Don’t be intimidated by the media. Stand up for the greatness of “Hindu-ness.”


IS BEING A HINDU OK AND IS HINDUTVA NOT OK AND even dangerous? Many Hindus seem wary to be associated with Hindutva, in spite of the fact that Hindutva simply means Hindu-ness or being Hindu. They tend to accept the view which mainstream media has peddled for long: “Hindutva is intolerant and stands for the communal agenda of an extreme right Hindu party that wants to force uniform Hinduism on this vast country, which is fully against the true Hindu ethos.”

Is this true? The Supreme Court ruling of 1995 declares it as not true: “Hindutva is indicative more of the way of life of the Indian people. …Considering Hindutva as hostile, inimical, or intolerant of other faiths, or as communal proceeds from an improper appreciation of its true meaning.

From personal experience, I also came to the conclusion that Hindutva is not communal and dangerous. For many years I lived in “spiritual India” without having any idea how important the terms “secular” and “communal” were. The people I met valued India’s great Vedic heritage. They gave me tips on which texts to read, which sants to meet, which mantras to learn, etc., and I wrote about all this for German magazines. I thought that all Indians were proud of their ancestors, who had stunningly deep insights into what is true and who left a huge legacy of precious texts unparalleled in the world.

However, when I settled in a “normal” environment—away from ashrams—and connected with the English-speaking middle class, I was shocked that several of my new friends with Hindu names were ridiculing Hinduism without knowing anything about it. They had not even read the Bhagavad-Gita, but claimed that Hinduism is the most depraved of all religions and is responsible for the ills India is facing. The caste system and Manusmriti were quoted as proof.

My new acquaintances had expected me to join them in denouncing “violent” Hinduism, which I could not do as I knew too much, not only from reading, but also from doing sadhana. They declared that I had read the wrong books and asked me to read the right books, which would give me the correct understanding. They obviously had no doubt that their own view was correct.

My neighbor, a self-declared communist, occasionally introduced me to his friends as “the local RSS pracharak.” It was half in jest, but more than half intended to be demeaning. My reaction at the time: “If RSS is in tune with my views, then it must be good.”

Standing up for Hindu Dharma identified me as belonging to the ‘Hindutva brigade’ that is shunned by political correctness. My fault was that I said Hindu Dharma is the best option for any society. I did not make a baseless claim, as Christianity and Islam do and which goes mostly unchallenged. I explained that Hindu Dharma is inclusive and not divisive, whereas Christianity and Islam divide humanity into those who supposedly have the “true faith” and those who are wrong and will pay for it eternally in hell, if not already on earth.

Of course, my stand is not communal or dangerous. Hindu Dharma is indeed not only inclusive, but also most beneficial for the individual and for society and needs to gain strength at the expense of Christianity and Islam, which are exclusive and therefore harmful. And yes, politicians, too, need to base their lives on Hindu Dharma if they want to be efficient in serving the society. Propagating blind belief has no place in politics, but following Dharma is in the interest of all.

Hindu Dharma was never based on unreasonable dogmas and has never needed blasphemy laws to keep its followers in check. It is helpful to society, as it imparts profound wisdom and gives guidelines for an ideal life that acknowledges the invisible, conscious Essence in this visible universe. It allows freedom of thought. As a result, many parallel streams, with different ways to connect to this essence, have emerged over time and have coexisted harmoniously.

Humanity needs to win over the madness that the Supreme Being loves only those humans beings who believe in a certain book, and condemns all others to eternal hellfire. But how to make them see sense?

Recently some staunch “secular” Indians, like Shashi Tharoor, declared themselves openly as Hindus. It’s a good sign, but they have something wrong: They believe that being Hindu means that anything goes—believe in a God or not, be vegetarian or not, go to temples or not. It even seems to imply: be truthful or not. They portray Hindu Dharma as having no fundamentals.

That’s wrong. Hindu Dharma does have fundamentals, but they are benign and helpful. Being Hindu means to know and value the profound insights of the rishis and follow their recommendations in one’s life. These insights may not be obvious to the senses, like the claim that everything, including nature, is permeated by the one consciousness (Brahman), but can be realized as true. Similarly, it is not obvious that Earth revolves around the Sun, but it can be proven. Being Hindu does not require blind belief.

Being Hindu also means having the welfare of all at heart, including animals and nature, because each part is intimately connected with the Whole. Especially the cow is revered, and the rishis gave good reasons why it must not be killed.

Being Hindu means following one’s conscience and using one’s intelligence well. It means diving into oneself, trying to connect with one’s Essence. It means trusting one’s own Self, Atman, and doing the right thing at the right time.

Being Hindu means being wise—not deluded or gullible or foolish. This wisdom about the truth of this universe and about how to live life in the best possible way was discovered and preserved in India. Yet its tenets are universal and valid for all humanity.

Isn’t it time for our interconnected world to realize this and benefit from it?

MARIA WIRTH, 68, a freelance writer, has lived in India for the past 33 years.,