Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Delhi Conference on "Relevance of Hinduism To Understanding India"

Author: Rajiv Malik, HPI Correspondent
Publication: Hindu Press International
Date: February 18, 2005

"It is unfortunate that due to some constitutional anomaly in India the minorities through their educational institutions can teach the children their concepts of one prophet and one text but we are not allowed to impart the liberal teachings of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma through the schools and colleges run by us." This was stated by Swami Jitatmananda Ji Maharaj, Head of Ramakrishna Mission Ashram, Rajkot, Gujarat, while delivering his keynote address on the subject "Relevance of Hinduism To Understanding India" at a two-day conference held February 4 and 5 in a hotel located on the outskirts of Delhi. The event was attended by a large number of Hindu scholars, intellectuals, politicians and former bureaucrats from all over India. Many speakers and Hindu scholars presented extremely informative and interesting papers touching various dimensions of Hinduism. The conference was jointly organized by Rashtriya Jagriti Sansthan, South Asia Politics Magazine and Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

Speakers at the conference were unanimous that in the proper understanding of India, the influence and relevance of Hinduism could not be ignored. There was also a broad consensus among the participants that the term Sanatan Dharma conveyed most appropriately what was usually meant by Hinduism and was identified with Hinduism. Addressing the gathering, well-known Congress leader and former central minister, Shri Vasant Sathe, said, "Hinduism's correct name is Sanatana Dharma but it is unfortunate that some people understand it as Puratan [backward] Dharma." Shri Sathe who also supported Swami Jitatmananda Ji's views on teaching of Hinduism through the educational institutions, said, "The establishing of permanent religious minorities needs to be condemned, and Hinduism should also be allowed to be taught through the educational institutions in the same way as the institutions belonging to minorities could teach their religions."

In his inaugural address, Shri H. R. Bhardwaj, Union Minister of Law and Justice said, "Hinduism is not a sect, it is a fellowship of faiths. It is all including and embracing. Hinduism has never been cruel. Hinduism believes that noble thoughts should be allowed to come from all the directions."

The inaugural session of this conference was presided over by former union minister and a well-known scholar-statesman Dr. Karan Singh. In his speech Dr. Singh pointed out, "Without some understanding of Hinduism, India would not make sense to anybody. Again, this does not mean that India is or would ever become a Hindu state, but it is largely based on Hindu philosophy and, therefore, some understanding of Hinduism is essential to understand India."

Dr. Singh went on to say, "It is difficult to find such examples anywhere in world history where a country partitioned on the basis of religion does not set up a completely secular polity, but, if anything, a polity which leans towards giving special rights to the minorities."

Francois Gautier, a well-known French author and columnist, in his speech said, "The two main culprits for forgetting of India in Europe are the British colonizers and the Christian missionaries. How could the English, they who had come to civilize the Barbarians, admit that their very culture was derived from these very savages? And how could the missionaries, they who had come to bring the True God to the Pagans, admit that their own religion was influenced by these very heathens?"

Ranbir Singh, Director, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, stated, "Ignorance about the subject of Hindu jurisprudence is profound even in India. Our scriptures are an extraordinary legacy of the sages which in matters detail and variety have hardly any parallel in any legal system of the world, ancient or modern. Studies of juridical conceptions in Hindu jurisprudence make startling revelations even for modern thinkers." According to Shri Singh, "The Hindu jurisprudence recognized the doctrine of 'rule of law.' Manu in clear terms declares that the king will administer justice according to law. It is an evidence of a developed character of Hindu jurisprudence."

S.R. Mohnot, executive chairman, Centre for Industrial and Economic Research, New Delhi, had this to say in his address, "It is the irony that those who practice rabid fundamentalism, reinforced by cruel violence, complain most about the tolerant Hinduism. Temples are attacked, killing men, women and children, and responsibility is claimed, as a matter of pride and honor, by groups who claim that they are jehadis."

Hari Jaisingh, senior journalist, in his exposition, stated, "The quest for truth calls for freedom of enquiry and tolerance of different views. This is logical and unique to Hinduism. That is why the Hindu civilization is the richest in thought. No other civilization has permitted the kind of freedom and tolerance that the Hindus have given to themselves."

Shri Abhaya Kashyap, Honorary Director of Rashtriya Jagriti Sansthan, presenting his views at the conference said, "All parties are using Hinduism for political purposes, whether they claim to represent Hindutva or claim to be secular. It is our attempt to de-politicize the issue and develop a non-partisan paradigm whereby Hinduism can be understood as a potent force impacting India's external political and economic image." He further added, "The West finds itself caught between fighting the onslaught of Islamic terrorism on one hand and Chinese economic offensive on the other. India with its Hindu majority can be potentially a powerful moderating force in such circumstances."

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