There are two major groups of religions in the world today. First are the conversion-based monotheistic creeds of Christianity and Islam. Second are the
pluralistic dharmic traditions of India, of which Hinduism is the oldest and the largest. Chinese Taoism and Japanese Shinto have an affinity with dharmic
traditions. So also the indigenous religious traditions of pre-Christian Europeans, pre-Islamic West Asians, Native Americans, Africans, Australians, and Pacific
Islanders which are re-awakening, particularly in Europe and the Americas and Africa.
As the world has now moved out of colonial domination by monotheistic creeds, a new respect for dharmic traditions is arising everywhere. At the same time,
dharmic traditions are beginning to speak against missionary aggression of Christianity and Islam. But the missionary aggression continues unabated. In fact, the
aggression has become more determined and mobilized larger resources in money as well as manpower than ever before.
It is this scenario that makes the work of Ram Swarup (1920-1998) so significant. He has understood the current world situation, the dangers to Hinduism, the
value of Hinduism for the future of humanity, and a practical way to both overcome the dangers and promote opportunities for the good of all. He outlines a
Hindu approach to the problems of the world that offers deep and lasting solutions which go beyond the limitations of Western religions or Western science,
following the development of consciousness as the real thrust in civilization.
Ram Swarup has thoroughly and critically studied religions of the world. He can speak of these systems with an in-depth knowledge and ability to quote and
mirror what they really think. And he has left an important legacy of many works on a broad range of topics including religion and philosophy, yoga, mysticism,
and social issues. His Hindu View of Christianity and Islam is a classic in the field of comparative religion, for the first time perhaps introducing a yogic view of
altered states of consciousness to understand the powerful and sometimes dangerous workings of religious experience.
The present book, On Hinduism, shows how to revive and revitalize the tradition in a practical way and to present it in the modern forum with clarity, conviction
and universality. It is a manual of Hindu resurgence. An important issue is how different dharmic traditions should relate given the common missionary assault
upon them, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism.
A similar important issue is the relationship between India, the fountainhead of Asian culture, and Greece, the fountainhead of European culture. We tend to
think of both types of culture as different and as constituting a dichotomy of East and West. But if we really look at ancient Greeks and Hindus we discover
much in common. Ram Swarup draws such a connection to enable us to reintegrate these two great sources of world culture.
The dialogue between India and Europe is another vital concern. So far there has been little mature interaction between the thinkers of India and Europe, either
intellectually or spiritually due to deficiencies in both camps. Ram Swarup addresses this issue with great acumen, using the work of Wilhelm Halbfass as the
basis of discussion. He follows this with an important essay on Aldous Huxley, one of the few Western thinkers who had a real understanding of India and its
spiritual systems. Huxley provides a good foundation to launch such an East-West dialogue that was unfortunately not followed by other Western thinkers. Ram
Swarup sets this process in motion again.
Two of his essays address the issue of education. Modern India has followed a British model of education. He shows how the current illiteracy in India is not the
product of traditional educational system - which the British dismantled in the nineteenth century - but of the damage to that system which began with them. Old
India had a high rate of literacy particularly because of its educational system, its Sanskrit and its gurukulams. Ram Swarup also shows how Hindu models of
education remain relevant in the modern world, where we need to reintroduce spiritual values and models of consciousness to prevent the moral decay and
decline of intelligence that we see rapidly increasing in the affluent West.
The Reawakening of Dharmic and Native Traditions
There are two major groups of religions in the world today. First are the conversion-based religions of Christianity and Islam. Each holds that it is the only true
faith for humanity and solely represents God's plan and God's will. Both reflect an exc1usivist ethos of One God, a single holy book, a final prophet or single
savior, an historical revelation, salvation from sin, and heaven or hell as the ultimate resting-place for the soul. Christianity and Islam became the dominant
religions of the Western world over the centuries through a long process of struggle and warfare, as they displaced, often cruelly, all other religions that came in
their path. Both conversion-based religions are based on an older Jewish monotheistic tradition that was critical of the diverse Pagan cults around it. They turned
this rejection, which for the Jews was meant to preserve their own culture, into an article of faith and a need to eradicate all other beliefs.
The second major group of world religions are the dharmic or meditation traditions of India - Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism - of which Hinduism is the
oldest and largest. Chinese Taoism and Japanese Shinto have an affinity with these and can easily be placed among them. Dharmic traditions reflect a spiritual
ethos of natural law (dharma), karma and rebirth, yogic practices, and a pursuit of direct experience of truth and self-realization through meditation. They became
the dominant religions of the Eastern world, not through any process of intimidation, but by growing up organically with the cultures of these lands. Dharmic
traditions define the Divine more as an impersonal and timeless consciousness than the personal Creator of Biblical traditions. They are tolerant and pluralistic
and can accept other spiritual paths as valid and have no need to displace them.
In addition there are various indigenous traditions and native creeds like those of the pre-Christian Europeans, the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, and the
many Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander and African groups. These appear more like the dharmic traditions of the East than the conversion-based religions
of the West, which disdainfully call them pagans, heathens, kafirs or barbarians - the same terms that they use to characterize dharmic approaches. Like dharmic
traditions these native ways have an experiential spirituality, ritual worship, use of images, multiplistic ideas of divinity, connection to the Earth and nature, and
the recognition of a Great Spirit, though perhaps not as clearly defined as in dharmic paths.
As the world has now moved out of colonial domination by monotheistic creeds, a new respect for Eastern dharmic traditions is arising everywhere. The
impersonal consciousness of Indic traditions has much more in common with the universe as perceived by modern science than does the jealous God of the Bible
and the Koran. Karma and rebirth make more sense to people than do heaven and hell for explaining the fruit of our actions. Yoga and meditation done on a
personal level have become more meaningful spiritual activities than attending churches or getting involved in missionary efforts. Overall, a new era is dawning
in which organized religion and institutionalized belief - the characteristics of conversion- based creeds - is being set aside in favor of diverse spiritual and
cultural approaches that characterize the paths of dharma.
As part of this process, a new awakening is happening in native traditions from a Celtic revival in Europe to a resurgence in the native religions of Africa. Even
Anglo- Americans are looking to the Native American religion and its sweat lodges and vision quests - which their forefathers denigrated as the base
superstitions of the Red Man - for a connection to life and nature that Christianity has failed to bring them. Many people see the need for religion to be connected
to the land, to a people and to a culture, that is not a mere belief but a way of life, emphasizing spiritual practice. Slowly but inevitably, Eastern dharmic
traditions and native traditions are finding a common cause and creating a new alliance to this end.
At the same time, there is an awakening among non- Western peoples to their oppression not only by colonial armies but also by the missionary cults that blessed
their aggression. They are now recognizing how their own more spiritual native traditions were denigrated and destroyed by less tolerant beliefs employing
violence and deception to further their conversion aims. Conversion-based creeds are being revealed as unethical and inhumane, dividing up humanity into the
believers and the non-believers and allowing the believers to oppress the non-believers with a vengeance justified from on high. The righteous zeal of the
missionaries is being unveiled as a form of bigotry and prejudice, not a means of salvation.
This awakening has led to some apologies by Christians for their excesses, particularly for their history of racism and enslavement of the Blacks. However, so far
it has not led to any Christian rejection of its exclusive claim to salvation or an honoring of such native religions as the Black Africans as valid in their own right.
Dharmic traditions are also beginning to speak out against the ongoing missionary aggression against them, though missionary beliefs have done little to respond
to their legitimate questions. Hindus are beginning to face their history in which their temples were destroyed, their libraries burned and their priests killed by
Islamic votaries of the One God. They are uncovering the bloody history of the Portuguese Inquisition in India that employed torture to bring Christianity to the
Hindus. They are recognizing the intolerance behind the continuing need of Christians and Muslims to convert them. Hindus and Buddhists are uniting and trying
to create a common front against the missionary efforts that continue blindly today.
The Importance of Hindu Dharma
Hinduism remains the largest of these dharmic and native religions and the most representative of pluralistic and non- conversion-based beliefs. Therefore, a
study of it is essential for understanding the spiritual urges of humanity, for discovering the religion of the future as well as the past as the hold of monotheism
over the minds of people gradually fades.
Hinduism has given rise to profound philosophies like Vedanta that project a Supreme Self (Atman) and Absolute (Brahman) of Being-Consciousness-Bliss
(Sacchidananda) behind the magical universe in which we live. It has spiritual and meditational practices like the many types of yoga (jnana, bhakti, karma and
raja), which show systematically how to develop a higher consciousness from a non-dogmatic approach.
Yoga and Vedanta are now popular and respected all over the world. Many Hindu gurus travel the globe and have disciples in all countries. Books and classes on
Yoga and meditation from an Eastern perspective are available every- where. Sanskrit terms like guru, mantra and shakti have entered into common parlance even
in the Western media. Yet there is still much confusion about what Hinduism really is. People approach Hinduism more through a particular guru or sect and
often fail to recognize, much less understand the greater tradition behind it.
Hinduism views religion as a way of Self-realization and God-realization. It sees religion as a science or way of knowledge, vidya, to discover eternal truth. It
can accept modern science into its worldview that has always acknowledged the value of such disciplines as mathematics, astronomy and medicine for
understanding the external world. Hinduism does not have the religion/science dichotomy such as characterizes Biblical beliefs. It is a tradition of knowledge,
not faith that helps us uncover the truth of ourselves and of the unbounded universe in which we live, which are both pervaded by a common spirit.
Hinduism is also a culture that contains art, music, dance and literature. It sees the universe as a manifestation of Divine bliss/love energy (ananda) and creation
as a play of rasas or moods of Divine delight. It does not separate art and imagery from the spiritual life, as Biblical traditions tend to so violently to do. Though
Hinduism has a clear set of social principles as revealed in its many Dharma-Shastras it treats these only as general guidelines to be adjusted on an individual
basis and attuned to the needs of every age. It is not tied to any system of religious law, like the Sharia of Islam, and can easily adapt itself to different social
orders and the demands of new ways of living.
Hinduism has perhaps the largest and most ancient literature of all religions with its many Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Tantras and Yoga Shastras. Its literature
defies any stereotype and has an encyclopedic view of culture and the universe that is detailed and inclusive of all nature and of the occult worlds as well. Yet
most of this literature is unstudied and misunderstood, particularly in academic institutions of the West which, dominated by an outer looking intellect, have
failed to really come face to face with the enlightened mind of the East.
Hinduism is like life. Hinduism is the very religion of life and accepts all life into itself. It works through the spirit of life, not through some sterile, artificial or
purist creed. Hinduism is a religion of nature and the Earth, finding holy places in every mountain, stream, valley or shore. Its roots are organic. It arises out of
the soul and out of the land, like other Pagan and native traditions. It is universal but encourages local variations, being able to embrace native cultures and
customs without denigrating or subverting them.
Hinduism is not a proselytizing cult. It sees no need for all people to have the same religious label any more than it regards it necessary for all people to eat the
same food or wear the same clothes. For it religion is an internal practice of self- development, not an external battle to conquer the world. It holds that the
world and all creatures are inherently saved or one with God. All that is necessary is to dispel the ignorance that prevents us from seeing this inherent divinity and
leading a truly divine life.
Hinduism has endured throughout the centuries, as other countries, cultures and religions have come and gone. It has withstood the onslaughts of Islam,
Christianity and Communism, which other great countries of Asia fell to. It has preserved many of the oldest and highest spiritual urges of humanity. It invents
itself anew in every generation, looking to modem teachers and gurus over old books and set rules.
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