Secularism, socialism need understanding

Secularism, socialism need understanding

It is fashionable these days to decry the existence of God, to uphold the secular against the spiritual and parade lack of self-belief as a virtue to be cultivated. India has always been a secular country because its spiritual traditions encourage every individual to seek his or her own truth.

Swami Satyananda puts the matter beautifully when he affirms that in the traditions of Sanatana Dharma, the goal of every living being lies in being free of karma and achieves its own state of perfection.

This perfection is internal and refers to experiencing the spark of divinity present within every single human being. 

Indeed, this is regarded as the purpose of our birth which is self-revelation.
Western secularism is commonly understood as the absence of religion.

If we seek to understand Indian secularism in these terms, India is definitely not a secular country. Indeed Indian secularism – in sharp contrast to Western secularism – is based on a profusion of religions in which each is recognised as a legitimate path to the Divine.

It is this tolerance of multiple paths intrinsic to Sanatana Dharma that has made India the refuge of so many religions in the world.

They find in India a warm welcome and a safe haven whether they are Jews, the Baha’is, the Parsis, Tibetan Buddhists and people belonging to so many other faiths.
The largest number of tourists come to India from Israel.Yet our practice of secularism leaves a lot to be desired.

As Bhanu Pratap Mehta points out: “Should the state be allowed to take over temples? Should forms of affirmative action transcend both caste and religion? Should minority education institutions get exemptions under the RTE? What should be the shape of a possible common civil code? How do you move to a citizenship order that detaches rights from the tyranny of compulsory identities? What are the kinds of institutional structures required to protect against discrimination? These are all tricky questions, but the fight between secularists and their critics have, in a sense, frozen our moral and constitutional discourse. There is no space to calmly work through these issues. Secularism should not become an alibi for avoiding hard questions. We need to defend secularism to death; instead, we often talk it to death.”

The case for socialism is even harder to defend. A socialist economy – like those of China, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe - is based on state ownership, centralised planning and one-party dominance. Viewed in these terms, India is emphatically not a socialist state in the sense normally ascribed to that term.

The truncated discourse on both these terms needs to be altered in favour of a uniquely Indian way ahead.

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