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A note on Hindu Fundamentalism from the life of Ramanuja

sreekrishna_at_mmd.com
Date: Thu Sep 14 1995 - 14:14:38 PDT

We recently had a debate on what amounts to the Hindu fundamentalism in our 
temple news letter Aradhana. I thought this might be of interest to the 
Prapatti net work.
HINDU FUNDAMENTALISM 
-Submitted to Aradhana (8/11/95)

Raj, I have addressed the Hindu fundamentalism debate in two sections.  You 
may
choose to publish both the sections are just section 2.  My thoughts are not
much different from yours. Sincerely -- K. Sreekrishna

Section 1

What constitutes religious fundamentalism  with respect to various other 
popular
religions?


Let us analyze religious  fundamentalism in a broader sense so  that we may
arrive at what the term RHindu fundamentalismS really  means. The major world
religions and philosophies  are as follows:

Western religions :  Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoarastrianism, and Bahai


Indic religions (Philosophies): Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism

Eastern religions (Philosophies): Taoism, Shintoism, Confucianism, and Zen

Aboriginal religions : Numerous  local faiths  around the world

Atheism : Around the world- also an element of Communism

Secularism : Around the world-  also an element of modern day progressive
administrations

This is a rather naive classification, because each of these faiths has many 
sub
groups and not only that, as the saint Ramakrishna said Ras many people or so
many faiths is!S Nevertheless, this classification gives us a frame work 
within
which we can analyze what fundamentalism means to each of the various faiths.

The original meaning of fundamentalism is Rbelief in literal truth of the
Bible.S  If strictly followed, it would amount to converting the entire 
humanity
to Christianity with total disregard towards all the other faiths.  Koran 
holds
a slightly broader view than the Bible (Koran  refers to Jews and Christians 
as
people of the Book and others as infidels), still the meaning of 
fundamentalism
as  understood above  is applicable. Because,  Koran also proclaims itself as
the  final  revelation of God and has the mission to bring the entire world
under  its truth. Thus, both  Christian and Islamic fundamentalismUs are a
threat to each other as well as to the other faiths. 

It is no surprise that these two faiths have spread with much vigor and  have
devastated many faiths and cultures. Together these two religions account for
most of the tears and bloodshedUs since their inception. The cruelty they have
shown  even towards the followers of their own root religion Judaism, is a
testimony  to their power of destruction. This is not to say that they do not
have the power to heal.  But,  as far as I know healing has come only after 
they
have brought down a pre existing peaceful and a viable situation (hold back 
the
perfect, because there is no such thing). Even so, much of this rejuvenation 
has
happened because of the natural divinity that exists in  all peoples including
the Christians and  the Muslims (an Indic thought)!.  

Fundamentalism as applied to Judaism would mean that only the  Jews are the
chosen people, and their God is the only true God. It would also mean that the
frontiers of Israel (Promise Land) as described in the Old Testament belong
exclusively to them. Because they do not seek converts,  Judaic fundamentalism
has no direct threat to the faiths that are outside the  Biblical promise 
land.
Fundamentalist Zoarastrianism and Bahai pertain largely  to retaining their
identity and unique customs.  They do not seem to pose any  threat to other
religions.

Buddhist and Jain fundamentalism would mean denying the existence of God (in 
the
sense of the other religions of faith).  Because of their difference with the
religions of faith, they are a potential threat to religion of faith. The same
is true for all of the Eastern religions and Philosophies as listed above.

Sikhism believes in one God and does not aggressively seek converts. Thus, it
would appear that  Sikh  Fundamentalism is not a threat to other religions per
se.  Most of their fundamentalism focusses on retaining the Sikh identity and
fighting for a Sikh nation. Recent history has shown that this nationalistic
zeal can be a threat to Sikhs as well as to others specially the Hindus.

The impact of fundamentalism in the various aboriginal faiths pertains to 
their
locale  and most of the threat is against all those who may have exploited 
them.
Their fundamentalism takes the form of retaining their identity and regaining
their territories.

Communistic ideology has the mission to annihilate all religious faiths. The 
way
China has extinguished Tibetan order is a prime example.  

Secularism per se is not a threat to any religious institution. It advocates 
an
ethical and a moral code independent of all religious considerations or
practices. This is perhaps the most reasonable,  desirable and rational system
to have for coexistence in a  multi-faith (or no faith) world. A threat to
secularism is in short a threat to all religions as well as to basic human
freedom and dignity itself. 

Section 2

What amounts to Fundamentalist Hinduism?

Hindu fundamentalism in the strict sense would mean: Respecting,  assimilating
or  tolerating  all faiths and philosophies. Thus fundamentalist Hinduism 
would
let every faith there is, there can be, there may be  and there will  be to
prosper. Hinduism recognized  that multiple faiths are inevitable, long  time
ago. This view should not be confused with cover up, submission or surrender 
or
putting up sheepishly all abuses and atrocities committed on Hinduism. 
Generally
, Hindus practice indifferentism (reasoned disregard) or indifference in 
matters
of defending their faith. However, many have given their life to preserve for 
us
the Hinduism that we cherish. At times these souls may have violated the
fundamental tenets of Hindu principles, just so they can preserve them from
total onsalught. If not for their efforts, perhaps the India we know today 
would
not be any different from Pakistan, or Bangladesh in terms of religious 
freedom
and thought. 

 Does this mean that the Hinduism does not pose any threat to other faiths.
Sure, it does. The one major threat, if you like to call it so, is that  the
various  faiths and philosophies MAY lose their original identity and merge 
into
Hinduism (or any new name you may choose to give: Because the important thing
here  is not the name but the principle). Another threat is that the Hinduism
may be making a subtle and unintended mockery of other faiths for their rather
narrow and rigid focus. Further, most Hindus fail to acknowledge the 
differences
that exist between religions and say all religions are  same, which by
definition is blasphemous to several religions.  A final but valid threat is
that many from  other religions  may voluntarily take up Hinduism. 

Now come the great dilemma, how to prevent Hinduism from the onslaught by 
other
religions? Because of  a fundamental difference between Hinduism and the other
systems (except for secularism), at times it  becomes essential for Hindus to
violate the basic principles of their own religion for the sake of self
preservation. Here is one self preservation story from   my  Hindu 
Sri-Vaishnava
sect. 

About 900 years ago, Ramanujacharya, a Vishnu devotee  was about to be killed 
by
the Chola King Krimikantha, just because Ramanuja refused to acknowledge Shiva
as the supreme God. This Chola king had earlier drowned the idol of Govinda 
Raja
(Vishnu) in the Sea. Ramanuja recovered that idol and installed it in a temple
at the foot hills of Tirumalai. Even to day this place, popularly known as
Tirupati or Govindaraja Puram is in the itinerary of people who visit the 
famous
Venkateswara (Balaji) temple on the hills.

When Ramanuja was ordered to appear before the monarch, one of his disciple
Kuresa took his place, while Ramanuja escaped into Karnataka. Therein he
converted the Jain King Vittala Deva to Sri Vaishnavism and reestablished the
Temple at Melkote (Tiru Narayana puram, near Mysore) which had been previously
raided by a Muslim chieftain. Ramanuja walked all the way to North India,
haggled with the Sultan and recovered the idol of Cheluva Narayana for the
Melkote Temple. SultanUs daughter Bibi Lachimar followed him to Melkote, 
because
she loved that idol. She lived there for many years and when she passed away,
the Sri Vaishnavas made an idol of her and placed it  at the foot of the 
Cheluva
Narayana idol. Even to day she is worshipped as Bibi Nacchiar along with the
other idols.  Apparently, her idol has been duplicated in numerous other 
temples
in South India. This is what Hinduism is all about- just as  sandal wood, 
gives
fragrance to that very same ax that is used to cut it! 

 Thus,  Next time,  if we encounter the term RHindu fundamentalismS in the
popular media, we should remind ourselves that it is a misnomer.  What it
actually means is  that some Hindus  have deviated from the basic tenets of  
the
Hindu Dharma, perhaps for self preservation! 

K. Sreekrishna