We are fortunate to be living in a time when an old era is ending and a new one is
about to begin. We are fortunate not because we have the opportunity to witness this
grand turn of history. We are fortunate because we shoulder the responsibility of
carrying forward the events that will usher in an epoch of peace and prosperity for
the whole world.
The past millennium has been most violent in mankind’s history. Unprecedented
genocides were committed during the past thousand years. Wars during the
millennium were more devastating than ever before. Slavery, inquisitions,
witch-hunting, ethnic cleansing, colonialism, imperialism, carpet bombing, nuclear
weapons – are some words that illustrate the character of the past one thousand
Rising beyond the past thousand years, today when humanity is looking with hope
for the next thousand years there is growing realization that some fundamental
changes are needed in today’s paradigm of human thought, which has been shaped
during the past thousand years by increasing influence of one-book religions. As the
world looks to redefine the paradigm of human ideas, relationships and
organizations, there is growing interest in the religions that existed prior to the rise of
One-book religions have often used the term “pagan” as a derogatory term for all
native religions that did not follow any one particular book. Let us continue using the
term (in the absence of any other more convenient term) without any derogatory
connotations. Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism are some of
the leading pagan religions alive today. But there were many others including
practices and belief systems of natives of Europe, Americas, Africa and Australia.
It is worth noting that the pagan religions never had any mutual animosity like the
type seen among the one-book religions. Relations between different pagan religions
have always been friendly and based on mutual trust, cooperation, respect and
learning from each other’s experiences and knowledge. There has always been a
spirit of tolerance, understanding and exchange between different pagan religions
with no one claiming to be the only true one or being superior to everyone else.
Even though each pagan religion was independent and equal to every other one,
Hinduism enjoyed a position of friend, philosopher and guide for all other pagan
religions. This central position of Hinduism was surely not evidenced by any formal
declaration. Nevertheless, in an informal way Hinduism was critical and important
source of strength and guidance for all pagan religions across the world.
As the interest in pagan religions grows across the world and as people seek to go
back to their native religions, the interest in Hinduism is also growing. Pagan
religions often appear to be loose, contradictory, ill-defined, nebulous set of rituals,
practices and beliefs. This is so largely because of the tendency to see pagan
religions through the eyes of one-book religions. There is clearly a need to
rediscover or redefine the intellectual or philosophical framework that for centuries
formed the backbone of almost all pagan religions.
In this context, it is interesting to look at the intellectual philosophical framework or in
other words the paradigm of Hinduism as it existed in ancient times. This paradigm
may probably be useful to define (or rediscover) an ideological structure for other
A word of caution at this point – Hinduism does not seek to impose its framework on
any pagan religion. Let no one smell any attempt to proselytize. The Hindu way is
always to utter and not to argue. There is no attempt to even convince.
But before taking up the exercise of rediscovering the intellectual framework of
ancient Hinduism it is necessary to go back in time and understand the reasons for
the debacle of Hindus and Hinduism. Surely, some weakness had crept into the
Hindu thought process. Understanding that weakness and removing it is a challenge
that the Hindus must face up to.
In the past thousand years, Hindus were under attack. The religious mindset that
evolved during this period was either defensive or provided a sedative to relieve from
the pains. As Hinduism seeks a new role on the global arena in shaping human
thought, in defining human relationships and in helping human beings live a more
meaningful life, it needs to shed the defensive as well as sedative roles and
rediscover its old historical self of one and a half millennium ago.
The process of rediscovering the ancient Hinduism and of it becoming a guide for
thought process of the world is not motivated by any individual’s or group’s or
nation’s desire for hegemony. The motivation is a deep-rooted desire to lead the
world to a new era of peace, prosperity and well-being. The motivation is to heal the
wounds of the past thousand years. It is time to liberate the human mind from the
cast iron walls of one-bookisms, clergy, church and such other institutions.
In the past century while shaking off the chains of one-bookisms, human mind
moved towards the other extreme of anarchical individualism and materialism. It was
fine to shed the burqa (veil) and the mindset wherein taking a bath was an act of sin,
but feeling proud of displaying one’s genitals in public is surely as ridiculous and
needs to be condemned in as strong terms. Not surprisingly, presently the world
seems to have got tired with the twentieth century’s concept of freedom even though
one does not want to go back to the dark middle ages.
The human race is groping for a new intellectual paradigm that will provide the
middle path between the burqa and the bikini. Hindu renaissance seeks to provide
the middle path. Hinduism is on one hand critical of the do-all-that-pleases-you
attitude and on the other hand refuses to see human beings as sheep. It provides
one freedom within the broad constraints of social good leaving micro-level decision
making to each individual.
When one looks at mankind’s journey spanning many millenniums, an individual is
an infinitesimally small entity. The author of this manifesto is no exception. He has
no illusions of being able to shape history of mankind. The movement of history
happens due to reasons and forces that we can never fully understand. Each one of
us can only play a small role in this grand movement. As mankind moves to the
direction of Global Hindu Renaissance, let us all join this turn of events and shoulder
the responsibility that is cast on us.
B. Historical Perspective A – The Reason for the Fall
Let us go back in time to about 1000 CE. At that time all Abrahamic religions or
one-book religions were fringe entities. Though no reliable statistics are available, it
may be reasonably assumed that, followers of one-book religions constituted less
than 5% of world population at that time (currently, they account for about 50% of
world population). Europe had not been Christianized except in small pockets.
Americas and Australia were unknown to Christian missionaries and Islamic armies.
Africa (excluding some parts in North) had neither Islam nor Christianity. Most of
Asia had never heard of one-book religions.
In the pre-1000 era, there were many popular religious traditions – all locally rooted
in their respective regions. Yet, these traditions were linked to each other at a
philosophical level. All of them respected and worshipped nature. All of them helped
a human being live a more complete life. All of them stressed on basic human values
like family, love, kindness, social responsibilities etc. It can even be said that they
shared a perspective of the world. To understand the religious traditions of that era, it
is useful to consider a large banyan tree with multiple roots – each root as important
as the other with no single root in a position to claim the right to be the main trunk.
Names of specific regional religious traditions are not important. We need to look at
the character and not the names. The commonality of character is undeniable
whether one is looking at the pre-1000-CE traditions of Africa or Australia or
Americas or Europe or Asia.
During that period, the universities or centers of learning in Indian sub-continent (and
probably in some other countries like China) provided useful intellectual guidance
and support to the global thought and faith process. The destruction of centers of
learning in Indian sub-continent after 1000 CE, hence, delivered a major blow to the
global religious traditions, which were called as pagan in a derogatory way by
The fall of temple of Somnath (located in the state of Gujarat on the western coast of
India) in 1024 CE by an Islamic invader was the beginning of the process of
destruction of centers of learning in India. It represents a key event in world history.
Egypt and Iran had been conquered before that. But India was a prize catch – not
only because it was a rich country but because the country was one big impediment
in the path of the spread of one-book religions. The country’s institutions had the
best libraries in the world. The respect that her centers of learning received across
the world was something to be envious of. During the next few centuries, the
invaders made sure that they burnt every library and also every book that they could
lay their hands on. Of course, it may be mentioned here that they had earlier done
the same in Egypt and Iran. The scale of destruction in India and its global impact
was much more immense.
It is said that all wars are first lost in the minds then on the battle field. Two centuries
before the fall of Somnath the intellectual class of India had started moving towards
what has been called as Vedanta (literally meaning end of Vedas or what comes
after the Vedas). Different schools of Vedanta do some fine hairsplitting on various
metaphysical and philosophical questions. Without getting into the details, one can
observe that Vedanta focused on Moksh (salvation) while the earlier thought was
focused entirely on Trivarg (Dharm, Arth and Kaam). In a way, Vedanta was a
turning point in the religious thought of that time. Suddenly, the world was being
seen as an illusion (maya). Surely, there were bright arguments that could dazzle
anyone into believing that world is indeed illusory.
Studying philosophy as a young student, one is often impressed by smart quotes like
– “A man slept and dreamt that he was a butterfly. He woke up and wondered
whether it was a butterfly dreaming that it was a man or a man dreaming that it was
a butterfly.” In due course, one learns that such smart twist of words is good to
impress people about one’s intellectual powers but in reality they are diversions that
must be avoided. The Vedanta school of philosophy did not (and has not) learn this
The illusionism of Vedanta combined with focus on Moksh led the centers of learning
across India on a wild-goose chase. They ignored development of science and
technology tying themselves in beautiful knots over meaningless metaphysical
debates. It is also likely that they discouraged the kings from spending on armies
and armaments; and encouraged them to spend on temples to make sure that they
got moksh. It is interesting to note that Shrimad Valmikiy Ramayan (excluding Uttar
Kand) makes no mention of moksh. In Mahabharat (excluding Moksh Parv and
subsequent chapters) the consistent and oft-repeated line of thought is that there is
always doubt about moksh, so one should only pursue Trivarg (Dharm, Arth and
Kaam). Obviously, the Uttar Kand, and Moksh Parv were added to the original texts
by Vedanta schools of thought.
The contradiction of Vedanta (and moksh-centric thought) with the original texts is
too glaring to ignore. It can be said that pre-Vedanta Hinduism was practical
down-to-earth and realistic while Vedanta converted Hinduism into a spiritual pursuit
far removed from the realities of day-to-day life. We do not know when the move
towards Vedanta started but we know the effect that it produced. By 1024 CE, the
time of fall of Somnath, Vedanta had become central to the accepted academic
thought in almost all Indian centers of learning.
If world is an illusion, why bother about it? Development of science and technology
or even armies and arms surely cannot be a priority for someone who is aiming for
the reality beyond the illusion of the world. The reality beyond the illusion is to be
achieved by rituals and other procedures like elaborate worship. So, rituals and
worship became central while pursuit of understanding of mundane stuff like warfare,
armaments, equipments etc. were relegated to some dark dirty place outside the
centers of learning. This was also the time when many centers of learning changed
their focus from learning and teaching to worship and prayers. This was the
metamorphosis of a university into a temple.
Of course, it must be stated that the metamorphosis was a slow process and even till
the end some centers of learning retained their character. In 1193, the University of
Nalanda was ransacked and its library was burnt. Somnath was a temple and
Nalanda was a university, which continued to exist for almost 170 years after the fall
of Somnath. It may be mentioned here that there is no mention of any temple in
either Shrimad Valmikiy Ramayan or in Mahabharat.
The conversion of universities into temples far removed from education of worldly
subjects is a historical blunder that occurred under the influence of Vedanta and
moksh-centric thought. Some might put this blame on the feet of Adi
Shankaracharya. However, it seems reasonable to say that while he might have
played an important or even critical role, blame for the grand madness that gripped
an entire civilization with a global footprint must surely rest on many more persons.
As a result of the historical blunder, armies lost their cutting edge. Battle of Somnath
was lost in the classrooms of Indian universities much before Mahmud of Ghazni
was even born. The crippling effect of Vedanta and moksh continued on Indian mind
for many centuries even after the fall of Somnath. About two centuries after the fall of
Somnath, Arabs learnt gunpowder technology from Chinese while Indians did not.
Invaders coming from around 1300 CE till the time of Moguls in 1526 CE took
advantage of the technological superiority achieved by use of gunpowder to defeat
Hindu kings. Even during Mogul rule, while fighting with Hindu rulers the Moguls
enjoyed the benefit of gunpowder. It was only in the latter half of seventeenth century
that Moguls faced two adversaries who knew the use of gunpowder – Guru Govind
Singh and Shivaji. Both employed Muslim experts to build their cannon power. Sure
enough, both of them sounded the death knell of Mogul empire.
Another instance of inability of Hindu mind – numbed by Vedanta and moksh – to
assimilate technology was seen when Europeans (British and Portuguese) landed in
India. By that time Hindus as well as Muslims knew the use of
gunpowder in cannons, but the miniaturization of the technology
to guns or rifles was not learnt. Till as late as the first Indian war
of independence in 1857, Indian forces were fighting with swords
against British soldiers who had guns. Almost every major North
Indian town has a statue of Queen Laxmi Bai of Jhansi who died
fighting very bravely against the British. The statue always shows
queen with a sword in her hand. The Queen had a sword while
every British soldier had a gun. What chance did she have?
Talking of India’s freedom movement, it is worthwhile to note that the collapse of
Indian struggle in 1857 had killed all hopes of the country’s independence. The work
of raising the consciousness of the country out of the despair that it had fallen into
was the work of two Hindu sanyasis (monks) – Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati and
The mainstream flag bearers and thought leaders of Hinduism opposed tooth and
nail both Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Swami Vivekanand just as they had
opposed Guru Gobind Singh and Maharaj Shivaji.
Shankaracharyas and such other designation bearers of Hindu religion avoided
playing any role in India’s freedom struggle. They had a justification for doing this.
They argued that they were concerned with religion and spiritual matters. They did
not want to get their hands dirty with politics or for that matter with anything worldly –
all that is maya (illusion). Of course, they had no qualms about collecting gold and
silver by tons. The schism between the spiritual world and the mundane realities of
day-to-day life was (and is still) a convenient one for all those who live a so-called
religious or spiritual life. They bury their heads in sands of Vedanta when it suits
them and jump out when they see an opportunity to collect money.
The flag bearers of Hinduism who see spiritual and real life as two separate worlds
ignore the fact that the foundation epics of Hinduism – Shrimad Valmikiy Ramayan
and Mahabharat – are stories of war. The persons that Hindus hold in the greatest
regard – Ved Vyas, Ram, Krishn, and Arjun – are all men of action who did not
spend their life chanting away hymns. In fact, in both Shrimad Valmikiy Ramayan
and Mahabharat, the persons who get killed and lose the war are the ones who
spent huge time in worshipping one deity or the other. Ravan, Indrajit, Karn – all of
them were great devotees. Karn’s worship of Sun was legendary. Mahabharat
mentions about how he used to stand in waist-deep water from dawn to dusk facing
the sun. Yet, the cosmic being had to plan and ensure his defeat and death.
Let us get back to our attempt to understand the history of past one thousand years.
The fall of Somnath was the first among a chain of events across the globe. A
massive banyan tree had been infected by a virus which led to its primary trunk
becoming weak causing a breach in its immunological systems. What followed was a
devastation that could never have been imagined by human mind before that day.
The worst possible genocide was committed in every part of the world.
Christianification of Europe was a bloody affair with massacres, harsh inquisitions
and witch-hunting continuing for more than five centuries. What Europe saw was
surely nothing compared to what the natives of Americas, Australia and Africa had to
bear. Asia had its own share of troubles with Islamic as well as Christian armies. Just
about a century ago, China had to suffer Opium Wars. Less than a century ago,
India suffered man-made famines that killed millions.
Sure enough, not all of this bloodshed was caused by armies of one-book religions.
Mostly it was caused by secular armies and institutions driven by greed. The fact is
that generally speaking in the past one thousand years the sufferer was often a
pagan and the suffering was inflicted by a follower or pseudo-follower of one-book
religions. In all cases the institutions of one-book religions (Church or the Islamic
heads) either directly supported the act of inflicting pain, suffering and bloodshed or
at least looked the other way. The world cannot forget the support extended to
slavery and colonialism by the Church as well as by the Islamic wise men. The script
for Opium Wars was written by Christian missionaries. The Churches in Kolkata
continued to serve bread and wine even as millions starved to death in the Bengal
No, we do not complain. We are not even surprised by the behavior of the clergy and
wise men. They did what seemed (and still seems) right to them. Our complaint is
with our own wise men and thought leaders. Hindu shankaracharyas or such other
temple-heads have never spoken a word about Bengal famine. May we ask why?
While we leave it to them to answer such uncomfortable questions, let us just ignore
them and move forward in our study of history. Before that let us state the lessons
that we can learn from the ideological blunders that led to a thousand years of pain
and suffering for the world:
a) Moksh or liberation is an illusion that only leads to disaster. It is high time that
we purged our minds of Moksh.
b) The world is a reality. Anyone who argues otherwise must be ignored.
C. Historical Perspective B – Surviving After the Fall
It is indeed tough to live through a period of history when all the old institutions are
being destroyed and air smells of pain, oppression, torture and genocide. Keeping
one’s belief system intact is almost impossible in such difficult times. Europe
succumbed and adopted Christianity. Natives of Americas and Australia were wiped
out. West Asia and North Africa could not resist the Islamic onslaught and converted.
The only country that faced both Islamic invaders as well as Christian ones is India.
The unique aspect is that despite losing to both, a large portion of the population of
India successfully resisted both the one-book religions and retained their original
belief system in some form or the other. No other country in the world can claim this
Survival through thousand years of oppressive, torturous regimes was not easy for
Hindus in India. They could survive and save their ancient belief system partly due to
inherent strength of the belief system and partly because they were quick to adapt,
learn and modify.
Hindu religion and thought went through a transformation during the past thousand
years. As institutions of learning were being destroyed and social structure was
suffering shocks, a new movement emerged in Hinduism. The movement was based
on bhakti or devotion to an incarnation of the Almighty. Many Hindu saints that are
known today were part of Bhakti Movement. Goswami Tulsidas, Surdas and Meera
were the prominent saints of the movement. It should be noted that Hinduism prior to
1024 CE had no saints who laid stress on bhakti or devotion. Bhakti Movement was
a phenomenon of the millennium of pain and torture that Hindus suffered.
Bhakti Movement served a very useful role in the times in which it emerged. It helped
Hindus bear the pain. It helped to keep the flame of faith alive when there seemed to
be no hope. The description “opium of the masses” is a fitting one for the Bhakti
movement version of Hinduism. However, one must understand that a sedative has
a useful role when a body is undergoing a surgical operation. The painful incisions
that were being applied on the Hindu body could not have been endured if the saints
of Bhakti Movement had not provided their soothing touch.
With due respect to the great saints of the past millennium, it is time to move on and
shed the sedative lest it becomes a life-threatening habit. As Hinduism struggles to
rise up from the ashes of yesterday, it must grow out of its Bhakti Movement version.
It is time that we keep aside Goswami Tulsidas’s Ramcharit Manas and rediscover
the ancient Ramayan of Valmiki (excluding Uttar Kand, which was added much
later). It may be clarified here that moving away from Bhakti movement does not
mean completely giving up devotion to a cosmic reality or its manifestations. It is just
that the level of emphasis that Bhakti movement placed on bhakti is not acceptable.
It may be pointed out here that Bhakti Movement was a natural evolution from the
Vedanta or Moksh-centered thought that had gripped Hinduism for centuries before
the rise of the movement. We shall not get into the details of the process of that
evolution and shall instead look at another phenomenon that took place during the
In the previous section there was a mention of Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati and
Swami Vivekanand, the two great monks who played a historical role in kindling the
fire of India’s independence movement. Both were truly anti-thesis of Bhakti
Movement. They emphasized knowledge and action. They inspired people of India to
dream of freedom.
Arya Samaj and Hindu Mahasabha were the two pioneer nation-wide organizations
that pushed for India’s freedom. However, an interesting unintended offshoot of their
efforts was the association of Hinduism with the geographical entity called India.
One does not know how this falsity got coinage that Arabs who could not pronounce
Sindhu used the word Hindu to refer to all those who lived east of Sindhu. So the
word Hindu was denied any etymological links to Sanskrit or to the ancient
philosophical traditions. The Hindu organizations like Arya Samaj, Hindu Mahasabha
and later Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh found it convenient to lap up this falsity
primarily because it suited their nationalistic agenda. The inspiration that non-bhakti
Hindu thought provided to Indian nationalistic movement is a historical reality that led
to the collapse of imperialism across the world. But the unfortunate side effect of it
has been to limit Hinduism to a land-mass.
Sadly, the present-day so-called Hindu organizations believe in a definition of
Hinduism that is focused on Hinduism as a faith or way-of-life based on devotion to a
land-mass. This is most harmful to Hinduism as a global religion.
As Hinduism seeks to rise to provide friendship, guidance and support to
non-one-book religions across the world, it must first rid itself of all such
geography-centered definitions that cut it off from its true roots.
To sum up our review of the past thousand years of Hindu thought, we can say that
for a true Hindu renaissance, Hinduism must shed away the following two:
a) Bhakti Movement or a belief that bhakti (or devotion) can solve one and all
problems for an individual
b) Linking Hinduism to the land-mass called India
D. Some Definitions
The word “Hindu” is made of two words H and Indu. H means the sky and Indu
means the moon. This can be interpreted to mean that one who spreads cool light
like the moon in the sky is a Hindu. Another word associated with Hindu is Bharat. In
fact, Bharat is a synonym of Hindu. The word Bharat is made of two words Bha and
Rat. Bha means Light and Rat means the one who is full of or saturated with. In
other words Bharat means the one who is full of and spreads light.
The word Bharatvarsh has often been used for a large part of land. Varsh means
varsha or rain. Combining the meanings of Bharat and varsh we can understand that
the word Bharatvarsh was used for the region where the Hindu knowledge rained or
Essentially, both the words, Hindu and Bharat, refer to a person glowing with
knowledge. Hinduism accords the highest place to learned persons. A Hindu is
supposed to always respect the learned. This is one of the fundamental foundation
blocks of Hinduism – more about it later.
The totality of the sky including the earth and all other planets is named as Universe
or Cosmos and is known by the word Brahm in Sanskrit. This Universe or Cosmos is
shashwat or eternal, in other words it has always been and shall always be, though it
keeps changing. Hindu sees himself as a part of the Universe or Cosmos. A Hindu’s
belief, faith, actions, lifestyle, thoughts should be in accordance with the rules of the
Cosmos. There could possibly be different views about the Cosmos between two
persons due to different perspectives. However, if the difference of views is due to
different perspectives and not due to preconceived notions, both persons, though
holding divergent views are Hindus.
It is also necessary to understand the word Dharm. It is best to understand Dharm
as obligations cast upon one by relationships that one is part of. The word
Dharan and Dharm have the same root. Dharan means to wear or to carry and
Dharm refers to what is put on. Dharm can be compared to clothing. Just as a
person changes his clothes as per the time-place and his own personal
requirements, the Dharm for a Hindu is constantly changing. Dharm, on one hand
helps one live one’s life as per the requirements of the cosmos and on the other
hand, assists one in acting as per one’s own nature and aptitude. A more detailed
discussion on dharm will come later.
At this point, it is necessary to clarify that the word “dharm” is used with two different
meanings. In one sense, it refers to an individual’s obligations in a relationship. For
example, one can talk about one’s dharm to one’s father. On the other hand, the
word “dharm” is also used to refer to the totality of the belief system, ideological
framework and philosophical paradigm of Hinduism. Both the meanings are correct
and are used widely.
E. Overview of Basic Structure of Hindu Thought
The direction of arrows may also be reversed.
Hinduism is a comprehensive holistic thought system that covers every aspect of
human life. The above diagram illustrates the fundamental foundation blocks of
Hindu thought system. As shown in the above diagram, the three fundamental
foundation blocks of Hindu Dharm are as follows:
Trisutr – Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram – Truth, Goodness and Beauty
Respecting the Learned also called Brahmin. Notably, the Brahmin is never
worshipped. One respects the Brahmin and follows the path shown by the
Dev Life refers to living life like a dev. One must not confuse dev with the
concept of God as seen in all one-book religions. It is also important tounderstand that the focus is on living life of a dev and not worshipping a dev
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to Sri Anil Chawla ji and hindu samskrit dot com for the collection)