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.
The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara's philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.
Title: Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker; Author: Pavan K. Varma; Publisher: Tranquebar Press; Pages: 364; Price: Rs 699
This must be one of the greatest tributes ever paid to Shankaracharya, the quintessential “paramarthachintakh”, who wished to search for the ultimate truths behind the mysteries of the universe. His genius lay in building a complete and original philosophical edifice upon the foundational wisdom of the Upanishads.
A gifted writer, Pavan Varma, diplomat-turned-politician and author of several books including one on Lord Krishna, takes us through Shankara’s short but eventful span of life during which, from having been born in what is present-day Kerala, he made unparalleled contributions to Hindu religion that encompassed the entire country. Hinduism has not seen a thinker of his calibre and one with such indefatigable energy, before or since.
Shankara’s real contribution was to cull out a rigorous system of philosophy that was based on the essential thrust of Upanishadic thought but without being constrained by its unstructured presentation and contradictory meanderings.
He was greatly influenced by three basic texts of Hindu philosophy: Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita. He wrote extensive and definitive commentaries on each of them. Of course, the importance he gave to the Mother Goddess, in the form of Shakti or Devi, can be traced to his own attachment to his mother whom he left when he set off, at a young age, in search of a guru and higher learning.
Against all odds, Shankara created institutions for the preservation and propagation of Vedantic philosophy. He established “mathas” with the specific aim of creating institutions that would develop and project the Advaita doctrine. He spoke against both caste discriminations and social inequality, at a time when large sections of conservative Hindu opinion thought otherwise.
Shankara was both the absolutist Vedantin, uncompromising in his belief in the non-dual Brahman, and a great synthesiser, willing to assimilate within his theoretical canvas several key elements of other schools of philosophy. He revived and restored Hinduism both as a philosophy and a religion that appealed to its followers.
Varma rightly says that it must have required great courage of conviction as well as deep spiritual and philosophical insight for Shankaracharya to build on the insights of the Upanishads a structure of thought, over a millennium ago, that saw the universe and our own lives within it with a clairvoyance that is being so amazingly endorsed by science today. The irony is that most leading scientists, particularly outside India but also within, have little knowledge of the structure of Shankara’s philosophy and the transparent interface it has with scientific discoveries today.
Shankara wrote hymns in praise of many deities but his personal preference was the worship of the Mother Goddess. The added value of the book is that it has, in English, a great deal of Shankara’s writings. Unfortunately, most Hindus today are often largely uninformed about the remarkable philosophical foundations of their religion. They are, the author points out, deliberately choosing the shell for the great treasure that lies within. This is indeed a rich book. (IANS)