Sindhi Civilization and Universality of Religions
The essence of religion does not lie in proficiency for reciting scriptures or adherence to customs or creeds or any dogma but to live for peace, goodwill and happiness of people, everywhere.
We belong to a civilization of Sindh which flourished some 5000 to 8,000 years ago at a time when people in the so-called civilized part of the world probably had not seen even a thatched cottage.
By Ram Jethmalani
I serve two purposes by being here. I hope my presence here will help the great work which my friend Dial, whom I have known for the last 50 years plus, is doing in the cause of explaining the Sindhi civilization to people of the United States and the world.
We belong to a civilization of Sindh which flourished some 5000 to 8,000 years ago at a time when people in the so-called civilized part of the world probably had not seen even a thatched cottage. Many believed that civilized history started in Greece and Rome but in 1924 discoveries of the Harrapan civilization on the bank of the Sindhu or the Indus River, clearly showed that there was a civilization that was far superior to anything they had seen before.
The world was amazed to see that in this part of the world on the bank of the Sindhu, flourished a civilization which had swimming pools, fountains and parks; which had underground drainage, which had two story houses, which were built of baked bricks and the highest kind of architecture and sculptures. At that time in Europe, people still lived in trees and caves and had never seen a house with a proper roof. In contrast, was the civilization that flourished in that part of the world known as Sindh.
Coming down from History and Religion to something mundane, I am a democrat. I believe that democracy is the ultimate solution of world peace. Democracies don’t go to fight. Even economics have recorded that when two nations have developed to an economic stage where you can afford a McDonalds, Such nations have never gone to war. So I am a great believer of democracy.
The most exciting thing that has happened in my political life is that India and America have come together. We have now finally realized that democracies must sink or swim together. We have also realized that regimes, that are non-secular, believe in some kind of antiquated religions or religious dogma, which have the nothing to do with the real principles of happy co-existence are a menace to the world by their manipulated misunderstanding of religions.
I am a Hindu, but I am also student of Islam and Christianity; in fact, I am a student of all religions. None of these religions prescribe a regimen of hatred, enmity and ill will to others.
I have no intention of going into the history of the ancient Sindhi civilization but I do wish to share with you one thought. In about 300 and odd years before Christ, the Great Alexander landed on the bank of the Sindu River and there he met our ancestors. Our ancestors are known to history as the Gymnosophists. Alexander believed that he was a great philosopher because he had learned under Aristotle and he engaged these Gymnosophists who he met in a philosophical discourse.
The first thing they asked him was “why have you come here.” He said “I have come on a mission to conquer the world”. When they heard this they laughed and laughed – and laughed hysterically and so much that Alexander thought that either he was mad or they were mad. But they finally told him: “How the hell do you think that you are going to conquer the world? Because in a few years you are going to die and the only space you are going to occupy is about six feet, remaining lifeless, in a highly decorated box that they bury you”.
Alexander took to heart that lesson on the banks of the Sindhu. And he stopped going further and went back. Those who have written the history of the world say Alexander went back because he thought he had reached the end of the world, others attribute his return to his sickness, yet others write that his troops were disenchanted and became homesick. But the truth is that he learned a philosophical lesson that he was on a mad pursuit with only a temporary satisfaction.
So Sindhis are the heirs of that civilization. American Institute of Sindhulogy (AIS) has been trying to explain and promote that civilization to others.
Alexander had done his best to bring the Gymnosophists back to Greece with him. He offered them bribes, he offered them money, he offered them residence in a palace but he did not persuade a single one to accompany him back. There was only one gymnosophist who agreed to go and History recalls his name as Calnus (Kalayana). He went back with Alexander on his way to Macedonia and while they were passing through Iran he developed a slight temperature. He said to Alexander, “It’s my body’s infirmity and my philosophy tells me if I am of no use to the world I do not deserve to live. As it is, I was to die sooner but God gave me time to perform the service to mankind to escort you on the route back to your country so that your mind does not waver. ”
Alexander asked, “What do you propose to do?” Kalayana replied, “I propose to die.” When asked, “How are you going to do that”, he said, “You will see soon.”
There and then, Kalayana literally lit a fire and without batting an eye, he slowly walked into that fire. Poets-Historians have recorded that while he was in that funeral pyre, he smiled, folded his hands in the gesture of ‘Namaste’ and then sat in a yogic pose with peaceful, reverential and meditative look on his face as his body was being consumed by fire. The huge fire with leaping flames engulfed him and none could easily see how his body was being reduced to ashes. Soon he was no more and what remained were the charred bones and ashes, but no doubt, up in the heavens, a liberated soul.
So the one Gymnosophist Alexander carried from India, never made it to Macedonia but went to a more pleasant realm. Alexander himself died en route. With him was one Greek philosopher who had accompanied him from Macedonia. He was known as Parros. He it was who had interacted with Sindhi philosophers and having imbibed some of their philosophy, went back to Macedonia.
After Alexander died en route, Parros established a school of philosophy. This is what Parrots had learned on the banks of the River Sindhu that he taught the students in his school of philosophy. “The soul of man is a part of the Supreme Being. When it is liberated, it attains the world of the Lord of the Creation and becomes One with the Lord Himself. God is pure. Yourself – the Soul within you – must remain undefiled and untouched by sin. It must not be veiled by ignorance but illumined by knowledge. . . He who lives on this earth must not be afraid to follow his own path of Ananda (bliss or happiness) – so long it is done by avoiding injury to all.
“Man’s quest for truth continues and the Ultimate Truth is beyond us. Respect therefore the beliefs and the faith of others so long as those too are aimed at avoidance of injury to all. Remember also that God is an all-loving Universal God.”
These are some of the philosophical tenets that Parros had learnt on the banks of the Sindhu River which he sought to teach in his school of philosophy.
We Sindhis live on that philosophy. We are not great ones for religion. True, we are formally Hindus with our roots in Sanatana Dharma which flourished at the dawn of civilization prior to 7000 BCE or around 9,000 years ago. We have not only tolerance but real respect and understanding for all faiths. I fully believe and subscribe to the philosophy of my religion that the rituals and forms of worship are mere markers but what is essential is that we must strive to live in Ananda on a universal level to make as many people happy as one possibly can, before we die.
To me, the essence of religion does not lie in proficiency for reciting scriptures or adherence to customs or creeds or any dogma but to live for peace, goodwill and happiness of people, everywhere. This then is what the all enlightened Sindhis believe to be the essential message of their Hindu religion and I do believe that there is no higher religion than that of the Sindhu Hindu based as it is on the highest ideals of Sanatan Dharma which constitutes the very root of Hinduism.
This is the very message which American Institute of Sindhulogy is trying to propagate by producing CDs on the Song of the Sindhu Hindu. I hope you will help AIS to spread the message as I feel that in the troubled times of today, this message needs to reach everywhere.
[Address by Ram Jethmalani (14 September 1923 – 8 September 2019), then Member, India Parliament & formerly, Minister of Law and Justice in India to a large gathering of academics and scholars Illinois, HQ of American Institute of Sindhulogy, on June 16, 2006]