Hate speech, which has become the norm in our public discourse recently, has no place in our philosophical/spiritual thought, writes former IAS officer V S Pandey
The ruling party at the Centre, and in various state governments also, seem to be in overdrive over certain utterances, made by some party spokesperson, against the revered Prophet Mohammad. In the recent past too, many fringe elements and the not so fringe, have been brazenly making irresponsible utterances against many personalities, even those who are revered universally, which even by an infinite stretch of imagination cannot be dubbed mild or inoffensive, but this has been overlooked . This unfortunate discourse of name-calling/denigration has continued unabated for too long and no serious attempts seem to have been made at any responsible level to end it. During prime time TV debates, all kinds of offensive and derogatory language against respected entities of our historical past has been encouraged and promoted aggressively. The polemics degenerated precipitously as there was no restraining of these loudmouths. The recent controversy and the consequential action against the two spokespersons of the ruling dispensation, has its genesis in this recent past. What happened was totally avoidable and our nation with its rich syncretic ethos could have been prevented from falling into this disreputable abyss.
The troubling aspect of this episode is that other nations, with a severely poor record of human rights and tolerance, got the opportunity to show us the mirror. For this we have our new cultural avatars to blame. When will these so-called new “lambardars”/custodians of our culture realize that they need to first educate themselves about our age old tradition of assimilation and tolerance towards all -which is rooted in the philosophy enunciated in our sacred Vedas and Upanishads. The philosophy of non-duality professed by our learned sages sees oneness in all , sentient or non-sentient beings. A country with such a deep rooted culture of seeing self in all, the all pervasive pure consciousness, will never be intolerant. These votaries of Hindutva, spout hate and simultaneously proclaim their devotion for Swami Vivekanand- who espoused all the streams of religion as leading to the same One! Hate speech, which has become the norm in our public discourse recently, has no place in our philosophical/spiritual thought. These hate speakers, need to read and learn from the Upanishads, Swami Vivekanand’s writings and also what Lord Krishna taught Arjun in Gita, before lecturing others about our culture, philosophy and religion. They will serve the nation better thereafter.
There is a lesson for all here. None should harbor the illusion that their way is the only way. Seeing Oneness in all beings and treating them accordingly, will ensure that mankind will live happily on planet earth. All religions preach tolerance, compassion towards all and none teaches violence against and foments hatred. History is replete with examples of wars being fought in the name of religion causing humungous loss of life in almost all parts of the globe. Looking back we realize that, in every age, those so called victors -with their brutal and bloody imperial agendas of self aggrandizement have rapidly perished .Those that endure are exemplified in Ashoka and Akbar – the Greats -of our history who embodied tolerance and enriched our composite culture . They are immortal unlike innumerable rulers who tried to become omnipotent by victimizing and exploiting the Other. From dust to dust is eternal law of Nature .To use religion to further nefarious ends is bound to fail. Those endeavoring to do so must heed the wisest one ever, the great Socrates “ The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”.
To end the proliferation of divisive hate agendas and prevent the public from succumbing to them, right education of the gullible and poor masses is critical. They have to be made aware of the richness of their religion and spiritual thought which has at its crux the profound belief “Tat Tvam Asi’’ i.e. That Thou Art Brahma/Pure consciousness itself. When every being is Pure – how can we differentiate and ‘Other’ise? Our religions, devoid of distortions, all teach us that the virtuous life can be attained by leading a simple honest ethical life devoid of untruths, deceit, hate , violence and intolerance . History doesn’t remember or glorify lives of victors who were immoral and bestial. In today’s volatile environment the wisdom of the Father of the nation resonates- he judged people of other faiths from their stand point rather than from his own. He refused to abuse a man for his fanatical deeds for he tried to comprehend them from the other person’s point of view. He believed Jesus expressed the will and spirit of God but could not accept Jesus as the only incarnate son of God. But neither could he accept the Vedas as the inspired word of God, for if they were inspired why not also the Bible and the Koran? He believed all great religions were fundamentally equal and that there should be innate respect for them along with tolerance.
All our great and revered Ones have been teaching and preaching similar doctrines as they all believed in the oneness of all sentient and non sentient beings. Without the assimilation of this reality, peace and happiness cannot prevail on our unique planet. The myopic view of perceived superiority of one religion/civilization/race/ creed /ideology over all others has failed humanity so far and is bound to perpetuate the culture of bloodshed and misery in future too. We should not be complicit in allowing our religions – the opiate of our masses – to become a means to be wilfully misused by the amoral powers that be. Its terrible and ghastly distortions should not be harnessed any further. Live and let live is ultimately the only way for the human race to survive and thrive. “My way is the highway” culture is the definitive route to calamitous destruction. As the famous French philosopher Satre had said “ we are our choices” .Its time to firmly and inflexibly choose tolerance over hate. We, the people, must take that clarion call now.
(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary Government of India)