In my previous article I described Hinduism as Obsessive Compulsive Religion, and that its practices are rooted in the antiquated belief system of Brahmanism, the prevalent religion of India three thousand years ago. This explains why India has more gods, more mindless rituals, more bizarre superstitions and more fraudulent “holy men” than the rest of the world put together and why there is the pernicious caste system. The reality is that today more than ever before, highly educated people in India have fallen prey to the relics of Brahmanism such as superstitions, Yajnas, Poojas and Abhishekas dedicated to their personal gods. More than ever before, there is such frenzy in India to build huge ornate temples, some of which are covered with gold. More than ever before, today millions of Hindus are thronging to temples and donating their life-savings to them. And more than ever before religious frauds are thriving in India and abroad.
A comprehensive approach is needed
What factors in India’s ancient history contributed to these phenomena? What meaningful and sustainable remedies can we come up with to deal with these truly mind-boggling issues?
For one thing, without understanding the religious, psychological and historical bases for the irrational practices of Hindus, rationalist won’t be able to put forth an effective and scientifically sound solution, which engenders least amount of unintended negative consequences. Therefore, a detailed history of Hinduism going back to three thousand five hundred years ago; the process by which it came to be possessed by Brahmanism even after it separated itself from Brahmanism; a detailed study of all failed attempts in the past to overthrow Brahmanism, and, finally, a realistic assessment of why Brahmanism continues to have formidable influence on the psyche of Hindus, are essential for any rationalist to formulate a viable solution.
Never underestimate the formidable power of Brahmanism
Rationalist should never underestimate the indomitable power of Brahmanism. Brahmanism’s victory against every single adversary -Buddhism, Jainism, Lokayata, Ajivika, Upanishadism, Bhagavathism, Dasa movement- was always decisive and absolute as evidenced by its continued stranglehold on all aspects of Hindu society -cultural, social, religious and psychological. Today Brāhmanism pervades every atom of Hinduism. Hinduism, as we know it today, is the supreme symbol of how Brāhmanism prevailed through invasions, conquests, occupations, revolts, revolutions, reforms; how it tenaciously hung on to its hollow cultural traditions and mindless rituals; how it promoted the class and caste system just to maintain superiority of Brāhmins; how it destroyed religious adversaries entirely, and engulfed religious reformers completely; how it suffocated all dissenting sects and stifled dissident groups, and absorbed them all into its ever-resilient body; and how it inexorably dug its powerful nails deep into the body of the ever-assimilating and all-inclusive Hindu Dharma which succeeded it. It is also a testament to the infinite sustaining power of Brāhmanism, whose iron hand has had such ruthless grip on the psyche of a whole Indian nation for over three thousand and five hundred years.
Brahmanism’s “Deshabhaktha“ goons
Even in the twenty-first century, Brahmanism has millions of mindless goons ready to be summoned instantly to do the bidding of Swamis and Gurus, not to mention their political patrons. These goons have formed paramilitary outfits named after their gods and heroes. In the garb of Deshabhakthas, these miscreants will not hesitate for a moment to rush into their critics’ offices, destroy their property, manhandle their staff and set their building on fire. Little do these ignoramuses know that their true identity is that of Deshadhrohis, not Deshabhakthas. They have little regard for the long-term consequences of their criminal actions on the well-being of the democratic, diverse and freedom-loving India.
A scientifically sound approach
This being the case, what should be a rational and scientifically sound approach to this problem? Instead of engaging Brahmanism in sporadic and local skirmishes, we need to develop broad array of strategies and tactics based on fairly accurate assessment of the problem and realistic and achievable goals. Below, I have suggested a few broad strategies and tactics in dealing with the mindboggling problem we face in India. Other rationalists are welcome to add to or delete from this list their ideas based on their experience and expertise.
Suggested broad strategies:
1. It should be persistently pointed out to the religionists that their current belief system and practices are rooted in the remote past and they have little relevance to their present life circumstances. They will neither fulfill their desires nor protect them from the unknown evil. Practicing this religion is like flying a Boeing 747 using the flight manual from Kitty Hawk.
2. To buttress our point of view, we should systematically expose the literary fraud perpetrated by Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya and Madhvacharya who misinterpreted, misrepresented and obfuscated various literatures of the ancient anti-Brahmanic movements such as Upanishadism.
3. We should educate the religionists that their current Dharma is India’s Constitution. They should be encouraged to abandon all Dharma and seek refuge in the Constitution of India alone. The Constitution will give them all opportunities to lawfully fulfill their own desires, and protect them from all evil forces (corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, police, etc.).
4. Dharmo Rakshathi Rakshatah: This Dharma will protect him who protects it. Protecting this Dharma consists of exercising their right and carrying out their responsibilities as enlightened citizens of a civilized modern Nation.
1. Empathize: We cannot change religionists by confrontation, argument, threats or condemnation. We must show empathy for their predicament. They are no different than patients I see who are trapped in their mindless rituals. We must avoid ridiculing their beliefs, gods and practices. No one can be changed by means of these methods. We must win their respect and trust by our own scientific temperament, honesty and rational behavior. The religionists should have faith in the purity of our intentions and fairness in our approach. Besides, we must accept the reality that deep-rooted beliefs and behavioral patterns are extremely difficult to change. And so we must be patient.
2. Educate: We must attempt to enlighten the educated people about the irrationality of their behaviors by means of sensible articles, books, seminars, and public discussions. Rationalist activists must have good knowledge of the historical roots of people’s current irrational behavior. We cannot just tell them, “Stop behaving this way!” We must show them why it is in their own best interests to do so. Very often just knowing the basis of one’s irrational behavior is enough to give it up. We must then give them a realistic alternative belief system and rational behaviors rooted in them. Exposing Brahmanic fraud against anti-Brahmanic literature will be part of this effort.
3. Demonstrate: Rationalists should hold public demonstrations for the benefit of less educated Hindus to debunk tricks and magic by which “holy men” bewilder people and swindle them. Many rationalists have been doing this very successfully all over India.
4. Promote the Constitution: Rationalists should educate people about the fact that the Constitution of India is their New Dharma and its practice consists of defending, protecting and strengthening it by constantly exercising their rights and responsibilities as citizens. If there is an organization dedicated to protecting the Constitutional rights of people, such as Civil Liberty Union, we should support it wholeheartedly.
5. Fight injustice: We must recognize the fact that the widespread corruption we encounter with bureaucrats (modern day Brahmins) and politicians (modern day Kshatriyas) has its roots in the corruption evident in the nexus of Brahmins and Kshatriyas three thousand years ago. Rationalists should be at the forefront of movements, which expose fraud and corruption practiced by the elected officials, bureaucrats, judges and police, who are all supposed to be the guardians of Indian Constitution. Corruption and oppression undermines rationalists’ work to instill faith in the Constitution. It is a sad commentary that people have more faith in the fraudulent guardians of Brahmanism than these crooked public servants. Consumer movements to fight political and bureaucratic corruption and Human Rights movements to fight oppression should be part of rationalist movement.
6. Promote social activism: We need to induce people to invest their energies into socially relevant tasks such as improving civic amenities, sewage system, garbage collection, water supply, electricity supply and the like instead of wasting them in mindless rituals. Service of people is service of their new Dharma.
7. Moral education: Brahmanism had one major advantage over the Constitution of India: it had literature, such as the Mahabharata, which taught people morals. Since the Constitution does not teach people morals, but merely punishes them for breaking the law, some non-religious system to educate people to distinguish right from wrong must be developed. History teaches us that without a strong moral foundation all societies perish. Parents and teachers should start teaching children morals at an early age. There is an urgent need for a Book of Virtues, a Book of Morals and a Book of Etiquettes for young Indians. Success of all civilized societies rests on these three foundations. To its credit Hinduism did have a strong tradition of teaching morals, which more recently has fallen by the wayside due to its preoccupation with mindless rituals. We must identify moral moorings of ancient India and readily acknowledge them. We should not throw out the baby with the dirty bathwater.
8. Fight caste system: We must expose the irrationality and anachronism of caste system. We must come to the assistance of those who have suffered injustice on account of their supposed “lower caste” status.
9. Identify the wisdom from India’s past. It is said that wisdom comes from experience; experience comes from stupidity. We are all products of India’s past. While we should reject mindless rituals and fraud associated with Hinduism, we should diligently search in India’s past any wisdom we can use in the present instead of condemning all of it as obsolescent. For example, the Upanishadic wisdom, which was directed toward corrupt Brahmins and Kshatriyas, that their obsession and entanglement with wealth, power, people, honor, title, heaven and the like led to their self-destructive and evil acts, is as true today as it was twenty-five hundred years ago, and will be as true twenty-five hundred years from today.
10. Be careful: While attempting to reform society, all rationalist must keep in mind the dictum that all solutions for societal problems, no matter how noble their original intents were, become problems themselves sooner or later. This is especially true in India. Don’t be surprised that someday in the future Rationalism will become a religion riddled with gods and mindless rituals! People bring into organizations their own unconscious beliefs and behaviors rooted in them and destroy the original goals of the organization. That is exactly what happened to Buddhism, which was born from revolt against ritual-ridden Brahmanism. Brahmins infiltrated Buddhism and made it into the mirror image of Brahmanism.
(To be continued)
Dr. Prabhakar Kamath, is a psychiatrist currently practicing in the U.S. He is the author of Servants, Not Masters: A Guide for Consumer Activists in India (1987) and Is Your Balloon About Pop?: Owner’s Manual for the Stressed Mind.