Tuesday 14 May 2024

Who Is A Hindu?

 – Dr. M. Lakshmi Kumari (Yuva Bharati, 50th Year Special Commemorative Volume, July 1990)

A serious debate is on in Kerala on this relevant question. The question itself arose under peculiar circumstances over the issue of the management of Hindu temples. Who should manage the temples? Those who believe in Hinduism and temples, or those who are Hindus by accident of birth or by conversion?

The question assumes significance in the context of two important changes that are taking place in the Hindu fold. Firstly, there is an overflow of Hindus to the temples resulting in an overflow of money in their coffers which can be managed or mismanaged at the whims and fancies of the executives in the Devaswom Boards. Secondly, a pathetic situation is created thanks to the dearth of the really "faithful" and "believing", who truly understand the glory of their religion. If the funds go into the hands of the those so-called faithful who have not understood nor used religion to develop their own character, integrity and vision, they also might use it for selfish purposes to fatten themselves, their kith and kin or to serve some purpose totally disconnected with religion and spirituality. A case in point is the reported use of funds from a famous temple in Kerala to promote a football match, while the "Athirathram" Yagna which drew world attention drew a blank with the Devaswom authorities! Extending the idea to its natural conclusions, it is possible that to increase the popularity and tourist's interest, we may even let out the temple premises for some five-star hotels, which have unfortunately become symbols of the Indian way of promoting tourism.

Going back to the fundamental question as to who is a Hindu, one is reminded of the inspiring conversation that took place between the renowned Shankaracharya of Shringeri who lived in the beginning of this century, and an Englishman. The latter asked the Swami why Hindus are not interested in converting those of other religions into their fold. Without the slightest hesitation, the Swami answered that everyone is by birth a Hindu! To the astonished questioner the Swami provided the clarification-all those who come under the Omniscient, Omnipotent Supreme Cosmic Power and the universal spiritual laws (from which none can escape) are in reality Hindus whether they know it or not, whether they are called by that name or not. As none can escape from the force of gravitation so also none can escape from the hold of the spiritual laws. A Hindu recognizes it. Thus the definition of the word 'Hindu' becomes almost limitless. If that is so, what is the problem?

Our ancient seers, having understood the nature and scope of such an all-inclusive universal understanding, further added a practical dimension to the same, by introducing the concept of Dharma. A true Hindu thus becomes one who is not only born under these laws, who has not only a theoretical understanding of the principles, but also has the shraddha and bhakti to make these principles a part of his very life or his Dharma. Thus a true Hindu is one who practices Hindu Dharma! Unfortunately, we have all failed in this very important aspect with the result the word 'Hindu' bereft of its Dharmic import has become just a hollow sound. Naturally, all sorts of indignities are heaped upon the Hindus.

The meaning of a word lies in its practical value and relevance. Without that, the word is useless. For example, what relevance does the word "communism" have in our lives, if it is to be confined to the theoretical ideology without any practical application? Recent happenings have shown that when communists ceased to be communists in real life, Communism as an ideology has lost its relevance and has become a hollow sound. There is no better example needed to prove to our Communist friends the irrevocable relation between the word, the principle and the practice.

Each has its own place in the creation. Houses are built for men to live in and animals are kept in their cages. We normally do not exchange places. No one builds a beautiful home and rents it out as a cattle-shed or a lunatic asylum unless he is a lunatic himself. An engineer is not appointed in the place of a doctor, nor a doctor as an engineer, even in Communist countries. Utter chaos would be the result. Even a doctor or an engineer, however great may be his theoretical perceptions, if he doesn't have an iota of practical knowledge, would prove to be an utter failure in his place of work.

Temples are symbols created to bring to the understanding of the common man, the irrevocable spiritual principle of Truth and the oneness that exists between the self in man and the Eternal Self, the Almighty. One who does not understand or believe in this fundamental principle of Hindu Dharma, has no right to worship in the temple, nor administer the rites or manage its affairs. Hindus would lose the battle if they do not recognize the full significance of this poser of the Government. But if this question is taken as a pointer to themselves, it can lead to a great regeneration and revival. It can prove to be a blessing in disguise. But are Hindus ready for that is the bigger and more valid question now.

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मुक्तसंग्ङोऽनहंवादी धृत्युत्साहसमन्वित:।
सिद्ध‌‌यसिद्धयोर्निर्विकार: कर्ता सात्त्विक उच्यते ॥१८.२६॥

Freed from attachment, non-egoistic, endowed with courage and enthusiasm and unperturbed by success or failure, the worker is known as a pure (Sattvika) one. Four outstanding and essential qualities of a worker. - Bhagwad Gita : XVIII-26

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