I am at a loss to understand how `the Hindu religion’ impacted the PPP

Dear Editor,

From my standpoint, the major issues raised by Professor Kean Gibson (KG) in her letter `What can constrain President from cracking down on corruption or incompetence in his Cabinet?” (SN, 13 May 2019) are: (i) “several of its [PPP] leaders control important Hindu organizations and institutions;” (ii) she has studied the Hindu religion and from her “analysis” determined that Hinduism impacted the PPP; (iii) Hinduism is linked to violence in Guyana; and (iv) black is a pejorative term in “Hindu scriptures.”

On the first claim, I challenge KG to name the “several” PPP leaders who “control important Hindu organizations and institutions.” She did not define these two entities and therefore owes the Guyanese public an explanation.  Since all top PPP leaders, except for Mr. Reepu Daman Persaud and his daughter who inherited his throne, are either not Hindus or are not practicing Hindus, I am at a loss to understand how “the Hindu religion” impacted the PPP.  Where – and what – is the evidence that Hinduism impacted the PPP?  My father-in-law, who is going to be 92 years very soon, tells me an interesting story that highlights the disdain for Hinduism by some PPP leaders. Sometime in the early 1960s – he cannot recall the exact year – Jagan was holding public meetings in West Demerara and there was a man by the name of “Nancy” who would provide a table, where Jagan would sit and preach his godless philosophy, and a gas lamp to illuminate the darkness. At one of those meetings, Jagan, in a fit of rage, declared “Gita, Gita. Throw it away.  Rubbish. Hinduism is garbage.” These may not be the exact words, but they do capture the essence at what Jagan was getting at: discard Hinduism and adopt my “scientific” and materialist philosophy.  As soon as those words rolled out of the man’s mouth, Nancy took his gas lamp and table and left.  But not before telling Jagan that “you cannot insult my religion and ask me to vote for you.” Hinduism had, and still has, no impact on the PPP.  Given ethnic politics, Hindus would have voted for Jagan without or without Hinduism, just as Africans would have voted for the PNC regardless of religious persuasion.

There is no logic to the claims that (i) Hinduism has impacted the PPP and (ii) Hinduism is associated with violence in Guyana, which is the theme of KG’s book.  The logic is not warped; it simply does not exist.  Can one equate apples and oranges simply because both are round? If A impacts B, that is not the same as A = B.  If this were the case, then the following should be true: (i) chickens have influenced the dietary pattern of Guyanese, and (ii) Guyanese are racists. Therefore, chickens are racists. In effect, KG sets out certain convenient postulates and then derives her conclusions from them. Remove the postulates and the straw house collapses and with it the chicken logic. This reasoning is not tautological for even by contrived necessity it is not true.  Rather, the assertion is a logical trap that unknowingly deludes the protagonist of the illogic.

On the issue of “the pejorative reference to anything black in the Hindu scripture,” I would like to know what KG means by “Hindu scriptures.”  If that statement is true, Jagan used the phrase “lowest scale,” which apparently refers to socio-economic status and there is nothing pejorative about that. She may not know that our Shastras see all beings as equal and that there is no measuring scale.  Sanatana Dharma does not organize humans into any hierarchical order. For us the Sanskrit word “Shastra” – distorted by translating it as “scripture” – refers to the Upanishad, Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma-sutras.  These contain no reference to ideology, pejorative use of color, violence, corruption, politics or even religion as that word is understood in the West.  The Shastras contain universal, eternal truths that are applicable to all people, across all geographies, and at all times.  That is why Sanatana Dharma, or eternal values, is a way of life that leads from mundane existence to the experience of the one non-dual Supreme Reality via yajna and yoga. Beyond this, I challenge KG to cite the “scripture” where the word “black” in used as a “pejorative reference,” including name of the “scripture,” who translated it (I may be wrong in assuming that Professor Gibson is not a Sanskrit scholar), where and when it was published, name of publisher and page number. Where and how did she study Hinduism? What text were used?  Sanatana Dharma, which the British turn into religion by christening it “Hinduism,” is not merely an intellectual exercise but a way to test and experience the truths contained in the Shastras, which can be done only by rigid adherence to sadhana or spiritual discipline. Sanatana Dharma is a spiritual science and, therefore, is not grounded in beliefs or dogmas.

If the president is interested in stamping out corruption, he had four years plus to do that but has done nothing.  Indeed, members of his own party and government are corrupt; just read the daily newspapers.  Incidentally, corruption is part of human nature and manifests itself so long as we live in groups.  Robinson Crusoe could not be corrupt on his isolated island … until “Man Friday” arrived.  Most likely, Crusoe was a Christian but couldn’t be corrupt with himself.  In fact, corruption is not a function of religion but of the opportunity to cheat and aggrandize, which is wired in our DNA. Both Brazil and the Philippines are Christian countries but terribly corrupt; so are Bangladesh and Pakistan, which are both Islamic countries.  So, too, are India and Nepal, where Hindus predominate, and Sri Lanka and Myanmar, which are both Buddhist countries. And Africa too: Nigeria, Cameroon, Angola, Chad, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, among others, where Christianity and Islam are the predominant religions.  One merely needs to consult Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index to ascertain that religion neither causes corruption nor is associated with corruption.

The issue, then, is not to stamp out corruption to zero for there is a “natural rate” of corruption, just as there is a natural rate of unemployment, that is probably unique to each country.  The point is to control corruption so as to reduce its impact on GDP and the fraying of the social fabric of society. But when corruption meets inequality, there is a feedback effect that strengthens both.  That is why corruption and inequality are so high and go together: the rich gets richer, the middle class constricts, and the have-nots expands. That vicious and expanding circle creates the opportunity for some of us to pontificate on the causes and cures of the two evils of modern man – corruption and inequality – which was absent for most of human history right to about 10,000 years ago.

In sum, postulating that Sanatana Dharma impacted the PPP and, therefore, is linked to violence and hence moral degradation is sheer mischief, which is either the product of ignorance of Sanatana Dharma or willful maliciousness.

Yours faithfully,

Ramesh Gampat

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