Don't you have wives to bother instead?

Saturday, 22 July 1995

With a culture as old as human civilisation, we should remember that calling for censure is better than calling for the censor...

The book title said something like Oh you Hindu, Awake! My brain responded with "I think they mean me. Am I asleep?" Those of us whose ancestors came from India never really called ourselves "Hindu". The Tamil language, my mother tongue, doesn't even have a consonant that sounds like the English "H". We weren't Hindus. We just were.

Thousands of years later, along came the Judeo-Christian school of thought, followed by its offshoot Islam, which required that we be given a name that described our otherness. Maybe the marauders from the British Raj, whose descendants today still drop their aitches in Ibberdene and pick them up in Humbilo, gave us the name because our forebears came from the Indus river valley? (Perhaps 'eathen was the earlier version?)

So, "Hinduism" is today loosely used to refer to the collective indigenous cultures of India. Whatever distinctions exist between religion, culture, recreation, and mythology have been swallowed by the monolithic label.

This monolith taught itself a surprising amount of tolerance. There is no eternal fight between the forces of good and evil. Rather, the calendar system reflects what scientists today call the second law of thermodynamics: The entropy of a closed system increases with time.

At the end of the road lies dissolution of the cosmos followed by re-creation.

So, what's the point of living? Well, the theory is that everything that exists is part of the supreme consciousness. (God's dream world, if you prefer.) Through the process of self-realisation, one can become one with the supreme consciousness. One becomes the dreamer, not just part of the dream.

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Since everything exists within the supreme consciousness, there is no "good" and "evil" or "heaven" and "hell" in the Christian sense. There are actions which assist self-realisation (dharma) and there are actions which hinder the process (karma). Sex is not a bad thing. Preoccupation with sex will distract you from self-realisation, but nothing more serious.

Segue to the eve of the 21st century where we find this illegally published yellow booklet written under assumed names by a small group of Muslims. Their mission is to take down Hinduism, and they do so by trying to hit us with sexual guilt.

Sigh ... We realised thousands of years ago that sex is the driving force of the living world. It's how you got here. It's how I got here. We know this. Yes, we wrote the definitive sex manual -- the Kama Sutra. It's part of our culture, but it's not our religion.

So, since Hinduism does not hide sex behind ignorance and condemnation, and has suggested that it could (gasp) be enjoyable, this lot believe Hindus are clearly beyond redemption.

Except they get confused. Quote: "Some of the postures detailed in the Kamasutra (sic) are so complex that they can only be performed with the help of one or more ASSISTANTS!"

Uh, excuse me, but I thought you guys were in favour of polygamy? (I know lots of people who are, starting with His Majesty, the King of KwaZulu.) What's wife number 3 supposed to do while you are busy with wife number 1? Knit?

Or two consecutive references where Rama is first accused of marrying many wives for sexual pleasure, and then accused of impotence. Come on. Which is it?

And then of course, there's sexism. They're upset that Princess Draupadi (whom they call a goddess) had five husbands. Polyandry wasn't widely practised in India, and still isn't. But if you accept the premise that a man can have many wives, why discriminate?

This booklet should not be banned. It should be kept around the coffee table if only as a reminder of the fact that small-minded people with sexual hangups will take on entire cultures to relieve their guilt.

(Kanthan Pillay is monogamous, and happily so.)