Notes On Culture
It is worth recalling these words from the last will, testament and warning of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, which we excerpted in great detail in the previous part of this series:
Hindus must unfailingly, selflessly, and freely extend every support to fellow Hindus: whether the support is asked or unasked. Only Hindus can support Hindus. No other community in India cares for the welfare of Hindus. Negligence is an invitation to annihilation. It is only when Hindus unite as an indivisible force that their voices will be heard and respected by members of other communities. This is the only way to ensure their peaceful survival. [Emphasis added]
The Banaras Hindu University for founding which Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya toiled in the prime of his youth at great personal cost, bearing insults and humiliation hurled at him by feeble, selfish, and short-sighted Hindus and haughty regal exploiters like the Nizam was one of the early realizations of his vision of knitting the Santana society together on the edifice and strength of traditional Hindu scholarship and contemporary advances in the sciences. It is the legacy of this noble edifice especially in the realm of our Sastras that will be chipped off, bit by deadly bit, by thoughtless decisions like appointing the likes of Firoze Khan to the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan department. Like how a magnificent garment is torn to shreds not by a scissor but by pulling out just one thread. Like how the final cleansing of the Hindu population of Kashmir began initially with pious calls for prayer that was so routine that Hindus suspected nothing amiss until it was too late. This same legacy attracted such luminaries as Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Acharya Narendra Dev and C.P. Ramaswami Iyer who became vice chancellors of the BHU and was lovingly nurtured by the contributions of Dr. A.S. Altekar, Jadunath Sarkar, Mahamahopadhyaya Pramathanath Tarkabhushana, Rabindranath Tagore, J.C. Bose, K.P. Jayaswal, Mahamahopadhyaya Ganganath Jha, Radha Kumud Mookerji, K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, Surendranath Dasgupta, Sir C.V. Raman, and had glowing encomiums heaped on it by Sir M. Visvesvaraya.
I don’t wish to dwell at any length on the sheer flagitiousness of even considering Firoze Khan’s name for the department notwithstanding: (i) his love for and formal qualifications in Sanskrit (ii) his contribution to our national life as a teacher, honest citizen and a taxpayer and (iii) the mere accident of his birth as a Muslim. Arguing in favour of Dr. Khan’s appointment is akin to the same vacuous and politically-motivated argument that Hindus must build a hospital or educational institution at the site of the Rama Janmabhoomi instead of a grand Sri Rama Mandir. This is also another important reason I mentioned in an earlier essay that Hindus have drawn no red lines for others that should not be crossed. The Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan (SVDV) is one of those faculties that is a civilisational, cultural, and spiritual non-negotiable. Opening it for this sort of negotiation is like making an intellectual argument for legitimizing incest and pedophilia. Here is a related news: As recent as September 2019, 240 primary schools in UK “introduced lessons in “self-stimulation” for children as young as six as part of their sex education program.” In other words, primary schools there now formally teach masturbation to six year-olds. This is the mark of a civilization standing on the precipice of extinction, an extinction whose process began like I described earlier: by ripping off just one thread.
At the superficial level of politics and ideology, two themes immediately stand out in the BHU fracas: one, Dr. Khan’s appointment itself is another shard of the pervasive wreckage inflicted on the Sanatana civilizational and philosophical ethos by secularism; two, had there been a “secular” government at the Centre or in Uttar Pradesh, this wouldn’t have even received the kind of public exposure that it has deservedly received.
History, as always, is our best guide to put the BHU protests in perspective and to accurately understand why the SVDV is a cultural and spiritual non-negotiable. The vision and eventual establishment of the Banaras Hindu University was Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya’s sacred calling, a pious devoir he willingly imposed upon himself. The initiative that he seeded in the invocatory meeting held at the Mint House in Banaras in 1904 took a semi-formal shape in another gathering held at the Town Hall in the same city on 31 December 1905, and ultimately met with thunderous approval in the Congress of Hindu Religion that met at “Tirtharaja,” Prayag in January 1906. The draft prospectus for the establishment of the Banaras Hindu University was unanimously approved. It was now time to take the practical steps for its realization.
As the first step, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya immediately gave up his law practice, adopted the vow of Brahmacharya and cultivated an attitude of Sanyasa within himself. He went into seclusion and spent a full month engaged in deep Tapasya. One can only speculate now but there is enough reason and historical precedent to claim that it was this self-imposed spiritual ardour that equipped him with the mental and moral force, compassion and poise to face, assimilate and overcome hurdles lasting almost a decade. Three names come to mind vis a vis said historical precedent: the scorching flame of Kautilya’s Tapas which led to the founding of the Mauryan Empire, the all-encompassing spiritual vision and Sanatana foundation laid by Maharshi Vidyaranya underlying the Vijayanagara Empire, and the lessons in spiritual and physical Kshatra Samartha Ramadas imparted to Shivaji that irreversibly destroyed the extended religious tyranny of Muslim rule in India. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya lived in vastly changed times but the fact that he took these time-tested Sanatana methods to shape his own vision contributed to the astounding success of the BHU and attracted the aforementioned luminaries to it.
Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya’s impassioned essay (i.e. the revised prospectus) in 1911 titled, The Hindu University provides moving and extraordinary glimpses into his vision. In his own words, his vision for the BHU was to establish a university to “realise the ideal of University life as it was known in the past in India.” The contemporary literary colossus Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa provides a spectacular and vivid picture of this ancient Indian university life in his classic, Saartha in the remarkable episode dealing with Kumarila Bhatta’s stay in the Nalanda University as a student at the ripe age of 80 or so. The prodigious achievement of Pandit Malaviya establishing the Banaras Hindu University will also become evident when we recall the historical fact that there were only five universities in all of (undivided) India: Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Lahore, and Allahabad. More importantly, all these were merely examining universities. Pandit Malaviya envisaged the BHU as both a residential and teaching university. Like Swami Vivekananda and other stalwarts, Pandit Malaviya never lost sight of the real goal of the true Indian educational ethos:
a merely examining University can do little to promote the formation of character, which…is even more important for the wellbeing of the individual and of the community, than the cultivation of intellect. [Emphasis added]
Accordingly, of the four foundational objectives he listed, two are the most important and relevant in the present context:
(1) To promote the study of the Hindu Shastras and of Sanskrit literature generally, as a means of preserving and popularizing for the benefit of the Hindus in particular and of the world at large…the best thought and culture of the Hindus, and all that was good and great in the ancient civilization of India ;
(2) To promote the building up of character in youth by making religion and ethics an integral part of education. [Emphasis added]
Equally, Pandit Malaviya’s vision for the College of Music and Fine Arts was also firmly rooted in the Sanatana ethos: “to preserve and promote purity of design in the production of art…to arrest the spirit of a slavish imitation of foreign modes.” As history shows, perhaps the greatest damage in “independent” India has occurred in the realms of literature and art whose extension, cinema, in the last two decades, has distinguished itself by a near-complete absence of anything Indian in it.
And when we read his vision and ideals that animated the area of study closest to his heart, we lapse into the silence of mute admiration. Here are his words about the proposed Vaidic [i.e. Vedic] College at the Banaras Hindu University:
The Vedas have more than antiquarian value for Hindus. They are the primary source of their religion. And it is a matter of reproach to the Hindus, that while excellent provision is made for the study and elucidation of the Vedas in Germany and America, there is not one single first-rate institution in this country for the proper study of these sacred books. An effort will be made to remove this reproach by establishing a good Vaidic School at this University. This…will complete the provision for the higher study of Sanskrit literature at Kashi, the ancient seat of ancient learning. The Vaidic School will naturally have an ashram…attached to it for the residence of Brahmacharis, some of whom may be trained as teachers of religion. [Emphasis added]
Two important conclusions emerge from this. The first is the inextricability of Sanskrit literature and Vedic study. The second and most important is the actual physical training and study regimen of future teachers of Sanatana Dharma. One wonders if Dr. Firoze Khan actually underwent this kind of formal training when he was a student himself. There is a whole world of difference between a mere classroom teacher of Sanskrit and Sanskrit literature and an Acharya, who is described as follows:
शास्त्रार्थान् आचारे स्थापयत्यपि ।
स्वयमाचरते यस्मादाचार्यस्तेन च उच्यते ॥
An Acharya is one who not only consolidates the knowledge and essence of a Shastra and assimilates it within himself, he also establishes its structure and substance in the tradition. Not just that, he also harmonizes its eternal values in his own life. In other words, an Acharya is a person who has obtained the deepest insights into the highest philosophical truth through sustained practice, akin to performing Tapas or penance. By performing such a Tapas, the Acharya will live these truths. This is the standard by which one should measure Dr. Firoze Khan’s credentials. But let it also unequivocally said that this “issue” is completely outside the bounds of misleading, constrained, reductionist and macabre intellectual formulations such as Hindu and Muslim. Indeed, all such attempts serve only to deflect from the core point: the teaching and learning of all such Sastra-related subjects should only be under the control of Hindus who are practitioners of our ancient Hindu traditions.
We can illustrate this with a random example: Sthapatya and Shilpa Sastra (sculpture, Hindu temple architecture). These are not merely secular sciences in the sense of geometry and architecture. Apart from knowing geometry etc, the Shilpi (sculptor) has to be well-versed in the Vedic and Puranic lore, meditate upon and visualize the Murti, undergo a rigorous spiritual discipline and approach his work with an attitude of sanctity. Contrast this with the followers of a peaceful faith whose core doctrine declares Murti as haram, fit to be destroyed and burnt. Even more fundamentally, this peaceful faith also rejects even the notion of multiplicity in expression of the innate divinity pervading all creation, and within ourselves. How can its followers who purport to teach Sanatana Dharma to Hindu students to reconcile, for example, this Vedic verse?
इन्द्रं॑ मि॒त्रं वरु॑णम॒ग्निमा॑हु॒रथो॑ दि॒व्यः स सु॑प॒र्णो ग॒रुत्मा॑न् ।
एकं॒ सद्विप्रा॑ बहु॒धा व॑दन्त्य॒ग्निं य॒मं मा॑त॒रिश्वा॑नमाहुः ॥
They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni; yes, he is verily the heavenly Garuḍa, who has beautiful wings. That which is One, the sages speak of as multifarious; they called him Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan.
One can multiply these examples but this should suffice. Given all this, what grounds qualify the likes of Dr. Khan to teach students who are training in turn, to become teachers of Sanatana Dharmasastras, etc? Indeed, the farsighted Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya had anticipated all this when he said:
The importance of providing for the education of the teachers of a religion so ancient, so widespread, and so deep-rooted in the attachment of its followers, is quite obvious. If no satisfactory provision is made to properly educate men for this noble calling, ill-educated or uneducated and incompetent men must largely fill it. This can only mean injury to the cause of religion and loss to the community. Owing to the extremely limited number of teachers of religion who are qualified by their learning and character to discharge their holy functions, the great bulk of the Hindus including princes, noblemen, the gentry, and barring exceptions…even Brahmans, have to go without any systematic religious education or spiritual ministrations. [Emphasis added]
The wholly avoidable ugly squabble unleashed by Dr. Khan’s appointment is the realization of the nightmare that has come true: of not heeding Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya’s century-old caution. Even within the Hindu community, all sorts of flashy Oppidan simonies and assorted charlatans have appointed themselves as spokespersons of Sanatana Dharma and Vedic traditions without undergoing the rigorous training and making the prerequisite sacrifices first. Their lifestyles are the best proofs of their phoniness.
Meanwhile, the ever-dwindling number of young Archakas, purohitas, and traditional practitioners of the Vedic lifestyle are increasingly finding it hard to get brides. Small wonder that the Khans of the world have managed to breach the sacred.
Here is a suggested real-life experiment for those who are interested: what is the first qualification for any Hindu who wishes to become a teacher of Islamic theology? The answer to this question is also the answer to why the protesting BHU students are completely justified and should be given the unqualified support by the entire Hindu community.
|| Om Tat Sat ||
The Dharma Dispatch is now available on Telegram! For original and insightful narratives on Indian Culture and History, subscribe to us on Telegram.