What does it mean to be a Hindu in these contemporary times of transition? What do we understand of Hindu identity and consciousness?
Report compiled by Dr Aniket Vaibhav
We live in times of tremendous transition, and history bears testimony of the fact, that such times always beget fresh debates about definition, function, and relevance of concepts and ideas which cater to our perception of the world.
What does it mean to be a Hindu in these contemporary times of transition? What do we understand of Hindu identity and consciousness? These and many other salient questions were at the centre of deliberations during the talk “Hindu Identity and Consciousness in Contemporary Times”, organized by Academics for Nation in collaboration with Nehru Memorial Museum & Library and delivered by Dr. David Frawley and Prof. Pralay kanungo at NMML on the 4 March 2020. The talk was moderated by Dr Ravi Kant Mishra, Deputy Director, NMML, and saw academicians, politicians, journalists, lawyers, and research scholars in attendance.
Initiating the talk, Dr Mishra underlined the role and relevance of globalization in our day-to-day lives. Citing example of intensive cultural interaction enabled mainly by exchange of goods and ideas; by people treading to faraway places for trade, or for better prospects of education and livelihood at a massive scale and rapid pace, he highlighted the fact, how modernity, a result of this globalization process, is not to be understood as some singular, onetime occurrence, but as multiple modernities in their pluralities and always in becoming- a process, and never a finality- a product.
These multiple modernities, according to him have influenced Hindu identity in multifarious ways, and given birth to many micro identities. Therefore, one hears of concepts like “Subaltern Hindutva’ nowadays. In the opinion of Dr. Mishra, a cogent approach to apprehend Hindu identity in congruence to these changing times would be to think of Hindu as a ‘supraidentity’. In other words, any person belonging to any caste, creed, or class of society might possess many identities, and at the same time (s)he can be a Hindu as well. The need of the hour is to broaden one’s horizon with regard to Hindu identity and consciousness.
Dr. David Frawley started his talk by pointing out the practice of looking at Hinduism from an Abrahamic gaze, which believes in one scripture; one god; and one founder. Hinduism, in his view, has always been more spiritual that religious; more about promoting and propagating pluriversal, cosmopolitan, and ecological ideas since times immemorial. The major impediment to survival and spread of this idea has been its magnanimity. For it was easy to fool Hindus and make them believe in fallacious ideas, like “all religions are equal”, which is halfway into conversion in his opinion. Referring to the scientific discipline of theology, Dr. Frawley said, that neither two theologies are equal, nor could they ever be. Other example Dr. Frawley cited was that Hindus were never given their due share of power and recognition by the state, which they always deserved. No politician during the times immediately after independence wanted to relate himself/herself with Hindu ideas and culture. Although many politicians have made it a habit to throng temples during election times for gaining political mileage, ironically the same atmosphere of docility is still prevalent among the Hindus. Monikers like “all religions are equal” are planted in the minds of Hindus to gradually alienate them from their roots; destabilize them by doing so; and finally exploit their dilapidation; their devaluation by converting them into abrahamic fold. According to Dr. Frawley, a corrective measure, the very first step towards tackling the menace of tarnishing the image of Hinduism with mala fide intentions would be to participate in voting in large numbers, otherwise non-voting will turn Hindus into comfortably numb beings, being unaware of the vicious plans of their other religious counterparts, and thus always off-guard to save and survive themselves in the hours of dire exigencies. Dr. Frawley further mentioned, how in the west scholars, particularly’ Marxist scholars are on a paid mission to project ‘Hindus as Whites in Brown bodies’. Attempts like these are nothing but manifestation of their modus operandi to concoct convincing narratives with contorted connotations to malign Hinduism, which according to him, is the most ancient and most modern idea of all times, as it not only reflects in scriptures dating back to thousands of years before the birth of Christ, but also reverberates in teachings of living gurus.
Dr. Kanungo in his brief talk emphasized the fact that the contemporary times are troubled times in many senses, and therefore they must be dealt with as critical times. One prominent aspect, according to Prof. Kanungo is the return of identity and the politics attached to it. Seconding the opinions shared by Dr. Mishra towards the beginning of the talk, Dr. Kanungo too considered the globalization to be one of the major constituents to this shift in engenderment of, and engagement with identity. Dr. Kanungo opined that, since we live in an age of multiple modernities; of microcosms of identity, it is imperative that we inculcate a ‘reflexive consciousness’, which would help us in establishing a harmonious relationship between the microcosm-outside wider world, and macrocosm-the world within. A kind of relationship which Shri Aurobindo has described as ‘Sacchidananda’- the stage of supramental consciousness in constant dialogue with our supraidentity, upon which Dr. Mishra shed light during his moderation. Taking recourse to another idea put forward by Dr. Mishra, that Hinduism is never about finality, it is always about evolution, Dr. Kanungo said that it is this very flexibility in its approach towards self as well as towards others has rendered Hinduism the kind of fecundity it enjoys today.
Finally, Dr. Mishra concluded the talk by giving vote of thanks and also adumbrating the fact that the need of the hour is to keep Hindu identity and consciousness congruent with the contemporaneous developments; broaden its horizon and outreach to save it from sponsored, social death, which many people wait for with their unabated breath!
(The writer is Assistant Professor of German at Amity University Haryana)