Hindus often repeat the forlorn cry that the truth will triumph. In some abstract sense such a conviction may be valid because trial and error propel supposedly rational humankind towards verisimilitude. But such an outcome does not preclude that much will vanish in the interim while rational man achieves higher levels of consciousness and approaches the truth. Satyameva Jayate did not prevent countless Jews being incinerated in gas chambers and everything known as Hinduism may also perish. The Jewish tragedy in Europe was colossal and the demise of Hinduism may only turn out to be more long drawn out, but inevitable. The path to truth is littered with the corpses of the innocent as untruth overcomes itself.
Of all the ancients, Hinduism alone survives in a contemporary form that has recognisable antecedents. Perhaps this is primarily the case because economic transformation and modernity have been slow in enveloping Hindu society. By contrast, Japan, despite escaping modern colonial depredation succumbed to the forces of modernity, though not without a struggle to retain its older identity. In its indecorous haste towards modern statehood China seems impatient to discard anything of the past that might stand in the way of a militarised and garish nationalist incarnation. And it has dragged Tibet down with it in paroxysms of ignorant malice. Its economically successful Korean neighbour has been turned into a mere Christian outpost by aggressive proselytisation. The fate of Hinduism still hangs precariously in the balance.
Hindus themselves are victims of their history. It robbed them of opportunity for self-preservation and renewal as iconoclastic invaders robbed, violated and enslaved them. Their present remains one of embarrassing self-abasement because their very cataclysmic past laid the psychological roots of wilful denial. Paradoxically, Hinduism as an identity only came into being because invaders needed to differentiate them in relation to themselves. There were no Hindus before Islam, only a diverse mosaic of reflection and localised practice. The dominant spiritual and intellectual ferment within territories that stretched much beyond the boundaries of contemporary India was evolution. There was a common thread in key historic commentaries and the idea of Dharma, but no overarching authority sought, a purposive uniformity. Spiritual sensibility and secular philosophic reflection contended and converged, but, in the end, there was multitudinous variety. Thus, the followers of Sanatana Dharma revered a number of critical texts, participated in some common rituals, but basically they happened not to be members of one of the exclusivist semitic faiths.
The most significant aspect of Hinduism is not just shared popular custom and culture, but a philosophical and practical orientation towards life. In fact, it may be suggested that the idea of being born as a Hindu is somewhat anomalous. It is how one actually lives one'slife that matters. This is why Swami Vivekananda admiringly described the British as the true Kshatriyas when he visited England because he considered they had managed to combine personal self-restraint with fulfilment of public duty, without yielding to slavish obedience. In this sense, those born of Hindu parentage are only nominal Hindus while anyone leading a Dharmic life, irrespective of pre-existing background and location, is being more faithful to a way of life idealised by Sanatana Dharma. Indeed one encounters many Europeans who practise Dharma without realising that their lives resonate with the injunctions of the sacred Hindu scriptures.
A dispute concerning its portrayal in America academia illuminates some profounder issues concerning Hinduism. A number of scholars assert that they have uncovered grotesque sexual motifs in Hindu mythology and the misdemeanours of Hindu saints. Such scholarly endeavour requires considerable leaps of the imagination, which therefore necessarily makes the claimed insights provisional. However, these scholars display bad faith by cynically wielding their institutional academic power to assert that such imaginative reconstruction, instead of being tentative, cannot be queried by mere Hindus, even if they possess expertise. It should be noted that many academic specialists on the third world routinely engage with the foreign policy and intelligence establishments of their own countries. Their political loyalties and endeavours cannot, therefore, be regarded as entirely ingenuous. These academics are in fact subtly insinuating that the sexuality (e.g. homoeroticism and anxiety about female sexuality) they have uncovered within Hinduism is somehow reprehensible. And they imply that both Hindu myths and saints like Ramakrishna, alleged to exhibit it, merit censure. These supposedly liberal academics have apparently espoused parochial victorian and Christian views of sexuality, which they have imputed to Hindu myths and saints in order to discredit them both.
In relation to the prolonged history of ancient Indian reflection, combining spiritual yearning, analytical philosophy and secular political ideas, such works of imaginative reconstruction are but a transient breeze. But the modern Hindu is also a product of parochial victorian sexual and social mores and apt to take greater offence at malign intrusion than justified. Taking liberties with their complex past should not even be an irritant for Hindus because, in the final analysis, it only articulates what it is to be human, the contrary process of becoming, as the ancient Greeks understood it. Of course the cynical political attempt of foreign academics to undermine Hindus and their country as a prelude to their subjugation is unacceptable. The important point is that considerable diversity and contrariety characterises Hindu tradition. The many streams of thought within it also interweave because some critical texts and practices are prominent and thinkers have grappled with similar issues that they know others have also reflected upon. The innate tolerance of diversity of ancient Indian reflection is absent in the semitic religions of the mediterranean basin.
There are numerous parallels between Greek and modern secular European epistemology and method and the ideas of Indica. However, these three traditions have fewer areas of compatibility with Christianity and Islam though Thomas Aquinas sought to reconcile Christian notions of the divine with Aristotelian logic that Islam had transmitted to Europe. However, a somewhat sweeping characterisation of ancient Greek thought, Christianity and Islam highlights a deeper contrast with Hindu beliefs. There is an ontological divergence that contrasts Greek humanism and the prescriptive basis of Christian and Islamic revelation with Hindu ideas. Hinduism espouses an open-ended spiritual quest that is also cyclical rather than finite in defining human experience. It also espouses a remarkably inclusive view of life forms that does not unequivocally privilege humankind.
Such spiritual tolerance and the positing of an infinite roll of the dice through reincarnation, counter-posing a redeeming cyclical view of existence to the inherent inequities of contingent human existence, is at odds with semitic conceptions of the singularity of one'searthly life. And the latter also regard the non-human world, including animals, the other in relation to humankind, as objects for its own benefit. Much more than the semitic faiths, mysticism is fundamental for Hindus and multifaceted mental and physical training deriving from it help achieve union with the absolute to escape samsara, the travails of earthly existence. As an aside it might be posited that the Hindu conviction that existence is cyclical mitigates the cancerous materialism overwhelming most Christian societies. In the end, all spiritual aspiration seems endangered by the seduction of material progress, but notions of Maya and Lila may afford greater space for reflection on this particular historical dilemma. Of course the coarseness of materialism has descended upon nominal Hindus with a vengeance as well and the fidelity of a Hindu to inherited belief cannot be assumed because of the accident of parentage.
More generally, Christianity and Islam both constrain the realm of human experience and thought significantly since revelation is a singular, unique event and subsequent interpretation constantly strains against it. In the case of Christianity, the intellectual perplexities remain formidable and Christian societies have increasingly abandoned faith because experience cannot be reconciled adequately with it. Others await a millenarian apocalypse, a phenomenon that has reached epidemic proportions in parts of the US. Islam is also undergoing a massive crisis since the dominant contemporary tendency for its interpreters is to deny modernity and history when it conflicts with revelation. Hinduism escapes most of this turbulence because its norms are capacious, evolving with experience and its constants are not prescriptive. For example, if holy scriptures conflict with experience the former can be treated as symbolic rather than paramount. Unfortunately, most Hindus know little of their own traditions and wish to mould themselves to please foreigners, mouthing whatever nonsense is required to do so.
In conclusion, Hinduism cannot nevertheless simply deny, as the semitic religions frequently do, that the many social and moral ills besetting their society have no basis in their scriptures. Practice is what matters and Hindus need to take moral responsibility for social evils in their society. Of course the ancient scriptures can be a basis for overcoming patent injustices, particularly some of the unwelcome post-colonial manifestations of caste against which there is plenty of scriptural injunction. Militant contemporary Hindu politics has only an ephemeral relationship with Dharma and historic Hindu practice, but defence against extinction is enjoined by both. The defence of India'sterritory and insistence on loyalty to the State may lack transcendental legitimacy, but it is a necessity for the survival of Hinduism. It is this expression of Hinduism that provokes much international condemnation because a politically and militarily weak India is a precondition for its subjugation. This is why Dharma indubitably approves the defence of India and by force of arms when necessary.