1988: I was born a Hindu Brahmin in post-independent India in the bustling city of Bombay (now — Mumbai). The clout associated with my Varna (Caste) Deshastha Brahmin were symbolic at best. For most of my teenage years, I coaxed my birth as a Brahmin. What was the significance of my Varna? Standing naked in open category with no college seat with low grades. The Bible mentions this as the “Sins of the father.”
2017: I have finally started comprehending the term ‘Hindu’ and I dare not say that I know everything that is to be known of it. There are things plenty — unknown. And I want to vanquish this confusion by clearly stating that Hinduism (Brahmanism) and Hindutva are NOT the same thing.
To explain, allow me tell you a story on Moksha. This is a concept that has been around for *literally* a millennia. The Brahmans, Jains and Buddhist (skipping Vedic and now extinct religions) believed in the same concepts of Moksha but with different variations of it.
I asked the Guruji that I visit regularly, “What is the meaning of life and how do I attain Moksha?” The meaning of life is based on Karma, I will cover it another post. But, on Moksha — “There are different ways”, he said. After a brief pause to gather his thoughts he continued, “You are not the type to follow traditions, neither are you capable of physical penance. Atheist, you are not. Then you are left with two choices, accept a Guru (living or dead) and/or be a pursuer of knowledge. But, beware, knowledge corrupts. Knowledge is meant to be shared or it leads to stagnation of the mind.”
I already had a Guru — Sri Raghavendra Swami Mutt, Mantralayam. And then I dedicated myself to knowing as much as possible about as much as I can.
What I have to come to realise is that, the Moksha is now. Not in its entirety but they are those moments of intense satisfaction. That is what living is all about. Until recently, I did not know the relief that is of, accepting defeat.
So, what’s the point here? Hinduism is malleable. There are tenants of it found in societal structures of other religions like Christianity and Islam. We as a community have intermingled for centuries. We co-existed and cohabited these lands.
As a child, I learned the two most beautiful sentences that I wish everyone in India always remembers.
1) Unity in (extreme) diversity
2) Live and let live
These were and will always remain my guiding principles. I hope you join me on my journey to discovering India and Hinduism in a new light.
This is a precursor to a lot of writing that I am planning on the topic of Hinduism. If you want me to write or cover a certain topic then do let me know in the comments.
Although most of the things that you will read here is hearsay or personal stories. There is a lot of interesting reading that goes behind it.
My main source material is: India’s Ancient past by R. S. Sharma
Although, I must shamelessly accept that I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the podcast History of India podcast by Kit Patrick. The narrative in the podcast is stammering but absolutely amazing. You should definitely check it out.
Devdutt Patnaik is another author that I have read. I don’t claim to be fluent or well-versed with entire universe of his thinking. The concepts that I like are his chaos theory of Indians, the way he explains the role of women in Hinduism amongst others.
In controversial readings, I have gone to the far end and read Chariots of Gods by Erin Von (forgot lastname).
As always open constructive criticism,
- Aditya Kshirsagar