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food for thought

Despite our glorious past, we as a nation are increasingly not taking pride in what we in the past had offered the world. True, we did not export military craft, nor did we expand colonially. We had been victims of marauders, we were plundered, and with the British we had almost completed the journey of destruction if it were not for social and political reformers with immense pride in our collective past and consciousness. But this consciousness has its origin in our ancient system of philosophy – the Vedanta philosophy that forms the essence of Hinduism, not as a religion of mere rites and rituals but as a spiritual way of life. This is a defining difference.
With the popularity of yoga in the West, and with more and more Westerners taking to it not merely as a physical rigour to stay healthy but also as a spiritual journey into one’s bewildering inner world, the export of yoga – and spirituality – by India in recent times to the world has been remarkable. Nevertheless, a peculiar ‘secular’ debate continues to rage. It is as if one would be ‘communal’ and a fanatical propagandist of ‘Hindutva’ ideology if he were to take pride in our ancient culture and tradition rooted in the Hindu way of life as a philosophy and spiritual endeavour encompassing men of all faiths without any discrimination based on man-made divides.
Why, was it not the great Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda who took the Western world by storm when he addressed the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893? This is how he began on Hinduism as a universally spiritual enterprise in the very second paragraph: “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true (emphasis added)… To the Hindu, then, the whole world of religions is only a travelling, a coming up, of different men and women, through various conditions and circumstances, to the same goal. Every religion is only evolving a God out of the material man, and the same God is the inspirer of all of them. Why, then, are there so many contradictions?”
That was in 1893. In 2018, the world looks absolutely different except in the unfortunate fact that religions, thanks to their misinterpretations, continue to make people fight and kill each other like savages do. Rather than ennobling the human spirit destined for something greater and purer in the realm of peace and happiness, our religious indulgences have only sharpened our differences and made us total strangers to each other. We have forgotten the language of love, because we have cultivated the vice of hate.
Here comes the role of India as the spiritual capital of the world. Would our spiritual gurus, of whom we have no dearth, take up the cudgels for a happy and peaceful society by helping the countrymen awaken their pride in their pristine past when people the world over would look up to this land for peace and solace in the dark hours of despair and despondency? Or, more practically speaking, can’t we think of introducing a spiritual course drawn from all religions in our school curricula too? Their time has come. And time waits for none.

About the author

Ankur Kalita