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Module 10 and 11 on Gandhi and Hinduism on Evil, and Martin Luther King Jr.- Racism and Ideology

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University of Waterloo
Religious Studies
RS 121
Jamie Read

RS 121- Week 10 Module: Gandhi and Hinduism on Evil About Gandhi and Hinduism: - Mohandas Gandhi; widely known as Mahatma Gandhi (“great soul”- meaning of Mahatma (a title)) nd -Born October 2 , 1869 -Studied law in England and became a lawyer; England power in India, educated Indians sent children to England for education trying to become modern, upward mobility - From 1893-1915 worked as legal consultant in South Africa where he first encountered racism - Three tier system; white- had full rights, coloured (Asians)- in between, blacks- few rights - Organizes first fight against racial discrimination; discovers that racism is very widespread. This is tied to imperialism- racism in India and England too - Europeans have convinced themselves that they’re intellectually, morally, and physically superior to the people they’ve conquered- don’t see themselves as bad people who have conquered these people, but think they’re raising them up - See themselves as good people rising up these lower humans.- they think it is moral - Gandhi’s response is rooted in his Hindu identity; reformulation of classic teachings- criticizes traditional Hinduism - Response is kind of nationalism- a legitimate nationalism is one that is open and Universalist, inclusivist – legitimate response to racism - Seen as the synthesis of the Vedic religion: - Vedic religion was religion of central Asians who moved into northern India around 1500 BCE - Hinduism is combination of their religion and that of the existing local beliefs - Vedic’s focused on sacrifice- gods took energy of the sacrifice to maintain order in the universe - Ex. Good crops, healthy animals, good marriage partner- someone sacrifices to god for these reasons so God can give them these things in return The Caste System: - Made up of 4 main castes: -Brahmins (Priests)- elevated status - Kshatriyas (Warriors/Governors)-elevated status - Vaishyas (Merchants/Producers)-elevated status - Shudras (Servents)- indigenous people -Outcastes/Harijan (perform polluting labour) - The indigenous people became the Shudras class - As this system spread, some groups were so out of it socially or religiously, that they were left entirely out of caste system – without any official ranking that’s how far below they were - In modern world; outcastes were very poor people, did labour that put people in ritual pollution: - Anyone dealing with dead people (cremators) , or animals- cannot make appropriate sacrifices -fisherman, tanners- part of outcaste (low caste); do cleaning jobs - Many Muslims were included in this “caste”- so that no one would associate with them (outcaste) – before India was in control of Muslims-people you don’t talk to, marry etc. even though socio-economically the Muslims were higher than the hindus - System is hereditary; cannot move around (you are born into that caste): “It is better to do one’s own dharma(social duty) according to caste well than the dharma of another poorly”- serve your own caste (own dharma) - Caste system universalized in India although some other religions that arose denied it (i.e. Buddhism- rejected caste system) Hindu Beliefs - An important development was the writing of the Upanishads and Arayanka; works of speculative philosophy- books - What was the reality beneath the surface? - What is it in the universe that is unchanging? – see people life and die, trees grow and disappear, everything seems to be changing but what stays the same? - 2 answers emerged: - The Dharma; comes from word meaning “that which holds” -Eternal principle on which the universe is built - It organizes and energizes the universe - It is unchanging, permanent - The Brahman/Atman - Brahman is understood sometimes as a god, or as more of a principle or energy - The Brahman is ineffable- you can’t really describe it; beyond all divisions - Anything you say about the Brahman is inadequate-it’s everything; it permeates the universe, it’s the source of the universe; it’s not male and not females, it’s not big but it’s not little; it’s before words, before we started making distinctions - Atman- because the Brahman is the source of us, there is in each of us a piece of that original energy, spirit, or principle- not your empirical stuff, not something you can touch; the atman, the soul - Understood correctly the Atman is the Brahman; ultimate meaning is found inside yourself; the journey outward and the journey inward are really the same thing The Bhakti Tradition: (medieval) - The path to devotion - emphasis on the personal god and devotion to that personal god - This devotion is called Puja- worship of the Hindu God - the most widespread is Vishnu- by far the largest; also Sheva and Devi (female goddess) - Religious path seen as attempt to become united with the god who is understood as the source of the universe; creator and destroyer- universe created for millions of years, then it collapses, then is created again etc. - Focus is on unity with the god through devotion; yoga, meditation are still valid paths to devotion to god -These are all equally valid paths - Trying to get out of samsara: the cycle of life and death and rebirth (reincarnation) - Being born again is not a victory over death- it’s a failure. - Hindus striving not for more life, but for liberation from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth (moksha)- you want moksha - What’s keeping you in that cycle is yourself- your Karma; that’s why you keep being born because you keep doing the wrong stuff; the problem is you - Problem is that you’re ignorant- you don’t know your true self so you mistake the human urges you have for real goal of life- urge for power, pleasure, money – this is wrong. Define the powers as absolute, you take action based on the desires you create karma. Act in a selfish way. Hindu’s know we are all CONNECTED - Ignorance creates desires, which causes you to take action, creates karma, which determines rebirth. Gandhi on Ultimate Reality - Ultimate reality not a personal god, it is truth - God is truth, truth is god. - It is not a person, but a disembodied principle that is biased towards the good (towards love) - Gandhi described ultimate reality as: 1. A pure or disembodied consciousness- consciousness itself not of a being 2. Acting in a rational or orderly manner 3. Active and representing infinite energy 4. Pervading, informing, and structuring the entire universe 5. Benevolent- did all of this out of love; we are here because universe wants us to be here. It is biased towards life 6. Mysterious- we can’t nail it down. – ineffable, can’t describe it o If you can describe your god perfectly, you’ve got a small god. 7. Omnipotent- self-limiting; it doesn’t predetermine human behavior-did not violate human freedom, plays a passive role (leads to possibility of evil); distance himself from miracles - This doesn’t mean that he’s given up on Bhakti tradition- tradition of devotion; - One’s attitude towards truth should be same as one’s attitude towards one’s god.- towards Vishnu/diva - Ghandi was admirer of the Bhagavad Gita;- it’s a book , 100 000 verses long - Discussion between Arjuna, a great warrior and his charioteer who turns out to be Krishna- an (avatar) incarnation of Vishnu o Krishna Teaches that the proper attitude is complete devotion and dependence on Vishnu (god) expressed in selfless action- not by chanting or praying. Selfless action according to dharma. Can’t harm others while doing this. Religious Pluralism and Hindu-Muslim Relations Religious Pluralism: -Gandhi’s teaching on ultimate reality is tied to his religious pluralism - His concept of religious pluralism strongly informed his attitudes towards people in conflict -Ultimate reality(truth) eludes all of us- it is beyond our grasp- no one has the final truth but we’re searching and striving towards it -The proper relationship to ultimate reality is humility- learned from Bhakti tradition, understand you only have partial truth, not all of it -If I want to learn about ultimate reality in all of its dimensions, I have to learn from my enemies and their traditions- find out the truth in the enemies tradition and what part of ultimate reality the enemy has but I don’t -Hindus don’t have all the answers: they can learn from Muslims History of Hindu-Muslim Relations: -From the 16 -18 century India was ruled by Muslim invaders -In the north there was a great conflict- the Muslim rulers would try to suppress Hinduism by destroying temples, statues etc. -Indians reacted by isolating themselves- protecting themselves from Muslims; some of the outcastes were aimed towards the Muslims not the poor -At the same time there is some interaction between the two- Sikhism and Sufism- both products of interactions between Hindus and Muslims -When the British invaded(worsened situation), they pitted Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs against each other, worsening relations between the groups- there was a political side to this -Some Hindus responded to this with a Hindu nationalism- Indiamust be one country and it must be Hindu only, expel British and Muslims- Gandhi rejected this -Gandhi rejected this, arguing for an India that embraced all its religious traditions- Muslims and Hindus had to learn to live together -Developed a religious vision in which he, as a Hindu, could appreciate the religious truth of Islam -1924- fasted for Hindu-Muslim unity- that two communities might start talking as one against British -1947- Indian granted independence and divided into Pakistan (Muslims) and India (Hindu)- divided by the British -A great violence erupted- referred to as Communalism- 500 000 lives were lost before Gandhi undertook a fast unto the death for the sins of the Indian people- only when Gandhi was near death did the people of India stop fighting -Conflict between Hindus and Muslims continues to this day in India and Pakistan- very frequently strained. Recently when Indian peoples party came into power BJP decided to detonate underground 2 nuclear explosions, and Pakistan retaliated- work is still needed The Modern Period in India - Invasion of the British through the East India Tea Company(corporation like Nike) to facilitate trade – British wanted to trade but there wasn’t much the Indians wanted from the British - When Indians refused to cooperate (with the trade) the British moved in more formally; occupied and colonized the territory- Indians were not passive. They would respond to the British invasion - Gandhi developed a response to that invasion rooted in Hindu tradition - When British invaded, Indians had variety of perspectives (very strongly): 1. Adapt Hinduism to Western culture; assimilate- often happened in areas that were colonized- the conquering culture seemed stronger/powerful and effective than culture of indigenous people. Their gods must be stronger because they won and we lost and some felt Hinduism is wrong and should be rejected and it should be adapted to western culture. Indian culture should assimilate to Western modern culture- Gandhi went through a phase of this response (became like British people) 2. Rejection of Western thinking in favour of tradition- Hinduism is better than West and contained a truth that Western philosophy didn’t have. The traditional ways of India were more perfect than the way of the west. Sure the West had a short term advantage but taken to their logical conclusion western civilization would destroy itself. All the Indians had to do was remain traditional and the west like every other empire will blow off the face of the Earth. Can see this in Swaraj- stick to your traditions and westerners will destroy themselves 3. Accept Western economic development, but complement that with Indian spirituality- West had to give up its spirit to gain power(military), but India remained its spirit. Complementary understanding, yes to West for economic development but complement with indian spirituality- two had to work side by side. Can see some of this in Gandhi’s writing. Ex. His criticism for treatment of lower caste adopts human rights perspective of west but doesn’t give up Indian perspective. 4. Identify Hinduism with Indian Nationalism; us vs. them; Hinduism unites the Indians against British- became basis of independence movement in India. Common strategy for people who have been colonized- united by common language, religion, tradition, customs- everything that unites us against them becomes focus of nationalist movements -Nationalism as a project- sometimes successful, sometimes not: -Indian Nationalism has always been very fragmented because of differences in religion, culture, language, geography, and economics - Some argue that British created India- they were united by rejection of British imperialism- probably going too far… Yes and No to Nationalism: An Ethical Approach - Nationalism can be problem, but not always- sometimes it is the solution. – demands an ethical approach to the question -Gandhi argues: 1. Nationalism can be either closed or open; when closed it’s dangerous- closed to other ethnic groups, other individuals, can fall into racism and become demonic -Who is the Nation? - The nation is ALL the people of India- Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists - The concept of nation is rooted in culture not race- Indian culture is open 2. The nation must be democratically defined - The nation is the people, not the princes - Swaraj, or self-determination, is democratic concept. It’s not defined by will to power but by desire for self-determination through self-knowledge and self-control- against kicking out British rulers for Indian rulers; he doesn’t want any dictators. Opening of one self to others - Gandhi refuses violent resistance-whose interests are being served? Violence serves self-interests- whose interest are you serving by using violence to get rid of the British- motivation has to be pure; strive for liberation for Indian and British (don’t harm British) - “My patriotism does not teach me to allow people to be crushed under the heel of Indian princes if only the English retire. If I have the power, I should resist the tyranny of Indian princes just as much as that of the English. By patriotism I mean the welfare of the whole people, and if I could secure it at the hands of the English, I should bow down my head to them. If any Englishman dedicated his life to securing the freedom of India, resisting tyranny and serving the land, I should welcome that Englishman as an Indian” - type of nationalism Gandhi wants, democratic, open, pluralistic- if it isn’t these ethical standards he wants no part of it Satyagraha vs. Evil - Satyagaraha means holding onto truth; also “soul force” or “truth force” - A strategy for overcoming evil -Evil is parasitic not self-sufficient (for Gandhi): -evil requires good, but good does not require evil – even Nazis need good, required people to be trustworthy, loyal, courageous- good qualities. Indian Kings need goodness of people for King to exist- Indians have allowed parasites to rule over them Soul Force and Brute Force (Body Force): -brute force- gun powder, arms and ammunition - “The force of love is the same as the force of the soul or truth. We have evidence of its working at every step. The universe would disappear without the existence of that force but then you ask for historical evidence of soul force...” - where is this in history books? - The history books are the history of brute force; - history ok kings and queens, about conquest -Brute force is the interruption of soul force - Societies can only exist because this soul force is running through them – soul force is when we care and nurture our kids, teach them new things, teach them to reproduce - We don’t focus on soul force- it isn’t part of our history books- mo
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