions like Saivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktam, Kaumaram, Ganapatyam, Souram, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, etc. which have sprung up in this sacred land. Some people in the Hindu society have also embraced religions like Christianity and Islam which have come from outside. Hindu culture accepts all forms of worship as various paths to one Ultimate Reality. A true Hindu is one who looks upon all religions as equal. One who fanatically adheres to one path and looks down upon others is un-Hindu or un-Indian.  

The term “minorities” is the most mischievous one coined by the modern power-hungry politicians. Among the cattle, there are cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep. The sheep cannot claim themselves to be non-cattle and therefore a minority. It is so in the case of the other animals too. Similarly, in the Hindu society which means the Indian or Bharateeya society, there are people adhering to different faiths. No one can claim minority status by calling himself non-Hindu. A non-Hindu is a non-Indian and cannot claim any political rights, not to speak of special privileges, in this country.  

There was a time when the Christians and Muslims of this land, who went abroad for pilgrimages, were called by their fellow-religionists in other countries as Hindu Muslims or Hindusthani Muslims and Hindu Christians or Hindusthani Christians. It was the “divide and rule policy” of the foreigners which set one section of the Hindu society against the other in the name of religion. Thus the Muslims and Christians were alienated from the mainstream of the Hindu society and nation and made anti-nationals. The result was the creation of Pakisthan in the name of Islam and the present attempts to further vivisect the Motherland by creating a Christianisthan in the north-East. The truncated Indian or Hindu nation, after Independence, announced itself to be “secular”, but the Christians and Muslims in this land still claim a minority status in the name of religion. The power-crazy politicians tried to pamper the so called minorities with special privileges at the cost of the other sections of people. This has induced the Buddhists, the Jains and the Sikhs, whose “Khalsa” arose as the protector of the Hindu society and nation during the Muslim invasion, to claim minority status. No wonder, some Saivites in the country, especially in Tamilnadu, and even abroad, claim that they are non-Hindus!  

The Ramakrishna Mission is undoubtedly a great reform movement organized y Swami Vivekananda to purify the Hindu society, to arouse the Hindu national sprit and also to present to the world, the universal spiritual ideals of the Hindu race. He was never tired of calling himself a Hindu and Hinduism “the Mother of all religions”. In his inspiring talk, “The Common Bases of Hinduism” (vide “Lectures from Colombo  to Almora”), he proudly proclaims: “We are Hindus. I do not use the word Hindu in any bad sense at all, nor do I agree with those that think there is any bad meaning in it. In old times, it simply meant people who lived on the other side of the Indus; today a good many among those who hate us may have put a bad interpretation upon it, but names are nothing. Upon us depends whether the name Hindu will stand for everything that is glorious, everything that is spiritual, or whether it will remain a name of opprobrium, one designating the downtrodden, the worthless, the heathen”. He further says: “When a man has begun to be ashamed of his ancestors, the end has come. Here am I, one of the least of the Hindu race yet proud of my race, proud of my ancestors. I am proud to call myself a Hindu, I am proud that I am one of your unworthy servants. I am proud that I am a countryman of yours, you the descendants of the sages you the descendants of the most glorious Rishis the world ever saw. Therefore have faith in yourselves, be proud of your ancestors, instead of being ashamed of them. And do not imitate, do not imitate! Whenever you are under the thumb of others, you lose your own independence. If you are working, even in spiritual things, at the dictation of others, slowly you lose all faculty, even of thought.” 

It is relevant to quote here what Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the illustrious Guru of Swami Vivekananda, uttered about the Dharma that will survive the onslaught of time. On October 20, 1884, on the occasion of Sri Sri Mayura Mukutadhari mahotsava Bhagavan proclaimed:  “Hindu Dharma –yi Sanatana Dharma ; idaneem ye sakala dharma dekhchho, e sava tar ichchate have, jabe, thakve na“—“It is the Hindu Dharma which is Sanatana Dharma; what Dharmas you are seeing these days, all those by His wishes, will appear and disappear; they will not stay”. (Published in Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrta, Bengali edition, 1920 ed. Part II, p.214) 

Would the authorities of the Ramakrishna Mission pay heed to the words of Swamiji and desist from borrowing the tactics of the so called minorities to enjoy undue privileges in the society at the cost of others? Swamiji would not have even dreamt that his own reformist organization would one day claim the status of a separate religious sect when he remarked, in his inspiring talk on “The Religion we are born in“ (vide “Lectures from Colombo to Almora”). “The band of reformers in our country want, on the contrary, to build up a separate sect of their own. They have, however, done good work; may the blessings of God be showered on their heads! But why should you, Hindus, want to separate yourselves from the great common fold? Why should you feel ashamed to take the name of Hindu, which is your greatest and most glorious possession? This national ship of ours, ye children of the Immortals, my countrymen, has been plying for ages, carrying civilization and enriching the whole world with its inestimable treasures. For scores of shining centuries this national ship of ours has been ferrying across the ocean of life, and has taken missions of souls to the other shore, beyond all misery. But today it may have sprung a leak and go damaged, through your own fault or whatever cause it matters not. What would you, who have placed yourselves in it, do now? Would you go about cursing it and quarreling among yourselves! Would you not all unite together and put your best efforts to stop holes? Let us all gladly give our heart’s blood to do this; and if we fail in the attempt, let us all sink and die together, with blessings and not curses on our lips.” 

If the so called secular government unjustly interferes in the functioning of Hindu institutions while allowing out of the way concessions and privileges to the so called minorities, the duty of the various sections of the Hindu society is not to try to get out of the main stream and claim minority status to protect their own interests, but to come forward and unite the whole Hindu society and stand as one man to fight for the common rights. The Hindu society is awakening from a deep slumber. It is the need of the hour for all leaders of various religious, spiritual and social organizations in the Hindu society to come under one banner, sinking all their vanity, false pride and superiority complex. If they fail in their duty now, the society will never forgive them and they will become non-entities when a new and powerful national spirit emerges and overwhelms the society, bringing back into existence the Hindu Nation, which is destined to become a reality in the near future. Mother Bharat is not too impotent to create new socio-religious leadership if the existing leaders fail. The energetic and dynamic Hindu youth of the country is just waiting for their turn. They will create a new and glorious nation!  

Vande Mataram! 

Author: Professor Sadhu Rangarajan

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