Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Short book review: Hinduism and prophetic religions by Ram Swarup

This book is a collection of the late Ram Swarup’s writings on many subjects throughout the years. It includes essays, books reviews and extracts from interviews and speeches. While many of these were written as a response to the burning items of the day (some literally burning items – for e.g. Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses); these can be read in isolation and will still yield considerable profit today.

An example of this is his diagnosis of the Sikh secessionist movement in the 80’s and 90’s. There are some eye opening passages here. Even a Punjabi Hindu like me – who thought he understood the roots of the trouble – comes to realize that one had swallowed a lot of Marxist nonsense (for e.g. Hindu-Sikh clash being between traders and landed peasants – in other words a class struggle). Of course – it was nothing of this kind. It had its root in British ideological perversion of the Sikh panth. At the same time Ram Swarup laboriously shows us all that the two ‘religions’ have in common – names and nomenclature, ideas and concepts, duties and responsibilities, service and symbols. To read this is to wonder at what alleged ‘differences’ exist (and also to feel a sense of shame at the irresponsibility of some drunk and self-professedly lewd Sikh ‘intellectuals’ in interpreting their own history). A great perspective when reading the daily newspaper and finding out about the shenanigans in the SGPC !!!

There are separate sections for Hindu Alienation, discussion on Christianity, Islam and also communism and also on some of ‘indian secularism’ (that dishonest tribe of people. The section on Christianity is particularly rich (most of the Islamic stuff seems as a response to the passing Rushdie controversy).

Since some of these articles are book reviews, Ram Swarup points Hindus to some scholarly books they should be reading (for e.g. he mentions the Christianity scholar Elaine Pagels works in generally good terms); cautions against swallowing a work too fully (for e.g Chaim McCoby’s work on Christianity) – but always provides a deeper and more wholistic analysis of each book based on Dharmic traditions.

All this in the typical Ram Swarup language – understated, good-natured even when appearing to be irreverent. All in all – this book should be mandatory reading for all Hindus – and the Anglicised, McCaulayite Hindus in particular.

One wishes that VOI would one day publish Ram Swarup’s earlier works and booklets under a “complete works” series. I am sure Hindu society will not shirk from funding such a project, if funds be the constraints.