Ramateertha toured all over the world and then he came back to India. Everywhere, he was received with great honor as a sage from the Himalayas. First he went to Varanasi, the center of Hinduism for thousands of years. He was shocked because, naturally, deep down he must have been expecting…. The biography says he was shocked because there was no overwhelming reception. The same way, just a few days ago the pope was shocked in a Catholic country because there was no overwhelming reception.
But unless you are expecting something, I don’t see the possibility of being shocked. Ramateertha must have been expecting an overwhelming reception, a welcome – the welcome that is given to a man who has conquered the whole world. He comes back to the citadel of Hinduism, and he has been talking about Hinduism around the world, praising Hinduism around the world, making Hinduism appear the highest religion in the world. Naturally, it is human – he must have been expecting….
But out of eight shankaracharyas, the heads of Hinduism, not a single one was present to receive him. Forget about shankaracharyas, because they are the heads, and Ramateertha was still a monk, not a head of Hinduism; but there were no other monks either to receive him. A few people had come who looked more curious than receptive or welcoming.
And instead of Ramateertha having a red-carpet welcome, a letter was handed to him from the highest Hindu committee of pundits, scholars. The letter said, “Before you speak anywhere else, first you have to face the committee, the supreme committee of the scholars of Hinduism, because the way you have been talking about Hinduism is not orthodox, it is not traditional.” More shocking!
He was almost court-marshaled. In front of the scholars he had to answer why he said this, why he said that. This he had never thought was going to be, but this is how it happened. He had to appear before the scholars – and there is the point that I wanted to make to the conference in Lucknow.
As he was just going to speak, one old Hindu scholar stood up and said, “First tell me, do you know Sanskrit?” Unfortunately Ramateertha did not know Sanskrit at all, for the simple reason that he was born near Lahore, which is now in Pakistan. In that part even Hindi was not spoken; Urdu, a Mohammedan language, was the spoken language. And those who wanted to become great scholars of course had to read Persian and Arabic. They had to go to the roots of Urdu; that is, Persian and Arabic. Sanskrit has nothing to do with Urdu.
Mohammedans or Hindus was not the question: the area where Ramateertha was born was Urdu-dominated; in schools, in colleges, in universities, Persian and Arabic were the exalted languages. So he was a scholar of Persian, Arabic and Urdu, but he had never thought that religion had anything to do with language.
You can be a Hindu without knowing Sanskrit, you can be a great Hindu sage without knowing Sanskrit; Sanskrit is not something absolutely necessary. And that was one of the questions those scholars were asking him: “While speaking around the world you were not quoting the upanishads, the vedas, the shankaracharyas. You were quoting Sufi mystics – Jalaluddin Rumi, Farid, Sarmad. You can befool in the West because people don’t know what you are quoting, but these are not Hindus, these are not our people.”