It is always a pleasure to teach philosophy, apart from it being a proud fact of the matter, and that too in a very prestigious institution, where personalities like none other than Maharishi Aurobindo taught for 14-plus years. We have difficulties with terminologies, and I call them as terminological terrorisms. The difficulty arises when English becomes the lingua franca, and one finds usages of English terms to stand for Bharatiya concepts. Here, one needs to take little extra effort to ensure that the students conceive the concepts appropriately. Let me just site few funny, but serious examples.
Heaven and Hell from English are made to stand for Swarga and Naraka in normal translations. But philosophy is all about clarity of concepts, and when we go into depth, things start getting serious. Le us first try to look at the concept of heaven as understood in the Semitic traditions. (Semitic to mean Judaism, Christianity and Islam). When we speak of heaven, it is mostly the Christian concept that comes to play. Heaven here is a place where God (in capital ‘G’) dwells. After the inevitable death, a person is buried, and his soul is supposed to ‘Rest In Peace’ in his given grave. One rests in peace in his respective grave awaiting for the day of judgement, for one to gets ‘sentenced’ either to heaven or hell, on the basis of his conformity with the ways of God. In heaven there are many things promised, and in hell, there are fears of punishments. Semitic religions have these two things by default, promises of rewards in heaven and fears of punishment in hell. (We know of those unfortunate terrorists who long for seventy two Hurs and the river of wine in heaven, not really knowing that the Hurs are all eunuchs and the wine from river do not intoxicate). Here the standard for judgement comes from how best one had been obedient to God, and the ways of God. It was these two aspects leisurely employed by the clergy in Papacy, which kept Europe in the medieval dark period, as they themselves report in history. Theology does not say that the judgement day had arrived, it still is awaited only. So, what must be happening to those miserable souls who are ever Resting In Peace as RIP? It may be akin to some who await the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah, that an Almah shall give birth to a Messiah who shall redeem the suffering people during Babylonian captivity, waiting for the Redeemer, and Saviour. (Indeed, it becomes ridiculous when people suggest RIP to a Hindu at death, but out of helplessness let us attribute this to ignorance). If the judgement day has not taken place, then both heaven and hell must be empty; and the officers there largely unemployed.
Swarga in Bharatiya concept is an altogether different phenomenon. Swarga is Devloka, where Dev Raj Indra dwells. Only Devas, or deities live there, and man has no entry there. They have an Army chief, Dev Senapati, Kartikeya, but they don’t have an army as such. When time comes, it is interesting to note, that every Deva becomes a ferocious warrior with their own respective weapons. (Hindu deities are armed and are ever ready to battle Adharma). While hell is described as a nasty place of filth and foul smell to continuously and consistently punish condemned souls with ferocious descriptions, Naraka is an all different place. In Naraka also, humans don’t have any entry; Naraka is a place where the Asuras and Rakshasas dwell. Unlike the Semitic hell, Naraka is a place of complete luxury, and should one wish for non-vegetarian hotels, mostly he can’t find them in Swarga, he will have to go to Naraka only. Thus, for the Hindus, Naraka is not a place where torture is the rule, and Swarga is not a place where one shall get all promised rewards.
The point is, we know them all, but we go on with these confusions without giving much thoughts to these. For instance, one should stop saying RIP at the death of a Hindu, by saying RIP what is meant is the he should attain Moksha, but here we are casual, and inattentive.
The question shall arise, what happens to the Hindus after death? Or what should Hindu do in his life to make a proper living in order to attain Moksha? Everyone knows answer to this, though no one thinks seriously about it to get rid of terminological terrorisms. There is no heaven and hell for the Hindus, there is only Moksha, and should one need to refine further, the possibility of a rebirth. As a matter of fact, the life of Hindu is just between two points, everything begins from the Vedas or the Vedopanishadic knowledge tradition, and everything is aimed at Moksha. The end desideratum for everything is Moksha alone. Moksha is to be attained by individuals where the god (small ‘g’) concept has no role to play. In Semitic tradition, salvation is granted in the infinite mercy of God, but in Bharatiya Parampara, Moksha, Nirvana and Kaivalya are earned through individual efforts. There are many ways to earn Moksha, and one has infinite freedom also to invent a new method for transcendence. But, it shall only be through Dharma, in one word.
Terminological terrorisms are ad infinitum, and it shall indeed take long time to narrate them, and it is also practically near impossible to discuss all of them. Other terminological terrorisms are using the term Religion for Dharma, God for god, Priest for Pujari, Prayer for Puja, Vedas as Religious texts instead of Knowledge texts and so on. The point is, we know them all, but we go on with these confusions without giving much thoughts to these. For instance, one should stop saying RIP at the death of a Hindu, by saying RIP what is meant is the he should attain Moksha, but here we are casual, and inattentive. To conclude, it is not only the case that many of us still suffer from subalternism to colonial hegemony, it is also the case that we are subject to terminological terrorisms; but what is most unfortunate is that, even ‘conscious’ people use them inadvertently and make confusions develop and grow. Efforts to decolonising should also get extended to such estranged terminologies to get rid of terminological terrorisms as well.