Who owns Hinduism?A strange question as spiritual traditions cannot be pinned down to the selfish intellectual property of individuals (however much the mental slaves of that pseudo-philosopher Ayn Rand may like to disagree). Yet throughout the west various self-appointed spiritual masters of varying degrees plunder India ’s ancient culture while scrupulously avoiding to use the dreaded ‘H’ word.
After independence in 1947 Indian Communist thinkers quickly established themselves in virtually unassailable positions in the centres for what passed for intellectual life in India :
the universities, media, politics. From their ivory dachas they created veritable gulags of mental mediocrity in which academic thought processes in the humanities were stifled. In this mimicry by a dysfunctional illiterates secular values were defined as anything that was not just non-Hindu, but actively anti-Hindu. It is for this reason that so many of the New Age gurus are keen to denounce the very label which describes the ancient culture which gave rise to those deep values in the first place.First among these was the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON, also known as the Hare Krishna movement.
Brought to America in 1965 by ex-pharmacist Swami Prabhupada, this narrow minded sect appealed to a generation of youth
looking for meaning as they cast off age old cherished values of their parents. The Temptations 1970 hit ‘Ball of Confusion’ aptly summed up the times in which ISKCON found its first followers. Prabhupada openly disassociated his sect from Hinduism.
This may come as a surprise to many Hindus, especially in the west whose racial inferiority complex makes them ditch all common sense when they see any non Indian in the garb of sadhus. But Prabhupada never hid his anti-Hindu rhetoric as he built his growing following on a recognisably Christian framework using a sugar coating of Indian spiritual terminology and borrowings.
Iskcons ‘The Bhagavad Gita as it Really is’ fits in well with the organisations highly sectarian and intolerant mindset. It is only in recent years where lack of money and a host of financial, sexual and other scandals have led the followers of the late Prabhupada to seek support from the very Hindus they once spurned.
Deepak Chopra is another individual who has tapped into the reservoir of spiritual seekers in the west who want purpose and meaning to their life without taking the irrational leap of faith back to their Christian past. Again he disassociates his teachings from Hinduism, claiming that Shiva worship and yoga were Vedic teachings that had nothing to do with the later Hinduism. Once again we see the very Hindu ideas being used to denounce their source. Can absurdity go further than this? Actually there is logic to this madness and it goes beyond just the confines of ivory gulags which have created the universal anti-Hindu mindset.
We return again to Ayn Rand whose guide to life was that selfishness was the highest virtue,a Nietzschean dysfunctionality which fit in well to the mindset of the permissive society and youth culture which emerged from the ‘American Graffiti’ of juke boxes, greasy hair, leather jackets and James Deane wannabees of 1950s America.
Hence the individual is superior to all and if that individual wants to plunder an ancient culture without acknowledging its true source, and make a nice tasty fortune as a result, well that is all part of the American Dream and its exploitative rapacious capitalism –just as Rand disowned Nietzsche as her guru and made a nice easy living by claiming she had invented a whole new radical unique philosophy.
How exactly does Chopra disassociate his Vedic culture from Hinduism? Simple answer, he does not, at least not convincingly, because he gets himself into an intellectual cul-de-sac .
Hindu philosophy has always stressed detachment from this word into achieve liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Of course for obvious reasons this is simply not practical for every person. There are often family and community duties. The mindset to achieve this needs to be cultivated and it takes years of learning, restraint and concentration in physical and mental exercises, such as the yoga which Chopra detaches from Hinduism and attaches straight into his bank account.
What we have with individuals such as Prabhupada and Chopra is the diametric opposite. While they talk the language of spirituality the brutal reality is that is anything but that.
Just as Ayn Rand claimed to talk the language of American laissez-faire capitalism but actually injected an unhealthy and warped vision of Nietzsche into her adopted land so she laid a well trodden path for Prabhupada and Chopra to follow, and like her make a fortune from gullible easily manipulated followers.
Western civilisation has achieved much to be proud of. Huge advances have been made which mean that it is possible to live longer, healthier and in many ways more fulfilled lives than before. Yet in this there is a spiritual hollow, a dark coldness that emerges and wracks the confidence of people in developed nations, including those who would call themselves rational, and it makes them do the most irrational things with a fervour equal to that of the very religious fanatics which they denounce.
Yet if we root civilisation not in the emergence of urban or commercial centres, but in spirituality then a whole new picture emerges.
We find that in India there was for thousands of years a search for the ultimate truth. The land in all its breadth has been trodden by those who have renounces their whole life in order to seek this path and to impart it to others so that the knowledge is retained and improved. That is the true test of spirituality as they disown all personal gain. For that reason they have never had need to actively disown their Hindu roots. What is Hinduism? It is the term given by westerners to the spiritual traditions which have grown up in India .
Yoga, ayurveda, forms of meditation, the aim of life to break free from death and rebirth are merely factes of this. Instead of taking as gospel from Prabhupada that the Gita and Krishna are not part of Hinduism, or from Chopra that Shaivism, yoga and the Vedas predated Hinduism, we should perhaps be a little more discriminating in our analysis. In reality Prabhupada and Chopra themselves have less to do with Hinduism than Ayn Rand’s soul destroying cult of Objectivism which at least openly denounces spirituality in the quest for hyper-individualism, obeisance to the ‘leader’, fame and money.
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