(This article was written in 2008 during the Birth Centenary Celebrations of the second Sarsanghachalak of the RSS PP Shri Guruji – MS Golwalkar)
Three famous ideals that inspired the French Revolution i.e. Liberty, Equality and Fraternity have subsequently found place in almost all the democratic constitutions of the world including ours. Liberty and Equality are the ideals that can be achieved through constitutional means. But for achieving Fraternity we need something more than constitutional means.
That is why Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Architect of our Constitution had attached greater significance to this ideal of Fraternity.
“What does Fraternity mean?” he questioned, and went on to explain that “Fraternity means a sense of common brotherhood of all Indians – of Indians being one people. It is this principle that gives unity and solidarity to social life.” (B.R. Ambedkar and Human Rights)
Fraternity is not just an institutional reality like Liberty and Equality. It has an emotional quotient – a feeling of brotherhood and oneness. The national mind has to be trained through Samskaras to acquire this feeling.
Samata, Samaanta and Samarasata – These three words are quite common in our public parlance. Samata is equality in thoughts; Samaanta is equality in law; but Samarasata is equality of emotions and feelings. For achieving Samarasata – social harmony to put it simply – fraternity is the basic requirement.
Bharat from time immemorial has championed the idea of the quintessential oneness of the universe. World’s ancient-most literature – the Vedas – categorically reject the idea of inequality and insist upon oneness at the emotional level and equality at the mundane level.
Ajyesthaaso Akanisthaasa Yete
Sam Bhraataro Vaavrudhuh Soubhagaya
‘No one is superior or inferior; all are brothers; all should strive for the interest of all and progress collectively’.
Samaani va Aakootihi Samaanaa Hridayaanivah
Samaanamastu vo Mano Yathaa Vah Susahaasati
‘Let there be oneness in your resolutions, hearts and minds; let the determination to live with mutual cooperation be firm in you all’.
It is worthwhile to mention here that it was much later and very recently that the world had come up with the ideals of French Revolution or for that matter the first Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) that exhorts:
‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’
However, in its long journey of thousands of years that very nation which had offered such lofty ideals to the mankind landed itself in a state of decay and disintegration. Several social evils and weaknesses have crept into the body politic of this ancient nation. Over the years its diversity became its disunity; institutions came to represent its decay; and social evils like untouchability and caste discrimination became rampant.
There was never a scriptural sanction to social evils like untouchability and caste discrimination. In fact the history of the progress of our nation is also the history of countless social reformers, saints and savants who struggled against these social evils thus ensuring unity and longevity of our nation.
Adishankara’s Advaita to Gandhiji’s Ram Rajya and Ambedkar’s social movement; Ramanuja’s Visisthaadvaita to RSS’ Hindu Rashtra – countless reform movements have swept across this vast nation over the ages with the singular objective of preserving the unity and harmony. Buddha, Mahaveera, Basaveshwara, Kanakadasa, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Narayana Guru, Dayananda Saraswati, Tilak, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Savarkar, Jyotiba Phule – endless is the list of greatmen who have sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of achieving the lofty ideal of social harmony.
The RSS is the continuation of that great tradition set in motion by the above-mentioned savants and social reformers. The founder of the RSS, Dr. Hedgewar was anguished by the utter disunity in the Hindu society and was inspired by the efforts of great social reformers. While starting the RSS he had only one vision – of a nation rising like one man symbolizing all that is good in its ancient wisdom and discarding everything that is alien to its core thought of universal oneness.
He did not preach much; but the institution of the RSS that he had created spoke volumes through its activity.
In 1934, when Gandhiji visited a 1500-strong Swayamsevaks camp at Wardha in Vidarbha, he was pleasantly surprised to find that the Swayamsevaks were not even aware of the castes of one another, not to speak of any idea of untouchability. Later, he invited Dr. Hedgewar to his Ashram and enquired about the RSS’ activities. The visit had left such a deep impression on Gandhiji’s mind that he referred to it full thirteen years later. In his address to the workers of Sangh in Bhangi Colony at Delhi on 16th September 1947, he said, “I visited the RSS camp years ago, when the founder Shri Hedgewar was alive. I was very much impressed by your discipline, the complete absence of untouchability and the rigorous simplicity. Since then the Sangh has grown. I am convinced that any organization which is inspired by the high ideal of service and self-sacrifice is bound to grow in strength.”
When Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar visited Sangh Shiksha Varga in Pune in 1939, he was also surprised to find the Swayamsevaks moving about in absolute equality. When Dr. Ambedkar asked Dr. Hedgewar whether there were any untouchables in the camp, the latter replied that there were neither touchables nor untouchables, but only Hindus. Recording his appreciation Dr. Ambedkar said: “I am surprised to find the Swayamsevaks moving about in absolute equality and brotherhood without even caring to know the caste of the others.”
Sri M.S. Golwalkar alias Guruji, who became the Sarsanghachalak of the RSS in 1940, was originally molded in the tradition of those great saints and sages.
“While the present day West has not been able to go beyond the motto of the ‘greatest good of the greatest number’, we have never tolerated the idea of a single human being, nay, even a single living organism living in misery. ‘Total good of all beings’ has always been our glorious ideal”, exhorted Sri Guruji. He worked relentlessly for 33 years with that as the mission and left an inerasable imprint on our national life.
It was under the stewardship of Sri Guruji that the Sangh work had expanded to include a large number of activities for the welfare of tribals and backward classes. Many organizations and activists were working among these sections striving for their upliftment. However Sri Guruji insisted that the reform is needed not just in the backwards and tribals alone, but in the so-called Savarnas as well.
Dr. Ambedkar, fully endorsing the views of Sri Guruji, had said that it is not enough if the activity of Dalit Uddhar is limited to the Dalits alone; it should come from within the so-called Savarna society also.
In a sense Sri Guruji made the ideal of Dalit Uddhar not a voluntary activity, but a natural and fundamental duty of the entire society. “It is our utmost important duty to serve the brothers who are neglected and we have to improve their life in various fields. We have to prepare plans for this” he told the Hindu society.
As mentioned above Samarasata is emotional oneness. In order for this to be achieved we need to remove the mental blocks in various sections of our society. Our society is divided in to various castes and sub-castes. Some castes are considered high and some others low. There is a misguided hierarchical caste structure still in vogue. It is creating great fissures in our society.
Several reformers have tried through several means to achieve harmony. Gandhiji gave the name Harijan to a group of so-called lower castes and tried to impress upon the rest of the society that they were the Men of Hari. Dr. Ambedkar wrote a book titled “Annihilation of Castes”. Socialists have tried to create ‘Caste-less Society’ through organizations like ‘Jaati-Paati Todak Mandal’. Each had their own experiences at the end.
Sri Guruji adopted a totally different approach. Instead of working on the differences in our society he emphasized on the fundamental unity of our nation. A major landmark in this direction was the starting of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in 1964. Awakening the age-old wisdom of fundamental oneness of the universe and ideal of universal love in the society is the best way to achieve Samarasata, according to Sri Guruji. He chose the VHP as the vehicle for achieving this transformation in the society.
The 1969 conclave of the VHP in Udupi was a major turning point in the history of the Hindu society in this regard. For the first time in recent history a large number of saints and savants from almost all traditions and denominations of the Hindu society had come together under one umbrella of the VHP. Sri Guruji had personally invited each one of them and supervised the whole conclave.
A historic resolution was passed by all the assembled Mahatmas unanimously that read: “It is now up to us to go to those neglected brethren of our society and strive our utmost to better their living conditions. We will have to work out plans by which their primary material needs and comforts could be fulfilled. We will have to open schools, hostels and training programmes to equip them to benefit from these schemes. Alongside this material amelioration, love and pride in Hindu Dharma and the spirit of identity with the entire Hindu society have to be rekindled in their minds through the channels of devotion to God. For that we have to give up notions of high and low and mingle with those brethren in a spirit of equality. We should freely mingle with them, eat with them and sing the songs of devotion with them.”
A momentous occasion in the Hindu history came when the Pejawar Mutt Swamy Pujya Vishweswar Teerthaji gave a clarion call from that dais: ‘Hindavah Sodaraah Sarve’ (All Hindus are brothers and sisters) and ‘Na Hinduh Patito Bhavet’ (A Hindu can never be fallen). He also gave a new Mantra to the Hindu society: ‘Mama Deeksha Hindu Raksha – Mama Mantrah Samanata’ (Protecting Hindu society is my mission and equality is my Mantra).
The RSS has tread the path set by the revered saints and covered a large space in achieving social harmony. There cannot be any revolutionary solutions to the disharmony that we witness in our society. Caste system, which has become the central reason for disharmony today, needs to be reformed. “Old order passeth yielding place to new lest one good custom corrupt the world,” said A.L. Tennyson in the Passing of Arthur. But this change can be achieved only through sustained and positive efforts and a deep commitment to the fundamental cultural unity of our society.
If today the RSS stands like a beacon of that unity in the otherwise strife-torn and disharmonious Hindu society it is because of the stewardship of great social reformers like Dr. Hedgewar and Sri Guruji only.