Book Review | The Hindutva paradigm stands on its own, doesn’t need Western parameter and prism

Ram Madhav needs no introduction. He has been a member of the national executive of the RSS and the national general secretary of the BJP. H...

Ram Madhav needs no introduction. He has been a member of the national executive of the RSS and the national general secretary of the BJP. He has also been associated with India Foundation and has authored several books. His 2020 book, Because India Comes First: Reflections on Nationalism, Identity and Culture, comes closest to the spirit of the present one. That earlier book was a collection of essays, covering Mahatma Gandhi, BR Ambedkar, Ram Janmabhoomi, Article 370, democracy and so on.

The fifteen essays (with an Epilogue added) in the present volume, The Hindutva Paradigm, cover similar terrain but are pegged to Deen Dayal Upadhyay. Madhav writes in the Preface, “The first three chapters deal with the life of Deen Dayal, the political situation in the country during that period and a summary of Deen Dayal’s four lectures on Integral Humanism. The remaining twelve chapters deal with various aspects of the Integral Humanist philosophy. I have tried to look at his ideas from the prism of Western philosophical doctrines and contested many contemporary Western ideas in its light. This book is my humble attempt to give a twenty-first-century interpretation to Integral Humanism.” This explains the sub-title: “Integral Humanism and the Quest for a Non-Western Worldview”.

Deen Dayal Upadhyay (1916-68) delivered the four lectures on Integral Humanism in Mumbai in April 1965. The substance of these lectures is summarised by the author in Chapter 3. The first lecture set the tone for the subsequent three. To quote from the second, “The first characteristic of Bharatiya culture is that it looks upon life as an integrated whole. It has an integrated viewpoint.”

As a side issue, why don’t we use the word Bharat(a) more often? The Constitution has both India and Bharat, but the latter is rarely used. As a second side issue, the word “Hinduism” is best avoided, since every “ism” has a suggestion of dogma. In contrast, the suffix “tva” has connotation of truth in Sanskrit and therefore, Hindutva (as used in this book) is preferable to Hinduism.

To quote from the third lecture, “All those principles which bring about harmony, peace and progress in the life of mankind are included in this ‘Dharma’. On the sound basis of ‘Dharma’ then, we must proceed with the analysis of life as an integral whole. The longings for Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha are inborn in man, and satisfaction. Of these four efforts too, we have thought in an integrated way.” That indeed is the crux of Integral Humanism, equilibrium and balance between the four purusharthas of dharma, artha, kama and moksha, as opposed to artha or kama alone.

That third lecture also leads to the notion of the soul of the nation. “‘Chiti’ is the soul of the nation. On the strength of this ‘Chiti’, a nation arises, strong and virile if it is this ‘Chiti’ that is demonstrated in the actions of every great man of a nation.” As Madhav notes, this is reminiscent of what Swami Vivekananda said, though the latter did not use the word ‘Chiti’. His expression was the awakening of ‘rajas’.

The fourth lecture set out some objectives for the economy. To quote again, “Swadeshi and decentralisation are the two words which can briefly summarise the economic policy suitable for the present circumstances.” As expected of him, Madhav has authored a remarkable book, expanding on these principles. Personally, I find Deen Dayal Upandhyay’s third lecture to be the most profound. He delivered those lectures at a certain point in time. They had a historical context and were often reactive, reacting to the West, reacting to the socialism that was practiced. Would he have delivered them differently today? While this is a counter-factual, I think so. I think the third had elements that are more long-term.

A sentence from Madhav’s Preface will illustrate what I mean. “I have tried to look at his ideas from the prism of Western philosophical doctrines and contested many contemporary ideas in its light.” The Hindutva paradigm stands on its own, without using any other prism. Consider the word “governance”, used by the author in the Epilogue. Understandably, Deen Dayal Upadhyay didn’t use it. It wasn’t in currency then. Indeed, dharma isn’t religion. Dharma is that which holds up society and therefore, dharma is also about institutions of governance. In the two extreme typologies, under socialism, decisions are taken by the State, while under capitalism, decisions are taken by the market/individual. However, our texts (not just Kautilya) offered a third template of governance, with three layers of decision-making—the king/State, the community and the individual. This is also an important difference, not just the balance between the purusharthas. Since Madhav has pegged this book to Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s lectures, as delivered in 1965, he has probed the pillars of the king/State/nation and individual, ignoring that of the community. How else does one incorporate what the author has said about delivery of public goods (health, education, even physical infrastructure) through temples?

Polific as he is, I am sure Madhav will write another book, probing the ideas further, but ignoring the West. Hindutva stands on its own.

The Hindutva Paradigm: Integral Humanism and the Quest for a Non-Western View

By: Ram Madhav 

Publisher: Westland

Pages: 424 

Price: Rs 799

Bibek Debroy is the Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Council and a Sanskrit scholar. The views expressed are personal.

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