What is Hinduism ?

My claim to Hinduism has been rejected by some, because I believe and advocate non violence in its extreme form. They say that I am Christian in disguise. I have been even seriously told that I am distorting the meaning of the Gita, when I ascribe to that great poem the teaching of unadulterated non-violence. Some of my Hindu friends tell me that killing is a duty enjoined by the Gita under certain circumstances.

A very learned shastri only the other day scornfully rejected my interpretation of the Gita and said that there was no warrant for the opinion held some commentators that the Gita represented the eternal duel between the forces of evil and good, and inculcated the duty of eradicating evil within us without hesitation, without trendiness.

I state these opinions against non-violence in detail, because it is necessary to understand them, if we would understand the solution I have to offer.

What I see around me today is, therefore, a reaction against the spread of non-violence. I feel the wave of violence coming. The Hindu-Muslim tension is an actuate phase of this tiredness.

I must be dismissed out of consideration. My religion is a matter solely between my marker and myself. If I am a Hindu, I cannot cease to be one even though I may be disowned by the whole of the Hindu population. I do however suggest that non-violence is the end of all religious.

But I have never presented to India that extreme form of non-violence, if only because I do not regard myself fit enough to redeliver that ancient message. Though my intellect has fully understood and grasped it, it has not as yet become part of my whole being.

My strength lies in my asking people to do nothing that I have not tried repeatedly in my own life. I am then asking my countrymen today to adopt non-violence as their final creed, only for the purpose of regulating the relations between the different races, and for the purpose of attaining Swaraj.

 Hindus and Muscleman’s, Christian, Sikhs, Parsis must not settle their difference by resort to violence, and the means for the attainment of Swaraj must be non-violent. This I venture to place before India, not as a weapon of the weak, but of the strong. Hindus and Musalmans prate about no compulsion in religion.

What is it but compulsion, if Hindus will kill a Musalmans for saving a cow? It is like wanting to convert a Musalmans to Hinduism by force. And similarly what is it but compulsion, if Musalmans seek to prevent by force Hindus from playing music before mosques? Virtue lies in being absorbed in one’s prayers in the presence of din and noise.

We shall both be voted irreligious savages by posterity if we continue to make a futile attempt to compel one another to respect out religious wishes. Again, a nation of three hundred million people should be ashamed to have to resort to force to bring to book one hundred thousand Englishmen. To convert them or, if you will even to drive them out of the country, we need, not force of arms, but force of will. If we have not a latter, we shall never get the former. If we develop the force of will we shall find that we do not need the forces of arms.

Acceptance of non violence, therefore, for the purpose mentioned by me, is the most natural and the most necessary condition of our national exercise. It will teach us to husband out corporate physical strength for a better purpose, instead of dissipating it as now, in hausted after the effort. And every armed rebellion must be an insane act unless it is backed by the nation.

But almost any item of non-co-operation fully backed by the nation can achieve the aim without shedding a single drop of blood.

Young India, 29 May 1924

4 thoughts on “Hinduism

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