Inspired by this article written by the Ācārya at Manasataramgini

It is clear that any form of “Modernism” aims at destroying the Hindu identity, albeit in a very subtle manner. Consider the following

  • Modernism tries to make a Hindu guilty of following “superstitious”, “wasteful”, “primitive” rituals.
  • It makes the Hindu feel ashamed of displaying religious signs such as the Tilak, Shikha, Mudra, Janeu, Kalava.
  • It will mock at the Hindu dresses be it the Dhoti, or the Saree only to be worn on “traditional” days. Formal implies western.
    • In fact they celebrate “Traditional Days” at workplace as some sort of a fancy-dress event to show how they “accommodate” you like a museum piece
  • Hindu food habits, especially reluctance to eat meat, more specifically certain kids of meat will be looked down as regressive.
  • A Hindu’s knowledge of scriptures, classics, the Sanskrit language will be met with scorn, often expecting you to express yourself in modern idioms.
  • The traditional Hindu forms of medicine will be called quackery, the traditional Hindu modes of social organization will be deemed oppressive.

One can list many more similar instances where Hindus & their ways are critically analysed only to be denounced within this framework which we shall call the modernity framework.

It is of utmost importance for a Hindu to note that the definition of what is right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable, sacred/profane is considered to be absolute and universal in this modernity-framework.  If one looks at it closely, these definitions are simply the old Christian definitions repackaged by dusting away the religious connotations and presented in secular terms. As a Hindu you or I have absolutely no say in these definitions which we are asked to accept as absolute and universal.

Thus, any efforts to defend our traditions or to provide justifications for our tradition using this modernity-framework are doomed to fail, just like the efforts of Yudhisthira who was gambling with the enemy on the enemy-turf, playing with a dice that was rigged against him. Of course, such efforts will be praised, and even encouraged, for the opponent knows very well that you can be tripped on a higher dimension every single time, even if the opponent concedes an occasional victory in the lower dimension.

A Hindu with a critical bent of mind would ask, why should the definition of what is right/wrong be universal and absolute, bereft of any context? After all, we come from a tradition that is rooted in Dharma which, in the words of Bhishma, is extremely subtle. Thus it is definitely not something which can be encoded in some finite number of commandments that is deemed to be applicable at all times. Coming from such a tradition, what makes the universal moral framework of modernity so appealing ?

Often times, one comes across Hindus, especially modern educated Hindus (henceforth referred to as MEH) who, enamored by this modernity-framework,  will spout utterly nonsensical statements such as “Oh, but don’t you know, Hinduism is the most scientific/liberal/rational/secular/gender-equal/<any other adjective approved under the framework of modernity> religion.” What typically follows this can be thus summarized:

  • MEH will  begin the game of cherry-picking quotes from from the Shruti, Smritis, and lives of Mahapurushas in order to justify the appellation of the chosen adjective to Hinduism.
  • The astute opponent, will respond by cherry-picking quotes from the self-same Shruti, Smriti, or lives of Mahapurushas, which contradict the MEH’s claim regarding the chosen adjective.
  • Voila! The opponent smirks at how the primitive Hindu  religion stands against that adjective.
  • MEH now on the backfoot, wanting to get back at the opponent, replicates the opponent’s strategy by quoting instances where even the opponent’s belief system fail to hold up to the ideals within the modernity-framework.
  • The opponent simply dismisses them saying that these instances are not the “essential features” of his belief system, but mumbles some sort of an apology on behalf of his belief system.
  • MEH feels that he has cornered the opponent. He again mirrors the opponent’s strategy and claims that the earlier examples quoted by the opponent are not the “essential features” of Hinduism.
    • Please note : This is why you find so many MEHs who claim that neither of Rituals, Sacred Texts, Food-habits, Social-structure, gender roles  are “essential features” of Hinduism.
  • So the opponent will ask the Hindu to define the “essential feature of Hinduism” .
  • MEH, feeling all smug that he can finally teach the opponent something that the latter doesn’t know, will claim that the essential feature of Hinduism is the Brahman – that nameless, formless, (and if I may add, for all practical purposes, a useless) entity which is the source of all, which is the common soul of all, and which most importantly will not contradict anything within the modernity-framework.
  • The opponent now congratulates MEH  on winning the debate.
  • While MEH feels elated on his victory, he fails to realize that
    • (a) He has tacitly approved the opponent to define what Hinduism in terms of “essential characteristics”!
    • (b) He just presented the opponent with a big fat stick to beat the Hindus on all the features which MEH has claimed are non-essential to Hinduism.
  • Thus, MEH is is now like that dog which can occasionally expect biscuits from the opponent for good behavior defined in (a) and forever be cowering in fear of the beating from the stick presented to the opponent in (b).

This great urge to win debates and score virtue-signalling points, rather than actually win, has been the undoing of the Hindus for several centuries now. This urge is beautifully described in our national epic where Yudhishtira foolishly offers to Duryodhana at the last stage of the great war the option of picking a weapon and opponent of his choice for a duel, and should Duryodhana win the duel, Yudhisthtira will forsake his claim to the throne of the Hasthinapura.

Yudhishtira fortunately had Krishna to chastise him for his stupidity. Who will chastise the modern educated Hindu ?



3 thoughts on “Virtue Signalling: Or how Hindus win the Battle while losing the War

  1. Well observed, I am kind of MEH…will definitely take a note of this in future. Somehow I was trying to fit in “modern thinking” it make greater sense to keep the tradition irrespective of whether it make sense or not. wright/wrong can’t be generalised.


  2. This is why you find so many MEHs who claim that neither of Rituals, Sacred Texts, Food-habits, Social-structure, gender roles are “essential features” of Hinduism.

    If this describes an MEH, then yes i fit that category as well. I do reach out for ‘Advaita’ or the Brahman as well, and i not sure why that is *non-essential* Hinduism? It is the Hinduism of Shankaracharya and of the Upanishads, is it not? Why is the idea of a non-judgemental Brahman, the idea of a ‘conscious Universe’ classify as not essential Hinduism? You could compare these ideas with New Age, but to compare them with Christianity minus religion, would be inaccurate.

    A Hindu with a critical bent of mind would ask, why should the definition of what is right/wrong be universal and absolute, bereft of any context? After all, we come from a tradition that is rooted in Dharma which, in the words of Bhishma, is extremely subtle.

    I’m afraid basing the argument on Hinduism’s ‘subtlety’ is pretty useless as well; and almost ends at that word. If a question is asked what this subtlety means, people like me (and i guess most of us) would be struggling for an answer.

    From not eating meat, to wearing a Kalava, to being on an Ayurvedic medication can be defended very well, by any mediocre critical-thinking Hindu. Yes, i would agree that we have to educated on issues largely related to our temples — Vaastu, Shiva-Linga, Murthi Puja (and associated with it Prana Pratishtha process), sacredness associated with Cows, and some such standard arguments the Abrahamic shove on us.

    How we defend for our traditions, beliefs and culture is secondary. Hindus need to be armed with attacking modernists’ ideas of Atheism, and Abrahamics’ (masquerading as modernists) ideas of God/Allah which sit on flimsy ideas of reducing the creator to a judging punitive paternal figure. Our Advatic ideas of the creator are far superior to their flimsy burning-in-hell God/Allah.

    Armed with these arguments, Hindus could turn around debates and take the battle and the war into their territory. Infact, we have to be setting the narrative than allowing them to pull us into a meaningless debate over our rituals.


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