When religion seeks numbers to be in majority, propagates hate, proclaims righteousness, and is sustained by people who are more exclusive than inclusive, it is no longer a path of service to God, but more an execution of the commands of the devil.
India is fast becoming a cauldron of disharmony where all religions are asserting their identities through hate and violence. The problem with that is that hate is non-terminal. Hate is a monster that constantly needs something to feed its humongous appetite. Throughout the history of man, we can find that hate lasts even when situations don’t. A typical example is Pakistan today. Pakistan was created out of hatred for Hindus, but there is a lot of internecine hatred in Pakistan today between sects and sub-sects, long after the Hindu problem does not exist for them. From a study of all hate-based violence in the world, it is easy to see that hate consumes man, just like cancer consumes the human body. It is not man that uses hate to forward his agenda; rather it is hate that uses man as a pawn to create a world of disorder and anarchy. Hate is not just a noun, it is a consciousness, one that is the opposite of love, or even neutrality, and one that is so powerful that man cannot defeat it by himself without help from God.
Now, what the difference is between hate and anger or indignation? I personally think that hate is born out of a false notion of superiority and an impulse to subjugate or eliminate, whereas anger is a violent opposite reaction to hate. There is no reason to hate, other than an inbuilt intolerance towards things that are different from our own value system or our own identity. Anger, on the other hand, is non-acceptance of deviations from truth, of breaches of dignity, or of the spread of disharmony and malevolence. That is why God gets angry. That is why the devil hates.
However, a caveat we need to keep in mind is that anger often makes us vulnerable to hate. We should be wise enough to not let anger spill over to hate (based on the definitions I have provided above). Hate should be met with anger, perverse actions should be met with swift & righteous defense, humiliation should be met with appropriate resistance, and domination should be met with retaliation, but none of the above should extend to hate and a reversal of roles. Shivaji Maharaj was a fine example of a courageous warrior who was both defiant and righteous. He was rightfully angry and outraged by the audacious and hateful tyrant Aurangzeb. Had Shivaji Maharaj lived a few centuries earlier, during the reign of one of Aurangzeb’s equally intolerant and bigoted ancestors Babur, the history of the Mughals in India would have been much different. However, despite all his valor and his successful resistance of Aurangzeb, Shivaji Maharaj did not let his indignation turn to hate. He followed the same sattvic principles, the same upholding of truth and justice, as exemplified by Rama, the noble incarnation of Lord Vishnu. We need an India of Shivaji Maharajs among common men. We need people that would courageously stand up for moral uprightness, for human dignity, for freedom from sectarian dogma, for non-subjugation of the weak, for subduing hegemony, even if it means using violent resistance, but not surrendering to hate.
Hate exists always, but anger is born and dies. Hate ends only when the ego ends, but anger ends when righteousness is restored. A lot of people that are angry all the time have anger confused with something else. You cannot be angry unless you confront something that is wrong in principle. If you are angry even just because things don’t suit your palate, you are not actually angry, you are just vile and unable to keep your ego in check.
A lot of what is happening in my beloved country is misdirected and incoercible anger born out of more than a thousand years of cruel foreign invasions that attempted to nullify the core beliefs and traditions of our people, beliefs that had been handed to them over several millennia, by spiritual masters and rich spiritual and societal traditions. It is but natural that an entire populace, which has been asked to go on mute and submit to alien beliefs and rulers, would one day no longer can contain its resentment, and look to express itself very violently. It is a thousand years of being caged that now bursts forth as unbridled anger and hysteria.
It is not hate yet, but there are sure signs, and if not arrested and corrected, could quickly become one. The Hindu cannot and should not be oppressed, but at the same time we need to be careful that we do not become the Aurangzebs of today. Just as we assimilated with tolerance (though a lot of it was under the sword) when we were being invaded, we should find a way to lead and take others along during our ascendancy. People may think this is pseudo-secular and pandering to non-Hindu communal interests, but the reason I say this is that if we do not, we may become bigots and hate mongers in the process, and this holy land of India should not be subjected to another repeated vicious cycle of human monstrosity. This land has already suffered immensely and her consciousness is bleeding. India has been given the responsibility to be the spiritual guru of this world. This has been averred not by me, but by mighty masters as such as Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, who saw this reality clearly in their spiritual visions. For that to fructify, we need to find our spiritual core, and exhort others to do so too. That can come about not by hate, but tolerance and love alone. Someone needs to take this step and make it infectious.
The message should also go out to our non-Hindu brothers and sisters. They need to realize that being born in this land is a rare opportunity given to all of us to exemplify universal brotherhood from within this microcosm called India. A lot of countries that may subconsciously be harboring this ideal, but are unable to give expression to it, look upon us with expectation and hope. If a land of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jews, Atheists, Tribals, and Yogis (those that have transcended religion and entered spirit) cannot realize that we are pretty much a model of the entire world in ourselves, and it is only us that could successfully demonstrate through working example that oneness can be achieved even when outwardly forms are antithetical, then woe is us!
The battle between monotheism and polytheism is very easy to resolve, since both parties already believe in the supreme universal divine, which the Hindu calls the Brahman, the Christian calls God, and the Muslim calls Allah. If the monotheists could revisit their testament of faith and say ‘For me, there is only one Lord’ instead of saying ‘There is no Lord except mine’, and if the polytheists could remember the example of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who practiced and demonstrated the oneness of both formed and formless divine, then this battle of who is right and who is wrong ends in principle. In fact, spirituality does not deal with right and wrong, it deals only with reality and the quest for it. It is only religion that confines spiritual truths to a set of rules, and imposes dogma and injunctions on those specific interpretations. If you ask me, the world needs more of spirituality and less of religion. The Mother of the Sri Aurobindo ashram boldly declared, ‘The time of religions is over. We have entered the age of universal spirituality, of spiritual experience in its initial purity’. Unfortunately, we are still caught up in religious orders, books, sects and sub-sects, leaders, traditions and superstitions, and our own human weaknesses, and are not able to break free and ascend to higher planes of truth.
A lot of what we are seeing in India today; communal flare-ups, cow vigilantism, xenophobia, religious hatred, are all mostly political and other vested interests at work to create instability and wreak havoc. And because we are intellectually bankrupt, have a lot of free time without jobs, have no accountability or criminal justice system in place to punish serious offenders, and don’t have long term social, technological, or even spiritual goals crystallized, a lot of fringe rowdy elements have begun to hold sway over day to day happenings across the country. Today, it is very easy to kill people, to rape women, to burn public property, to issue diktats, to siphon off funds without accountability, to usurp property for illegitimate use, and to get way with total lack of discipline and sincerity. This does not augur well for a nation that is poised to become a pathbreaker tomorrow. God and nature keep giving us a long rope, not for us to misuse the bounty, but to make amends and take positive forward strides.
We need to have the big picture defined of where we plan to take this country forward. And from there, in a collaborative manner, we need to break down the big picture into finer details and objectives that are actionable and measurable. We have our priorities wrong. Our priorities over the next 10-20 years should be excellence in primary and professional education that is also accessible to the poor, total sanitation and cleanliness not by order or ordinance, but by intrinsic DNA, minimal exploitation of land and nature and maximum conservation and reuse of natural resources, replacement of the term ‘religious minority’ with ‘patriotic minority’, establishment of cordial relations with our neighbors for stability in the region (of course a lot depends on their attitudes as well), and most of all a unification at the level of Indianness. I could be a Hindu by birth or by preference, but I should always be Indian by practice. This should apply to a person of any religion.
The big picture should be India, and everything should derive from it. Most of all, religion should not be defined by the state, rather religious teachings, religious schools and their standards, their efficacy and their usefulness to the development of the nation, should all be collaboratively calibrated and measured by the state and society together. Every child, irrespective of religion, should be given 15-16 years of excellent primary and professional education till he/she obtains a degree, and only then allowed to pursue formal religious study. The only way I see of not letting impressionable minds get poisoned is to let them explore the world, their own self, science and language, arts and history, philosophy and religion, in an atmosphere that cultivates the thirst for knowledge, but with catholicity, without nuances or imposed interpretations. Without solid foundations in education that could enable a young mind be abreast of the current state of the world, religion, with its archaic and dogmatic ways could make him/her irrelevant and an ill-fit in society. Often, it is these factors that produce terrorists and radical elements.
Fanaticism is ill-conceived religion. It stems from hate, it stems from a baseless feeling of superiority, and must be done away with. Shivaji Maharaj was not a fanatic, he was a valiant freedom fighter. Lord Krishna used devious means in war, but that was because the big picture he had was of establishing dharma and righteousness. We have many such great examples in our land that strove for establishment of righteousness, even if they used violence. But they were not fanatics. They did not operate out of hate. They operated out of a duty to establish dignity and to thwart evil subjugation. I certainly do not believe in non-violence all the time, especially when hostile elements become too diabolical. The Mahabharata could not have been settled by peace. The Lord had already exhausted that possibility before the war. When violent means are called for, they absolutely must be exercised, but only for that purpose, and not for the propagation of nefarious agendas and hate. I request all our cow vigilante brothers to exhort others to be sensitive to our sanctity for the cow, without resorting to rabid lynching and killing. I request all our non-Hindu brothers to start thinking ‘I belong to this land’, rather than thinking ‘this land belongs to me’. This change in thought orientation could bring in a world of change in attitudes.
What we are having is not only a law and order breakdown, but a depraved understand of our religion and its spiritual basis, which unfortunately receives blessings from religious and political leaders. If everyone starts taking law into their own hands, and if the state is complicit in such unlawful acts, we are staring at tyranny and civil war, where no one trusts another. Trust is the backbone of any society. It is like marriage, where a husband and wife carry forward the relationship based only on love and trust. And, for the most part, they are opposites in nature. In fact, marriages between similar people often do not survive. The opposites come together and stay together, because for them, the big picture is the relationship, and to keep that intact, they sacrifice their individual preferences, mold their individualities, understand each other, critique each other, but with concern, bolster each other when the need arises, depend on each other to take every forward step, and then bring forth offsprings that have the potential, and the environment, to reflect their values and their examples.
Let us make India a similar marriage. Let us keep her as the goal and shape things around her. Let us surrender our egos and our limitations to her, and be united in our love for her. Gradually, we might start to love each other. Let us make a start.