Hinduness is dialectical, but imperial desire does not come naturally to the Hindu.
Going by his recent statements to the media, it appears that Shashi Tharoor has not taken the trouble to understand Hindutva or Hinduism. He calls the latter “an inclusive faith”. Inclusive, according to the Oxford Dictionary means “not excluding any section of society or any party”. Hindutva, which means Hinduness, as an expression, began to be used first by Raj Narain Bose, the maternal grandfather of Sri Aurobindo, reportedly in 1863. But this should not lead anyone to believe that it is so recent a concept. Its seed was sown 3,400 years ago by Sri Krishna, who dreamt of a united India and who sent his message as far as the present day Waziristan in the north, Manipur in the east and Tamil Nadu in the south. The basic inspiration behind it was that the whole of India, despite its diversity, was essentially one. Hindutva is often referred to as cultural nationalism to distinguish it from any religious implications. The central thrust of this concept is national unity.
There is, as yet, no accepted method of converting a Muslim, Christian or a Jew to Hinduism. It was only in the 19th century that Swami Dayanand Saraswati revived the “shuddhi movement” whereby anyone, who or whose forefather was a Hindu but had got converted, could be brought back to his original faith—which is lately referred to as ghar wapsi. Many an obstacle was placed in the path of shuddhi so that it would not succeed. For example, Swami Dayanand’s distinguished successor Swami Shraddhanand was stabbed to death in his sickbed by one Abdul Rashid in 1927. Gandhiji described Rashid, after his crime, as “my brother”. Dr Asaf Ali, a dedicated Congressman and a friend of Jawaharlal Nehru, was deputed to defend Rashid in court. Nevertheless, Rashid was condemned to death by hanging. Tharoor’s claim of Hindu faith being inclusive could be taken into consideration if he were to mean that Hindutva is dialectical, because even state policies can be drawn from its core, rather like yarn and cloth from a sliver of cotton. That is how very recently this writer and his colleague were able to produce a book on “Krishna Rajya”.
The Hindu ethos considers the individual as supremely important. Society and the state exist for the individual. Two of the three well known Hindu paths for the pursuit of mukti or salvation, namely the bhakti and the jnana yogas, bypass society. For, one can be pursued through devotion or worship, with or without a temple; whereas the other can be practised by thought and meditation within or without an ashram. Karma yoga is the only path which must transit through society. Hinduism does not need a comprehensive code or message, or, for that matter, an authoritative scripture, neither book nor manifesto.
Self actualisation (self improvement or fulfilment), rather than social performance, is the central theme of Hinduism. The individual is free not only to pursue his own goal, but also to cultivate any of his own aptitudes and in order to fulfil himself he may compete with his fellow beings or he may not. Neither comparison nor competition is induced by his faith. In other words, he does not have to run the rat race of success. He can easily make happiness his goal through self-fulfilment, as distinct from success.
Conceptually then, the average Hindu has little or limited interest in superintending or controlling his community or, for that matter, anyone else’s. This explains why Hinduism has never had, unlike Christianity, a network or hierarchy of priests. Priests, or pujaris are usually confined to the individual temple. Nor is there any mode or method of inducing others to become Hindus. The question of Hinduism controlling the state or government can never, therefore, arise. The question of conquering and colonising the territory of others is irrelevant. Imperial ambitions do not come naturally to the Hindu.
The Hindu inclination is to leave people alone. This preference for non-interference discourages any tendency in the Hindu towards autocracy or dictatorship. To that extent, the average Hindu is amenable to democracy. He is ready to concede the freedom of others to have a say in their affairs. It follows that he disapproves of intervention in his style of life. Nor does centralisation fit in with the Hindu psyche.
The Hindu’s preference for non-violence, however, is rooted in the belief that every living being carries a part, however minute, of the parmatma. The theory of samsara or transmigration only reinforces the Hindu reluctance to hurt or to kill. Carried to its logical conclusion, the jeevatma of one’s departed parents or grandparents could be residing in the body of any animal, bird or human being. This makes violence generally repugnant. The preference for a vegetarian diet is a corollary of this repugnance. True, the opposite of violence is more than just non-violence. It is tolerance or a ready acceptance of the rights of others to do their things in their own way. Violence results from intolerance of the ways of others. This explains why, in many ways, Hinduness and tolerance are synonymous.
Can state policies flow from this philosophy? The answer is yes, because Hinduness is dialectical. It has the potential to become a mainspring from which can flow policies appropriate with changing times. It has already been said that imperial desire does not come naturally to the Hindu. A country that does not have any desire to dominate another, can only have a foreign policy that is confined to the maintenance of cordial relations with other countries so that no country is easily provoked to attack. Its citizens across the world can then enjoy respect and protection and its international commerce would flow safely. Such a foreign policy needs a military backing designed essentially for defence, as distinct from offensive wars. The borders, the coastline and the skies over the country only have to be secured against aggression.
At home, the policy would lend itself to decentralised governance. Just as the individual is free to self actualise himself/herself, every little region of the country too should be allowed to fulfil itself. We have seen that one of the foundations of Hinduness is liberty. It follows naturally that it would favour decentralisation. Hindu worship has set the example by, more or less, each temple or muth being self-managed. It is seldom part of an ecclesiastical network or hierarchy of priests. Nor is there a prescribed or a common formula of prayer. The message of Hindutva is in favour of a federal structure as well as small states and small districts.
As all living beings are considered members of the Sanatani universe, it follows that the environment should be so protected as to enable all of them to flourish. The peepul tree as an object of worship is symbolic of this concern for the ecology. And in its turn is the basis of a policy for environment. The dialectics of Hinduness can lead one to a preference for a free market, as distinct from controls associated with either welfarism, socialism or communism. Control would militate against the faith in liberty. There is an implicit promise of liberty of each citizen to participate in the market freely. In other words, the duty of society, or its representative in the state, is to ensure that no citizen takes the law into his hands and disturbs the liberty of anyone else. To this extent, the state must take interest in the running of the economy.