The word Hindu is a derivation from Sindhu (the Indus river). The Arabs called the people living on the eastern side of River Sindhu as Hindus as they were unable to pronounce the letter ?s?. The concept of Indian unity in diversity of the territory of India constituting one country and the people inhabiting it as one people easily goes back to some 5,000 years and more.
The book under review is a compilation of papers by leading and eminent experts on Hinduism, political science and law. In the first paper of Part I of the book, Subhash C. Kashyap, former secretary-general of Lok Sabha and advocate of Supreme Court, says, ?A unique civilisational bond, naturally bound territory, common social institutions, shared vision, values and historical and spiritual experiences have been responsible for an all-pervading and abiding consciousness of India as a geographical and cultural unit.? The pluralistic Indian society was essentially due to the tradition of tolerance and openness. The author points out that occasional tensions and strifes notwithstanding, Jews, Parsis and Muslims lived here together. This was because of the ?culture? of Hinduism that permeated all the people for thousands of years without any distinction of race, caste or religion.
On its onward march since ancient times, Hinduism was enriched by many influences from outside without losing its basics identity. In 1948, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said at the convocation of the Aligarh Muslim University, ?You are a Muslim and I am a Hindu. We may adhere to different religious faiths or even to none, but that does not take away from the cultural inheritance that is yours as much as it is mine.? He pointedly asked the students, ?Do you believe in a national State which includes people of all religions, and is essentially secular?or do you believe in a religious, theocratic conception of a State which regards people of other faiths as somebody beyond the pale??
Kashyap draws attention to the fundamental right of Hinduism and that is ekam sat vipra bahudha vedanti. All the parties lead to the same Godhead and are valid and legitimate. Kashyap concludes, ?India is secular because of the Hindu ethos and majority and it will remain secular so long as it remains 80 per cent Hindu majority.?
In the second part, Dr Karan Singh, Chairman, Auroville Foundation, speaks of the fundamentals of Hinduism which ?is a vast ocean into which numerous streams have come down through the ages from the time of the Vedas, right down to our present age, where in our own lifetime, people like Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi made valuable contributions to Hindu thought!? He expounds on the fundamentals of Hinduism under which he lists the all-pervasive divine, the Brahman; the second is that Brahman resides in all beings; the third is the concept that fanning the spark of the Divine into the blazing fire of spiritualism realisation is the highest goal of human activity. Then he talks of the four main paths of yoga?the gyan yoga or yoga of meditation, bhakti yoga, the karma yoga and raja yoga.
In the third part of the book, G.R.S. Rao, Chairman, Centre for Public Policy and Social Development, says, ?Hinduism is not a ?religion?, denominational in its character, but represents a highly spiritual journey of life as a faith, aimed at the merit of life on earth as a means to secure salvation hereafter.?
In the fourth part of the book, B.B. Dutta, Chairman of Rashtriya Jagriti Sansthan, says that the Indian civilisation has survived the onslaughts of time as it has been nourished by the ?eternal religion?, the Sanatan Dharma. ?The Sanatan Dharma creates the right ambience for all religions by accepting all religions as true. Sanatan Dharma thus elevates itself to a status that holds all religions to its bosom which Swami Vivekanand referred to as the ?mother of all religions?.?
In the fifth part, P.V. Indiresan, former Director, IIT, Chennai, says that the Indian culture is ?a synthesis as opposed to analysis; an integration as distinct from differentiation; of continued enquiry as opposed to finality of received wisdom; and should interest all who are interested in peaceful coexistence.?
In the sixth part, Namita Aggarwal, Dean, Faculty of Law, says that Hinduism ?is a mixture of the highest philosophical doctrines on the one hand, and common form of worship, on the other. One may follow it blindly, but a close and careful study of the Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, Upanishads and the Puranas, makes it very clear that Hinduism is a perfect blend of philosophical and religious truths. The symbols of God were created to enable the ordinary man to get some advantage from the ideas, which are very fundamental to Hinduism.?
In Part VII, on Hinduism and national unity, Shyamlha Pappu, senior advocate, Supreme Court of India, says, ?A Christian is not a Christian if he does not believe in Christ or Christianity in any of its various forms. A Muslim is not a Muslim if he does not believe in Allah or the Shariat. Similarly a Parsi is wedded to Zoroastrian faith and so on. But a Hindu may believe in God or not, he is still a Hindu.?
In Part VIII, Ranbir Singh, Director, NALSAR, calls for revival of the precious legal culture of Hindus and its revitalisation ?if there is a determined effort, coupled with ethical, spiritual and intellectual rectitude.?
In the ninth part, Abhaya Kashyap, Consultant, IBM and Infotech, feels that any meaningful debate on any aspect of Hindu identity or Hinduism runs the risk of either being perceived as a ?rightist Hindutva propaganda or a liberal secular attempt to dilute the core values of Hinduism and its understanding.? He objects to the use of Hinduism for political purposes, ?whether they claim to represent Hindutva or claim to be secular. It is our attempt to depoliticise the issue and develop a non-partisan paradigm whereby Hinduism can be understood as a potent force impacting India'scultural, political and economic image.?
To sum up, one is tempted to quote Mahatma Gandhi'swords, ?Ancient India has survived because Hinduism was not developed along material but spiritual lines?, while Dr S. Radhakrishnan, the first Vice President of independent India, had elaborated it further to say, ?Hinduism is a way of life rather than a dogmatic creed.?
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