Rahul Sankrityayan was an Indian Marxist thinker who studied, travelled and wrote a lot.
Here I want to quickly share his views on the birth and use of Hindu God Brahman and the Hindu Reincarnation system by the ruling system in ancient India. It is presented in fictional form in his historical-fiction From Volga to Ganges.
Pravahan is a king of Panchalpur (Kannauj) in around 700 BC who has modified the Hindu Religion. His lover Lopa is not very fond of that kind of thinking though.
One day she asks,
‘Why are you involved in things apart from royal duties?’
To which Pravahan replies,
‘You mean my flight towards Brahman? But Lopa, all these things are not separate from Royal Duties. Our ancestors had honored Rishis such as Vasistha and Vishwamitra for the sake of supporting the State. Those Rishis inspired people to follow the command of the king in the name of gods such as Indra, Agni and Varun. Those Rishis made the kings conduct huge and expensive Yagyas so that the public’s belief in them would persist…All this was done to establish people’s faith in divine forces…and to tell them that all we have is due to Gods.’
‘But you already had old gods, what was the need of Brahman?’
‘For ages, nobody has seen Indra, Varun and the likes, therefore a few have started to doubt…I have established the form of Brahman in such a way that no one can ever demand to see it. It is beyond the senses. No one can doubt this concept the way they might doubt gods with forms’
‘…are you doing all this merely to keep your citizens in illusion?’
‘…It is necessary to do all this to keep the state under my control…our biggest enemies are the ones who doubt gods and Yagyas’
‘But you also talk of the existence and philosophy of Brahman…?’
‘If there is an existence then there has to be a philosophy. Not through senses though, because skeptics will talk of empirical proofs — this is why I talk about subtle senses. And now I talk of such methods that people will keep searching for ever and ever without losing their belief…’.
And then Pravahan tells her about his new invention that is greater than Brahman — Reincarnation:
‘Reincarnation is the most useful. The rate at which the wealth of we feudals, Brahmins and merchants is increasing is the same at which ordinary people are getting poor. There are those now who provoke artisans, farmers and slaves by saying, “You are troubling yourself by giving away your earnings to others. They trouble you and tell you that the Suffering, Pain, charity and sacrifices you do here will be repaid in heaven…No one has seen anyone enjoy happiness in heaven…”, to which we have established a narrative. All differences in this world are the result of your deeds in your previous lives…I do not care about Truth and Lies, it (an idea) just has to be useful for me. Today the idea of coming back to this world after death doesn’t seem credible…there will come a time when all of the pathetic citizens will be ready to bear pain, suffering and injustice in the hope of rebirth…’
‘But isn’t it ruining the lives of hundreds of generations just for your selfish wants?’
‘…it isn’t wrong. I am doing such a task that even the ancient Rishis couldn’t do…’
‘You are too cold Pravahan!’
‘But I have merely acted as per my ability!’
I understand that this whole thing has been presented by Sankrityayan in a Marxist mirror. That is, this thing of Metaphysical and spiritual nature has been looked upon from a dialectic-political-economic angle. It has also been presented in an artistic/imaginative manner. It is surely a limited view-point. But, it is a different perspective nonetheless!
It is about questioning the one who said the said.