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“Anger defeats the very purpose for which it is aroused,” advised Paramhansa Yogananda, one of the greatest yogis India ever produced. “Anger is not an antidote for anger. A strong wrath may cause another to suppress his weaker wrath. But it will not kill the weaker wrath.”
Anger, Yogananda explained, gives birth to jealousy, hatred, spite, revengefulness, destructive instinct, wild ideas, brain paralysis and even temporary insanity. “A sage is content in the knowledge that the Lord is running the universe… He is free from rage, animosity and resentment.”
Yogananda, whose Autobiography of a Yogi was rated one of the 10 best spiritual books of the 20th century, was not saying anything new. He echoed what a long line of Indian spiritual and religious icons as well as Hindu religious classics have repeatedly underlined.
Passion, anger, hate and fear belong to the mind and not to the soul, explained the revered Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, who headed the Kachi Kamakoti Peetham at Kancheepuram for 87 long years. Ticking off some devotees who harboured a dislike for Muslims, Chandrashekhara Bharathi, the 34th Acharya of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham, was blunt: “Enmity, hatred, jealousy and retaliation do not foster religious sentiments and spiritual growth.” The Vishnu Purana tells the faithful not to transact with others unkindly, not to speak out another’s faults publicly, not to create enmity with another human and to avoid speaking if the words are going to give pain to the listener.
Yet, we have a bizarre situation where those who consider themselves leaders of the Hindu community keep abusing and spewing hatred against the minorities, shaming Hindu religious principles. And the worst part is they parrot the name of Lord Rama who, after felling the Lanka king who had abducted his wife, told his younger brother Lakshmana to go to where Ravana was lying gravely wounded, not dead yet, and seek his blessings. When the bewildered Lakshmana did what he was told but complained that Ravana did not speak to him, Rama chided him for going and standing near Ravana’s head; he was asked to go back and be near the dying man’s feet. Even after what Ravana had done, Rama showed no trace of hatred for his foe.
In his final months, Mahatma Gandhi lived through agonising times as Hindus and Sikhs killed Muslims while Muslims killed Hindus and Sikhs during the partition horror. But despite the poison in the air, Gandhi remained wedded to non-violence. On January 21, 1948, nine days before he was assassinated, Gandhi denied reports of a rift between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. “They cannot be enemies of Muslims,” he asserted. “I have no doubt that whoever is an enemy of the Muslims is also an enemy of India.”
Referring to violence against Muslims in Delhi and Ajmer, Gandhi told a prayer meeting on December 12, 1947 that no good will accrue to Hinduism by going against Muslims. “Man was not made by God to live through killing others.” He also defended the holiness of the Quran. “These verses are ancient, composed by the Holy Prophet 13 centuries ago. The extracts we recite are considered sublime. Their very reading bestows merit on the reader.”
If someone feels that Gandhi was biased towards Muslims, let us read what Swami Vivekananda said during a visit to Sialkot: “The various religions that exist in the world, although they differ in the form of worship, are really one… In every religion there have been men good and able, thus making the religion to which they belonged worthy of respect; and as there are such people in every religion, there ought to be no hatred for any sect whatsoever.” Hatred, he added, “greatly impedes the course of Bhakti”.
If this was general language, Vivekananda was specific in a speech on February 3, 1900, at Pasadena, California: “Mohammed by his life showed that amongst Mohammedans there should be perfect equality and brotherhood… You see the greatness of the Mohammedan beyond other races.” He returned to the theme on March 25, 1900, at the San Francisco Bay Area, describing Mohammed as “the great Asian prophet” and saying: “The ancient message of Krishna is one harmonising three – Buddha’s, Christ’s and Mohammed’s.”
Swami Chidananda of Sivananda Ashram described Mohammed as “a great soul” who “was born with the temperament of a saint”. The Swami explained in detail the spiritual significance of Ramzan, pointing to the “sadhana” of fasting during the month of Ramzan. Swami Chidananda explained that Muslims began their Ramzan fast at “Brahmamuhurtha” – the holy time when Hindus are urged to pray and meditate. “This (Ramzan) fasting,” he said, “is spiritually the inner method of Yoga… Being seekers, we belong to a universal brotherhood which is gathered under the common flag of the unity of all faiths. Let us also, upon this extremely auspicious day of the first of the Ramzan month, earnestly pray to Prophet Mohammed and Allah. Who is the same as Jehova, Ahura Mazda, God Almighty, the Father in heaven or the Atma or Supreme Spirit.”
Are the self-styled Hindu leaders of today greater than Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda? More learned that those who headed Adi Shankara’s peethams? More wedded to Sanatan Dharma than sages like Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Chidananda? In contrast to all the great Hindu preachers, we have people today – some incredibly clad in saffron – constantly tormenting and verbally and physically attacking minorities – Muslims in particular – preaching hatred and abusing their religion. Falsehood and innuendoes are weapons freely used to tarnish the minorities. Little do many realise that preaching hatred of other religions, other holy books and other gods is a terrible sin.
“Why do Protestants and Catholics fight in Ireland? … Why do Hindus and Muslims fight? Ignorance is responsible for all misunderstanding and dissension,” wrote Swami Vishnudevananda, also of Sivananda Ashram whose works on yoga and meditation are considered classics. Swami Vivekananda was more scathing:
“For all the devilry that religion is, blamed with, religion is not at all in fault: no religion ever persecuted men, no religion ever burnt witches, no religion ever did any of those things. What then incited people to do these things? Politics, but never religion; and if such politics takes the name of religion, whose fault is that?”
Was Swami Vivekananda, speaking in California in 1900, referring perhaps to an India he foresaw coming?
M.R. Narayan Swamy is a veteran journalist.