Crossing The Line

What is the real nature of the attack on Sanatan Dharma? Can we understand the psychology behind it?

It’s not just Stalin Jr. who has crossed the line this time. There have been many others who have been fulminating against Hindu Dharma and its so-called social ‘ills’ and crying for its destruction. The tone may have varied, from insinuation to outright arrogance, but the sentiment has always been the same—Hinduism is an aberration. And they have crossed the line a hundred times, and a hundred times we have accepted, even forgiven, and perhaps not always out of strength. But now? Shishupala’s 101st strike?  

As of today, 262 eminent persons have sent a letter to the Chief Justice of India asking him to take cognizance of Stalin’s comments. Many have demanded unconditional apology. But then, will any of that make a real difference? The malaise goes far deeper. We need to address the fundamentals first. What, or whose, is this ‘Sanatan Dharma’ that these people are attacking? The ‘Sanatan Dharma’ that they so vehemently despise and attack is just the label, at best a euphemistic term for a Hindu Dharma they cannot fathom, and certainly not the Sanatan Dharma of the Vedas and the Upanishads, the Mahabharata and the Ramayan. That Sanatan Dharma is way beyond their pay grade. What they see and attack is the limited and fragmented ‘reality’ their gross senses and intellect project. To grasp the truths of Sanatan Dharma, one needs first to evolve from the crude rakshasic to something subtler, more refined, more sukshma. Remember, in the language of Sanatan Dharma, the “rakshasa” is not the monster of comic books but the representation of the Asura—the exaggerated ego, the arrogance and wilful violence of the petty-minded and the mean-spirited. Also remember, the rakshasa, typically, does not care for reason or rationality. Its ‘dharma’ is to provoke, confuse, mislead, disrupt.

And they attack Sanatan Dharma not because they understand it—and so despise it—but precisely because they do not. This is an old trait of the asura. To attack and destroy what they do not, or cannot, understand, what so clearly surpasses their understanding.

Therefore they take up a particular religious practice or social tradition—casteism, for instance—and superpose it on what they, in their wisdom, believe to be Sanatan Dharma. Then they condemn the Dharma—more accurately, their understanding, or rather misunderstanding, of it—and ask for its eradication because “it breeds inequality”. They do not, first of all, care to understand the Dharma they attack and insult. They have no idea of its foundational principles and values, its darshan, its worldview, or how it attempts to translate and organize them into social, political, economic and cultural systems. 

And because of this fundamental gap in their knowledge and understanding, they are clearly unable to trace back, or deconstruct, social and cultural customs and practices and see them for what they are: customs and practices that have evolved or devolved according to social and psychological dynamics playing out over generations. The precise reason why no religion, society, or system is exempt from flawed customs and unjust practices. In other words, they focus on a tradition without going into its larger or deeper human or social contexts. Like condemning the forest for a rotting tree.

This is intellectual laziness, harmless perhaps by itself, but pernicious and mischievous when brought into national political discourse. For then, it becomes a moral issue.

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