Priya Sanatana Dharmi Bhaiyyon Aur Beheno:
The wheel has come full circle. A very vigorous and powerful voice has just joined the chorus of Hindu Mahamandaleshwars and Mathadipatis supporting Swami Dayananda Saraswatiji and critical of the Hindu American Foundation’s ill-advised report on caste in Hinduism. Swami Ramdev has just issued a clarion call for the permanent withdrawal and quiet interment of the shallow and faulty HAF Caste Report. This letter is attached.
First there was Swami Dayanandaji’s polite letter, as Convenor of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha (Hinduism’s only apex body) requesting the withdrawal of the ill-advised and faulty HAF caste report. Since HAF (extremely disrespectfully) decided to do nothing for days, we humbly approached AWGP. Within days Dayanandaji’s letter was followed by a more specific and firmer appeal for report withdrawal and interment by Dr. Pranav Pandyaji, Head, All World Gayatri Parivar. AWGP is one of the half-dozen most respected Hindu religious heads worldwide. With more than 10 million followers, the piety and organizational discipline of AWGP adherents in a religious sense is without equal in modern day Hinduism. It has the power and energy of its Founder, Pandit Sri Ram Sharma Acharya behind it. Acharyaji completed 24 Gayatri purascharanas (57.6 million repetitions of the Gayatri mantra – almost beyond comprehension in this day and age) before founding the samsthana.
The AWGP letter has now been followed in quick succession by more open letters from the seniormost Hindu religious heads, increasingly firmly calling for total report cancellation. The first of these is by one of the respected Heads of the Udupi Sri Madhvacharya Dvaita Sampradaya with a 700+ year tradition. It is one of the 3 greatest sampradayas extant in Hinduism today – the other two are the Adi Samkara Advaita sampradaya with a 1200-year tradition and the Sri Ramanuja Visisht Advaita sampradaya with a 900-year tradition. (The Vallabha and Nimbarka sampradayas are smaller and comparatively less well-known though with millions of devout followers throughout India, particularly in the North).
And now the Udupi letter is followed by the letter from Swami Ram Dev one of the greatest icons of late 20th century and 21st century Hinduism. These are only the first of a tsunami of letters which will begin to flood HAF’s mailbox unless good sense prevails. If it says mea culpa and decides to adopt a more inclusive and transparent way of going about its deliberations, we may be able to jointly do something constructive.
I doubt there is anyone Indian Hindu or mainstream world citizen who has not heard of Swami / Yogi Ram Dev. In terms of sheer numbers who follow him and rever his humble and simple ways, Swami Ram Dev is the most influential, powerful and respected Hindu religious figure worldwide. He negotiates with the President of M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Center on one side and is whispered by the BBC to have member of the royal family as followers on the other. His followers Hindu and non-Hindu, religious and secular, worldwide number in the tens of millions.
In his letter, Swami Ram Dev while implying that all devout and professing Hindus should raise their voices in reproach says:
· The HAF blanket recommendation (shades of Mughal badshah firman) to all Hindu sampradayas requiring their Acharyas to immediately discard or rewrite the dharma sastras is very ill advised and impractical on top of that.
· Such King Canute mandates, au contraire, will only lead to serious loss of credibility for HAF. This has already started happening and is accelerating, whether HAF is willing to acknowledge it or not.
· The HAF caste report has been hastily written by a very few people who though well-meaning, lack both Vedic scholarship, and Sanskrit knowledge. Even more important they have no credible power of spiritual practice (tapasya) to carry authority and acceptability across Hinduism – it matters little what government entitities, NGOs, non-Hindu religions et.al. to which HAF desperately and ignobly wishes to pander on bended knees may think.
· HAF ideas of producing a re-write in secret, and in a hurry in days as a fait accompli has been clearly and totally repudiated by Swami Ramdevji. He has unmistakably said if there is going to be a report at all, this must be produced piece meal and circulated widely for acceptance by a wide swathe of Hindu religious heads before proceeding further. Ramdevji has explicitly stated that such work takes months if not years – it is not a matter of scribbling furtively to produce something in days.
· Ramdevji closes by explicitly cautioning HAF to take great precautions not to be inveigled into seeking foreign governmental, NGO, non-Hindu religious, secular academic input on matters which are the exclusive domain of Hinduism. Failure to do this will mean instant and explicit rejection of HAF’s efforts by the Hindu samaj. This is what has commenced now with increasing force.
With Swami Ramdevji’s open letter we can now safely consider that the HAF caste report and the hasty and secretive attempts for its re-write are now dead and buried.
It matters little whether HAF considers it so or not. The mainstream evangelistic Christian dominated socio-political organizations, US and transnational governmental entities, (for the most part anti-Hindu) NGOs and other bodies, secular academicians et.al. from whom HAF fondly hoped to acquire sinecures will now have little use for it. Its credibility is pretty much destroyed and its utility to them is pretty much over with so much firm and continuous Hindu religious push-back. All this hullaballoo is being tracked and logged by Google webcrawlers – they very well know this as I do.
In all fairness, HAF probably thought that by getting such sinecures, they would position themselves to do some good for Hinduism. Thinking that being obsequious and abject leaders of collective apology, in sackcloth and ashes, for illusory sins of Hinduism is going to bring kudos and brownie points is the height of delusion (bhrama) and pipedream. It speaks to the extreme collective immaturity of HAF and low self-esteem as an organization. It also raises very serious questions of both the long term utility, and viability and integrity of HAF as an institution. No better example can be given of prospective lack of institutional viability than its so-called Human Rights director (and presumably its counselor on ethics / spirituality) to be openly bruiting about that the Ramayana, one of the most sacred Hindu itihasas (not purana – does he know the difference) is a racist document.
It should be noted that this individual continues to hang onto the post of Human Rights Director. Despite universal and continuous Bronx cheers, he has not had the good grace to resign. Nor would it seem that HAF has the clarity of thought or cojones to summarily fire him. After all this is America is it not, and that is the American way of doing things. Conspiracy theorists may question with some credence who and what HAF is beholden to, for such inexplicable intransigence in the face of continuous reproach and pleas by the mainstream Hindu community, and its acknowledged spiritual leaders.
How much better it would have been for Hinduism and for the viability of HAF as an institution if HAF had stuck to its knitting and worked to take back the name and concept of Yoga where they did some good work. Or issued reports on human rights abuse against Hindus Reports where also it has done some decent work. In both those cases I have written laudatory epistles.
By getting above itself and its core competency HAF has done grave damage to its utility as a support for Hindu Dharma. By developing delusions of grandeur that it is a religious authority on Hinduism, and filled with modern day Vyasas in training to re-write the dharma sastras HAF has only exposed itself to stinging ridicule and potentially irreparably damaged its viability as an institution.
In closing, I am also attaching the other letters from major Hindu religious heads received so far.
Founder / President
Sanatana Dharma Pratisthapana Samiti
Letters are with their own URLs at-
More posts by this author:
- Summary of Major Issues with the HAF Report on Caste
- Kalavai denounces Hindu American Foundation Report
- Letters: Sri Nagendra1
- Letters: Sri Nagendra2
- Pejawar Math Swamiji’s Open Letter to HAF