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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Hegemony And Hindu Dharma In the West Indies – Part 10


The Hindu counter-hegemony must be launched simultaneously on two fronts. Firstly there has to be a reinterpretation, reformation, reaffirmation and regrounding of its Dharmic (religious, cultural, educational and social) institutions and traditions. Secondly, there must be a constant unmasking of the hegemony and its various champions and promulgators. The counter-hegemonies, as mentioned previously, have been launched before in our long history and their out-lines can be summarized in four sutras (maxims) – LOK SANGRAHA, LOK SANSKAR, LOK VIYAWASTHA and LOK KALYAAN. When their principles are fully implemented they lead to the Hindu vision of the ideal society – RAM RAJYA.

LOK SANGRAHA – to gather the people together. Hindus have to see themselves as one family.

In the words of Swami Vivekanand: “Then and then alone you are a Hindu, when every man who bears the name from any country, speaking our language, or any other language, becomes at once the nearest and the dearest to you … when the distress of any one bearing that name comes to your heart and make you feel as if your own son were in distress … when you will be ready to bear anything for them”. The Hindu believes that ultimately, the whole world is one family – VASUDHAIVA KUTUMBAKAM – but understands that love, like all other relationships, must begin at home.

LOK VIYAWASTHA – to organize the people.

In our last article we elaborated on this theme – “SANGHE SHAKTI KAL YUG”. Historically, the plantation experience produced an unintended consequence when it united the people against their common oppressor. Much of the abuses of the jati system [social grouping by birth] have been eradicated.

Guyana has many organizations but they are sorely ill-equipped in all the resources needed – human, material, ideological… etc. to effectively serve the needs of the community. This is one main reason why there is a lethargy in the community’s activities and response. Hindu organizations have to become much more activist oriented. One glaring lacuna to be filled is the need for social  counseling – alcoholism, wife battering, and suicide attempts. Hindu organizations and leaders have to also become more outspoken when Hindu interests and rights are threatened – this is their duty.

Hindu Dharma does not end in the mandirs: it does not even begin there. It is quite ironic that recently one individual who has spoken up most forcefully for Hindu Dharma has been Dale Bisnauth who is not even a member of the Hindu “Church”.

Our organizations have also got to expose others to the Hindu vision … not in the aggressive, offensive manner of the evangelicals, but in the Hindu tradition of sharing without asking for conversion. We must teach as well as learn … we who were Jagat Janini (world teachers) cannot be students only. Organizations must stop blaming the enemy only and take charge of our people’s destiny. A great deal of responsibility lies with our professional class. They are figures of respect in our community because that is part of our tradition. They however, have a reciprocal duty, as part of that same tradition, to go amongst the people and share what their common Dharma has bestowed upon them.

Hindu organizations must stop quarreling with each other, while unquestioningly kneeling before others. They will have to respect each other before respect from others will come. A united Hindu organization will assist in this facet of the counter-hegemony. It is well and good to gather the people and get them organized. But to what end? The answers are clear:

LOK KALYAAN: The welfare of the people.

This is the mission statement and must be foremost in the minds of leaders and workers. The Hindu conception of “welfare” is not mono-dimensional; it does not stress only economic arrangements, let’s say, but a balance in the fourfold goals of man’s life (Purusharthas)-  Dharma (Duty to Society), Kama (pleasure, love), Artha (prosperity) and Moksha (spiritual liberation). Hindu organizations have traditionally only focused on the last. But while this is the most important, the Shastras (Hindu sacred texts) teach that the others cannot be neglected. It is this breadth of the Hindu mission, which compels a Hindu to have a position on any issue, which he may encounter in life … whether it is abortion or choosing a national leader.

Ultimately, however all changes are effectuated through people and this, therefore, is probably the most important facet of the counter-hegemony:

LOK SANSKAR: To refine the total being of the people.

Hindu Dharma’s view of human nature is that, while not infinitely malleable by proper education, it is possible to mould man’s character to a great degree. “Sanskars” or impressions are set in both the conscious and unconscious and the Hindu’s goal in education is to enter one’s being, and FORM one’s character – “IN-FORM-ATION”.

Hindu Dharma gives short shrift to the spouting and regurgitation of mere words into which much of modern education has descended. Emphasis is placed on all three aspects of learning – to listen, to contemplate, but then, finally, to integrate. Unless the knowledge is integrated into one’s being, the Hindu does not accept that “learning” has taken place – one is simply repeating words like a parrot.

The truly learned man then, thinks, speaks and acts in unison; he is the ACHARYA or teacher who lives truth. This imperative to form sanskars should determine much of the Hindu organizations’ educational focus. The Western classroom bias is not enough. The Hindu Sanskar camps, in which Hindus live together for short periods and true Acharyas teach, must be introduced throughout the land to supplement classrooms. The courses must reflect the breadth of the purusharthas – social analysis, sociology, politics, and economics; in short the Hindu position on the galaxy of human knowledge.

This obviously implies a prior training of teachers. Two Kendras (centers) have already been established in the region – one in Trinidad, the other in Guyana – they should be assisted in implementing this leadership training. The Pandits have performed heroically over the last one hundred and fifty years but we have to accept that, generally being “purohits” [priests of ritual], there was no way they could perform all the other roles forced upon them. This called for specialized training which was never available.

The character of the new Hindu man and woman has to encompass both Brahmateja and Kshatriya Virya – the Brahmin’s intellect and the Kshatriya’s heroism; the intellectual’s brain and the warrior’s muscles. There has been far too much emphasis on only the former because of the hegemony’s categorization and indoctrination of us as “passive and docile”. The educational thrust must involve all sections of the community – men, women and children. Use the mandirs twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.


Hindu Dharma has been under attack in Guyana from the moment it landed on May 5th, 1838. The attack continues unabated – only last week, “Moralist”, from behind his sobriquet, lambasted those “cultures where women are … just above animals [because of] … the dowry system” and “wife burning”.

Even if true, is this condemnation and denigration, using guilt by association, positive to healthy Guyana? Ideological aggression, if not resisted and counter-attacked, guarantees eventual physical aggression. There can never be true friendship but between equals. But equality cannot only be demanded, it is never conferred but earned in concrete struggles.

When we simply imitate, the ideas of others never truly become our own – knowledge comes not from chewing the cuds of other’s thoughts. All growth comes from within or else it is mere accretion. All evolution is only an unfolding of a preceding involution. We must learn from others but let those ideas run through the channels of our own genius. Only then do we actually grow. We must therefore forge our own channels, our own worldview, and our own center – our own counter-hegemony. The obverse is to be buffeted by the winds of the slightest and latest fad.

In the end we concede that in the words of Bhagvan Krishna, “Uddhared Aatmana Aatmanam” – only the Self can uplift the Self. But we are also taught that the self is intimately bound up in the web of social relations – Dharma. With such a decisive influence we must conclude – “Dharmo Rakshito, Rakshitaah” – Protect Dharma and Dharma will protect you. This is the Hindu Diksha – The Hindu Mission.

(This is the 10th and concluding part of the series….other parts are – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

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Ravi Dev
Ravi Dev
Shri Ravi Dev is the Sanghachalak of Hindu Swamyamsevak Sangh (Guyana). He has been a Hindu activist for the past 27 years in Guyana, after 21 years in New York where he was a corporate executive and a member of the New York Bar.


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