Who is a Hindu?

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Who is a Hindu? is a book by Koenraad Elst published in 2001 by Voice of India.

In the first part of the book, Elst tries to give a definition to the term "Hindu", although he writes that "there is no simple solution for the complex question, “Who is a Hindu?”" He also compares Hinduism with monotheistic creeds.

The book then discusses whether Hindu reformists, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs can be considered as Hindus. Other topics in the book include the Caste system and Hindutva.

Elst " Who Is a Hindu? Hindu Revivalist Views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Other Offshoots of Hinduism (Voice of India 2002): Historically, the word “Hindu” means: an Indian Pagan, nothing more, nothing less. The Muslim invaders who brought this word into India and first used it in a religious sense (in Pagan Iran it had simple meant “Indian”), saw no fundamental difference between Brahmins and Buddhists, Tribals and Jains, Rajputs and Other Backward Castes, Lingayats and Sikhs. To them, all these groups had this in common, that they were bound for hell. So, it is not difficult to answer the question who is a Hindu straightforwardly. But because the “secularists” and other anti-Hindu agitators like to make simple things difficult, questions like “are neo-Buddhists Hindus?” have become politically meaningful, so a painstaking answer is provided. "

Elst: Then came Who Is a Hindu?, about whether tribals, Buddhists etc. are Hindus, also an item with important ramifications. I zoomed in on Buddhism in my Dutch book De Donkere Zijde van het Boeddhisme ("the dark side of Buddhism"), half of which is an analysis of the relations between the Buddha and Hinduism. This is a very consequential matter, as the Buddha has become a weapon against Hinduism and most scholars assume the "Hinduism bad, Buddhism good" principle. Again, I am the only one in the world to have thematized this issue.

Extracts[edit]

  • The Sikh Gurus Tegh Bahadur, beheaded by Aurangzeb in 1675 for refusing to convert, and his son Govind Singh, who founded the military Khalsa order and whose four sons were killed by the Moghul troops, are very popular in Hindutva glorifications of national heroes'. Their pictures are routinely displayed at functions of the RSS and its affiliates, and their holidays celebrated, e.g.: 'Over 650 branches of Bharat Vikas Parishad observe Guru Tegh Bahadur Martyrdom Day'.
    • Elst, K. (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8
  • Ram Swarup relates how the British had been disappointed with the conclusions of the first scholar who investigated and translated Sikh Scriptures, the German Indologist and missionary Dr. E. Trumpp, who had found Guru Nanak a 'thorough Hindu' and his religion ‘a Pantheism derived directly from Hindu sources’....So, according to Ram Swarup, other scholars were put to work to rewrite Sikh history in the sense desired by the British: ‘Max Arthur Macauliffe, a highly placed British administrator (...) told the Sikhs that Hinduism was like a 'boa constrictor of the Indian forest' which 'winds its opponent and finally causes it to disappear in its capacious interior'. The Sikhs 'may go that way', he warned. He was pained to see that the Sikhs regarded themselves as Hindus which was 'in direct opposition to the teachings of the Gurus'.
    • Elst, K. (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8
  • However, what is worthwhile to bear in mind is that, despite these innovations, this new community, the Khalsa Panth, remained an integral part of the Hindu social and religious system. It is significant that when Tegh Bahadur was summoned to Delhi, he went as a representative of the Hindus. He was executed in the year 1675. His son who succeeded him as guru later described his father’s martyrdom as in the cause of the Hindu faith, ‘to preserve their caste marks and their sacred thread did he perform the supreme sacrifice’. The guru himself looked upon his community as an integral part of the Hindu social system.
    • Elst, K. (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8
  • The Guru Granth equally contains writings of some non-Sikh bhakti poets including Kabir, and thousands of references to such Hindu concepts and characters as Rama, Krishna, Veda, Omkara, Amrit. (An near-exact count is given in K.P. Agrawala: Adi Shrî Gurû Granth Sâhib kî Mahimâ (Hindi: “The greatness of the original sacred Guru scripture”), p.2, and in Ram Swarup: “Hindu roots of Sikhism”, Indian Express, 24-4-1991. Examples: ca. 8,300 times Hari (630 times by Nanak alone), 2,400 times Râma (the god-name whose constant remembrance leads to Liberation), 550 times Parabrahman (the Absolute), 400 times Omkâra (the primeval sound Om).) Sikh names are full of Hindu elements: Hari (= Vishnu), Rama, Krishna and his epithets (Har-kishan, Har-govina), Arjun, the Vedic god Indra (Yog-indr, Sur-indr). (About Sikh devotion to Ram, see Rajendra Singh: Sikkha Itihâsa mein Râma Janmabhûmi.) The Hari Mandir, dedicated to Hari/Vishnu, is as sacred to Vaishnavas as any of their non-Sikh temples; its tank was already an old Hindu place of pilgrimage, where Maharana Ikshvaku is said to have performed yajnas. (The 1875 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica says in its entry on Amritsar that it has sacred tank with a temple dedicated to Vishnu in the middle).
    • Elst, K. (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8
  • A more specifically religious indication is that Master Tara Singh, the acknowledged leader of the Sikhs since at least the eve of Partition, was a cofounder of the Vishva Hindu Parishad in 1964.(...) Even Khushwant Singh admitted that RSS and BJP activists had saved many Sikhs while Congress secularists were killing them: “It was the Congress leaders who instigated mobs in 1984 and got more than 3000 people killed. I must give due credit to RSS and the BJP for showing courage and protecting helpless Sikhs during those difficult days. No less a person than Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself intervened at a couple of places to help poor taxi drivers.”
    • Elst, K. (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. New Delhi: Voice of India. Ch. 8

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