Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Part 1 - Inherent Unity, Diversity and Propagation of Bhaaratiya (Indic) religious memes.

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The religious paths of Indian origin belong to the civilizational and cultural scaffold of Bhaaratiya civilization. The paths which are today considered as religions of India are basically different schools of thoughts propagated by different thinkers and philosophers in Pre-Islamic India. Here is the gist of how Indic paths in general and Astika orthodox paths in particular amalgamated to form what today is known as "Hinduism".

1. The paths like Vaishnava, Shaiva, Gaanapatya, Shaakta are all forms of Dvaita Vedanta. 

2. The local gods and goddesses of villages and tribes are often affiliated to either of these deities which are in turn affiliated to Vedic philosophy via Dvaita Vedanta system. Every goddess of even a remote Adivasi tribe in jungle can be a considered as avatar or form of Devi. In the essence, there is no conflict whatsoever. Most of the local gods are affiliated to either Vishnu and his family, Shiva and his family or Devi. The rites of passages are different amongst different people. It is uniform only in Brahmins and to certain extent Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. The acceptance and penetration of Vedic ceremonies is differential amongst the fourth varna of society which is largest and most complex and which controlled all the land and technological knowledge.

3. As long as the followers don't have any problem with Astikas associating their deity with some established deity, it doesn't really matter. So a local god of some village becomes some form of vishnu or shiva or some other god who is family member of either vishnu or shiva. Hence, prayers for shiva, for example, become applicable to the local god as well. This assimilates the god in the Hindu pantheon and provides acceptability of that particular god and his followers in mainstream society. this does not necessarily mean the adoption of Vedic rituals for performing rites of passages for all assimilated "gods" and their followers.

4. Buddhist, Jains, Charvakas and to certain extent Sikhs, categorically denied the acceptance of Vedic supremacy. Although I am not sure about Sikh path. This was a denial on very fundamental level. Hence, they emerged as Nastika philosophies.

5. Now, on philosophical grounds, different Astika philosophies accept supremacy of Vedas to different aspects. Mimamsa is atheist and is completely subservient to Vedas fanatically. Saamkhya and Yoga accept Vedas partially. Vedas are mosaic of many different opinions. Some opinions are theistic, some others are atheistic. Mimamsa, Saamkhya, Vaisheshika, Nyaya and choose the agnostic part of Vedas and arrive at conclusion that there is no Ishwara (God). Vedanta and Yoga read the same Vedas (some other arguments) and arrive at the conclusion that there is Ishwara.

6. Naastika arrive at similar conclusions and many of their arguments are based on Vedic literature. But Astikas treat Vedvakyam (statement in vedas) as PramaaNam (valid proof) in any argument. Naastikas do not.

7. This is strictly on philosophical level. On general level, ordinary man and tribals never give two hoots about agnosticism in Vedas and questions asked therein. They did not categorically deny the linking of their deities with some other deities who were linked with Vedic philosophy. They continued worshipping as they did before this linkage. Just that the Astikas started calling this newly assimilated tribe and god as Astika. Thus we ended up with 330 million gods.

8. This Astika traditions were named as Hinduism by British for political reasons.

9. the differences of opinion between Astikas and Naastikas were strictly about personal perception of divine. This had nothing to do with their dharma in society and their socio-politics. All Indics were identified as Hindus by outsiders, irrespective of such personal convictions. 

10. Thus, while dealing with foreign civilization, it becomes irrelevant to talk in term of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism etc. Because foreign civilization did not care to understand the way we differentiate ourselves on basis of personal convictions. They categorised us as Hindus. Or Indics. Or Bhaaratiyas. 

11. Hence, while dealing with Non-Indic civilization, our identity should be that of Indic. in Pre-Islamic times we dealt with outsiders as Indics and not as individual religions.

12. This is how indic civilization assimilates countless gods, philosophies, ideologies without denying space to anyone. The only pre-requisite is, keep the faith and beliefs personal and follow your Dharma irrespective of your personal belief.

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