Answer to Why I Am Not a Hindu
by A Hindu Woman
First, I wish to make clear that I have no quarrel with Mr. Ramendra Nath for declaring that he is not a Hindu. He has listed four reasons for declaring why he is not a Hindu:
1. "I do not believe in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and all that goes by the name of Hindu scriptures, and therefore in avatars and rebirth".
2. "I do not believe in the varnashram dharma or varna-vyavastha either in the sense in which it is explained in Hindu dharma shastras like Manusmriti or in the so-called Vedic sense".
3. "I do not believe in the Hindu taboo of not eating beef".
4. "I disbelieve in idol-worship".
As it happens, I am fully in agreement with the above statements. I do not believe in the existence of any God or soul. Therefore the question of scriptures as divine revelations, rebirth and avatars is moot. I do not believe in the caste-system. I have eaten beef. Again, since I do not believe in God the question of worshipping anything--idols or otherwise--is moot. Nevertheless, I still call myself a Hindu. However that is a completely separate matter.
Mr. Ramendra Nath has discussed in length why he rejects the Vedas as infallible. Since I have no disagreement with him on these grounds, I am skipping it.
He next attacks "varna-vyavastha or varnashram dharma". If it had been a simple exposure of the evils of this system, again there would be no problem. But what I essentially find troubling is that he does not present a balanced appraisal. He rejects emphatically the story in the Vedas that the Brahmins are created from God's mouth, the Kshatriyas from his arms, Vaishyas from his thighs and Shudras from his feet--plainly this story appeared later to account for a reality that was already present. He dismisses evidence that originally it was nothing more than a functional division which ultimately hardened into a rigid system backed by the religious authority of the Brahmins and the military might of Kshatriyas as something unimportant to the issue at hand. After all, today the Hindu social system functions quite well in the metropolises where the rules of purity and impurity regarding caste are no longer important. Also when he discusses the evils from which Hinduism has traditionally suffered, he ignores the good that is in Hindu Dharma as well. In particular his criticisms against Manusmriti or Manusamhita is one-sided. Above all he ignores the entire picture to concentrate on certain negative aspects only. To put it plainly, I think his account is biased.
Ramendra Nath charges that Ram kills Sambuka, a Shudra, because he was performing tapasya or ascetic exercises which are the province of Brahmins alone. Certainly the story is there. But what he does not mention is that the story belongs to Uttarkanda (lit. "later chapter"). Along with the story of Rama's adventure, every child is also taught that this chapter was added much later and that Valmiki's Ramayana ends with Rama's coronation. In Valmiki's Ramayana itself, we have two very important stories: that of Guhak and Sabari. Guhak is a Nishada king of Sringaverpur who is described as Rama's friend as dear as life, with whom Rama stays while going to the forest (Ayodhyakandya, chaps. 50-52). Shabari was a practitioner of asceticism. Rama's first question on meeting her was, "Have you conquered all that disrupts tapasya? Has your tapasya increased?"; from her hands Rama accepted food and her soul ascended to heaven (Aranyakanda, 74). Nishadas are an 'uncivilized' forest-tribe who include the Chandalas among them. Shabari is the feminine of shabar, the hunter community. Manusmriti states that Nishadas are the offspring of Brahmin male and Shudra female (an obvious afterthought)--they are what we call today 'untouchable'. The shabars are designated simply as 'mlechha,' completely outside Vedic/Hindu society, yet Shabari performs perfect tapasya and goes to heaven blessed by the avatar. The story has often been offered as proof that neither birth nor gender is important in performing tapasya and going to heaven. The apparent contradiction between Rama's behaviour towards them and towards Sambuka need not puzzle anyone; the Sambuka story was clearly added later to strengthen Brahmin hegemony. My question here is why does Ramendra Nath ignore these points which are known to any ordinary Hindu? The answer became clear when I looked at his citations. He was simply quoting from another person's work rather than from the Ramayana itself. Apparently he had not bothered to read the text he is criticizing.
Next Ramendra Nath speaks of a certain episode in Mahabharata. Certainly the story of Ekalavya is true. Because he was a Nishada, Drona refused to teach him. The text explicitly states that being nishada he was 'asprishya' (untouchable) and it is never allowable that he should be put on a par w