Representatives of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) flocked to the village of Nagla Chandrabhan on Tuesday to celebrate Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s birthday.
Prominent attendees included Om Prakash Singh, former leader of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. In his address to the gathering, Mr. Singh called attention to Deendayal’s many contributions, in particular his philosophy of Integral Humanism or ekātma-mānava-vāda.
Integral Humanism was made the official political philosophy of the BJP in 1985.
Deendayal Upadhyaya was one of the founders (along with Shyam Prasad Mukherjee) of the forerunner of the BJP, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951, and led the party from 1953 to 1968. But he made his mark particularly by providing ideological guidance and moral inspiration for the Hindu nationalist political movement.
Upadhyaya firmly believed that the solution to India’s problems and its future direction had to be an indigenous solution and that foreign imports like communism or capitalist democracy could at best provide partial solutions. He liked to quote yad-deśasya ca yo jantuḥ¸tad-deśasya tasya auṣadham, “A person should seek remedies from his own country.”
Inspired by the Vedic concepts of the purusharthas and varnashram, he nevertheless felt that these concepts needed to be updated. “We cannot turn the clock back 1000 years in the past,” he wrote. “But at the same time, British rule subtly influenced Indians to despise everything Indian, its food, manners and customs. We took pride in resisting things British while they were here, but once they were gone westernization became synonymous with progress.”
The Vedic Religion has always underdone transformation. This religion is dynamic and living. It is not like a stagnant pool. New thoughts have always entered this religion and old thoughts have developed through change, but every new change has kept up its link with the old. Every new agitator maintained a feeling of reverence for his ancestors. Every new reformer gave respect to our ancient tradition, our ancestors and achievements and at the same time propounded new thoughts to suit the times. As these new thoughts had not broken off with the basic thought, they did not in any way harm the life of the nation. On the contrary, they contributed to its development. (Dharma and Religion)
The key to understanding the Indian spirit, Upadhyaya felt, was in recognizing its holistic nature.
The first characteristic of Bharatiya culture is that it looks upon life as an integrated whole. Unity in diversity, complementarity of opposites and diversity as an expression of the underlying unity. (Integral Humanism, p. 16)
The main thrust of Integral Humanism as a social and political philosophy is that it is based in dharmaa. Upadhyaya takes pains to explain that dharma in this case does not mean “religion” in the sense of a church or specific religious denomination, but something closer to natural law.
He condemns the criticism that India cares only for the soul. The main difference between India and the West, he said, is “the West has regarded the body and satisfaction of its desires as the aim, we regard the body as an instrument for achieving our aim.” (ibid., 24)
The fourfold aspirations of dharma, artha, kama, and moksha should be integrated in the individual life and should not in conflict with each other. The same principle is to be applied on the national level.
The goal of so-called “Hindu nationalism,” he was at pains to clarify, is not a “Hindu theocracy”: A dharma rajya gives everyone freedom to practice the religion of their choice, but not to encroach on the religion of others. For him, Pakistan, where non-Muslims were reduced to second-class status was a perfect counterexample of his ideal. But the idea of secularism, which in Hindi is translated as dharma-nirapeksha or “indifference to dharma,” is a perfect nonsense. It is like saying the state is indifferent to the law, or lawless.
Nagla Chandrabhan is near Farah, just off the NH2 on the southern side of Braj Mandal, between Mathura and Agra.