Some journalists and analysts try to write the story of Congress revival every now and then, especially after state elections or marginal electoral gains for the Grand Old Party. The loss of preeminent position by Congress as a national party is not linked to mere electoral strategy but rooted in the very thought of being ‘national’. The decline of Congress is directly proportionate to the denationalisation of the thinking within the party, argues RSS Sahsarkaryavah Dr Manmohan Vaidya
After the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, a senior journalist, associated with the left, asked me what brought Congress to its present condition of decline? It was an unanticipated query. In response, I presented a counter question—what is the full name of Congress?
He thought for a while and answered, “Indian National Congress”.
I said ‘Indian’ means ‘India’ and it encompasses all. What should be the meaning of ‘national’ then? He couldn’t come up with a response. I told him that here ‘Indian’ is more a geographical term and the ‘National’ is a qualitative term.
Taking the conversation forward, I said that in the Bharatiya context, ‘Nation’ means ‘people’. A few special traits of Bharatiya society have become its identity after a journey of thousands of years. Being national means preserving this identity and strengthening it.
Twenty years after its foundation, Congress took the shape of an anti-British freedom movement. At that time all the Congress leaders were of ‘national’ thought and stood proudly with this nation’s special identity that had taken shape after a collective journey of centuries and survived despite numerous invasions and conflicts.
Personality of Bharat
The core of Bharatiya society is spirituality, which has been formed after a journey of thousands of years. This spirituality has granted a different temperament, innate nature to Bharat. People living in this large territorial expanse, inhabited by different castes, religions and languages, share these intrinsic traits of Bharat.
There are four aspects to Bharat’s being. First is “Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudha Vadanti’—the Almighty or God is one and can be called by various names and can be reached by different paths. Bharat has established this by its conduct. Hence, Swami Vivekananda, in his famous Chicago address had proclaimed that we go beyond tolerance and accept all ways to be true. He further said that he was proud to represent a country in whose language Sanskrit, there is no synonym for the term ‘exclusion’.
Second aspect is realising ‘Unity in Diversity’. In Rabindranath Tagore’s words, “To see unity in diversity and to establish unity amongst variety is the core Dharma of Bharat.”. Bharat does not see diversity as ‘differences’ and the alien as enemies. Hence, we are not scared by the advent of a new community. Bharat has an innate and incredible ability to assimilate diverse communities while preserving their uniqueness.” Third feature is that Bharat believes that every soul, man or woman, is potentially divine and the goal of human life is to manifest the divinity within by controlling nature internal and external. Do it either by work, worship, meditation or psychic control, any of these four or more or all and be free. Therefore, four purusharthas of Dharma, Artha, Kaama and Moksha have been conceptualised and practised in Bharat. In Bharat ‘Artha’ and ‘Kaama’ are not negated, instead life is considered complete and meaningful when all four are fulfilled by following Dharma.
Fourth aspect is that there are liberty and freedom to choose one’s path to ultimate freedom. Depending upon one’s interest, capacity and nature, the composition of their path can be a mix of paths such as the Karma, Bhakti, Dhyan or Gyan Marg. Hence, we say that there is spiritual democracy in Bharat.
The Intrinsic Nature of Bharat is ‘Dharma’
The intrinsic nature of Bharat is Dharma. Here Dharma does not mean religion or worship or rituals. If you open your eyes and close your ‘I’ you will expand your circumference of ‘we’ to progressively include family, relatives, village, district, state, country, the entire humanity, and all animate and inanimate creation. By expanding our sphere of belonging and working for the well-being of those whom we consider our own is called Dharma. Dharma is not about wearing symbols of identity but about righteous conduct. For instance, going to the temple or any place of worship, observing fasts or performing rituals is not Dharma. Rather it is Upasana or worship that helps you to tread on the path of Dharma which is nothing but giving back to the society in order to enrich ‘social capital’. Hence, such ‘worship’ or religion is for Dharma and not Dharma by itself.
This idea of ‘Dharma’ is purely Bharatiya. It is described and discussed consistently through the ages in classical and folk literature in all Bharatiya languages and dialects. There is no synonym for Dharma in any language outside Bharat. Hence it is apt and correct to use ‘Dharma’ even in English. Translating it as religion would be wrong. Though different modes of worship or Upasana can be called religion.
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At the root of this very idea is oneness stemmed out of spirituality. It is this expression of spiritual oneness which leads us to feel related to all humanity, and the animal and plant kingdom.
To impart knowledge to a seeker, giving water to the thirsty, food to the hungry and shelter to the homeless – each of these is a Dharmic act. Hence, terms like Dharmshala for inns, Dharmarth hospitals for charity hospitals are widely used in practice. Constructing ponds or lakes, planting trees on pathways, helping physically disabled people and doing all this with a sense of duty is called Dharma. Doing Dharma leads to societal enrichment or prosperity which takes care of everybody without any discrimination.
Sister Nivedita has said that in a society where people, instead of keeping the remuneration of their work to themselves, share it with others in the society, the accumulated collective wealth of the society makes everybody rich and prosperous. But when people, keep the remuneration of their work to themselves without giving it to the society, some people may become rich but the society at large remains poor. Dharma lies in the enrichment of social capital on the whole. This is the basis or foundation of Dharma. Dharma does not discriminate. It connects with everybody and everything. One that discriminates while helping cannot be a follower of ‘Dharma’. Dharma connects and binds the society together hence Dharma is defined as "one that beholds, keeps together everybody - everything and allows all to prosper.
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Dharma prospers when we give back to society more than what we receive. There is a shloka in Vivekananda Kendra's prayer-
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That means O Lord please fulfil this wish of mine where I can give back to the society more than what I have received in my life.
Rabindranath Tagore has elaborated on this in his seminal essay titled 'Swadeshi Samaj', saying that the welfare state is not a Bharatiya conceptualisation. A society which is least dependent upon the state power for its needs is the “Swadeshi Samaj (society)”. Hence in Bharat, there needs to be an emphasis on social initiative and social cooperation. Dharma provides the foundation for this and our society and systems have always been founded on Dharma.
(Let the wheel of Dharma
keep on moving)
It clearly appears that while working on Bharat's Constitution, the members of the Constituent Assembly were clear about the concept of ‘Dharma'. Hence, it is reflected in the motto of the Supreme Court as "Yato Dharmastato Jayah".
‘Dharmachakrapravartanaaya’ has been embedded on the walls of the Lok Sabha and in Rajya Sabha, it is “Satyam Vada, Dharmam Char”. Not only this, the chakra or wheel on our national flag is 'Dharma Chakra’ which is meant to keep on moving. All tasks undertaken, however small they may appear to be, of giving back to the society, help in keeping this wheel of Dharma moving and everyone should play their role in it.
In 1988 when I was a Pracharak in Vadodara there was a severe drought in one part of Gujarat. Sukhdi, a nutritious meal, was being collected in the Sangh Karyalaya for the purpose of being distributed in the drought-stricken areas. An old lady who appeared to be a beggar came to the Karyalaya and when the karyakartas there enquired she said in her weak voice, 'sukhdi'. The volunteer tried telling her that sukhdi was for distribution in drought-stricken areas and not for people in the same locality to which she replied by saying, “Son, I am not here to take Sukhdi from you but to give you some.” Dharma is strengthened by such small actions of individuals and the wheel of Dharma keeps moving.
A couple of years ago in Tirupur city of Tamil Nadu, a camp for the specially-abled was organised by the organisation 'Saksham' with the help of the Central Government. Saksham is an RSS inspired organisation that works amongst specially-abled people. Medical tests were being conducted and scores of specially-abled people were making their way to the camp alighting at the bus stand. An auto driver who ferried one such individual was so struck by the purpose of the camp that for the entire day he let go off his earnings and provided free rides from the bus stand. A photographer whose studio was near the campsite realised that people required photographs for their identification card when many of them struggled to make to his studio to get clicked. He put in his share of efforts to make things less difficult for them by temporarily shifting his studio to the campsite and served for free. All such acts contribute to keeping the Dharma Chakra moving.
This philosophical foundation of Bharat and its intrinsic nature stemmed out of it, is known to the world as Hindutva (Hinduness). The national identity of Bharat and Bharatiya society is Hindu. Hindu is the adjective of this nation and the people of Bharat. That makes us, the people or Rashtra, a Hindu Rashtra. Hindutva has always been about connecting and uniting everyone and doing away with discrimination. Being national means this personality, Hindutva (Hinduness) finds expression in the personal, familial, professional and social life of the people of Bharat.
Being national is respecting our ancestors, great men and women of the past, reformers, sages and seers, who inspired and guided this nation to counter foreign onslaughts and invasions and kept the spirit of nationhood unhindered.
Being National is worshipping this holy land, where this noble thought was conceptualised and rooted deeply and a great culture and civilisation took shape. Keeping everybody in tune with this national identity and spirit is the basic vital work required to be performed. This cannot be accomplished by any political or state power but by the people themselves.
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Here, 'api' includes all—children, senior citizens, ill, weak and others deprived of any means. It is Dharma that guarantees happiness to all who are vulnerable, which is to be followed by all in their conduct.
The belief that people of Bharat are one and my own, that everyone is equal and that one has to give back to the society with a sense of duty, is being ‘national’ or Hindu. Because of us being Hindu the people here are ‘Hindu’, is a timeless truth. This is what we mean when we say that ours is a Hindu Nation. There does not arise any question of disrespecting anyone.
The ‘national’ people of Bharat, full of diversity, speaking different languages, following different modes of worship have been living in harmony and peace together, for centuries by accepting this diversity not as a difference but as our special characteristic.
The world has gotten closer with the modern means of transportation and communication. The diversity of language, race and religions is there to stay and Bharat has the vision to look at the underlying unity in the apparent diversity. The reason being, 'Isha Vaasyamidam Sarvam' is Bharat's motto, 'Tenatyakten Bhunjitha' and 'Ma Gridah' are its codes of conduct. Through this, Dharma can be strengthened and happiness for all can be accomplished.
Bharat has lived these principles for centuries hence it has conceptualised the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the entire world is one family) and Vishwam Bhawatyek Needam (Let the entire world become one nest). Bharat will once again exhibit how human society can live in harmony in this diverse world by following its Hindutva code. This is the duty of Bharat and the need of the world. Creating such a Bharat is what makes Bharat a ‘Vishwa Guru’. It is not a matter of announcing one to be the ‘Vishwa Guru’ but exhibiting so with our conduct. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been engaged in this noble task. This is the purpose and goal of RSS.
An insightful expression was given by a veteran Pracharak of the RSS when he said that “RSS is the evolution of the life mission of this Hindu Nation.”
Being ‘national’ is sometimes described as being ‘nationalist’ which is not correct. Nationalism is not a Bharatiya concept. The concept of the nation which took shape in the 16th century in the West is completely different from the Bharatiya concept of Rashtra.
Whereas the ‘nation-states’ in the West have led to wars, oppression and violence, Bharatiya concept of Rashtra is ‘people-oriented’, who share a unified culture, view of life and history. Hence, despite there being various political authorities or state powers here, this Rashtra has been and is ‘one’ in its view of life and culture. This is about nationality and not nationalism. We are national and Hindu, not nationalists.
During the freedom movement, almost all leaders of the Indian National Congress were of this national character. Gradually, with the increasing influence of Communists within Congress, this ‘national’ leadership was marginalised. After the Congress split of 1969, this process of marginalisation was complete and the Congress fell completely under the communist influence and the reason for the party’s existence was limited to striving to be in power by hook or crook.
At the same time, with the efforts of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, mass leaders, sages and social reformers, the awakening of the national consciousness happened and the result is visible throughout the country. On the one hand, there was a national awakening due to which the society was rising above caste, religion, region and language barriers and was starting to think with a single national vision and on the other hand, Congress was entangled in its scheming and plotting to stay in power by arousing narrow sentiments of caste, religion, region and language. As a result, the nationally awakened people began marginalising Indian National Congress that had marginalised those who were ‘national’. This is the answer to the question asked by the senior journalist at the beginning of the conversation as well.
(The writer is Sahsarkaryavah of the RSS)