Organiser remembers Ram Swarup, mentor of Sita Ram Goel, and a former contributor to it (Organiser) on his 22nd punya tithi that falls on December 26
Born 100 years ago in 1920, the Hindu revivalist Ram Swarup has been described as “a representative of India’s rishi tradition in the modern age” by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As a Gandhian throughout his life, he authored books like Gandhian Economics and Gandhism and Communism.
An early and foremost critic of Marxism, Ram Swarup co-founded anti-Communist publishing house Prachi Prakashan and prepared History of the Communist Party of India. His book Gandhism and Communism exercised influence among American policymakers and members of Congress.
Ram Swarup has inspired a generation of brilliant thinkers such as Christopher Gérard, Arun Shourie and Sita Ram Goel. Hinduism Today described him as “perhaps Hinduism’s most cogent analyst.” The eminent scholar Koenraad Elst has this to say about this yogi:
He was a quiet and reflective type of person. He never married, never went into business, hardly ever had a job, never stood for an election. When I first met him in 1990, he lived in a rooftop room in the house of the late industrialist Hari Prasad Lohia, a sponsor of a variety of Hindu sages (including even Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh). He had been living with the Lohia family in their Calcutta or Delhi property since 1949; only in his last years did he move to his deceased brother’s house. At any rate, his biography was not very eventful apart from daily yoga practice and his pioneering intellectual work…He was found dead on his bed after his afternoon nap on 26 December 1998. He left no children but many Hindus felt orphaned when the flames consumed Ram Swarup’s earthly remains.
Organiser recalls the legacy of this modern rishi and a former writer/contributor to it by presenting some of the selected excerpts from his books and writings:
Conception of God in Sanatana Dharma vis-à-vis that in Monotheistic Religions
A God of the conception of Sanatana dharma says: “Those who worship other Gods also worship me,” but a God conceived in exclusivist ideologies [Islam, Christianity] says: “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” The Gods of Sanatana dharma are not “jealous”; they live in friendliness; they represent each other; in each one can see all. A God of this conception does not abhor “other” or “strange” Gods. He is in all and all are in Him.
In Sanatana dharma, one does not love one god by hating another; nor does he need to hate the gods of others for loving his own. It teaches that Jehovah can be loved without hating Jupiter and Allah [can be] loved without hating Al-lat and Al-uzza.
Sanatana dharma preaches neither exclusive gods, nor exclusive prophets. The truths it teaches are experiential and open to all. ‘Come and See for yourself’ is its call. It rejects the doctrine of the only prophet (put forth under the guise of the last prophet) or the only saviour.
By this token, Sanatana dharma can not be a proxy religion. It teaches that one cannot live on truths seen by others. It teaches you direct and personal perception of truth. The voices and visions of one man cannot become standard or authority for all.
When two cultures meet on unequal military terms—as the Hindu culture met the West and earlier met Islam—it gives rise to grave problems of self-identity for the defeated party. When India finally realized that she had lost in the military and diplomatic contest and that the British were supreme, she was overwhelmed and filled with a deep sense of inferiority. Under such circumstances, as it usually happens, other non-military forces came into play. Different people sought psychological rehabilitation in different ways. Some retired into their shell and became apathetic; a majority met the situation by self-repudiation and wholesale imitation. They disowned their nationhood and their culture and adopted the ways and attitudes of the victors whom they regarded as their superiors. They saved their self-respect through self-alienation.
A demoralized Hinduism accepted the superiority of the invaders and became their admirer; it accepted their standards, their criterion, their judgment. Hinduism itself became a dirty word, a word of reproach and shame and dishonour; Hindus became a song of others, and even fell down in their own esteem. They lost pride in their heritage, and they became self-alienated.
A country cannot be defeated politically unless it is defeated culturally. Our alien rulers knew that they could not conquer India without conquering Hinduism—cultural India’s name at its deepest and highest, and the principle of its identity, continuity and reawakening. Therefore Hinduism became an object of their special attack. Physical attack was supplemented by ideological attack. They began to interpret for us our history, our religion, our culture and ourselves. We learnt to look at us through their eyes. From them we picked up views and slogans that served them. During these years, they set for us our intellectual agenda. Thus a whole class of self-alienated people grew up to carry the tradition of the old conquerors.
They knew all the bad things and nothing good about Hinduism. Hindu dharma is now being subverted from within. Anti-Hindu Hindus rule the roost today; they write our histories, they define our nation; they control the media, the academia, the politics, the higher administration and higher courts. They are now working as clients of those forces who are planning to revive their old Imperialism. Once Hinduism identified and defined India; now they are busy denying and destroying that identity and definition.
Muslims as a self-conscious minority
We are often told that the Muslims in India are “a self-conscious minority” and that they are convinced that “they have a religious-cultural-linguistic heritage which is worth defending whatever the price”. But is this all that this Muslim “self-consciousness” amounts to – just defence of its religious-cultural-linguistic identity? If we believe this, we are fooling ourselves. This Muslim “self-consciousness” has already led to one partition of the country, and it is preparing for another. This “self-consciousness” has greater aims and convictions and greater historical dynamism. It is supported by a deeper and far reaching ideology, it has at its back the whole theology of dar’l-harb and dar’l-Islam. Its unfolding takes time but its aim is fixed. To think of “Indian” Muslims without taking into account the Islamic theology and ideology, without taking into account Arabia and Pakistan, is like thinking of “Indian” Communists without taking into account the Communist ideology and the Leninist-Stalinist tactics and the “vanguard role” of Soviet Russia. Refusing to see the problem in its larger perspective is to deceive ourselves, in which lies great peril for the future of the nation.
Throughout 800 years of Muslim domination, we fought Muslims, many times bravely; but we never fought Islam. We never studied it. And yet it is not Muslims but Islam that is our problem. And it is a continuing problem. We must look at it more closely. We must study its origin, its history, its inspiration, its founder, its scriptures more critically.
Muslims love to talk of their grievances. Let us for a change also talk of ours. Let us make a directory of the temple they have destroyed; let us prepare an account of the nations they have enslaved and exploited and millions of men and women they have slayed; let us tell them about their predatory imperialism.
Buddha, his spiritual experiences and teachings formed part of a Hindu tradition. He belonged to the Upanishadic heritage. He cannot be understood in any other sense. The attempt to understand him in isolation divorced from that tradition which he confirmed, enriched and represented, has only led to misunderstanding and distortion of his teachings. He himself claimed no originality. He claimed to have “seen an ancient way,” followed an”ancient road.” Those who claim to love Buddha should also love andcherish that tradition, which was his cradle, foster-mother, guide andinner inspiration. A good Buddhist has perforce to be a good Hindu too.
India is the land not only of Buddha but also of Rama, Krishna, Yajnavalkya, and mighty Vyasa. Hinduism is not a one-book or one-prophet religion; it is the repository of man’s nameless spiritual tradition and knowledge nourished by countless sages and seers. It does not give a neatly worked-out scheme of theological ideas; on the other hand, it tries to name the Nameless, express the Inexpressible.
Hinduism is like a great reservoir of water from which many stream stake their rise and to which they again repair after passing through many strange and fair lands. Hinduism is a lute yielding many sweet notes each deriving its meaning from its place in the total symphony.
Probably, in its world excursion, Buddhism followed the trail of Hinduism. It went where Hinduism was already, known and honoured. There it made a permanent niche in the affections of the people and destroyed nothing. Nourished by their psyche, it acquired a new wealth and became thoroughly indigenous. It was not governed by a distant mother-church. On the other hand, it drew its sustenance from the soil of its adoption. This prevented it from becoming the handmaid of Imperialism exploiting from afar. Its centre and authority was always local. Therefore, it became the genuine voice of the people who lived by it.
To fulfil a certain need of the hour, Guru Govind Singh preached the gospel of the Khalsa, the pure or the elect. Those who joined his group passed through a ceremony known as pahul, and to emphasize the martial nature of their new vocation, they were given the title of Singh or “lion”.
Thus began a sect not based on birth but which drew its recruits from those who were not Khalsa by birth. It was wholly manned by the Hindus.
A Sikh was a Hindu in a particular role. Hindus were Sikhs and Sikhs were Hindus. The distinction between them was functional, not fundamental.
Imperialism thrives on divisions and it sows them even where they do not exist. The British Government invited one Dr. E. Trumpp, a German Indologist and missionary, to look at Sikh scriptures and prove that their theology and cosmology were different from those of the Vedas and the Upanishads. But he found nothing in them to support this view. He found Nanak a “thorough Hindu,” his religion “a Pantheism, derived directly from Hindu sources.”
However, to please his clients, he said that the external marks of the Sikhs separated them from the Hindus and once these were lost, they relapsed into Hinduism. Hence, Hinduism was a danger to Sikhism and the external marks must be preserved by the Sikhs at all costs. Precisely because there was a fundamental unity, the accidental difference had to be pushed to the utmost and made much of. From then onwards, “Sikhism in danger” became the cry of many British scholar-administrators.
On Gandhian Sarva Dharma Sambhav
“Unity of all religions” has been a special infirmity of the Hindu mind. It has its doctrinal and historical reasons. Brought up in his own religious tradition, a Hindu could not even conceive that a religion could teach persecution. And though it is continuing victim for a thousand years, he thought there was a mistake somewhere and its perpetrators had not understood their own religions. In this state of mind, he began to paint for himself and for those who would take him seriously a picture of these religions quite different from the one which their own followers knew and practised. It was a self-deceiving picture but it satisfied him and he wanted to go no further into the matter.
There is also a historical reason. Christianity and Islam have been great and systematic attackers and persecutors of various cultures and religions in various parts of world. In Greece, in Rome, in Egypt, in Europe, in Syria, in Persia, in Central Asia, old cultures and religions were almost completely wiped out. The Hindu culture too has been under a similar attack but it withstood it. However, though it survived, its body and psyche were badly damaged. It survived by lying low, by submission, by deference, even by self-denial and self-repudiation, by having no word to say about itself, by making no claims for itself—in fact it made all the claims for its persecutors and their religious ideologies. The old habit continues and has become a part of the Hindu psyche.
[Out of this habit and self-denial,] we became escapists; we wanted to avoid conflict at any cost, even conflict and controversy of ideas, even when this controversy was necessary. We developed an escape-route. We called it “synthesis”. We said all religions, all scriptures, all prophets preach the same things. It was intellectual surrender, and our enemies saw it that way; they concluded that we are amenable to anything, that we would clutch at any false hope or idea to avoid a struggle, and that we would do nothing to defend ourselves. Therefore, they have become even more aggressive. It also shows that we have lost spiritual discrimination (viveka), and would entertain any falsehood; this is prajna-dosha, drishti-dosha, and it cannot be good for our survival in the long run. People first fall into delusion before they fall into misfortune.
A Shrinking And Shrunken Bharat
There was a time when boundaries of cultural India extended far beyond its physical borders. But even physical India has been contracting for centuries. We have now got used to thinking of India without Afghanistan, without [Western] Punjab and Sindh, and lately without Kashmir too. We have got used to the idea of its enemies planning its dismemberment, subvert it from within and threaten it from outside. We have become used to the idea of a shrinking and shrunken India.
Even today, the old iniquity pursues us. India is subjected to large scale infiltration, organized subversion, planned terror and blasts; Hindus are subjected to systematic proselytizing, political blackmail and electoral manipulation.
Hostile forces are mobilizing local fifth-columns, anti-Hindu Hindus, casteists and opportunists, elements for a war of subversion from within while they work in perfect safety from abroad. Old forces of bigotry and Imperialism are trying to stage a comeback. They use the language of human rights, radicalism and equity to achieve reactionary ends.
Liberals and Communals
Some present political analysts divide Hindu intellectuals into two categories: liberal and communal. But this division is falsely flattering to one and unfair to the other. For if we closely examine the names that sail under the two categories, we find that many of the so-called “liberal” Hindu intellectuals are plain Hindu-baiters while many of the so-called “communal” Hindu intellectuals are plain patriots.
It has been seriously propagated that Hindus should give up their symbols and even Hinduism itself in order to placate the Muslims. In fact, many Hindu elites go about condemning Hinduism in order to prove their Indian nationalism and make it more convincing to the Muslims and to themselves.
But there were others like Gandhi and Aurobindo who saw and acted differently. They did not feel that their Hinduism contradicted their nationalism. In fact, it gave them strength to be great nationalists and great humanists.
On Left Intellectuals
A dominant ruling people or race also creates a dominant ideology. It gives birth not only to economic and political compradores but also to intellectual compradores. In India, too, we developed a local satellite ideology derived from the dominant imperialist ideology. It believed what it had been taught, namely, that India was not a nation but only a name for a geographical region occupied by successive waves of invaders, that its past was dark, its religion degraded and superstitious, and that its social system was a tyranny of castes and creeds. The intellectual and cultural conquest of the West has proved more spectacular and durable than its military conquest.
Started by the British, this intellectual programming received powerful reinforcement from Marxism. Marx tells us that India is no nation and it has no history. She is “the predestined prey of conquest”, he says, “Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history. What we call its history, is but the history of successive intruders,” To Marx, the British conquest of India was a blessing. The question, as he puts it, “is not whether the English had a right to conquer India, but whether we are to prefer India conquered by the Turk, by the Persian, by the Russian, to India conquered by the Briton”.
Read M.N. Roy and other Marxist historians (they dominate our universities) who tell us how Islamic conquest brought a new message of brotherhood and equality to a degraded Hindu India, and how it completed the work begun by Buddhism. Here anything can be anything and imperialism is a beautiful thing if the victim is Hinduism. Today, Marxism represents the most systematic and sustained attack on deeper India, on the India of Gandhi, Vivekananda and Aurobindo.
New India looks upon her spiritual inheritance as a reactionary and undesirable burden. The class that now controls the political, cultural and intellectual life of the country proudly and openly proclaims atheistic beliefs and positivistic values. Today India prides herself in being a ‘secular’ State, a secularity which is more anti-spiritual than anti-communal in its temper.