I.2. India and the Coming Century
India and the Coming Century
Indian Civilization in the Modern World
������ Indian or Bharatiya civilization is, if not the oldest, at least the most continuous in the world. While ancient Egypt, Greece and Persia fell and lost their cultures to outside influences thousands of years ago, India uniquely continued its venerable ancient traditions throughout the centuries, even under long periods of foreign rule. Those who look upon India as a defeated land, therefore, are wrong. While India failed to win all the battles, no other country won so many and refused to give in, even when defeated. Though battered by time, Indian or Bharatiya civilization has better survived the onslaughts of time than any other culture. It has done so not through military force or missionary zeal�like the fierce opponents it has had to resist�but through the dedication of its people to the spiritual practices set forth in the region during ancient times. India is the perennial civilization of the planet, present and conscious in every age.
In India today one can still observe the same type of temple worship and fire offerings, with beautiful images and profound rituals, that once existed throughout the ancient world over two thousand years ago. One can discover the entire heritage and history of the human race, particularly on a spiritual level, as a living practice from the aboriginal worship of stones to the highest philosophy of monism and Self-realization. The great traditions of Yoga and Vedanta, as well as related health disciplines of Ayurveda and art forms of Indian music and dance continue today as in the hoary past. The stories of Rama and Krishna, who lived long before Buddha or Christ, still inspire the common people and provide examples of how to live today with joy and integrity.
Yet India is not only a land of the past but also of the future. The vision of a quantum universe like that of modern science, where space and time a relative and the universe is linked by wormholes, was foreseen by the great rishis and yogis of the Himalayas long ago. The idea of transcending time and space to a universal consciousness is the central theme of Vedantic philosophy going back to the Vedas and Upanishads at the dawn of Indian civilization. Yogic texts like the Yoga Vasishta rival the latest science fiction books, portraying a higher consciousness in which we can cross time and space in an instant or understand telepathically the minds and hearts of others. The Hindu Puranas abound with stories of beings from other worlds, occult powers and many humanities through different cycles of civilization of which our present civilization is only one brief episode. The idea of many solar systems, many universes (Brahmandas) and many cycles of cosmic creation and destruction lasting billions and billions of years was arrived at by the Indian mind before European civilization even existed. Such a vast vision remains the hallmark of Indic thought that has a cosmic, not anthropocentric view, starting and ending with the universe, not just with our limited human species.
India�s greatest and most popular export to the modern world is undoubtedly the guru, the idea of an enlightened master as a living reality, not just a special prophet or Son of God who lived long ago. This has added a new dimension to the spiritual life in the West, which is moving from the pursuit of salvation to the quest for Self-realization as its determinative factor based upon an Indian influence. Great Hindu gurus like Ramana Maharshi or Paramahansa Yogananda are lauded by many in the West as being great as Jesus or St. Francis. Such teachers have changed the spiritual landscape of the West permanently and radically.
Yet the Indian genius is not simply limited to spiritual matters. Its scientific and mathematical skills have made Indians successful in the computer and software industry, which promises to be the new oil of the coming century. Indians have also done well in engineering and in medicine, reflecting their inborn intelligence and practical skills. In addition, India retains a rich culture in many domains of life from food and textiles to music and dance that is having an impact all over the world. Indian culture can compete well in any fair marketplace, once the people of the country are set free of the oppressive bureaucracy that limits their development. It is the only culture in the world that maintains its roots in a yogic vision of totality.
India and the Future
Clearly, the coming global technological age, which is based on knowledge and information and has a new spiritual and planetary orientation, is friendlier to India that has always emphasized knowledge or vidya as the basis of culture. This is quite different than the colonial and industrial era of past decades that was based on heavy equipment and military might and was both anti-India and anti-spiritual in nature. Hindus should recognize the opportunities of the new era. They should give up the isolated ghetto mentality developed under foreign rule, which made them mistrust foreigners, and learn once more to share and expand their culture with joy and confidence. The Hindu tradition is Sanatana Dharma (the Eternal Dharma) and has a global relevance that the time is ripe to express and renew.
The new information age is bringing a new global appreciation of Indian culture and the inevitability of India as a major world power for the coming century. A diverse subcontinent with a variety of peoples and traditions held together by a common spiritual vision is a great strength for the future that no other country can match. While the country of India still has a negative image in the world mind today for poverty and overpopulation, being an Indian is a positive appellation in the work field in the West where Indian scientists and software technicians are highly regarded. This gap between the reputation of India and that of Indians is now beginning to be bridged. Soon India as a country will be honored as much as its spiritual traditions or its people overseas, providing of course Indians embrace their own deeper tradition and cease to apologetically imitate inferior cultures.
Indic civilization is based upon the idea of the Atman or the Self as the highest truth, our inmost consciousness and true nature beyond God, scriptures and saviors. Its aim is to set the individual free from all mental and material limitations, even those of religion. Nor does it see mere human scientific innovation as the way to real and lasting progress for humanity. It looks within to find the universe, not through an external lens but through our own power of concentration, so that we are no longer dependent upon the outside world for our well-being.
The Self or conscious being exists in all nature, in plants and animals, the earth and the stars. In the Vedic view, the cosmic person (Purusha) exists in the Sun, Moon, fire and lightning, as the inner consciousness inherent in these outer forms of light. We must honor this Self everywhere to find peace and make our right place in the conscious universe. Mother India has preserved the knowledge and culture based upon the Atman and its unfoldment. Now is the time to revitalize and globalize this for the benefit of all, starting with India itself, which has not yet embraced its real power or mission as a nation.