15 March 2007
Phālguna Kr. 11, 5108
H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Art of Living International Headquarters
Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth
21st km, Kanakapura Road
Udayapura, Bangalore 560 082
Subject: Felicitation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for his recent campaign to eradicate caste-based discrimination in Hindu society.
Respectful pranams to Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji Maharaj.
Navya Shastra is an international Hindu organization comprised of Sanatana Dharma adherents from different walks of life, who have come together for the common goal of removal of discriminatory practices based on gender and caste in Hinduism. Since its inception in 2002, Navya Shastra has been focusing on ways and means to enable a dharmic movement to usher in the practice of egalitarian values within Hinduism. It is our conviction that present-day Hinduism must accept egalitarian values in every sphere of life not only to ensure its continued existence, but also because the core principles of Sanatana Dharma demand it.
As part of our mission, we are constantly in search of influential Hindu leaders and Gurujis whose sentiments echo that of Navya Shastra’s. We know that your esteemed self and your organization have regularly spoken out against the nefarious practices within Hinduism such as caste-based discrimination, untouchability, barring of our Dalit brethren from temples, etc. Navya Shastra believes that addressing the issues in a public fashion is the first step toward ending these ills, and strongly commends you and the Art of Living Foundation on your continued outspokenness. We were particularly impressed by your recent article in Hindustan Times (published 16 February 2007) regarding your mission to bring about reconciliation between the Dalits and non-Dalits, as well as the campaign launched by your organization in New Delhi earlier this month. Navya Shastra stands firm in solidarity of your noble mission, and agrees wholeheartedly with many of the points you have raised. Most notably, we strongly endorse your idea that “in the absence of a single command at the top, reforms in Hinduism cannot come from the top. It has to start at the bottom, as a people’s movement.”
As part of our own efforts to achieve reconciliation and rapprochement, Navya Shastra has recently published an unconditional apology to the members of those communities that have been facing unspeakable exploitation, violence and marginalization in the name of caste. Although we realize that such an apology will not immediately bring about an end to caste discrimination, we do believe that it serves as a first step in the process of reconciliation by bringing some comfort, dignity and hope to the victims. We would be grateful if, as part of your own ongoing campaign, you could lend us your support by endorsing this apology.
Once again, kindly accept our congratulations on your mission to eradicate social evils from Hindu society, and we wish your organization every success in your campaign both now and in the future. We sincerely hope that through continuous efforts such as yours a new grassroots movement will be born that will forever eliminate the problem of social and spiritual inequality in Hinduism. Navya Shastra contends that the only solution to the problem of social discrimination is to enlighten people, and make them realize that caste and casteism should not be sanctioned by Hinduism. In closing, we implore His Holiness to continue with the campaign to educate people against social inequality, and offer our support toward these efforts. We would also like to extend an invitation to a representative from the Art of Living Foundation to work with Navya Shastra as a liaison.
Our humblest namaskars.
On behalf of all the members of the executive and working committees of Navya Shastra,
Gautham K. Rao
Cc: Navya Shastra statement of apology.
STATEMENT OF APOLOGY
Issued: April 2006
Published: December 2006
We, at Navyashastra, deeply regret and apologise for the atrocities committed on the sons and daughters of the depressed communities of India, including the tribals, the “untouchables” and all of the castes deemed as low.
We shamefully acknowledge that the ideals of varna and its practical manifestation in castes (jâtis), promoted and encouraged the notions of inequality, lesser and greater, high and low, superior and inferior among human beings. An ideal that does not aspire for equality of human beings is not worthy of being an ideal.
Caste and varna have relegated many to a degradingly low status. This was a divisive, inhumane and a ruinous social construct. Navyashastra fully recognises this and rejects unequivocally as heinous and despicable varna and caste together with all Shastras and theories that endorse them or support the unjust and demeaning social hierarchy that these imposed on the Indian society. Navyashastra understands that all Hindus cannot be equals when such theories are still amidst us.
We ask for forgiveness for what our forefathers did in the past to directly and indirectly contribute to any and all indignities heaped by one human being upon another in the name of Dharma and God, and which some among us continue to do even in this enlightened era.
The depressed and lowest castes have been the keepers and protectors of our oldest and most ancient traditions and wisdom. They have kept in practice the traditions that have become foundational to what we call ‘mainstream’ Hinduism today. Some of the tribal languages, spoken even today, have provided the substratum for many of the spoken and classical languages of India. Most of our mainstream indigenous medicinal, agricultural, craftsmanship and other knowledge systems owe their origins to the knowledge and practices that have been propagated and retained within these castes over millennia. The folk performing arts were and are the main sources of input into the classical and popular art forms.
We want to celebrate and fete all these traditions on this day, and pay homage to them. These traditions form the very foundation on which the Indian civilisation stands today.