Are We Indians Hypocrites? – Part I
Post Penguin-Wendy Doniger episode there have been debates on varied topics both in the national media and the common public. Though the debate was on a wider spectrum most of the discussions comes handy under tow important topics. One being the freedom of expression along with the necessity of the alternate perspectives in history and the other is on the validity of the proclaimed Hindu ethics Vs the actuality of the Hindu lifestyle.
I thought it would be worth pondering a little on this topic. Every religion in general has its own ethics and ethos conveyed through the rituals and lifestyles designed by their respective religious values. The places of worship and the methods of liturgies showcase elaborately the philosophies of that religion. Casual discussions may sometimes offer some meaningful understanding. What resided inside your convolutions of your grey matter, untapped, even that which remained unknown to you might spring up like a bolt in the sky. An experience close to this happened to me while I was having a usual chat with one of my pals, which progressed into something meaningful.
Our topic of discussion centered on the Doniger issue and moved on to the Hindu belief system. Though I’m no scholar in Hinduism, I’m able to understand that Hinduism has a unique quality that no other religion can claim. This is perhaps the only religion in the world that evolved over time. The value system that Hinduism insists is derived from nature. The philosophy of Hinduism is much a way of living than of a religion. The religious practices this religion is deep rooted in worshipping nature and representation of the natural phenomenon. Hence unlike other religions of the world not everything about this religion could be understood just in the spiritual realm.
My friend found it ironical, about the heavy opposition that Doniger’s book received, while the erotism and obscenity that are glaringly found in some of the Hindu Temples. He just couldn’t figure out both of these polarities. Many of you might share similar doubts.
Religion is related to the sacred things and the belief in the superior being, generalized as ‘God’ in every religious belief. Though this could be considered as a crude definition for religion- of the available numerous definitions- on the sociological perspective religion could be understood as organizes system of beliefs and world views that connect humanity with the order of their existence. In fact the need for religious beliefs arises from the human urge to find a meaning for their existence and the insatiable urge to understand the genesis of mankind.
Every religion makes an attempt to offer a frame work for the well being and ‘good living’ of the humanity based on the morality we’ve evolved through collective social conscience. Hence no religion, Hinduism in particular, can be better understood without perceiving it from the sociocultural point of view.
What we term today as ‘erotic’ or ‘obscene’ are only invented perspectives a side effect of changing societal attitudes. Moreover they were opinions of individuals who played powerful roles as religious leaders. In the antique era sex was never considered immoral. It never was viewed as a refrained act, a forbidden fruit, but a natural mean of existential necessity coupled with the pleasure of the senses. The taboo around the sexual desire was a later addition. The real problem in understanding the irony behind the exhibition of erotic art forms in religious places like temples that are supposedly places of sanctity.
A modern mind trained and tuned in a different way can never approve this irony. This is because the modern mind always connects the places of worship exclusively to the spiritual realm. It fails to notice, or accept if ever noticed, the other perspectives essential for the wholesome understanding in this regard.
How is it possible then to decipher its true meaning and comprehend it? We shall see it in the concluding part of this post tomorrow.