Why Adi Shankaracharya?
Well, he symbolises in many ways the compressed cerebral energy of Hinduism. As a religion it is more or less a way of life. There is a tendency among Hindus that they have gone adrift from the remarkable philosophical underpinnings of their own religion. It is a religion based on the profundity of thought. It has emerged from a great intellectual journey. Shankaracharya—both for his life and his thought—is a good way to begin to once again bring to light where Hinduism is coming from. This book was a labour of love and a great discovery.
How difficult was the research part?
Most of my books are heavily researched and the subjects are also very eclectic. But research is a matter of discipline. Also, if you love something you will find time for it—it all boils down to time management. This book presented a particularly special challenge, but I welcome such challenges. When you are researching Shankaracharya, you are researching the entire country. What I found most interesting was the manner in which so many aspects of his life are still preserved, not only in memory, but in terms of actual, physical spots.
How would you define Hinduism today?
My worry is that today if people are adrift from Hinduism’s great philosophical moorings, Hinduism will, of course, survive as a religion—it is Sanatan Dharma—but it may be reduced to its lowest common denominator by self-anointed but illiterate protectors of the religion.
Has the Hindutva line of thought overpowered Hinduism?
Hinduism is not a brittle simplicity; it is a complex range of profound thoughts. It is for that very reason, inclusive rather than exclusive. It is eclectic rather than intolerant. This is the greatness of Hinduism and that comes from its philosophy.
Was writing this book a conscious decision to show what Hinduism is really all about?
I will not deny it. When I see that Hinduism is reduced in the name of religion to violence or hatred, or when I see moral brigades in the name of Hindu culture, or I see self-anointed evangelists introducing the element of ‘competitive Hinduismness’, I feel that somewhere a great wrong is being done. I have made an attempt to again give Hinduism the right pedestal that it deserves.