Friday, October 24, 2014

Dr. Hedgewar's Pathey (3)

RSS founder Dr. KB Hedgewar writes:

4.     Seeing the Saffron Flag (Bhagwa Dhwaj), the entire history of the nation along with its tradition and culture comes before our eyes. The mind rises and special motivation comes in it. Only this Saffron Flag (Bhagwa Dhwaj) we consider as our Guru, as a symbol of our Tattva i.e. principle. Sangh has regarded the most sacred Bhagwa Dhwaj as the Guru instead of any particular individual. The reason for this being that an individual may be a great person but he cannot remain consistent in his life style nor can he be perfect in all respects. Consequently, instead of making our position awkward by accepting any individual person, we have adopted an inspirational symbol of victory and strength, Bhagwa Dhwaj, as our guru. It represents our history, tradition and supreme sacrifices made for our nation. It is the embodiment of all basic elements of our nationhood.


The unique strength of Hinduism lies in the institution of the Guru. Other religions only refer to someone from the distant past as their ideal and reference point, but Hinduism has living Gurus who dwell among us. These Gurus are human beings and in some respects fallible, but they are many. Seen together, they correct each other and they even these flaws out. So, in a way, there is nothing wrong with the Gurus’ humanity and there was no need for replacing them with a uniform symbol. Then again, for a collective, where each member may have a different Guru, it might be symbolically apt to represent them collectively by the saffron colour.


5.     Bhagwa Dhwaj is not Sangh’s own creation. Nor, it has any intention of creating a separate flag. Sangh has only accepted the Bhagwa Dhwaj, which for thousands of years has been the flag of our Rashtra Dharma. Bhagwa Dhwaj has a long history and tradition and it is an embodiment of Hindu culture.


The saffron flag was best known, certainly in Hedgewar’s Maharashtra, as Shivaji’s flag. But Shivaji too only had it from tradition. Every Hindu knows that “saffron”, meaning orange, the colour of fire, is the colour of the Vedic sacrifice (Yajña), of “heat” (tapas) or asceticism, and hence of Dharma.


Drawing on the website of the Vishva Hindu Parishad of America (section: “Who is a Hindu?”), we can say that the Bhagwa Dhwaj “is the eternal symbol of Hindu culture and Dharma” adorning every ashram, every temple, the army of Chatrapati Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh, etc. It stands for Dharma, wealth, advancement, glory, knowledge and detachment. The orange colour of the flag is the colour of fire, the great purifier, the eternal witness of all Yajñas, inspiring the greatest of all human values, sacrifice, the very essence of Hindu Dharma. The colour reminds us of the orange hue around the rising Sun dispelling darkness, beckoning us to shake off our lethargy (Arise, Awake!) and get down to our duties. The Sun burns throughout the day, silently sacrificing itself, thereby giving life to all creatures on this planet, without demanding anything in return. And as it sets, it teaches us to have no expectations, no regrets; just to render service to all creatures ceaselessly.

The flag’s shape consists of two triangles: the upper being shorter than the lower one. The triangles represent the rising flames of the burning fire. The flames rise upwards only -- those rising from the bottom being the longest. They teach us to "rise above and become better always". Another significance of this shape is diversity, acceptance, harmony and mutual respect. The small and the large portions remind us that duality, contrast, inequality, diversity are inevitable. For harmonious existence there must be sharing, respect and cooperation - the burden must always be on the big to support the small.

According to the VHPA, “the Bhagwa has been the silent witness of our long history. In its folds resides the images, the memories, the tapas of our ancestors, our Rishis, our Mothers. It is our greatest Guru, our Guide, inspiring us forever to live the life full of sublime virtues based on sacrifice, dedication, purity and service.”

6.     There are excellent scriptures in our religion. Very inspiring valour-filled history is behind us. But we do not think on it in the right way. When we see a thoughtful and working person, we put him in the line of divine people. We assume him as divine, and tell ourselves that it is impossible for man to inculcate God’s virtues. With such an imaginary idea, we do not try to imitate and acquire the divine virtues.


7.     If we keep Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as our ideal, we will remember his heroics for the cause of defending Hindudom. The samarthya i.e. power of Shivaji is as much as that of the Saffron Flag. The history we remember looking at the saffron flag, and the motivation we get from it, the same is got from Shivaji Maharaj’s life. Shivaji lifted the saffron flag which was truly in the dust, re-established Hindu Pad-padshahi and rejuvenated the dying Hindutva. So, if you want to keep a man as ideal, then keep Shivaji as the one.


Pad-padshahi is Persian and means “sovereignty”. Padeshah, “emperor”, was the title of the ruler of the Moghul Empire, against which Shivaji rose up. Shivaji was a very inspiring example, particularly for freedom fighters. For Hedgewar’s generation, their struggle against the British Empire found in Shivaji’s struggle against an earlier empire a logical precedent.


But for us, looking at this episode from a distance, the limitations of this imagery become better visible. Shivaji was a towering example of a chivalrous and uniquely successful warrior, especially needed in an age of oppression. But Hindu history has known other ages, and its genius shone most when it could concentrate on the creative arts. Secularists posing as Hindus, or indeed secularists who haven’t grown away too far from their Hindu roots, pull the Hindu nationalists’ legs when they say that “their” Hinduism doesn’t start with Shivaji, but with the Upanishadic seer Yajñavalkya, who launched the fundamental concept of Self (Atman), or even Vedic seers like Vasishtha, Vishvamitra and Dirghatamas. They have a point, for Shivaji wouldn’t have been inspired to champion Hinduism if these seers hadn’t created a worthwhile civilization to begin with.    


8.     Happiness of Hindus is the happiness of my family and me. The problems faced by Hindu society are our problems and its humiliation is our humiliation. Such feeling of belonging should be in every Hindu. This is the basis of Hindu Dharma.


The nationalist movements of 19th-century Europe always insisted on awakening the individual members of the nation to a feeling of oneness with the rest of the nation, and hence to solidarity with every section of the nation. Here we find the same sentiment applied by a freedom fighter to Hindu society conceived as a nation.


Anveshana said...

I have asked this question elsewhere. Did Shivaji fight for pride for "Hindu's" or "Maratha's"? Did he know the word "Hindu" and called himself one?(RSS claim of Hindu Rashtra).
It was native's rebel against oppressive foreign rulers. Foreigners happened to have a religion, natives were assigned with a name later.

Fire worship is only Brahminical practice, a community which is only 2% of Hindu population. Why most of the time, Brahminical practices and works (like Vedas) are generalised and emphasised as Hindu practices or work, though the rest 98% never got involved or showed any interest in these (except for Ramayana and Mahabharata)?

Gururaj BN said...

During my student days, I went to RSS shakha for a couple of years and gave up. One of the reasons was that many of their concepts seemed to me culturally alien to me. One such concept was this Bhagwa Dhwaj. As a Kannadiga, I saw no significance in it, save that saffron is the colour used by mendicants. Near my house, a Shakha meets regularly every morning. They chant sanskrit hymns addressed to Narayana, Surya and other deities. Since I see this Shakha every day, I know that the leader hasn't attempted to explain the meaning to the participants. I am quite certain that none of the participants are knowledgeable in sanskrit. I have wondered what is the use of chanting sanskrit hymns in a ritual fashion without knowing what the hymns mean? Similarly, the commands given by the Shakha leader in the morning drill is in highly sanskritized Hindi. They describe their Ghosh or Band set instruments by using the terminology taken from the first Chapter of Gita, such "panava","Gomukha" etc. Who will understand these terms? RSS ought to localise their activities to conform to local culture, language and ethos, and yet keep it essentially Hindu. Then only they will stop appearing like aliens to the local people in each State in India, and become acceptable to a broader populace.

Anveshana said...

@Gururaj, RSS once wanted India to be framed in the model of Israel with Sanskrit being the language of Indians. They fail to recognise, Sanskrit was not the native's spoken language. They do not bother to explain, why neecha characters in Sanskrit plays did not speak Sanskrit.

But it is not just RSS which confuses Brahminism with Hinduism. Note the liberal's response to RSS. "... Hinduism does not start with Shivaji, instead Vashishta .... ". Their response is equally Brahminical.

People are not looking at fundamental reason, why vernacular language schools are coming to extinct. Just look at the vernacular terminologies in schools used for "divide", "remainder", "least common multiple", "engineer" or "black holes". Each word is heavily Sanskritised. Common man finds these terms as alien (and more complex than) English.

The difference between RSS and its sisterly organisations mirror the society, their heads have come from. RSS(which is predominately headed by Brahmin bosses) first comes out with ideas/ideologies. But it states, it prefers dialogue/debate over violence. ( Vedagalai and Tengalai dispute over Namam of temple elephant being dragged to court, would be a typical example of how trivial matters can be made into an issue, but still getting solved in a civil way).

On the other hand, it's sister organisation (often headed by non Brahmins) dare to take more aggressive/violent route. When a mishap happens, whom should we blame? ( ). The one who implanted the idea or the other who extrapolated it to violence?

Alexandros HoMegas said...

Hello Dr. Elst! What do you think of this book about Hindu mythology: ?

American said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
American said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
American said...

@Anveshana - Semantics aside, you are indirectly wondering what Hinduism is? what a religion is?

Consider contemporary America or France. Between 20 to 60% people are atheist or agnostic, depending on which survey you accept. Yet at its root, most people call America and France to be Judeo-Christian. Why?

Similarly, consider Saudi Arabia or Iran. One is Sunni and other Shia, and their differences are severe enough that the Sunnis and Shias have killed millions of each other over the last 1300 years. They continue to violently destroy the other (and behead non-Muslims) in modern times. Yet, at their root, most people call Saudi Arabia and Iran to be Islamic countries. Why? What is the "least common multiple", "remainder" etc in Islam.

Buddhism has parallel stories, though far far less violence.

The relevant question isn't "for whom did Shivaji fight for?", but rather "against what Shivaji and Hindus of northwest South Asia fight"? just like the questions, "is there anything against which a civilized people fight"? Should crimes such as rape and murder be ignored by society? Should people fight against a medieval Islamic army that murders innocent farmers and artisans, loots property as ghanima and for khums, enslaves women and children, massacres people who refuse to pay Jizya or accept Islam?

Calling Hinduism as Brahminical or non-Brahminical is silly - because concepts cannot be defined through non-definitions. Every religion has had its popes and bishops, qadis and imams, monks and lamas. Protestants do not define Christianity as non-Pope, even though they question the Pope.

Ancient texts of Hinduism similarly do not discuss spiritual ideas in terms of Brahminical or non-Brahminical. They discuss ideas as ideas, while discussing ideas of dharma, artha, kama and moksha, ideas such as karma and the problem of evil (see Adi Sankara), or punya and paap (virtues and vices/sins). Hindu texts debate those concepts like modern thinkers do, in axiomatic and contextual terms, with different schools of Hinduism reaching different answers.

In a free society, as modern America/Europe and ancient South Asians, you will find fiction and texts that mock people. Even today, Hindus are mocked and sometimes demonized in British press, and Hindus are stereotyped and dehumanized in American TV shows such as The Simpsons. But that does not mean fictional works such as The Simpsons and hate-filled, Hindu-bashing British press define Christianity. Fiction and plays reflect freedom of speech, but not necessary the essence of a nation's majority religion. Why conflate the two?

Like modern America, ancient "Hindus" (= people who lived in South Asia, lets say) were diverse, relatively prosperous and free thinking people. And Hinduism at its essence is a way of life which respects diversity of ideas and way of life, ahimsa, independent thinking, introspectiveness, personal freedoms, right to accept or refuse a book or deity or idea, question anything and everything, a flexibility in traditions and certain values of how people respect each other even when they disagree, and how a person relates to his or her own self over time.

Contrast that with the utterly violent, rigid, control-freak and non-egalitarian beliefs of Islam. Apostasy in Islam is a religious crime. Criticizing its prophet or questioning its holy book Koran is a religious crime. Killing infidel people who disagree with you and do not wish to convert to your religion is religiously recommended. Shivaji and any freedom loving people would find such abuse inherent in Islamic armies worth fighting against. These beliefs of Islam and Islamic state attacked humanity at large, including Hindus and Jains and Buddhists and others. Both from theoretical point of view in Koran and Sahih Hadiths, and in practice from the historical record of numerous civil wars, persecution and massacres of non-Muslims over time.

Anveshana said...

The branches in religion you mention are top down; Islam came first -> Sunni/Shea came next.

The religion here is bottom up. Communities existed before. They got bridged later on. Shiva and Vishnu superseded Brahminical gods like Indra. Every tribal god and goddess started becoming form of Parvati and Shiva later. Though every community have got connected to each other superficially, individually they all have retained their distinct characteristics. Brahmins ceremonies are performed in front of fire (similar to Zoroastrians). Agricultural communities worship mother earth.

In this context, defining Hinduism by a practice or ritual is narrowing down its boundaries. Sometimes imposing one community practice (usually Brahmins) over other and calling it "the practice". I would prefer it to be called as a polytheistic religion which "accepted" every form of faith and ritual/practice. If possible, it should grow and accommodate Indian (version of) Islam and Christians also into it. (For that, both sides need to outgrow their stubbornness and insecurities and be more accommodative). It is only this culture, which has the power to modify and assimilate anything thrown at it.

Caste or religion make powerful statements socially and politically in India (unlike other countries). Hence definition of Hinduism become important.

Either Muslims or individual castes; both vote as a bloc. Muslims have Wakf boards, run educational institutions, store money. Castes have Mutts who do the same. If we consider each caste as a religion (or Indian Muslims as yet another caste in Hinduism), we realise each one is an equal player.

I am afraid, my discussion on Brahmanism might come up with some politically incorrect statements. So, I am refraining. I would just say, if Jainism can be a religion, Zoroastrianism can be a religion even if they are minority, why can't Brahminism?

I will not comment on Islam, as I have not studied in depth. All knowledge I have is from commentators on Islam online. That is insufficient to debate.

American said...

@Anveshana - Buddism, Jainism and Sikhism can be considered related to, even part of Hinduism. Some sects of Christianity, such as Mennonites and Amish can too, because the concept of non-violence and ahimsa is an important virtue in both.

But anyone who has read Quran and Hadiths can see the major differences between Indian religions and Islam. If you have read Bible, you can see the major difference between Bible and Quran. Islam online is a propaganda site and a poor source. Read the original's scholarly English translation of Quran and Hadiths (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim) at University of Southern California website: (books 2, 4, 5, 9, 16, 24, 33 and 65 are a good start to understand the difference between Islam and Hinduism. Compare Quran to say, Upanishads).

You mention caste. I too have heard the stereotype about "caste and how people vote" in India. But study the exit polls of 2014 and prior years, and compare it to India's demography. A majority of every major caste group, including OBC and SC, have overwhelmingly voted across caste lines. Modi is OBC, but enjoys heavy support among SC, OBC and so-called upper castes. Uttar Pradesh has thrice elected a Dalit chief minister, even though just 21% of that state's population belongs to that category. So caste and voting block equation may be fiction and propaganda ploy of those who wish to manipulate media. If you are yourself a Hindu, ask yourself did your mother and father ever teach you to hate other castes because of their birth, or any human being for that matter? I have asked this question to numerous Hindus. The answers I have received so far, suggests caste is more of a modern stereotype to make Hindus doubt their own religion and culture. Love and ahimsa, not hate and violence, seems more central in Hinduism.

Brahminism is an interesting word. Yet, it muddles rather than enlightens. Because a religion is best understood by its ideas, virtues it holds dear, spirituality, discussion of purpose and goals of life, discussion of ethics and after life, discussion of the violent or non-violent means it teaches against nature, animals and fellow human beings during one's journey of life.

American said...


@Anveshana - If you read the original Quran and Hadiths, you will see that the religion discriminates and teaches violence against non-Muslims, their enslavement, beheading, execution and war. Winston Churchill in "The River War" wrote, "How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods
of commerce and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion
paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. Were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it (Islam) has vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."

In case of India, science did not protect Hindus or Buddhists. Its civilization fell. Buddhist escaped to southeast Asia and Tibet, while Hinduism survived as dhimmi by paying Jizya and Ushr, accepting Khums, Kharaj and Fai. British colonialism, though bad it was, brought the cycles of religion-driven state violence to an end, because Europe had already accepted the secular principle that state and religion must be separate. Sharia not so - it merges state and religion, and sharia is part of the reason why we see civil wars, terrorism and violence in numerous Muslim regions of our world.

Anveshana said...

@American As I already said, I neither speak for nor against Islam. I don't believe in bashing other faith to prove my loyalty towards my faith, or bashing my neighbour country to prove my patriotism. But I know some (like Zakir Naik) do. To each, their own. But I would definitely defend my faith/my identity when someone criticises.

"Buddhist escaped to southeast Asia and Tibet, while Hinduism survived as dhimmi by paying Jizya and Ushr, accepting Khums, Kharaj and Fai. British colonialism, though bad it was, brought the cycles of religion-driven state violence to an end"

I would disagree. This argument indirectly implies, Hinduism was weak. If British had not ruled India, all Indians would have changed their faith. I feel the other way. After Aurangzeb, Mughal dynasty had gone week. If Hindu rulers had taken over, the people who had got converted to other faith would have been brought back to Hinduism (after initial resistance). Conversion to Islam during Aurangzeb might be the recent phenomena (400, 500 years is recent for Indian History). But it has happened thousands of years ago as well, during Ashoka's period. Then how come we remained Hindus still (if reverse conversion did not happen).

There must have been some troubling times, where native faiths (or call it Hinduism) has to go underground; it has done that. When that phase is over, it has hit back; sometimes peacefully, sometimes brutally. It may not be offensive like other religions. But that does not mean, it was weak and could have been bulldozed. It knows how to put others in their place.... eventually. If it was not, it would not have survived this long. (Of course, it takes centuries for course correction. We might find it long. But history doesn't). Whatever religion is practiced in India today, is not the same as the one which is practiced in its original place. (Francis D'Souza, deputy CM of Goa, said the same). That's the proof of strength of this culture.

American said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
American said...

@Anveshana - you claim, "This argument indirectly implies, Hinduism was weak."

It does not imply that.

Numerous historical records confirm that Hindus were treated as dhimmis by Sunni rulers, and some Hindus rebelled while others took the path of passive resistance. Go to a good library and read the historical records on Delhi Sultanate, Tuglaq and Khilji dynasty. Vincent A Smith's The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911, published by Oxford University Press is one of the good scholarly sources. You already mention Aurangzeb, but the violence and abuse of Hindus and other non-Muslims started much earlier as Vincent Smith summarizes and illustrates.

Smith's 1920 book, republished in 1976, is now available for free:

I didn't and don't wish to imply that Hindus would have changed their faith if British colonial empire hadn't arrived. The spiritual ideas, now call Hinduism, sans its errors, would have survived - just like Judaism did, despite all the persecution it faced.

Hinduism and Buddhism in Asia, with a few exceptions, has grown stronger with time in last 100 years. Elsewhere, given the diversity of Hinduism, its emphasis on an individual's freedom to experiment and choose one's own spiritual path, Hinduism's acceptance of atheism / nontheism / monotheism / polytheism / monism / dualism / pluralism / jnana marga / karma marga / bhakti marga / raja marga and so on as alternate valid routes to spirituality, it appears more and more Europeans and Americans are defaulting to the essence of the diversity innate in Hinduism.

American said...

Other sources for study:
1. Elliot & Dawson's multi-volume translations of "The History of India as told by its own historians"

2. Annemarie Schimmel's Islam in the Indian Subcontinent

3. Peter Jackson's The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History (his slant and spin is a bit controversial)

Anveshana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anveshana said...

@American Thanks for the references. I may not be able to go through them now, but will look into them in future.

The reason why I don't want to say Hinduism as a single religion is; people start criticising castes without trying to understand their distinctness (I may not agree with the hierarchy between the castes. But castes are much more than that. They represent a culture. When we criticise them, we are also criticising that cultural uniqueness). People say, Brahmins held the Vedas to themselves. Can we extend it and say, Jews held Torah to themselves?

Comparing Muslim community in India with other castes, I would still stick to my guns. This year, every community has voted beyond caste and religious line. That includes Muslims too, who used to be traditional vote banks of Congress. But this was not the case in the past few decades (post Mandal), where corrupt leaders sat on top posts just because of their caste. But this country knows the way of course correction.

"The spiritual ideas, now call Hinduism, sans its errors, would have survived .."
- Spirituality could be an idealism practiced by few philosophers. But for most these Hindus, the religion is not just about spirituality. It is about their faith/their deity which is an extended part of their identity. They never left it so easily.

The person who killed a missionary in India in last decade was not in line with any spiritual path which you mentioned. For him, his religion was his identity, which was checked by the missionary. The conversion act raised the animal instinct in him.

Hindu Muslim population co exist in every state of India. But communal riots occur only in few states. When we look at their past, those are the states where Muslim rulers intimidated Hindu's faith. Southern states which were also ruled by Muslim rulers at time, but where Hindus were not prosecuted because of their faith (exception being Tipu's act in Kerala, but he was a different person in his ruling state) generally exhibit religious tolerance. That does not make them more peaceful than the rest. They do show similar behavioural pattern when their other identities like language/river are under threat of being snatched away.

I keep witnessing missionary's enthusiasm, about the way they are spreading Gospel to the people who otherwise have/had no civilised life (?) and worshipped evil spirit. Ashoka's edicts, sometimes go in the same line. This must explain the extinct of Buddism here, when minority communities like Zoroastrians, Brahmins could survive. They did not criticise or threaten the existing society. They stayed with it in parallel.

For the same reason I do not see a long future for Islam, though it seems powerful. It keeps pushing its boundaries and create unrest in society. This aggressive push will not work out in the long run.

I have made this argument elsewhere and I am finding myself repetitive. Hence, I will not continue further. Thanks for the discussion.