Back to sabrang.com
Letters to Editor
‘Hinduism, Thy name is inequality!’
‘Manu’s is a degraded and degenerate philosophy
The foregoing analysis of the religious revolution showed that religious ideas as forms of divine governance for hu man Society fall into two classes, one in which Society is the centre and the other in which the Individual is the centre. The same analysis showed that for the former the appropriate test of what is good and what is right, i.e., the test of the moral order is utility while for the latter the test is justice.
Now the reason why the philosophy of Hinduism does not answer the test of utility or of justice is because the religious ideal of Hinduism for divine governance of human society is an ideal which falls into a separate class by itself. It is an ideal in which the individual is not the centre. The centre of the ideal is neither individual nor society. It is a class — the class of Supermen called Brahmins.
Those who will bear the dominant and devastating fact in mind will understand why the philosophy of Hinduism is not founded on individual justice or social utility. The philosophy of Hinduism is founded on a totally different principle. To the question what is right and what is good the answer which the philosophy of Hinduism gives is remarkable. It holds that to be right and good the act must serve the interests of this class of Supermen, namely, the Brahmins.
Oscar Wilde said that to be intelligible is to be found out. Indeed Manu does not leave it to be found out. He expresses his view in resonant and majestic notes as who are the Supermen and anything which serves the interest of the Supermen is alone entitled to be called right and good. Let me quote Manu.
X. 3. “On account of his pre-eminence, on account of the superiority of his origin, on account of his observance of (particular) restrictive rules, and on account of his particular sanctification the Brahman is the Lord of (all) Varnas.”
He proceeds to amplify his reasons
and does so in the following characteristic manner —
I. 94. For the self–existent (Svayambhu, i.e., God), having performed austerities, produced him first from his own mouth, in order that offerings might be conveyed to the Gods and Manes and that this universe might be preserved.”
I. 95. “What created being can surpass him, through whose mouth the Gods continually consume the sacrificial viands and the manes the offerings to the dead?”
I. 96. “Of created beings the most excellent are said to be those which are animated; of the animated, those who subsist by intelligence; of the intelligent, mankind; and of the men, the Brahmanas.”
Besides the reason given by Manu the Brahmin is first in rank because he was produced by God from his mouth, in order that the offerings might be conveyed to the Gods and manes. Manu gives another reason for the supremacy of the Brahmins. He says —
I. 98. “The very birth of a Brahmana is an eternal incarnation of the sacred Law (Veda); for he is born to (fulfill) the sacred law, and becomes one with Brahman (God).”
I. 99. “A Brahmana, coming into
existence, is born as the highest on earth, the lord of all created beings,
for the protection of the treasury of the Law.”
I. 101. “The Brahman eats but his
own food, wears but his own apparel, bestows but his own in alms; other
mortals subsist through the benevolence of the Brahmana.”
II. 100. “Whatever exists in the
world is the property of the Brahmana; on account of the excellence of
origin the Brahmana is, indeed, entitled to it all.”
VII. 36. “Let the King, after rising early in the morning, worship Brahmans who are well versed in the three-fold sacred science and learned (in polity), and follow their advice.”
VII. 38. “Let him daily worship aged Brahmans who know the Veda and are pure...”
VII. 37. “Let the king, having risen at early dawn, respectfully attend to Brahman, learned in the three Vedas and in the science of ethics and by their decision let him abide.”
VII. 38. “Constantly must he show respect to Brahmans, who have grown old, both in years and in piety, who know the scriptures, who in body and mind are pure; for he, who honours the aged, will perpetually be honoured even by cruel demons.”
IX. 313. “Let him not, although
in the greatest distress for money, provoke Brahmans to anger by taking
their property; for they, once enraged, could immediately by sacrifices
and imprecations destroy him with his troops, elephants, horses and cars.”
XI. 35. “The Brahman is (hereby)
declared (to be) the creator (of the world), the punisher, the teacher,
(and hence) a benefactor (of all created beings); to him let no man say
anything unpropitious; nor use any harsh words.”
X. 122. “But let a Shudra serve Brahmans, either for the sake of heaven or with a view of both this life and the next, for he who is called the servant of a Brahman thereby gains all his ends.
X. 123. The service of the Brahmana
alone is declared to be as excellent occupation for a Shudra; for whatever
else besides this he may perform will bear no fruit.
X. 129. No collection of wealth must be made by a Shudra, even though he be able to do it; for a Shudra who has acquired wealth gives pain to Brahman.
The above texts from Manu disclose the core and the heart of the philosophy of Hinduism. Hinduism is the gospel of the Superman and it teaches that what is right for the Superman is the only thing which is called morally right and morally good.
Is there any parallel to this philosophy? I hate to suggest it. But is so obvious. The parallel to this philosophy of Hinduism is to be found in Nietzsche. The Hindus will be angry at this suggestion. It is quite natural. For the philosophy of Nietzsche stands in great odium. It never took roots. In his own words he was “sometimes deified as the philosopher of the aristocracy and squirearchy, sometimes hooted as, sometimes pitied and sometimes boycotted as an inhuman being.”
Nietzsche’s philosophy had become identified with will to power, violence, denial of spiritual values, Superman and the sacrifice, servility and debasement of the common man. His philosophy with these high spots had created a certain loathsomeness and horror in the minds of the people of his own generation. He was utterly neglected if not shunned and Nietzsche himself took comfort by placing himself among the “posthumous men”.
He foresaw for himself a remote public, centuries after his own time to appreciate him. Here too Nietzsche was destined to be disappointed. Instead of there being any appreciation of his philosophy, the lapse of time has only augmented the horror and loathing which people of his generation felt for Nietzsche. This is principally due to the revelation that the philosophy of Nietzsche is capable of producing Nazism. His friends have vehemently protested against such a construction (M. P. Nicolas, “From Nietzsche Down to Hitler” 1938). But it is not difficult to see that his philosophy can be as easily applied to evolve a super state as to Superman. This is what the Nazis have done.
At any rate the Nazis trace their ancestry from Nietzsche and regard him as their spiritual parent. Hitler has himself photographed beside a bust of Nietzsche; he takes the manuscripts of the master under his own special guardianship; extracts are chosen from Nietzsche’s writings and loudly proclaimed at the ceremonies of Nazism, as the New German Faith. Nor is the claim by the Nazis of spiritual ancestry with Nietzsche denied by his near relations. Nietzsche’s own cousin Richard Ochler approvingly says that Nietzsche’s thought is Hitler in action and that Nietzsche was the foremost pioneer of the Nazi accession to power. Nietzsche’s own sister, few months before her death, thanks the Feurhar for the honour he graciously bestows on her brother declaring that she sees in him that incarnation of the “Superman” foretold by Zarathustra.
To identify Nietzsche, whose name and whose philosophy excites so much horror and so much loathing, with Manu is sure to cause astonishment and resentment in the mind of the Hindus. But of the fact itself there can be no doubt. Nietzsche himself has openly declared that in his philosophy he only following the scheme of Manu. In his Anti-Christ this is what Nietzsche says —
“After all, the question is, to what end are falsehoods perpetrated? The fact that, in Christianity, ‘holy’ ends are entirely absent, constitutes my objection to the means it employs. Its ends are only bad ends; the poisoning, the calumniation and the denial of life, the contempt of the body, the degradation and self-pollution of man by virtue of the concept of sin, — consequently its means are bad as well. My feelings are quite the reverse.
“When I read the law book of Manu,
an incomparably intellectual and superior work, it would be a sin against
the spirit even to mention in the same breath with the Bible. You will
guess immediately why; it has a genuine philosophy behind it, in it, not
merely an evil-smelling Jewish distillation of Rabbinism and superstition
— it gives something to chew even to the most fastidious psychologist.
And, not to forget the most important point of all, it is fundamentally
different from every kind of Bible: by means of it the noble classes, the
philosophers and the warriors guard and guide the masses; it is replete
with noble values, it is filled with a feeling of perfection, with saying
yea to life, and triumphant sense of well–being in regard to itself and
to life — the Sun shines upon the whole book.
“I know of no book in which so many delicate and kindly things are said to woman, as in the Law Book of Manu; these old grey–beards and saints have a manner of being gallant to woman which, perhaps, cannot be surpassed. ‘The mouth of a woman,’ says Manu on one occasion, ‘the breast of a maiden, the prayer of a child, and the smoke of the sacrifice, are always pure’. And finally perhaps this is also a holy lie — ‘all the openings of the body above the navel are pure, all those below the navel are impure. Only in a maiden is the whole body pure.’”
This leaves no doubt that Zarathustra is a new name for Manu and that Thus Spake Zarathustra is a new edition of Manu Smriti.
If there is any difference between Manu and Nietzsche it lies in this. Nietzsche was genuinely interested in creating a new race of men which will be a race of supermen as compared with the existing race of men. Manu on the other hand was interested in maintaining the privileges of a class who had come to arrogate to itself the claim of being supermen. Nietzsche’s supermen were supermen by reason of their worth. Manu’s supermen were supermen by reason of their birth. Nietzsche was a genuine disinterested philosopher. Manu on the contrary was an hireling engaged to propound a philosophy which served the interests of a class born in a group and whose title to being supermen was not to be lost even if they lost their virtue.
Compare the following texts from Manu.
X. 81. “Yet a Brahman, unable to subsist by his duties just mentioned, may live by the duty of a soldier; for that is the next rank.”
X.82. “If it be asked, how he must live, should he be unable to get a subsistence by either of those employments; the answer is, he may subsist as a mercantile man, applying himself into tillage and attendance on cattle.
IX. 323. “Thus, though the Brahmans employ themselves in all (sorts) of mean occupation, they must be honoured in every way; (for each of) them is a very great deity.”
Thus Manu’s is a degraded and degenerate
philosophy of Superman as compared with that of Nietzsche and therefore
far more odious and loathsome than the philosophy of Nietzsche.
It is therefore incontrovertible that notwithstanding the Hindu Code of Ethics, notwithstanding the philosophy of the Upanishads not a little not a jot did abate from the philosophy of Hinduism as propounded by Manu. They were ineffective and powerless to erase the infamy preached by Manu in the name of religion. Notwithstanding their existence one can still say, “Hinduism! They name is inequality!”
(From Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings & Speeches, Vol. 3, published by the education department, government of Maharashtra, pages 72-87).
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar