By Alexander Zinoviev
In Europe and all over the world nowadays it is very popular to speak and discuss about Indian culture, ancient Indian philosophy and the glorious past of the country. In everyday life Europeans constantly hear or read in the media about some new yoga seminar being organised, or about the appearance of a new guru in Western countries, drawing the public attention. They hear superlatives about ancient Indian culture over and over again from different places and in different contexts.
But what is worth so much activity, so many words, and do they really help people understand the actual state of modern Hinduism and the challenges that stand before it? I would say?not at all!
The truth is that the situation of modern Hinduism, of all India, is far from perfect. In fact, it is alarming, if not altogether catastrophic. Even if some Indians?the so-called ?secularists??do not realise that, it is more than obvious that Hinduism is fading in obscurity, its relative influence in Asia is decreasing with every month, with every day. Perhaps we are living at the last centuries of Indian civilisation and the situation of today'sHindus is very similar to the Iranians from the late Zoroastrian age or Ptolemaic Egypt. Drastic steps must be undertaken very soon, or Hindus will share the fate of these great nations of the past.
About one thousand years ago, a horde of savage tribes rushed down from the wild Bactrian Mountains (modern Afghanistan) and occupied the Indus Valley, bringing a new aggressive religion of non-Indian origin?Islam. In the course of the next centuries, this new religion?with violence or persuasion?continuously expanded its territory and increased the number of its followers. In 1000 the relative share of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent was around zero per cent, in 1400 they were already around 3.5 per cent, in 1700, 10 per cent, in 1890 about 20 per cent, in 1945, 25 per cent, and now they are more than 31 per cent, or one-third of the population. In this long process of Islamisation of India, two characteristic patterns can be distinguished. First, it is a slow process, and second, it is relentless. Unlike the Middle East and Iran, where this religion managed to very rapidly displace the local cults and traditions, completely stifling them for just several decades, in India the propagation of Islam was gradual, extended throughout many centuries, even a whole millennium.
But there is no place for illusions about the processes, taking place on the subcontinent. The truth is that, in India, Islam has never yielded a position once taken, it never withdrew from territories once conquered, and it spread out on the Indian subcontinent relentlessly, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, in what is maybe the most uncompromising, prolonged, and merciless expansion in the history of religions. It looks like India and Hinduism are doomed, and there is nothing to be done against this unyielding conquest, this tireless offensive, there is no way to reverse things in their advantage. Indeed, if Islam continues to propagate with the same rate?to increase in numbers with 1-1.5 per cent per decade?in the first half of the next century Muslims will already be the majority of Indian population. Secularists think that one or two hundred years are too big a period and there is no need to worry about the distant future. But the truth is that in terms of the five millennia of Indian history one or two centuries are nothing, they will pass in a blink. Men of wisdom in India say that the human soul is reborn in a new body every few hundred years. So, even in our next life, in our next reincarnation, India will have already ceased to exist.
My views may seem too pessimistic, but the picture is too grim. In fact, what I fear the most is that providence, the supreme spirit, or the force of history acts against Hinduism. Maybe the historical processes lead to such a state of things, when on the planet only the so-called ?Abrahamic? religions will continue to exist?Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Maybe the fact that the great religions of Egypt, Babylon and Persia died out a couple of millennia ago is not accidental. But I would like to believe Hinduism is too valuable for humanity, and sacred Indian books contain too much precious and unique knowledge that it will not sink in oblivion. I?d like to believe that the principles of Indian philosophy and religion are much more in agreement with the needs for the future than any other religion in the world, in agreement with the tendency, known in Western countries as New Age. It'smy deep belief that without India the world will sink in spiritual darkness and ignorance.
In this long process of Islamisation of India, two characteristic patterns can be distinguished. First, it is a slow process, and second, it is relentless. Unlike the Middle East and Iran, where this religion managed to very rapidly displace the local cults and traditions, completely stifling them for just several decades, in India the propagation of Islam was gradual.
So, what must be done in order to save Hinduism and stop the Islamic flood? There is only one way and it is called mass conversion of Muslims into Hinduism. If Hindus want to survive, they must convert. They must adopt the strategy of Catholic missionaries and Muslim mullahs. I don'tmean only conversion of one-time Hindus that only recently adopted other religions. Hinduism must convert also people of non-Hindu origin. The fact that they live in India is enough because all Indians, notwithstanding their religious affiliation, had once had Hindu ancestors. If a problem arises, in which caste to enlist the newly converted Hindus, that can be determined by lots. This kind of assignment is by no means accidental; it can be regarded as the will of providence, the voice of fate, and it is not surprising that this method was so widely used in antiquity?in Greece and Rome.
There is another question: is it possible to convert Muslims into Hinduism? Because, as it is well known, the followers of this religion hold firmly to their principles, and it is very difficult to change their views. There is a theory that Muslims would never desert their religion, this is absolutely impossible. But this is just a myth. There is a good example from our recent past.
In one neighbouring country to Russia?Bulgaria?there is area called Rhodopa mountain, populated with Bulgarian-speaking Muslims. Bulgarians, in principle, are Christians, pertaining to the Greek-Orthodox Church. But this very area is populated with Muslims due to the strong Turk influence in the past. In the 15th century Turks forced the local population to renounce Christianity and to adopt Islam as their religion, and defiance was brutally punished. When, in 1526, Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent began his campaign against Western Europe, he said: ?I want my soldiers, in their way to Vienna, to pass through Muslim lands only, and this corridor to go up to the very Austrian border.? And his desire almost came true.
But what happened some ten years ago?in the mid-1990s? The local population in the Rhodope Mountains with Bulgarian ethnic consciousness, being well educated and well aware of their history, suddenly decided to re-embrace Christianity. A remarkable man came forward on the religious scene?Father Boyan Saruev. With his charisma and his unique gift to persuade people, this man of great spiritual power succeeded in converting several hundred Muslims. For a period of seven or eight years between two and three thousand people?mainly from the young, educated generation?adopted the Greek-Orthodox creed. This event was so astonishing precedent that it stunned European public, and journalists from many countries came in person to see with their own eyes that it was true.
Obviously, the claim that Muslims can never be persuaded to adopt another religion is nothing but a myth. Under certain conditions, this is quite possible. Very soon such conditions will be present in India, too, because with higher education Muslims will realise that Hinduism is the innate religion of their native country, and Islam is an alien creed forcefully imported from outside. Similarly with the situation when, 600 years ago, during the Renaissance, Western Europeans realised that they were successors of ancient Rome and Greece, and embraced their culture, which for long centuries was being condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as ?pagan? and ?non-Christian?, one day the Muslims on the Indian subcontinent will understand that they are inheritors of a great civilisation completely different from that of Arabs and the Middle East. This is a problem of education and knowledge.
(The writer is a Russian sociologist and works in Russian Academy of Sciences. He has been many times in India and interested in Indian culture. He has written this article exclusively for Organiser. He can be contacted at [email protected])
(To be concluded)