INDIA AND ITS SPIRITUALISM

Thoreau, the American philosopher who practiced Hindu tenets in his own life writes- “The sweltering inhabitants of Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta drink at my well. In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogenic philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conceptions.”

Russell, the English philosopher who argued for a scientific society writes- “I read Hinduism and realized that it is for the religion of the world and all mankind. Hindutva will spread throughout Europe and in Europe, big thinkers of Hinduism will emerge. One day it will come that Hindus will be the real stimulus of the world. “

What is the base of India’s great spiritual culture that deserves such eulogy from these great teachers, thinkers and philosophers? They were not obviously referring to the pantheistic beliefs and practices of the vast sections of ignorant Hindu population and their superstitions, about the snake charmers, the relentless feuds between hostile castes, clans and regional states or about the culture of animal and human sacrifices, bride burning, rape and inhuman murder of helpless women etc. These famous thinkers found inspiration from the great metaphysical teachings of the rishis and sages of India that form the true Sanatan Dharma principles, which have hardly anything to do with the priest mediated temple oriented Hindu religion, often referred by scholars as Brahmanical Hinduism. Very less people, scholarly and otherwise, including the Hindus seem to realize a lack of clarity occurred in understanding the true basis of Indian spirituality.

Unlike the Upanishads, the later Vedic age along with the Puranas, vast majority of Indians engaged in religious rituals on a daily basis. Observation of rituals differ greatly amongst regions, villages, and individuals of our country. Devout Hindus perform daily chores such as worshiping puja, fire sacrifice called Yagna at the dawn after bathing at a family shrine, and typically includes lighting a lamp and offering foods before the images of deities, recitation from religious scripts like chanting hymns in praise of gods etc...

That religion doesn’t always equate to spirituality in India has long been evident. India has a ghastly talent for crimes committed in the name of religion, and the centuries-long volley of attacks and counterattacks between Hindus and Muslims continues to play out in increasingly grim ways, whether its blowing up trains (Samjhauta Express), or killing persons for their eating habits ( UP, Jharkhand etc). Of late, the clashes and counter clashes in Sabarimala temple is an eye opener. In so many ways, the idea of India being ‘পুণ্যভূমি’ or ‘blessed land’ appears to be lost. The claim that Indian people as a whole is morally less corrupt, emotionally purer, idealistically less worldly, in short, spiritually more elevated than the bulk of the western society, is to disregard the reality.

Where the country’s ancient temples were once gorgeously carved stone structures intended for quiet contemplation, its new temples are often heinous marble and gold behemoths that resemble giant shopping complexes – appropriate perhaps for a country that increasingly worships at the altar of commercialism.

So, where have we gone wrong? From the Advaita philosophy or Upanishads that preached Nature worship, the spirit of inquiry was lost with time. Rationalism along with its spirit of inquiry gave place to blind ritual without any scientific temper. As to the question what is spiritualism, the answer would be it is the inner quest; a pathway for reaching the higher truth in life; a composite thinking for enlightening the realities of life, for considering challenges of life, human values and their evaluation. The last constituent of spiritualism is ethics reflecting the finer side of Indian culture, which emphasizes unity in diversity, and treating the entire universe as pervaded by one Almighty Brahman. Some treat spiritualism as identical with religion, religious cults and practices, which is not the case. Basically, spiritualism differs from religion. As religion affirms a faith or belief on God’s supremacy over the beings through many ways and observed through practices that differ widely across sects, spiritualism is unique and transcends rituals across religions.

A notable feature in religious ritual is the division between purity and pollution. Religious acts presuppose some degree of impurity, or defilement for the practitioner, which must be overcome or neutralized, before or during ritual procedures. Purification, usually with water, is thus a typical feature of most religious action. Other characteristics include a belief in the efficacy of sacrifice and concept of merit, gained through the performance of charity or good works that will accumulate over time and reduce sufferings in the next world.

While there may be Rationalism related to Spiritualism, religion rituals are a sort of doctrine. While Europe, discarded to a large extent all evil practices related to Christian religion along with rituals and what remains may be insignificant, India seems to be still on the throes of Irrationalism. S. Radhakrishnan, a panegyrist of Hinduism, in his lecture (Madras 1936) said-” There has been a cleavage between the Enlightenment, Humanism, and Rationalism of the West and Spiritualism of the East. Rationalism, Enlightenment, and Humanism – these are keynotes of Western civilization. “So, do we remain content without Rationalism, Enlightenment, and Humanism?

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