The Aberration of Hindu Fundamentalism

By Seshadri, B. | Contemporary Review, August 1992 | Go to article overview

The Aberration of Hindu Fundamentalism


Seshadri, B., Contemporary Review


AN English friend, a scholar of comparative religion, asked me some while ago if I thought the Hindus living in this country were affected by the virulent propagation of Hindu fundamentalism by one of the political parties in the context of India's last general election. If so, would it add to inter-ethnic tensions in Britain? I said that, first of all, Hindu fundamentalism was a contradiction in terms. The dictionary definition of fundamentalism, of a literal acceptance and maintenance of a finite set of traditional orthodox beliefs of a religion, did not apply to Hinduism. There was no one set of beliefs which a Hindu was required to accept and practise. But, in setting out to provide a better understanding of the new assertion--which I do here--I am accepting reference to Hinduism as a religion and its aberrant form as Hindu fundamentalism as they are thus identified in the public mind. Neither notion is correct, but I will have to be thus content.

The propaganda for Hindu fundamentalism did not spring from any new discovery of principle in the great Hindu texts that had not previously been applied in the last 3,000 years. It was an unscrupulous exploitation of the economic ills of a vast underclass for acquiring power.

Most people are familiar with the religious persecutions in the histories of the revealed religions of Semitic origins -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- which have demanded compliance with the Word and the Book. There is no historical evidence of such persecution in the Hindu kingdoms since Vedic times. The kings (among whom were my own ancestors) were good, bad or indifferent, but none indulged in persecuting subjects or travellers who did not worship as they did or as their organised priesthood conducted public or private worship. The Muslim scholar, Al-Biruni, who travelled in India in the 11th century and made an extended study of Hinduism, amply makes this point. The principle of tolerance was handed down to me in impressive oral traditions.

The attitude was a strongly ingrained one. It had its origin in that Hinduism was not a religion in the sense in which the word is understood, that is, a particular system of faith and worship. It was primarily a moral order of humanity and righteousness within a highly organised social system. Its historic texts are singularly free from dogmatic affirmation concerning the nature of God. Its core did not depend on the existence or non-existence of God. It is possible to be a good Hindu whether one believes in a single god, or many gods, or an ultimate principle or being, or no god at all. Hinduism is thus a matter of ethics rather than belief. It had no specific name until other religions made their entry into India, when it too acquired a religious significance.

This absence of dogma is basic to an understanding of Hinduism. The Hindus themselves called their moral order sanatana dharma, a concept hard to translate from the Sanskrit. The closest, but yet incomplete, way of comprehending it is to think of an eternal law that governs all human and non-human existence. It gives absolute freedom of belief about the nature of God and form of worship. Dogmas, and therefore religious dogmas, can only be transitory and distort a transcending truth. A passion for dogmatic certainty has racked the religions of Semitic origin. And hence the incessant quarrels within them. The great Hindu teachers through the centuries expanded that all religions are simply different phases of the same Truth, called God by those who so prefer. The intellectual debate of the nature of this Truth has been a continuing one. A significant element of this debate is that it does not seek to safeguard Hinduism and protect conformity, but encourages revision and improvement.

As the Indian elections were announced, unscrupulous men were waiting and reaching out for a theme to exploit the long-suffering millions of India's poor for electoral gain and power.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Aberration of Hindu Fundamentalism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.