09 Jun 2017 05:35am IST
Fr. Antonio Rodrigues
Soon the 70th anniversary of the Independence Day will come along and the Nation will rejoice and spend time in thanking and praising the Nation for all achievements. And now that three years have passed since the ruling party is in power, more praises have already been generously showered. No doubt there was place for this. But what about some failures which also happened to be there, are we to ignore them? Does our maturity allow such behaviour?
The first for which I worked during my teaching days for years and in different places to imbue students with was: our National ‘Ethos/ or character’ or our national culture is and always was “dissent and tolerance” and this from the time of Vedas and Upanishads. Our very Indian people, the ŗishis, who gave us Upanishads criticised or rather corrected the Vedas, regarding important points like the number of Devas. They said the Vedas say Devas are over three thousand etc and the rishis in the Upanishads taught that the Supreme God is actually ‘ekam eva’, (one only). They even condemned the sacrifices of ‘dosas’ and ‘purodosas’ offered to gods saying they were meaningless. The Chandogya Upanishad openly criticises the behavior of the Purohits and goes as far as comparing them to the dogs seeking food. Here is a satire found in the Chandogya and translated by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan (p.357, of his famous book ‘The Principal Upanishads’) “Now next, the udgitha of the dogs. Baka Dalbhia or Glava Maitreia went for study of the Veda. Unto him there appeared a white dog. Other dogs gathered round this one and said ‘obtain food for us by singing. Verily we are hungry’.
3) Then he said to them: ‘Come to me here tomorrow morning’. So Baka Dalbhya or Glava Maitreya kept watch.
4) Just as priests when they are about to chant the Bahispavamana hymn (the introductory hymn) of praise, move along, joined to one another, so did the dogs move along. Then they sat down together and made the noise ‘him’
5) (They sang) Aum, let us eat. Aum let us drink. Aum. May the god Varuna,Praja-pati and Savitŗ bring back food here, yea bring it here. Aum’.
The Upanishadic authors were not condemned but all these older Upanishads were taken as part of Veda and called Vedanta as we have it today, showing us modern Indians our real character or culture is, namely “dissent and tolerance”, but what do we see today? A student of JNU, Delhi spoke out an opinion either through ignorance or malice, that opinion had to be debated at the University so that the student is not confirmed in his stand if found wrong, but that is not what was done: the Police took the boy to the Court to seek justice and an advocate with his lawyer’s paraphernalia attacked him physically! Neither dissent nor tolerance is shown to be part of modern Indians’ ethos!
Never in India authorities interfered with what people eat.
There was always respect for dissent and tolerance but today people are told regarding their menu. And one effect of such a policy: when our athletes went to compete among athletes at the Rio Olympics, other athletes in whose Nations no body interferes with their food, our athletes could not win one single Gold Medal, though ours were in big numbers. Gold was won by other Nations even much smaller than ours! We have ignored that type of food have different supply of calories. Bolt who wins Gold at the Olympics declares that he eats beef twice a day!
Are we to do nothing about this situation of interference? The cow was honored in India for ages but the humans weren’t ill-treated because of the cow or cattle, today humans are beaten up and killed to protect the animals. Such behavior never took place in India where there were 700 Hindu States even when the British left India. And I ask weren’t they practicing their Hindu Religion? And I further ask ‘are PM’s Yojnas announced to help humans in old age are these to be extended to the cattle and cows, for these too are to be fed and cared for in their old age? Or are the animals to be left in misery? Already there are reports of cows dying unattended in our streets and nobody doing anything about it even when the carcass is rotting.
As a boy, I remember how great flocks of cattle were periodically made to march along all the way from Maharastra to Panjim market and nobody in Maharashtra or elsewhere objected. Are we to say today’s Bharatas are better than our centuries old ancestors? Actually our ancestors were both wise and real Indians who knew our culture of “dissent and tolerance”. Is the State to tolerate today the behavior of so-called “cow vigilantes’ and the policies” of those supporting them, unheard of for centuries in our vast Bharat?
Then the problem of Kashmir, our beautiful Kashmir where we used to go for relaxation is in trouble and it is in the agenda for solution. But what is being dealt with is only superficial for the real problem is not being dealt with and what is it? The old occupants or inhabitants of Kashmir have been displaced. And how the displaced are in misery, while others want to be happy! Is this aspect, fundamental to the problem of Kashmir being dealt with? In my long teaching days in two Colleges at Bengaluru, preparing students for BA and St John’s, Hyderabad, and at Morning Star College, Barrackpore, near Kolkota, also examining some for MA, at Mysoru University and at Paloti Institute of Philosophy, Assagao, Goa, I often had to correct or evaluate papers on Kashmir Saivism and I knew there were Pandits there carrying their work. Where are they now? Why not deal with their situation first? to solve this fundamental problem. God is ekam eva, The Real (sat) “satyasya Satyam”,who gives meaning to everything. He is father of all and concerned for all.
So our old, ancestral, centuries old culture of “dissent and tolerance”, to be tolerant while having to dissent is being ignored even by some authorities today. Of course there are other important lessons the Old Upanishads teach but we can’t deal with them just now.