Citizen's Committee for Dharma Rakshana Sammelan,
Chennai, convened a Seminar on "Violence to Hindu Heritage" on
Saturday, the I7th of July, I999, at Satguru Gnanananda Hall (Narada
Gana Sabha), TTK Road, Chennai.
Reproduced below is an excerpt of the Key Note Address
Pujya Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati
have been thinking on this topic for a long time. It is very clear to me, and
perhaps to many of you, that there are two distinct religious traditions in the
world. Some of them have a good following. Some others may not have.
tradition does not believe in conversion. A Jewish person is born of a Jewish
mother. A Zoroastrian is born of Zoroastrian parents. A Hindu is born of Hindu
parents. And so too are the followers of Shintoism, Taoism and many other tribal
religious groups all over the world. They are born
to be the followers of their religions. In other words,
they do not want to convert anybody. In India, when the Parsis, Zoroastrians,
came as refugees, being driven from Iran, they came to Bombay, they were
received and allowed to settle down in India.. They were very faithful to their
religion and they lived their religion. They did not cause any problem to
others. Hindus accommodated them as even they accommodated the Christians, the
Muslims and many other small tribal traditions. Our vision of God allows that.
We generally accept various forms of worship. We accept many forms of prayers;
one more really does not matter to us. In fact, some of our Hindu friends in
their puja rooms have a picture of Jesus and they don't see anything
wrong about it, nor do I feel anything wrong about it.
would call the Jewish, the Zoroastrian and the Hindu traditions as
non‑aggressive traditions. For me, aggression is not just a physical one.
It need not be the Kargil type. There are varieties of aggression. You can
emotionally be aggressive. In the United States, it is a crime to be aggressive
towards the children. Simple abuse is looked upon as aggression. Verbally you
can be aggressive. Physically you can be aggressive. Economically you can be
very aggressive. And the worst aggression, which I consider more than physical
aggression, is cultural aggression or religious aggression.
is born of many sources. I am hurt if somebody encroaches upon my piece of land
that is vacant, and the court supports that person and gives me the
responsibility of finding a new house for him; it is an aggression. I, get hurt.
That he encroached upon my property is itself a good source of hurt. It is
enough to hurt. That the law protects the one who encroached makes me more hurt.
That hurt cannot be easily healed, because it leaves you helpless and the
helplessness is a source of great hurt. If somebody physically hurts you, of
course, it is very well known that it is a hurt. It is treated as a crime and
there is a penalty for it.
I am emotionally abused, then, that also is a great hurt. For example, people in
authority can abuse you. The employer can abuse you emotionally. Husband can
abuse. Wife also can abuse the husband. In‑laws can abuse. For these, I
can seek some redress somewhere.
the worst hurt, I would say, is the hurt of a religious person ‑ whether
what the person believes has a basis or not. It is not my domain of enquiry to
say whether it has a basis or not. Each one is free to follow his or her
religion. Everybody would, have a certain belief system. Either the person is
convinced or the person needs to be convinced. On the whole, he believes in the
whole theology and follows that theology. He has the freedom to follow. that
theology. That is human freedom.
is it that one is connected to as a religious person? He is connected not to any
particular person here, who is the
member of the contemporary
society or his family. I am connected to my parents as their son. I cannot take
myself as just a son; I am connected to
other people too. I am son to
my parents. I am also the father to my children and husband to my wife. I am
uncle, cousin, neighbour, employer, employee and citizen. I have a number of
hats to wear every day. As the religious T, I have different roles to play, day
son is related to a person outside. A brother is related to a person outside. A
citizen is related to a country, a state. As a religious person, who am I
us for the sake of convenience call that religious person a devotee. To whom is that devotee connected? Definitely, not to anyone here.
I may be a religious son. I may be a religious father, religious
brother, religious husband. In fact, if I am religious, the religious 'me'
is going to pervade every role I play.
Basically, first and last, I am a religious person, if
I am one. That religious person is the basic person not related to anything
empirical. He is related, of course, to a force beyond ‑ whatever that
force may be. One may say that force is God, and He is in heaven. Another one
may say, He is in Kailasa.
Another may say, He is in Vaikuntha.
Another may say, He is in Goloka
another may say, He is elsewhere, elsewhere and elsewhere. But the person
related to that force is the one whom we call a devotee, and that person has an
altar. That person is not an empirical person in the sense he is the father or
son or daughter. He is the basic person.
The hurt of a basic person is going to be a hurt,
which is deep, and true. There is no healing power which can heal that hurt.
That is the reason why any religious sentiment, if it is violated, in anyway,
will produce a martyr. There is a martyr ready to be born in that basic person.
And thus the religious sentiment seems to be the most sensitive.
a religious sentiment is hurt, you will find that, in the Indian press, there is
a complete black out, in terms of who did what. Even the names are not given.
They will say one community fought with another community. I think it is correct
because it prevents further escalation. We generally do guess work and say it
must be this community or that community.
is so because, that sentiment is very deep and has to be respected
‑whether it is a Muslim sentiment or a Christian sentiment or a Hindu
sentiment or a Jewish sentiment. That sentiment has got to be respected. If that
respect is not shown, then the State has to protect that sentiment. You tell me
whether it is correct or not! The State has got the responsibility to protect
the religious sentiment of all the people. That I consider is secularism.
America, the religious sentiment of every individual is protected. You can go to
the court and get an answer, if there is something wrong done to you as a
religious person. There is justice. They respect. In fact, if you register an
institution as a "religious church", they take it as a religious
church. You don't require to submit even an income‑tax return. Until there
is a public complaint, they respect it. They give you the freedom. Here, if an
institution is said to be "Hindu Religious", there is no tax exemption
for the donor. It is entirely a different thing altogether.
religious sentiment has got to be respected by every one, whether he believes in
my religion or not. Just because I don't believe in your ideas, you can't stand
on my toes! If you don't like my nose, it is your problem. I don't have any
problem. If my ideas and my belief systems are not acceptable to you, I give you
the freedom not to accept them. But you don't have any business to stand on my
toes to hurt me in any manner. (Long cheers)
fact I will fight for your freedom to think differently. You must be free enough
to differ from me. Bhagavan
has given us the
faculty of thinking, of discrimination. We are not shy of enquiries. Our whole
method of enquiry is to invite poorvapaksha
We will create objections that cannot even be imagined by you and then answer
them. We welcome them because we are not shy. We want to explore and find out
what the truth is. But that is entirely a different thing. You have the freedom
to differ from me; I have the freedom to differ from you. This is what I am
is the attitude of the non‑aggressive traditions. On the other hand, the
second category of religions, by their theologies, is committed to conversion.
is not only sanctioned by their theologies but also is practised by their
followers. And that is their theology. They have got a right to have their own
belief systems. But they don't have a right to thrust them on you. They are free
to believe that unless one is a Christian, one will not go to heaven. They have
a system, a set of non‑verifiable beliefs ‑
nitya‑paroksa ‑ on
which they base their theology. (Applause)
says, I have been sent by God to save you". I can also say the same thing.
I will have ten people with me, because I can talk. If I don't talk and be a mouni
baba, still there will be ten people. It is easy to
get ten people anywhere, especially in India. I can say, "God sent me down
to save all of you!"
I went to Kilpauk Mental Hospital. Just for a visit, of course. (Laughter) It is
my own imagination. It is not true. The Kilpauk Hospital is one of the most
ancient mental hospitals in this country. Next one is in Agra. We have got the
number one status in many things and this is one!
morning, all the crows had flown away. Nobody was there. I saw a man standing
under a huge tree talking in loud voice, "Listen to me. I have come here,
sent down by God, to save ail of you. You please ask for forgiveness of your
sins. Those who want to be saved, please raise your hands". Then he said,
Thank you, thank you, thank you". He thought that from the audience many
people had raised their hands. But there was no audience. I was the only one
standing behind him. Not even in front of him. I was naturally amused but I was
not surprised, because I knew where I was. (Laughter)
I was enjoying this situation, well, I heard a voice from the heaven. It said,
"This is God speaking. I did not send him down. (Laughter) Don't believe
him". When I looked up, there was one more fellow ‑ sitting on the
tree. (Loud laughter and applause)
is a non‑verifiable belief as you can see. In addition most of these
religions, when they talk of heaven, are promoters of tourism, really speaking.
(Laughter) I am interested in making my life here, right now. If there is
something you have got to say to make my life different, I am ready to listen to
you. If there are some pairs of ears ready to listen to some other thing, let
them have the freedom.
there is a heaven is a non‑verifiable belief. That, following this person,
I will go to heaven, is another non‑verifiable belief. That I will survive
death, is a non‑verifiable belief. There is nothing wrong in believing.
But we have to understand that it is a non‑verifiable belief. And having
gone to heaven I will enjoy heaven, minus cricket match, is another
non‑verifiable belief. The unfortunate thing is another fellow says: I am
the latest and the last. Don't follow that fellow; follow me". (Laughter)
That really confuses me. He ha~ really no argument to give that he is the fast.
That I am the latest, is another non‑verifiable belief and what is
promised is again not verifiable.
say, let those non‑verifiable beliefs be there. I want them to have those
beliefs, even though I will not advocate them. I want them to have freedom. Let
them enjoy the freedom to have their beliefs. But what is the basis for that
person to come and convert me? If you are convinced of something, you can try to
convince me and not convert me. Did you ever notice a physics professor knocking
at your door, asking for your time, so that he can talk to you about the
particles? Never! If you want to learn physics, you have to go to him.
But here, every day, I am bothered. At the airport I
am bothered, in the street corners I am bothered, at home, I am bothered. They
want to save my soul!
I say this is not merely an intrusion; this is an
aggression. There are varieties of intrusions. If the sound is too much outside,
with all the loud speakers, well, it is an intrusion into my privacy. One can complain; not in
India, of course! Here also we have got laws. It is not that we do not have
laws. But we have 'in-laws' at right places. You know! (Laughter)
So nobody has any business to intrude into my privacy.
You come .and tell me that I have got to save my soul. But
I don't look upon myself as
condemned for you to come and save. We, really, don't have a word in Sanskrit,
equivalent for salvation. Because, 'salvation' means you have been condemned.
Unless you are condemned, you need not be saved.
But this man comes and tells me that I am damned. I
have to believe that first. Then he appoints himself to save me. This is very
interesting. This is how the union leaders work. You create a problem and then
appoint yourself as a leader to solve it. (Laughter) You become inevitable
Instead of the word 'salvation', we have a word
among the dignitaries there
are may gurus.
All of them have a
common word and that common word is moksha.
Is it not true? For
every one of them it is moksha.
is not a word which is equivalent to salvation. It is
derived from the verbal root moksh
= mokshane. It
means freedom from bondage. All of them use the word moksha.
this word. Vaiseshikas,
all others use this word moksha.
In fact, if moksha
is not an end in view, it is not 0 school of thought to
talk about. We all have a moksha.
the materialist, has his own concept of moksha.
'Body goes'; that is moksha
for him. He says, bhasmeebhutasya
dehasya punaraagamanam kutaha.
the word moksha
does not mean
salvation. It refers to freedom from bondage. On the other hand the aggressive
religions have this belief system that you are condemned and you have to be
I look into these theologies, what I see is very interesting. I need not say
anything to prove that they are illogical. I have to only state what they say!
would like to illustrate this:
must have heard about the 'Godfather'. You know the Mafia don is called the
Godfather. He makes an offer that you cannot refuse.
He comes and tells you: I am buying your
You may say, I am not
He says, "You are
type of approach was existing in Madras for some time, I am told. I hope it does
not come back again. (Loud laughter and applause)
fellow comes and tells: I am buying your house!"
you reply, "This is my house and I am not selling".
says, "You are selling it and you are selling it at this price".
decides the price also and then tells you, I know exactly where your children
are studying and when they are coming home also".
threatens you and buys the house.
a Godfather is one who makes an offer that you cannot refuse.
what about God, the Father? He is worse, I tell you, because he says either you
follow this person or I will condemn you eternally to hell. This is worse than
the offer of the Mafia don! This too is an offer, which I cannot refuse. And it
the other case at least, I can do something. But here he is not even visible. He
is sitting in a place even safer than Dubai! I cannot do anything to him. This
is the non‑verifiable belief on which their religion is based.
has the right to follow that religion. Let him follow his religion. All that I
say is he does not have anything much to offer to me. If he thinks he has
something to offer to me, let him have the freedom to think so. But he has no
freedom to intrude into my privacy.
converts the Hindus by any means ‑ by marriage, by some enticement or by
some preaching which creates a fear. He talks about the goodies available in
heaven ‑if you go to heaven, you will enjoy this and that. You will have
beatitude and be saved. Otherwise, you will go to hell. It will be too hot etc.
So, more out of fear of hell, one may choose to go to heaven.
says and does all this to convert others to his religion. I say, this is wrong
because if one Hindu or Jew or a Parsi is converted, and the other members of
the family are not converted, they are all hurt. Even the converted one must be
hurt underneath. He will be debating whether he was right in getting converted,
It takes sometime for him to heal that. He is also hurt. All other members are
definitely hurt. The community that comes to know of this conversion is hurt.
tell me, what is violence? What do you call this act that hurts? I call it
violence. It is not ordinary violence. It is violence to the deepest person, the
core person, in the human being. The religious person is the deepest. And if
that person is hurt, I say, it is violence, rank and simple.
is pure violence. And what does it do? It wipes out cultures.
I would like to go to Greece and see the live culture
of the people who lived there. Where is that culture now? I have to imagine how
they might have lived. I only see the huge monuments that are left behind.
like this, many other cultures have been totally destroyed. The native cultures
of South America, North America and Australia have all been destroyed. What
about the Hawaiian culture? Gone! All the tribal cultures in Africa have been
destroyed. How many cultures, for the past two thousand years, are methodically
destroyed? The humanity is the sufferer and is poorer for it.
need all the cultures. And let the humanity enjoy the riches of the different
cultures. It is a mosaic of cultures, Each one has got some beauty. With the
destruction of religion comes the destruction of culture. When a new religion
replaces the old, a culture is destroyed.
converting, they may try to preserve the art forms like Bharatanaatyam
the themes of the new religion. But without Nataraaja
where is Bharatanaatyam,
devotion, where is nrityam?
therefore, the culture cannot be retained if the religion is destroyed. It is
true with reference to all other cultures also. But definitely it is true with
reference to our culture, because, you cannot separate culture from religion.
religion and culture are intertwined. The religion has gone into the fabric of
the culture. When I say 'Namaste' to you, it is culture. It is religion. When you are throwing rangoli, it
is religion; it is culture. There is a vision behind all that. Every form of
culture is connected to religion and the religion itself is rooted in the
spiritual wisdom. This is because we have a spiritual tradition.
therefore there is no cultural form unconnected to religion. Destruction of
culture is destruction of religion. Destruction of religion is destruction of
culture. If this destruction is not violence, what is violence? I would like to
say CONVERSION IS VIOLENCE. (Thunderous applause) It is rank violence. It is the
only that, in our dharma‑shaastra,
said that if somebody forcefully occupies another's piece of land, he is called
an aatataayi. For an aatataayi, in our shaastra, there is capital punishment.
another's land or another's house or flat, against the will of the owner is a
grave paapa according to our dharma.
times, when the owner asks,
"Give me back my
house", the tenant invariably replies, I am sorry. I cannot give you the
house, because my children are going to the school in this area. Please find a
similar house for me.
Then I will move". When the owner finds such a house for him, the
tenant says, It is too far away for the children to go to school. Please find
something in the same neighbourhood". It means, I would like to be
here". If you go to the court, twenty five years would be gone. But
occupying another's land is not dharma
as per our culture.
kshetra is another's kshetra. It has nothing to do with me. Kshetra-apahaari
is an aatataayi. The one who does arson or poisons somebody is an aatataayi, and there is capital
punishment for him. One who kidnaps another's wife is an aatataayi and there is capital
punishment for him. All these actions deserve capital punishment. And if, simply
for occupation of a land of another, there is capital punishment, think of what
would be the punishment for the destruction of a culture.
somebody is ashastrapaani, unarmed, and you kill him, it is not correct. Karna
in the Mahaabhaarata
this argument when he was completely unarmed. Talking
to Arjuna, he said, I am an ashastrapaani; you should not hit me now. Krishna
had to tell him that Karna was not unarmed, but he was duly disarmed. There is a lot of difference
between the two. Krishna had to convince him.
here, a Hindu is an ashastrapaani. A Jewish person is an ashastrapaani. A Buddhist is an ashastrapaani. A Parsi is an ashastrapaani.
That is, they are all non‑aggressive. When you try to convert them, it is
like hurting an ashastrapaani.
You cannot ask me to change the genius of my culture, the genius of my religion. It is the tradition of my culture and religion that I do not convert. It is not a situation where, you convert and I convert. And the one who has a better organisation is going to convert more number of people. It is not a percentage game of the market.
it is one sided. I cannot change the genius of my culture because I do not
believe in conversion. I allow you to be a Christian. I allow you to be a
Muslim. You be a Christian, you be a Muslim. You pray; it is fine for us. I let
you be a Muslim or a Christian, even though I do not say, "All religions
lead to the same goal". I don't commit that ubiquitous mistake. (Cheers)
I give you the freedom. You please follow your religion. Don't ask me to convert
others to my religion like you, because I cannot convert. It is because I do not
believe in it. My parents did not believe in it. My grand parents did not
believe in it. My Rishis did not believe in it. And I don't believe in it. You cannot change a
culture in order to be on par with the others. It is against the genius of our
is not only our culture, which is like this; there are other cultures too. The
number of the Parsis is dwindling. I loathe to see the destruction of the Parsi
culture. They are harmless good people. But now they are the losers.
people are also the losers; their numbers are also dwindling. They are fighting
to preserve their culture and religion. They are not converting. There is no
evangelism in Judaism. There is no proselytization. There were never any
inquisition. They were the sufferers; they were the victims of aggression, and
planned aggression for ages.
therefore, conversion is not merely violence against people; it is violence
against people, who are committed to non‑violence. (Prolonged cheers)
don't say Hindus do not fight. They can fight very well. You don't tell me,
"You put your house in order". I will put my house in order, in my own
time and in my own way.
two brothers are fighting over an empty piece of land that is there next door,
and a third man occupies the land saying, "Because you two are fighting, I
am occupying this piece of land", what is this logic? Some people advance
this logic to me and say that we are all fighting and therefore they are in. We
may be fighting amongst ourselves but we have to settle that among ourselves.
That does not mean YOU can be violent. (Applause)
says we must have ecumenical dialogue. I had attended some of these dialogues.
And I stopped attending them. Because I don't see any use in it. On one such
occasion, I said, I can have a dialogue with a Christian, if he is ready to
change, if convinced, after the dialogue". Is he, if convinced, going to
change his stand? Is he going to stop conversion? Don't ask me to have a
dialogue with you when you are standing on my toes. You just move away. Then we
can have a dialogue.
world religious conferences that are held are only meant to neutralise any
protest against conversion. That is all. (Cheers) Because they don't want to
stop conversion. So what is the use of saying, "We are all same. We are all
going to the same God". It is something like saying, you know, your
property is my property; my property is your property; your money is my money;
my money is your money. Therefore, let my money be with me and let your money
also be with me! (Laughter) So this is all wrong thinking.
forms of prayer are valid. That I can accept. They don't accept that. I can
accept because of my understanding of the shaastra.
The Lord will understand, definitely, if I pray in Tamil or, Latin or
Greek. There is nothing Latin and Greek to the Lord. He will understand in
whichever language the prayer is made. If I pray in Samskritam,
definitely, he will understand because it is His language anyway.
(Laughter) I am very Catholic, understand'. I don't have this kind of silly
notions that it has got to be in one language and it has got to be in one form
we have certain special forms of rituals ‑ Vedic rituals ‑ which
cannot be compromised with. Because we do not know how they can be different. We
have no other pramaana
for it. We do not have
a means of knowledge to prove that this can be different.
do not accept any of that. And they preach. It is not that they preach their own
religion. They preach against other religions. And I consider that kind of
preaching is violence. It breeds violence. I have a genius which does not permit
me to convert. I cannot be asked to convert.
the violence against me is a one‑sided violence. It is a rank
one‑sided violence. They have gotten away with it for two thousand years.
I want them to know that this is violence. Let them prove conversion is
I am hurt and many others like me are hurt. Millions are hurt. There are so many other issues to be discussed with reference to conversion. But I have only one to discuss here. It is the violence that is allowed to be perpetrated against humanity, against cultures, against religions. That is the only issue here; there is no other issue. (Applause)
is the only issue. Humanity should not stand with hands down and allow violence
to be continued against a person who is non-violent.
There is another important fact in the Indian context,
I tell you. I am a Swami committed to ahimsa.
ahimsa, really. It is nothing
‑sarva‑bhootebhyo abhayam. l am taking this sanyasa
and offer a complete
assurance to all the beings and to all the devataas,
that I am not a competitor to any of them and that I will not hurt any of
kayena vacha manasaa. That
am aware of this. I am a sannyasi
I sit in Rishikesh. These two people come to me. One is a Padri and the other is
a Moulvi. I invite both of them. They are religious people. I respect them. I
give them seats. They try to argue with me about something. Generally, I do not
argue with them. You can argue with people whom you can convince. I don't want
to argue with people who only want to convince me.
I don't argue. I enjoy their company. I sit with them and talk to them. They
pick up a quarrel with me. And then they begin
to beat me. Please note that,
this is just an imaginary tale. And
there is a policeman standing
there. They go on beating me black and blue. I implore to the policeman,
"Please stop them. I am committed
I don't want to fight them back. You please do
something". I appeal to him.
says, This is a matter between religious people. I am secular. (Prolonged
cheers) I am supposed not to interfere". I appeal to him. Twice, thrice I
request him. He does not respond to me positively. Then I think I have to
protect myself. My shaastra
will forgive me. Even
though I am given to ahimsa,
I can protect myself.
And therefore I thought I will take care of myself. I am not just a weakling. I have got enough strength. And therefore, I can take care of these two fellows plus one more. I began to defend myself. The best form of defence is offence. That is what every husband does. And therefore, you defend yourself. (Laughter)
the policeman stops me and says, They are minorities. They have to be
protected and you should not fight against them". (Prolonged cheers)
policeman, you are supposed to protect me. You are the Government. You are the
State. You are supposed to protect me. You cannot be like this".
is the situation that prevails in India.
have to change the whole blessed thing here. If the constitution has to be
changed, let it be changed for good. (Prolonged cheers) My dharma
is not violence. It does not allow conversion. And that
has to be protected.
The State has to protect. If the protector does not protect, people should have
a new protector to protect. That is all. (Prolonged cheers)
is violence. And *it breeds violence. Don't convert because, by this, you are
converting the non violent to be violent. (Applause) You are doing something
wrong. This is drastically wrong. This error has to be realised. The sooner it
is corrected, the better it is for all of us even for Christians and even
I want the Islamic culture to be there. I want the Christian culture to be there. I want the Hindu culture and every other culture to be there. Every culture is to be protected. That is secularism.
Thank you. (Prolonged cheers)