Dialogue October-December, 2011, Volume 13 No. 2





Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World*

Reviewed by Dr. B.B. Kumar**



Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World

    The Book, Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World, written by Balmiki Prasad Singh, a distinguished scholar, thinker and public servant, presently the Governor of Sikkim, is an important addition in the interdisciplinary study of the plural ethos in India and elsewhere. The term Bahudha, an adverb from the adjective Bahu (many; in Sanskrit) is taken from Rigvedic hymn (RV, 1.164.46; Ekam sadvipra vahudha vadanti; the real is one, but sages call it by various names). As His Holiness the Dalai Lama has written in the foreword of the book, the author of the book, Balmiki Prasad Singh, has defined Bahudha ‘as something close to pluralism, as a living reality’. In the present work, as stated by the author, ‘the word Bahudha has been used to suggest an eternal reality or continuum, or a dialogue of harmony, and peaceful living in the society.’                                                                                                                
    The Book consists of five parts, apart from the foreword, a preface and a ‘Select Bibliography’. The first part of the book discusses major world events of the period 1989-2001 – the fall of the Berlin Wall, transfer of Hong Kong to China, and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in US on 11 September 2001 – and their implications for various nations, cultures, and international peace. The second part discusses India’s experience in handling the pluralistic challenge citing examples from the Vedas, Puranas and the epics, and analyzing policies followed by Ashoka, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Akbar, and Mahatma Gandhi. B.P. Singh has approvingly discussed the Bahudha approach of the pathfinders – Lord Mahavira, Lord Buddha, and Guru Nanak; the builders – Swami Vivekanand Mahatma Gandhi, and Rabindranath Tagore; and the state policies of three rulers – Ashoka, Akbar and Nehru. Field visits for the study were conducted among the people – in Kalicut (Kerala), Kenduli (Birbhum, West Bengal), Simdega (Jharkhand), Sarisab-Pahi (Madhubani, Bihar) and Hajo (Assam) – to examine prevalence of Bahudha ethos in different parts of the country. As author confirms, “The Bahudha approach of conflict resolution is contributing significantly to maintenance of peace and harmony among different castes and religions in Sarisab-Pahi, Kenduli and Hajo, but its inadequacies are too glaring in Simdega in Jharkhand in the face of the Naxalite movement.” The author elaborates Bahudha ethos and approach of “one truth, many interpretations” for communal harmony.

    The third part of the book, dealing with the culture of Bahudha, discusses it as an instrument of public policy for harmony. The fourth part of the book deals with the global imperatives of Bahudha. The chapters in this part discuss ‘Religion for all beings’, ‘Education for harmony’ and the ‘International political architecture: the United Nations’. The last and the concluding part of the book discusses the future of Bahudha.                                                                                                    
    The author rightly observes in the preface of the book: “The message of the book relates to dialogue and compassion more than the mechanics of politics, statecraft and diplomacy. And yet I am aware that without the rule of law, understanding and love can not permeate social life. The process of dialogue would either be closed or cease to be a creative process and its value as a conflict resolution mechanism would get severely restricted. A progressive and peaceful world can only be one where both small and big nations receive a place under the sun and achieve a sense of recognition and worth.”
    The book, no doubt, has a rich treasure of information about the messages of harmony and goodwill emanating from the writings of the great men, the books and the public life, which the author has covered in his book. The vast coverage of opinions and hundreds of quotes of prominent writers/intellectuals makes it necessary for the author, at a time, to give only a tangential touch to the opinion of many. Some times amorphous picture emerges and the book becomes everything to everybody.
    The author while naming four prominent civilizations – Indian or Indic, Chinese, Islamic and Western – states that “The Bahudha approach of ‘one truth, many interpretations’ has been an important feature of every civilization" (p.229). It is rather a tall statement. In reality, Bahudha is only an Indic phenomenon and never the Semitic one. For the Chinese, the others were barbaric entities.                             
    In yet another observation, the author states: “All major religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam
have fundamental elements, but it is militant Islam that is currently drawing maximum attention. Those who see links between terrorism and Islam need to take note of the fact that the Quran considers the killing of an innocent person a crime against humanity; it preaches tolerance and respect for all faiths. Far from promoting a clash of civilizations, the Quran celebrates social and cultural diversity.” In this case, it may be mentioned that the Islam of which author is writing exists neither in the Quran nor in the Sunnah of the Prophet. It is, however, not clear whether the author, like many other prominent persons is ignorant or shuns or shies away from truth, and uses only the politically correct language. Unfortunately, in such cases, the discourse on ‘conflict between forces of fundamentalism and those of tolerance and peace’ suffers due to the balancing act of the intellectuals, who want to apportion the blame, or over-generalize it.                  
    In a similar generalizing observation, the author states: “It was through the divine education imparted by illustrious luminaries such as Ram, Krishna, Mahavira, Buddha, Confucious, Laozse, Socrates, Moses, Zoroaster, Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Nanak that great civilizations and cultured societies came into existence. These noble beings taught their followers to practice forgiveness, generosity, and peacefulness. They made it clear that the sole purpose of the religion was to bring people closer together, to guide their spiritual growth and to promote justice. Unfortunately, an insistence on dogmatic adherence to rituals and traditions and insisting that religious truth can be attained in this or that special way is at the root of conflict and discord.” (pp. 267-68). While giving this general statement the author forgets that bracketing the prophets of the Semitic religions, preaching exclusivist religions with antagonistic two humanities in the parameter of ‘true and false religions’ with others is unjust. In reality, the basics of Christianity and Islam are the root cause of conflict and not the insistence on adherence to rituals and traditions. The book also echoes, indeed a mindless slogan, irrespective of who said it, that all religions are same and they all say the same thing. The author ignores the fact that they are not the same they do not say the same thing. Even their Gods – Yahweh/Jehovah, Allah, God and Ishwar – are not the same. Again Dharma is neither religion nor mazhab. Clearly, the fallacy lies in the use of a single word to describe two or more different concepts. Semitic religions and Hinduism do not produce even same kind of man. Whereas the former produce God-fearing man, the latter produces God-loving and God-knowing man. The wide perceptional, philosophical, ethical gap among these relgions should be accepted, rather than mis-explaining them in trans-parameters. Some scriptural quotes should illustrate the distinct spirituality of these religions:                                                                         
     “The day of the Lord is coming–a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger–to make the land desolate and to destroy the sinners within it. (Bible, Isaiah 13:9)                                                               

                “I shall cast terror  
                Into the hearts of the infidels;                                                                                 
                Strike off their heads          

                Maim them in every limb.” (Quran, Surat 8. Ayat 12)    

                “O believers! Wage war on the infidels          

                Who dwell around you,     

                Let them find harshness in you.” (Quran, Surat 9, Ayat 123) 
On the other hand, Gita says:           

     “Whatever form of me any devotee with faith desires to worship, I make the faith of his, firm and undeviating. (Gita 7.21)                                      “Others …worship me in my oneness and in every separate being and in all my million universal faces. (Gita, 9.15)  

     It needs mention that scores of such verses may be quoted from Bible, Quran and Indian scriptures.      
    The author mentions Sufism to remind us of the harmonious aspect of Islam forgetting the facts that majority of orthodox Muslims consider Sufism to be heretical; most Sufis have supported wars against Hindus, many acted as spies and they actively sought to convert Hindus to Islam. Moreover, the mystic part of Sufism is derived from Vedanta. Similar is the case of Gnostic Christianity, passages from St. John and St. Matthew, especially the ‘Sermon on the Mount'. Abbot John Chapman, a  Benedictine and a spiritual director, writing in the beginning of the last century about John’s spiritualism, said that the same was hardly Christian, and he was, in fact, a secret Buddhist. Christianity, a Judaic creed, when it tried to enter the gentile world, it sought a new idiom and had to make an alliance with Gnosticism. However, once Christianity became an official religion, there was no use of the Gnostics, they were denounced as heretics, and the Gnostic books were banned, and destroyed. A similar process took place with Hindu-Buddhist converts to Islam in India, South-East Asia and Central Asia.  
    Bahudha, in deed, is an excellent philosophy. However, this alone is not enough. Ashoka succeeded as he had powerful army at his back; a weak Nehru and his Panchasheel failed; India preaching non-violence had to fight wars with Pakistan and China both. Thus Bahudha approach, the dialogue, may not succeed while dealing with dogmatic/fanatic religious extremists, as well as with Marxists/Maoists. Negationism and apportioning blame, talk of ‘demographic dominance and cultural hegemony’ of the Hindus and intra-Hindu differences are the weak points in the book. (p. 183)  


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