26/10/2015 8:14 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

My Dear Fellow Hindus, Why Have You Lost Your True Religion?

An Indian Hindu priest rotates a traditional oil lamp as he offers early morning prayers at the Kudia Ghat, or bathing steps that line along a river, on the banks of Gomti River in Lucknow, India, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

A wave of intolerance has swept through the land, threatening to submerge free-thinkers and cultural and religious minorities. A fever of hate has gripped the country.

For lovers of the land, for lovers of all humanity, this is painful to behold, immensely painful. And, when the refrains of hate are taken up not just by drunken goons in the pay of low-level politicians keen to exploit any difference, but by people from the educated and well-placed Hindu middle-class -- the community I hail from -- the pain I feel is monumental. I weep at their ignorance, I weep at their lack of critical thinking, their mindless parroting of others' sophistry, and above all, I weep at the hate that stands revealed in their hearts.

"My community members, educated and privileged as you are, why do some of you fall prey to the cheapest of sophistry?"

Members of my community, let me try to disabuse you of your prejudices. You should know that Muslims are human beings like you and me, wishing to live in harmony and to get on with their lives. They are not to be feared. As is true for Christians. And -- it is important this be said since I know that some of you harbour prejudices towards others of your own religion as well -- as is true for other Hindus lower down on the social structure than you.

You should know that the West is not poisoning our values, not corrupting our sons and daughters. You should know that our land has absorbed thousands of "conquests" before, by people, by ideas, by faiths, and has emerged only stronger. That this land has a particular genius for absorbing people, ideas, and faiths and making them its own. And that the root of this genius lies not in the external, practiced aspects of Hinduism, which are after all only aspects of culture, but in the underlying philosophy of non-duality emerging from the Vedas.

Aham brahmasmi. I am the Brahman, the one unity that underlies all creation, indeed, of which all creation is just a manifestation, just leela, play. In this philosophy, there is no separate you and I, there is no duality. All is one. There is no Hindu, no Muslim, no Christian. No Brahmin, no Shudra. No Outsider, no Insider. No Them, no Us. It is this philosophy of rejecting differences, of seeing oneself in the other, that undergirds the lives of those that live in this land and represents the genius of India.

My community members, educated and privileged as you are, why do some of you fall prey to the cheapest of sophistry? "They fly Pakistan flags in their bastis and at cricket matches!" How many Pakistani flags have you actually seen? One, two, most likely none at all? What makes you leap to the conclusion that the entire Muslim community must be waving Pakistani flags? Can't you see that this is just a red herring put out by those trying to divide society for their own nefarious purposes, tempting you into intellectual fallacies with false symbols (the flag) of that "refuge of the scoundrel" (patriotism)?

"Realise that the apparently different Other is just yourself, just Brahman. You have the choice to love or to hate. Choose to love. Love is the highest ideal."

Why do some of you fall prey to easy arguments of majoritarianism? Don't you realise that the highest mark of being civilised is the love and care and respect you show to those who are considerably weaker than you? Don't you realise that the Hindu community that you choose to identify with to make yourself feel good can just as easily divide itself along some other lines, for instance into the socio-economically privileged and the less privileged, and you could then be in the new minority? Will you be parroting these arguments of majoritarianism then? Or, consider the large numbers of your sons and daughters who have emigrated to the West, and consider particularly, your grandchildren, who were born there. What if the West turned on them, these Hindu minorities? What if the granddaughter you adore so much in Birmingham or Atlanta or Boise suffered the same fate at the hands of rampaging Christian mobs that hundreds of equally adorable girls suffered at the hands of rampaging Hindu mobs in Godhra and elsewhere? Would you be singing paeans to majoritarianism then?

My community members. You are blessed with culture and intelligence. You can do better than display such unthinking hate. Realise that hate is a by-product of the fear of the Other, a fear which itself is a product of our primitive reptilian brains, programmed only to classify instantaneously, even if inaccurately, into friend or foe. Bring your intellect to moderate the sense of threat you feel whenever you see someone different. Realise that the apparently different Other is just yourself, just Brahman. You have the choice to love or to hate. Choose to love. Love is the highest ideal.

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