Understanding Hindutva from Ancient Indian Civilizational values

What is Hindutva?

Many millennials may have this question in mind.

To answer this question one should start with fundamental query that every human being has in mind at some point of time in his or her life:

What is purpose of one’s life ?

Or in other words

What are things that one should pursue in this human life?

Collective wisdom of wise sages of Indic civilization have answered this question is a definite manner. The pursuit of a human being is known by special term, and the term is Purushartha”.

Purshartha” or pursuits of a human life are classified into four distinct categories, which are

  1. Dharma
  2. Artha
  3. Kaama
  4. Moksha

So what do these four mean?

Let’s begin with second and third in the list , which are Artha and Kaama. These are the things which one can relate to, very easily in today’s world.

Artha means wealth – money, this is what everyone pursues, because in today’s world that is the key to achieve one’s other materialistic wishes or Kaama, be it a special brand of car, or that upmarket villa or holiday at a exotic destination, or destination wedding with your most loved one.

If you notice, today’s human life centered only around these two pursuits – earn as much as possible – Artha and spend it on acquiring what one wishes for and enjoy your life to maximum – Kaama.

But does this make one’s life happy and content? Maybe, in the short run, yes.

Does it help in improvement of human society as a whole?

Yes , definitely, wealth creation is the basis for growth of a society. After all wealth is the means by which all other necessities of human life can be obtained.

But, it is also a widely acknowledged fact that in the long run, the relentless pursuit of wealth and fulfillment of materialistic desires alone does not give happiness or contentment to neither the individual nor the society.

Here is where the first of the four Purusharthas- Dharma comes into picture.

The Four Pursuits of Humanity

In fact the four Purusharthas can be seen as four tiers with Dharma forming the foundation, on which the other three purusharthas are based. Dharma is a common social goal which forms the base for individual to pursue the other goals. As you go up the pyramid, the focus is more individualized and the role of society / government in achieving the pursuit goes down progressively.

So what is Dharma ?

This is perhaps one of the most complex questions which has no simple answer. If one were to look up a Sanskrit -English Dictionary for meaning of this word one would be overawed by the number of meanings that is given to this one word.

A mid level dictionary – V S Apte ‘s The Practical Sanskrit English Dictionary gives almost two dozen meanings for the word “Dharma” and almost hundred plus meanings for words derived from it. Each meaning is apt for a different context.

In our context, the closest English meaning of Dharma is duties or good deeds, the duty that one has towards one-self , towards the society and towards the larger eco-system where one lives. It is critical because it is this eco-system that makes one’s existence itself possible. When, I say eco-system it is not only limited to fellow human beings, but also all other living beings, as well as the nature which sustains and nourishes one and all.

So, it is pertinent that each human being while pursuing his/her aim to obtain money and the comforts that money can buy, remains aware of the fact , that his/her Karma i.e. activities leave behind minimum damage to the eco-system which has sustained and nourished him/her and if possible do something to enhance the society, that is giving back to society – a term which is very commonly used today’s corporate world. The key word here is “minimal” damage to others while pursuing one’s goal. The ancient seers of India realized that if anyone even performs a simple task to pursue something, to obtain something, it definitely would create some discomfort to other being, some change which would affect other beings, as a collateral damage.

Even rising a crop of paddy would involve destroying many lives of weeds, insects etc. That is why, the aim of Dharma was to minimize the collateral damage and not achieve an utopian goal of zero or no damage. Such an idealistic effort would be futile and lead the society to nowhere.

That is why giving-back to society is very important, in form of charitable activity, to offset for the collateral damage that one invariably does to the eco-system while pursuing one’s goals of Artha and Kaama.

In fact word “Dharma” is commonly used to denote charitable activity in many Indian languages.

Today, there is a term very much in vogue “Carbon Foot Print” – which is a measure of how much damage one does to ecosystem while pursuing his/her goals. The carbon foot print can be measured at individual level, at societal level or national level.

Similarly , Dharma is a measure of your “Karmic Foot Print” – how much one’s activities would have an effect – positive or negative- on rest of the ecosystem.

Just a like Carbon credits which reduces your Carbon foot print, the charitable activities of a successful person earns, him/her Karmic Credit, reducing his “Karmic Foot Print”.

The idea of Dharma based pursuit of Artha and Kaama is to anchor an individual or a group of individuals -a community, to larger ecosystem- (fellow living beings and the nature which nourishes all) and prevent a run-away effect of the person or group venturing into unsatisfied urge to amass wealth and comfort at any cost. As such reckless behaviour would have a devastating effect on the ecosystem.

The ecological effect of such behaviour on our planet is for all of us to see, that is why environmentalist have come up with these concepts of Carbon Foot Print, and carbon credit.

One can realize that concept of Dharma is nothing but a super set of these environmental concept, wherein we not only are concerned about effect our individual pursuits on other sentient beings like animals, plants and the planet but also fellow human beings and human society.

So, how does this relate to the original question that we began with? What is Hindutva ?

If you had noticed, even though we mentioned about four human pursuits – Dharma, Artha, Kaama and Moksha, we haven’t talked about Moksha.

Moksha or salvation is something that is distinct from other three pursuits, as, it is not be obtained in this material world. This is where ‘religion’ as the term is used in today’s lingo comes into play. The way to attain Moksha are varied and many Indian Philosophers have shown various paths to achieve it.

And within Hinduism there are multitude of sects, which have completely different schools of thought about what Moksha actually is and how to achieve it. The teachings and method of one sect can be diametrically opposite to another.

Still, there has been minimal incidents of how people following one path to Moksha subjugating people who have different idea to towards Moksha, just because of their difference of opinion about the idea of Moksha.

That is because the inherent layered approach of these four human pursuits and the concept of Dharma which acts as foundation or anchor for all the other human pursuits.

It is evident that there is clear separation of religion (Moksha) from other three aspects-Dharma, Artha and Kaama. The King or State’s role is to ensure this framework is followed and the foundation- “Dharma”, is not compromised. King or State is agnostic to Moksha, as the primary focus of the state is to maintain Dharma.

Thus, there is a natural seperation of religion from state.

Hindutva , is nothing but this Dharma based framework within which the society operates. This framework has ensured sustainable development of economy, ensuring the economically weak are not pushed to margins extreme poverty without hampering the progress of talented people who create wealth. It ensures propagation of various theological schools without affecting social harmony.

how is Hindutva different from Hinduism?

While Hindutva is the Dharma based frame work for Artha and Kaama. Hinduism – the religion- is focused on the Moksha part, with the underlining assumption that the frame work of Dharma based purushartha is in place.

All sects advocating Moksha which derive their theology from Vedas ,ie, having Vedas as a primary or at least secondary authority, form Hinduism.

The other theologies which have Indic origin – Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, which do not subscribe to Vedas as primary text of their theology do have this underlining concept of Dharma based purusharthas, thus , these religions also come under the framework of Hindutva.

Of course, religions which have originated outside India, do not acknowledge this Dharma based framework of four distinct categories of human pursuit .

In fact, these proselytizing religions make distinction between how a person or society which follows their own idea of religion (Moksha) should be treated differently from how a person or society who do not subscribe to it. Since their is no concept of Dharma, Artha and Kaama, and everything collapses into religion (Moksha).

So a modern state has been constrained to be either a theological state, where singular path to Moksha or religion (or lack of it) is imposed on all the subjects, leading to authoritarian regimes with limited freedom of expression on topic of religion and almost no tolerance for theologies not in sync with state’s official theology or it has to be a “secular” state with unbridled individual freedom bordering on social dysfunction, wherein the state only controls means of Artha and Kaama and washes off its hands of Dharma, thus leading to degeneracy of society, where only individuals matter and collective social fabric slowly degenerates.

The right balance for sustainable development and progress of a free and fair society would be possible only under Dharma based state which is what Hindutva aims at.

Thus, Hindutva is a framework to ensure sustainable, sensitive and cordial society, nation and the world.

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