The Dharmic and Secularist Overlay to Society

Are we all essentially different at the core? Are our definitive ‘Religious’ differences encapsulated by our being Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain etc? Or is there a higher overall ‘law’ that governs our differences from getting out of control? Let us look at our history of a few millennia and observe why as a rule our different Sampradaya’s got along with each other without bloodshed and a lot of mutual respect, rather than fought with gore for exclusivist supremacy as has happened for hundreds of years in the West.

While as a Bharatiya Sanskriti we produced many Sampradaya’s/ schools of Religious thought, Religious orthodoxies and traditions, all these were strands of one aspect that none as a rule wanted to violate. These basic rules were that of Dharma. While interpreted in many different ways in modern times at least, we do have in ancient texts the fact that there were 10 basic qualities of Dharma. These are listed here:

1. Dhrti (patience)
2. Ks’ama (forgiveness)
3. Dhama (self-control)
4. Asteya (non-stealing)
5. Shaoca (cleanliness)
6. Indriyanigraha (control over organs)
7. Dhii (benevolent intellect)
8. Vidya’ (spiritual knowledge)
9. Satyam (Truthfulness)
10. Akrodha (non-anger)

So while we indeed did have ‘religious’ orthodoxy in many Samapradayic schools of thought, we also did have an overlay of respect to these 10 qualities. People expected compliance from their Rulers ,Society in general and the Guru’s and Rishi’s in particular. Importantly texts like the Mahabharata and Ramayana clearly depict Ram and Krishna fighting and exhorting to uphold Dharma and not some specific Sampradayic lobby of Vaishnavism, Gyaan Yoga, Dvaita or Advaita. Ram even spent time in the forests protecting both Vishwamitra and Vashista who had radically different Sampradayic approaches. Even in Krishna’s message to Arjuna he makes it clear the fight is for upholding Dharma and that many approaches to him exist in ritual and worship, but he at the end is the same Supreme.

Thus Dharma was the overlay holding together different Sampradaya’s religious orthodoxies together without conflict, as also the evolution of various deep Sampradayic thoughts and methods. It was something that India always has had reason to be justifiably proud of possibly more than any other country in the world. It continued to be so even with the advent of Christianity and Islam in India. But there was one danger we did not recognize. That while in India various Sampradaya’s upheld the sanctity of Dharma, the alien religious orthodoxies did not. For them their Sampradaya’s (in this Case Islam and Christianity) were uncompromisingly above all else, and the rules of Dharma did not apply. The alien ideology narrowly interpreted Dharma only with their Sampradaya’s religious orthodoxy, and the besiege of free thought of intellectuals affected in India’s dark ages could not demarcate with clarity the importance of the Dharmic layer over the individual Samradya/ Religious orthodoxy. Thus, the ritual and tradition triumphed over Dharma and this onslaught of making ritual and tradition non negotiable even in violation to the Societal Dharmic norms became acceptable. It was also that sense of ritualistic supremacy over Dharma that enabled hard anti-blasphemy and Apostasy laws in the Abrahmic West and not so in Dharmic India.

Now the same adherence to exclusivist orthodox religious rituals in Europe had come to such a pass, and at a time when Sanskrit texts flowing into Europe were changing thought paradigms of Western intellectuals, concepts to curb Religious orthodoxy like Secularism that separated State and Religion emerged. Thus in Europe, secularism became the overlay that tamed the supremacy of Religious orthodoxy within their geography to a large extent.

Now this convenient Secularist overlay was far inferior to the Dharmic one, for one simple reason. Sampradaya’s born out of respect for the Dharmic core created non controversial flow from one sampradaya to another till a person’s individual nature settled for a sampradaya based on Gyaan, Bhakti, Dvait, Advait etc. That is why even today Westerners are surprised why Hindu’s bow to Buddha, why Vaishnavs pray to Shiva, why Hindu’s rever Sikh Guru’s and bow in the Golden temple and why Jains celebrate Diwali or a Sikh Guru writes a version of the Ramayana. Freedom of Sampradayic change was all pervasive, and many brought up in the West for example, are surprised to know that every Buddhist canon of thought was promulgated  and propagated even to far off lands by Hindu Brahmins and Sages! That freedom of spiritual enquiry and propagation without violence could only happen in a society where the Dharmic overlay existed and not a Secular one. Yet our Western educated elite opted for the inferior latter version for overlay than adapt or rather evolve to our tried and tested Dharmic one to the modern constitution.

While the average Indian felt that all Sampradaya’s must beget same respect, what they failed to understand that some Sampradaya’s, particularly the Middle Eastern varieties, would not compromise on their ritual even if it broke Dharmic tenets and sensitivity outright. A secularism which succeeded in mostly Christian West failed in India, as in India the secularists interpreted it in terms of respecting the ritual and tradition however bizarre and violative of the Dharmic tenets it may be. At the threat of violence, Secularism was twisted to imply special safeguards for minority ritual and tradition even if completely violative of Dharma. That made India with every compromise, sadly Adharmic and the consequence was, as is on display, a directionless, confused nation without a backbone and little respect.

The only course correction at this stage is to get back again to the overlay of Dharmic values and put Ritual and Tradition below the overlay. It is a slow process, but the larger population must be led to discuss the Dharmic overlay necessary to form the Governing structure. At some stage ritual and tradition that violates the core of Dharma will have to be opposed and eliminated to maintain peace and harmony. Else the orthodox cults of ritual and tradition violative of Dharmic principle will inevitably take over Bharat and result in inevitable sorrow and pain .

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2 thoughts on “The Dharmic and Secularist Overlay to Society

  1. “Now this convenient Secularist overlay was far inferior to the Dharmic one, for one simple reason. Sampradaya’s born out of respect for the Dharmic core created non controversial flow from one sampradaya to another till a person’s individual nature settled for a sampradaya based on Gyaan, Bhakti, Dvait, Advait etc. That is why even today Westerners are surprised why Hindu’s bow to Buddha, why Vaishnavas pray to Shiva, why Hindu’s revere Sikh Gurus and bow in the Golden temple and why Jains celebrate Diwali or a Sikh Guru writes a version of the Ramayana”

    You have truly captured the spirit of Dharma. Hope every Dharmi learns about the underlying essence of the Dharmas that unite Dharmis.

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