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II.1. The Need for New Indic School of Thought

Part II.1

The Need for a New Indic School of Thought

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Background: The Clash of Civilizations

 

A clash of civilizations is occurring throughout in the world today, a war of cultures at various levels in both our personal and in our public lives. One civilization, the Western-European-American is currently predominant and is strongly, if not rudely, trying to eliminate or subordinate the rest. Yet western civilization is spreading itself not so much by force, as in the colonial era, but by subtle new forms of social manipulation. These include control of the media and news information networks, the entertainment industry and commercial markets, by continued aggressiveness by western religions and�as important but sometimes overlooked�control of educational institutions and curriculums worldwide.

 

This control of education has resulted in a Western-European-American view of history and culture in textbooks and information sources in most countries, including India. Naturally, people educated according to western values will function as part of western culture, whatever the actual country of their birth. They will experience an alienation from their native culture that they have not really been raised in. They easily become a fifth column for the westernization of their culture, which usually means its denigration or, at best, its commercialization. For this reason, an authentic Indian or Indic perspective�a worldview coming out of the culture of India and its particular values and perceptions�is hardly to be found, even in India. The western school of thought is taught in India, not any Indic school of thought.

 

What is the Indic school of thought, one might ask? Does it exist at all? It is not at all something new or unknown. It is the great spiritual, philosophical, scientific, artistic and cultural traditions of the subcontinent that are among the largest and oldest in the world. The Indic school of thought is an emphasis on dharma, karma, pluralism and synthesis, on Yoga sadhana and moksha. It reflects a dharmic worldview, in which all aspects of human and cosmic life are integrated in a vision of the conscious and sacred nature of all existence. The Indic school of thought is not only the tradition of ancient sages from the Vedas and Upanishads to Buddhist and Yoga traditions but also modern teachers like Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda. It is not only the vast literature of Sanskrit but also that of the many regional languages and dialects of the subcontinent, most of which have older literary traditions than the languages of Europe, including English.

 

All major cultural debates are now framed according to western values and perceptions, and so they will naturally serve to uphold them. The important issues of Indic civilization today are examined according to the principles or biases of the western school of thought. These include what Indian civilization is, when India as a nation first arose, what the real history of India is, how to reform Indian society, and how India should develop in order to have its rightful place in the future world. As the debate is defined according to the approach and values of western civilization, India does not always fare well, and India as its own independent source of civilization is seldom acknowledged. India is judged as if it should be like another USA, Britain or Germany, which it can never be, nor should be. This only makes Indians feel inferior or wrong, like a square peg in a round hole.

 

The western school of thought has denigrated or overlooked the Indic school, even in the Indian context. For example, the Indic school has its own history sources through the Vedas, Puranas and various historical texts (Itihasas) that are quite massive and detailed, with much internal consistency, but in writing the history of India, the western school does not give these any real place at all. They are dismissed as at best mythology and at worst fraud. Instead, the West defines the history of India according to outside influences, as a series of invasions and borrowings mainly from the west�from cultures the West knows better and has more affinity with. This makes India seem dependent upon the West in order to advance its civilization again today.

 

The western school of thought misses the relevance of the traditions of India, almost as if they were not even there. This is not simply because the Indic tradition is wrong, unsophisticated or irrelevant. It is because western civilization is hegemonic, if not predatory in nature, and such ideas help promote its spread. Its information about India contains a built in poison. It is meant to undermine the culture of the region and subordinate it to the West, however objective, scientific or modern its approach may appear to be.

 

 

Western Distortions and the Indian Response

 

When India as a nation arose is defined by the western school as 1947, the year of modern India�s independence. It founders were Nehru and Gandhi, who inherited a united region from the British, before which India was just a confused mass of local kingdoms with no national consistency. Even today, the western school of thought prefers to call the subcontinent of India as �South Asia�, undermining any idea of cultural continuity more than a vague geography. On the other hand, according to the Indic school, India or Bharat as a country arose in the Vedic era as the type of dharmic/yogic culture that has been the main characteristic of Indian civilization throughout history. This spiritual or yogic orientation can be found in all regions of India from Tamil Nadu to the Himalayas, pervading even the folk art and folksongs.

 

In the western school of thought, an Aryan invasion or migration is used to explain how ancient Vedic civilization took root in India, as if it were an alien force of intruding barbarians with little sophistication, much less spirituality. In the Indic school of thought, the whole idea of an Aryan Invasion/Migration doesn�t exist. The Indic tradition arose from the rishi tradition of the indigenous Vedic-Sarasvati culture and related cultures, reflected in the continuity of Vedic literature from the Vedas to the Mahabharata, Buddhist and Jain literature, and the Puranas, which reflect the same geography, cosmology, peoples and dynasties of kings.

 

In these current cultural encounters, therefore, an overriding greater issue is ignored�the more primary debate between the western and the Indic schools of thought. The western style media and academia judges Indic civilization and finds it to be wanting, reducing it to little more than caste or superstition. This is not surprising as the Indic tradition has a different focus and different values than the western tradition. Similarly, from the standpoint of the Indic tradition, we must question the very basis of western civilization itself. Is the western school of thought enlightened and reflect higher values beyond purely transient human desires? Is its idea of civilization appropriate for India, the land of the great rishis and yogis? Can its outward oriented mindset understand the unique civilization of the subcontinent?

 

The Indic school itself can be highly critical of the western school. For example, when asked what he thought about western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi replied, �It would be a good idea.� What he meant was that from the standpoint of the spiritual traditions of India, western civilization with its materialism, aggression and dogmatism was not highly evolved. Sri Aurobindo, who himself wrote excellent English poetry, similarly highlighted the limitations of western civilization and especially the decline of its culture in the twentieth century commercial age.

 

�Secular Missionaries�

 

The West sets forth its values (meaning its political and economic system) as universal and then tries to police them throughout the world, rewarding countries that emulate the West and punishing those who go their own way. It tries to control any debate on cultural ethics or right and wrong in the world under slogans of democracy and human rights. Yet, revealing the commercial nature of western civilization, this assertion of human rights is mainly used to intimidate weak nations and conveniently ignored relative to stronger or wealthier nations like China or Saudi Arabia.

 

Though there are many genuinely idealist groups that use the protection of human rights and saving the Earth to promote peace and reduce exploitation in the world, many other groups use the cover of human rights to interfere with, if not destroy non-western cultures. Organizations operating under the cover of human rights are among the most alienating influences in traditional cultures today. They function like 'secular missionaries', ignoring victims of terrorism like the Hindus, while defending the 'rights' of terrorist organizations against security forces that are forced to take action against them.

 

In spite of its claim to represent human rights, the West is the main seller of weapons of mass destruction and profits from terrorism and civil strife throughout the world, which it often ignores, if not promotes. The global arms business is one of the largest for western economies including the United States, France and Great Britain. Most of the terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan�the main terrorist state in the world today�including the notorious Osama Bin Laden, were originally trained by the CIA. Without there having already been a decade or more of US patronage there would probably be no such Afghani state today. Note also how the West turned its back on the genocide in Rwanda several years ago, letting a million people die in civil strife. Members of the Catholic church were involved and convicted in this massacre. So much for the protective effect of western governments and churches or their assertion of human rights when it doesn�t suit them!

 

Western religious groups similarly use the cover of human rights to promote missionary activities and conversion efforts. They like to appear to be promoting western secular, social and political values, uplifting the undeveloped world, while actually continuing the religious exclusivism, aggression and intolerance of the colonial era. Western-funded hospitals and schools overseas bring in political, economic or cultural influences, using charitable institutions for social agendas, just as western missionaries use them to further conversion efforts.

 

Western human rights groups highlight social inequalities in non-western countries like India, while ignoring the colonial history of both genocide and cultural destruction. The same charges of cultural backwardness were used throughout the colonial era to undermine the native traditions of Africa, Asia and America, and justify religious conversion and political domination, which is probably their real aim.

 

These secular missionaries promote the new religion of western secular humanism, which like older exclusivist ideologies of Christianity or communism is similarly used to destroy other religious and cultural systems. Their judgement of others as not being �politically correct� is as damning and judgmental as the Christian charge of heresy or paganism. Secular missionaries go into traditional cultures with an almost fanatical zeal to reform them as colonial missionaries, blind to the values of traditional customs and condescending in their attitudes. They disrupt traditional family systems, local economies and connections to the natural environment. What they do is not much different from what Christian missionaries did to native American and African societies, leaving them rootless and promoting conflict within them.

 

The need for self-determination for religious and ethnic minorities within different countries has also been used by the West to divide larger nations into smaller countries that are less threatening politically or economically. How such tiny states, like those in the Balkans or East Timor with populations less than a few million people, can function is ignored. Had such a right of self-determination existed in the nineteenth century, countries like the United States would have been quickly fragmented into many small states. The United States does not feel a need to be divided into black, white and Hispanic nations, or into Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Islamic nations, in order to achieve cultural coherence. Why should it require this of other countries? While religious and ethnic minorities do sometimes need protection (other times they can harbor anti-national subversives), this can be done without the dissolution of the state or no large nation will be able to preserve its boundaries.

 

At the same time, certain groups have learned to manipulate the western demand for human rights and self-determination to their own advantage. For example, various Islamic groups, whose real purpose is to create a traditional Islamic religious state, have used the cover of seeking self-determination and the protection of their human rights to gain sympathy from the West, even though they would never create a secular state if they came to power. The Palestinian uprising against Israel is often portrayed in the western media as an issue of self-determination and democracy. Really it is a religious war with Palestinians defining themselves not by nationhood but by religion, and by a religion that is authoritarian and exclusive in the medieval sense, not democratic or secular in the modern sense.

 

Sometimes native intellectuals are taken in by western approaches to social issues, not realizing that they are promoting the colonial agenda of world domination in a covert form. Native intellectuals have been particularly vulnerable to communism, an alternative western ideology, embracing it to end colonial exploitation while really continuing the westernization of their cultures through it. Chinese communists, for example, did more damage to their own culture than did the colonial powers when they ruled China. Communism was the worst form of colonialism or western destructive of native cultures. Similarly, leftist intellectuals in countries like India, though often spouting an anti-western or anti-American rhetoric, are vociferously working to undermine their own traditional cultures in favor of what just another form of western cultural domination. They are rootless and alienated from their own culture, which they treat with hostility and contempt as much as any British magistrate would during the colonial era.

 

New Rules of Debate

 

Therefore, it is not enough to debate issues of culture, politics, or history in the existing forums in order to promote an Indian or Hindu view. We must question the very process itself�the perspective and values behind the school of thought in which this debate occurs. What India needs is a new Indic school of thought that is dynamic and assertive in the modern global context, that can challenge western civilization not merely in regard to the details of history or culture, but relative to fundamental principles of life, humanity and consciousness. This requires a renaissance in the Indic tradition and its great spiritual systems of Yoga, Vedanta, Buddhism and Jainism, and also in its political, artistic and scientific approaches. Modern science and technology can arguably be more humanely employed according to Indic or dharmic values, than according to western religious exclusivism or commercial greed.

 

The world needs a critique of civilization from an Indic or dharmic perspective, a view on capitalism, socialism, communism, Christianity and Islam from a tradition that is older, deeper and closer to the spirit in both man and nature. These western ideologies are failing to address the spiritual needs of humanity and are incapable of creating a world order that transcends dogmatism or exclusivism.

 

Those who are part of the Indic school of thought should emphasize this greater debate and not get caught in the details of issues already formulated according to the biases of western civilization. This debate should examine the right structure for society and the real forward direction for history and evolution. We must raise fundamental questions. Is the current western materialistic view of history valid at all, or are there spiritual forces at work in the world that go beyond these? Can we understand our history through outer approaches like archaeology, linguistics or genetics, which remain physically based and tied to an outer view of the world, or is a higher consciousness and spiritual view required as well? Are the records of the ancient sages to be rejected so lightly, whenever we think they don�t agree with our views, or do they contain keys to higher knowledge that we have missed in our arrogance?

 

The real issue of the Vedas, India�s oldest tradition, is not how these texts might fit into the current model of history as promoted by the western school of thought, tracing the development of civilization through material advances. It is how the existence of such an ancient tradition of rishis, knowers of cosmic consciousness, shows a higher spiritual humanity from which we have arisen and whose legacy we can yet reclaim.

 

A New Indology

 

������ A new Indology is needed rooted in the Indic tradition and in Indic, that is dharmic values. Such an Indology would honor the spiritual and yogic roots of Indic culture. It would respect traditional accounts of history as helpful. It would look to traditional teachers both ancient and modern as authentic sources. Certainly, it would make adjustments to the times and not be tied to any dogma from the past, but it would carry the stream of Indic civilization forward, not look for another stream to take its place.

 

������ Western Indology is rooted in western values and an inherent Eurocentric cultural view, which is materialistic in orientation and spiritually naive. It is not possible to appreciate Indic civilization from such limited values, even though these may be slowly widening. In fact, to truly widen Western Indology requires exposing its limitations. India needs a new Indology rooted in an Indic School of thought, not in a Marxist, Christian, Capitalist or Islamic schools, which have their own points of view and cannot and will not speak positively of the Indic tradition.

 

������ Western academia is a product of rajoguna, the quality of aggression, and emphasizes outer values that easily fall into cultural biases. It promotes the ego of professors over any greater spiritual tradition. Its motivation is essentially political and still hides an inner imperialism. It has no real sense of Atman or Brahman or any higher reality. Indic culture on the other hand promotes sattvaguna or the culture of peace. It recognizes the value of an enduring spiritual tradition and many ancient sages over the egos of the latest generation of scholars. It is the Atman and Brahman that it honors, not the person or the institution. Its basis is not the current political correctness but Sanatana Dharma.

 

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A New School of Thought

 

India needs a different type of scholarship, an Indic school of thought that has its own values, traditions and conclusions. Those who follow Indian civilization should develop this Indic school in its own right, and not merely try to justify our views in terms of the current western or European school of thought, which has a hostile and alien foundation and history. Presently, the Indic school of thought has been battered by outside forces and is in disarray. Its institutions were largely undermined by the nineteenth century. Though it is arising again in recent years, its forces require integration and a comprehensive articulation. The Indic tradition needs to reformulate and expand itself in the global context, as well as reclaiming its place as the dominant intellectual and spiritual force of South Asia.

 

I recently raised a call for an intellectual kshatriya in India�a new class of warrior intellectuals to defend India and its great pluralistic traditions from the onslaught of western exclusivist approaches, whether religious, economic or political. This call requires the creation of such a new Indic school of thought. Such a new Indic school of thought would consist not just of philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta, but also Indic, Hindu and Dharmic approaches to ecology, the global marketplace, health, science, the status of women and religious freedom; in short to all the main issues in society today. But it should also look beyond these issues�which are often more the issues of the western school�to yet broader concerns. How can we integrate humanity with nature and its underlying cosmic intelligence? How can we reclaim our spiritual heritage as a species that the great yogis have pointed out for us?

 

New Kinds of Institutions

 

A new Indic school of thought requires new institutions to embody it, new Vedic schools of all types. These will arise not through Indology departments in western styled universities but through a new type of institution with its own funding and curriculum, free from manipulation by the vested interested and ideologies of the western school.

 

The problem is that academic institutions, not only the West but also in India, were created by the western school and reflect its values. It is not possible to transform western institutions into the appropriate forums for the new Indology. They are part of their culture and mindset and its inherent limitations. Nor is it possible to turn westernized institutions in India into such forums either. They are largely painful imitations of their counterparts in the West and have even a more myopic vision.

 

To gain credibility for the Indic thought in the context of European-based institutions, like some Hindus are attempting, has inherent limitations that must be recognized before committing resources that could be better used elsewhere. For example, currently overseas Indians are seeking validity within the western school of thought by funding Indic studies or chairs in western academia. This can be of value in getting an Indic point of view across in western institutions and influencing the western media. However, attempting to give the Indic school of thought a niche in western academia can only be a sidelight and should not be a substitute for creating our own institutions. The Indic school is much vaster than the western school and is based on different principles. Ultimately, the western school will find a place within the Indic school, which is better suited to accommodate different cultural views.

 

Western universities have their own agendas that they will not readily give up, particularly in the humanities (they are more open-minded in the field of science). They will not change simply because a few well intentioned groups give them money and sponsor positions to project a more 'sympathetic' picture of India and her civilization. Like a sea that salts every river that flows into it, existing trends and interests will force the people coming into them to conform to the dominant Eurocentric values that pervade these institutions. Otherwise, they cannot survive academically. This at least is bound to be the case for some years to come.

 

For this reason, we need to promote the Indic tradition as a complete school of thought in itself, not as a mere side subject of Indology in the current western defined academia. We must look back to such Indic models of educational institutions like Naimisha, Takshashila, Nalanda or Mithila, and also to the gurukula approach and its more intimate and spiritual form of learning. The Indic school emphasizes teacher to student instruction and dialogue over mass oriented classes with standardized curriculums. It aims at the development of character and consciousness over the mere passing on of information and technique.

 

New institutions following older Vedic and Sanskritic models are necessary. These will include ritual, mantra, Yoga and meditation as part of their training. They will be based on a sense of reverence and receptivity to the teachings as tools of self-development. Without such a basis in spiritual practices Vedic teachings cannot be understood. Such institutions are best founded in India where it is closer to the tradition, but can also be founded in the West, if the right people are involved.

 

I urge the young people and the scholars of India to take up this cause. Do not try to define India in the context of modern civilization as defined by the West. Look directly to the great traditions of India and use them to critique western civilization and discover its limitations. Rather than seeking to define and control India according to western perspectives, the West should look to India for guidance on the deeper issues of culture and spirituality. Indians in turn should assert their own great heritage and not simply imitate the West or seek to justify Indic civilization from a western perspective.

 

Solutions to Modern Problems in the Indic School

 

There are many complex and difficult problems in India today that urgently need to be addressed, including overpopulation, lack of education, poverty, caste and social inequality. The western school of thought likes to blame these on the Indic tradition as a whole. Meanwhile, it presents itself as the answer to India�s problems, as if these could all be solved by something from the West, whether economic liberalization, Marxism, Christianity or whatever branch of the western school the particular writer may follow.

 

While the existence of such problems is not disputable, where to find the answers to them is. It is my contention here that the solutions for India�s problems today can be found within the Indic tradition itself, and a right application of its many branches both spiritual and mundane. India needs to release its native intelligence in order to solve its national problems, not resort to an alien mindset not rooted in the land, the people or the culture. In fact, India�s current problems are caused by a decline of the Indic tradition over the past thousand years, not by fundamental errors within it. To solve them requires a deeper examination of the Indic tradition, which includes right social relations, right use of economic resources, and respect for the natural environment.

 

If groups or nations sincerely want to help India solve its problems�rather than profit from them�they would welcome and provide space for such �indigenous solutions� and not try to use India�s weaknesses to their advantage. Instead they try to divide Indian society and use the conflict they create to promote their own agenda of conversion or domination, overt or covert, blaming the Indic tradition for the very problems that they are aggravating.

 

The causes of modern India�s problems cannot simply be blamed on the Indic tradition or a correct understanding of its teachings. Caste problems in India are a medieval distortion of the Vedic varna system, not its true intent which was merely a social division of labor that was quite fluid. Caste issues have been aggravated by a political emphasis on minority vote banks, which highlights caste identity as a means of political power and financial reward. Economic problems in India are the result of the socialist-Soviet style economy and bureaucracy created by Nehru, nothing traditionally Hindu. India up to a few years ago was run by graduates of the London School of Economics and its socialist policies. There has been little Hindu about modern India�s economic policy, but the same state socialism that failed in Eastern Europe and Russia, which in fact failed everywhere it was applied.

 

Indian intellectuals should embark on a new seeking of indigenous solutions to modern problems in the country, calling up the national genius and native Shakti of the region. India need not look to the West for the keys to revive its civilization, though western ideas can be helpful, particularly in the context of an Indian vision. Only by reclaiming its own cultural mentality and spirituality can the country really go forward. True scholars of the Indic tradition need not go to Harvard, Oxford or Heidelberg to gain credibility or expertise in their own traditions. That is little more than seeking to pander to the tastes of the old colonial masters, which is not about to end servility or restore one�s pride!

 

India should once more seek to lead and guide the world from its dharmic foundations.

 

Not only the solutions to India�s problems but the solutions to the world�s problems can be found in the Indic tradition. The problems of religious violence, consumerist greed, environmental disruption or the decline of the social order can be found in the Vedic vision of the Self in nature and the entire universe in the Self. The only lasting solutions to human problems are dharmic solutions. Hinduism can offer dharmic solutions to all our personal and social problems from physical and mental disease, to personal and collective relationship problems, to the right use of technology.

 

Such a revival of India, its culture and its dharmic school of thought need not be feared by anyone. It will enrich the world spiritually, as it has already done so by the spread of Yoga and Vedanta over the past few decades. It does not threaten any other culture or seek hegemony, but is simply trying to link up human civilization with our deepest aspiration to know the eternal and the infinite. The world should welcome and honor a revitalized India as a step for restoring humanity to its spiritual roots.

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[1] In mybook Awaken Bharata.

 

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