Ideals and Values/Hatred, Stereotyping & Prejudice

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Vishal Agarwal

Hatred, the great Evil

Extreme ignorance, anger or jealousy leads to hatred or enmity due to which we want to attack, over-power, weaken or destroy the object of our hatred. We all generalize about people, groups, ideologies and so on in our lives. But when this generalization is judgmental, when it is not based on the complete set of evidence available to us and when we are unwilling to consider new or contrary data to revise our judgment, this generalization becomes a stereotype[1].

A stereotype is a highly exaggerated and a negative view of the reality. It is especially resorted to by people who are quick to condemn people different from themselves, or in other words, by people who are intolerant themselves. Prejudice[2] is rarely expressed explicitly. It is more often demonstrated through creation of stereotypes, through the creation of a hated or a disliked ‘other’, through an excessive and obsessive focus on the negatives of this ‘other’, through half-truths, repeated and deliberate misrepresentations and so on.

The scriptures ask us to give up hatred for others and instead practice love, compassion, kindness, ahiṅsā, gentleness and respect towards others: Dhṛtarāshtra says to Duryodhana (quoting Prahlada) – Not bearing enmity towards any creature in mind, word or dead; having compassion for everyone and giving charity to the best of one’s ability – these are the praiseworthy virtues. Any personal efforts that do not benefit others and doing which causes guilt in one’s mind must never be carried out. Do only those deeds that will get you praise in a full assembly of men. This in brief I have told you the definition of Dharma.[3]

“Even at times of calamity, a noble man should desist from harboring ill-will or enmity towards others. He is like the sandalwood tree that imparts its fragrance even to the axe blade that strikes it down.”[4]

“Foolish people never give up enmity, just as a line drawn on a rock cannot be erased. But the wise forgive and forget, their enmity is as ephemeral as a line drawn on the surface of water.”[5]

Manifestations of Hatred, Stereotyping and Prejudice

  • Racism[6] - Racism is another dangerous variety of prejudice involving the belief that a perceived ‘racial difference is sufficient to value one person less than another’. Ethnocentrism[7] is a form of prejudice involving the belief that one’s own group’s values, practices or behavior are the best whereas those of the ‘other’ groups are inferior. Disliking, using derogatory words against (e.g. ‘Nigger’) and discriminating against and even slaughtering people because they belong to a different ethnic group than you or because they have a different physical appearance[8] than yourself. Modern anthropologists have proved conclusively that people cannot be distinguished into different races on the basis of genetics. This means, we all have the same biological and anatomical make up and the difference lies only in our superficial experience. Yet, it is amazing how much hatred a lot of people have against others. In the 1930s and 1940s, Hitler led German soldiers to slaughter 6 million, out of the total world population of 12 million, Jews because he believed Jews to be racially inferior and evil. Hitler was not the first one to hate the Jews though, as they have been hated and persecuted throughout history in Christian and Islamic countries. The only two places where they did not suffer hatred and discrimination were India and in China. Hatred directed towards the Jews is called Anti-Semitism. In another example, the Nazi troops of Hitler also exterminated 4 million Gypsies in Europe. Unfortunately, widespread racism against the Gypsies, who were originally from India, continues to this day in many European countries. In earlier centuries, the Europeans and Arabs indulged in large scale slave-trade and uprooted millions of Africans from their homelands and transported them to the Americas and to the Middle East (and even to the Indian subcontinent) to work as slaves who were ill-treated. In the Americas, racism was directed towards the Native Americans, and Christian priests even debated whether the natives of these newly discovered lands even had a soul. Millions of Native Americans perished due to ill-treatment and disease from the arrival of Europeans.
  • Religious Hatreds - Many religions, notably Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe that only the followers of their particular religion are favored by God and are His chosen people; and that everyone else is an infidel who can be humiliated, enslaved, taxed and slaughtered. This mindset has resulted in a very bloody history of these religions. Islamic armies ruthlessly invaded our traditional homelands and slaughtered, enslaved, or forcibly converted millions of our forefathers because they believed that as ‘idol-worshipers’, we were evil people. Today, hatred directed against our people continues in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and many other Islamic countries and a continuous stream of Hindus and Buddhists continues to flee their traditional motherlands. In contrast, the Dharmic traditions have been relatively tolerant and free of religious hatred. There is no parallel in the history of Dharmic traditions anything close to the Protestant-Catholic civil wars, the Jihads of Muslim armies, the Crusades of Christians and so on. In extreme cases, this type of hatred results in the rise of terrorist groups like the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. However, there are other types of hatred too – like Islamophobia[9] and Hinduphobia,[10] parallel to but much more benign than Anti-Semitism. It is not only people of different religions who can hate each other. Sometimes, people belong to different sects within the same religion can also hate each other. For example, Protestants and Catholics fought for several decades in Northern Ireland. The Shias and Sunnis have their own militia to fight each other in Pakistan.
  • Academic Hatreds - Contrary to what we would believe, it is not only the ignorant people who indulge in hatreds. Several scholars also indulge in hating others in a very subtle manner. These haters are actually more dangerous because they have the capability of influencing the masses and generate many more hate-filled people. An example is that of Hinduphobia in which the so called University professors write only negative things about our Dharma.
  • Linguistic Hatreds - People can also hate others who speak a different language from theirs. E.g., Bengali speakers might hate Urdu speakers in Bangladesh.
  • Jāti Prejudice - Society is divided into many jāti-s and people of one jāti or another sometimes dislike or bear a prejudice against others. Luckily, these types of hatreds have hardly ever degenerated into mass-scale violence. But it has led to severe prejudices and discrimination directed towards the so called ‘untouchables’. The scriptures and saints have consistently rejected these types of hatreds and have exhorted that we should see the presence of Bhagavān within everyone’s heart. The following story from the life of Sant Eknāth shows that even though humans sometimes discriminate on the basis of caste, Bhagavān wants us to love every one equally:

One day, Eknāth was taking a bath in the river Godavari when he saw a poor woman arrive with her infant and a bucket to fill some water. After she had filled her bucket with the water, she started walking back towards her home alone forgetting to carry the infant. The baby soon started crying and caught Eknāth’s attention. He rushed to the baby and picked him loving in his arms. He followed the woman and then gave the baby to her as she was just entering her home. The mother realized her absent-mindedness and cried with joy to see her baby back in her arms. She thanked Eknāth for returning her child to her.

Eknath with Brahmins

When the news of this incident spread in the village, several Brāhmaṇas got very upset. They approached him and said, “Ekanāth, you are a Brāhmaṇa. Then how come you picked up the child of an untouchable and even went to their home? We think that you have committed a sin and therefore you must bathe 108 times in the Godavari to purify yourself.”

Ekanāth was shocked and he said, “How can you be so heartless? The child was crying and it was my duty pick him up and take him to his mother.” But the Brāhmaṇas would not listen to Ekanāth and an argument started. Just then, a leper arrived and said, “I am coming from the temple of Viṭhoba in Pandhārpur. When I worshiped Viṭhoba (Kṛṣṇa) to cure my disease, he asked me to come to your village in search of a Sant named Eknāth. Kṛṣṇa told me that by returning the baby of untouchable parents to his mother, Eknāth had accumulated a lot of good Karma. If Eknāth gives me even a portion of this good Karma, then my leprosy will get cured.”

Eknāth replied, “I am Eknāth, and I am the one who returned the baby to his mother. I do not know if I have earned any good Karma by doing this deed, because I just wanted to do my duty. But if it helps you, I will give you all of my good karma.” Saying this, Eknāth took a spoonful of water in his hands and recited the name of Viṣṇu with great devotion. Then he sprinkled the water on the leper. And lo, a miracle happened! The leper got cured in front of everyone’s eyes. The narrow minded Brāhmaṇas were now ashamed. They had thought that Eknāth had committed a sin by helping an untouchable family. But clearly in the eyes of Kṛṣṇa, Eknāth had done a very good Karma by doing so[11]. In fact, Kṛṣṇa clearly says that: The wise see the same (Brahman) with an equal eye, in a learned and humble brāhmaña, in a cow, in an elephant, in a dog, and even in a dog eater (outcast).[12]

  • Presumed or Real Moral Superiority - Sometimes we hate others because we assume (rightly or wrongly) that we are ethically or morally superior to them. E.g. hating pedophiles. Dharma teaches us that hatred in any form is wrong because it vitiates our own mind. In these cases, we should follow the advice of Bhagavān Buddha who said, “Hate sin, not the sinner.”
  • Prejudice based on Materialistic Values - Some people look down others who are poor or whose life has taken an economic downturn. These rich and arrogant people think that others are poor because they are either lazy or because they are not as intelligent and clever as they are. However, the lives of our Sants demonstrate how we should treat the poor equally with the rich. A story from the life of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahaṅsa is given below:
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Rama Paramahaṅsa was taken care of a maidservant in his childhood. The little boy was very fond of his maid. One day, when he was three years old, he promise to her, “When I undergo my thread-ceremony, I will take my first food from you.” The maid smiled and ignored Ramakrishna’s promise as childish prattle. After the thread ceremony is over, our tradition requires that the child with the sacred thread should beg his first five meals from five individuals. Typically, these are his mother and his aunts, followed by other elderly and respectable individuals in the family and neighborhood.

Four years later, when Ramakrishna was seven years old, he underwent the sacred thread ceremony. After the ceremony was over, he was asked to beg his first meal. Ramakrishna said, “Please call my dear Dhaadi.[13] I will take my first meal from her hands.” All the family members present there were surprised and said, “Son, beg your meal from your own Aunts or mother. Your Dhaadi is just a poor maid and she is not from a very respectable family.”

But Ramakrishna replied, “I had promised to her when I was three years old that I will beg my first meal from her!” The elders replied, “You were just a kid then and you are kid even now. Kids do not have to keep their promises because they do not think before they promise something.” Ramakrishna replied, “I have undergone this sacred thread ceremony because this means I will start studying religious books from now on and will follow all religious customs. But now, if I do not even keep my promise, then am I not disobeying my Dharma? Our Dharma teaches us to be truthful and to keep our promises. Therefore, of what use is this sacred thread if I disobey Dharma? I insist that I will beg my first meal from my Dhaadi and from no one else.”

The people present there were moved by little Gadadhar’s determination and allowed him to beg his first meal from the maidservant, ignoring that she was poor and humble[14].

  • Homophobia - Hatred for Gays and denial of equal rights to them.
  • Reverse prejudice - Sometimes a group that has been suppressed and discriminated against for a long time becomes prejudiced and suspicious towards its oppressor. This feeling of the victim group is understandable to some extent, but members of the victimized group should resist the temptation to have negative feelings towards all members of the oppressing group. An example is the fact that the Hindus were persecuted and oppressed by Muslim rulers for many centuries due to which a few Hindus now bear prejudice towards all Muslims. This attitude of Hindus can bring us more harm, and it also turns away Muslims who genuinely want to adapt our faith and traditions. The following story illustrates this very well-

Story: Kalāchand becomes Kālā Pahād

In the 16th century, Bengal was ruled by the Moghul Emperor Akbar with the assistance of his general Suleiman Karrani. He had a very learned, handsome young minister named Kālāchānd. However, according to other accounts, he was actually a Hindu general of the King of Orissa but had visited Bengal for military negotiations with Suleiman. There, he fell in love with Suleiman’s daughter. But the King of Orissa ruled that because of his marriage to a Muslim woman, Kālāchānd or his descendants will not be permitted to enter the Jagannatha Mandir. This angered Kālāchānd and he decided to take revenge by converting to Islam, and destroying Mandirs. The minister was a favorite of the Karrani and therefore, he gave him a house right next to his palace. Every morning, Kālāchānd went to the Ganga river to take his bath and say his prayers according to the Hindu tradition.

Karrani’s daughter saw the young minister from her window every day and fell in love with him. She persuaded her father to get her married to Kālāchānd. Suleiman summoned Kālāchānd to the court, and proposed his daughter’s hand in marriage to him. However, Kālāchānd refused because marrying a Muslim woman in those days meant converting to Islam. Suleiman offered many lucrative bribes to him, but Kālāchānd refused saying that he was a Hindu and cannot marry the Muslim princess.

Kālāchānd becomes Kālā Pahād

Enraged, Suleiman ordered his executioner to behead Kālāchānd. But right before Kālāchānd was to be killed, the Princess ran up to him and offered her head instead. Kālāchānd’s life was spared, but now his heart melted and he agreed to marry the princess. However, he refused to convert to Islam and the Princess too agreed to this condition. Unfortunately, the Hindu community now boycotted him. They said that Kālāchānd had polluted himself irreversibly by marrying a Muslim woman. He performed all the penances and atonements as per the scriptures and even went on a hunger strike but to no avail. He visited the Jagannātha Mandir in Puri, within the Hindu kingdom of Orissa, to atone but the priests rudely turned him away.

Their attitude angered Kālāchānd and he decided to convert to Islam and destroy Hindu Dharma in revenge. After his conversion, he assumed the name of Hussein Farmooli. He advised Suleiman to invade the kingdom of Orissa and himself led the Muslim troops. During the invasion, Kālāchānd took out his anger at the population and slaughtered many people in several cities. He also forcibly converted them to Islam and destroyed or damaged numerous temples in Orissa including the Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneshwar, the Konark temple and the Jagannatha temple. Ultimately, he died in the town of Sambalpur in Orissa under mysterious circumstances but not before causing immense harm to Hindu Dharma in eastern India. So terrible was the destruction caused by him that he came to be known by the name Kālā Pahād or the ‘Black Mountain’.

It is all due to the short-sighted and prejudiced behavior of some priests which alienated one of our own and made him an enemy of Hindu Dharma[15]. Another example is that of African Americans stereotyping all Whites in the United States because they have been oppressed by the Whites for centuries. There are many other kinds of hatreds but a detailed listing and treatment of them is beyond the scope of this book. The point to be learned in this chapter that we must not have any kind of hatred that is directed towards any individual or group.

How can we overcome Hatred and Prejudice

Perceiving Bhagavān within every one

The Bhagavad Gitā teaches that the same Bhagavān resides within everyone. Therefore, when we love and respect others, we actually love and respect Bhagavān. And when we hate and disrespect others, we do the same to Bhagavān. The world may consider some humans superior to others, or humans superior to animals. But for Bhagavān, all the creatures are equal because they have the same Divine spark in them. That is why, we great others by saying ‘Namaste’, which means, “I bow to the Divine within you.” The following story shows how Sants emphasize the divine presence within everyone when they see examples of discrimination and prejudice:

Shri Narayana Guru

Śri Nārāyaṇa Guru was a great social reformer who lived from 1854-1928 in the Indian state of Kerala. He championed the rights of the poor and downtrodden sections of society, and taught that Bhagavān lives equally within everyone. Within his life time, he attracted thousands of followers in South India and Sri Lanka, and admirers like Mahatma Gandhi.

Śri Nārāyaṇa Guru had founded a Śiva Mandir in Kerala. Gradually, an Ashrama developed around it. On Śivaratri every year, a grand festival began to be celebrated around that temple in the presence of Nārāyana Guru. One year, on the Śivarātri night, as speaker after speaker went the stage to talk about the wonderful qualities of Narayaṇa Guru, the Guru himself noticed that a small group in the audience was sitting apart from everyone else.

He realized that this small group of people was from the so called untouchable community who had been forced to sit apart by the rest of the crowd. Nārāyaṇa Guru signaled the speaker to become quiet for some time. Then he called two untouchable kids from the group to come to him. As everyone looked at the Guru, he asked the two kids to sit on the stage by his side. The Guru then taught, “Just like you and I, these kids and everyone in the group sitting apart are all children of Bhagavān. We must not discriminate against anyone due to his birth, jāti or religion. The same Divine Light shines within all of us because Bhagavān lives in the heart of every creature.”[16]

Madhavrao Golwalkar

Enforce same rules for everyone

One way to promote equality in the society is to make sure that everyone follows the same set of rules and that no one is above the law. We must object when the so called powerful, rich and famous try to break rules, and expect preferential treatments. In the year 1929, the Nizām[17] visited the aquarium in the Indian city of Madras (now called Chennai). The Nizām was then a powerful Indian ruler and one of the richest men in the world. The manager of the aquarium thought that it would be inappropriate to ask the Nizām to buy the entrance ticket.

But Madhavrao Golwalkar, who also worked there, insisted that no exceptions must be made – even the Nizām must obey the rules. Golwalkar also ensured that the Nizām entered the aquarium only after he had produced the ticket at the entrance, like any other visitor. All the officials of the aquarium were stunned because the Nizām was a powerful man. They heaved a sigh of relief only after the Nizām had left after an uneventful trip. Through his example, Guru Golwalkar as he was later called demonstrated that no one is above the law and that rules apply to everyone.[18]

Providing more protection and love for the weak

Having the same rules does not mean that we enforce them on people who cannot follow them. Many countries allow special concessions for individuals with a temporary or a permanent disability (e.g. pregnancy, blindness). A civilized society is the one where extra love, affection and respect are shown to people who are ‘weak’. A barbarian society is one where the weak are suppressed and are discriminated against. The following story from the Mahābhārata was narrated by Ṛṣi Veda Vyāsa to King Dhṛtarāshtra to convince his orphaned nephews, the Pāṇdavas, with extra care and love instead of favoring his own 100 sons:

Long ago, Kamadhenu, who is the Mother of all cows and bulls on this earth, went to Indra in heaven. She wept in front of Indra saying, “King of Devas, look at that weak bull, my son below on the earth. He is pulling a plough with another son of mine, a stronger bull. A farmer is beating him with a stick, and twisting his tail because he is too weak to pull it along with my stronger son.” Indra said, “There are thousands of sons of yours who are pulling carts and ploughs for different people on the earth. Then why do you cry only for that weak son?”

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The Mother Cow Kamadhenu replied, “My Lord, I know that my stronger sons will be able to do their work without any pain. They can take care of themselves. You are correct that they are all my own children. But the heart of the mother always weeps and gets filled with love for her weakest children and this is the reason why I cry for that weak bull.”

Make an attempt to respect every one

We should try to cultivate the feelings of respect and affection, which are opposite of the feelings of hatred, prejudice and stereotyping. See the chapter on Respect for more details.

Focus on our commonalities, not on differences

We are different from each other but we also have a lot of similarities. If we really think deeply, we are more similar to the people we hate, than we are different. If only we were to focus on these similarities rather than on the differences, this world would be a happier, and a much more peaceful place. If you look down upon, the people of a different country, just note the similarities between them and yourself, the similarities will be many, like:

  • They too love their family members
  • They too want prosperity and happiness in their lives
  • They desire peace and stability
  • They also laugh at some of the same songs and music as you do etc.

When we look at our so called enemies in a more balanced way as above, we tend to stop hating them.

Understand that people do improve in their lives

Sometimes, we bear a prejudice or hatred against individuals because they were evil or uncivilized in the past. However, people do improve with time and we have numerous stories in our tradition where even murderers transformed to such an extent that they were regarded as saints. Therefore, whenever we see a degraded person trying to improve himself, we should encourage and support them, instead of discouraging them with our prejudice, sarcasms and hatreds. Below is the story of Sant Nāmadev who was a murderer and a crook but who is now regarded as one of the greatest Saints.

Story: A Murderer becomes a Saint Nāmadev never attended a school to study. In his years as a young man, he made friends with some dacoits, who would attack helpless travelers to loot them and even kill them. Nāmadev too started looting and even killing innocents for his personal profit. Although he led a very evil life, he made it a habit to visit the Nāganath Śiva temple once daily.

Namadev

One day outside the temple, he saw a woman getting very angry with her son just because he asked his mother for sweets. Nāmadev went to the mother, and scolded her, “All kids love sweet. Why did you then get angry with your innocent kid just because he asked you for sweets?” The mother replied, “Sir, we are very poor now, but we used to be rich. Unfortunately, one day, a band of dacoits in this area attacked my husband, robbed him and then killed him mercifully. The dacoits did not even think for a moment that he might have a family and little kids. Since then, we have been living a very hard life. I am not able to earn enough and often have to beg for food. How can I then buy sweets for my kid when he does not have sufficient basic food to eat?”

When Nāmadev heard this, he remembered the man he had killed some time back after robbing him. He was this poor woman’s husband. Nāmadev became quiet and went away. But his heart became full of remorse. He later went to the Nāganātha temple and cried out of grief, for having killed innocent people. He thought of all the families to whom he caused a lot of pain, misery and poverty. He prayed to Śiva for forgiveness. Bhagavān Śiva appeared to him and commanded him to travel to Pandharpur, to the Mandir of Viṭhoba. In that town, lived many other saints like Jnāneshvar. In their company, Nāmadeva soon reformed completely and became a saint. He traveled to north India and stayed in Punjab for 20 years. The Sikhs too therefore regard him as a Saint and many of his religious writings form a part of the Ādi Granth, which is the holy book of the Sikh religion.[19]

Further Research

  1. Read the article Washington Post and Hinduphobia” by Rajiv Malhotra
  2. Read the book Invading the Sacred’ Ed by Krishnan Ramaswamy and Aditi Banerjee
  3. “Hinduism: Not Cast in Caste” by The Hindu American Foundation
  4. Research the protected categories in the US law that protect us against discrimination.

Class Discussion

What does the picture below teach you?

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A Prayer against Hatred

Just as a boatman takes his passengers across a river, may Bhagavān whose face is everywhere, take us beyond our hatreds. May our sins get washed away just as water extinguishes fire.[20]

Notes & References

  1. Joel M. Charon. 2001. Ten Questions, A Sociological Perspective. Wadsworth Thompson Learning: Belmont (California), pp. 247-265
  2. The following study gives a multifaceted view on prejudice and discrimination – Gordon W. Allport. 1954. The Nature of Prejudice. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.: New York
  3. Mahābhārata 12.124.66-68
  4. Nītidvishashtikā of Sundara Pāndya, verse 78
  5. Nītidvishashtikā of Sundara Pāndya, verse 64
  6. Konrad Phillip Kottak, “Cultural Anthropology”, McGraw-Hill, Inc. : 1994, p. 79 See also Milton Kleg. 1993. Hate Prejudice and Racism. SUNY: Albany (New York)
  7. Claire M. Renzetti ad Daniel Curran, ‘Living Sociology’, Allyn and Bacon, Needham Heights (MA, USA): 1998, p. 287
  8. It is called ‘phenotype’.
  9. It is a disease in which people have an extreme dislike for Muslims and Islamic culture.
  10. It is a disease in which Hindus are blamed for every problem and Hindu Dharma is portrayed in negative terms in the media.
  11. Krishnamani, pp. 154-155
  12. Gitā 5.18
  13. It is a respectable word for one’s elderly governess.
  14. Krishnamani, pp. 434-435
  15. Acharya, pp. 17-23
  16. Murti, pp. 22-26
  17. He was the ruler of the kingdom of Hyderabad.
  18. Puttige, p. 16
  19. Trivedi, pp. 149-150
  20. Atharvaveda 4.33.7