While addressing a seminar on ‘Identity and Integration’ on August 2, organised to mark the 50th anniversary of UK-based charity Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat told the audience that Hinduism does not allow forceful conversion by any means.
“After contemplating any philosophy or any religion, if one of his own will and wish decides to convert to it…Our tradition says every individual can independently decide what his faith should be. But using other means and converting people by lure or some other means, that is aggression on individual rights and that should not be allowed,” he said to PTI.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh “Sarsanghchalak” was addressing a seminar on ‘Identity and Integration’, organised to mark the 50th anniversary of UK-based charity Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), in London last evening.
Bhagwat mentioned, “Hinduism is a sanskriti and not a religion” and also “Hindu is a tradition” that believes in “accepting, respecting and celebrating” numerous identities.
“We have no problem with identities; we can live as an integrated society, humanity and universe. It has been achieved and lived by common people and can be found anywhere Hindus live. Hindu identity says diversity is to be celebrated,” he said to PTI.
“Unity in diversity” was the central mantra of Hinduism and Bhagwat mentioned verses from the Atharva Veda, a Hindu text, to show that diversity existed even in ancient times.
“Despite our history, we don’t treat anyone like a foreigner…Only politics sometimes disrupts all this. But these are ripples and then we revert to normalcy because it is in our blood,” he said to PTI.
“Ultimately we are all human beings, all ‘atmans’ (soul). We respect and accept everyone’s identity but have an eye on the underlying unity. That example has been created by Hindu society anywhere in the world and can resolve all conflict,” he added further.
The 65-year-old RSS leader was in the UK and was invited as the chief guest of HSS UK’s Mahashibir 2016, which concluded over the weekend. He was surrounded by heavy security presence at the Navnat Centre in the south London.
The seminar on August 2, concluded his UK tour and included panellists like Dr Girdharilal Bhan, former national president of VHP, Samani Pratibha Pragya, head nun of Jain Vishva Bharati London, and Gauri Das, managing director of Bhaktivedanta Manor ISKCON UK.
While focussing on the Hindu diaspora in the UK, Bhagwat said, “Hindus don’t insist call yourself Hindu. But the values are all the same…We all believe in the unity of existence and doing Sewa (service). Don’t fight among each other, stay united and work for the world’s good, mentioned the PTI report.
Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.
However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.
The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.
Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.
After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:
Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs, agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?
Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.
Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.
Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.
These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.
On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.