Our defence of the sacred places was not borne out of violent sectarian fanaticism, but out of a gentle resolute śraddhā for the devas.
Pritam Choudhury is from Agartala, Tripura. He studied electrical engineering at IIT Roorkee, after which, he graduated in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge. Currently, he is pursuing doctoral studies in programming languages at the University of Pennsylvania. He is deeply interested in Dharmic studies and exploring the wisdom of ancient India.
This land has suffered a great deal. From the barbaric fanatic medieval warlords to the sophisticated modern diabolical colonialists to their present-day descendants and apologists, there is hardly any other nation that has been wounded so deeply to its core. There is hardly any trick in the annals of deception and warfare that has not been played upon these people. Their gentleness and benevolence have been used to betray them, their respect of moral and ethical laws has been used to subjugate them, their love and kindness has been used to emotionally blackmail them; the list goes on and on. It is, therefore, a miracle that this nation could still survive bravely withstanding a millennium of evil and malevolence(despite losing a large chunk of her area).
I wonder, at times, what is it that kept us alive when perhaps we should have faded away long ago. What is it that kept a mother alive to take care of her second son when her first was killed mercilessly in front of her eyes? What is it that kept a man alive when his wife was violated in front of his eyes? What is it that kept a young boy alive when his parents were burned alive before him? What is it that kept a young girl alive when all her family members were butchered? It seems that in spite of the unending saga of horror and terror, there was and still is something within each one of these unknown human beings that made them hold on, that made them move, that made them to not give up. That something, I feel, is śraddhā.
Śraddhā is hard to define. I shall try to explain it with an analogy. When something is fundamental to another thing, the existence of the former is, generally, not distinctly perceived in the latter. For example, warmth and fire – it is impossible to think about fire without thinking about warmth at the same time; so the existence of warmth in fire is mostly taken for granted or put in other words, not distinctly perceived. Similarly, for śraddhā and astitva (existence) – śraddhā is the essence or the fundamental nature of astitva as warmth is the essence of fire. Since śraddhā is fundamental to astitva, it is generally not distinctly perceived. In simple terms, śraddhā is the ‘is-ness’ of ‘that which is’.
It is through śraddhā that existence comes into being. It is through śraddhā that existence exists. Therefore through śraddhā, one can overcome the greatest of tragedies, the direst of miseries. I think this civilisation survived because she nourished and cherished śraddhā all throughout her life and without abandoning it even in the most difficult of times.
Śraddhā manifests itself in various forms in our daily lives. Worship of the devas, worship of the ancestors, respect towards parents and elderly people, love towards friends and siblings, affection towards the younger ones – these are all expressions of śraddhā in family life. At work, performing one’s duties with due diligence, helping colleagues to the best of ability, taking the organisation forward are expressions of śraddhā. In the civic life, helping our neighbours, helping in social welfare projects, etc are expressions of śraddhā.
These may sound very simple. But the simple things are not always easy to practise. It is very easy to gather a mob and vandalise public property, but it’s not very easy to build such properties. It is very easy to blame the government for our problems; it’s not very easy to do our jobs in the right earnest. Realising that it takes a great deal of strength to do the simple things that keep the family, society and nation alive and running is the first step towards understanding śraddhā.
All this describes the role of śraddhā in the functioning of a healthy society. But what role can śraddhā play in the revival of our civilisation? The answer is the same. It is through śraddhā that we survived the onslaught of invaders. We had śraddhā in our devas, so we took the deities to safe places when the temples were destroyed. In some places, we protected the deities at the cost of our lives. Here, we must realise that our defence of the sacred places was not borne out of violent sectarian fanaticism, but out of a gentle resolute śraddhā for the devas. There was no animosity, no hatred or ill-will in this fight but only a deep śraddhā. So our resistance was and still is unlike that of any other civilisation in the world.
In modern times, this nature of resistance has been grossly misunderstood. It has been thought of as ‘non-violent’, ‘passive’, ‘let go’, etc. The fact of the matter is that it is non-violent only to the extent that it bears no ill-will or hatred for the opponent. But nowhere it is supposed to indicate running away from the battle-field. When there is a battle, we fight. We fight without anger and jealousy; we fight only to preserve our śraddhā. And our strength to fight also comes from our śraddhā, cherished and nourished all throughout our lives.
It is through śraddhā that mothers brought up their children when the swords were looming large in the background; it is through śraddhā that fathers continued narrating the might of Hanumāna to their sons when the infidels were being burnt; it is through śraddhā that sisters kept on tying rākhi around their brothers’ wrists when infidel girls were regularly violated. Our śraddhā kept us alive for a millennium in the face of all hardships. And it has the strength to heal and revive our civilisation once again.
But today, we see our śraddhā dwindling. Scientific-tempered materialists will question the existence of śraddhā. And vested-interests are always on the look-out for gullible minds. Their agenda is quite clear and it is not in the best interests of this civilisation. They are not here to debate with an open mind; so it serves no purpose to engage with them. To the real skeptics, we can only say – try things for yourselves and see if they work. If we nurture śraddhā around us, in family, at work, in society, we shall see that our lives become more fulfilling and rewarding.
When individual lives become fulfilling, we can begin addressing civilisational concerns. We see that the path that leads to individual fulfilment also leads to civilisational revival. Our individual efforts in preserving śraddhā will also help us in preserving our civilisation. Through śraddhā, we can heal this wounded nation and bring forth a revival.