Indian culture from the time of its civilisational journey had always been pluralistic and cherished diversity, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan said on Saturday.
In a speech dotted with the verses from Vedas and Bhagwad Geeta, Khan said India is a successful democracy not because it was written in the Constitution, but it always practiced ‘spiritual democracy’ by accepting diversity as the natural law.
”Indian culture right from the start of our civilisational journey had always been pluralistic, cherished diversity,” Khan said during the fourth Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture, which was organised by the India Foundation.
Speaking about diversity, he said India was pluralistic because the ancient noblemen who practiced austerity and devoted themselves to the pursuit of knowledge, came to the conclusion that diversity is the natural law.
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Explaining that India did not become diverse after the arrival of semitic religions, Khan cited example that Jews came to the country in the year when the temple of Solomon was destroyed and Christianity in India was older than the European Christianity because Christians came in the first century itself.
According to Khan, there is a mosque in Kerala, which people believe was built two years before the death of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
The Kerala Governor also took objection to the word tolerance to define Indian pluralism.
To buttress his point, he quoted Vivekananda who said ‘when someone talks of tolerance he felt as if the person tried to patronise him.’ To Vivekananda, tolerance was blasphemy, he added.
”We do not tolerate. We respect and accept all traditions. Vivekananda said in his famous speech in World Religion Parliament that the people of India with a population of 35 crore start their prayer – O Lord, the way various rivers, rivulets, springs and water bodies, they originate from their source, they course in the crooked ways and finally merge into the sea.
O Lord, we human beings depending on the natural disposition on which you have created us, we take different paths, but ultimately we merge into you. This has been the Indian thinking,” Khan said.
Seeking to explain why democracy succeeded in India with a ‘continuous civilisation of more than 5,000 years’, Khan asked ”Shall our genius accept this idea that we are running our government, our Constitution on the basis of a borrowed idea? Will that succeed? No.” Khan averred that democracy succeeded in India because Indians, if not a political democracy, always had a continuous spiritual democracy.
”Like the continuous civilisation, we had continuous spiritual democracy — ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ and ‘Tatvamasi’. These ‘Mahavakyas’ (great sentences from Vedas) we have never abandoned them,” the seasoned statesman said.
Taking a dig at those who believed that Mutts (monastery) established by Adiguru Shankaracharya united the country, he said unity of India cannot be created by making buildings, but unity was created by the four Mahavakyas assigned to each of these Mutts.
These Mahavakyas are from four different sources, but they had the same meaning about the divinity of mankind, he clarified.
Drawing a parallel between Shankaracharya and Swami Vivekananda, Khan said in his letter to his disciple Sister Nivedita, Vivekananda said his mission was to teach unto mankind their divinity.
Khan said the modern west gave the concept of dignity to mankind through its Union Charter of Human Rights, which spoke about the rights of the human being, rights of the minorities and the rights of the marginalised, right to culture and right to religious faith and worship.
Explaining why these rights were emphasised, Khan said when the Western world embraced democracy, they needed to become pluralistic because they realised that diversity should not be suppressed.
”Pluralism came to the western society only after clash between judge and the state. Now they try to become inclusive but earlier exclusivity was their hallmark,” the Kerala governor noted.
The Kerala governor observed that with the sole exception of India, the world cultures were either defined by race, language or by religious faith.
Khan also said that the minorities whether cultural, religious, lingual, diversity were suppressed all over the world with the sole exception of India.
He asked the audience not to try to comprehend Indian ideas and concepts with the foreign paradigm as that will lead to wrong conclusions.
If the Indian ideas and concepts are to be understood properly then we must use Indian paradigm.
According to Khan, the word secularism was meant to give respectability to the pluralism and diversity and make it acceptable. On the other hand, India accepted diversity since time immemorial, he added.
”Secularism doesn’t mean to be religious. Secularism doesn’t mean lack of faith in Supreme Truth. Secularism means each individual has the right to approach, to pursue the spiritual path in a manner, which suits her or his own genea. Everybody does according to the natural disposition on which he has been created,” Khan said.
He also shared some anecdotes about time spent with the former Prime Minister Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Member of Parliament Suresh Prabhu too addressed the gathering and recalled his time with Vajpayee.