When the Prime Minister discussed his vision for Muslim society in 2014, he coined the phrase “Ek hath me computer, ek hath me Quran” (in one hand computer, in the other Quran). He has repeated the same multiple times since then. It is debatable if this endeared him any more to the Muslim community, as Muslims have always had Quran in one hand and other tools, in some cases even a computer, in the other hand. In contrast, Hindu samaj has increasingly become distanced from Dharma due to various reasons.
Hindu society and religious education
Religious education has been an important part of development of children since ancient times. It formed the part of curriculum in traditional Gurukuls. It must be remembered that unlike propaganda by Marxist historians and other Hinduphobes, such schools were open to all Hindu castes. After the Missionary-Macaulay system took over, religious education continued to be imparted at home, mostly by grandparents. Some schools also continued to impart education of Hindu Dharma. In independent Bharat, laws prohibited teaching of Dharma in schools and secular state took over the temples. In stark contrast, Christian and Muslim owned educational institutions continued to teach their religion, while mosques and churches also continued to be independent sources of religious instruction.
The rise of nuclear families, specially after liberalisation in 1990s, has meant that grandparents do not live with children to teach them religion. In many homes where both husband and wife are employed, the situation is that the child learns mother tongue from the maid and not parents! What to say of dharma? In an informal survey, the author found that as many as 6 students out of 10, from class 6th to 10th studying in various schools in Dehradun, did not know basic details about Ramayana. A few could not even tell the name of father of Bhagawan Ram!
Islamic studies, Bible studies and Hindu studies
The situation is worse at the level of higher education. While there are respected universities abroad and in Bharat that offer Bible studies and Islamic studies as subjects and award degrees from graduate to Ph. D in the same, no Bharatiya university offers a comprehensive course in Hindu studies!
Bible Studies as a subject is taken almost exclusively by Christian priests and Islamic Studies by practicing Muslims, and the studies prepare them for a life in evangelism and defending Christianity and Islam. Hindu Studies as a subject is mostly offered by universities abroad and taken by leftists or Christian priests. Thus the course material is designed to refute, demean and denigrate Hindu Dharma rather than its propagation.
Is it not a matter of shame that after so many years of independence, we have not been able to start a single comprehensive course in our universities for Hindu Studies, which gives an insider’s and consequently a sympathetic view of Hindu Dharma, culture and life?
Why religious education?
An argument can be given that we do not actually need religious education for our children and that secular education is enough to function in the modern world without any issue. However, religious education for Hindu children is an imperative for multiple reasons:-
- There is no doubt that Hindus generally have a sense of pride in their Dharma. One often comes across persons who do believe that Hindu Dharma is the best spiritual path among all available ones. However, most of the times, this pride is not because of knowledge, but due to conditioning since childhood. This is almost a similar kind of devotion that many youngsters have for their chosen IPL team. If there is a debate on issues with Muslim or Christian children, many of these would not be able to hold their own or even explain the basic tenets of Hindu Dharma. Probably like Akshay Kumar, they will say the “Mandir means Man ke Andar” and then progressively concede all essential aspects of Hindu Dharma.
- Politics today has become devoid of spiritual values. Even BJP, which claims to champion Hindutva, often takes positions that are in direct opposition to Hindu Dharma. This happened, for example, in case of Sabarimala, Jallikattu and recently in crackers on Diwali. To its credit, it did revise its positions on Sabarimala and Jallikattu. There was some reversal on crackers too and hopefully next year after Covid-19 has subsided this would not be an issue. However, the very fact that BJP had initial positions contrary to the traditional Hindu position is indicative of the spiritual vacuum in its ranks. This is expected as a political party will only be representative of the population it represents.
- The lack of religious education has led to many distortions in religion, and created an artificial scarcity of high-calibre Hindu preachers and religious heads. The spiritual vacuum is filled by charlatan secular Babas and immoral tantriks. The result is that a lot of immoral and illegal actions are done in the name of Hindu Dharma. These not only reduce faith of common Hindus in Dharma, but also lead to ridicule by people of other religions. For an example, in a recent case a couple murdered a child and ate its internal organs for a ritual to beget a child.
- Lack of religious education leads to the individual being an easy target of conversion agents. Devoid of religious education and thus conviction, they are unable to counter their propaganda and easily believe their lies. As a result, conversions of Hindus in Bharat are increasing. This includes conversion after grooming of Hindu girls and conversion due to evangelist activities.
- Most importantly, religion does provide balance in life and mental peace to a person. For welfare of an individual in this life as well as afterlife is the concern of religion. Multiple studies have shown that religious people are healthier, happier and more involved in the community.
Thus religious education of Hindus is the need of the hour. It is time that Hindus embrace the mantra of “Ek hath me Gita, ek hath me computer” and ensure that the education of their children does include religious education. If the government does not support it, we as a community need to support such causes. Sanatan Hindu Dharma survived Islamic brutalities and British Christian persecution as religious instruction kept the faith strong. For its continued survival under an equally hostile secular state, intensive efforts at the level of government, society as well as individual are needed.
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