The Indian High Commissioner has given a useful reminder and direction as to how Hinduism is best manifested (Express, January 5). Inevitably, communities of the diaspora try to recreate an imagined idealised community, usually distant from the real thing.
In the case of T&T Hinduism, Mr Mishra shows an annoyance with the preoccupation with temples and rituals as opposed to the sublime philosophic message as expounded by the great Swami Vivekanada.
For the latter, quoting the Gita, "Whosoever comes to Me (i.e. God), through whatever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to Me"; "All human beings are sisters and brothers"; "…religion is not in books or temples but in the actual perception of God"; "All religions are true."
Because local Hinduism is attached to the idea that Brahmins are the keepers of rituals, only priests have Brahma, the power to change the world.
Local Hinduism necessarily supports the caste system, where it is believed that Brahmins are revered as priests and Dalits are the despised caste at the bottom. In India's caste system Dalits (formerly Untouchables) are sources of spiritual pollution (e.g. they ate beef—the flesh of the cow is sacred; they violated the life principle in making products from vegetable matter; they collected garbage and were willing to be grave diggers, thus violating the principle that death and decay are polluting; and they violated the principle that human emissions are polluting in many ways.
Vivikananda's philosophy counters the corrosive aspects of the caste system, that ancient endogamous hierarchy of inequality that has strangled India for millennia.
He necessarily does not accept the superiority of Brahmins, and recognises India's Dalits (Untouchables), perpetually rejected, discriminated against, and murdered, as brothers equal in the sight of God.
It is significant that no local Hindu has ever denounced the atrocities committed against the Dalits or Muslims, equal as vessels of the Godhead.
The concept of spiritual equality also applies to Afro-Trinis, against whom local Hinduism has conducted a constant indoctrination of Indo-Trinis using the ugly chant of racism deriving from their being seen as sources of pollution.
One prominent Hindu leader even deplored inter-racial marriage, and urged legislation to prohibit it. Douglas are also victims of this caricature of Hinduism. If followed by local Hinduism, Vivekananda's remarkable philosophy would eliminate the divisive strategies and innuendos employed against Afro-Trinis. It would also give Hinduism a more attractive image and meaning to non-Hindus.
Thank you Mr High Commissioner!
Port of Spain