If Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya—who propounded the illuminating and soul lifting philosophy of Integral Humanism—were to be in our midst today, such an atrocious situation would have deeply hurt and pained him.
Swami Vivekananda, the cyclonic patriot monk who took the luminous message of Vedanta to the four quarters of the globe, was appalled to no end to see the crude and cruel play of the obnoxious caste system interlaced with vicious untouchability creating a barrier between a man and a man in the State of Kerala described as ‘God’s Own Country’. Profoundly hurt by the inhuman exploitation of those at the end of the social hierarchy —in the name of casteism—Vivekananda dubbed Kerala a “lunatic asylum”.
The grim ground reality is that Bharat is today under the vice like grip of highly discriminative caste system. For the power hungry politicians, professing a weird brand of pseudo secularism, caste divisions have become a platform for creating vote-banks. Indeed in many parts of Bharat caste considerations rather than developmental agenda shapes the outcome in the fierily contested electoral battles. This is the tragedy of contemporary Bharat that one cannot simply wish away.
In a remote village of Hassan district in Karnataka those belonging to the depressed sections of the society are not allowed to visit the local temple. In the poverty stricken hamlets of neighbouring Maharashtra the so-called Dalits are prevented from drawing water from the community wells. In the villages of Tamil Nadu, a marriage between individuals belonging to castes at different levels of social hierarchy could invite massive violence and retribution.
An original and profound thinker with a heartfelt concern for the well being of the society, Upadhyaya was rightly of view that unpleasant caste conflicts were a result of the perverted perception of what constitutes Dharma. In the view of Upadhyaya, many of the tormenters associate Dharma with exclusiveness and untouchability and justify their perverted action. Indeed, Updhayaya was fully well convinced that the conversion of those being tormented and subjugated in the name of caste superiority to Islam and Christianity is due to the persistence of customs and traditions which are highly objectionable and abominable.
The Integral Humanism philosophy of Upadhyaya makes it clear that Dharma, far from being a religious dogma, is the sense of righteousness that guides the man on the path of both worldly well-being and salvation. As pointed out by Upadhyaya, it is the distorted perception of Dharma which is at the root of the current social turmoil based on the degenerate version of Varna Vyavastha, an euphemism for casteism.
A strong advocate of egalitarian social order based on equality and fraternity, Upadhyaya held the view that one cannot claim to be superior on account of his belonging to a particular caste or community. By no stretch of imagination, can accident of birth can confer greatness on an individual.“ In the present age of science, individual freedom and equality, it is really repulsive to consider a social system which chains down a man to follow a certain profession on the ground of the circumstances of his birth,” observed Upadhyaya. Clearly and apparently, Upadhyaya was not in consonance with the illogical view that the Varna in which one happens to be born is decided by one’s good or bad actions in previous incarnations and so Varna is determined by birth. Indeed there is no denying the point that the distorted western cultural norms added strength to the perverted version of the caste system, a hierarchical social order that created walls of separation and exclusiveness in the Hindu society. In this context, Upadhyaya notes “Time was when the system could sustain society and its form was based on the view that a society is a living organism. If the form has become outdated, it is for the thinkers to evolve a new form without sacrificing its society-sustaining power or the essentially unitary concept.”
Pt Deendayal time and again, stressed on the unique vision of Bharateeya Sanskriti which is unity in diversity. Only by imbuing the spirit of unity, oneness and brotherhood that is deeply ingrained in Bharateeya Sanskriti can the Hindu society acquire its lost glory and pre-eminence.” We have to make Bharat greater and better than its pristine self and ensure that every man born here will not only develop himself well but also realise his soul as one with all humanity and the universe and get elevated from Nar (man) to Narayan (God)” states Upadhyaya while elaborating on the philosophy of Integral Humanism.
Upadhyaya did not merely preach against the abominable version of the caste system responsible for the weakening of the Hindu society, but also set a shining example of personally waging a campaign against the misuse and abuse of casteism by power hungry politicians. For instance, way back in 1960s,Upadhyaya, a thoroughly principled, scholarly politician with a vision of a statesman spearheaded a campaign to cleanse the electoral politics of the vicious influence of divisive castesim. In this context, Rakesh Sinha, Director of India Policy Foundation, recounts a very touching incident. According to Sinha, during his campaign for the by election to Jaunpur Parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh held in 1963, Upadhyaya ,a candidate of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh(BJS) came down heavily on the abuse and misuse of casteism to stay at the winning edge of the election. And this line of approach infuriated members of the community to which Upadhyaya happened to belong. Not surprisingly then, despite being a stronghold of BJS which had earlier represented this constituency Upadhyaya, considered a safe bet, lost the election. But an unruffled and unfazed Upadhyaya said “Deendayal lost but the Jan Sangh won. So go and spread the message”.
The farsighted vision of Upadhaya considered caste system as practised now as an “aberration and social curse”. He was dead set against divisiveness, injustice and false sense of superiority perpetuated by the caste system. Unity, brotherhood, social harmony and community bonding were strongly espoused by Pt Deendayal to strengthen the spirit of national integration. He visualised the spectrum of human nature in its totality, diversity and plurality. He looked at the problems of the man and society in their intricacy, steadiness, dynamism.
Upadhyaya was right in his observation that in search of individual happiness Bharateeya spiritual philosophy had recognised the individual as an integral personality composed of body, mind, intellect and soul. It is a harmonious satisfaction of all these components that can bring true fulfilment or real happiness to the individual. Dissatisfaction and disharmony arise when there is no equal satisfaction of all the components. Therefore the sages of Bharat in their moment of contemplation conceived the fourfold ideals of Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire) and Moksha (Salvation) as being the matrix for all round happiness of man and society, and Deendayalji interpreted these ideals in modern terms in his “Integral Humanism”. In the ultimate analysis, Upadhaya wanted Bharat to scale new height of glory and greatness by shunning the negative attributes of division, disharmony, discrimination, injustice and exploitation inherent in the degenerate version of caste system that continues to eat into the vitals of the national unity and integration.