Colonial Hinduism: The ‘Hindoos’
The image of Hinduism today, as presented to the world through the Western lenses, is an academic and missionary manufactured image, an image of caste-based apartheid after the Aryan Invasion Theory, an indescribable mass of disjoint superstitious practices defying labelling. Same is the case of the image of India: a land of snakes and snake charmers, of fevers and black magic, etc.
Hindu leaders felt not just politically but also ideologically compelled to present a distorted version of Hinduism to please their Abrahamic masters; the real Hinduism is neither the caste-apartheid nor the export-variety Hinduism of the post-1800 period. Hinduism existed much before jaati and much before Buddha and the Buddhists, leave alone before the Marxist-acclaimed Islamic-Hindu syncretism.
Hinduism has had its image stereotyped, tarnished, over-simplified by reduction, reduced to vague but fashionable yet meaningless psuedo-descriptives like “Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life”, even glorified and often distorted by proponents of every politically significant ideology that did the same to native cultures anywhere else in the world.
A will to convey concepts in Dharma compelled some Hindus to translate the non-translatables. The problem was, the translation into English rendered a change in the inner meaning of the original Hindu concept; very soon, the distorted concept stuck on.
Meanwhile, the Marxist-Misionary propaganda machine creates atrocity literature taking apart Hindu society jati by jati, has created very entrenched stereotypes assisted by missionary and jihadi forces.
In case of an Indian urbanite fed on Western education and English literature, his / her understanding of Hinduism is also likely to be the same prejudiced and stereotyped stuff.
In describing Hinduism to the Westerner through academia, the internet (Google search!) and Abrahamic institutions bring too much focus on three elements:
- India’s Buddhist era: No Hindu denies Buddha’s greatness. To Hindus, Buddha is an avataara of Vishnu. Yet, as if there was no greatness to India before Buddha / Buddhism, or as if India was great only because of and after Budhha / Buddhism, tthe Buddhist period is glorified. It helps Westerners who care less for their own Christian background that Buddhism seeks to satisfy the historical date-ability of a cult built around an individual as they start outtgroing Christianity.
- The phenomenon of syncretism of Hinduism with Islam – it is the Sufi-Rishi kind of hybrid culture much cherished by the Romila Thapar ilk of Marxist historians and a lot more.
- The post-colonial colonized era of all the Hindu intellectuals (1800’s onwards) where even the most patriotic Hindu leaders in Adhyatma, reforms movements and the freedom struggle exhibited a desire to match an image that would please their Western masters or match the Western standards they applied to their own goals. (This era of colonisation which began after the 1800’s continues till today albeit now facing an increasingly stronger counter current of decolonisation.)
Most Anglicised Hindus are still within the ambit of Western thinking and find it difficult to start thinking like Hindus. Yet, the Anglicised Hindu who has lost touch with his mother tongue and native culture, will return to Dharma; meanwhile he / she will have to labour under prejudices thrust onto him / her by increasing layers and generations of convent education and history mistutoring, Marxist and missionary propaganda, and a Westernised upbringing. He / she who wishes to return to Dharma, will have to unlearn what all he / she was made to learn and overthrow accretions.
Western Hinduism and the lure of the half-way mark between classical Hinduism and Abrahamism:
The Hindu who feels moved by world happenings also seeks to find answers, but his / her convent -missionary-colonial education prevents him / her from submerging himself / herself into Dharma. Likewise, the Westerner is also grappling for answers.
The West is gradually outgrowing materialism and Abrahamic religion, sensing a vacuum and imprisonment as so-called Western movements like the Enlightenment, New Age, Atheism, Lutheranism, Liberation Theology, Libertarianism, the Left-Right schism and Rastafarianism seem to remain well within the orbit of Abrahamic / Biblical thought.. The West now shows a renewed interest in Eastern culture, the East (India, South East Asia, China, Korea and Japan, of which the latter constitute the Far East in the Western worldview).
Many Westerners come to India, some settle here, some take up meditative practices or learning of some Hindu art form or language, some join some sampradaay, some others soak in the general ambience as an interested tourist and so many without guidance, anchoring or dedication become hippies.
Mid-way out of Hinduism for a colonised Hindu or half-way towards Hinduism for an Abrahamic who has outgrown Abrahamism, there have been half-way marks, to use the words of noted Hindu activist Radha Rajan of Chennai. Those include Theosophy, syncretism like Sufism, Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaaj and Buddhism.
The crossing over to poorna Hinduism requires rigorous self-questioning.
Classical Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma:
Classical Hinduism – or Sanatana Dharma – is the original, pre-colonial pre-1800s’ Sanatan Hindu Dharma with all its Darshans but without colonial zeitgeist and without Semiticisation or Abrahamisation to look acceptable to Westerners and Middle-Eastern religion followers. Classical Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma takes the post-1800 period into account but recognizes it as a phase of inevitable zeitgeist in colonially influenced times.
It is indeed a very delicate balance going back to the pre-1800s, or to classical Hinduism, but without reaccepting back the accretions of Hindu society that were formed over centuries of war imposed by Islam and Christianity, and shed by our own reform movements. It involves the following:
- The necessary weeding away of vestigial superstition, casteism and sectarianism which triggered a samajik response of reform;
- Also being full of the scientific spirit and modernity; after all, the scientific spirit is but one sub-darshan (kshanika vidnyaananishtha-vaad) of the Buddhist darshan amongst tthe comity of our nastik darshans;
- A wholesome reuptake of shastra study, moorti pooja, Mandir activities and experiential sadhana.
The process of decolonisation and re-classic-isation of Hindu Sanatan Dharma is multi-faceted. Full success requires all arms to move in sync.
Only when the humanities also gain back their own due importance in Hindu society currently engrossed in just commerce and science / technology as academic or professional pursuits, Hindus can snatch back the control of the way their country is run, from the Marxists and other anti-Hindus. For the correctly inclined, this massive project can be even a public / scholarly career.
We are confident that the Anglicised Hindu, eager to re-understand his or her own Hinduism will be ready to go beyond the veils of colonial thinking and may even take up serious Adhyatma.