R. Kumar: India, Hindu-View, Tolerance And Gandhi
India, Hindu-View, Tolerance And Gandhi
A section of scientists dealing with human affairs believes the emergence of man on earth occurred approximately one million years ago. This particular section of scientists has divided the process of evolution of man in different ages: Primitive-Age, Stone-Age, Bronze-Age, Iron-Age and Modern-Age. A section of archaeologists has also accepted the arguments of the above scientists dealing with the human affairs particularly in context of their division of ages of evolution. Undoubtedly, this section of archaeologists has its own arguments in this context and the basis of their evidence is the digging work undertaken time-to-time.
The argument of scientists dealing with human affairs in which they claim the emergence of man on earth approximately one million years ago may not be acceptable to many. Also the argument given by archaeologists in support of the above scientists especially pertaining to the division of man's evolution by different ages may not be acceptable to some as we find other sections of scientists dealing with human affairs and archaeologists with their own different approaches; even then their view is important and worth giving a thought.
Also a section of scientists dealing with the human affairs has proposed the argument that the place which holds evidence of man's emergence for the first time on earth is in the Indian Subcontinent; or it is today's India itself; or it was an Iceland which was a part of India that has now sunk into the Indian Ocean. How much reality is there in the above argument of scientists, I cannot give any final comment because I am neither a scientist dealing with the human affairs nor an archaeologist. However, upon studying different analysis of ancient Indian history, I can definitely accept the ideas that there has been an inhabitant of man in Indian Territory since the ancient-remote period, and that from the ancient age India has had an exemplary, developed and harmonious civilization. And for this reason I call upon scholars, researchers, or subject-specialists to come forward to analyze the arguments of scientists dealing with human affairs and archaeologists in which they present their arguments pertaining to emergence of man in India, Indian Subcontinent or an Iceland which was a part of India and now has sunken into Indian ocean for the first time on earth.
During the digging work undertaken time-to-time, such facts have come to light which both prove the presence of man on this piece of land for thousands of years, as well as the presence of thousands year-old Indian Civilization. This digging work has not been done to the lower levels; yet objects found there have yielded interesting information about ancient India and a prosperous Indian Way of life in comparison to other cultures of that time. As a result, archaeologists have been called upon to undertake digs to the deeper levels so that the actual history of man in India can be known. Scientists dealing with the human affairs could then come to a concrete decision pertaining to the earliest Civilization of India.
Although many secrets pertaining to Indian Civilization are to be unveiled, particularly regarding man's emergence and the process of evolution, mankind has inhabited India since ancient times. In India there has been a rich civilization and culture full of many characteristics; it is evident from history itself. India's Culture received a wonderful and exemplary dimension particularly during the time of Dravidian–Aryan confluence. As a result of that confluence, Indian Culture appeared harmonious while maintaining its originality; it became a composite culture.
Full of harmony and composite characteristics, Indian culture became the identity of India; it attracted the attention of the entire world. Through the ages there have been a number of ups and downs along the way, but Indian Culture remained largely intact. Today the average Indian is a follower of India's harmonious and composite culture; he is its nurturer and protector of it. This is my firm belief.
Harmony and composite nature-the two unique and extraordinary characteristics which manifested into multi-dimensions of the Indian Culture, and which give a new identity to it around the world-also opened the door for the characteristics of many other cultures of the world; I firmly believe this also. Whether it is the matter related to contact with Greek-Culture and its influence four centuries BC; the contact with Shaka-Culture first century BC or in the same manner the entry of sacred Kushanas Characteristics, both harmony and composite nature have been responsible for it.
Furthermore, these two characteristics have also been responsible for making way for the entry of characteristics from the Huna-Culture, Heftal-Culture, Arabian and other cultures, Mongol and European Cultures and these amalgamations with the Indian Culture. All these characteristics are today indivisible parts of the Indian Culture; they are part and parcel of Indians in one way or the other.
Harmonious and composite culture, which has accorded a unique identity to India and which works for the expansion and development of the Samskaras of Indians according to time and space in the making of the Indian Way, is greatly influenced by the Hindu Views. In other words, the Hindu-Views have their special and important place in the Indian Culture.
Hindu views, simply put, are ideas based on Vedic Philosophy; in other words, they are a way of life directed by the Vedas. These views entered extensively and firstly in the life of Indians during the confluence of Dravidians and Aryans approximately 2000 BC or 4000 years ago. Universal acceptance and the welfare of all are central to Vedic-Hindu Views.
Of course there was a developed culture even before Dravidian-Aryan confluence; non-violence, planning and development and other characteristics were present in the Samskaras of Indians as evident from various articles found during the digging work of various cities of the time of the Indus Valley Civilization. However, before this confluence there was no uniformity in the social and religious life of all Indians living in different parts of India, i.e. from north to south and east to west. This uniformity definitely came into existence after Dravidian-Aryan confluence; and the Vedas, particularly the guiding ideas in the Rig-Veda, which later on came to be known as Hindu Views, played a decisive role in this context.
In the first Sukta of the first Mandala of the Rig-Veda, God as the source of fire has been worshipped with the hope of His blessings for human-unity and the welfare of all; it definitely proves universal acceptance to be central there. In this very Sukta a keen desire for separation from the evil of violence, or in their words a wish for non-violence, is the indicator of those two great and exemplary values which defined day-to-day human practices from a Hindu or Vedic point of view. Furthermore, those two values are even today the signs of their identity and will remain so in the future as well. Those two great values are: forbearance and tolerance.
Forbearance, full of the spirit of love and cooperation is that human practice which cannot be minimized to man-to-man relations; in its scope fall all living beings. Forbearance accords the highest level of morality to a human being; it develops ethics in him. Through it man takes notice of others' pains and their miseries and thus ultimately gives extension to non-violence that is Ahimsa. If there are only two pillars of the Hindu View then the first of them is definitely forbearance. Without having forbearance in him no one can claim to be a Hindu. If someone does so, then I have no hesitation in saying he is a liar.
Tolerance is fully within the scope of patience; although like forbearance within it pervades not only the spirit of cooperation, but the fundamental principle to accept other perspectives. In other words, to acknowledge another's views, honor their ideas, as well as accept others' behavior so long as they do not come in the way of one's own views, ideas and behaviors. Tolerance is the second pillar of the Hindu View; in its absence one cannot claim to be a Hindu.
It was the tolerance of the Hindu View which throughout time has offered shelter to those who were oppressed in their own countries and sought India for refuge. Hundreds of years ago Jews, who suffered under Roman atrocities, reached Indian soil and received shelter. Parsis, the followers of Spitama Zoroaster found refuge here when their freedom was snatched away in their own native country of Iran. It is a long list of such refugees in which we may find the names of a number of human groups came from various parts of the world.
I am proud that due to the supremacy of tolerance, one of the chief fundamental principles of the Hindu Views or Ideas, not only Dravidian-Aryans confluence persists in India but the blood of Shakas, Kushanas, Hunas, Greeks, Mongols, Tartars, Turks, Arabs, and Europeans is there in its land; that blood now flows through the veins of the harmonious and composite Culture of India.
I am also proud that India is the home of the followers of almost all major religious-communities of the world; they feel safe on Indian soil. Due to the tolerant nature of the general people of India, they are assured of their existence here.
Mahatma Gandhi was himself a great Indian; he was an excellent Hindu. The Indian Way in which universal acceptance is the nucleus of life and holds Ahimsa [non-violence] as the highest value for day-to-day practices, in which the Hindu aspect of tolerance is prominent, has not only been to the liking of Mahatma Gandhi in theory, he implemented it in his individual practices during the whole of his life as well.
The tolerance inherent in Hindu View which accepted all those social and cultural characteristics which landed upon Indian soil, and which opened the doors of self-expression and freedom for all in general and added new dimensions throughout time for progress and development in different walks of life became the centre of attraction for Mahatma Gandhi. Tolerance became the source of inspiration for Gandhi's thoughts and actions in India and the international community. Regarding the aspect of tolerance in the Hindu View, he went to the extent of saying:
"I have found it [Hinduism] to be the most tolerant of all religions known to me. Its freedom from dogma makes a forcible appeal to me in as much as it gives the votary the largest sense for self-expression."
Not only this, Hindu acceptance developed on the basis of tolerance which accords equal respect to others and which also calls upon man to honour another's faith, was largely appreciated by Mahatma Gandhi. For he said:
"Not being an exclusive religion it enables the followers of that faith not merely to respect all the other religions, but it also enables them to admire and assimilate whatever may be good in other faiths."
The Indian Way does not consider views developed and established in different parts of the world to be inferior; the Hindu View accords equal status to others' faiths, beliefs, and ways. As I have previously stated, it gives them an opportunity to be prosperous and calls upon coordination, cooperation and confluence with them. Not only this, under its own shadow it nurtures them and accords defense and protection. Furthermore, it invites them to broaden its scope and give strength to its composite nature.
India's Way is of tolerance; to accept other's characteristics and to accord them honour is its fundamental principle. That is why, being a great Indian, Mahatma Gandhi could perceive non-violence-an eternal, natural and primary human value-in all living faiths of the world; he could find it in the principal teachings of all the religious-communities as well as in the routines of all Propounders. In this context he clearly stated in the October 20, 1927 issue of Young India:
"Nonviolence is common to all religions."
In practice the quantity of non-violence can be more or less in different religious-communities. But non-violence is an eternal value; it is natural. Therefore, not a single religious-community could become indifferent of it. Not a single true religious teacher, incarnation, messenger of God or Propounder [founder] can separate him from it Not only Buddhist teachings and Gautama the Buddha, Jaina views and Tirthankaras, but Christianity and Jesus Christ, and Islam and Prophet Muhammad have also been consistently spreading the value of non-violence; and for this very reason they have been the great peace messengers in their own respective times.
Like Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Spitama Zoroaster and Prophet Mohammed, Mahatma Gandhi considered Jesus Christ also to be divine and holy; he declared his teachings to be pervasive and important for the pathway of peace and prosperity. Furthermore, he declared them sacred and welfaristic.
As the great religious teachers, incarnations or messengers of God, no matter where they were born in any part of the earth, their messages and teachings have always been for the welfare of the whole of humanity; therefore, their teachings are the subject of adaptability for each and everyone according to time and space.
Simultaneously, they may become the basis of human unity and universal acceptance. They can strengthen the Indian Way which is based on harmony and coordination as they have done in the past. Being an excellent follower and explainer of the Indian Way Mahatma Gandhi also accepted this reality. To quote the following line from one of his own statements appeared in the issue of Young India on November 24, 1927 about Gautama the Buddha:
"He broadened its base; gave it a new life and a new dimension."
Whether the Christian spirit of service, Sikhism's heroism, or Islam's fraternity and belief in oneness of God-all these great characteristics had been the subject of attraction and following for Mahatma Gandhi. Through them he honestly accepted the reality of strengthening and broadening of the Indian way. In his column of March 21, 1927 to Young India, he specifically wrote about the contribution of Islam to the national Culture of India:
"Islam's distinctive contribution to India's national culture is its unadulterated belief in the oneness of God and a practical application of the truth of the brotherhood of man for those who are nominally within its fold. I call these two distinctive contributions. For in Hinduism the spirit of brotherhood has become too philosophized."
Mahatma Gandhi's indication is clear. He desired the Hindu View, which is the fundamental basis of the Indian Way and also the symbol of tolerance in theory and practice to come out of the scope of over–philosophized spirit so that it could become conducive to the universal acceptance which is the identity of India and for which Indians are known throughout the world. What harm is there if for this purpose something is learned from Islam? It is of course welfaristic.
In the same manner if having intact their originality, in social, religious and other walks of life Indians adopt characteristics of others, as per the demand of time and space to broaden and strengthen the Indian Way than what harm in it? It is the century-old tradition of India; it is the basis of the fundamental of the harmonious and composite Culture of India. Mahatma Gandhi gave a new dimension to it and thus he became the pride of India.
Change is inevitable; in other words it is the law of life. Each and every origin and worldly thing is within the scope of the law of change. But how change becomes conducive to human progress and welfaristic to all living beings is the duty and responsibility of man himself. Man in an appropriate direction is capable of doing so. Whether it is the ancient past or the medieval period or the contemporary period mankind has done so at various levels and in different walks of life. I do not want to go into any details in this context here; we have before us the process of development of man right from the remote past which can prove this reality. Also the history of man can well prove this reality and that Indians through their prosperous way have played a vital role in this direction. In this way is the forbearance of human behaviors. This way is wide and is the carrier of tolerance; it is full of characteristics like harmony, coordination and compositeness and it is the nurturing of the Indian Culture. Therefore, it is exemplary and adaptable.
Indians under the leadership of great representatives of the Indian Way have time-to-time led the whole of the world. Gautama Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi were among those great representatives. Today the world is moving towards a new dimension. Unprecedented awakening, development and increasing steps towards globalization have presented before us a picture of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam [whole world is but one family]. It becomes all-welfaristic, through it human-unity is established, for this we have our own responsibility. We must now clear our way by strengthening it; we must establish it at the world level. It is our foremost duty. If we do so, I am sure we will follow the path of Mahatma Gandhi also.
A noted Indologist and the former Vice-Chancellor of Meerut University, India, Dr. Ravindra Kumar has been associated with a number of national and international academic, cultural, educational, social and peace organizations & institutions. He is the Editor of Global-Peace-International Journal.