I say all people on our planet earth are Hindus, irrespective of their desire to be called Hindus. How can that be? Here is the answer.
Hinduism is the name by which India'stimeless religion became widely known during the last two to three centuries, but its real name has always been Sanaatana Dharma or the Eternal Law. It does not date from particular point of time, nor did it begin from a particular founded like Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Being eternal, it is also universal. It knows no territorial jurisdiction. All human beings already born and yet to be born belong to it. None can escape this Law, whether or not they concede its binding force. The eternal truth that fire burns does not depend for its validity upon our allegiance to it. If we accept this truth, so much the better for us; if we do not, so much the worse for us. In either case, the law is there, immutable, universal and eternal. Such is our Sanaatana Dharma or Hinduism as it is now known throughout the world.
Objection: If the entire world is Hindus as you say, how do you justify the restrictive caste system in your religion?
Reply: I only said that all are Hindus, and, therefore, entitled to seek guidance in the tenets of our religion. I never implied that the guidance will be the same for all. Countless are the varieties of people'stemperaments, training, environments, hereditary leanings, pre-natal tendencies and so on. As such, it will be impossible to expect any single stereotyped system of conduct for all. Our Sanaatana Dharma, taking due notice of this undeniable fact, resolves itself into two parts: (1) Saamaanya Dharma or Ordinary Law, and (2) Visesha Dharma or Special Law. The former guides all mankind; the former and the latter together guide those who come under the caste system.
Objection: Why do we need two different laws when there is nothing to show that a special rule of conduct prescribed for a particular caste will be injurious to others, who do not belong to that caste or to any caste at all?
Reply: There is indeed nothing to show that a special rule of conduct prescribed for a particular caste will be beneficial to others. The mere fact that it is prescribed for that caste makes it a special law and, therefore, not applicable to the generality of mankind. Since the Shaastraas ( Scriptures) are our only guided for telling us that a particular line of conduct is beneficial, we cannot throw them overboard when they tell us in the same breath for whom it is beneficial. Our system and, in fact, any system which aims at the regulation of conduct of its followers, must be based on the principle of competency. Those who belong to the castes are competent to pursue the Special Law, others are competent to pursue only the Ordinary Law. Further, the competency required can be learnt only from the Shaastraas, which prescribe the Dharma or rules of conduct.
Objection: If the Hindu Shaastraas are to be taken as the guide for all humanity and if all persons born are, in your view, born in your religion, how do you account for the prevalence of other faiths?
Reply: It is their fault that they do not recognise that they are but different aspects of the Sanaatana Dharma. The highest teaching of any other religion do find a place in our religion and they are but a phase of the Ordinary Law laid down there.
Objection: Don'tyou think that your claim will sound somewhat presumptuous and that others may not be disposed to concede it?
Reply: The disposition of others to concede the claim of Hinduism is beside the point, for the intrinsic worth of anything is always there whether one recognises it or not.
Question: Can you elucidate on the Chaatur-Varnam or the caste-system in Hinduism?
Answer: The four castes of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra represent the Spiritual power, Economic Power and Man-power respectively. These are the four pillars of a strong society or, for that matter, a Nation-State. No social structure, either in India or anywhere else in the world, can ever attain peace or prosperity at any time without the strong foundation of these four pillars to support it.
(The writer can be contacted at ?Chandralayam?, Pattiam, P.O. Pathayakunnu, Dist. Kannur, Kerala-670691, e-mail: [email protected])