Facts, Logic, Intent, and Persuasion in Public Conversations About Dharma

 Facts, Logic, Intent, and Persuasion in Public Conversations About Dharma

For almost all of my lived life, I have seen a lot of time wasted on trying to prove to our enemies-by-design how Hindu rituals are logical, scientific, and integral to harmonious living with nature. But for all the efforts and time spent, the naysayers have been doubling down on their attacks. More and more things have been added to this ever-growing list of why Hinduism is a characterological evil, perpetually in need of reform by external actors with no skin i.e., faith, in the game. The latest entrants in the list are how we treat our dead− Pind-daan, cremation, etc.− along with a long list of complaints from how we give birth to our young ones to how we bring them up. From our most popular festivals to most obscure ones, from the most revered temples to most protected ones, the march of popular culture against Dharma, said march protected by the secular state and empowered by Victorian morality, has been relentless and indefatigable. 

We have tried to counter this legally, logically, factually, but everything seems to be akin to trying to curtail the ever-approaching tsunami with a boundary wall. For example, no matter how much you say that Diwali is less polluting than the trees cut for Christmas, or the year-round polluting SUVs, it won’t matter. This year, some overly hopeful people from the Hindu side tried to plead how Deepawali kills mosquitoes and insects are killed in Diwali – wait until they bring out a spurious study on how the large-scale death of mosquitoes is making the ecosystem fragile, and disrupting the environmental balance. Similarly, some people pointed out how 9 lakh people are rendered jobless in the cracker industry, due to this attack on Diwali- all it will take to neuter the argument is for the government to give out some doles.

The illogical and hateful enmity of the anti-Hindu crowd was on complete display in the case of IPS officer D Roopa, who demanded that she be shown ancient mentions of firecrackers. When she was shown Ananda Ramayana and Skanda Purana, that did not placate her; because logical, good-faith discourse was never her intention. It only irked her into trying to dox the Twitter user who showed her the evidence of her being wrong. The logical line between her being irked, Twitter India headquarters being in the same city as her posting, and the Twitter user being suspended without any offense, logic, or explanation can be drawn by the readers themselves.

It may sound unfair, but the unfortunate truth of the world is that logic will not save Hindus or their religion from the onslaught of avowed enemies. 

Nor will pointing at others reduce the attacks- you may point out that Bakrid is more polluting or more trees are cut in Christmas, but that won’t change a thing. It does not matter to the devout practitioners of those religions what others think about their religious practices, and ironically that’s precisely why they’re spared the (il)Liberal lectures. This is where the learning is- it should not matter to Hindus either. The value of religious practice or a celebration should matter to the practicing individual, and to the community of such individuals- as a thing in itself, not in comparison to anything. There is nothing to be apologetic about the way any festival is celebrated- especially by Hindus.

But the real question that should arise is why Hindu festivals and the religion itself are cherry-picked for ‘reforming’. The answer is simple: 

1) The constitutional mandate that government can interfere in the aspects of religion which need reforming,  

2) The prevalent maai-baap sarkaar political philosophy of collectivism, which demands that the government should (interfere in the sphere of religion, despite declaring it a private matter, and itself secular), and 

3) Government is in control of temples.

The last one has made the government an important stakeholder and influence whenever any question regarding temple practices arise. This also makes the government responsible for implementing reforms in the sacred sphere of the temple and leaves it unaccountable in the mundane aspects- and all of this ‘Kripa’ is showered on Hindus alone. 

No other religious group finds itself in this unenviable situation. Other religions’ in-group communities are sole guardians of their sacred sphere. A case in point is the question of women’s entry in Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai. The state did not take it upon itself to enforce the high court diktat, unlike Shani Shignapur or Mahalakshmi temple of Kolhapur. The issue never became State V/s peoples’ will. It always remained in the sphere of people’s willingness.

But all blame cannot be laid at the feet of the state alone. Hindus are themselves to blame as well- the itch of becoming Vishwaguru has become a bane rather than a boon, and the desire to get there by virtue-signaling has unsurprisingly revealed itself to be a stone around our neck.

The aspiration of ‘Vishwaguru’ was given by Swami Vivekananda, for after India has reclaimed its religious and spiritual heritage, lost in a thousand years of repression. We are centuries behind the pre-conditions for becoming anyone’s Guru, so we should stop trying to be Swamiji for a while. He was never apologetic about anything Hindu, neither did he mean a virtue-signaling Vishwaguru. The problem with the current Vishwaguru trope is that we try to show India the source of all liberal woke SJW fads today, from ahimsa to transgenderism. In this blind race, we don’t care for context – for the conditions around the ‘progressivism’ we find in our texts or the conditions that led to the evolution of values that we try to match them up against. All this, to show that we were logical, progressive, and liberal before the West was. But this is still playing catch up. This is the reason we run out of breath defending Bali paratha in Tripursundari, or why only men are allowed to worship Shani Shignapur. Similarly, the professed environmentalism, under the garb of the Vishwaguru project, becomes a bear-trap in the Diwali celebration.

What is the way out? 

First and foremost, we should realize that religious ideas were never meant to be logical. They were in the realm of Consciousness, where rationality and logic are hilariously incapable of grasping things. Existentialism− the way things are, not by the design of man, but by the design which created man as a by-product of the greater scheme of things− reigns supreme in the realm of matters of faith. The rationality and logic are only the intervening steps of existence- the beginning and the end of it were, are, and always will be in the realm of the unconscious, para-conscious, or super-conscious. 

The followers of Islam and Christianity realize this, and that’s why your criticism of their beliefs and rituals don’t matter. Even the term Islamophobia, which appears as a shield to those who don’t understand the mechanics of the human mind, is called out as a clever sword of Islam by those who do know how we humans think. The Islamophobic label works on two levels of persuading others to submit before the social suzerainty of Islam: 

1) It confirms the unconscious bias that you are scared of Islam. The protests which follow when anything remotely against Islam only persuades you to trust your ‘instinct’ of fearing Islam- even as you tell yourself that you’re actually fighting ‘Islamophobia’. 

2) At a more apparent and conscious level, it makes you believe that you ‘unjustly’ hate Muslims, as a group of people, disregarding whatever facts you might have at your disposal of you actually being the more nice and tolerant and accommodating one in the social relationship. By doing so, it cripples you of your instincts of defense and action. As a group of people, you know you have to trust your instincts but the conscious mind robs you of agency and pre-empts any defensive action. You are convinced even if you don’t realize it, that you are the bad group of people here- because hatred is bad. 

That is the reason why there is no power behind the term ‘Hinduphobia’ to act in a way that the term “Islamophobia” does. On a Vital level, we do not, and perhaps even cannot generate the kind of terror Islam has been able to create. We stick to it because on the logical level, it does make sense. Unfortunately, however, ‘logical’ is hardly the realm of operation of Islam- or even the term Islamophobia. Both break the barriers of logic to influence others and get what they want.

Another related aspect to wake up to is that humans are more united in the non-rational and untamed aspects of us than the civilized virtues. The appeal to virtues lacks the “awe” factor that the wilderness and untamedness has. This was exemplified in the response of Hindu society to the Rama Mandir verdict. All the shaming and ridicule did not count- the society was caught in the spirit of Rama himself and it could shake it off like it was nothing (which in fact it was). The same thing happened with Ayyappa devotees on Sabarimala. It was the Swami Ayyappa’s spirit that had descended on the followers, and what non-believers among mortals made of it did not matter. The same is the reason why vegan sermons on Bakrid do not matter also- logic is impotent in the face of faith.

A question and deduction from the above argument is the role of the rituals. It’s the rituals that maintain the vitality and nourish the Vital being of society. It is this Vital Being that descends and defends in time of need. It is this Vital Being that helps shake off the wildest attacks. So hold on to rituals like you hold on to your life even more. It is through rituals you endure and enforce. The rituals declare your intent to maintain your identity. That is where persuasion comes into the picture. This adherence to rituals will persuade the naysayers to leave you alone and not interfere. No matter how much you argue or fight in court the ceiling can always be raised. There will always be a new legal and logical challenge.

The idea is to refuse to fall in line in the name of some spurious legal and rational morality and leave something that is essentially eternal and non-rational. People may accuse you of being a blot. But even that has an independent existence. 

But once you fall in line, you are the line and you can be erased. Also, the line can always be stretched- by those who can push the envelope.

Ramesh Pasi

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