Exclusive Interview with Swami Chidanandapuri
MAKE INDIA THE REAL BHARATH
HINDUS NEGLECTED, RIDICULED AND SIDELINED IN INDIA
HINDU VOTE BANK NEEDED
-Swami Chidanandapuri, Advaita Ashram, Kolathur, Kozhikode, Kerala
Swami Chidanandapuri is the head of Advaita Ashram, Kolathur, Kozhikode District, Kerala. He has a profound knowledge in Vedanta and is proficient in Sanskrit and Malayalam language and literature. His speeches and classes on ancient Indian Philosophy, Vedanta, etc. attract people from all walks of life. He is a visiting professor in the Chair for Sanathana Dharma Studies, University of Calicut. Swamiji is young and dynamic and has been earnestly working for educating Hindus to regain their cultural wealth and knowledge. He is well known all over Kerala, particularly in the Malabar region, for his deep knowledge in Vedantha and has made remarkable presence as an orator. Swamiji established Advaithashramam, Kolathur, a serene village about 24 Kms from Kozhikode in October 1992. The Ashramam offers both residential and non-residential courses in Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahmasutras, and other classical Vedic texts in the traditional way. Swami Chidanandapuri spoke at length to Haindava Keralam special correspondent Pradeep Krishnan in an exclusive interview:
1. Swamiji, do you agree with the view that the future of Hindus of Kerala is causing concern? What is the remedy?
The present situation is definitely causing concern. But at the same time understand that over centuries we have successfully overcome much more difficult and harder times. We have effectively challenged more dangerous situations. So spiritually there is no threat as such. However, by properly evaluating and understanding the present problems, the society must get equipped to overcome the challenges.
2.So, is there nothing to worry?
If we take the different periods of time separately, we can see that Hindus have overcome much more traumatic periods by following the words of Mahatmas, and through social reform movements, we could overcome the hardships. Like wise, by understanding properly the present situation, we have to find out our own solutions.
3.What is the main issue/problem that Hindus of Kerala face?
Whatever be the threats from out side, from other religions, politicians, so called educated who are slaves of their own mind, we must see the basic fault within us. Our fundamental problem is that we are not united and lack knowledge of scriptures. We are far away from the life style prescribed by our Sastras. Because of this lacuna, all sorts of exploitation and atrocities are heaped on Hindu society. Therefore, in order to check the challenging problems, Hindu society has to be strengthened. Hindus should be more and more encouraged to study the scriptures so that the message of unity gets strengthened.
4.Are not the Hindus of Kerala hopelessly divided on caste basis?
Of course that is a big problem. However, the common man, in spite of the public proclamation of his social organization, is having a feeling that Hindus must stand united. Organisations that work among a particular community may not openly express such ideas. Hindus more and more are realizing that they are being sidelined by politicians as well as by other religions, which is threatening their very existence. It is also significant that members of those political parties who earlier condemned Hindus as communal and fascist nowadays in their private talks not only admit their past mistakes, but also stress the need for Hindu unity.
5.In the recently held elections to the State Assembly, while the so called minority communities voted in a particular pattern, Hindu votes were hopelessly divided, ultimately paving the way for Christians and Muslims gaining upper hand in governance. Does this not show that Hindus lacked the correct political perspective?
Unfortunately, in spite of earnest efforts made by several organizations, the concept of unity has not become absolute and complete in Hindu society. However, the society which was in deep slumber is slowly and steadily awakening. But keep in mind the fact that the very base of other religions is their organization and for centuries they were trained in that way. On the other hand, Hindu religion is not an organization based religion. This is its blessing as well as a curse. I don’t have the opinion that Hindu society should also be molded like other religions. At the same time it is a fact that presently Hindu society is getting aware of the imminent challenges. While Christians and Muslims have powerful political organizations that fearlessly expose their cause, such political leadership has not emerged among the Hindus.
6.What can we do to organize Hindus politically?
It has to be done by systematically imparting knowledge about our scriptures. Pujaneeya Chindmayanadaji on many occasions stressed the need for Hindu Vote Bank. However, it was not in support of a particular political party. Fully rooted in our scriptures we must strive for a unified Hindu society. It is heartening that we have started awakening form hundreds of years of deep slumber. But we cannot say how long would it take for absolute unity.
7.Even though we have many Ashrams, there is no mechanism to bring them all together. Is not such a situation counter productive?
There are different types of Ashrams, each one giving importance to a particular aspect such as Bhakti, Yoga, Vedanta, etc. Even though on the face of it, one might think that they all are engaged in different ideals, the net result they achieve together is the same. Ultimately they all help in accelerating the process of Hindu renaissance. But a section among them also has the feeling that their own Guru and Ashram alone is right and others have to be condemned. Such thinking is dangerous and would create a deep wedge which would be worse than the ones created by religious, social and political organizations. At the same time, we must admit that many who are involved in the activities of different Ashrams imbibe Hindu way of thinking. In our Asharm, all other Ashram heads and members are invited for almost all the programmes. We must be able to give the message that, even though our paths are different, we all are one and our aims and objectives are the same.
8.Day by day Hindu temples are becoming prosperous. But unfortunately temple worship does not lead one to learn the scriptures; Bhagavad Gita, Upansishads, Srimad Bhagavatam, etc. How can we change the situation?
You are right. Only a few temples are providing the facility to learn the scriptures. Most of the temples have become the centers for looting the money of the public. Had they diverted the huge funds spent on fire works, unnecessary celebrations, etc it could have been used productively used for the sake of Hindu society. Again and again we have to explain to the society what a temple is and what for is it made..
9.Unfortunately temples are either managed by non-believers or controlled by Government?
I strongly feel that temple administration should be handed over to believers. At the same time we must also keep in mind that several temples not managed or controlled by Government are also not properly managed. Study of scriptures should invariably form part of temple organization.
10.Lord Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram has become world famous because of unearthing of wealth from temple vaults. What are your views in the matter?
The whole wealth was offered to the Lord and hence it belongs to Him only. It can be utilized for the benefit of Hindu society. However, it should all be done under the auspices of the temple only. I support Parameswarji’s views of establishment of a University, like the one in Tirupati. In any case, it should not be allowed to be utilized for anything that is not connected with Hindu culture.
11.Do you support the view that Hindus are not socially oriented because of the over emphasis of spirituality?
This view is baseless and is the result of lack of proper knowledge about the basic tenets of Hinduism. Spirituality doesn’t mean going to temples, putting tilak, etc. Spiritual life means living a life seeking truth. For hundreds of years due to various socio-cultural reasons Hindu society has existed without knowing the wisdom contained in our sacred texts. We are ignorant of the sastras. Ours is a dharmavyavastha. Hindu culture is not at all dead and lost, but it has become weak.
12.The agitation by yoga Guru Ramdev and his supporters was crushed by the so-called secular Government unmindful of the sentiments of Hindus. Was it not a cruel act?
Even though I have reservations about the way his agitation was organized, I find no reason for the police mercilessly beating the followers in a mid night swoop and dispersing the assembly consisting of women, elders and even children. What was the need for such a cruel act? I fully support such initiatives because people are fed up with corruption, black money, etc.
13.Hindu culture is spreading all over the globe. But Hindus of India are in danger. What is the way out?
We have to seriously think about that. Our sense of pride should be rooted in the uniqueness of our country and its glorious culture. Everyone should study and propagate the vedantic views among the society. We have to make India the real Bharath. What is required is to make Hindu unity possible. We have to spread our service (seva) activities far and wide, reaching every nook and corner of the country. It is heartening that Hindu organizations are coming up with a number of service oriented projects. The message given by these institutions are slowly and steadily percolating down to the society. In the school run by Hindu organizations, instead of following the educational system that ultimately creates slaves, we now have our own system of education wherein Indian culture and traditions are taught to the students. I am quite sure that such initiatives, in course of time, would ultimately pave the way for Hindu unity.
14.Due to persistent propaganda terms llike Hindu, Bharath, Yoga, etc. are considered as fascist and regressive?
Such propaganda is unleashed deliberately with an aim to destabilize Hindu society. If any one believes such misleading arguments it is idiocy. We have to place before the society the fact that we are the descendents of an age old culture, which is scientific, progressive and time tested. For that we have to thoroughly revamp our educational system. It is quite sad that the educational system introduced by the British to make us slaves is still being continued in democratic India.
15.Any attempt to introduce anything about Indian culture is condemned as saffronisation, fascism etc?
Is it not fact that in spite of such false propaganda and opposition our work is going from strength to strength. Vidya Bharati is running thousands of such schools all over India, including about 500 such schools in Kerala. In addition, several ashrams are running educational institutions. These institutions groom individuals who are fully conscious of the greatness of Hindu culture. The real impact is yet to manifest. By systematic work, we can achieve our goal.
16.A systematic campaign is going on in Kerala, aiming to convert innocent Hindu girls to Islam. How can we prevent such activities?
Our ashram is doing a lot of work in this direction. On an average, every year at least 100 such young girls, mostly belonging to the so-called upper class, are brought here from legal courts, conversion centres etc. We give proper advice to them. It is heartening that at least in 90% of the cases, we are able to convince them of their folly and succeed in changing their immature decision. While talking to them it was noticed that they don’t know anything, even the basics, about our great religion and culture. Right from childhood, they were asked only to pray in temples. The root cause is lack of knowledge of our sastras among Hindu parents. They do nothing for the development of the children’s personality. As our children are ignorant of our sastras they become easy prey to religious sects which have definite aim of converting them. Parents should come forward not only to study our sastras but also inculcate the knowledge to the children that is the only way out to get rid of this dangerous trend.
17.Is not Kerala fast turning a Hindu minority state?
If you take the whole world are not Hindus a minority community? It is fact that for all the anti national activities the brain and money power is supplied from outside. If the governments are not considering all citizens as one, not as majority/minority, the future of Hindus of India will be in danger. Take the case of family planning, while Hindus are following the government regulations, another community’s population is growing by geometric proportions!. Along with the threat of ‘Love Jihad’ we have address the threat of ‘Land Jihad’ too. In Kerala, a certain religious sect has amassed land in all prime locations, including around famous temples. An ordinary Hindu, who doesn’t have any social commitments, disposes off his property unmindfully. Both these trends indicate the weakness of Hindu society. However, I am finding solace in the fact that over the years Hindu society has successfully shown that it can cross much more severe and serious problems.
18.What are your views on making Hindu society a political force?
Of course that is needed. However, keep in mind that becoming a political force doesn’t mean a Hindu ruling the country. The nation should be led by persons who fully realize the glory of Hindu culture and civilization. Even if such a person is a born Muslim, like DrA P K Abdul Kalam, we must support such persons.
19.While the devotees of Sabarimala who met with a mishap were completely ignored, Government is enthusiastic in giving subsidies for Haj pilgrims. How do you view this double standards?
By giving subsidy to Haj pilgrims neither the society nor the individual is benefitted. In fact, giving subsidy to Haj pilgrims is against the tents of Islam. As per Islamic laws, a person should not be indebted to anyone while performing Haj. A Haj performed by getting subsidy makes on indebted to several thousand tax payers. Just to pamper Muslims with an aim to get their votes even Islamic tenets are blatantly violated and sadly most of the Muslim scholars are silent on this. At the same time in every way Hindus are neglected, ridiculed and sidelined. Our places of worship were taken over and the funds are utilized for public purpose, including for giving scholarships to Muslim students! No one can ever heal such wounds deliberately created in the psyche of Hindu by narrow minded politicians.
20.What about the need for a Hindu Vote Bank?
By Hindu vote bank I mean the unity of all those who imbibe the spirit of Indian culture. We should not consider the word Hindu like the names of other religions. Hindutva means and includes the Bharateeya vision of life. Yes, such a vote bank is definitely needed for the empowerment ofs our safety.
21.What Swami Agamananda had cautioned the Hindu society of Kerala years ago is now becoming a reality. What is the way out?
There is a lot to worry about. At the same time, during the past one or two decades, I see a renaissance taking place within the Hindu society of Kerala. The so-called progressives who used to openly condemn and ridicule Hindu customs, saints and beliefs have now started seriously learning about Hinduism. If our sacred texts are presented intelligently, definitely more and more people would learn and appreciate it. That would definitely help us to make us aware and awake.
< >22.Have you ever faced any opposition to your activities from any one?
I have not faced any opposition from other communities. But years ago when I started the work, I had faced stiff opposition from politicians who were supporters of materialism. However, I must admit that nowadays they are also changing and have started attending Vedanta classes.
23.In Kerala the backbone of Communism is Hindus. While Hindus are easily converted to Communism, believers of other faiths, by and large, are reluctant to embrace communism. How do you view this?
The Communist leaders who are from other religions never deny or decry their faith. But Hindus, who embrace such isms, condemn Hinduism. Nevertheless, I see tremendous change. Communist youth are now studying our scriptures, religion, culture etc. Whatever be our political view, we all should stand united in respect of our culture, religion and dharma.
24.Are you optimistic about the future of India?
No doubt, India is the Guru of the world and will become a world power in future. In spite of various invasions, India’s soul remains intact. In spite of Islamic Terrorism, Maoism, large scale corruption, the massive attempt aiming at conversion, the anti-national activities of politicians, India’s native culture, Hinduism, still remains intact and hence definitely Bharat will ascend to greater heights.
25.In this modern age, why should one study the scriptures?
Such a study will equip one to face the vicissitudes of life courageously and boldly. India is considered as the lokaguru because of the knowledge imparted by our great Rishis. Vedanta gives one knowledge about himself as well as knowledge about the whole universe.
26.How does Vedanta help in social reformation? It is often alleged that the study of Vedanta would result in discarding material prosperity and would ultimately result in poverty.
Kerala tops in many social factors because of the social reform movements initiated by stauch vedantists such as Sree Narayana Guru, Chattambi Swamigal, etc. It may be recalled that in Kerala the movement against casteim was initiated by Nirmalaganda Swamigal, disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. No Hindu saint has ever asked his followers to clinch to poverty. Such negative campaigns are initiated by those who are ignorant of our sastras with a view to mislead the society.
27.Is there any difference between the Advaita preached by Sri Sankaracharya and Sree Narayanaguru?
Absolutely they are one and the same. A reading of the works of Sri Narayana Guru would convince that he was a stauch proponent of Advaita darsana, propounded by Sankaracharya. Once Gurudevan himself had clarified that he is only explaining lucidly what Sri Sankara has said. It is quite unfortunate that vested interests are misinterpreting the works of Guru to suit their parochial aims. This is a great injustice not only to Gurudevan but also to Hinduism.
28.You are often labeled as an RSS monk. How do you view this?
I don’t care what others tell about me. Whether they criticize me or praise me, I work according to my conscience and dharma. I support all those activities which support Hindu dharma and I oppose those who are against dharma. Whoever organizes meetings on Hindu dharma, I will attend and present my views. In fact, recently I attended a meeting convened by Yuva Janatadal on Hindu dharma.
29.There are several social organizations representing different communities of Hinduism such as NSS, SNDP, etc. If they work united, will it not help Hindu society? What are your views?
Such organizations should come together and work united to strengthen Hindu society. As far as Kozhikode is concerned, several organizations such as Ramakrishna Mission, Chinmaya Mission, Art of Living, NSS, SNDP, Amritanandamayi Ashram, Ramanandashram, etc have informally come together under the banner of ‘Sanathana Dharma Parishad’ and is very active for the past 4 years. On many occasions, prominent Hindu leaders like Parameswarji, Swami Dayananda Saraswathy, Pejavar Swami, etc have graced the gatherings.
30.Your message to the Hindus of Kerala?
Learn the scriptures and live united. Participate in activities of Hindu organizations and learn and propagate Hindu scriptures.
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