What makes Hinduism different from other religions?-II
Dr Sitesh Alok
The traditional system of Hindus for spreading knowledge in society and preparing the young generation to face the challenges of life in an honourable manner was through Gurukuls, i.e. teacher-based academies of a kind, where a learned scholar, i.e. the head of that academy called Guru, imparted knowledge of both a scriptural and practical nature to the citizens of the future. This was sort of a voluntary arrangement, i.e. not appointed or set up by the state, and the teachers did not demand any fee either. Nor did they get any salary from any source for the service they rendered. It was for the pupils to collect money or material from the society, day after day, call it by way of collecting alms, and contribute towards the needs of the Guru’s ashram. This was how the society took care of the needs of the teacher to enable him concentrate on acquisition of knowledge from the scriptures, meditation and by way of exchange of views with other learned people.
With the advent of foreign rule, the ruthless destruction of our scriptures and the suppression of our people started and, as a consequence, the Gurukuls got demolished. On the one hand, the Gurus were thrashed and thrown out for spreading knowledge blasphemous in their concept, and, on the other hand, the society was lead to a state of penury in which no thought could be given to children’s education let alone to supporting the clan of teachers. The age-old and time-tested system of acquiring and disseminating knowledge in the society thus crumbled altogether.
After about six centuries of Islamic rule, came the British rule. Though different in shades and manners, the oppression continued to confuse, demoralize and humiliate people and further disintegrate society. The new rulers furthered the process of depriving people of their self-confidence and self-respect with yet another tool – that of a new language. A new class of Babus with workable knowledge of English was created. They were rewarded by the rulers with small jobs which provided them with a comfortable living and social status. These Babus looked down upon their deprived fellow beings and, in turn, were respected by them for the powers and life-style they enjoyed.
This unfortunately, was not the end of it. Towards the fag end of British rule in India, Marxism with its sole emphasis on class-conflict and the slogan of assured monetary gains was taking roots in India. Money sounded important and attractive to the suffering and hopeless masses. But the Marxian approach flouted the basic emphasis on moral values of the Hindu ethos. Yet another crack thus appeared in the already battered Hindu society.
Marx, like most others, had little knowledge of Hinduism and its emphasis on ethical values. A protagonist of secular thought based purely on material well-being, he unwittingly created a new form of ‘religion’. Its followers took him as their supreme being and set out to propagate his word with utmost religiosity, more severely in India, probably because of the people’s ignorance of their own roots and the rich cultural ethos.
Was It Weak Defence?
A valid question is often raised against Hindus: Why were they so weak that they could not defend themselves against foreign invasion and the subsequent downfall of their culture? This is no doubt, a fact of history that Hindus could not defend themselves against the invaders. There is no denying they were militarily weak. This irrefutable fact, unfortunately, has another historical backdrop worth mentioning.
In India, five hundred years before the birth of Christ, Gautam Buddha and saint Mahaveer were born. They both unequivocally emphasized the doctrine of Ahimsa, i.e. no killing of any sort. As a consequence, even kings and emperors literally bade farewell to arms. All military preparations came to a halt. Production of arms and ammunition completely stopped – and the personal swords, daggers, etc. owned by people started gathering rust, because of non-use and neglect, so much so that even an accidental jingling of metal pieces in homes came to be considered an ill–omen. Social leaders kept preaching higher human values and the virtues of tolerance, forgiveness, universal brotherhood and peace.
Those were the times when in several neighboring countries people were raising armies and heading towards new lands for personal laurels, riches and women. They were also experimenting with and newer and more effective weapons.
This is also a fact of history that whenever foreigners came, particularly from the west, to settle down in this country they were welcomed and granted complete freedom to follow their respective rites and rituals. The settlement of Parsees in Gujarat, in the tenth century, and that of Syrian Christians in Kerala, in 57 AD, and the Jews in the Konkan region of Maharashtra after their, persecution by the Romans around 1st century BC, are cases in example.
Also, around the very same time, Hindus were attacked by several foreign organized marauders, like Taimur the lame and Genghis Khan, who looted the people and returned to their respective countries. But, unfortunately these attacks did not serve as an eye-opener and whatever wealth people lost was taken by Hindus just as some stroke of ill-luck, or divine punishment for some past sin. Hindus, probably, forgave all enemies and continued to harp on finer human values.
Soon afterwards, there started a regular series of large-scale invasions from the northwest from people who wanted much more than riches. They were, in addition, greatly impressed by the availability of water here, and had plans to settle down in this country to rule the local people and to eventually convert them to their own new-found faith.
Mohammad Ghauri invasion, in 1192, is yet another fact of history, wherein he was defeated by the valiant Rajput fighters. But their king Prithviraj Chauhan, foolishly enough, pardoned him. Much humiliated, Gauri left only to return with a massive army and much better preparation. And, defeating Prithviraj Chauhan, Ghauri gouged his eyes straightaway, and killed him eventually.
Babur had written in his autobiography, Babarnama, that individually Hindu fighters were brave and fought valiantly, but they could not fight as an army. Their armies had no plan and no strategy because fighting-skill requires regular practice and the temperament to kill. History also tells us while Babar attacked with his in-practice army – equipped with the newly invented gun-powder, Hindus just had their rusted swords to defend themselves.
Hindus, thus, did not lose because of their weakness or incompetent socio-political system but because of their excessive idealism. At a time when the so called civilizations all around were acquiring military powers, India was wholly lost in some reverie of idealism – something that Tibet did centuries later, until it was brutally wiped out by neighbouring China.
Pages of history can never be reopened and re-written. Likewise, any self defence after the downfall cannot change the facts of history. But what needs to be understood is that any adverse and malicious criticism of our own people in this regard should not be allowed to take the better of our self-confidence and faith in our well-meaning heritage.