Hon’ble Governor of Tripura
At the outset, I would like to thank Sri H.P. Kanoria for organising this seminar and for inviting me to talk on this occasion. I am particularly enthused by the presence of H. E. Rosalia Arteaga Serrano from Ecuador because we know so little about Latin America. Coming back to the subject of spirituality, this is a field where Dr. Kanoria has been researching for a considerable period of time and he has been holding meetings like this frequently. He has also been kind enough to invite me to such meetings regularly. I should also express my gratefulness to Sri Mani Shankar Aiyar for bringing up the subject of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru because I have something to say about the gentleman although from a very considerably different point of view.
In the history of the twentieth century India, we had seen two basic streams of spirituality. In one stream, the pioneer was a person who was known as Swami Vivekananda. He had formed the idea after travelling for seven years through the length and breadth of the country without a penny in his pocket. He did not have any pocket at all. He was just wearing a saffron cloth and moved primarily on foot. Another person who has drawn upon him is Dr. Sarvapally Radhakrishnan, who has explained his ideas in his own language.
The other stream is of course headed by Jawaharlal Nehru and these two streams have flowed simultaneously and the fact that there have been able to flow side by side indicates that there is something very special in the chemistry of our country which has allowed two conflicting views to flourish.
What allows these conflicting views to flourish? What allows spiritual religious ideas to coexist with an anti-religious idea which is engrained in India? What were the ideas that Swami Vivekananda put forth and which Dr. Sarvapally Radhakrishnan paraphrased?
He had said that Indians see everything through the prism of religion. Here I must join issue with Sri Mani Shankar Aiyar. He tried to draw distinction between religiosity and spirituality. I do not see such a distinction. But what we have here are the different religions of India and different kinds of thoughts of Indians. I would begin with the school of thought that Swami Vivekananda put forth. He said Indians see everything through the prism of religions and other countries may not necessarily do so. Perhaps the British see everything through the prism of politics and the Americans see everything through the prism of social reforms. But Indians can’t think of anything other than religion. If you want to bring religion out of the heart of Indians, you are trying to do something like pushing the Ganga up from the sea and into the Himalayas. Dr. Radhakrishnan paraphrased by saying, “Whatever your inspiration, your motives might be in furthering public goods or whatever political thoughts you may follow you will never succeed in your efforts unless you have the dynamic inspiration of religion behind you.” He had found it through research. Swami Vivekananda had found it by braving the heat and dust of India.
The opposite school of thought is led by Jawaharlal Nehru. He had found it by education in Harrow and Cambridge. The topicalities of Harrow and Cambridge in forming a set of ideas which would apply to India is of course open to question and I doubt it. Nehru among other things was anti-religious. He had said it very clearly in his ‘Discovery of India’. He had mentioned that India needs to move away from religion and towards science. Leaving apart the question that if you move simultaneously further and further up along the ladders religions and science, you arrive at a point where they begin to merge into each other.
This is a thing that Dr. Kanoria has repeatedly referred to but I shall not digress. All that I will say is that Nehru’s ideas have proved fruitful yet defective for India. Couple of days back, in a post-editorial in a popular Bengali daily, a scribe was writing that somebody had asked Jawaharlal Nehru what would be his principal task on becoming the prime minister of an independent country. Nehru had thought for a moment and had said that it would be his duty to take the country away from religion. He was talking about India, a country which has been weathered by religion. In other words, he was trying to fit a square peg into a hole and of course, he did not succeed.
He did realise the essential plurality of India, something which Mani Shankar Aiyar had referred to at length. He had said that earliest Christian churches happened to take root in India. The Muslims had been living in India as the prominent minority of the country. Jains have been here and so have the Buddhists. The Jews had come and settled to escape persecution and could live peacefully. The Zoroastrians who were driven out of Persia could settle in our country. I do not disagree.
But what was the amalgam that had made this coexistence possible? In my humble submission, it can only be what is called by Sanatana Dharma which allows a catholicity of faiths to exist under its umbrella, under which you can accept God as a human being, as a male, as a female, as a child, as a non-being, as something like the Nrishingha Avatar which is half beast and half man. He can even cease to exist. Hindu faith or Sanatana Dharma has space for agnosticism or total atheism in the philosophy of Charbakas. In my respectful submission, it is this umbrella nature of Sanatana Dharma which has made it possible for so many different thoughts and so many different faiths to exist in this country. And this is why so many schools of spiritualism have flowered in this country. Under the umbrella of Sanatana Dharma, we have Shankhya Darshan, Vedanta Darshan, Adwita, Vishishta Adwaita, Dwaita and several others. I am no authority to go into its details but I am stunned by the sheer plurality of our civilisation.
The umbrella-like nature of Sanatana Dharma was unfortunately missed out by Jawaharlal Nehru. What he was trying to bring in was an alien philosophy of secularism, which did not work and which is not working. It has given rise to two partitions and has not succeeded. I must express that I am no authority. I am trained as a civil engineer and I am trying to form ideas by reading and these submissions are the few ideas of spirituality which I have formed.