Tuesday, February 17, 2009

existence of Hinduism

3. Let me provide an imaginary example and draw an analogy. Imagine someone coming to earth and noticing the following phenomena: grass is green, milk turns sour, birds fly and some flowers put out a fragrant smell. He is convinced that these are organically related to each other and sees 'hipkapi' in them. The presence of hipkapi not only explains the above phenomena are but also how they are related to each other. To those who doubt the existence of hipkapi, he draws their attention to its visible manifestation: the tigers eating the gazelle, dogs chasing the cats, and the massive size of the elephants. Each of these is a fact, as everyone can see it. But, of course, neither severally nor individually do they tell us anything about hipkapi. When more like him come to earth and reiterate the presence of hipkapi, other conditions permitting, hipkapi not only becomes a synonym for these (which?) phenomena but also turns out to be their explanation. Thereafter, to ask what hipkapi is, or even how it explains, is an expression of one's idiocy: does not everyone see hipkapi, this self-explanatory thing?

This is what the Europeans did. The puja in the temples, the sandhyavandanam of the Brahmins, the Sahasranamams, etc. became organic parts of the Indian religion. Purushasukta was the cosmogenic explanation of the caste system, and untouchability its outward manifestation. Dharma and adharma were the Sanskrit names for 'good' and 'evil', the Indian deities were much like their Greek counterparts. To the missionaries, we were the idolaters; to the emasculated liberal, we are mere polytheists. In the analogy I have used, the visitor 'constructs' the hipkapi. To him, it becomes an experiential entity. He talks about this experiential entity, as his fellow-beings do, in a systematic way.

The facts exist; does the hipkapi exist? This is the issue. Puja in the temples, the sandhyavandanam of the Brahmins, the Sahasranamams, the Purushasukta, our notions of dharma and adharma, etc. all exist. Does their existence tell us that 'Hinduism' also exists? Are they organic parts of a phenomenon called 'Hinduism', even if that phenomenon is not a religion?

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