Bharat’s Future : The Vedic Message, Gandhi and Marx

via Dr Vijaya Rajiva published on January 26, 2010

In his recent speech (28 Oct. 2009) at the launch of Shri Tarun Vijay’s book India Battles On, Shri Mohan Bhagawat ( who has the gift of saying the right things at the right time) made  an important observation . Speaking about India’s march towards national unity,  prosperity and well being, he observed that most Indians are moving towards the same goal.

This is indeed true. Just recently the Vishwa Mangal Gou Yatra which started in October 2009 and ended in January 2010 is a wonderful all India movement that reminds one of the great Satyagraha campaigns undertaken by Gandhiji during the freedom struggle. Some 19,000 plus kilometers were covered as the Yatris traversed from village to village preaching the Vedic message of the inter relatedness of all beings.

Sarve Sukhinah Bhavantu (May all beings be happy ).

Save the cow, save India’s villages, save the farmers, save the forests, save the soil of Bhumi Devi, conserve and spread the ancient knowledge of Indian medicine (Ayurveda) and Yoga. Add to that the Sangh Parivar’s exemplary work on behalf of the tribals and the Dalits and their diligent work in eradicating untouchability and the injustices of caste oppression.

This is the most modern message that any contemporary Indian can hear. And yet it is also the most ancient Vedic message.

Sants, sages, acharyas, everyday Hindus, Sangh workers, leaders, all were received with enthusiasm by large crowds. This is a testimony to the strength and durability of Hinduism. This is Gandhism with the added bonus of the wisdom of ancient India’s saints and sages and its present day practictioners. One can put it in another way: wherever Gandhiji was on the right track it was actually a continuation of Hindu wisdom.

Marxist comrades in India should see what is obvious to any independent observer. Hinduism, despite the many ups and downs during the long night of the Muslim and British Occupations, can never be defeated. If our Marxist comrades could grasp this basic fact, they would cooperate with Hindus (among other well wishers) to effect socio econmic change and bring about national unity, well being and prosperity to Bharat.

Why are they unable/unwilling to change track ? Why have they been caught in a time warp ?

Marx, in his philosophical, economical and political writings did make an enormous contribution to human knowledge. His definitive critique of capitalism has not been superceded. It is indeed the definitive critique and all else are footnotes to his writings.
However, both his concept of class struggle and historical/dialectical materialism are problematic.

Here Gandhiji and Hinduism have the answers.

Social evils must be firmly eradicated. Otherwise classes/castes must work together  for the well being of society. In Gandhiji’s case he did not abandon the varna system, although he worked tirelessly to eradicate Untouchability and other negative aspects of the caste system. In his ideal village republic there would be no Outcastes (Untouchables, as they were then called) and there would be no caste oppression either.

The various economically based castes would work together harmoniously. There would therefore  be no castes as such. Individuals would choose their occupation and not be forced into it by family or tradition. Hence, there would not be a hardening of caste based occupations. Nor would there necessarily be  hereditary occupations. He did believe that if an individual voluntarily made a lifelong decision to hone his or her skills at any given occupation that would be desirable because of the improvement in the product brought
about by long training in one’s occupation. A family may voluntarily choose a certain occupation and stay with it for generations. But this could not be imposed on anyone.

There  is no sanction in the Vedas for Untouchability. There was only only a broad division of labour in society. Learning, military defence, trade (mercantile activity), agricultural and craft labour and service duties, these were the broad classifications. This is the varna system. Caste as an occupational division came into existence as the economy became diversified. The distinction between caste and varna must be kept in mind, in order to avoid confusion. Even scholars are apt to confuse and conflate the two.

The Sangh Parivar has adopted this wisdom of the ages and opposes the hardening of the caste system. The message is to break down caste barriers and where caste based occupations exist , they must be creatively worked out. But the Sangh is adamantly opposed to the Outcaste system, namely Untouchability.

It is important to note that Marx’s famed humanism had its own limitations. He followed the teaching of the ancient Greek Sophist philosopher Protagoras, who said that man was the measure of all things. Man’s well being alone cannot be the criterion according to the Veda. Marx could not, did not , understand the Hindu world and the Vedic message of the unity of all living beings, not just the human world.

Crass capitalism is rampant in the entire world today, contemporary India is no exception. But unlike other countries, for example those in Latin America and Africa, where the popular struggles do not have strong, durable, supportive social infrastructures,  in India there is a very pervasive durable ancient structure inherited from Vedic times. This structure has sustained the Indian subcontinent over several millennia, through thick and thin and will continue to do so.

The program of the Yatra is simply astounding. Village reconstruction, Ayurveda, Yoga, protection of the cow, taking care of farmers’ needs, organic agriculture, agro based industries, and the list goes on. Who can complain ? Gandhi would have endorsed this program whole heartedly. He had said : India lives in her villages. Studies have shown that in the next fifty years, while the rest of the world gets urbanized, India will remain a mainly agricultural country.

But a conscious effort must be made by all Bharatiyas to preserve this agriculture based wisdom of the ages. Since the 1950s agriculture has been declining slowly but steadily in India. The Green revolution, the introduction of biotechnology and genetic engineering, the neglect of farmers needs as opposed to that of corporations and middlemen, have been a radical departure from Bharat’s values and practices. The tragedy of farmers’ suicides  is a national shame.

The Rashtra Sevika Samiti performs regular pooja to Bhumi Devi. This is what our Vedic ancestors proclaimed : the cosmic, atmospheric and terrestrial powers are in union. Bhumi, Mother Earth is the mainstay of humanity as a species.

One saint at the Yatra said : “ The cow is a gift of Nature.” What more felicitous phrase can one employ ?

Gandhiji put it in his own way. Writing in London, during his student days, he adopted vegetarianism as an ethical principle, not just as a family habit/tradition (his parental family were vegetarians, and he was brought up as a vegetarian). His view was: if you take up vegetarianism  for health reasons, it may not last. Sooner or later, the individual will abandon it. It should be adopted for moral reasons. He went on to say that he envisages a time in the future history of human beings when they would espouse vegetarianism as an ethical principle.

The saints and sages at the Gou Gram Yatra added the Vedic message of environmentalism and the unity of all beings in Nature, when they called for the protection of the cow, for the care of farmers, for the poor and the disenfranchised, for the worshipful attitude to the planet, to the universe and  to all living beings.

Haindava Keralam is to be thanked for reproducing the report of the Yatra to the general public ( ‘ Seva Sandesh – Jan, 2010- Viswa Mangal Gou Gram Yatra special’ 22/01/2010).

(The writer taught Political Philosophy at a Canadian university)

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