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Puppets of Faith: Theory of Communal Strife - II
As opposed to the purported revelation of the God’s ‘chosen path’ to man through some messiah, which forms the basis of the Semitic faiths, the essence of Hinduism has been for one to adhere to his dharma, supposedly sanctified by Gods in communion with the seers. And dharma, though varies from man to man, per se is the common course for the salvation of the souls. It is this salient feature of its religious character that gives Hinduism its theological variety and philosophical edge, sorely lacking in the Semitic faiths, each moulded in the persona of its prophet.
Well, in the Semitic religions, the essence of the faith is the implicit obedience to the Almighty, and the strict compliance with the dogma enunciated by the messiah, ostensibly received from the Creator. Moreover, it is incumbent upon the faithful to treat that ‘the God’ showed the right path to His prophet for the believers to unquestioningly follow. Besides, it is the unique feature of the Semitic religious dogma in that the messiah is believed to be endowed with the power of intercession on behalf of the faithful on the Day of Judgment. If anything, this precept seems more pronounced in the Christianity and Islam than in the Judaism. This unmistakably led to the Semitic habit of the faithful looking up to the messiah to help them attain salvation, or reach the paradise as the case may be. Intended or otherwise, the messiah became the fulcrum of the faith as well as the icon of the Semitic religious ethos. In the process, as it were, the Lord of the religion gets relegated to the background.
In such a religious setting, it was only time before the vulgar minds insensibly allowed the prophet to rule their religious space in the practice of the faith, supposedly founded by him at the behest of ‘the God’. The Semitic idea of decrying idol-worship, ostensibly to let ‘the God’ not suffer any rivals, seems to have been diluted by the gentiles who embraced the Christianity in the medieval times. Of course, that was well after Moses’ Hebrew herds worshipped that golden cow in the ancient times. At length, in the practice of the faiths, this ‘no rival to the God’ dogma turned out into an ‘accent on the prophet’ culture. But in the end, the Christian model insensibly found the savior sharing the ecclesiastical dais with the exalted preachers of his faith. And seemingly Islam wanted to avoid that ever happening to its prophet, and designed a mechanism to preclude that forever. But in the process, the Musalmans came to condition themselves to revere the Prophet rendering Islam into Muhammadanism in practice.
In the realms of Hinduism, even as one’s religious ethos is to seek God’s favor for his moksha, in the philosophical sense he perceives Him as his own spiritual self, aham brahmasmi brahma. Conceptually thus, such a relationship between man and his maker, without the intermediary of a messiah, enables the worshipper experience a sense of oneness with the worshipped. Hence, it is no blasphemy for a Hindu to tirade his God, strange though it may seem, when felt let down by Him.
Thus, going by the precept and practice, Hinduism cannot be deemed a dogma in the Semitic religious sense. Naturally, our enquiry should be directed at exploring the causative factors that should’ve induced this unique Hindu spiritual oneness with God, as against the Semitic religious projection of Him as an outside power, to whose will as conveyed through His prophets, the faithful should submit themselves regardless.
Conventional wisdom would have us believe that this Hindu thought process was fashioned by the Aryans who migrated to India around 1500 B.C.E from Eurasia. However, the moot point is whether they brought the four Vedas along with them to cultivate Vedanta in the fertile Indian soil, rechristened as Aryavarta, or descended on it with bagfuls of ripen fruits of Vedantic philosophy. Had they carried with them the Hindu brand of a religion and philosophy into a no man’s land of India, then it is reasonable to assume that there would have been claimants for the Hindu legacy in Eurasia as well.
But, as it is not the case, an enquiry into the origins and the development of Hinduism on the Indian soil is warranted, however bearing in mind, the discovery of the presence of Indus Valley civilization at Mohenjo-daro in Sind and Harappa in Punjab way back in 3,500 B.C.E. And such an exercise is bound to address the question of the Aryan philosophical purity.
Even if the glorious Indo-Dravidian civilization were to be extinct by the time of the Aryan arrival, the remnants of its culture should have been still extant by then. After all, a civilization is but the cultural ethos of a people, and culture itself is a synthesis of the communal arrangement in a given society. Thus, it can be assumed that a stable polity would have been in existence in ancient India, probably dating back to 7,500 B.C.E. If anything, the recent discovery of a submerged city in the Gulf of Cambay would only strengthen that supposition.
But, the cultural hegemony of the Aryans over the life and times of the Indian aborigines, that any way is to be expected, left no traces of the pre-Aryan Indo-Dravidian social order for us to divine. Thus, for all practical purposes, the Aryan communal code with caste as creed, apparently in vogue from the Vedic times, is the only known social mores of India’s ancient past. Though we might remain clueless about the pre-Aryan Indian social arrangement, yet, we may speculate about its probable influence on the evolution of the Aryan way of life, in what was essentially an alien setting to them. As they were set to dominate the polity of the land that came into their hand, the Aryans, after all, should be expected to have been acquainted with the nuances of the cultural ethos of the native race(s).
Hence, it would be interesting to speculate as to how the migrant minority should’ve subdued the native majority, without a fight at that, and obliterated their culture, without a trace forever. It seems probable, notwithstanding their mental prowess exemplified by the civilization of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, the natives might not have been martial after all. Added to that, the natives of the land should have been either depressed economically, or depleted in numbers or even disjointed politically. And that was owing to famines or floods or petty jealousies of the communes. Whatever, they obviously were unable or unwilling to offer any significant resistance to the incoming Aryans.
Above all, the Aryan spirit of adventure, inherent to all migrants, should have overawed the lethargic aborigines into surrendering to the invading hordes. After all, won’t the later day Indian history vouch for this phenomenon, time and again? Whatever it was, the migrants became the lords of all they surveyed in the land they prided as Aryavarta and believed as their karmabhoomi. In support of this presumption, in all of Vedic literature, we have no account of any battle royal fought by the Aryan migrants and the native Indians.
It goes without saying that the Aryans would have needed a social structure in place to dominate the natives they subdued. It was thus, the color of the skin could have played its part in stratifying the society, and it is not without significance that the Aryan concept of caste is varna, which in Sanskrit means color. The natives, probably a mix of brown and black, could not have measured up to the Aryan fair skin, and thus in the psychological sense, were unequal to start with. Just the same, on account of real politick; the Aryans could not have afforded to keep the natives out of their sociocultural orbit. Yet, it was imperative for the migrants to preclude any politico-cultural threat from the natives. It was to serve these ends that the Aryans might have looked for ways and means of keeping the natives in an extended social fold, albeit at arm’s length. And the result of this Aryan political compulsion was the evolution of the caste system, so unique to the human experience.
Needless to say, an organized culture, as the one available to the natives, would have had some class structure of its own. The imperative for the Aryans would have been to devise a new social order, without disturbing the old, in a way to accommodate the natives at the lower ends even while placing themselves at the zenith. Thus, the native brown-skinned would have been ‘casted away’ as vaisyas and sudras in that order, depending upon their social status or occupation, and/or both. However, the caste system so devised by the Aryans to integrate themselves into the polity, while dividing the natives from one another, was brilliant though cynical. With the Aryan social comfort zone thus drawn, the unfortunate blacks amongst the natives were dubbed as antyaja, and eventually relegated as untouchable chandalas.
To enforce their caste law, as law of the land, the Aryans would have earmarked muscle-men amongst them, who in time came to be christened as kshatriyas. At some length, the Aryan intellectual class might have wanted to institutionalize their social supremacy for all times to come. It was towards this end that they, as Brahmans, posited themselves at the apex of the caste pyramid that they helped build over the ruins of the native social arrangement. In order to perpetuate the caste hierarchy thus evolved, the Brahmans envisioned the concept of dharma, which, being caste specific, not only defines the caste ethos but also draws the caste boundaries. It was thus, Brahmans, as a caste, came to be the shepherds of the Hindu philosophy and culture for all time to come.
Thus, it were these very Brahmans who gifted Sanskrit to the world, whose incredible beauty makes the Hindu believe that it is the deva bhasha, the language of the gods. Hence, it’s no wonder that the British Indologist, Sir William Jones, a Greek and Latin scholar, who mastered Sanskrit as well, should have remarked that, ‘Sanskrit is of wonderful structure, more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either’.
Nowhere in the annals of human history, as the Brahmans in India did, a small group of people, by the privilege of birth or the faculties of intellect, and/ or both, came to monopolize the soul of a people, the spirit of a culture and the destiny of a society for millennia. Only a unique sense of their destiny, or the arrogance of their perceived superiority, should’ve enabled the Brahmans to posit themselves as angels on earth, endowed with the power to control the gods themselves, well, with the mantras, composed by them in the language of the gods. That is what Narayana Upanishad expostulates as follows:
Daiva deenam jagat sarvam,
It’s on god that hinges all
Mantraa deenantu daivatam,
Mantras rein in that godhood
Tan mantram brahamana deenam,
Controlled are those by Brahmans
Brahmano mama devata
Making them our own angels.
In the end, it was the Brahman dominance even over the Aryan hegemony, not to speak of the native souls, which heralded Brahmanism to the hurt of Hinduism. However, to be fair to the Brahmans, it’s not that they committed any fraud on the gullible public on that score, for they believed that the gods could indeed be appeased with their mantras. Besides, they felt it was their destiny to intercede between god and man for the well-being of the latter, and thus strived to equip to fulfill the unique role their religion afforded them.
And, for the supposed benefit of mankind, the Brahmans devised appropriate mantras to propitiate the gods for their rewarding man in his every endeavor. To help serve the public cause, they led a spiritually righteous life that involved a high degree of self-discipline as well as self-denial. Besides, for their mantras to be effectual on the gods, they strived unremittingly to attain the required chastity in the intonations of their recantations. Be that as it may, whatever could be the effect of the Vedic mantras on the gods; the sheer lyrical beauty of their composition has the power to enthrall all Hindus, nay, every listener for that matter.
Thus, in a unique phenomenon, their intellectual quality and a righteous lifestyle, gave the Brahmans an unmatched spiritual supremacy, which combined with the credulity of the public, enabled them to retain their premier status in the Indian society till the recent past. However, their methodology for monopoly over the Gods curiously led to a religious system that helped as well as harmed the Hindu society in the end. In the Hindu system of heavenly rewards, the devout can seek them at their own dwellings, courtesy the Brahmans, who through their mantras, strive to invoke God’s blessings on them albeit for a fee. Thus, in the Aryan scheme of things in the Vedic times, there was no felt need for a temple for their gods as such.
However, the temple with its presiding deity in the sanctum sanctorum was a later day social development of the puranic period. Even then, the periodic visits of the Hindus to temples are but supplementary to their ceremonies at their homes. Thus to this day, every Hindu home, if not a pooja room as such, has an earmarked space for private worship that is treated as a temple by the family. And the Brahman purohits continue to perform numerous Vedic rituals at individual residences, designed for the benefit of the believers’ prosperity on earth and happiness in the heaven. Even in the temples, it is through mantras that the Brahman priests seek to invoke the Deity’s blessings on the thronging devotees.
It is interesting to see how this unique religious model, practically frees the non-priestly classes, that include the majority of the Brahmans as well, from the obligation of religious education as well as a prayer regimen. All this enables the rest of the population to improve the productivity of the nation, assured of their own salvation, albeit of a lesser station. On the negative side, it distances the masses from the nuances of spirituality, and that keeps them ignorant and illiterate, religiously and otherwise too. And it is this shortcoming of the Brahmanic religious model that doesn’t address itself to the theological grooming of the illiterate masses, which makes the Hindu fringes susceptible for religious conversion into the alien faiths of the Christianity and Islam. And the proselytizing zealots from both these faiths fail not to exploit this grand Hindu religious fault line.
It is one thing for the Aryans to have established sociocultural hegemony over India, and given their numerical minority, it was another to avoid their social disintegration in the long run. Besides, it’s in the nature of man to covet other man’s spouse, while being possessive about his own mate. As a corollary, this individual proclivity transforms into the sectarian propensity of any community. Thus, while wanting to possess the native women, the Aryan men would have been constrained to detain their fair sex from succumbing to the charms of the native male folks. It was thus, they would have come up with a code that served them both ways.
While allowing the union of a higher caste man with a lower caste woman in anuloma, through pratiloma they strived to ensure that cupid’s aboriginal arrows wouldn’t strike the Aryan women. And to deal with the recalcitrant of their stock, motherly sentiment was brought in as a hurdle to deter them from opting for pratiloma, especially, with the lowly men. It was thus decreed that the offspring of an Aryan woman through a union with a sudra would be jeopardized as an outcast. It would have dawned on the Brahmans, sooner than later, that for its effective adherence, it would be imperative to back the social code with divine sanction as well. It is thus, the Manu Dharma Sastra, with its adverse features that are inimical to the good of women, should have been the outcome of the Aryan compulsion to deter their females from coveting the native males.
It is inconceivable to imagine that a well-evolved ancient civilization, such as the Indo-Dravidian one, should be bereft of a religious custom, if not a theological creed as such. The Brahman intellect would have divined that the dogma or prejudice of the natives brooks no abrogation. Thus it is realistic to assume that in fashioning the Vedic rituals, if not their mantras, the Brahmans should have co-opted, or modified, the native mores to suit the Aryan tastes or fancies, and/or both. This could be the reason why the pre-Aryan folklore like Ramayana and Mahabharata became Aryan legends that eventually became the Hindu puranas. In this context, it is relevant to note that both Rama and Krishna, the puranic heroes, respectively of those epics, were indeed dark skinned and thus non-Aryan natives.
Likewise, the ongoing debate about the much repeated reference to samudra, the sea, in the Rig Veda, the first scriptural composition of the Aryans, a land locked people, when still in the North Indian landmass, would suggest the Indo-Dravidian influence on the Aryan thought process and religious practices. The Aryans would have co-opted the native social mores and the religious symbols like the hallowed Om and the sacred Swastika, for their appeal or as an expedient, and/or both. However, in the modern times, Adolf Hitler, in pursuit of Aryan hegemony over the Anglo-Saxon races, made the swastika infamous by giving it an artistic turn and a satanic twist.
Nevertheless, having accepted the inferior social status, for their part, the Indian natives would have had no difficulty in embracing the new Aryan doctrine that accommodated their own religious symbols, if not its dogma. This probably was the great Brahman religious coup that enabled their dominance of the Indian society for millennia to come.
Continued to "God's Quid Pro Quo"
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