5.) Hinduism and Nazism

Liberal scholars of India identify links between Hinduism and Nazism, specifically as one of the members of the Sangh Parivar, the RSS, is regularly accused of being authoritarian.[1]

How might this be accomplished? It seems that both the Manusmti and the Bhagavad Gītā, two noted scriptural texts of Hinduism, could be grist for the mill. Here’s how: it has long been known that Nietzsche, the spiritual god-father of Nazism according to some, was a fan of the Manusmti. Percival Spear notes, for instance, that “In England Carlyle found in the caste system a basis for his doctrine of superiority, which he idealized as hero worship. Friedrich Nietzsche went further and grew lyrical about the Laws of Manu, a legal treatise, systematizing the caste system. ‘The Laws of Manu’ he wrote, ‘is a work which is spirited and superior beyond comparison.’”[2] In fact he said much more.

Similarly, the interpretation of the Bhagavad Gītā offered by J.W. Hauer could be used as evidence that the Bhagavad Gītā could provide the ideology for an aggressive authoritarian state. As Ashok Kumar Malhotra points out:

J.W. Hauer, a German Indologist, wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita entitled An Indo-Aryan Metaphysic of Battle and Action. It was published in 1934. Though this work made very little impact on people outside Germany, it did influence the thoughts of many followers of Hitler. Hauer regarded the Bhagavad Gita as an expression of the Indo-Germanic mentality, which, according to him, was a combination of deep inward reflection and outward action. According to Hauer, an ideal warrior was able to reconcile this tension between the elements of introspection and action. For Hauer, warrior-Arjuna was a genuine representative of the Aryan man. His identity with the other Aryan heroes of the Indo-Europeans epics was obvious because he possessed qualities similar to them, such as his reluctance to fight initially; his willingness to enter into the battle only because of his sense of duty; and his involvement in the war not for personal gain or self aggrandizement but for the welfare of the majority. Thus, the Bhagavad Gita was a treatise on the philosophy of action, which provided the warrior a justification for fighting an ethical war. This kind of interpretation was acceptable because it was in tune with the German mentality of the 1930’s.[3]

There is only one problem with this argument. Nazism is associated with the glorification of the state, while Daniel H.H. Ingalls, the Harvard Sanskritist, observes:

The great virtue of the religious legal tradition of India was that it caused the state to interfere as little as possible with the individual. In most of his affairs the individual was guided and judged by his neighbors, his caste brotherhood, his village council or headman. Only in his dealings with his outside world was he subject to the king’s laws as interpreted by the king’s pundits. As John Mayne, the exponent of Anglo-Indian law puts it in the mouth of his village informant: “We observe our own rules. Where there is no rule we ask the pundits.”[4]

[1] See Thomas Blom Hansen, The Saffron Wave (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1999) p. 114.

[2] Percival Spear, India: A Modern History (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan press, 1972) p. 23.

[3] Ashok Kumar Malhotra, Transcreation of the Bhagavad Gita (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999) p.75-76.

[4] Daniel H.H. Ingalls, “Authority and Law in Ancient India”, Supplement to the Journal of the American Oriental Society, No. 17, (July-September 1954) p. 43.


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