First I begin with a prayer of gratitude to my Param Gurudev AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad. Born in this auspicious city of Kolkata in the year 1896, Srila Prabhupada was the direct ambassador of those great luminaries of Bengal, Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nitayananda Prabhu. Prabhupada came to my country, the USA, with only 40 rupees, a box of Bhagavat Puranas and a deep conviction in the message of Love of God. At the ripe old age of 69 years old, Srila Prabhupada boarded a ship, the Jaladhuta here in Kolkata. It was the year 1965 that he embarked upon this journey to America. Seemingly alone, he suffered two heart attacks in route and then after his arrival in the USA he spent a year unaided wandering the cold and dirty streets of New York City.
Armed only with the Holy name of Hari and faith in the instructions of his Gurudeva, yet another stalwart of Bengal Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Srila Prabhupada tirelessly advocated the glory of Bengal to the entire world. Thus now over 40 years later it is evident that a miracle had indeed taken place. For based upon the efforts of this one saint of Bengal we see that millions of people the world over have adopted Bengal as their cultural homeland. It was my great fortune to personally study under the guidance of Srila Prabhupada and to absorb the great and liberating knowledge and wisdom of your Bengali people, culture and traditions. As a child I studied the great Bengali literature of the Caitanya Caritamrta, the Caitanya Bhagavat and I learnt to sing Bengali songs and to cook Bengali food. It is thus that I stand here in front of you today. I stand here not as a Guru or a leader but I stand here today as your younger brother and as a beggar I express my gratitude to you.
I am not here merely because we share a common foe. It is not that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ concept that brings me here. No. For I am here standing with you for one reason alone. It is because like all of you, I am a Hindu.
This great land of Bengal is my cultural Motherland and it is to the people of Bengal that I owe my very life. Surely I could live an average American life yet in my view what is life without Samskriti? And what is Samskriti if not life itself? It is this Samskriti that raises humanity above the animal level and it is this Samskriti that allows for us to evolve reaching our true potential as Aryans.
The Swastika banner is a reminder of this ideal and it is a blessed invocation of good fortune for one and all. Our Mother India, this land of Bengal represents this promise of the future, a future that welcomes one and all and allows for the expansion of the human spirit. It is the promise of freedom that demands nothing more than a commitment to life liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness for everyone. It is the conception of true equality that allows for the entire range of human expression.
We see a clear example of this when we look at Islam. There are 72 different schools of thought within the Islamic tradition yet we find that there is only one place in this entire world that allows for such an expression of Islamic diversity. And no that place is not Pakistan nor Bangladesh. It is India and India alone that welcomes one and all. It is India alone that provides the fertile environment for the free development and practice of religion.
Again we find that among the Islamic nations it is only within the Indic nations of Bangladesh and Pakistan that women have risen to the greatest heights of leadership. It is the Hindu ethos that allows for this, thus we find that India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, unlike my great country of America, all have elected women to lead their nations. This female empowerment is based upon a tradition of deep respect and worship of the Divine Mother; a tradition at the very heart of Bengal.
True Hindu civilization has always welcomed the leadership of one and all based upon merit rather than caste or class. For Hinduism is egalitarian and truly liberating. Yet the unfortunate truth is that this very freedom is being turned against your nation and your people. We find a clear example of this phenomenon in those former Hindu lands of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Once these lands were just as much a part of Hindu India as any other yet today we find not a Saint or Hindu movement has arisen from these lands. No great temples have come up and the many ancient Hindu holy sites have been at best forgotten and at worst completely obliterated. No sense of history or pride is cultivated regarding our collective Hindu past.
Meanwhile figures of relatively minor import are highlighted. In other words these once Hindu lands have been sterilized and in fact ethnically cleansed. Genocide as horrid as any other in history has been a frequent occurrence in these lands. And today the same is being visited upon the Hindus of India and within the very land of Bengal itself. In other words despite our Mother India being ripped apart in order to provide a home for Indian Muslims, we find that our Muslim brothers remain dissatisfied. They clamor and maneuver for more Indian territory, wielding great economic and political power and thus the entire Indian legal system has become the latest weapon in their hegemonic arsenal. Thus we find that while Indian Muslims achieved their goal of nationhood Hindus within those lands lost all they had including their lives. Those that live barely survive at the lowest levels of the Islamic socio-political reality. And from my firsthand experience it is obvious that a similar agenda is happening now as we speak here in the very homeland of the Hindus.
I therefore direct this appeal to those millions of Hindus throughout the world, to those Hindus that believe in our eternal traditions and the value of our common culture yet do no more than worship at the temples and donate to their favorite guru. Is it your individual practice of Hinduism alone or the labors of solely your particular creed, sect, group or caste that constitute Hinduism? If you or your pet sect or Guru were to disappear do you think it would be the end of Hinduism? Of course not.
Such thinking is ludicrous for the Hinduism you have and cherish is based upon the functioning of the entire Hindu community. In fact everything you have you owe to the collective Hindu society and to your ancestors that kept the faith through thick and thin regardless of popularity and circumstance. Thus every Hindu on this planet has a debt and an obligation to answer the call. Every Hindu must make a stand for the very survival of Hinduism is at stake. For today our entire Hindu society is being threatened at its very foundation. Our people are being undermined, threatened and denied the basics of life and liberty. And the world is silent. Yet it is my privilege to be here in the presence of you all; thousands of Hindus that have broken that silence.
For those who remain silent I ask what is the use of your worship when your own Hindu brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers and children are being savaged, oppressed and brutalized? Why build more temples when the people who frequent those temples are dying? Why donate billions of rupees to this or that Guru when his disciples are being looted, raped, pillaged and slaughtered? Why open more hospitals when your patients are already dead?
The challenge has been given and it is time to meet that challenge head on. The fact is no amount of protests, prayers or pleas will save the day. And violence and terrorism are not the answer. However we must answer our opponents by fighting them with their own weapons and by emulating their mechanisms of unity and common cause.
What are these weapons? The first and foremost weapon or tool at our disposal is the truth, it is knowledge. In other words the media and the written and spoken word are our greatest asset. The legal system is yet another powerful tool at our disposal as is the democratic process. Yet these cannot be properly accessed without unity of purpose amongst the Hindu community. Thus Unity is the primary requisite for the Hindus of the 21st century.
Great progress has been made in this arena yet in my opinion we have yet to reach the tipping point required to make effective progress. Our lack of a centralized approach has many advantages yet it also allows for selfishness and pettiness. For as we all know India is a land rife with petty tyrants. As these petty tyrants soak in the glory on the local level, Hindu society is being decimated on the national and international level. Jealousy and fear are the rule of the day as sincere activists are shunned and denied their role in the battle for the hearts and minds of the public. The very basic animal urges that fear the loss of territory, the waning of influence over the masses and control over the female species are just as prevalent in overall Hindu society today as in any other. Thus rather than allow a worthy person the limelight he is blocked and denied his opportunity to serve the people and the Motherland.
At times even well-known sincere Hindu leaders and organizations have also been major obstacles to the cause of Hindu unity. This must stop. It is time to rise above such base thinking and attitudes and give credit where it is due. It is time to allow the message of Hindu solidarity to be heard loud and clear no matter what guise the messenger may be.
The fact is our opposition is only as strong as we are weak. Our disunity is their greatest advantage. Thus today I want to share an important truth with you all. Every one of us is born with weaknesses and strengths. As individuals not one of us is perfect and complete. However rather than a fault this is the design of Providence.
Just as the most powerful man cannot become a father without the help of a mother no individual can answer the call of duty without the support of others. What to speak of the common man, no Avatar, Saint or Acharya has ever accomplished anything without the help and support of others. Every single one of us requires and depends upon the active participation of other people in order to fulfill our roles in society. What we lack as an individual is compensated by the strengths of our fellow men and women. What a community lacks within itself is meant to be balanced out by the strengths of the neighboring community. The differences we find in language, style and the diverse ways of worship and the day to day functioning of our lives are natural reflections of the very nature of the Creation.
Yet today these very differences are turned against us. Thus today prejudice runs deep as Indians of one region belittle the Indians of another. Yes there are indeed many weakness and faults but again I say these weaknesses are an opportunity for us to unite. By combining the strengths of our various communities these faults will be corrected naturally. And as long as we sit back laughing at the failings of our neighbors and priding ourselves on our own community’s superiority we will continue to be the favored target of those forces opposed to the Hindu way.
Again I say our weaknesses are intentionally designed by the Creator in order to force us towards unity. For it is the strong legs of the blind man that can carry the keen eyed man with no legs. It is the words of the learned that are meant to enlighten the ignorant and it is the power of the strong that is meant to protect the weak. The sanctity of the sages is meant not for their personal liberation but rather it is meant to heal and bring relief to the suffering of those of us caught up in the turmoil of desire and the struggle for prosperity and economic viability. And like it or not the wealth of the rich is factually meant to uplift the lives of the poor. It is the failure to maintain this natural balance that has invited the very destruction of Hindu civilization.
In other words while not ignoring the ill intentions and motivations of those working against the Hindus, these opponents are merely reflections of our collective obstinacy and disunity. As long as we continue to belittle and discredit each other based upon our personal weaknesses and various socio-cultural eccentricities Hindus will continue to be looted, pillaged and their plight ignored by the world.
God made us in America strong politically, militarily and optimistic yet most Americans are ignorant of the most basic fundamentals of a cultured life. Yet through the efforts of the great luminaries of Bengal beginning with Vivekananda and Prabhupada America is rapidly becoming the land of Dharma. While Indians allege a love for Mother Cow they flock to the world’s greatest engine of Cow slaughter, McDonalds by the millions. Meanwhile Americans now shun McDonalds by the millions. In fact, in our view there is only one positive use for McDonald’s restaurants and that is the use of its latrines and that only in case of an emergency.
Despite any weaknesses it is the people that have the power to make or break any of these corporations and organizations be they Hindu or otherwise. This is true especially for those arrogant movie stars, business tycoons and political leaders. Who are they without their fans, employees, customers and supporters? Absolutely nothing.
Fueled by the admiration of the anonymous public they pretend it is their own Shakti that empowers them. This is an illusion. It is the common people that make or break them. The people are the real heroes. The people are the very impetus for the entire functioning of any civilization, society, nation or culture. These same people are filled with frailties yet these same people are the actual foundation of life itself. The biggest multimillion dollar Bollywood or Hollywood blockbuster is nothing without the public’s interest. The largest Temple or dynamic Guru is naught without the participation of the people.
I know that these same people have busy lives and many are challenged to respond to injustice but how long must we wait? And how much can we tolerate before we must ask ourselves ‘Are we men or have we become stone?’ For even the animal defends itself when threatened. So are we any less than the animals?
I ask again are we not fathers, mothers, and elders with an obligation to the future generations? So none can say to us that ‘Yes you are right in what you say but all this work, collecting, researching, court battles and ongoing activism is such a bother’. Yet I challenge them by saying that such a view can only be held by those who have never known the torment that is being afflicted upon our fellow Hindus. Or if you do know and do not care than I ask where is your heart?
And then to make matters even worse for those of us who do respond, for those of us that do have a heart and a sense of duty to our fellows we are labeled as radicals. Radicals, fanatics and fundamentalists. Let us look at these terms.
By turning to nature we find a paradox in this. Whenever and wherever a life form, human or otherwise is under threat or some kind of stress, defense is the natural response. Yet in today’s society we find that despite the constant state of threat confronting Hinduism there is a certain lack of response that is out of synch with the natural order. In this so-called secular outlook we find a radically altered socio-political landscape that allows for injustice to thrive. Thus we find that it is these alleged secularists and escapist academics that are the radicals out of step with the natural pulse and rhythm of life itself.
Meanwhile people like yourself, todays Hindu activists of the Hindu Samhati (HS) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), all of you gathered here today and the teeming millions of Swayam Sevaks across this ancient land represent the natural response, the antibodies in the Indian body politic. Rather than radicals you represent the natural response common to any and all life forms, people and societies throughout history.
And what is the exact nature of this response? It is much more than ideologically pleasant sounding phrases and ideas. It is the selfless work and dedication of Bengal’s Indigenous activists that is at the forefront of resolving the personal tragedies and struggles confronting the Hindu people. At times it is land-grabs, other times it is physical assaults, kidnappings and other acts of criminality. In most societies the aggrieved have the mechanism of the court system at their disposal yet here, in this region of the world the ugly truth is that the Hindu people have no avenue of support despite being victimized on multiple occasions and in a multitude of ways.
Now thanks to tireless work of Tapan Ghosh ji and the entire HS these victimized people have access to an organized response to their needs. At times these needs are legal, medical or economic. The workers of the HS and RSS literally give their lives for this cause. They put their lives on the line for the sake of Bengal and for India the Motherland and her time honored indigenous Hindu traditions.
In the face of such dedication it is strange to see those Hindus that go about their lives and maybe give a couple coins now and then. I say to them it must be so easy for you to do this especially when you know that there are Hindus, these alleged radicals, who have, and are and will lay down their very lives for you, for your nation and your civilization.
So you are proud that you can marry your daughter off to a nice Hindu boy and you can go to your favorite temple and Guru and feed some roti to the wandering cow and feel blessed. That’s nice. Yet never forget those Hindus activists that are standing up for you and the future generations of Hindus so that they can marry, worship and feed cows.
You see the HS helps those desperate Bengali people that are grateful to eat plain kichari day in and day out; the very same kichari that you may perhaps choose to eat once a month. Without any wages or material reward of any sort, except the reward that comes from a job well done, is given or expected by the dedicated workers of the HS. They do not do this for themselves; they do this for the sake of the people.
In my travels throughout your blessed land of Bharat I have at times been called a hero. Yet Bengal itself is a land of heroes who have impacted the entire world. Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Tagore, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Saraswati Thakur, AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu are some of the greatest heroes of Bengal. Yet what does it really mean to be a hero? The answer is right in front of me. Tapan Ghosh is a hero and you all, the noble workers of the HS are true heroes.
In the past the people were in general the followers and heroes would arise to lead them. Yet today we find a different scenario. Today the people are the heroes now. Thus today I am in the presence of thousands of heroes of Bengal and heroes of India and Hinduism.
Yes the people are the heroes now. In the past the hero held a sword of steel yet the hero of today pulls the peasants plow. The heroes of today are the fathers and mothers and the teachers, the farmers and cowherds and humble sadhus of this sacred land. This is not just a nice concept but it is a reality.
For what does it truly mean to be a hero? The primary requisite for heroism is selflessness, service and dedication to that which is bigger than one’s self. The true hero knows they do not live for themselves alone nor solely for this generation. For it is the duty of the current generation to prepare the way for the next generation. And this is why we fight. This is why we struggle to preserve and enhance that which is noble and beneficial.
This ancient Hindu civilization existed before the rise of the Pyramids of Egypt. Continuous, vibrant and dynamic Hinduism is the gift of our ancestors and its practice fulfills the promise of the ancients and of the Supreme Lord Krishna who is God himself. While the once vibrant Egyptian civilization of the past that built the pyramids is long gone the pyramids remain as mute testimony to the glory of ancient Egyptian high civilization. Yet today this civilization is extinct.
Here in India we find that despite the odds and centuries of assaults against Bengal and India, the dedication and commitment of the Hindu people remains steadfast. Yet as we all know there are those that wish us ill. There are those who attempt to isolate the art, beauty and grace of Hinduism and relocate it to the museum. They desire to profit upon its appeal as nothing more than a tourist attraction.
Perhaps that day will come when people will look back at Hindu India with wonder, cherishing its beauty yet ignorant of the vibrant pulse that gives meaning to that very beauty they so admire. Perhaps one day none will remember the heroes of Bengal like Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Tagore, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu. Perhaps one day none will worship at the Hindu sacred sites nor seek the blessings of Mother Ganges but I know that today is not that day.
Nor will that day come any time in the foreseeable future. Today, far from giving up, today we fight for a better tomorrow. We neither fight not just for ourselves alone or for Bengal alone nor even for the sake of just India. We are fighting on behalf of the good people of this entire world.
Today when I look at you all, dedicated workers, patriots and selfless servants of the Motherland, it is clear that the Spirit of Bengal has once again been awakened. This awakened spirit or Caitanya is eternal and unyielding for it is based upon love. It is love and gratitude that is at the foundation of our efforts. Love is the impetus of our entire struggle.
Since today is Saint Valentine’s Day I would be amiss not to touch upon the subject. Many Hindus and Muslims see Valentine’s Day as a western corruption yet its foundation and original relevance is pure love. No not the temporary love of this world but the love of a Christian Saint named Valentine for the Lord God himself. In other words Saint Valentine’s Day was originally a day meant for Bhakti (devotion) and Love for God. Of all people and of all traditions none know if this sacred love more than the Bengali Hindus.
In an ironic twist of history it is the Hindus of today that can fulfill the true meaning of the Christian holy day of Saint Valentine’s Day. It is this love that has carried Bengal through the turmoil of Islamic hegemony, British brutality and the atrophying impact of partition.
All are familiar with the massacres and holocausts that took place in other parts of the world. Not a day goes by in the West without the name and tragedy of Adolf Hitler being foisted upon the consciousness of the public. It is as if the physical and cultural genocide of the American Red Indians never happened. As the modern Western nations prosper atop the repeated genocides of the native peoples they soothe their guilt by highlighting the Germany of Adolf Hitler. The intentional and repeated famines that the British visited upon the Irish and the Bengalis are ignored.
You may or may not be aware that a mere 70 years ago nearly 3 million Bengalis were intentionally starved to death by the instructions of the British PM Winston Churchill. This was done in order to deny that Bengali hero Netaji his promised uprising. This uprising was to be a major aspect of Netaji’s efforts to free India from the British yoke. However after the ‘quiet holocaust’ of nearly 3 million Bengalis there were very few people left to farm the soil what to speak of to rise up in a war of liberation.
The truth is even darker when we take into account that under the British tyranny a famine took place within India every 20 years. Yet we find that since independence India has not seen even one famine. However a new form of genocide is currently raging across India and in Bengal in particular. And the HS is a direct response to this ongoing assault.
Many a Hindu takes pride in the heroes of the past and in the overall history of India. Yet when your children go to school they are taught that our Hindu past is a myth. This word myth says it all when we remember that it is rooted in the Sanskrit word Mithya or Lie. Thus at home we worship and find pride in our scriptures and histories like the Mahabharata as our children learn to scorn our faith and traditions. So yes we have a lot to be proud in regards to our Hindu past but none can deny that today there is much to be ashamed of.
As I travel through this beautiful land I have met many Hindus who live in desperate poverty. Rather than decreasing their numbers are increasing by the hundreds, by the thousands and by the millions. No doubt what we see and hear is only the tip of the iceberg, a mere small sample of a much larger picture. Beyond individuals alone I am speaking of entire families, communities and regions that have been brought to the depths of despair.
The Hindu people have for centuries, remained strong yet like anything in nature, things tend to atrophy. Even gold loses its luster through the passage of time and neglect. Yet regardless of its sullied condition gold remains pure and clean. The same is true of Bengal’s people and its indigenous Hindu culture. Thus regardless of the traumas and tragedies of a cruel history, despite desperate poverty and neglect the resilience of the Bengal spirit, reflective of that most famous icon of Bengal the Bengali Tiger, that spirit continues to shine undimmed. Thus today I am honored to be here with you all. You are a testament to this very spirit of Bengal that found voice in the words Surrendranath Bannerjee, Swami Vivekananda, Subhash Chandra Bose, Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore and Srila Prabhupada.
I know many of you are poor yet none can deny that you are truly rich in spirit. And that is what counts for it is the spirit that is eternal. And what is the nature of that Spirit? It is compassion. It is the understanding that whether rich or poor it is our duty to help the helpless. Though we may be poor we do not beg from the UN or our respective governments. However we do demand and command the political leaders of this world to step up and provide justice and security or to step back. Better yet if they will not perform their duty to protect the people we urge them to step down. Make room for the true heroes of this world who will guarantee the basic rights of life, liberty and freedom to one and all regardless of caste, class or creed.
Some may ask why bother to help others for it is their destiny to suffer. This concept, my friends is pure poison and reflective of a broken heart and mind. People suffer in order to remind us to relieve them of their suffering. That beggar you shun represents a great opportunity. She or he represents a chance for us to show our true quality.
Of course we could never help each and every beggar currently flooding the streets of America but the ideal remains. However the impetus to create a society that feeds and clothes one and all is within reach but it is only the political will that is lacking.
So indeed why do we help others? Well there are several reasons no doubt yet one reason stands out. No matter how desperate or tragic our personal lives may be there can be no doubt that there is always someone else suffering much more than ourselves. The traumas and fears and tears of our sons and daughters may break our heart but they will never break our resolve to answer the call to serve our people and our Motherland. HS was founded upon this principle.
The HS itself was founded upon this day not so long ago with few people and very little resources. Yet here we see thousands have answered the call of service. HS was founded with the express goal of selfless service in response to the vital and urgent needs of the Bengali Hindus. Tapan Ghoshji and the many dedicated workers of the HS continue tirelessly year after year. Why?
For the simple reason that the common people of Bengal had no avenue of support and no one to turn to. Surely if the correct response to the vital and urgent needs of the Bengali Hindus had been developed and provided there would be no need for such an extraneous effort by the private citizens of this Nation. Nature abhors a vacuum and thus the empty space in the hearts of this nation has been filled with the dedication of the workers of the HS and RSS. The very numbers of people present here reflects the on-the-ground reality and is direct proof of the need for such an effort.
The call to make a stand and represent our commitment to the traditions of our ancestors has been answered by countless millions across this ancient and sacred land of Bharat. The message of Dharmic Patriotism clearly resonates among you. This patriotism, rather than base egoism and elitism, is founded upon a common love and a shared Hindu legacy. So regardless of those labels of hate and fanaticism it is love that motivates us. It is a love that welcomes one and all yet it is this very love that is being undermined. Thus our love must run on a parallel track that requires us to fight for the very basic human rights of equality, security and economic viability.
As long as the Hindus of Bengal are denied these basic rights, as long the Hindus of India remain as 3nd class citizens within their own land her people will rise up to the occasion. People of Bengal, Hindus of the world say it loud and clear. We will toil through every obstacle and meet every challenge until we achieve our goal as we march forward towards the upliftment and the betterment of our people. Our goal is indeed a noble one.
O Mother India, your children are awake and will never tire, therefore wipe the tears from your eyes. For a new age has dawned and behold the actual resurrection of high Hindu Civilization is at hand.
Thus today I hail the workers of the HS! (Bengali?)
Bharat Mata Ki Jai!
Bengal Ki Jai!
Hindu Samhati Ki Jai!
Jai Hind! Jai Sri Ram! Jai Hanuman!