Quote 20: The Idea of Secularism and ‘Dharma’

In the West, the idea of ‘secularism’ emanated from the idea of anti-clericalism. The Renaissance and the Reformation Movement led to the emergence of the powerful waves of atheism and agnosticism. Francis Fukuyama, the author of The End of History and the Last Man has said that we are living in a period of time that is analogous to the Reformation which made, in the West, ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ go apart.” In the 20th century and the years which have followed, the quest at ‘political liberation’ has led to libertinism and narcissism, and all the nonsense that goes under the rubric ‘post-midernism’. These have conspired to bring about corporate culture produced and conditioned by the soulless corporations. Peter Watson has aptly said that the shift in the ideas occurred in the 19th century itself: Owen Chadwick has portrayed the change in attitudes in his Secularisation of the European Mind in the Nineteenth Century (1975). This shift in the Western intellectual history was on account of several factors including the factors and vectors which emanated from the challenges posed by the ‘social’ and ‘intellectual’ problems: these included Karl Marx’s materialism, industrialization, and anticlericalism, and the impact of science on the ways the humans think and work. It is interesting to note that Earnest William Barnes wrote his Scientific Theory of Religion (1933) recognising the existence of “a Universal Mind which inhabits all matter in the universe, and that the purpose of the universe is to evolve consciousness and conscience in order to produce goodness and, above all, beauty”1, Peter Watson has made a very insightful comment when he said: “ Chadwick’s more original point is that as the nineteenth century wore on, the very idea of secularisation itself changed.” Besides, ‘Christianity’ itself is developing its ‘secularist’ dimensions, It would be clear from what an expert has said about the developments in ‘Christianity’:

“The movement towards secularism has been in progress during the entire course of modern history and has often been viewed as being anti-Christian and antireligious in the latter half of the 20th century, however, some theologians began advocating secular Christianity. They suggested that Christianity should not be concerned only with the sacred and the otherworldly, but that people should find in the world the opportunity to promote Christian values. These theologians maintain that the real meaning of the massage of Jesus can be discovered and fulfilled in the everyday affairs of secular urban living.”2

The study of the Chapter 24 (‘Our Worldview & the Trends of our Times’) would help you realise that it is unwise to confuse ‘Dharma’ with ‘religion’. ’Religion’ is a set of doctrinal assumptions which a particular society cultivates, and pursues to achieve its ends. History has shown that the sets of combative assumptions acquire respectability. Reject all doctrines, banish all gods, forget all scriptures, yet Dharma would be there to sustain nature. We never allowed ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ to become collaborators, so we never thought to set them apart.

The concept of ‘Secularism’ in the Preamble to the Constitution of India must be understood in the context of our culture. It means ‘sambhava’, the capacity to see the ‘One’ in all. The Bhagavad-Gita tells to become samdarshinah [The Bhagavad- Gita ( V.18)]. Its import is to be understood in the light of the mission of our Constitution, and the fundamental cultural assumptions shared by the people of India.

H. M. Seervai rightly explains the import of secularism in his Constitutional Law of India (P. 277) thus: “Secular” may be opposed to “religious” in the sense that a secular State can be an anti-religious State. In that sense, the Constitution of India is not secular, because the right to the freedom of religion is a guaranteed fundamental right. The word “secular” may mean that as far as the State is concerned, it does not support any religion out of public funds, nor does it penalize the profession and practice of any religion or the right to manage religious institutions as provided in Arts. 25 and 26. The secular nature of our Constitution has to be gathered from these and other Articles of our Constitution, like the Articles relating to a common Citizenship (Part II) and Articles 15, 16 and 29(2).


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