Author: Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay
In the previous part, we had delved into the concept known popularly as religion. We had analyzed the characteristics of God, Prophets and Holy Books. We had then shown some of the common features of Islam and Christianity, and we had provided a generic definition of religions.
In this essay we will take the discussion forward and show that the definition of religion is broad enough to accommodate many ideologies like communism, Nazism, Fascism etc. which at first glance appear to be pro-science and anti-religion. The term dharma is often translated as religion and we will show that this translation is incorrect. Dharma is quite different from religion, and in earlier days our ancestors would have likely translated religion as adharma.
Communism may be considered a religion as it fulfils all the five criteria of being a religion:
- One God – The classless State
- Holy Book– The Communist Manifesto
- Prophet – It was Karl Marx who first understood the true nature of the relationship between State and Man
- Events – Historical events like Russian Revolution have shaped the evolution of communism and thus it is history-centric[i]
- Chosen People/ Believers – Communist states like the erstwhile USSR, Cuba, and North Korea were/ have been dictator states with abysmal human rights. Non-believers were severely persecuted and often killed or sent to harsh detention camps and concentration camps. Within India, West Bengal and Kerala are good examples of the utter mayhem and mindless violence against opponents that are the characteristic features of any communist regime.
Let us now compare communism, Islam and Christianity and try to see whether we can discern any similarities.
|The ultimate aim of Christianity is to save human beings from eternal damnation.||The ultimate aim of Islam is to bring about world peace.||The ultimate aim of communism is to remove global inequality.|
|In order to do so, the entire world must become Christianized.||In order for world peace to happen, the entire world must embrace Islam.||In order to remove inequality, the entire world must embrace communism.|
|In order to facilitate Christianization, true Christians must spread the message of the Gospel (Good News) through evangelism to save the heathens from ignorance.||In order to help the world embrace Islam, true Muslims must wage violent war (jihad) against non-Muslims (kafirs) – physical as well as indoctrination through media like Al-Jazeera, Bollywood movies, Sufi music, left-liberal media.||In order for that that to happen, true communists must revolt against industrialists (so-called bourgeoisie) and non-believers using violence as well as by indoctrination through leftist-media, stand-up comedy shows, social sciences curriculums etc.|
|Constant conversion attempts through either coercion, money or violence is thus inevitable till the time everyone is saved.||Constant warfare is thus inevitable till the time peace is achieved.||Constant unrest and brain-washing is thus inevitable till the time equality is achieved.|
|Since the concept of “saving” is fuzzy and patently anti common sense, there is vehement opposition by certain groups, and so the cycle of “conversion” never stops.||Since the concept of “peace” is culture-specific, there is vehement opposition to Islam’s version of “peace”, and the cycle of warfare never stops.||Since the concept of “equality” is impractical and unnatural, there is vehement opposition to communist version of equality, and the cycle of revolution and violence never stops.|
As is evident, conceptually Islam and Christianity are no different from communism. Similarly we could also show that Fascism and Nazism (National Socialism) are also religions as they display the five characteristics we have listed earlier.
In India secularism is a word that has been abused and ill-treated and misused beyond all reasonable-ness. Whenever anything untoward happens within the Hindu community, Hindus in India are berated for not being secular enough. If Hindus attempt ghar-wapasi (re-conversion to Hinduism), the entre might of the western secular media, United Nations and various religious freedom commissions is brought to bear upon Hindus and Hindus are schooled and scolded for not adhering to the tenets of secularism. But when Christians openly evangelize using fraudulent means, coercion or money, it is to be accepted since under secularism people are free to spread their religion. Love jihad or the systematically orchestrated conversion of Hindu girls by entrapment by Muslim men is simply dismissed as fake news or glorified as an example of interfaith harmony or Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb[ii].
The above picture illustrates Indian secularism – it is a burden to be borne only by the hapless Hindus. In fact we can show that secularism is a religion in the Abrahamic sense. Like a religion it was spread by its proponents as a universal value that all nations must accept.
It would be advisable for the readers to read up the history of secularism and how it developed in Europe as a reaction to some peculiar circumstances prevalent at that time, and that it simply means the state will not interfere in matters of faith. In other words, secular states by default adhere to a uniform civil code,which is unthinkable in India[iii]. So now let us try to test out this thesis by evaluating Indian secularism against the five criteria we have mentioned.
- One God – The State
- Holy Book– The Indian Constitution whichlegally allows disproportionately greater rights to “minorities” and discriminates against Hindus
- Prophet – Jawaharlal Nehru can be considered the prophet of modern Indian secularism
- Events – Starting with Gandhi’s support to Khilafat movement and all the way to Court verdicts on Sabarimala, Dahi Handi, and Jallikattuetc.
- Chosen People/ Believers –People who oppose “Indian Secularism” are dubbed racists, bigots and communal and are censured
Final Words on Religions
We have to move beyond the conventional lens of religion that has been provided by the west. As far as we Dharmics are concerned, structurally Christianity, Islam and Judaism are no different from communism, Nazism and secularism. They may vary in terms of specifics and may themselves have numerous sects and sub-sects each with their own specific ideology. But from first principles we can confidently list some of the major world religions as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Communism, Nazism, Fascism and Secularism.
Having understood what religions are, we will now delve into Dharma and show how religions are the very anti-thesis of Dharma.
The mistranslation of dharma as religion has created great confusion among modern Indians. Even 60 years ago we did not have this much confusion. When the Constitutions was being drafted, it talked only about religions and some of the committee members had asked what Dharma’s role was in the constitution. At that time people were quite clear that Dharma was not religion.
Dharma is a vast topic and a large number of dharma shastras are available which talk about this topic in detail. The Bhagavad Gita, itihasas like Mahabharata and other Hindu works, all deal with the topic of Dharma in some context or the other.
So what is dharma? Simply put, dharma is that which sustains a civilized society[iv]. The word dharma is derived from the root धृ meaning to uphold. The ideal conduct of man is dharma[v]. Dharma helps in the welfare and uplift of man and in achieving societal-harmony. Dharma allows the maintenance of social order and ensures well being and progress of humanity. The principles of dharma are intended to enable smooth functioning in daily life[vi].
What are the principles of Dharma?
There are different levels of dharma tied to specific contexts. In a civilizational context, Dharma refers to “a family of spiritual traditions originating in India which are today manifested as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.”[vii] Samanya dharma or universal principles are applicable across all humanity. Each jati, community, group and locality will have its own context specific dharma. At an individual level every human being has their swadharma based on their innate characteristics, which will guide them in their education, profession and dealings with the world at large[viii].
Let us now approach Dharma from first principles.Different rishis have provided different features of dharma and often they overlap. These are as follows[ix]:
Truthfulness, to be free from anger, sharing wealth with others, forgiveness, purity, absence of enmity, straightforwardness, patience, piety or self-control, honesty, sanctity, sense-control, reason, knowledge or learning, non-violence, and compassion
So what are the characteristics of dharma?
- It is all-inclusive, embracing all living as well as non-living beings
- It is for the progress and well-being of humanity
- It is for the smooth functioning of the world in a sustainable manner
- Dharma is based on reasoning and natural laws.
- Dharma is not based on any illogical premise.
Dharma versus Religion
Let us now compare Dharma and religion.
|A belief system whose eventual aim is spread its ideology everywhere by violence or coercion||A system that is intended to sustain civilized society|
|Divisive – those who accept are “us” and rest are “them”, the others||Scope is all living beings and definitely entire humanity|
|Believers must accept package deal of God-Prophet-Holy Book||Dharmics strive to be better human beings. They don’t have to accept anything other than common sense.|
|Believers must accept the stories of their faith (history-centrism)||Dharma is based on reasoning, logic and rules – pramana Shastra|
|Non-believers are not tolerated||Focus is entire humanity – not groups of people.|
As is evident, Dharma is not religion.Religion and dharma are two different categories altogether, which we have conflated and made a mess of, and now neither do we understand our own tradition, nor do we understand the others.
Another reason for the disregard for dharma is the leftist-secular strategy of vilifying Manu and Manu-smriti. Many Hindus have internalized the view that Manu was a Brahminical patriarch who wrote the ostensibly bigoted, discriminatory and hated filled Manu dharma Shastra. They hence try to distance themselves from anything Dharmic. Ironically and not surprisingly, religion has now become the gold-standard against which dharma is being evaluated!
Then what about Hindu Gods?
But we have so many Gods, 33 crore Gods. Are we not merely a polytheistic religion? All this confusion is because we use western categories to evaluate ourselves. We must understand clearly that there is no equivalent of the angry jealous wrathful Abrahamic God.We simply do not have that category[x]. What we have instead are ideas like Brahman, Ishvara, Bhagavan and Devata. None of them are God.
Almost all Hindu schools accept the notion of an ultimate reality, Brahman, which is all-pervading, abstract, infinite and eternal. We are all part of that reality. There is no creation that is separate from the creator. We are all divine by nature and thus the basic aim of all Hindu religious practice is to realize this divinity within us by letting go of our ignorance.
The basic purpose of Dharma has always been to remove ignorance through knowledge while the basic purpose of religion has been to spread a specific ideology through whatever means necessary including violence, entrapment and greed. It is highly recommended that the readers go through the book “Being Different” by Rajiv Malhotra which explains many of the different dimensions and nuances of dharma.
The principles of dharma are applicable to all living as well as non-living beings and in this sense Dharma is universal. While Dharmic principles are broad-based, rules may be contextualized based on time, place and environment. Thus while killing is inherently adharmic, a Kshatriya killing his enemy in the battlefield while defending the dharma of the land is considered Dharmic. But a Jihadi killing in the name of Allah is not Dharmic since the larger aim is not the establishment of a civilized sustainable society but rather the establishment of a supremacist ideology.
It is quite obvious that religion is the opposite of dharma. Simply put religion is adharma, and so by extension Islam, Christianity, Nazism, communism, secularism etc. are all adharmic.
But if religion is adharma, does that not make secularism dharma? No it doesn’t.
Secularism is a medicine for the disease called religion. As a Dharmic society,ideally we should not need the medicine of secularism since we do not have the disease called religion in the first place. However reality is different. For a wide variety of reasons, including our English medium education,westernized corporate landscape, and confused policy makers, we have been made to swallow the pill of secularism for more than 40 years . Secularism in Dharma is like ingesting cancer medicine when we don’t have cancer – it is dangerous for us. It can end up causing cancer even.
Lord Krishna has given us an entire book of 18 chapters called Bhagavad Gita on what to do with adharma, and what needs to be done about religions. If political leaders do not have the understanding of the issues at stake or the will to act decisively, spiritual leaders, Yogis and ordinary Bhaktas need to step up and play an active role, and dismantle, degrade and destroy adharma.
Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay is from a data science background. His research interest include finance, culture and philosophy. He is the author of “The Complete Hindu’s Guide to Islam” and “Ashoka the Ungreat”. Read More…
Malhotra, R. (2011). Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism. Delhi: HarperCollins Publishers. Malhotra, R. (2012, March 2).
Dharma Bypasses ‘History-Centrism’. Retrieved from Rajiv Malhotra: https://rajivmalhotra.com/library/articles/dharma-bypasses-history-centrism/
Malhotra, R. (2012, March 5). Dharma is not the same as Religion. Retrieved from Rajiv Malhotra: https://rajivmalhotra.com/library/articles/dharma-religion/
[i](Malhotra, Dharma Bypasses ‘History-Centrism’, 2012)
[ii] Today even Chritsian girls are being targeted. Read “Kerala Church says ‘Love Jihad is real’, claims Christian women being lured into IS trap” https://www.deccanherald.com/national/south/kerala-church-says-love-jihad-is-real-claims-christian-women-being-lured-into-is-trap-794814.html”
[iv] See Dr Nagaswamy’s explanation of Dharma in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0KMXbtoTcg&t=266s
[vi] Karna-Parva of Mahabharata, Shrimad Bhagavatam
[vii](Malhotra, 2011, p. 3)
[viii](Malhotra, 2011, pp. 200-201)
[ix] Mahabharata Shanti-Parva 60-7,8 , Manusmriti 6.82, Yajnavalkya Smriti 1.122
[x] I have described the characteristics of Abrahamic God in details in Part 1 of this series.