Conversations: The tragedy of so-called “RW” “nationalist” Hinduism

A discussion precipitated by the publication of an article in the Organiser.

Skanda Veera: That RSS magazine is intellectually bankrupt isn’t news. But it is news that it is willing to court liberals hostile to Hinduism.

Spirit of Hindutva: What’s precisely wrong with the article?

Skanda Veera: Devdutt Pattanaik’s integrity is doubtful, at least for me.

Spirit of Hindutva: We don’t call The Hindu a “Sanghi paper” when it publishes Swamy, do we? First mistake, we are rubbishing our paper, Organiser for publishing DP. Second mistake, we aren’t taking advantage such an opportunity could afford us. It’s like DP is the kabaddi opponent who’s entered, touched one of us and is walking back to his base without fear. And we aren’t making an attempt to hold his legs and pin him down.

Āngīrasa Śreṣtha: It’s not about whether liberals will disown DP due to his association with the Sangh. It’s about how his puerile thoughts will get greater grounding and respectability among “RW” Hindus and infect the previously uninfected.

Why does the “RW” lack so much self-confidence? This constant need for new thinkers without filtering the filth out? In fact, we filter out the genuinely useful and original thinkers while retaining trash. This lack of confidence leading to lowered discretion and discrimination is I think due to our abject unfamiliarity with our own thought, our dhArmika vocabulary, our texts and traditions.

I think we should make a necessary distinction between incremental, organic evolution as it was before and the uprooting, abrupt breakaway movements of today. I say this because it is commonly retorted that we ought not to reject new thought if religion indeed changes. Of course. But the above nuanced distinction is missed.

In that spirit, it’s time for us to do some housecleaning and filter out allegedly Hindu “thinkers” who are liabilities to us, totally ungrounded in any tradition of respectable lineage and continuous history, completely lacking formal education in shAstra- the kind who pontificate about shAstras based on their own modernist prejudices rather than actual learning. We may have to be ruthless and clear our beloved icons too if it is necessary. The dharma is more than some 19th/20th century, well-intentioned individuals let alone perverts.

Contemplationist: Some are not liabilities at all, they are outright hostiles and moles. Liabilities would present an ambiguous face and would not have clear intellectual pedigree from hostile forces.

Āngīrasa Śreṣtha: In my mind, we have to prioritize our tradition and help each other as well as others develop loyalty to dharma instead of a few select figures whose thought is quite divorced from authentic dhArmika thought.

uddhava: Koenraad Elst has castigated the RSS for having zero intellectual culture, linking it right back to Golwalkar himself. Golwalkar departed from Hedgewar in that, who was a big promoter of intellectual efforts.

Skanda Veera: RSS today is trying to move out of Golwalkar’s thought (which was rather dharma centered) to a modern flat space universalist nonsense. Which is a bigger problem. On RSS, Koenraad Elst is partly right and partly wrong – Koenraad Elst is an “intellectual” and hardly has the understanding of “raw knowledge” that RSS has. Golwalkar if I look back, was the one who created most of the intellectual and non-intellectual ventures of the parivar. Be it Jan sangh or VHP. It is also true that Golwalkar found the smartest men for these ventures. Sangh at the time of Golwalkar was very different as an organization- for instance, producing dharmic critiques of constitution in a paper like Organizer.

The real intellectual death of RSS should be traced to Balasaheb Deoras, the next Sarsanghchalak after Golwalkar. Today, RSS is not even inclined to taking big names like Tilak because they don’t fall in line with their “social engineering” nonsense. Savarkar they invoke. They invoke Ramanuja just to mention that he was a champion of social reform and likewise, Sankara for the candala story. Knowledge and contributions are of far lesser concern. They are in a self-destructive spiral for some reason.

You hardly hear words like “sampradaya” and the need to protect them from RSS. Sankaras and Ramanujas matter to them to the extent they can achieve “Hindu unity”. It is not that these people should be useful in strengthening the dharmic element of society, it is like the dharmic element is useful to the Sangh in their great and lofty goals.

Āngīrasa Śreṣtha: This indeed is a perfect surmise of the tragedy of so-called “RW” “nationalist” Hinduism. Unity is all wonderful but keep stripping the dharma of all that is unique and precious and all you are left with is an empty template ready to be filled by Abrahamic memes.

OG Saffron: Sometimes I get the feeling that in their zealous, facade-like attempts at preserving whatever it is they are trying to preserve on a given day, they just end up loosing it, taking the sublime/sacred with it. Something along the lines of…”We have to promote tradition”, and not two seconds later…”We must get rid of these superstitious rituals”.

Spirit of Hindutva: Most if not all RSS leaders I know practice rituals. Swayamsevaks are quite religious themselves. The Sangh hasn’t taken a stand against JalliKattu. On Sabarimala, there seems to be a division amongst some leaders. Interestingly, an overwhelming majority of traditional Hindus in the South subscribe to The Hindu too. So, I think this isn’t so simple to conclude.

Skanda Veera: RSS has no problem using rituals. The question is whether they are useful to the traditions that the rituals belong to. Or do they take judgmental positions against matters of temples. They use traditions and yet flout its tenets per their convenience, in not standing by traditions with commitment.

The Sangh is fast losing direction and doing exactly the same blunders Cong did decades ago – trying to take everybody with it, trying to be everything to everybody by compromising on its main activity.  Earlier they did not care about “results” and produced results by commitment.  But now it is opening up to compromised people kept at bay earlier. And it is not that it is closed. What it is currently doing is a result of advises it got few decades ago. So for its activity to be on right track in years to come, good feedback now will still be critical. RSS does not need to get “intellectual”, it needs to invest in knowledge. And the prism it is adopting needs introspection (inside-out rather than outside-in). Again a blunder Cong did a century earlier.

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