By: Dr.Dipak Basu
May 05, 2007
expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer
is at the bottom.
(The author is a Professor in International Economics in Nagasaki
If we open any book on history of India or history of the world,
written by the western or modern Indian writers we can see a description
of Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma, which in untrained eye would look like a
denigration of Hinduism as a religion. The description suggests that
Hinduism is not a religion, as we commonly understand, but a combination
of various sects, various schools of thought. There is no central
authority; no prescribed books but there are millions of gods and
goddesses. As majority of the Hindus do not read their holy books or do
not even know which books are holy, the resultant confusion turns them
against Hinduism where in their confused mind ‘Paganism’ can be considered
Ram Swarup, a proponent of ‘Hindutva’ was the perfect link between Hindu
Renaissance and renascent Paganism in the West and elsewhere. His Names of
Gods is a polytheistic manifesto. Ram Swarup told us many times he was
looking forward to a Pagan Renaissance in Europe, Africa and America. He
wrote, “"A purely monotheistic unity fails to represent the living unity
of the Spirit and expresses merely the intellect's love of the uniform and
the general.” (in The Word as Revelation: Names of Gods, 1980, p.
Hinduism and Paganism:
Along with Sita Ram Goel, Ram Swarup founded the Voice of India, which is
now a platform for publishing literature on ‘Hindutva’. Their arguments
against a ‘Monotheist Hinduism’ rests on the similarities between Hindu
and European pagan gods: their sky god Dyaus Pitar against the Roman
Dyu-piter (the actual pronunciation of "Jupiter"); thunder god Indra, who
bears a lightening bolt, against thunder god Thor, who also bears a
lightening bolt (and both being known as nearly invincible warriors who
sometimes drink too much); or the Vedic name for the gods, Asura, against
the Norse name for the gods, Aesir. The Veda mentions four tribes that all
originally lived in India: the Pritus, Parsus, Druhyus and Alinas; now
scholars are wondering if they are not direct names for the Parthians,
Persians, Druids and Hellenes.
However, Sri Aurobindo said,
“Indian polytheism is not the popular polytheism of ancient Europe; for
here the worshipper of marry Gods still knows that all his divinities are
forms, names, personalities and powers of the One; his gods proceed from
the one Purusha, his goddesses are energies of the one divine Force.”
(Foundations of Indian Culture, p. 135). Thus, it is not justified to call
Hinduism as Paganism, when Hinduism is definitely Monotheist.
Shrikant Talageri puts Hinduism in a worldwide continuum of Paganism by
saying, “Hinduism is the name for the Indian territorial form of worldwide
Sanâtanism (call it Paganism in English). The ideology of ‘Hindutva’
should therefore be a universal ideology” (S. Talageri in S.R. Goel: Time
for Stock-Taking, p.227). However ‘Hindutva’ is not Hinduism, as Savarkar
as a rationalist refused to accept the authority of the Vedas or
Upanishads or Bhagwat Gita. Savarkar’s definition of a Hindu is a
geographical and political construct, unrelated to the Hindu religion.
According to him irrespective of religion anyone who lives in India and
accept Indian culture is a Hindu. That has possibly provoked Vaktivedanta
Prabhupad, the founder of ISKON to declare himself a follower of ‘Sanatran
Dharma’ but not a Hindu.
The term pagan is from Latin Paganus, an adjective originally earning
“rural”, “rustic” or “of the country.” As a noun, Paganus was used to mean
“country dweller, villager.” In colloquial use, it would mean much the
same as calling someone a ‘bumpkin’ or a ‘hillbilly’. Paganus was almost
exclusively a derogatory term. It is from this derivation of “villager”
which we have the word “villain. Many Slavic peoples, especially Eastern
Slavs, use the word “Pagan” as an insult in their language; translating
roughly as a “conniving brute.” “Paganism” is also sometimes used to mean
the lack of religion; Heathen” (Old English hæðen) is a translation of
Paganus. There cannot be any more insult for Hinduism than to call it
Hinduism According to Rig Veda:
Rig Veda, Upanishad and Bhagwat Gita, according to the Vedanta school of
thought, are the core of the Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism as we call it now.
Going through the holy texts of Hinduism we can get the correct picture
about the nature of Hinduism – whether it is Monotheist or Polytheist.
Different Devas and Devis in Hinduism were all created, according to Puran,
by Brahman and their powers are derived from the Brahman, who can take
away their powers too, like what has happened to Indra in the Ramayana.
Thus, these Devas and Devis are nothing but very powerful angels; they are
not Gods or Goddesses as they are in ancient Greek religion, where they
are created independently not by the Brahman, as it is Rig Veda.
According to Rig Veda, Manu has created the Devas and Devis as well as men
and women. “ Worship the Vasus, Agni. Here the Rudras, the Adityas, all.
Who spring from Manu.” (Rig Veda, Book 1, Hymn XLV, verse 1). A number of
the Devas and Devis are mentioned in the Rig Veda. Varun, Indra, Vishnu,
Agni, Mitra, Rudra, Saraswati, Usha, Ila are the principal among them but
there are others. If Manu has created them, then who has created Manu? Rig
Veda said, “The Devas are later than this world’s production.”. Thus, the
main question how the creation was formed. Here we have the description in
the Rig Veda, Book X, verse 129: ” Then was not non-existent nor existent;
there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it. The ONE, breathless breathed
by its own nature; apart from it was nothing whatsoever.
All that existed then was void and formless; by the great power of warmth
(Tapasya) was born that UNIT. Thereafter rose LOVE the primal seed and
germ of SPIRIT. Devas are later than this world’s creation. HE the first
origin of this creation; HE formed it all. WHOSE eye controls this world.”
Thus, HE the Brahman is the
creator of the Devas and Devis. It is supported by Bhagwat Gita: “I am the
one source of all; the evolution of all comes from me” (Bhagwat Gita, Ch
10, verse 8) and ” I am the source of all beings; I support them all, but
I rest not in them” (Bhagwat Gita, Ch 9, verse 5)These verses are
definitely pointing out for One creator Brahman, who in turn is
responsible for the creation of all other Devas and Devis. We get further
supports from Bhagwat Gita in the following verses: ” Brahman is the
supreme, the eternal”(Ch 8, Verse 3); “In this universes there is nothing
higher than I.” (Ch 7, Verse 7) ” It is Brahman, begining less, supreme;
beyond what is and beyond what is not” (Ch 13, verse 12)” He who knows I am
beginning less, unborn, the Lord of all the universes, this mortal is free
from delusion and from all evils he is free” (Ch 10, verse 3)” I am the
abode of Brahman, the never-failing fountain of everlasting life” (Ch 14,
verse 27) In other Vedas we also get this concept of One creator. “He is
without any form, yet dwells inside and outside all things With form and
shape, Yet He is entirely free of error, faultless and pure.
He is far beyond anything a
human body can comprehend. And being the Divine Poet. He is inspiration
itself. He maintains peace and harmony because He is both peace and
Harmony made manifest.” (Yajur Veda) “He is present in all places and
rules everywhere. His power controls utterly all the three regions: Earth,
the Middle-Air, and the highest heavens. One foot is rooted in things we
understand: But the other rests in a realm of deep, dark mystery, A place
far beyond the knowledge of mankind.” (Artharva Veda).
These later Vedas are reflecting what is written in the Rig Veda, “He is
substance of every great eternal law. And He can be perceived in the
universal forces of life.” Vedic Invocations invoke GOD through his
attributes and functions. He is the Force behind all of nature’s mighty
forces, the Light behind the light; the Delight behind delights; the
Ultimate Activity behind all activities. Similarly, God’s various names in
the Vedas are the one GOD viewed in terms of his attributes, functions,
and nature. There is no real suggestion of anything besides the ONE. Long
before Siva, Vishnu, Rama, Ganesh, Parvati, Laxmi, and the others, this is
the GOD of the Vedas— Brahman.
Raja Ram Mohun Roy, RamKrishna Param Hansa, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma
Gandhi all have the same opinion that Allah, Jehova, Iswar are the three
names of the Brahman, the Supreme. Ram Krishna Param Hansa used to tell a
story that Brahman is the water. Three persons, Hindu, Christian and a
Muslim, are thristy. The Hindu is asking, where is Jalam; the Muslim is
asking where is Pani; and the Christian is asking where is water. These
three different names of the same water do not change the character of the
water. Thus, according to RamKrishna ParamHansa, Iswar, Allah, Jehova are
three different names of the same Brahman, the Supreme Creator of all.
Swami Chidananda of Ram
Krishna Mission has explained in some simple words, “We will know and
clearly understand that all Divine forms are symbolic and signify one God
who has manifested multifariously in order to help human beings in various
stages of Spiritual evolution and of different tastes and temperaments and
capacities to find a suitable expression of the Divine that appeals to
their temperament and attracts their devotion and thus enables them to
focus their mind.” (in ‘Hinduism: Monotheism and Polytheism Reconciled’).
He is reflecting what is written in Rig Veda, “Truth is One, but sages
call it by many names” (Book1, Hymn164, verse 46).
Hinduism and Islam:
Relationship between Hinduism and other major religions of the world
should be cordial although the followers of these religions may not think
so. The main adversary of Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism in Asia is
Islam, which has wiped out these religions from most parts of Asia
already. Much of the misery of India, derived from the partition of the
country in 1947, is directly related to the activity of the followers of
Islam. However, Islam, according to The Koran, has close similarity with
Islam was distorted and
corrupted immediately after the death of Prophet Mohammed. The true Islam
was destroyed by Khalifa Yazid, whose father, the King of Syria was the
mortal enemy of Prophet Mohammed. Kalifa Yazid invaded Medina and Mecca,
killed every relative of the Prophet Mohammed including Hassan and
Hussein-- sons of Ali the first Khalifa appointed by Prophet Mohammed.
Thereafter, Yazid rewrote the Haddith, Sariyat and according to some
scholar even some parts of The Koran to justify his Syrian Arab Empire to
bring death and destruction to the vast parts of Eurasia and North Africa.
That is the evil face of the Muslims, which is very well known.
However, The Koran says
exactly the opposite, if the Muslims would care to read it. The Koran
said,” God does not forbid you to be kind and equitable to those who have
neither made war on your religion nor driven you from your homes. God
loves the equitable” (in Al Utahanah, 60:5)Similarity between Hinduism and
Islam can be traced if we analyze the texts properly. Rig Veda says “ Let
our meditation be on the glorious light of Savitri; may this light
illuminate our minds.” The Koran also said, “ God is the light of the
heavens and earth….God guides to his light whom he will,” (Al-Nur, 24:35).
Sri Krishna said, “ When
righteousness is weak and faints and unrighteousness exults in pride, my
spirit arises on earth” (Bhagwat Gita, Ch. 4, verse 7). The Koran said
similarly in Jonah, 10:47, “ An apostle is sent to each community. When
their apostle comes, justice is done among them; they are not wronged.”
Also in Al-Nahl, 16:36, The Koran said, “ We raised an apostle in each
community, saying: Serve God and keep away from false gods”.
Sri Krishna said, “ For this is my word of promise, that he who loves me
shall not perish. For those who come to me for shelter, however weak or
humble or sinful they may be …they all reach the path supreme” (Bhagwat
Gita, Ch9, Verse 31-32). The Koran also said, “ God is the patron of the
faithful; he leads them from darkness to the light” (Al-Baqarah, 2:257).
The Koran says, “
Righteousness does not consist in whether you face towards the East or the
West. The righteous man is he …who gives away his wealth to kinsfolk, to
orphans, to the destitute, to the traveler in need and to beggars and for
the redemption of captives…. who is true to his promises. Such are the
true believers” (Al-Baqarah, 2:177).
Leading Muslim politicians in British India Maulana Abul Kalam Azad or
Khan Abdul Gaffer Khan have lived all their lives according to strict
codes of True Islam, but both were opposed to the idea of Pakistan and
suffered greatly for their views. Followers of Khalifa Yazid, Jinnah,
Surrawordy, Iqbal– those who created Pakistan and brought death and
destruction to the Indian sub-continent, just like their modern
camp-followers like Ben Laden or General Mussaraf believe in false Islam.
Hinduism and Christianity:
Similarly the Christian missionaries and Christian leaders, whether the
Pope John Paul or Pat Robertson of Baptist Mission Church, have followed a
wrong version of Christianity, which is far from the true religion.
Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies in
University of Oxford has explained the similarity between Hinduism and
Christianity in the web site http://www.nchtuk.org/content.php?id=267 of
the National Council of Hindu Temples of UK.
He said, “Hindus don't really see Jesus as a Christian at all. When we ask
how we can see spirituality in Hindus, the answer comes, by behavior and
practice. We can ask are we humble, are we tolerant and are we
non-violent, and can we control our senses and our mind? Are we aware of
others suffering and are we willing to give up our comfort to help them?
Looking at these criteria Jesus measures up as a Sadhu, a holy man. He
preached a universal message, love of God and love of brother, which was
beyond any sectarianism or selfishness. Jesus was one of those people who
appealed from heart to heart, and that"s what makes him such a Hindu
Saint. His message is no different from the message preached in another
time and place by Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya.”
Similarity between Hinduism and Christianity is in the concept of the
supreme One. In the Rig Veda we can read: “He is One Brahma, The Creator
of the cosmos, Who pervades and protects, And enlightens aft beings, He is
One Supreme Entity, Whom sages call by various names, Such as Indra, the
glorious, Mitra, the benign friend, Varuna, the greatest, the noblest,
Agni, the resplendent, the bright, Yama, the dispenser of justice,
Matarishwa, the almighty” (Rig Veda, Book 1, Hymn 164, Verse 46). These
words are also reflected in the Christianity: “For there are three that
bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these
three are one.” (in John, 5/7, on page 1279 of the King James Version of
the Holy Bible).
International Propaganda Against India and Hinduism:
Anti-Hindu groups in USA, lead by Prof.Witzel of Harvard University,
through his organization ‘Friends of South Asia’ is very active to promote
a specific views expressed in the textbooks in Hinduism they prescribe. In
the ‘Teachers’ Curriculum Institute’ (p. 144) recommended by them as a
text for the schools in USA, Hinduism is described as follows: “Modern day
Hinduism is very complex. Many beliefs, many forms of worship, and many
gods exist side by side.” On page 147, the same book has a heading for a
chapter, ‘Hindu Beliefs About Multiple Gods’. They believe everything
including Sanskrit language, Chariot, iron, bronze, writing system even
rice—all came from outside India; India has produced nothing and ancient
Indian civilization has left nothing tangible (in J.M. Roberts, A New
History of the World, Penguin Press).
Hindus in USA made objection through their organization, Vedic Foundation,
and came into very strong opposition from the ‘Friends of South Asia’ who
wants to call Hinduism as ‘Brahmanism’ and made the following comments:
“This edit (by Vedic Foundation) is an attempt to mask the pantheistic
nature of Hinduism and present it as Monotheistic instead. Monotheism is
in fact contrary to the way many Hindus understand and practice their
Thus the idea that Hinduism is not a monotheist religion is derived
directly from those who are anti-Hindus. Ram Puniyani, the regular
columnist in The Millee Gazattee, the voice of the Indian Muslims, wrote
recently “In Hinduism, polytheism, ditheism, monotheism and even atheism,
all run as parallel streams. As there is no prophet, the religion itself
is very amorphous, meaning different things to different people.” (‘On
Gujarat Freedom of religion bill’ in The Hindustan Times, September 22,
2006). This is view expressed in many forms by all most all Anglo-American
writers to denigrate Hinduism. It is very strange that the proponents of
the ‘Hindutva’ have joined them as well.
Sankara has purified Hinduism when during the Middle Ages it got submerged
into mindless rituals and distortions. His message was the same as that of
Raja Ram Mohan Roy in modern time when during the 19th century in India,
according to Rabindranath Tagore, “…only the ghost of the living ancient
Hindu religion held its sway in the funeral grounds. It had no life, it
had no vitality, it only had its strictures and threats. Ram Mohun
proceeded fearlessly to free society from the serpent-like bondage" in
Charitra Puja: Rammohun Roy (in Bengali) by Rabindranath Tagore).
Ram Mohan Roy’s Brahma Samaj, just like Swami Dayananda’s Arya Samaj and
Prarthana Samaj of R.G.Bhandarkar and M.G.Ranade have proclaimed the
greatness of Hindu religion as given in the texts of the Vedas, and
Upanishads, in some simple words: ‘There is only one God. None equals Him.
He has no end. He is present in all living beings’.
Ram Krishna Paramhansa described Brahman in a very simple way:” Think of
Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, as a shore less ocean.
Through the cooling influence, as it were, of the bhakta’a love, the water
has frozen at places into blocks of ice. In other words, God now and then
assumes various forms for His lovers and reveals Himself to them as a
Person. But with the rising of the sun of Knowledge, the blocks of ice
melt. Then one doesn’t feel anymore that God is a Person, nor does one see
Thus, the debate whether Hinduism is monotheistic or not is not a
meaningful debate. Despite of the formal differences due to historical and
cultural reasons there can be some differences between different religions
of the world, but as Ram Krishna has observed, “all roads leads to the
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