Maria Wirth is a German and came to India for a holiday after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University. She visited the Ardha Kumbha Mela in Haridwar in April 1980 where she met Sri Anandamayi Ma and Devaraha Baba, two renowned saints. With their blessing shecontinued to live in India and dived into India’s spiritual tradition, sharing her insights with German readers through articles and books. For long, she was convinced that every Indian knows and treasures his great heritage. However, when in recent years, she noticed that there seemed to be a concerted effort to prevent Indians (and the world) from knowing how valuable this ancient Indian heritage is, she started to point out the unique value of Indian tradition.
Intellectual integrity and truth are obviously unwanted in our times. These have been displaced by political correctness. Why this happened is a mystery, but mainstream media and other agencies vehemently enforce the politically correct opinion. They drum into us powerfully what we should think even if it goes against common sense.
Let me give an example:
When in 1999, the Pope declared in India that the Church will plant the cross in Asia in the 21stcentury, media portrayed it as ok. After all, the Church has the duty to spread Christianity all over the world, so the Pope is just doing his duty.
When people like Zakir Naik conduct mass conversion of Hindus to Islam, media ignores it or tells us that it is ok. After all, Islam also needs to spread till all of humanity has become Muslims.
When, however, a Hindu group brings back some of those who had converted out of Hindu Dharma, the media goes hyper: those Hindu groups are communal and divisive forces who want to disturb the plural fabric of our society and establish an intolerant Hindu rashtra. The ranting goes on for days on TV channels.
Why do media get it so wrong? Clearly, the truth is the opposite. Of the three religions, only Hindu or Sanatana Dharma is not divisive and not communal. Only this eternal Dharma considers all as family – Vasudaivam kutumbakam – without any precondition.
In contrast, Christianity and Islam, which are sort of newcomers in the religious field, divide humanity into believers and unbelievers. The believers are right and the unbelievers wrong. The believers are loved by the Supreme and can go to heaven and the unbelievers, even if they lived a virtuous life, are thrown into hell by the Supreme personally. And all those claims are made without any proof.
Are these unsubstantiated claims not intolerant, communal and divisive, apart from not being true?
So in all fairness, the term “divisive forces” must be applied to Christianity and Islam and not to Hindu Dharma. Yet even suggesting this is likely to get the ‘liberal’ elite into fits. They are dead sure that only Hindu Dharma is divisive and needs to be stopped from spreading. But WHY are they so sure?
To explain it, let’s go back to the 18th and 19th century, when the ancient knowledge of the Vedas first reached western universities. The intellectual elite there were deeply impressed and wanted more of it. Prominent personalities like Voltaire, Mark Twain, Schopenhauer, the Schlegel brothers, Paul Deussen and many others spoke in glowing terms about India’s heritage. In the early 20th century scientists like Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Pauli, Oppenheimer, Einstein or Tesla were in their research inspired by Vedanta and acknowledged it.
So what changed? How did Hindu tradition lose the esteem of people worldwide – so much so that now it is considered even by western academics as the worst of all religions?
The reason dawned on me when I recently read that Voltaire, too, had praised the Vedas as the greatest gift for humanity.
Voltaire was in the forefront of fighting the Church. He went to prison for it. Clearly the Church was not amused that western intellectuals praised Indian wisdom as much superior to Christianity. There was real danger that the Church would lose her sheep as it had already lost the power to punish those who dared to disagree with the Church.
The Christian view of the ‘true’ God, who sits in heaven, is jealous of other gods and sends all those who are not baptized into eternal hellfire, was no match for the Indian concept of Brahman which is the one conscious essence in all the different forms, like the one ocean is the essence in all the different waves.
“Brahman is not what the eyes can see but That whereby the eyes can see. Brahman is not what the mind can think but That whereby the mind can think” (Kena Upanishad).
Such profound insights severely challenged the simplistic view of a personal God who cruelly punishes all those who worshipped him under another name or form. The Church must have been genuinely worried that the ‘Christian’ God would be seen as an invention by the Church to keep its members under control and submissive – which in all likelihood comes close to the truth but of course must never be known to the common people.
So it would make sense that the Church – in collaboration with state powers which also had an interest to keep the myth of western superiority intact – developed a strategy to put an end to this praise of India’s great civilization. And the strategy was simple and time-tested:
Teach children all over the world negative aspects about Hinduism (all Indian traditions got an “ism”- ending in the English language which made them look dogmatic) and after some 15 years, the new generation will not even want to know anything about Hinduism. They will be convinced that it is worthless because their teachers said so.
And what were these negative aspects they wanted students to associate with Hinduism? Obviously first and foremost an “oppressive caste system” and next “idol-worship”.
The most unfortunate part was that this strategy was implemented in India, the source of this ancient knowledge, as well. Thomas Macauley correctly analyzed that the Sanskrit culture is India’s backbone. It needed to be broken if the British wanted to subdue the ‘natives’. Macauley’s advice was followed and the Sanskrit education system was replaced with the English one. And even more unfortunate – this English education system continued even after Independence till now.
The strategy worked.
Already in primary school in a small Bavarian town, I knew that India had a terrible caste system and untouchables. We saw pictures of poor, miserable Indians and it left a bad, lasting impression. At that age, I knew nothing about the Holocaust of Jews and gypsies in Germany. It was left to the initiative of our Latin teacher in High School to impress on us what happened in the concentration camps by showing us a documentary.
Neither were we told in school that all societies have a caste or class system and that the Vedic analogy of a society being like a human body was actually ingenious. Caste as such is not bad. Every society needs to be structured. Looking down on lower castes is bad. Yet this is a human weakness all over the world and not advocated by sacred texts.
Since the claim “India has the most terrible caste system” was, and still is, a strategy to put Hinduism and Hindus down, fairness was not to be expected. Otherwise it would become quickly clear that the sins against humanity by the Whites and Arabs were far greater than those by Indians. Slavery, colonialism, the Christianization of the Americas, the Muslim invasions, and even today discrimination against women, racism especially against Jews and Blacks, cruel oppression and terrorism in the name of religion took the lives of many millions of human beings.
Indians come nowhere near their horrific record and have no need to go on the defensive. Yet unfortunately Hindus fall into the trap and become defensive. They enact more laws in favour of backward castes or women, but they of course cannot satisfy those who do not want to be satisfied.
Virulent attacks on Hindus and their tradition continue in Indian and foreign media, often from persons with Hindu names – Macauley’s children. These attacks have the same purpose as the indoctrination of kids with distorted, insincere info on Hinduism: nobody should discover the depth and profundity of the Indian tradition, least of all Hindus.
Fortunately for India and the world, there are still highly knowledgeable Sanskrit pandits, yet the mainstream, especially the youth, tends to look west for inspiration which will make them feel lost and without direction in the long run.
Isn’t it time to set things right, turn around and ask uncomfortable questions for example during the next Interfaith Dialogue? Ask on what basis Christianity and Islam claim that the Supreme Being, the creator of us all, is so cruel and unfair that he throws billions of humans, including all Hindus, for all eternity into hell after one single life, that might have lasted only a few days or may have been lived virtuously and with greatest integrity for 100 years?
If they say that the Highest himself has revealed this truth, tell them that the Vedas also have been revealed by the Highest (as well as other scriptures) and the Vedas claim that the Supreme Being is present in all as blissful awareness and nobody is damned forever. All get chance after chance to realize their divine essence.
So since there are divergent views, there needs to be an intelligent debate about which view is more likely to be true and which can possibly even be proven to be true. However, Christian and Muslim delegates may not be interested in truth as this would endanger the basis on which their whole religious system is built – blind belief in unverifiable dogmas.
Therefore, to bring truthfulness to the discourse is the sole responsibility of the Hindu delegates. That they fulfill their responsibility is in the interest of all humanity, including Christians and Muslims, except maybe of those who earn their livelihood by peddling religion.
Many Christians turned atheists, because they lost faith in ‘God’, but didn’t realize that there is a very different perspective of ‘God’ possible which makes far more sense than atheism – the perspective of the Indian Rishis.
If Hindu Dharma were better known – and it needs to spread for the benefit of humanity – it will become clear that it was portrayed as the worst option for humanity, because nobody should know that it is actually the BEST option.
By Maria Wirth