Nationalism or colonisation by proxy
India is unique among the nations of the world in that it is rooted in a spiritual civilization. There are forces at work today that want to suppress its spirituality and replace it with a crassly materialistic system. This is how I read the political struggle going on in the country today. As I noted earlier, I normally do not take a public position on politics and political parties. But I am making an exception to this because I see the present political turmoil as the outcome of forces of materialism ‘ mostly destructive in nature ‘ trying to impose an alien materialistic culture camouflaged as ‘secularism’. If they succeed, India will share the fate other ancient nations that were destroyed by the imposition of materialistic ideologies. Greece and Egypt are examples from the ancient world. American Indian civilizations destroyed by the ‘Catholic’ empires of Spain and Portugal are also examples of the same kind. In our own time, China is engaged in destroying the highly spiritual culture of Tibet. All that the destroyers have left in these countries are imitative societies with little to call their own. To be convinced of this, all you have to do is visit an ancient country like Egypt, Greece or Mexico and see the glaring contrast between their wonderful monuments and their current cultural deprivation. This is what a materialistic ideology invariably does to a civilization.
The destruction of any civilization is always done through distorting its history. A version of history is created to turn the victims into villains and the destroyers into heroes. So in defending a civilization, it is extremely important for the leaders to preserve and protect its culture and traditions. Monuments can come and go, but an awareness of history and culture must be preserved. Our ancient sages and medieval heroes largely succeeded in this. That is why our civilization has survived the assault of theocratic and imperialistic forces, while other ancient civilizations failed. As a young French student of the Vedas, Jean Le Mée wrote:
“Precious stones or durable materials ‘ gold, silver, bronze, marble, onyx or granite ‘ have been used by ancient people in an attempt to immortalize themselves. Not so however the ancient Vedic Aryans. They turned to what may seem the most volatile and insubstantial material of all ‘ the spoken word…
“The pyramids have been eroded by the desert wind, the marble broken by earthquakes, and the gold stolen by robbers, while the Veda is recited daily by an unbroken chain of generations, traveling like a great wave through the living substance of mind.”
But today, fifty years after independence, a different picture stands before us. Instead of trying to preserve and perpetuate its ancient heritage, and build upon it, the political party that claims to have brought freedom from colonial rule is trying to glorify the destroyers and even restore foreign rule! How do we explain this? It is my contention that in the past fifty years, that is, the period after independence, the leaders have failed to build national institutions rooted in the culture and the history of the land. Instead, they have been trying to import ideas and models from their former colonial masters. This has now reached its absurd limit with the party claiming to have fought for freedom from European rule asking a European to lead them and the country! This is enough to make one wonder if these leaders really understand the meaning of nationalism. I hope to show you that they do not and never did.
How did this sorry state come to pass, and what is the remedy? These are the questions that I’ll try to answer in this lecture, but first some background on how history comes to be written. As I pointed out, distortion of history is the principal weapon used in the destruction of any civilization. This is what I want to highlight next.
To the victor belong the spoils it is said. So does history. In more homely language, President Harry Truman said: “History is always written by the winner.” By this he meant that the victorious side invariably seeks to impose a version of history that shows itself and its leaders in the most favorable light. The truth of this is reflected in the way history books were written after India gained independence. They dinned into the heads of impressionable young students like myself, that the Congress party and its leaders fought long and hard to free the country from European domination. In particular, our history books told us of the Herculean struggles of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru without which India would have remained a British colony. And like most individuals of my generation, I accepted it as truth. Being a student of science and technology, I had little reason either to question or critically analyze this cozy view.
The reality is quite different. The Congress party, having inherited the Government from the British, managed to hold on to it for nearly forty years, and remained in a position to decide the fate of governments for another ten. The person responsible for this smooth transfer of power, allowing India to have a functioning government at the time of independence was Sardar Patel, but that is a different story. This side of Patel’s achievement is not widely known.
As a result, its leaders (and followers) had ample time and opportunity to create and spread their own version of history ‘ the ‘winner’s version’ in President Truman’s words. There have always been dissenting voices ‘ from a nationalist like Veer Savarkar to a truly great historian like R.C. Majumdar who wrote a monumental, three volume History of the Freedom Movement in India. But it was easy to ignore them because the Congress controlled all areas of national life from politics to education.
As I just noted, through most of my life I had little reason ‘ or even time ‘ to doubt this version. In the last few years, however, my own studies in history made me seriously question this comforting story ‘ that the Congress and its leaders brought India freedom from European rule. Here is my problem with this view: if the Congress fought so hard for freedom from colonial rule, why is it now working so hard to hand over the country to a European woman of little accomplishment and no record of service to India? Are they so bereft of talent and vision that they cannot find a man or woman among nearly a thousand million inhabitants of the land? I cannot help contrasting it with the scene in the United States. Before every presidential election, dozens of Americans enter the arena to serve the country. After a grueling primary campaign, lasting several months, two candidates representing the two major parties fight it out for the presidency. This indicates that the culture in the United States encourages Americans to take leadership responsibility, while in India, members of the Congress supported ‘elite’ seek only to serve someone who can give them status through reflected glory. Instead of wanting to be leaders, they wish only to be servants and courtiers. This is an important point that I’ll take up later.
In making this point, I refer of course to Smt Sonia Gandhi, the Italian born widow of Rajiv Gandhi. She is not only a foreigner; she has not shown the slightest concern for the welfare of the people of India. This is evident from her conduct in Bihar, where her reversal of stand over President’s Rule led to massacres of innocent people about which she had nothing to say. Today, neither she nor her followers dare set foot in Bihar. I do not know what made her change her stand on Bihar overnight. I don’t know why she and her followers never bothered to visit the victims of the tragedy. My point is, why does the Congress party, which supposedly fought for freedom against colonial rule, want to make a person like her the prime minister of India? So there is a clear mismatch between the claims of the Congress party as a nationalist force that fought against foreign rule and its actual conduct.
The question then is’ what made India free? There are two basic reasons: the mismanagement of the war economy by Winston Churchill, and the ‘nationalization’ of the Indian armed forces. Prime Minister Attlee, who made the decision to grant freedom to India, is on record as having said: “The most important were the activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which weakened the very foundation of the attachment of the Indian land and naval forces to the British Government.” It is worth noting that not only India, but also most countries of the British Empire became free after the Second World War. The Indian Army was the prop of the Empire, but Indian soldiers were no longer prepared to fight to save the British Empire. An objective history of the changes that brought about India’s freedom following the Second World War is yet to be written. Mujumdar’s three-volume History of the Freedom Movement in India is the best that I have read.)
This is only the tip of the iceberg. This strange behavior on the part of the Congress shows it in its true colors ‘ not as a nationalistic party, but the inheritor of colonial and imperialistic ideologies ‘ like Marxism and the ‘White Man’s Burden’. I want to take this point and expand on it a little more by looking at the role of Congress in the Freedom Struggle. This will explain why it wants to bring back foreign rule.
Why bring back foreign rule?
So here is my basic point: a supposedly national party is trying desperately to hand over the responsibility of running the country to a European woman of no accomplishments and no record of service to India. Not only that, for all practical purposes, it has nothing else to offer the country. Incidentally, the objection to Smt Sonia Gandhi as prime minister of India cannot be dismissed as just chauvinism. Sovereign nations do not allow naturalized citizens to occupy the highest office for very weighty reasons. In the United States, for example, only native-born citizens can become president, vice president or chief justice of the Supreme Court. When appointed to a responsible position, a naturalized citizen must undergo a very extensive background check by the FBI.
Even this is not proof against anti-national activity. To take an example, only recently, a naturalized American of Chinese origin looted the country of its defense secrets. So all the security precautions and the FBI background checks were of little avail. The truth is there is no way of ensuring that a person who has sworn loyalty to his or her adopted land will not continue to feel the pull of his native land and succumb to it. But there is a more fundamental issue: the very act of naturalization involves a change of loyalty from the land of one’s birth to the adopted land, but the naturalization process has no way of ensuring that such a person does not switch loyalties again. It is a different matter that most of us are not in a position to seriously affect the fate of a country, but a person holding the highest office can. So there are excellent reasons why sovereign nations do not allow foreign-born men and women to hold the highest office. This is not chauvinism, but just prudence exercised in the national interest. A country that cannot produce leaders from among its own is unfit to be a free nation.
This brings us back to the original question: why is the Congress, which prides itself on being the party that brought freedom from British rule, so anxious to hand over the country to a foreigner to rule? She has no significant achievements or record of service to qualify her for the high office that she is seeking. Her role in the recent coup attempt to take control of the Government also showed that she has no scruples, nor any concern for stability or the well being of India or its people.
Always looking outside India
I believe that there is a simple explanation for this strange behavior on the part of the Congress and its leaders. I hold that this feature ‘ of seeking inspiration and help from beyond the borders of India ‘ has been the hallmark of the Congress party ever since its inception. What we are witnessing now, I suggest, is only the latest manifestation of a historic trend in the Congress party. When we examine the history of the Congress over the past century without any preconceptions, we find that for at least the past eighty years or so, the leaders of the Congress have always looked beyond the borders of India for their ideas and inspiration. (This is not to say that it has not produced outstanding nationalists, but only that the ideology of the party is outward looking, with a colonial orientation.) This failure was noted by no less a person than Sri Aurobindo. Writing as far back as 1906, he observed:
“But the Congress started from the beginning with a misconception of the most elementary facts of politics, with its eyes turned towards the British Government and away from the people.
“Ever since the birth of the Congress, those who have been in the leadership of this great National Movement have persistently denied the general public in the country the right of what shall and what shall not be said or done on their behalf and in their name.”
This was in 1906! This soon led to a clash within the Congress ‘ and its breakup into the so-called ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ wings, with Sri Aurobindo and Lokamanya Tilak being part of the extremist wing. We would now call them nationalists. (Sri Aurobindo himself seldom used the word extremist.) Although present day history books give it short shrift, the Swadeshi Movement, following the Partition of Bengal (1905) had all the marks of a national freedom struggle. With Tilak assuming undisputed leadership of the Congress, Swaraj ‘ or independence from foreign rule ‘ became its paramount goal. This was a truly national movement with a national goal. So during the period from the Partition of Bengal to the death of Tilak, there was a truly national party waging a struggle for freedom.
But following Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa in 1916, things began to change. It should be noted that Gandhi began as a ‘moderate’, as a follower of Gopala Krishna Gokhale. He supported the British in the First World War, and even served as a recruiting Sargent, though no longer in uniform. (Gandhi had served in the Boer’s War as a non-combatant.) He was not particularly sympathetic to the cause of the national struggle for freedom. But circumstances allowed him to gain control of the Congress following Tilak’s death in August 1920.
Here was an opportunity for Gandhi to lead Indians towards freedom, especially since the Congress, under Tilak’s leadership, had declared Swaraj as its goal. But Gandhi’s behavior over the next couple of years highlights the point that I just made’ that the Congress has always looked beyond the borders of India for inspiration. Instead of leading a national movement, Gandhi started a gigantic non-cooperation movement in support of something called the Khilafat.
Most history books today mention the 1920 Non-Cooperation Movement, but barely note what gave rise to it ‘ the Khilafat. As a result, most Indians believe that the Non-Cooperation Movement was the first great struggle for freedom launched by the Congress under Gandhi’s leadership. It was nothing of the sort. It was a movement in support of the theocratic goals of the Khilafat: in fact, it was called the ‘Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement’. Its aim was to persuade the British to restore the Sultan of Turkey who had lost his empire following the First World War. This is an important point: the Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement had no national goals. Its demand was not freedom for India, but the restoration of a discredited theocratic ruler in far away Turkey whom the Turks themselves didn’t want. And strangely, Gandhi and the Congress supported this irrelevant goal to the extent even of suspending Swaraj! If anything, it was anti-national. Here is the little known story.
When the First World War ended in 1918, Ottoman Turkey, which had fought on the same side as Germany, had suffered a massive defeat. The result was the breakup of the Ottoman Empire ruled by the Sultan of Turkey who had also pretensions to the title of the Caliph or the leader of all Muslims. Turkey’s defeat was seen as a major blow to the prestige of Islam, especially by many Muslims and their leaders in India. They formed committees to press the British Government to restore the Sultan in a movement known as the Khilafat.
The Khilafat movement is often described as a demand by Muslims for the restoration of the Sultan of Turkey to his rightful office of the Caliph. This is a serious misrepresentation. Muslims outside India did not recognize the Turkish Sultan as Caliph; it was strictly an Indian movement but with a foreign focus. The Turks themselves under Kemal Ataturk eventually drove their Sultan into exile. The last Caliph with a legitimate claim to the title was the Abbasid al-Mustasim. He had been executed by the Mongol Huleku Khan (grandson of Chengiz) following the sack of Baghdad in 1258.
By no stretch of the imagination can the Khilafat be regarded an issue affecting the nation or Swaraj. In return for his support for the Khilafat, Gandhi obtained, or thought he obtained Muslim support for launching his nationwide nonviolent non-cooperation movement. In order to get their support, Gandhi went on to redefine Swaraj to mean support for the Khilafat. In his words:
“To the Musalmans Swaraj means, as it must, India’s ability to deal effectively with the Khilafat question. … It is impossible not to sympathise with this attitude. … I would gladly ask for the postponement of the Swaraj activity if we could advance the interest of the Khilafat.”
So Swaraj, which previously meant self-rule, became transformed overnight into support for the Khilafat ‘ to restore the Sultan of Turkey! Let us not forget that the Congress, only a year earlier, had adopted Swaraj (as independence) as its goal. Yet, Gandhi was telling the nation that the restoration of the Sultan of Turkey ‘ whom the Turks themselves eventually kicked out ‘ was more important for him than Indian independence! The result was a ‘jihad’ by Muslim leaders against the British that was later turned against the Hindus. It led to the death of tens of thousands of innocent people all over India. It was particularly virulent in Kerala where it is known as the Moplah Rebellion. And Swaraj as the goal did not return to the Congress until 1929. In other words, Gandhi and the Congress gave up the cause of freedom in support of a faraway theocratic institution called the Caliphate. How can this be called nationalism? And how can its leaders ‘ including Gandhi ‘ be called ‘national’ leaders?
As I just remarked, Swaraj returned to the Congress agenda only in 1929, leading to the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930. It was a similar story with the Civil Disobedience Movement also. After the magnificent promise of the Dandi Salt March ‘ organized mainly by Sardar Patel ‘ Gandhi abandoned his followers in midstream in return for the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Here is what happened though history books today seldom present the true facts.
The Lahore session of the Congress (1929) declared complete independence to be its goal. In fact it went further. Gandhi was put in charge of a national Civil Disobedience movement to force the British to grant independence. The leaders of the Congress claimed that British rule had resulted in four basic disasters for the Indian people. Its manifesto said: (1) “India has been ruined economically. ‘ Village industries such as hand-spinning, have been destroyed. (2) Customs and currency have been so manipulated as to heap further burden on the peasantry. ‘Customs duties betray clear partiality for British manufactures, and revenue from them is used not to lessen the burden on the masses but for sustaining a highly extravagant administration. (3) Politically, India’s status has never been so reduced as under the British regime. ‘The tallest of us has to bend before foreign authority. [Is it any different today in the Congress ' under the Sonia Gandhi regime?] (4) Culturally, the system of education has torn us from our moorings, and our training has made us hug the very chains that bind us. Spiritually, compulsory disarmament has made us unmanly, and the presence of an army of occupation, employed with deadly effect to crush in us the spirit of resistance’” The Congress Working Committee declared:
“We hold it to be a crime against man and God to submit any longer to a rule that has caused this fourfold disaster to our country ‘ We therefore hereby solemnly resolve to carry out the Congress instructions issued from time to time for the purpose of establishing Purna Swaraj [complete independence].”
The goal of Civil Disobedience was Purna Swaraj ‘ complete independence. Independence Day was observed on January 26, 1930, on the banks of the river Ravi. It evoked tremendous enthusiasm all over the country. Then something very strange happened. Before the ‘ink with which this manifesto was written’ had time to dry, Gandhi wrote something in his paperYoung India that practically sabotaged the whole thing. Instead of demanding complete independence, he listed eleven administrative reforms and appealed to the Viceroy in the following words:
“This is by no means an exhaustive list of pressing needs, but let the Viceroy satisfy us with regard to these very simple but vital needs of India. He will then hear no talk of Civil Disobedience; and the Congress will heartily participate in any Conference where there is perfect freedom of expression and demand.”
What happened to the pledge to achieve Purna Swaraj ‘ complete independence? Was all this to be thrown away in exchange for some bureaucratic measures? This is not the place to go into the history of the Civil Disobedience Movement, that began with the magnificent roar of the Dandi Salt March but ended in the whimper of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact and the Second Round Table Conference, which in turn led to nothing. This is a vivid example of what Sri Aurobindo had observed ‘ that the Congress always looked to the British Government rather the people of India for direction. (This is not the place to go into the 1942 Quit India Movement in which the leaders again let down the people. The British crushed it in less than three months. Also, Gandhi dissociated himself from it almost at the start.)
The sorry story continued even after independence. After Sardar Patel’s death in 1950, Nehru, for all practical purposes, ran a colonial administration. To begin with, he requested Louis Mountabatten ‘ a close relative of the English royal family ‘ to continue as Governor General of India. Against the advice of Indian commanders General Thimmayya and General L.P. Sen, he accepted Mountbatten’s advice to refer the case to United Nations, which really meant Britain and the United States.
Hyderabad, in the heart of India, might have become another festering sore like Kashmir had Nehru followed Mountbatten’s advice to exercise patience. Fortunately, Rajaji replaced Mountbatten as Governor General, and he supported Patel’s plan for firm and swift action. The rest is history.
It was the same story in the Northeast. Nehru was heavily influenced by Christian missionary advice. One of his most influential advisors was Verrier Elwin, a British missionary of no morals or scruples masquerading as an ‘anthropologist’. But in one respect Nehru went even further than the British: he allowed Catholic missions to put down roots in the Northeast, something that the British had carefully kept out.
Even in domestic policy, Nehru followed Europe, the Soviet Union in particular. India’s highest priority after independence should have been attaining self sufficiency in food production. Instead of strengthening the village economy, he followed the Soviet model of state controlled development of heavy industries, in spite of the disastrous Soviet record in agriculture. He even accepted the Russian estimate that it takes three Indian engineers to do the work of one Russian! The result is that Indian public sector units became even more overstaffed than Soviet plants. India today is paying a heavy price for this mindless copying.
It is a similar story when we look at the ‘religious policy’ of the Congress. In the first place, why the supposedly ‘secular’ Indian Government should have a religious policy at all is a question that only the ‘secularists’ can answer. Let that be, but I only want to highlight one colonial policy that has been continued. This is granting special privileges to Christian institutions that are denied to Hindu institutions. During the British rule, imported products were given tariff and tax benefits while Indian industry was suppressed. This is the basis of colonial exploitation. The same is true of religion: Christian religious institutions and their activities ‘ controlled by foreign organizations like the Vatican and OMI International (Evangelical) ‘ enjoy benefits that native Hindu institutions do not. This is also colonialism.
Nationalism, or colonialism by proxy?
Its history, both before and after independence, shows that the Congress and its leaders suffer from a deep-seated lack of confidence in Indians and Indian heritage. Their own inferiority complex has made them look for solutions abroad. As a result, instead of a national vision rooted in history and tradition, they import ideas and even people from outside to present them as saviors to the nation. This is the message of the Congress party’s sponsorship of the Khilafat, Verrier Elwin, the Soviet model, and now Sonia Gandhi. When this also fails, where will the Congress go? Look for another import?
From all this, one is forced to conclude that the Congress party and its followers have no conception of nationalism. They seem to think of the Indian nation as a colonial administration run by Indians rather than Europeans. But now, as the people of India begin to reject this alien imposition, they have sought to bring back a European to do a better job of it than they can. It is different story that she went on to make a mess of it.
Clearly, a great nation like India cannot build on borrowed foundations anymore than feed its teeming millions with imported McDonald hamburgers. What then is the answer to the question that I raised at the beginning of the lecture: how can a party that claims to have led the ‘national struggle’ hold on so tenaciously to colonial symbols, values and policies, even to the extent of restoring European rule? The answer is simple: it has no nationalist ideology at all. Its ideology is today and has been in the last fifty years, ‘colonialism by proxy’. And now at last it has found a leader who can turn this proxy colonialism into real European rule.
Decadent elite, incapable of leadership
This brings me back to the point I made earlier: in the United States, at every presidential election, dozens of candidates spring up willing to brave the odds and serve the country. In India, the situation seems to be the reverse of this. Politicians look to someone else to assume leadership whom they can serve as courtiers and enjoy the crumbs of office. This has now reached the absurd point of a great national party being unable to find a single leader in the country. So it wants to import one!
There is another extraordinary sight. The people who want to serve as servile courtiers of this foreign woman are products of India’s elite institutions! Just go to 10 Janpath where Smt Sonai Gandhi holds court, and you will see a glut of convent school and Doon School products. Many of them boast degrees from St Stephen’s College and other holdovers from the colonial era, but not one of them seems to have the courage or the character to assume leadership. Their highest aspiration is to serve this foreign woman with barely a high school education! In contrast, elite institutions in Europe and America keep producing leaders. For example, Roosevelt and Kennedy graduated from Harvard, while Bush and Clinton are from Yale. So there must be something wrong with Indian education ‘ at least what passes for ‘elite’ education ‘ that it can produce servants but few leaders. This is the sign of a decadent elite with a servile mentality.
When we look at the nation today, the civil service, the English language media and higher education are the monopoly of this urban, upper class educated at convents and similar ‘elite’ institutions. They are in fact a colonial elite. They form the core of support for Smt Sonia Gandhi. As a just noted, they want to not lead but serve.
Actually it is no mystery. The higher education system in India was created by the British with the specific goal of producing colonial servants ‘ not thinkers or leaders. Macaulay, the founder of the higher education system that is still followed in India, stated what the British goals were:
“We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.”
What is the result of such an education? Here is how Sir Charles Trevelyan described the products of such education as far back as 1838:
“Educated in the same way, interested in the same objects, engaged in the same pursuits with ourselves, they become more English than Hindu… The young men brought up in our seminaries, turn with contempt from the barbarous despotisms under which their ancestors groaned… Instead of regarding us with dislike, they court our society, … the summit of their ambition is, to resemble us.”
A more infuriatingly condescending ‘ if not contemptuous ‘ description would be hard to find. And yet, this passage, written in 1838, accurately reflects the state of mind of much of the intellectual elite even today.
This is not education, it is spiritual emasculation. Their conduct of avoiding leadership, but desperately eager to serve in the family court of Smt Sonia Gandhi, is testimony to this. The misfortune is that this alienated elite ‘ created by the rulers of a bygone age ‘ still dominates and controls India’s education and intellectual life. An alternative must be found. This alternative must be through a thorough revamping of the education system from the ground up.
At the same time, I want to emphasize that the problem is mainly in the humanities, for in science and technology India is progressing well. But leadership must come from the humanities, which should be rooted in the culture and history of a nation. (Science and technology have no national or cultural boundaries.) But Indian scholars from ‘elite’ institutions only copy outdated Western fashions. How many departments of linguistics teach Panini or Yaska? Also, why teach Freud and Jung in psychology to the exclusion of Patanjali and the Upanishads? The result is that there is no independent Indian school of thought that is taken seriously in the world today. All the important work in the humanities in India is being done by scholars outside the establishment. This problem was diagnosed by Sri Aurobindo long ago when he wrote:
“That … Indian scholars have not been able to form themselves into a great and independent school of learning is due to two causes, the miserable scantiness of the mastery in Sanskrit provided by our universities, … and our lack of a sturdy independence which makes us oveready to defer to European opinion.”
It is for this reason that most of the important thinking in India is being done by individuals outside the establishment. Fortunately, there is a great national vision for India, created by ancient sages, resurrected by moderns sages like Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo. This is what I want to examine next.
First let us look at the schools and colleges that produce this elite. Most of them are either mission schools and colleges or those that are modeled on them. One of the great myths put out by English language schools, especially those controlled by missions, is that they provide excellent education. Nothing could be further from the truth. In addition, they complain about the poor quality of Indian schools in comparison with Christian institutions. In this, they invariably point to governmentschools and not to private Hindu institutions like the Poorna Prajna schools, which are often much better. I myself attended a private, non-Christian school in Bangalore, which is far superior to any convent. In addition I studied in my other tongue, not English, which in no way handicapped me in my research or writing.
Other criticisms of Hindus and their institutions are equally fallacious. Most importantly, Christian schools ‘ on which many English language schools model themselves ‘ seriously damage the cultural identity and the self image of their wards. They come out feeling that they are inferior to the Westerners, but affecting an attitude of superiority towards fellow Indians. The late Ananda Coomaraswamy, a distinguished student of Indian history and culture, had this to say regarding the Macaulayite higher education that produces such individuals:
“A single generation of English education suffices to break the threads of tradition and create a nondescript and superficial being deprived of all roots ‘ a sort of intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or the West, the past or the future. Of all Indian problems the educational is the most difficult and the most tragic.”
If this is what are said to be the best educational institutions in India produce, it is obvious that they will continue to fail the nation. The problem is that these are alien impositions whose goal was to uproot Indian history and tradition and replace it with a land of slavish minds. As Swami Vivekananda told a group of young students more than a century ago:
“The histories of our country written by English [and other Western] writers cannot but be weakening to our minds, for they talk only of our downfall. How can foreigners, who understand very little of our manners and customs, or religion and philosophy, write faithful and unbiased histories of India? Naturally, many false notions and wrong inferences have found their way into them.
“Nevertheless they have shown us how to proceed making researches into our ancient history. Now it is for us to strike out an independent path of historical research for ourselves, to study the Vedas and the Puranas, and the ancient annals of India, and from them make it your life’s sadhana to write accurate and soul-inspiring history of the land. It is for Indians to write Indian history.”
What Swami Vivekananda said about history is true of all subjects ‘ especially the humanities. This brings us to the heart of our sages’ idea of nationalism ‘ a nationalism rooted in our history and culture. As Sri Aurobindo noted:
“We have to fill the minds of our boys [and girls] from childhood with the idea of the country, and present them with that idea at every turn and make their whole young life a lesson in the practice of the virtues which afterwards go to make the patriot and the citizen. If we do not attempt this, we may as well give up our desire to create an Indian nation altogether; for without such a discipline, nationalism, patriotism, regeneration are mere words’”
Sri Aurobindo, like Swami Vivekananda, recognized spirituality as the foundation of Indian civilization. What is interesting is that he saw parliamentary democracy as merely an intermediate step in the progress towards making the world spiritual. “Spirituality is India’s only politics, the fulfillment of the Sanatana Dharma its only Swaraj. I have no doubt we shall have to go through our Parliamentary period in order to get rid of the notion of Western democracy by seeing in practice how helpless it is to make nations blessed.” He next observed that Swami Vivekananda had expressed similar views. As Sri Aurobindo wrote:
“Physical expansion proceeds from a desire for spiritual expansion and history also supports the assertion. But why should not India then be the first power in the world? Who else has the undisputed right to extend spiritual sway over the world? This was Swami Vivekananda’s plan of campaign. India can once more be made conscious of her greatness by an overmastering sense of the greatness of her spirituality. This sense of greatness is the main feeder of all patriotism.”
This should be the goal of education ‘ to make students feel acutely the sense of their greatness. Today, India’s elite institutions do the opposite. They fill their wards with an acute sense of inferiority. This leaves them with little in the way of self-respect. And they indulge in behavior that no self-respecting person should. To see to what depths some members of this elite can sink, I suggest you read Arun Shourie’s Eminent Historians.
As both Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda repeatedly stressed, the main purpose of education in India should be to stress the spiritual greatness of our heritage, and our responsibility to preserve this as a beacon for the whole world. If spirituality disappears from India, it will vanish from the world. It is therefore not just a national responsibility, but a civilizational duty.
Look at the hollowness of the doctrine called human rights. What atrocities are being committed in its name! Innocent people are being bombed in Yugoslavia. Women and children in Kashmir are daily victims of the most unspeakable atrocities so-called militants. And self styled human rights activists like Arundhati Roy and Kuldip Nayar are silent over these atrocities while they raised a hue and cry about India’s nuclear tests in which not a single life was lost. Why don’t they protest the bombing of innocents in Iraq and Yugoslavia? Why does this ‘human rights activist’ Nayar go to the Wagah border and hold hand with those who connive such atrocities? Of course, they don’t want to antagonize the US and Great Britain which hold the promise of wealth and fame ‘ like the Booker Prize. This is an example of a crass material culture without a spiritual foundation ‘ where mere words and gestures are thrown around without regard for truth or morality. ‘Human rights’ for such people is nothing but a publicity stunt and a marketing gimmick. We must look elsewhere for building a nation on a foundation of spirituality.
Spiritual culture as nationalism
The thing that distinguishes India from other nations is its ancient civilization. It is the only civilization of antiquity that is still flourishing. Others like Egypt, Mesopotamia, the pre-Columbian civilizations of the Americas, and even pre-Christian Europe were destroyed to a greater or lesser extent by the rise of the theocratic forces of Christianity and Islam. The secular-humanistic Western Civilization is essentially a reaction to the theocratic goals of Christianity that drew its inspiration from Pagan Greece. At the same time, secular humanism cannot substitute for nationalism. Europe is secular humanistic, but is not one nation. The mistake that Indian secularists are making is to hold up their version of ‘secularism’ as a substitute for Indian nationalism. This is what makes it possible for them to submit to a foreigner. Their brand ‘secularism’ is also devoid of humanism: in fact it is secular anti-humanism ‘ like Communism and Nazism. It supports the theocratic aims of Christianity and Islam, including such barbaric practices as triple-talaq. It is also anti-nationalistic for the reason it is hostile to anything rooted in the soil, including its religion and culture. It is not surprising that it is now worshipping a foreign icon and asking the country to do the same.
To see where one should reach for Indian nationalism, one needs look no further than modern Indian sages Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo. Theirs was a vision rooted in the soil ‘ a spiritual vision. Let us hear the great sage of Indian nationalism, Sri Aurobindo, on the subject:
“When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is Sanatana Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is Sanatana Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend itself, it is Sanatana Dharma that shall expand and extend itself all over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists.”
This was the vision that Sri Aurobindo received and the vision that he revealed to the world at the great Uttarapara speech in 1909. Towards the end of his speech, he gave also his definition of Indian nationalism:
“I say it again today, ‘ I say no longer that nationalism is a creed, a religion, a faith. I say that Sanatana Dharma which for us is the nationalism.”
Let us comprehend the truth of this. You are from Assam, in the northeast. I am from Karnataka in the south ‘ of Maharashtrian extraction ‘ but one who has spent his adult life mostly in America.’ What brings you and me together here is our common heritage that we call Sanatana Dharma. That is not all. Through the greater part of my professional career, I worked as an engineer and mathematician in which I attained some distinction. And yet, if I am known in the world today, it is because of Sanatana Dharma. Does one need more evidence of the power of our heritage? The whole world accepts us and envies us, but it is these Indians who are still slaves to colonialism that want to reject it and replace it with something they call ‘secularism’. Even this is a travesty for the word ‘secularism’ is grossly misused in India to mean anti-Hindu. (I have discussed it in detail in two of my books: Secularism, the New Mask of Fundamentalism and A Hindu View of the World, both published by Voice of India, New Delhi.)
Let us now come back to Sri Aurobindo’s vision of Indian nationalism. In the Bhagavadgita, Krishna tells Arjuna: “I taught this timeless Yoga to Vivasvan, who taught it to Manu. Manu then bequeathed it Ikshwaku. This ancient wisdom, transmitted through generations of royal sages, became lost in the tides of time. I have taught you, my friend and my best disciple, this matchless and most mystical knowledge.”
A similar fate has befallen our civilization, which we need to resurrect and rescue from the hands of destructive forces. Only then can India fulfill its mission as a nation and a civilization. Just as Sri Krishna resurrected the message of the ancient Vedic wisdom and the royal sages for Arjuna, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo have resurrected it again and placed it before us ‘ this ‘political Vedanta’ ‘ or the ‘politics following Veda’, as Sri Aurobindo called it.
What are its roots? In the great Brihadaranyaka Upanishad it is given that Brahma Vidya ‘ the fount of Sanatana Dharma ‘ originated with Brahma himself. It was transmitted from his pupil Parameshtin through a long line of teachers that included the Ashvins, Atharvan, Angirasa and Gargya, all the way to Yajnavlkya ‘ the seer of Brihadaranyaka. Sri Aurobindo tapped this source when he declared his vision of Sanatana Dharma as nationalism. This was Swami Vivkenanda’s program also, as Sri Aurobindo himself proclaimed it.
Until that day dawns, when this ageless and timeless Sanatana Dharma is enshrined as the national ideology and the foundation of nationalism, regardless of which political party is in power, India is an incomplete nation. The sages have done their work. It is for us, the ordinary people ‘ and especially the leaders ‘ to heed their call and build this spiritual nation. Until that day India is politically free but not spiritually free.
Source: Voice of Dharma
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