reorienting hindu religion
hindu religion has been singular in the sense that it has the power to reorient itself. the customs which are oppressive, do come up with time in every society. so also with hindu religion or as some would call it sanatan dharma (eternal religion). in christianity the excesses indulged into by pope and his subordinates led to revulsion of many, it finally resulted in forming a new sect of protestants. the schism is permanent and continues to this day. so also the permanent schism between sunni and shia sects. india has its own shares of sects. but the underlying unity has not been impaired and the various sects have lived side by side without animosity.
in a way this is not a new phenomenon. right from the vedic era, the differences have been there. but so has the edict ekam satya, vipra bahutah vadanti (truth is one, it is described verily by the scholars). the six darshans flourished side by side, each stressing its own way of thinking, the common elements were far too many to create a permanent rift. often brahmin domination is cited as the root of all problems. buddhism was a revolt against rigorous nature of the religion of the day and stressed the middle path. it also preached that each one has to achieve his own salvation rather than someone doing it for him. neither overdoing of yagyas not leaving the world and doing hard penance is going to work.
lord krishna while giving the geeta gyan to arjuna mentions that he is not saying anything new. he listed the predecessors who had this knowledge. it was forgotten and he is reviving it. the emphasis was on continuity.
buddhism created its own class of preachers. in due course the preachers became a privileged class and there was again a revolt but instead of creating a new religion, the call was to go back to the origin. shankar travelled the length and breadth of the country propagating his point of view. despite his early removal from the world, his ideas continued to spread and are a predominant feature of the sanatan dharam.
but it is noteworthy that while vedant again prevailed, the buddhism was not suppressed. it continued to exist and flourish. similarly jainism also had its origin against the practice of sacrifices and insists on ahinsa. it continues to be practiced.
another major reform movement was the campaign led by guru nanak and his successors. though it remained mostly confined to north west, it was a major force. the excesses of mughals against the followers led to creation of khalsa - the sword arm of the sect - but the basic teachings remained the same – direct bhakti will lead to salvation and there are no intermediaries. to remove the idea of a man being an intermediary, the vey practice of nominating a successor was done away with.
arya samaj was another reform movement to rid the hindu from the clutches of the mathadhishes. it awakened the people to the need for going back to the vedas. it vigorously advocated education for girls, the equality of all persons and had considerable sway in punjab and some other areas.
reform movements of various saints keep on occurring throughout history – guru ravidass, guru ghasi dss, namdeo, chaitanya, kabir, thiruvalluvar, kanak das, nilakantha dikhitar, purandara das, thayumanavar, yogi mukund rai; each and every region has its own saint and its own reforms movement; all directed against concentration of power in any institution. new saints, new self proclaimed avtars appear but all this is taken into stride by the sanatan dharma.
the materialism is once again taking hold of the people in india. the colonial system of the western world (which includes japan and now, increasingly, china) thrives on consumerism. there is a constant drive to create demand for durable and non durable goods. with all the propaganda instruments in their hands, the people of india (as also rest of developing world) are persuaded to add more and more items for their needs. most of these felt needs are not needs at all. hindu religion has never decried the worldly nature of things. it is preached that all these are but temporary and one should not development attachment to them but it has never been said that one should give up everything which gives pleasure to the mankind. 'artha' – material well being - and 'kama' – enjoyment - are as much part of the religion as are 'dharma' and 'moksha'. but these have to be within limits. this basic principle is being forgotten and this has created the misery from which we suffer.
ostensibly there is increase in bhakti. the temples are full. more and more persons are visiting the teerth dhams – vaishno devi, badrinath, amarnath, tirupati. more and more mata ki chauki are being organised. every preacher is getting a full house. but all this is in pursuit of happiness which has boiled down to possession of more worldly goods. show of bhakti is there but more often than not, with an ulterior motive. the devotion from inside is not very often visible. and in this atmosphere many pseudo preachers thrive. gullible people believe in them and in their miracles though there are few who would be evidence of being their beneficiaries.
what then is the way out? first and foremost requirement would be to cease competing with joneses. contentment is missing. it has to be propagated. what we have is what we should be thankful for. it should be misunderstood that this means depriving anyone of his opportunity of making his life better. but to have more for the sake of having more is not advisable. more and more in the west are also awakening to this need to controlling the urge to acquire. a regular movement is 'anti-consumerism' which is a socio-political ideology opposed to consumerism. it discourages an ever-growing purchasing and consumption of material possessions. anti-consumerist activists express concern over modern corporations or organizations that pursue solely economic goals at the expense of environmental, social, or ethical concerns; these concerns overlap with those of environmental activism, anti-globalization, and animal-rights activism. criticism of economic materialism comes primarily from two sources, religion and social activism. hinduism as well as other religions advocate the practice of simplicity in life. social activists state materialism is connected to crime, pollution, environmental degradation, war, economic inequality, poverty, along with general social malaise, discontent, and hedonism. either way, the conspicuous consumption leads to all-round misery. an anti-consumerist book by john de graaf, environmental scientist david wann, and economist thomas h. naylor states that consumerism leads to "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more".
efforts have been afoot to discourage conspicuous consumerism. in marwari samaj, there was the unwritten convention that only five sets of clothes can be given in marriage. the quality depended upon the status of the person concerned but a limit was there. akal takht ordered frugality in arranging marriages. ramdev, the yoga guru, and many others preach it. mahatma gandhi had few requirements and advocated a simple life. but it is not likely to succeed unless it starts as a mass movement.
the ideals of hindu faith has all these elements which discourage futile running after the pleasures of the world. this is ingrained in our minds for generations. it has been covered by the greed to have more and more and we have to remove this cover to get back to the core of the religion. in this alone lies our salvation. the carrying capacity of the environment is limited and disaster is around the corner unless we can control the consumption. this will be true revival of hinduism which, ultimately, is what leads to a more satisfying life.we do not have to develop a new religion or a movement. the revival will do.