“Hindu” not synonymous with “Vedic”

Very many Hindus will agree with this statement, uttered on Rajiv Malhotra’s list: “For a Hindu, it is mandatory to accept the authority of the Vedas.” Very fundamental, and shared by many, yet demonstrably wrong.

1) When the Muslim invaders introduced the Persian geographical term “Hindu” into India, adding the religious meaning to it that has become central to “Hindu”, they meant “Indian Pagan”, nothing else. They excluded non-Indian Pagans, such as the idolators of Arabia or the Persian Zoroastrians, and the Indian non-Christians, esp. the part-Indian Jews, Syriac Christians and Arab “sonns-in-law” they encountered in Kerala. They made no difference between Brahmins and Buddhists (“clean-shaven Brahmins”), upeer and lower castes, urbanites and forest-dwellers, temple-goers and worshippers in sacred groves or in the open air. This definition has essentally been adopted by VD Savarkar in his founding tekst Hindutva, and by laws like the Hindu Marriage Act, piloted by Dr. Ambedkar. The criterion “believer in the Veda” does not appear there.

2) Many Hindus, claimed as Hindus by the Hindu nationalists, don’t acknowledge the Vedas as authoritative: the tribals, the ex-untouchables, many other communities such as the Lingayats. Patanjali, chided by Shankara for never ever citing the Veda, doesn’t go by Vedic authority. Indeed, the Vedic seers themselves, the composers of the Veda, didn’t know of any Vedic authority. They preceded their Vedic product and didn’t extol or divinize it. Are you willing to say out loud that the tribals etc. in the present, as well as Patanjali and the Rishis in the past, are or were not Hindus? If so, one of the implications is that Hindus are already a minority in India.

3) It is doubtful that those who wax eloquent about “the authority of the Veda” have ever read the Veda. For, the text of the Veda rarely contains commands. The Shastras contain prescription, but even according to the Veda-touters themselves, these are part of the Smrti, not of the Shruti/Veda. The Vedic hymns were poems, and then a comment literature that grew up around these, containing instructions for the accompanying ritual and interpretations of these, but no commandments comparable to the Ten Commandments. They are in the form a man addressing the Gods, not of God addressing mankind. But instead, many Hindus have hypnotized themselves to see the Veda as an alternative Quran, divinely revealed.

4) Hinduism is not book-centred. At most, some (by no means all) books contain reports of an experience, and this experience inspires Hindus. But the book itself is only a medium to this experience, a ladder which you throw away after having climbed to the top.

So, Hindus should disabuse themselves of the divinization of the Vedic Book, an attitude which makes them Indian counterparts of the Christians and Muslims, people of the Book. This should make them proud of their Rishi ancestors, who composed such beautiful poetry.

Source: Koenraad Elst