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  “Ramakrishna mentally deranged”....Reject this History  
 

 

By: Alka and Raghbendra Jha
September 02, 2005
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On the 22nd August 2005 it was revealed in the Rajya Sabha that in one of the history text books in India the great saint Ramakrishna Paramhansa had been called "mentally deranged." It was reported that this reference had later been deleted. What is really sad (but not surprising) is how Indians have come to let things come to such a pass that one of the most towering figures in Indian history can be so nonchalantly slighted.

It is instructive to contrast the reference to this great saint during the predecessor of the Houses of Indian Parliament – discussions on the Constituent Assembly. Speaking during the Constituent Assembly Deliberations on Saturday, 19th November 1949: Shri H. V. Kamath: (C.P. & Berar: General) said “...Sir, the people of India have come to the end of a long journey which is, however, the beginning of a longer, a more arduous and a more hazardous one. Through several decades of struggle we have reached the goal of freedom. During those decades we passed through many vicissitudes of fortune and were guided by leaders many of whom are not among us today. True to the Indian genius our struggle, our awakening, began with a spiritual renaissance which was pioneered by Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Dayananda. ...”

It is indeed God`s grace and blessing on India that He gave her a son like Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Even in a country with a long tradition of saints and towering spiritual masters Swami Ramakrishna Paramahansa stands out as a great practitioner, indeed embodiment, of the highest traditions of Sanatana Dharma. It is also well known that, like all great exponents of Sanatana Dharma, he had great and genuine respect (not just tolerance) for other religions. He showed it by actually practising religions other than Hinduism and then claiming the unity of all faiths. His whole life was literally an uninterrupted contemplation of God. He reached a depth of God-consciousness that transcends all time and place and has a universal appeal. His message was his God-consciousness. When God-consciousness falls short, traditions become dogmatic and oppressive and religious teachings lose their transforming power. At a time when the very foundation of religion, faith in God, was crumbling under the relentless blows of materialism and skepticism, Sri Ramakrishna, through his burning spiritual realizations, demonstrated beyond doubt the reality of God and the validity of the time-honoured teachings of all the prophets and saviors of the past, and thus restored the falling edifice of religion on a secure foundation.

Drawn by the magnetism of Sri Ramakrishna`s divine personality, people flocked to him from far and near - men and women, young and old, philosophers and theologians, philanthropists and humanists, atheists and agnostics, Hindus and Brahmos, and even some Christians and Muslims, seekers of truth of all races, creeds and castes. A great contribution of Sri Ramakrishna to the modern world is his message of the harmony of religions. To Sri Ramakrishna all religions are the revelation of God in His diverse aspects to satisfy the manifold demands of human minds and are not contradictory but complementary. Sri Ramakrishna faithfully practiced the spiritual disciplines of different religions and came to the realization that all of them lead to the same goal. Thus he declared, "As many faiths, so many paths." The paths vary, but the goal remains the same. Harmony of religions is not uniformity; it is unity in diversity. It is not a fusion of religions, but a fellowship of religions based on their common goal - communion with God. This great master himself was so submerged in God consciousness that he could not discriminate between human and non-human existence, let alone among human beings. To quote him:

"I began to perceive God in all beings. Formal worship dropped away. You see that bel tree. I used to go there to pluck its leaves. One day, as I plucked a leaf, a bit of the bark came off. I found the tree full of consciousness. I felt grieved because I had hurt the tree. One day I tried to pluck some darva grass, but I found I couldn`t do it very well. One day I was about to gather some flowers…they were everywhere on the trees. At once I had a vision of [God]; it appeared that His worship was just over. The flowers looked like a bouquet placed on the head of the deity. I could not pluck them."

This is the highest stage of human consciousness – that of advaita - when one sees the divine spirit manifested in all living things. It should be noted, however, that the Paramhansa transcended caste distinctions most vigorously even as a child. During his yagyopavit he insisted that his Bhiksha Maa (mother giving alms) be a washerwoman to whom he was very attached. He got his way – even in those days when caste oppression was so severe. Furthermore, he produced a great disciple such as Swami Vivekananda who castigated Hindus for forgetting the true spirit of Vedanta and confining their religion to “pots and pans and the kitchen”. Readers would know how tirelessly Swami Vivekananda fought against caste oppression.

Who, among modern religious icons anywhere in the world, can surpass the magnanimity of Ramakrishna Paramhans? If someone of even half the caliber of Ramakrishna Paramahansa had been born in Western society they would have been revered. Whatever the official history writers of India might think, the ordinary people of India revere him and will continue to revere – nay have immense devotion for him. Such is the soul of India.

This instance of slighting the Paramhansa, most unfortunate as it is, is also symptomatic of a certain tendency in India to be loose with history especially when it comes to matters that relate to Sanatana Dharma. These tendencies are no doubt encouraged and nurtured by several Indian historians. It has not been even 150 years since the passing away of Swami Ramakrishna and his history is being distorted. One can imagine what these historians are doing with ancient Indian history.

Thus there is no dearth of wild judgments like caste discrimination is condoned by the Vedas, that the Vedas write of the consumption of beef and so on. Such statements are pertinent to every Hindu since the Vedas are the foundation of Santana Dharma. These so-called historians know that very few people will take the trouble of actually reading the Vedas and checking the veracity of their claims. Their judgment is not entirely unfounded since traditionally very few people have indeed checked out these claims and, indeed, the Vedas are extremely subtle. However, this is changing and a growing number of Hindus are taking interest in the true form of their scriptures and religious practices.

I have ventured into this area and have read the Rig Veda and the Yajurveda with a view to understanding the social context of the Vedic period. Far from condoning the eating of beef the Vedas treat the cow as being worthy of worship and protection at all times. In the 10,552 slokas of the biggest Veda - the Rig Veda - there is not one sloka that condones beef eating. The same is true of the 1,975 slokas of the Yajurveda. I have not completed my reading of the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda but I am confident that on this matter, as well as for any other matter of significance, there is no contradiction among the Vedas. Forget about harming cows (which are actually deemed worthy of worship) the Vedas frown upon violence on any innocent animal. The principal reason the cow is regarded as being holy is that cow’s milk is a good substitute for mother’s milk for an infant. Thus one should be grateful to the cow. Expressing gratitude is very important for the Vedas – they do that for a number of environmental resources such as trees, rivers and clean air as well. I am writing below the translation of just one sloka from the Rig Veda extolling the virtues of the cow.

“O mother cow you are never to be killed. May you eat good quality grass and have good fortune. May we all attain good fortune with you. May you eat pure grass, drink pure water and be able to move freely.”…..Rigveda Samhita, Part 1, sukta 164, sloka 1742. There are many such slokas.

Similarly there is no mention anywhere in the Vedas about condoning discrimination based on caste. Despite claims to the contrary by modern historians the Vedas talk of the equality of and fraternal love between all castes. Thus we have

“People of all five varnas (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya, Sudra and Nishaad) living together with fraternal love and desiring to perform yagnas adorn through prayers, Somadeva, who nourishes everyone.” …Rigveda Samhita Part 4, Sukta 14, sloka 7815

Thus the castes should live together, treat each other with fraternal love and all castes are entitled to perform yagnas. Nowhere in the Vedas can one find any passage condoning cow slaughter or caste discrimination. However, caste discrimination exists in India and it has now badly fractured the body polity. This is the result of the decay of Hindu society through internal fissures brought about partly as a result of centuries of foreign oppression. The foundation of the religion itself is, however, pristine – indeed it can be seen to be an acme of human civilizational attainment.

Similar statements can be made for other forms of discrimination (e.g. on the basis of gender) allegedly sanctified by the Vedas. The Vedas are replete with slokas in praise of women and giving them substantial rights. In fact women in India have de facto lost much of their rights that were sanctioned in the Vedas, although they may have such rights on paper. I plan to write about this in a subsequent article.

Reverting now to the historians who slighted Paramhansa one can ask what kind of historians are these who consciously try to distort history. They construe their imagination to be history and mislead the people. If someone tried to distort the history of any Western society many voices would be raised in protest. But these Indian historians know very well that instead of facing opposition hardly anyone will oppose their views. This is really very sad. Not only are such distorted views creating false picture of history in the minds of Indian students but also painting a false and demeaning picture of India in the minds of foreigners with a genuine interest in the history of India. When proof of their misconception is presented to them, these foreigners are taken aback. Many of them change their views but how far can such efforts succeed when so-called “major” historians of India present such distorted views? It is high time that genuine historians of India - without a political axe to grind - are given the prominence they deserve and these so called historians exposed for what they really are.

The great rishis who composed the Vedas were prescient and probably anticipated that, in time to come, the message of Sanatana Dharma would be grossly distorted. For instance, the Rig Veda in talking of Sanatana Dharma says: “This path is sanatana (timeless). All gods and human beings have been born along it and have achieved progress. O humans! Please do not destroy this mother of yours, the basis of your genesis.”….Rigveda Samhita, Part 2, Manda 4, Sukta 18, sloka 3259.

It is too much to expect these historians to accept such advice. However the people of India – indeed the world – would do well to reject this history. They do not have to look beyond the Vedas to put into effect a cultural renaissance that will not only create a just and peaceful society but also equip us with the wherewithal to come to terms with the social and cultural consequences of globalization.

Alka Shekhar Jha and Raghbendra Jha

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