|A madrasa in Mandsaur|
Courtesy The Hindu
Hindus and Muslims still live together in India cooperating with each other. Today’s Hindu newspaper carries a report on the front page with the headline ‘Mandsaur’s inclusive madrasas.’ Mandsaur is a district in Madhya Pradesh which has 128 madrasas with a total of 5500 students. In 78 of these madrasas, Hindu students outnumber their Muslim friends, says the report. 630 of the 865 teachers are Hindus. Images of goddess Saraswati and Ajmer Sharif coexist in peace and harmony on the walls of the classrooms.
One must be thankful to The Hindu, I thought as I read the report, for highlighting such inclusiveness when far too many Indians are driven crazy by religious fundamentalism. This blog post is my humble attempt to express my gratitude to the newspaper as much as for celebrating the inclusiveness. It is also an earnest plea.
One of the questions I have raised time and again in the classroom as a teacher is how many of my students have read any of their religious scriptures. The answer has invariably been nil except for the comic strip versions of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Most students (all Hindus) had no idea about what the Vedas were all about. Quite many of them had not even the faintest idea about the the Upanishads, let alone their profundity. Yet some of these students today are staunch supporters of fundamentalist activities such as Ghar Vapasi.
Ignorance is the primary breeding ground of fundamentalism of any sort. Those who understand and internalise religion will never fight for it. Those for whom religion is merely a tool for something (political power, social status, identity source, etc) wield it as precisely that: a tool. It is such people who foment strife and violence in the name of religion.
Religion is basically about a set of values and principles. Gods and commandments, canons and rituals are only tools for helping the believer understand and internalise those values and principles. Values and principles make an individual a pro-active person who makes meaningful contributions to the society. Hatred and violence cannot find any place in their value system.
The 128 madrasas in Mandsaur should make us sit up and do some serious reflection and examination of our value system.
Let me conclude this with an email written in response to my last post by a friend who is a Catholic priest and a professor of philosophy.
This might enlighten you.
Karl Rahner, the greatest Catholic theologian of 20th Century, and in many ways, turned the tide of Critical thinking, through Vatican II and beyond, was invited to lecture in Japan, on Religion. He had the view of Anonymous Christian/ity, which meant, in simple terms, that any human being was an Anonymous Christian, from a Christian's point of view. After the lecture was over, Suzuki, the Buddhist asked him, " Dr Rahner, if that is the case, would you mind being called by me, an " Anonymous Buddhist". Rahner shook hands with him and said, " Why not? Absolutely so."
Karl Rahner and Suzuki are persons who have internalised their religions. My friend who wrote this letter is also one such person. And he knows, I believe, that I am a person who has internalised my atheism.
This post is a plea for such internalisations. This post is a plea against ignorance and the strife caused by it.