Hinduism: A History of Openness and Inclusiveness
The Vedic civilization, the world’s oldest living civilization, persists to this day in the Indian subcontinent. It gave to the world the sciences of Vedic mathematics, astronomy, navigation, medicine, yoga, and above, all the sacred science of the Self (Sanatana Dharma, commonly referred to as Hinduism in the West). It is also the only civilization to produce a living lineage of Avatars (living incarnations) and enlightened beings that continue to grace our planet till the present day.
Hinduism comprises many indigenous spiritual traditions coexisting peacefully for millennia. There is no one sacred text of Hinduism, no one spiritual head, no one concept of the divine. Hinduism has continued to exist for more than 10,000 years as the oldest living civilization on the planet because it is a framework for expressing religiosity and spirituality. Sanatana Dharma makes a clear statement in that “it empowers every individual to start their own spiritual tradition and practice,” uniquely tailored to suit that individual in alignment with the original source scriptures of Sanatana Dharma, known as the Veda-Agamas.
The basis for the open architecture framework of Hinduism lies in its mature recognition that the core truths of the self, universe, and divine empower every individual to have the freedom to customize their own personalized God, personalized lifestyle, and personalized spiritual practice. The Avatar as guru or teacher descends time and again from the universal cosmic consciousness to provide beings with conscious breakthroughs for their spiritual enlightenment. Hinduism therefore accommodates many spiritual masters and spiritual paths to meet the diverse needs of humanity. It is from within this framework that the lifestyle and teachings of the Hindu Adi Shaivite Minority Tradition or ASMT evolved.
Paradoxically, ASMT is a completely orthodox Hindu tradition and aligned to the ancient Agama scriptures yet in doing so maintains a remarkably progressive stance when it comes to the rights of women, and the rights of members of the LGBTQ and transgendered communities. The spiritual head of ASMT has publicly declared himself to be of indeterminate gender and composed of more than 11 gender identity components. In this regard, ASMT represents one of the most progressive ideologies in the world as it freely ordains women into sanyaas (the monastic order), recognizes 11 genders, and performs specific temple rituals for gay marriage, all from the depth of the more than 5,000 year old indigenous spiritual tradition.
These principles constitute the integrity of the ASMT community and the ethos of the nation of Kailaasa: nonviolence, blissful coexistence, vegetarianism, worship of nature and living beings, organic lifestyle, temple-based living, yoga, and yogic sciences. The Veda-Agamas provide clear instructions on how beings may realize the ultimate awareness of the cosmic oneness or Advaita through yogic sciences. Every being can manifest shaktis or powers from the space and state of oneness to create the reality that they desire.
Hindu Holocaust: Invasion, Colonization and Exploitation
The story of the systematic destruction, dismantling and bleeding of Hindu civilization at the hands of foreign invaders and colonial overlords is one of the greatest unrecognized genocides in recorded history — over a span of a thousand years 400 million Hindus were massacred or starved, thousands of temples were looted and destroyed, and billions of dollars in economic output were appropriated.
Celebrated historian Will Durant explains in The Story of Civilisation: Our Oriental Heritage: “The Mohammedan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. The Islamic historians and scholars have recorded with great glee and pride the slaughters of Hindus, forced conversions, abduction of Hindu women and children to slave markets and the destruction of temples carried out by the warriors of Islam during 800 AD to 1700 AD. Millions of Hindus were converted to Islam by sword during this period.”
The British Imperial rule that succeeded the Muslim dynasties, was arguably more destructive to Hindu civilization, both economically and socially. Durant, upon seeing the destitute condition of Indians under British rule in 1930, remarked “I have seen a great people starving to death before my eyes, and I am convinced that this exhaustion and starvation are due not, as their beneficiaries claim, to overpopulation and superstition, but to the most sordid and criminal exploitation of one nation by another in all recorded history.”
When the British entered India weakened by centuries of Muslim conquest, it represented a staggering 27% of global GDP. After 200 years of colonial exploitation, the British left India in 1947 with 90% of the population living below the poverty line and only 17% of Indians able to read and write. British mismanagement and misappropriation resulted in an Indian GDP growth rate from 1900 to 1947 of a meager 0.001%. The British systematically undermined traditional Hindu native rulers, institutions, temples and schools in order to utterly destroy the indigenous Hindu culture and civilization and replace it with an alien British system that rendered Hindus second-class citizens in their own country.
Modern Hindus have also experienced religious persecution in the form of forced conversions, documented massacres, demolition and desecrations of temples, as well as the destruction of universities and schools. Hindus in the Muslim-majority regions of Kashmir, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and other countries have suffered persecution.
A poignant example of persecution is seen during the 1971 Bangladesh genocide where there was widespread killings and acts of ethnic cleansing of Hindu civilians in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan, a province of Pakistan), and widespread violations of human rights were carried out by the Pakistani Army, which was supported by political and religious militias during the Bangladesh Liberation War. In Bangladesh, the atrocities are identified as a genocide. Time magazine reported that “the Hindus, who account for three-fourths of the refugees and a majority of the dead, have borne the brunt of the Muslim military’s hatred.” There was widespread killing of Hindu males, and rapes of women. Documented incidents in which Hindus were massacred in large numbers include the Chuknagar massacre, the Jathibhanga massacre, and the Shankharipara massacre.
Unfortunately, the plight of Hindus in India, particularly its minority communities, did not improve substantially post-Independence. Hindus continue to face systematic political, legal and social persecution and violence from atheistic, Marxist political parties and even from ostensibly Hindu majority political parties like the BJP and RSS who seek to dominate minority Hindu communities such as the ASMT in order to retain political hegemony.
Historical Roots of ASMT
The traditional seat of ASMT is the city of Madurai, which is in the present state of Tamil Nadu, India. Prior to colonial rule, the South Indian Adi Shaiva nation with Madurai as its capital was one of the most culturally, spiritually, and scientifically advanced and wealthiest civilizations of the time going back several thousand years to earlier than 200 B.C.E.
The Adi Shaiva nation was ruled primarily by three dynasties of rulers – the Cholas, Cheras, and Pandyas. At their peak around 1000 C.E., they ruled all of what is currently Southern India, including Sri Lanka in the South, the Maldives and Lakshadweep to the west, and then extending east all along the coast of the Bay of Bengal across Southern Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and parts of Cambodia. The Khmer Kingdom in Cambodia was established with the help of Rajendra Chola, one of the Chola Kings. Artisans from the Chola Kingdom built the largest Hindu temple in the world at Angkor Wat in Cambodia under the auspices of Suryavarman II. The Chola kings also built magnificent temples throughout India like the Brihadeeshwara temple in Tanjore for Paramashiva, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the Adi Shaiva community, often the kingdom’s spiritual head was its political, economical, and cultural head. The political rule (Arasatchi) was not separated from the economic rule (Porulaatchi), and neither of these were separated from the core principles of ASMT. The Pandyas considered the Kamika Agama of ASMT (scriptures on the science of living an enlightened life) written by Paramashiva (the original author of yoga) as the core spiritual guide for the people and the kingdom.
Thus, the political understanding of the people and the nation could only be made with someone who was a master of the Kamika Agama, and who understood its principles deeply. The spiritual leader of the nation or community was known as the Madurai Aadheenam Guru Maha Sannidhaanam, who has always been considered as the incarnation of Paramashiva in ASMT.