“There are certain great principles in which, I think, we — whether Vaishnavas, Shaivas, Shâktas, or Gânapatyas, whether belonging to the ancient Vedantists or the modern ones, whether belonging to the old rigid sects or the modern reformed ones — are all one, and whoever calls himself a Hindu, believes in these principles. Of course there is a difference in the interpretation, in the explanation of these principles, and that difference should be there, and it should be allowed, for our standard is not to bind every man down to our position. It would be a sin to force every man to work out our own interpretation of things, and to live by our own methods”. – Swami Vivekananda, Common Bases of Hinduism, Lecture delivered at Lahore on November 9, 1897. (Complete Works, Volume 3, P. 366-84)
Hindu unity and organisations have been the subjects of academic and intellectual mockery since the colonisation of Bharat. The World Hindu Congress (WHC) – 2023, held in Bangkok, Thailand, has dispelled this myth by gathering more than 2,000 representatives from 61 countries from diverse organisations and backgrounds. For many reasons, it was a momentous occasion in galvanising Hindu sects, intellectuals, academicians, activists, policymakers, and entrepreneurs for the common cause of Hindu resurgence.
The formation of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) in 1964, bringing diverse sects comprising Hindu Dharmic traditions, was a significant milestone for Hindu unity. The painstaking initiative of the then Sarsanghchalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Guruji Golwalkar could make that possible. Since then, there have been efforts to provide a Hindu worldview to address the global challenges. The World Hindu Conferences held in 1966, 1979 and 2007 at Prayag, on the sidelines of the Kumbh Mela, were steps forward in making diverse sects walk together. The formation of the World Hindu Foundation in 2009 and the subsequent organisation of conferences, dedicated to various verticals, provided new momentum to the cause. In 2014, commemorating the 125th anniversary of Dr Hedgewar, the visionary founder of RSS and the Golden Jubilee year of VHP, the first edition of WHC brought all the conferences under one umbrella. Since then, it has become a global platform for Hindus to connect, share ideas, inspire one another, and impact the common good in different walks of life, including economic, education, media, organisational, and political, as well as the unique leadership and contributions of Hindu women and youth. The Chicago Conference 2018 was rightly dedicated to the message of Swami Vivekananda in 1893, without which the message of Hindu resurgence could not be complete.
This time, the WHC in Bangkok had a special significance. In Southeast Asia, Dharma and Dhamma, both expressions of shared cultural and philosophical heritage, find a perfect confluence in language, arts, architecture and tradition. In the ruling Chakri dynasty of Thailand, the King is still referred to as Sri Ram. Even though the majority follow Buddhist tradition, as per the true Dharmic ethos, there is no state religion and Ganesha, Saraswati, Indra, Shiva and Vishnu are commonly worshipped. Respecting and accepting diverse faiths is the core of Dharma. When the world is grappling with conflicts, crises and chaos, the Hindu method of creating harmony, as echoed in the statement of the Prime Minister of Thailand, provides the solution.
The efforts to evolve a collective Hindu approach to meet global challenges are showing remarkable results, as the speakers and delegates shared. Hindu Studies is emerging as the much sought-after discipline, and temple associations and organisations are developing legal mechanisms as per the local provisions to protect their religious and cultural practices. Hindus are emerging as leaders in various fields and contributing to their respective nations and humanity. They are recognised for their academic excellence, hard work, innovation, law-abiding citizenship and service. While making strides in the material sphere, we should not forget that Hinduness (Hindutva) – the unique, balanced way to create harmony in the apparent contradictions – is the core objective of Hindu Resurgence. Irrespective of our faith, we need to contribute to the cause of Hindu unity. At the same time, that strength of unity is meant to realise the Dharma Vijaya (righteous victory) as propounded by RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. As Hindus across the globe set to celebrate the arrival of Ram Lalla at its birthplace in Ayodhya, exhibiting the spirit of Ram Rajya, where diversity is celebrated and inherent unity is realised, should be the common goal for the followers of Dharmic tradition.
WHC-2023 has undoubtedly provided a positive direction in that endeavour.