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SWAMI AVYAYANANDA of Chinmaya Mission spoke to SONAL SRIVASTAVA on diversity of Hindu thought
How can we define Hinduism and how is it different from Hindutva?
The word ‘Hindu’ has come from a mispronunciation of the word ‘Sindhu,’ which is a valley where Vedic culture was practised. Actually, we have not named our culture, religion or way of life. We just call it Sanatan Dharma, because it’s been here from beginning-less time. Dharma is the essence of everything, a way of life; it is performance of duties. The words have different connotations and they vary according to the speaker. If we have to understand Hinduism or Hindutva, and how it is related to Sanatan Dharma, it requires belief in the basic tenets of Vedic culture: belief in the One reality that expresses itself as the world of plurality. It is also important to establish a connection or identify with that One — the source of all knowledge.
Our Upanishads begin with the One that is all-inclusive. This is the essence of what Hinduism is all about.
We often hear of mob lynchings — what can be done to counter hateful narratives?
If the glass is full of dirty water, one way is to invert the glass, wash it and fill clean water or keep filling clean water till the glass is absolutely clean. We are trying to get across the knowledge of Hindu scriptures, our practices in the purest form, to the maximum number of people and by doing so, we hope that people get the right understanding with which false notions can be refuted. We need to organise sessions on Hinduism for different kinds of people, so that with clarity of understanding, they do not feel the need to use violence and we can continue to celebrate diversity.
WE NEED TO ORGANISE SESSIONS ON HINDUISM FOR DIFFERENT KINDS OF PEOPLE, SO THAT WITH CLARITY OF UNDERSTANDING, THEY DO NOT FEEL THE NEED TO USE VIOLENCE
How important is diversity to Hindu thought? Why should we club different schools of thought under one umbrella?
There is no bringing together required; it is already One and we know it by various names. Swami Chinmayananda used to give an example: One person, by the mother is called the son; by child, father; by wife, husband; and by employees, boss. It is one and the same person, but different people identify him in diverse ways. Similarly, God in religion and philosophy is one. I have established the relationship with the Supreme; I can give it any name I want. There is no harm in calling it Shiva or Shakti, until I understand that they are One. I have to know that when I pray to Shiva, it is no different from a Shakta praying to the Shakti or a Vaishnava praying to Vishnu.
During festivities, people bring home the murti, but after the immersion, it surfaces back and wreaks havoc on our environment. Are we getting lost in the worship of the saguna aspect?
The saguna aspect is needed for the majority of people and that’s why we have it in our culture. Eventually, we have to reach the understanding of the nirguna, but everyone cannot get there. It is important to stay connected with that reality through the saguna aspect. However, education about nirguna too has to be inculcated gradually. For instance, when a child goes to a school, he should not be led to believe that schooling is education in its totality. We make him understand that he has to attend a university to get a degree. There are miles to go; we have to make every child aware of the possibilities and share knowledge with him. If one doesn’t want to study further, that is okay too.
If you have to formulate a curriculum to make a child understand the totality of existence, what will you include in it?
Initially, the child can identify with a saguna god, develop a relationship with it. Gradually, he can start trying to find That within him and then begin to see That in other living beings. Gradually, he can rise to a level where he understands that ‘real me’ is the essence that ‘I am worshipping through the murti’. So the journey is from idol to ideal.
Swamiji was participating in a series of talks on ‘Hinduism — The Science behind India’s Spirituality’ organised by Avanee Foundation in New Delhi