Text of Shri Ram Madhav’s address at the 103rd Pt Deen Dayal Upadhyay Memorial Lecture at Jayanagar in Bengaluru
Today is the 103rd birth anniversary of Pt. Deendayal Upadhyay Ji. Deendayal Upadhyay Ji was a Sangh Pracharak seconded to Bharatiya Jan Sangh in the early 50s. He had served as its General Secretary for over 16 years and as its National President for about two months.
At a time when he was to take the Bharatiya Jan Sangh in a new direction and give Indian politics a new message and direction, destiny had other plans for him. Two months after taking the position of the President of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh he died under mysterious circumstances and his body was found by the side of a railway track near Mughal Sarai Railway station in Uttar Pradesh.
Today, Deendayal Ji is remembered for his significant intellectual contribution to India’s national life. He propounded of a new idea called ‘Integral Humanism’.
Deendayal Ji was in politics for 16-17 years. Param Pujniya Guruji used to say that Deendayal Ji was a reluctant politician, meaning; he was in politics out of compulsion and not out of desire. He was a quintessential Swayamsevak and a dedicated pracharak. So while being in active political life, he also pursued the path that he had inherited from his RSS pracharak days. He propounded the theory of integral humanism although he did not get enough time to develop it into a well-flowered political thought.
As I said, he started articulating it sometime in 1965. The first four lectures happened in April 1965 and in 1968 he passed away. But in the short duration of a couple of years’ time he had been able to throw some light on the core idea of Integral Humanism.
Subsequently many intellectuals and thinkers have developed it, added their wisdom to it, and tried to develop and evolve it into a coherent political thought. I would like to place a few dimensions of that political thought before you in today’s lecture in Deendayal Ji’s memory. So don’t expect anything political from me today. It will be more about Deendayal Ji’s thought process and how it has contributed to developing a new political thought not just in India but also for the entire world in the last millennia.
In the last few millennia, scholars of the world have tried to come up with a number of political ideas. It all started with the great Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle. They are considered to be the fathers of political thought in Europe and the West. The central idea of the Western and European thinkers has all along been to create a homogeneous model or a homogeneous philosophy for the entire world.
That became the obsession of the European religions also. When religious ideas started flowering in the Semitic lands of Europe they also started flowering with this one idea that European religious thought should become the Global thought. They tried to develop religious philosophical ways of life and naturally assumed that religious philosophy or way of life would one day become the way of life of the entire humanity. It’s more about creating a uniform homogeneous world. It then slowly and gradually entered into the political arena as well.
By 19th century the American political thinkers started believing that America is destined to spread its influential thought over the entire world. The proverbial American way should be the way of the entire mankind. After the Second World War, Theodore Roosevelt, who was the then President of the United States of America, had declared that now there will be one international political order guided by the western powers. The whole idea and obsession has been that we should create a homogeneous world, which will be guided by western politico-religious thought.
There were people who disagreed. Like communism that rose as an antidote to the Western political thought. But the communist ideology did not survive for long. In less than 7 decades the ideology had collapsed in all the important parts of the world. When the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990’s the Western political thinkers started believing with much more firmness and conviction that at least now there is nowhere else for the world to go.
In fact in 1989 Francis Fukuyama, the famous Harvard Professor, wrote an article in a very prestigious American journal titled ‘The end of history’. The theme of which was that with the collapse of communism, with the collapse of Soviet Union, history had come to an end. Whatever remains for the mankind in future will be the American way. There is no need for any other thought anymore because every experiment has collapsed and the final collapse was that of communism. So he developed it into a full thesis in 1992 and published a book, ‘End of history and the last man’. So strong was the obsession to the thought that only way for mankind is the American way.
Not known to many of the Western scholars right from Plato to Fukuyama was that there has all along been a very coherent religious socio-political thought process vibrantly living in one part of the world namely India. When Plato authored the book Republic he called for what he described as the philosopher kings. But what did he mean by that? By philosopher king what he meant was that the king should be some sort of a spiritual being. He should not be just somebody who is hankering after power. Kings should belong to a spiritual plane. But even before Plato was born, in India, we had King Kanaka who used to be called Raja-Rishi.
That there existed an alternative and coherent thought process in the world somewhere else was not to be recognized and accepted by the Western scholars. So they insisted that western and Semitic ideas would dominate the world henceforth. We do not have any quarrels merely because these ideas are from the west. In fact we in India have always believed ‘Kano bhadraha Kartavo Yant Vishwathaha’, meaning ‘let noble thoughts come from all sides of the world’. In fact Gandhiji used to say that I would like to keep my doors and windows open.
What Gandhiji said at that time was keep everything open, let good thoughts come from all sides of the world and we believe in that. So if the West had any good credible view, we would not have any objection. However, the West always believed in creating a homogenous world order. We have always believed that homogeneity is against nature. There is diversity which is the reality of mankind and this creation. We always believed that any effort to create or homogenize or create uniformity is against the very nature of this creation.
We cannot have only one religion in the whole world just as we cannot have just one political model in the whole world because diversity is the reality. Although it is another matter that when we study diversity is a reality we also know that there is an inherent and innate unity within this diversity, an idea that keeps all of us together. So, we always maintained that let us respect this diversity and nurture the unity. This has to happen together and this is the belief system that we developed.
In fact, a lot of discussion happened in our own country, for example Adi Shankaracharya in one of his famous statements said that “Brahm satyam jagan mithya” the reality is that truth is divine but the reality is also an illusion. The truth is divine, the world is an illusion. There are different interpretations of it.
Some believe that the whole world is an illusion. Is it? We are living in it, it is there in front of our eyes. What Adi Shankara meant was the universe that you see with all its attractions ‘Moh and maaya’, that is an illusion that is not permanent. Hence illusion is not in the physical world but it is in your mind. It was a very deep philosophy but when people failed to understand it, the Great Buddha had said, “Because this world is an illusion, I want moksha”. So people started hankering after moksha or salvation. All effort was being made to attain moksha like doing penance.
The entire idea of penance is with the desire that you should get moksha. So after every 5 minutes you will open your eyes and see that I have achieved moksha or not. Buddha said moksha is not somewhere else, Moksha is where you are. You cannot search for it elsewhere. His words were “Dukh nirodh is moksha” that is what you call Nirvana. The moment you mitigate the suffering that is moksha. Then people argue that why should we do ‘tapasya’ and penance? That is precisely what the meaning of this life is. There will be diversity and conflicts and when you end the conflicts and sufferings you have moksha.
So we believed that you couldn’t create a homogeneous world in this creation because it is not possible. Deendayal Ji like many Indian scholars had developed a wonderful concept called ‘chiti’. Why can’t you do that after all there is this universe we can try and create a uniform universe. Like many others scholars in India Deendayal Ji said that it couldn’t happen that way.
There is notion that Germans don’t laugh. What do you mean by that? Do Germans really not laugh? But there is this general feeling about Germany that if there is one German alone he will put a world map in front of him and look for weak countries. When the second German joins him, they will start planning for aggression on the weak countries. When the third German joins, they actually set out for war. They became responsible for 2 World Wars. But that doesn’t mean that Germans are bad. I am just telling you how the world looks at it. In 1989 when the two Germany-s got united, people rejoiced. But at the same time other countries started fearing about what might happen again.
A handful of Britishers went to different parts of the world and conquered half of the globe. So much so that the British Empire used to be called an Empire on which the sun never sets. They created such an empire with only trade as a weapon. I am saying this because each nation has a peculiar characteristic of its own and you cannot create a homogeneous world. Every nation has a different civilizational experience. I will give you three or four examples about us, which will make this argument clearer for you.
Suppose you have gone to Niagara Falls, which is between Canada and USA, some of you might have gone there for vacations etc. You see a lot of places of leisure such as hotels or pubs where people enjoy. Suppose Niagara is located somewhere near Haridwar. What would happened to it? In place of hotels you might find dharamshalas and ashrams. Same Niagara, when it is in the border of Canada and USA it is a different type of place but when it comes to India it becomes different. Why so? Because we are different.
Some of you might have visited the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall of China is supposed to be 3900 km long wall built over 1500 to 2000 years. The wall is so sturdy and big that you can run trucks on that wall. Why was that wall built? The Chinese had a problem of invasions from the north by Mongols who used to come and attack China. In order to prevent the Mongol attacks from the north, China built a 4000 kilometer long wall to protect their kingdom. Now my simple question is- where from have all the aggressions on India taken place in the last 1000 years? From one mountain pass called the Khyber Pass. Every aggression whether it was Ghori or Ghazni or the Mughals, all of them except the British because they came on ships. But all others right from Alexander to the Mughals came from the Khyber Pass. Did it ever occur to any Indian king that let us shutdown that pass and build a wall there. They didn’t because we don’t believe in shut up and close – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
In Mahabharata when both the armies were standing in front of each other and the war was about to start, What was the first shloka in the Bhagavad Gita? It starts with a phrase “Dharma Kshetra Kurukshetra” you are waging a war but you are describing the war as a dharma yuddha. Even war has to be righteous. Around the same time when we were learning about Bhagavad Gita around 2000 years ago one Chinese strategic thinker called Sun Tzu had authored the book on war called The Art of War. The profound statement of ‘The Art of War’ is that the art of war is the art of deception.
Look at the difference, we are saying that war has to be righteous and our neighbor is saying that deception is war. Why don’t we say that deception is war? Because we are not the same, we are what our civilizational history has made us. That is the difference.
If you ask me why we think that way, probably I cannot explain it to you.
Why was Ghori pardoned 17 times by Prithviraj? Because Prithviraj was on this side and Ghori on the other side. Why on the 18th time, Ghori, when he got the opportunity did not pardon Prithviraj?
That difference is what Deendayal ji called as the chiti, which means your soul experience, your innate character. What you are today is a product of your character. You won’t be like any other race in the world because you think differently.
When you go to a poor village in any corner of India and choose the poorest household of that village and go to the oldest woman of the hut. She will be old weak and sick but just listen to her morning prayer. Her morning prayer will be “Ganga Maiya ki jay ho, Gau Mata ki jay ho, Tulsi Maiya ki jay ho, ending with the statement lok kalyan ho- let the whole world be happy”.
Nobody taught her this but it is her ‘swabhav’, the very basic character. This is what is called the ‘chiti’ of a nation. As individuals have their own ‘swabhava’, nations too have their own swabhava. This swabhav of a nation that is product of millennia old civilizational history is what Deendayal Ji used to call as ‘chiti’.
What he used to insist was that when you want to develop your country you cannot have a model that is applicable to another country because their swabhava is different. There was a lot of discussion at the time of independence as to which model should be followed. In fact Nehruji was asked what will be the model of India’s development once you become independent. Nehru said that we are going to build a democratic socialist republic in India because he learnt those words from Europe. He declared that Indian thinking was retrograde and European ideas are best suited for India.
The same question was put to Gandhiji. Gandhiji being ‘transparency personified’ said that post-independence India should be a Ramrajya. But what is Ram Rajya? In Ramrajya, when one citizen objected to Sita coming back to the palace as the queen, she was asked to leave. I am not a supporter of that whole process. Whether what Ram did was right or wrong is another debate, it can have a feminist or a humanist angle but the basic concept is that if even one person doesn’t agree it has to be considered. It is not a case of a majority and minority, in India there was never an issue about majority and minority.
In fact India’s experience was so different that you never had this kind of quality in India at all. India always used to be a self-governed country, every unit used to be self-governed, the lowest self-governed unit used to be Kula (not necessarily the caste of today). Above Kula used to be a village which is a self-governing unit. Above village used to be a Janapada which can be understood as a group of districts of today. Above Janapada used to be the king and his empire. Every unit used to be self-governing.
Even when Prithviraj was fighting with Ghori the common villages were concerned with their own lives as nobody would bother about political power in this country in the past. For them political power is only a limited power, the real authority that people used to accept, as authority, was spiritual authority. There are numerous instances where people would simply reject the kings. Because you believe in a different kind of system where guiding forces is not political power but something else.
Some tried to bring a western model of government in this country. One set of leadership believed that the European model is best for India. Gandhi Ji in 1946 warned that the leadership was making a mistake, like they were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. But for us to understand that this borrowed model would not work for us would take 50 years. Because our experiences and concepts were different, the ‘Chiti’ the soul of this country was different.
Another example, at the level of God- The conception of God in the west and the conception of God in India is totally different. On a lighter note, a European will sit under a tree and collect people and tell them that I am the agent of God. God has sent me to enlighten you because in the Semitic concept god does not reveal himself. In fact in the Semitic belief God has no form, he is formless but he nevertheless is a He. So, a man will sit under a tree and teach people that I am the Son of God, and I am here to take you on the right path. Another man will be sitting on the tree and says, “Don’t believe him, I did not send him. He is not my son”.
On the other hand for us God is omnipresent and is everywhere and our thinking is based on that. That is what is called as Chiti. Our religion is different in which we are not believers but seekers. We don’t pray, we invoke. We are not praying to God in a form or anything else but we are seeing ourselves in that form. Western concepts have said that there is one God therefore they question Indian polytheism where multiple gods exist.
Swami Chinmayanand humorously used to say that at one instance he was travelling in a train when a missionary tried to test his knowledge because of his saffron robe. He spoke to him about his religion and the confusion, which lay behind practicing polytheism. Chinmayanand Ji said “Let us suppose that this train meets with an accident then what will you do?” The European answered that “I will pray to Jesus and Jesus will save me”. Swami Ji again questioned him, “What if another accident takes place in some other part of the world? In such a case what will Jesus do? In India we will first of all ask Lord Rama if he is free, if he is busy we will ask Lord Krishna, if not we have 330 crores of Gods in which someone would be free and they will come and save us.”
We do not consider idols as God themselves, these are merely manifestations. Followers of the Christian faith say that we are idol worshippers. We do worship stones but, let me ask you, what is worshipped in a church? Isn’t it a Cross? Is cross not a stone or a metal. If it is not then you should be worshipping every telephone pole because every telephone pole is a cross. You won’t do that because you worship it if that is inside a church. Once inside a church it acquires a certain sanctity. So when you worship, whether a stone or a wooden idol that idol is what is worshipped, that form is worshipped. For them there is one God but for us there is only God. The difference being that for us whatever is there is God.
Our whole approach to religion and philosophy is different. Earlier I mentioned about Adi Shankaracharya ji said about Brahma Satyam. What is the truth? He said God is only truth. But what is truth can be debated. In our country you make cinema actors and actresses as gods and temples are made for them, but are they Gods? This can be debated upon. The whole pursuit of human life is to realize truth. So in a life whatever is debated or discussed upon is to achieve the truth. That is Brahma and that is Satya. That Satya is what you have to realize. That is what is taught in our country.
According to our philosophy when we disagree with someone we don’t say that you are an idiot, we say that what you are saying is valid but not just this alone. Truth is much beyond what you can see. So the Hindu way of life is constant enquiry and pursuit of truth and that is what is called as Hinduism. Whereas in the Western world, the final truth was revealed 2000 years ago. The question is not whether they are right or we are right. It is just that we are different, as our Chiti, our soul, is different.
As I said, we don’t believe that the whole world should be a monolithic world. We believe that there should be a multiplicity of religions. We actually say that all paths lead to the same door, so our religious philosophy agrees that pluralism should exist. In fact Swami Vivekananda went to Chicago to speak at the Parliament of the World’s Religions 125 years ago. He said that I come from a country where diversity is not just tolerance. In 1893, when the World Parliament of Religions was organized, the central theme was tolerance.
Vivekananda said that we should not only talk about tolerance because tolerance has arrogance in it. He said that we don’t just tolerate, we accept and validate every faith. We not only accept, we celebrate diversity. We do not say that only I should survive and all of you should perish. We don’t even see man as a superior being because every creature is divine.
You may have heard about the Sant Namdev story. Where Namdev was making rotis for lunch and suddenly a dog came, snatched a roti and ran away. Namdev went after the dog not with a stick in his hand but with a bowl of ghee saying that don’t have a dry piece of roti. This different thinking about the whole world and life is what Deendayal Ji used to call as the Chiti or the innate swabhav (inner soul) of this country. Every institution developed in this country should reflect this character.
You cannot incorporate other models that you find attractive, but you have to bring out your own models. Because this is such a well-thought-out Chiti that it has the potential to develop the best model for mankind. But first of all you will have to appreciate the profoundness and greatness of the swabhava of this nation. Even this is not Dharma, Dharma is a byproduct of this Chiti. Based on the core product of the swabhava you have developed the Dharma which are a set of values.
Many writers have misinterpreted Dharma as the way of life. A way of life is in every religion, Islam has a way of life and Christianity also has a way of life. It dictates its followers to follow a specific way. We have the only philosophy that does not recommend a way of life, everyone can have their own way of life, you can even reject God. It is not ‘jeevan paddhati’ but ‘jeevan drishti’. This Jeevan drishti is what we called as Dharma is a result of chiti, the innate soul of India. Post-independence we failed to appreciate this and Deendayal ji tried to remind us about that soul of India. He tried to give it a structure and wanted to develop a full-fledged socio-political model based on that Chiti. But as I said he did not get enough time.
Let me conclude with a quote by Arnold Toynbee, the renowned historian. What he said about this particular thing about India. He said, “My first point is that India occupies a key position in the world and has always done so. My second point is that India is the epitome of the present day world. And my third point is that in India there is an attitude towards life and an approach of handling human affairs that answers the needs of the present situation and this is not only inside India but in the world as a whole”. This was Arnold Toynbee in the 60s. You have an approach to life that has answers for the mankind. That is what Deendayal ji called the Chiti of this nation which needs to be appreciated by us so that our institutions and our lives are different. That is what Deendayal ji attempted through his integral humanism and through many scholars in the country, we try to take it forward.
(Click here to access the video of the address)