Idea of Hinduism by Dr Karan Singh


5383516-word-cloud-concept-illustration-of-hinduism-religion-glowing-light-effectDr Karan Singh is one of the most significant exponent and interpreters of the essence of Hindu philosophy. He is not only deeply steeped in the most liberal and wide scope of Hindu spirituality and Indian culture and its composite and plural character. He tries always to relate the profound ideals of Hindu philosophy and Indian culture, to our times and make them relevant today. He is hugely skilled on focusing on the big picture and is selective to draw out the essence and spirit and then putting it in a simple non academic way. His grasp of Sanskrit provides him with a great repertoire of shlokas and quotations to illustrate his point. As a leading figure in the world of interfaith dialogue he tries to find common ground among diverse religious and spiritual traditions in the finest spirit of sarva dharma sambhavI
Dr Karan Singh’s view of Hinduism should be seen as above party politics as i am. Yet his view of Hinduism is worth considering by all political parties and sectins of society.

What makes him such a knowledgeable person immersed in the wisdom of Hindu philosophy?. Firstly he comes from Kashmir where Kashmiri Vaishnavism and Sufi Islam were interwoven in the fabric of Kashmiriyat and was part of the interplay of social and cultural life. Kashmiri Sufi tradition including the Rishi stream are deeply influenced by Kashmir Shavism. At the same time the Sufi shrines of Kashmir are visited by the local Hindus as Dr Karan Singh himself goes on pilgrimage to such shrines. Unfortunately such social solidarity between Muslims and Pandits faces threat from an extreme Islam opposed to the local Sufi Islam.

The second reason derives from his expertise in the thought of Sri Aurobindo, on which subject he did his PhD. Sri Aurobindo’s ideas clearly signify a breakthrough in the creative evolution of Hindu thought and its psychology which needs to be awakened from its self imposed limits and complacent slumber. Sri Aurobindo has evolved the integration of different forms of yoga, possibilities of creative evolution of human consciousness, the idea of ascending movement of realisation of the divine potential and then descending with that awareness to transform our world , including through human unity.
As Sri Aurobindo Dr Karan Singh believes in not choosing one form of yoga but integrating all the four. Similarly Dr Singh advocates integrating all the varna karma in one’s self and practice, not as a prescription for caste heirarchy for social groups.

As i suggested at the 10the anniversary of Sadhana Forest in Auroville whose board is headed by Dr Singh, that apart from the 4 yogas we need a fifth one of van yoga or to include a broader category Prakriti or nature yoga so that union can take place between humanity and nature and their common destiny and we can better protect the environment
Dr Karan Singh is also well versed in many other religiouns and cultures which give him a vantage point to comapre and synthesise and find common ground.

Such are the major influences which have shaped Dr Karan Singh’s broad, liberal, non dogmatic and universal nature of his interpretation of Hinduism. If only they could be put in practice more than they are today, for example if the world is a family in terms of vasudhaiva kutambakam , then we need first make our own country and society as one family which is inclusive of the worst off and most needy.

My sir name is Shekhawat . At a conference in Delhi Dr Karan Singh told me that he is also a kind of Shekhawat because his family descended from Rajasthan and that our customs are similar When I asked him if Shekhawat’s Kuldevi Jamwa Mata near Jaipur has some connection with the name of Jammu, he said quite likely. He was kind enough to give me his address for arranging an interview. I am sure wherever he goes and meets people he finds some common ground and extended family history.

My connection to Jammu and Kashmir relates to family history, the great eclectic Sufi tradition and because Kashmir was a major centre of Buddhism in around if I am not mistaken in 8th century. The last world Buddhist Council in ancient time was held near Srinagar not far from the Buddhist Studies conference I attended few years. I stayed for months in Ladakh and studied how natural resources are shared among 3 villages in a valley. .Also my father as an army officer who fought to protecting Kashmir from Pakistani invasion in 1947. I also love Kashmiri tea and beautiful exotic Kashmiri language and its melodies which I heard during Kashmir evening in Jaipur. Not to say about its amazing natural beauty.

The main lesson which we can draw from Dr Karan Singh’s ideas is that having multi cultural influences and a combination of identities even within the Sanatan Dharam which is composed of many streams and rivers. makes one a more evolved and whole person and a Hindu in the finest sense. The rivers finally converge in the confluence like that of Ganga, Jamuna and Sarasvati in Allahabad. Taking a dip in the cross currents of the confluence of cultural and spiritual streams and rivers of common sea of humanity is a divine prayer and blessing at the same time.

Here is Dr Karan Singh’s idea of Hindu philosophy in its essence in his own words which can be found on his website and which he explained in the form of five sutras at the Indian Philosophy Congress in Madurai 2013, which inspired me so much:
first and most basic concept of the Upanishads is the concept of the all-pervasive Brahman – whatever exists and wherever it exists is permeated by the same divine power and force. This is an important realisation, because many philosophies have postulated dichotomies between God and the world, between matter and spirit, between good and evil and so on.

The second is that this Brahman resides within each individual consciousness, in the Atman. The Atman is the reflection of this all-pervasive Brahman in the individual consciousness; but the Atman is not ultimately separate from the Brahman, it is a reflection of that Brahman, it is part of it. One of the examples given in the Upanisads is that as, when a great fire is lighted, millions of sparks fly up out of the fire and then fall back into it, so from the Brahman arise all these millions of galaxies and into Brahman again they all ultimately disappear. The concept of the Lord residing within the heart of each individual, is the second great insight of the Upanisads, and the relationship between the Atman and Brahman.

There are in our tradition four major paths of yoga – Jnana yoga, the way of wisdom, Bhakti yoga, the way of emotional rapport; Karma yoga, the way of dedicated action and Raja yoga, the way of psychic discipline. All of them are directed towards bringing about the union between the all-pervasive Brahman without and the immortal Atman within.

Flowing from this, we come now to the third important Vedantic concept, that all human beings because of their shared spirituality are members of a single, extended family. The Upanisads have an extraordinary phrase for human beings – children of immortality – because we carry the light and the power of the Brahman within our consciousness. That is the basis of human beings as an extended family – vasudhaiva kutumbakam.

The fourth major philosophical concept of the Upanisads, the essential unity of all religions, of all spiritual paths- the truth is one, the wise call it by many names (Rg Veda). As streams and rivulets arise in different parts of the world but ultimately flow into the same ocean, so do all these creeds and castes and religious formulations arise in different times and areas, but, if they have a true aspiration, ultimately reach the same goal (Mundaka).

Here is a philosophy, which cuts across barriers of hatred and fanaticism that have been built in the name of religion. The Vedanta is a universal religion; it accepts the infinite possibilities of movements towards the divine, it does not seek to limit or confine us to any particular formulation. The Vedanta welcomes and accepts the multiplicity of paths to the divine, it does not seek to limit us to any particular formulation.

A fifth Vedantic concept is the concept of the welfare of all beings. The Vedanta does not seek to throw one class against another class, one caste against another caste, or one group against another. The Vedanta seeks the welfare of all creation, not only of human beings but also all other creatures. Though we have destroyed the environment of this planet, our seers knew that man was not something apart from nature, that human consciousness grew out of the entirety of the world situation.

That is why the Vedanta constantly exhorts that, while we are working towards our own salvation, we must also shun the path of violence, the path of hatred, try and develop both elements of inner and outer work.
These five concepts from the Vedanta if taken together provide us a comprehensive world-view which will greatly help us in these troubled times.

the all-pervasive Brahman,
the Atman which resides in all beings,
the concept of the human race as members of a family regardless of all differences;
the idea that all religions are essentially different paths to the same goal;
the concept that we must work for the welfare of this entire ecosystem and not only for ourselves