As Hindus, we’ve forgotten both शास्त्रबोध | Shaastra bodha (knowledge of our shaastras/scriptures, and for me, it is also knowledge of our history) and शत्रुबोध | Shatru bodha (being able to distinguish who is a true friend and who is not).
The following three revelations taught me both. As always, I have tried to provide references for each.
My first revelation was about Swastika, a symbol of well-being and auspiciousness not just for the Hindus but many ancient cultures around the world. An excellent, well-researched documentary1 taught me that this word was appropriated by someone who translated Hitler’s autobiography into English. Hitler or the Nazis NEVER used the word Swastika, but instead, the word they had for their symbol of hate and terror was Hakenkreuz. The correct translation of this word in English is “Hooked Cross.” This was a Shaastra bodha for me, a history lesson that should have been taught in school but was not and is still not part of history lessons today.
The second revelation was about these Western scholars who claimed to have dedicated their lives to the study of Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures. At first, I thought this was quite admirable, given that they came from a very different culture and all that! But, around this time, I started listening to Rajiv Malhotra ji’s talks2 and got his books, and something he said struck me. He said scientists also spend their lives studying viruses and bacteria, but it is not to help them grow and thrive but to find ways to kill them. This was my Shatru bodha, realizing that the intent behind an action, however glorious that action may seem, is most important and decides if an action is good or not.
The third revelation was when the caste monster loomed on the horizon. As the pandemic hit, I saw narratives being projected of Hindus being this casteist, discriminatory, regressive people and culture and how the entire faith needs to be dismantled. There was even a three-day conference3 held on the topic, and caste laws and policies were mushrooming across the country! This was my Shaastra bodha as I sought to understand if any of our scriptures really are discriminatory. It was also a Shatru bodha, showing me that the enemy is not always an outsider but, more often than not, one of us. Many of those speaking in favor of the caste laws and even at the conference calling for the dismantling of Hinduism were so-called Hindus themselves!
As the Devataas would have it… I prefer this to the usual “as luck would have it” because luck seems totally random, whereas the thought of our Devataas guiding and protecting us and being in control seems more comforting! So, as the Devataas would have it, I happened to attend a Samskrita Bharati workshop and fell in love with Sanskrit! I owe a lot to the kind and patient teachers of Samskrita Bharati, especially with a lazy and slow student like me!
Hindu Dharma has Advaita Vedanta as its foundation that teaches सर्वं खल्विदं ब्रह्मन्; there is the same one divinity in every being, how then can such a faith be discriminatory? Yes, there were, are, and will always be people behaving badly and discriminating against each other, but that cannot be blamed on Hindu Dharma, just as we cannot blame colonization, slavery, or racism on any faith!
Reading some of our scriptures like the Jnaneshwari (which is a commentary on the Geeta by Sant Jnaneshwar), Valmiki Ramayan, and Vyasa Mahabharata, not only did I find no mention of any discrimination on any grounds, but on the contrary, saw a beautiful agreement of the same Advaitic principles found in the Upanishads! There was the same thread of thought of the one manifesting as many from the ancient Upanishads to the simple yet beautifully profound poetry of the many saints Bharat has been blessed with! Maharashtra is especially blessed with a rich Sant parampara with saints belonging to all jaatis. The Varkari sampradaya4 exemplifies and is a testament to these teachings of unity.
But how do we address the problems that seem to keep growing bigger every day? What can we do about these? There are many ways in which we can contribute yatha shakti, as per our capabilities. Here are 4 things you can do:
- Get involved with your local schools and town administration, understand the process, reach out to your representatives, and communicate the problems we face; run for office if you can!
- Pay attention to what is taught in schools in the social studies and world history classes and not just the STEM subjects we only seem to care for! Engage with your schools, start a dialog, and provide them with the correct information about all these topics.
- Reconnect with your shaastras. That does not necessarily mean we all need to learn Sanskrit, although nothing like it if you can! But it is not required as there are plenty of good, authentic translations available for free on the internet, as well as many very low-cost publications from excellent publishers like Gita Press5!
- Volunteer and contribute via time, effort, and donations to one or more organizations working hard on the three action items above. There are many organizations doing very good work, but this is still a very small percentage of Hindus who are aware and active. Combating Hinduphobia requires the entire community to be involved and invested, and help is needed in every area, from research to data entry and even simply forwarding information to friends and family, which most of us can definitely do!
Shaastra bodha is not just an understanding of our scriptures but our history too, the real one, not the whitewashed one! This gives us clarity on where the problems we see today are coming from and allows us to connect the dots as well as understand things like what constitutes an offense versus a defense. Self-defense is allowed even by law, but many confused Hindus take offense at this very right to be able to defend and protect that which is sacred to us!
Thus Shaastra bodha and Shatru bodha are both needed today more than ever.
I’ll end with two of my favorite verses, the first is by Samartha Ramdas Swami who was a spiritual guru and political advisor to Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj:
केल्याने होत आहे रे आधीं केलेंच पाहिजे । यत्न तो देव जाणावा अंतरीं धरितां बरें ॥
It’ll happen if you start doing, know that God is in the doing of the work, in the effort, if the intent is pure and for the greater good, that is, for Dharma.
The second is a shlok from the second adhyaaya of the Bhagvad Geeta:
नेहाभिक्रमनाशोऽस्ति प्रत्यवायो न विद्यते।
स्वल्पमप्यस्य धर्मस्य त्रायते महतो भयात्।।2.40।।
Shri Krishna here is talking of the greatness of Karma Yoga, where every little bit of sincere effort is never wasted, and even a small amount of following such a Dharma will save one from the great fears that surround us.
This to me is धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः | Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah!
May the Devataas guide and protect us all on this path of Dharma!
- The Silence Of Swastika – Documentary
- Battle for Sanskrit: Whose Interpretations? EP4 Wisdom Sutra w/ Rajiv Malhotra (playlist with multiple videos on the topic)
- Dismantling Hindutva Hinduism?! (playlist with multiple videos on the topic)
- Documentary on Vaari of the Varkaris
- Gita Press publications
- PDF of Swatantrya Veer Savarkar’s book “Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History”
अश्विनमासः कृष्णपक्षः एकदशीतिथिः २०८० विक्रम संवत्सरः