Clash of Civlizations: A Hindu Response

Clash of Civlizations: A Hindu Response

By Dr Ramesh N. Rao

Clash of Civilizations

In his controversial 1993 essay in Foreign Affairs, Samuel Huntington wrote that the fundamental source of conflict in the modern world would not be driven by economic factors but by ideological factors and that the “Dominating source of conflict will be cultural”.  He asserted that nation states would remain “The most powerful actors in world affairs”, but that “The principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations”.

He argued that civilization identity would be shaped by the interactions among seven or eight major civilizations – Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and African.  The causes for the conflict, he said would be because, “Differences among Civilizations” are both real and basic and that “Civilizations are differentiated from each other by history, language, culture, tradition and most important, religion”.  He argued that the differences will not disappear soon and that while all differences don’t necessarily lead to violent conflict, “Over the centuries, however, differences among civilizations have generated the most prolonged and the most violent conflicts”.  The most violent conflicts in the present, he said would be between the West/Christian and Chinese and the West/Christian and Islamic nations.

This is the gist of his thesis which was elaborated later in a book titled “The Clash of Civilizations: Remaking of World Order”, published in 1996.

The response to this thesis has been wide, varied and furious.  Most of it has come from Muslim scholars, humanists, Marxists and internationalists of various hues.  Very little has been said by scholars representing the Hindu viewpoints.  We know that part of the clash of civilizations has to do with the emergence of nation states after de-colonization, the fall of the Soviet Union and the resulting “Imbalance” in the political dynamics of the world.  Democracy and free market capitalism seemingly won the battle over Communism and state-controlled markets, but we now know that the challenges to democratic governance are many.

After the events of September 11, 2001 and America’s invasion of Afghanistan to rid it of its Taliban regime and then of  Iraq to dethrone Saddam Hussein, debate now rages in many policy circles about the nature of our modern world.  Huntington has added more fuel to the controversy recently with an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal (June 16, 2004) in which he argues that the United States is primarily a Christian nation, that its liberalism is grounded in Christianity and that non-Christians will remain “Strangers” in the US.

Appropriating liberalism in the cause of Christianity, Huntington concludes his essay by saying, “Americans tend to have a certain catholicity toward religion: All deserve respect. Given this general tolerance of religious diversity, non-Christian faiths have little alternative but to recognize and accept America as a Christian Society”.

The clash of civilizations that Huntington predicts was foreseen by Bipin Chandra Pal more than a hundred years ago in the book “Nationality and Empire”.  Pal predicted that Hindu civilization will side with the Judeo-Christian West in its war against Islamic and Chinese civilizations.  Pal proposed his theories despite the fact that he considered the West as the greatest danger to humanity.  He was a great admirer of Islam’s spiritual values. Pal thought that Islam was going to be influential through its power of propaganda and not through war, but he was scared of Islam’s political manipulation. He foresaw the dangers of political Islam, which he considered an aberration.  Pal is not on Huntington’s reading list, or if he has read him, he is not telling us.

Hindu Responses

The survival of pluralism is linked to a complete understanding of the subversive influence of religious traditions and political ideologies exclusively appropriating claims to God or to a good life.  Certain sections of the Muslim society at present win easy acceptance among gullible believers around the world for their monopolistic claims to represent God.  Christians are more sophisticated and have a more powerful colonial tradition to carry on their proselytization businesses, without the shrill cries ofjihadthat accompany many Muslim initiatives to make the world Muslim.  Next, the monopolistic claim to usher in “Equality” as dreamed by Marx has come unhinged everywhere in the world except, it seems, in parcels of the academic landscape.

In India, religious conflict has become more and more fierce, more so after the partition of the country.  Despite India’s openness there is also native to the Indian tradition a powerful culture of inquiry and resistance to the marketing of spurious ideas and claims.  That Jesus is the only son of God and Mohammed the last prophet are claims that Hindus look at skeptically.  Islam and Christianity dismiss if not abhor the idea of incarnation of Gods and of imagery and image worship.  Without image, there is no worship.  Hindus worship their Gods – they bathe them, dress them, kiss them, adorn them and adore them.  For Christians and Muslims, God is a distant being/idea.  However, they demand that the rest of the world accept their God or be doomed as “Sinners” or as “Kafirs”.

The practitioners of many pluralist religions are not driven by religious intolerance as the practitioners of the two “Great” monotheistic faiths.  So, how should one deal with these aggressive and intolerant religions?  Confronted with the paradox of religious freedom and the intolerance espoused by certain religions, the “Objection to conversion from any indigenous religious leadership is an urgently necessary and long-overdue assertion, not a violation, of human rights”, argues Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

David Frawley argues (“Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations”, 2001) that India is a sacred land whose kings and people did not seek to conquer others’ lands.  He proposes the idea of India as the “World’s Mother” – the source of evolutionary transformations.  While bemoaning the fact that over time many customs calcified and became dominated by authority and rituals, he believes that India is ready to re-emerge as the world’s spiritual guide to help people transcend time and space to a universal consciousness.

Rajiv Malhotra has argued that the West, China and Islam all represent top-down monocultures.  These civilizations adopt a “Chauvinistic Grand Meta-Narrative of History” and their trajectory is “Global Dominance”.  He sees threats to Indic civilization from all three global competitors – the West, Islam and China.  The West seeks to undermine India through its control over Indian churches, through the activities of non-governmental organizations, through propaganda in English language media and with the help of “Academic Mercenaries”.  The threat that Islam poses is the propagation of Arabism through madrassa education.  And China seeks to subvert India through the activities of Maoists and Naxalites and by flooding India with cheap goods.

Huntington’s thesis is a neo-Christian/Western program which should be seen for what it is: A continuation of the colonial program which sought to lift the rest of the world out of misery because it was the “White Man’s Burden”.  Collaborations that he proposes between the West and some specific others, including India, to fight global Islamism and the Chinese putsch, are based on the old supremacist ideology of Western/Christian domination.

Within the framework of the nation-state system, India will have to collaborate selectively with neighbors and distant partners.  The great civilizational divide is between the aggressive monotheistic (and mono-atheistic) traditions and the world’s pluralistic traditions.  As such, the fight between the West and Islam is a fight between ideological partners for the world’s collective soul, whereas the fight between the West and China is for territorial and economic gain.  Marxism is on the wane in most parts of the world but not in India, where Marxists collaborate with Islamists and Christian fundamentalists to subvert Hindu pluralist traditions.

Indian governments and leaders have been naïve, short-sighted, over eager, or plainly idealistic in many of their attempts to build relationships with individual nations, regional associations and civilizational groups.  Thus, we had Nehru accept the “Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence” (Panchsheel) proposed by Zhou Enlai in 1954 and end up a disappointed if not a defeated man when the Chinese invaded India in 1962.  Fifty years after the panchsheelwas accepted, we have former President K. R. Narayanan proposing (India Abroad, June 25, 2004) a new Indo-Chinese cooperation phase and explicitly ignoring Chinese expansionist plans, its occupation of Tibet, its aggressive nationalism and its brazen militarism.  Naïveté, inexperience, eagerness and other weaknesses displayed by Indian policy makers and leaders sap India of material strength and moral sagacity.  Similarly, the BJP leaders’ eager attempts to offer support to the Americans immediately after the events of September 11, 2001 fell almost flat on their face because they overlooked the fundamental relationships that shape the modern world dynamic.

So, in conclusion, it is important to be aware of the designs of the world’s two most aggressive religions – Christianity and Islam – and the world’s most aggressive mono-atheism – Marxism.  They are still the important markers in the civilizational divides and the aggressive nationalism of the Chinese is a close second.  However, what might, hopefully, come to the aid of pluralists all over the world as well as to Indic traditions is science, which one hopes will reaffirm and support the findings of Indian sages about beginningless time, of cyclical time, of individual liberation, of perennial access to the transcendent, of progress not yoked to history, of multiple ways to attain transcendence, of reincarnation and so on.  If that happens, then the individual and collective quest for temporal power may recede and the opportunistic and specious speculations of historians and political scientists will cease.  Science as a handmaiden of Western imperialism, though, could still be used to undermine pluralist traditions.  In the short run though, while all the criticisms of the Hungtington thesis is valid, there is also quite a lot of “Reality” embedded in his thesis.

Reaction, Revolution and Dharma Renaissance: The Case of “Hindu” Nationalism

Reaction, Revolution and Dharma Renaissance: The Case of “Hindu” Nationalism

By Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya

The following article is from chapter 2 of the groundbreaking new political work “The Dharma Manifesto”, by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya.

Every major question in history is a religious question. It has more effect in molding life than nationalism or a common language.”

– Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)

The following paper will examine the Indian social movement known variously as “Hindu” Nationalism, or “Hindutva”[1].

The overtly political aspects of the ongoing Hindu renaissance that has been haphazardly developing for the last approximately 135 years, along with its repeated failure to secure its self-stated aim of instantiating Rama-rajya (Dharmic rule) on the political scene, are crucial topics that very few Hindu intellectuals have addressed in an ideologically cogent and politically mature manner.  Some of the few intellectual leaders who have, in fact, addressed this issue in a truly systematic and well-formulated ideological way include Dr. David Frawley (Sri Vedacharya Vamadeva Shastri), Sitaram Goel, Ram Swarup and Dr. Koenraad Elst.  I have also written about this topic very extensively, but have only begun releasing a limited number of my writings on this matter to the general public starting in early 2011, The Dharma Manifesto being the ideological dénouement of these writings.  The following are a few thoughts on the current state of contemporary Dharma politics on the South Asian subcontinent, with an emphasis on the specific case of what is often termed “Hindu” Nationalism.

As we will see, the primary stumbling block that has relegated the greater Hindutva movement to near irrelevancy in the dual realms of both ideological development and engaged political action has been:

1) Its preponderance of reactionary thinking and action, rather than proactive cultivation of a more revolutionary outlook and practical strategy to both a.)gain political power and to b.) consequently govern the Indian nation-state along purely Dharmic principles.

2) The lack of the divinely-bestowed spiritual empowerment that is necessary for any self-described religious-based movement to secure meaningful success.

By the time the British and other European powers began the incremental process of colonial domination in India and the rest of South Asia in 1757, much of the Hindu community in north India specifically had already experienced hundreds of years of genocidal religious cleansing at the hands of the Mughals and other Islamic invaders before them. Without doubt, the establishment of European rule over India directly saved Hinduism (and, arguably, much of Vedic spiritual culture that served as the ancient basis of the later phenomenon of “Hinduism”) from inexorable extinction at the hands of Islam.  If the British had not assumed the administration of India when they did, Hinduism would most likely not exist today, and all of present day India would be an Islamic state. All followers of Dharma must be eternally grateful to the British for this inadvertent rescue of the non-Islamic elements of Indian culture.

During the more liberal atmosphere of the British Raj period (1857-1947), history witnessed the beginning stages of a budding, if often very confused, and ultimately self-abnegating, Hindu renaissance with the emergence of such neo-Hindu movements as the Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission and Hindu Mahasabha, as well as such Hindu leaders as Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), Bhaktivinode Thakura (1838-1914), Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920), Arumuga Navalar (1822-1879), Gedong Bagus Oka (1921-2002), Sister Nivedita (1867-1911)[2], Annie Besant (1847-1933)[3], and many others. As a result of the rediscovery of their Vedic heritage on the part of many 19th century and early 20th century Hindu intellectual leaders, a new sense of political activism in the name of a rediscovered “Hinduism” cautiously developed with the nascent political theories of such people as Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966) and Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940).

The culmination of this new movement, which was decidedly devoted to a Hindu identity politics, has resulted in the overwhelmingly dominant role of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (founded in 1925) and its greater Sangh Pariwar family of front organizations over the realm of Hindu politics in India for the last 85 years.  The overtly political manifestation of the Sangh Pariwar movement was eventually manifest in the later Jana Sangh political party.  The party operated under this name from 1951-1980.  It was founded by Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee (1901-1953), who was subsequently murdered by the Congress Party regime in 1953. Since 1980, the party has been known by the name Bharatiya Janata Party.[4]

There has been a clear, multi-stage trajectory in which pro-Hindu political ideology and activism have progressed in the last 135 or so years.  Before I discuss the nature of that trajectory in any significant depth, first I need to lay out the three general morphologies that most political formulations have historically taken.  There are three general forms of political activity observable in the modern political realm: 1) Utopian, 2) Reactionary, 3) Revolutionary.

Utopian designates a primarily futuristic-oriented politics that tends to be very unrealistic and fantasy-fueled.  In many cases utopian-based ideologies tend to be eschatologically-driven and millennial in outlook, with the never-achieved (or achievable) promise of a perfect paradise on earth that can only be delivered by the particular political movement making the given promise. Such disastrously failed movements as Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, Anarchism and the political Left in general are Utopian in nature.

Reactionary, on the contrary, is primarily past-oriented[5] and looks toward a “better, more ordered time”, that is historically usually no more than several generations previous to the present era, as the archetypal hallmark and model for present-day cultural renewal.  As Nicolás Gómez Dávila  explains the mindset of the reactionary: “The reactionary is, nevertheless, the fool who takes up the vanity of condemning history and the immorality of resigning himself to it.” American reactionaries, for example, tend to see the 1950s as the apex of American civilization. As is clear from the term itself, reactionaries are capable only of reacting to assaults on tradition that they detect around them, and are usually incapable of proffering pro-active and positive ideas for how to foundationally transform society for the better in the face of modernity’s degenerate encroachment upon traditional values and culture. Reactionaries are especially known for timidity, intellectual incuriosity, lack of vision, as well as narrow parochialism and immaturely expressed xenophobia.  Republicans, Tories, and the conservative Right in general fall under this general heading. Utopian and Reactionary represent the two furthest opposing extremes of the political spectrum.

Revolutionary, on the other hand, describes a political stance that is proactive and constructive in nature, rather than merely utopian or reactionary.  Rather than supporting either unrealistic utopian goals, or merely reacting in an ineffectively knee-jerk fashion to the incessant attacks of its opponents,  the revolutionary perspective proffers positive systemic change designed to transform the basic characteristics of a presently-given social reality in a wholly original and fundamental way.  Revolutionaries seek to alter society, not merely peripherally and incrementally, but foundationally and swiftly.

In the very specifically Hindu/Vedic context, the revolutionary perspective looks at the ancient past (and not merely two or three generations back, but millennia back) as the source from which to derive eternal principles that are designed to be used in the present day to create a radically better future. The Dharmic revolutionary subscribes to an archeofuturism, to use Guillaume Faye’s instructive terminology.[6] Rather than merely dreaming about an unobtainable future based upon blind faith and wishful thinking, or conversely, merely reacting in a frustrated manner to the negative occurrences happening around them, revolutionaries seek systemic (and not merely cosmetic) change in the here and now.

The term “Revolutionary” tends to carry with it the stereotyped, and wholly inaccurate, notion of political violence, which is not at all the technical denotation of this word in political science terminology.  Rather, by “Revolutionary” is meant a concept, ideology or movement whose aim is to affect fundamental systemic changes (i.e., a change of the prevailing system itself), rather than merely cosmetic or surface change alone (i.e., minutial changes and readjustments within the confines of the system).  With this proper understanding of the terminology, the term “Revolutionary” does not in any way denote violence.

In brief, a Revolutionary movement must have the following features:

A) It is predicated upon a grand, but rationally achievable, vision.

B) It is led by a professional vanguard of elite leaders dedicated to achieving the vision, (b.i) who are capable of intellectually formulating that vision into ideological form, (b.ii) who know how to organize the masses in both the largest and most effective ways necessary to achieve the vision, and (b.iii) who themselves wholly personify the vision of the movement in their own personal character and lifestyle; i.e., the leader is the movement.

C) It has a clearly and systematically formulated ideology that encompasses the totality of political concern, including a comprehensive and defensible internal ideological structure, the minutia of economics, a philosophy of governance, social relations, geopolitical formulations, etc.

D) It has the ability to both formulate constructive alliances with like-motivated movements/organizations, and has a keen understanding of all aspects of the opposing forces.

E) Most importantly of all: a revolutionary has the resolute will to win.

As we look at the last 135 or so years of modern Hinduism, we see that Hindu forms of political expression have progressed roughly and sequentially, though certainly with significant overlaps, through the above three stages of Utopian, Reactionary, and Revolutionary.

“We Are One” – Utopian Stage (1875-1925)

Beginning in the Colonial era, and continuing down to today, such historical trends as the 19th century neo-Hindu movements and Radical Universalism, as well as such historic figures as Swami Vivekananda, Gandhi, and many of the earlier gurus who came to the West, clearly represented an early Utopian stage of Hindu political expression.  The concerns of such Hindu Utopians included such unrealistic liberal Western notions as radical egalitarianism, universalism, evolutionary and historico-progressive world-views, temporal-centrism,[7] and such emotionally-driven eschatological visions as the future establishment of a pan-ecumenical world political order – what today would be more accurately termed the New World Order.  Such intellectually puerile sentiments, however, did not (and could not) lead to the type of strong Vedic restoration movement necessary to revive Dharma globally.

Such a Vedic restoration is necessarily radically traditionalist in nature, and is thoroughly opposed to all the key corrosive elements that have rendered modernity non-viable. The German intellectual Edgar Julius Jung (1894-1934) presciently describes a similar vision of such a restoration in the following way.

Restoration of all those elementary laws and values without which man loses his ties with nature and God and without which he is incapable of building up a true order. In the place of equality there will be inherent standards, in the place of social consciousness a just integration into the hierarchical society, in the place of mechanical election an organic elite, in the place of bureaucratic leveling the inner responsibility of genuine self-government, in the place of mass prosperity the rights of a proud people.”[8]

For Sanatana Dharma to both survive and thrive in the coming decades and centuries, a thorough Vedic Restoration along the lines of Jung’s words above must be brought about – a reaffirmation of Sanatana Dharma’s most ancient and orthodox cultural and spiritual expression in direct contradistinction to the values of both Western materialist modernity and shortsighted Indian nationalism (i.e., “Hindu” Nationalism).

Most of the formulators and present-day thinkers of the “Hindu Nationalist” movement represent, to one degree or another, a rather sharp historical and conceptual disconnect from the traditional Sanatana Dharma that had been taught by the Vedic Acharyas and that had been practiced by the common Hindu people for thousands of years.  After 1000 years of genocidal battering on the part of Islamic invaders, modern Hinduism was definitely not at the height of its intellectual, cultural, spiritual and political/military glory by the time the British arrived on the scene.  By the time the British had saved Vedic culture from extinction, a radically traditional Sanatana Dharma, in its unapologetic, pristine, and consciously Vedic-centric form, needed desperately to be reconstructed by her intellectuals and spiritual leaders. Unfortunately, a serious process of tradition-oriented reconstruction was not seriously attempted at that time.

Instead of seeing the dire problems with Hinduism that were present by the 18th and 19th centuries as something that needed to be addressed and cured from within the confines of Sanatana Dharma, the neo-Hindus instead turned to external, non-Vedic, sources for their guiding inspiration. As a result, rather than attempting a true reconstruction of authentic Sanatana Dharma, which would have made Sanatana Dharma strong and pure once again, they instead attempted an unnecessary “reform” of Sanatana Dharma along the lines of Christian norms and ideals.

Thus we saw the Christian-inspired, neo-Hindu obsessions with eliminating “caste”, eliminating sati, eliminating murti worship, Christian style monotheism, “social reform” at the expense of intellectual/spiritual development, Hegelian historicism, and Radical Universalism. Attendant upon these superfluous “reforms”, we now witness the sad legacy of a Hindu world confused about what it believes, about what even constitutes a “Hindu”, about its future, as well as Hindu children who are not interested in Hinduism, and a Hindu community of almost one billion people many of whom suffer from inferiority complexes and the psychological scars of a people disconnected from their true spiritual heritage.  What Sanatana Dharma really needed was never “reform” along these neo-Hindu lines, but rather a positive tradition-based reconstruction of its eternal ideals. “Hinduism” needed to re-embrace its true essence as Sanatana Dharma – the Eternal Natural Way.

What Sanatana Dharma needed – and still needs! – were two interdependent developments.

A) A reclamation of Vedic-based, traditional Sanatana Dharma, with a highly orthodox, Vedic-centric understanding of the unitive and integral Vedic culture that had sustained Sanatana Dharma for 5000 years. It needed a purely Vedic understanding of pramana (valid means of knowledge and derivation of authority), of the nature of Dharma (in the strictest of philosophical senses, not just the popular sense), of what constitutes Vaidika (Vedic) vs. Avaidika (non-Vedic), etc.

B) Once the pure Tradition of Sanatana Dharma was reconstructed, the next organic development needed to be a strictly Vedic-based strategy for both juxtaposing, but also actively interfacing, traditional Sanatana Dharma with the modern world.

The latter project of fostering dialogue between Sanatana Dharma and modernity needed to be done, not by falsely denying the differences between the two (as almost all of the 19th century proto-Hindutva figures attempted via Radical Universalism), but in the same manner that every other ancient culture had met the challenge of modernity: recognition of most modern religions/ideologies as purva-pakshas – opposing ideological constructs; friendly and open debate with these purva-pakshas; unapologetic assurance in the exceptional status of Sanatana Dharma, and a concomitant refusal to concede to the forced imposition of an inferior status.

Unfortunately, because the unneeded distraction of “Hindu reform” became the more easily accomplished dominant paradigm of the hour, to this very day the real project of Vedic reconstruction outlined above has barely gotten off the ground.  It is now time to begin the process.

Many of the “Hindu reformers” were well-motivated and sincere persons who truly felt that they were acting in the interests of Sanatana Dharma. Many of Ramakrishna’s words are very inspiring and wise. Swami Vivekananda was a truly courageous and talented leader who the Hindu people can and should take immense pride in. More, many of these personalities did accomplish some good in providing at least some modicum of a vehicle for interfacing Sanatana Dharma and modernity, however self-destructive this particular vehicle has ending up being in the long-run.  In formulating a Christian-inspired paradigm for Vedic survival with only short-term successes in mind, however, they did not have the long-term implications of their syncretism in mind.

“We Are Different” – Reactionary Stage (1925-1945)

Beginning roughly in the Interwar period (the 1920s and 1930s), we then see the formulation of a strictly Reactionary form of Hindu politics with the emergence of Savarkar, Savitri Devi (the European Pagan writer Maximiani Portas, 1905-1982),[9] the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, etc. The uniformed paramilitary formations, martial aesthetic, stress on character development, egalitarian ethos combined with a rigid hierarchical structure, and much of the generic patriotic rhetoric of the RSS was directly appropriated from the newly immerging, parallel nationalist movements that were sweeping the European continent during the 1920s.

Unlike their much more successful European counterparts, however, this new reactionary Hindu movement had very few innovative ideas, did not know how to successfully engage in politics either electorally (not till the 1980s at the earliest) or in terms of mass mobilization (other than borrowing heavily from the paramilitary structure earlier developed by their much more successful counterparts in the various nationalist organizations of contemporary Europe), were wholly disconnected from the traditionalist and orthodox Vedic understanding and practice of the Yoga tradition, had no clear understanding of Dharmic political theory, and most importantly, did not know how to construct an elite political vanguard capable of leading the people by their own spiritual example.

The RSS and Sangh Pariwar defined itself, both historically and to this very day, exclusively in negative juxtaposition to what they were not: they were not Muslims; they were not Christians; they were not Marxists; thus, if only by necessary default, they were “Hindus”.  However, to this very day, the RSS has found itself incapable of defining in positive identitarian terms what it actually means to be a Hindu in the spiritual sense of this term. Savarkar’s blind imitation of then-fashionable European racialist theory in the formulation of his interpretation of “Hindutva”, or “Hinduness”, as designating a specifically racial group was doomed to failure from the outset. For Savarkar and all those who followed in his footsteps, being Hindu meant being Indian; being Indian meant being Hindu. Thus, Hinduism for the Hindu Nationalists was merely another term for the Indian race![10] Being a politician, and not a Vedic philosopher, Savarkar did not understand that Sanatana Dharma does not equate to the Indian race. Sanatana Dharma is a world-view and spiritual tradition. It is the sacred heritage, not merely of those people who happen to possess an Indian passport, but of the entirety of the Indo-European peoples.

To this day, rather than facilitating the radical, systemic change necessary to bring about a new Dharma civilization (which is clearly not at all the aim of these Hindutva movements, and never has been), the Reactionary tendency in pro-Hindu politics has shown itself to be an un-visionary, anti-intellectual, philosophically impotent and currently irrelevant political force. It finds itself dedicated more to a rather light version of Indian Nationalist conservatism than Vedic nation building.

The deepest extent of their political program essentially consists of a return to an era more within the comfort zone of the octogenarian men who lead this reactionary movement – possibly a return to India circa 1855 for Savarkar and Hedgewar, or an India circa 1955 for an Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani. A Dharma Nation will never be achieved by the feckless Reactionaries, if only because such a goal is not even within the scope of their actual aims or intellectual understanding.

Sadly, the vast bulk of so-called “Hindu activism” that takes place today still falls under the category of Reactionary, and is more a reflection of amorphous Indian Nationalism, and general pride of place and ethnicity than any serious attempt to reorder society (either Indian, American, or global) in such a manner as to reflect Dharmic principles instantiated in concrete political form.

Many of the attempts at polemical and ideological writing that we have seen arising from “Hindu Nationalists” make it all too apparent that they are not yet politically mature enough to either vie for power or to govern a working nation-state. When, and only when, it comes to the point that self-described “Hindu Nationalists” develop the philosophical maturity to engage in the nuanced ideological struggle necessary to win power, and only when they learn how to develop temporary and practical alliances with others while also keeping the greater goal of political power in mind, will they be ready to govern the current nation-state of India. Only then will “India” become Vedic Bharat once again! Contemporary “Hindu Nationalism” needs to move away from the fantasy-rhetoric level that they have wallowed in for so many decades, and begin the hard work of engaging in real politics in the real world.

“We are Vedic!” – Transforming the RSS into a Revolutionary Movement

Without doubt, the current attempt at Vedic restoration is seen as almost being synonymous with the vision, leadership, organizational structures and ideological pronouncements of the RSS movement.  With approximately six million dedicated activists, the RSS is officially the largest volunteer organization on the Earth today. Unfortunately, the RSS has served as a sadly flawed and ideologically challenged vehicle for Vedic restoration.  The RSS will need to address the following problems if it is going to transform itself from a Reactionary movement to a Revolutionary one:

A) Distinguishing between Indian Nationalism versus Vedic Restorationism.  Many difficulties arise when these two separate concerns become indistinguishable, as they very clearly have in the minds of almost all “Hindu Nationalists”.  Indian Nationalism is an ethnicity/national/racial movement.  Vedic Restoration, on the other hand, is a religious/cultural/philosophical one.  The RSS has, in my opinion, been more of an Indian Nationalist movement than a Vedic Restorationist movement. More, this is the primary reason why the BJP so badly lost the Indian national election of 2004 – because they tried to appeal to Muslims, Christians, pseudo-secularists, and other non-Hindu Indians merely as patriotic Indians, rather than appealing exclusively to the majority community as follower of Sanatana Dharma[11].  The RSS’s main concern has become Indian Nationalism rather than Sanatana Dharma…and this has only set the movement back.

B) Within the current day Vedic Restorationist movement, we must clarify the difference between Hindu Revival (a political/social/cultural phenomenon), which the RSS is predominantly engaged in, versus Vedic Reconstruction, (an intellectual/academic/philosophical/spiritual matrix of projects), which is precisely what such individuals as David Frawley, Swami Dayananda Sarasvati, Shrikant Talageri, Subhash Kak and myself, as well as other, more traditionalist, Vedic thinkers are engaged in. Both are projects of seemingly rival significance, and the different natures, goals and methods of these two separate projects need to be understood.

C) Within the parallel projects of Hindu Revival and Vedic Reconstruction, we need to distinguish between a Neo-Hindu versus a Traditionalist world-view, which has been addressed to a much greater extent in the book Radical Universalism: Are All Religions the Same?, by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya.

The RSS is currently a neo-Hindu, revivalist, Indian Nationalist movement. What it needs to become is a Traditionalist Vedic Reconstructionist movement. Like some of the 19th century neo-Hindus of the past, the RSS has done much good for the Indian nation-state historically. The RSS has been on the front-lines of defending Hindu India from foreign aggression, both military and missionary.[12] The sacrifices of countless individual RSS members are too numerous to mention.  Today, however, both India and Sanatana Dharma need radically more. The RSS needs to change quite radically if it is going to maintain itself as an effective organization in the future.

The following is a ten point program that Hindu Nationalists should implement if they truly wish to transform their nation of India for the better.

1) Annihilate the immediate existential threat from the Communist terrorists, Islamic Jihadists and Christian missionaries who have enslaved your country.

2) Stop graduating countless engineers, “IT professionals” and medical personnel, and instead begin to once again encourage your children to become philosophers, sadhus (sages), artists, thinkers, warriors and leaders.

3) Revive the Kshatriya warrior spirit of your ancestors and no longer revel in weakness in the name of ahimsa.

4) Re-Aryanize, re-Vedicize and re-spiritualize the entirety of your present-day culture.

5) Eliminate the Dalit problem once and for all by allowing those many individuals who are eligible among this community to enter the varna system in accordance with their inherent individual psycho-physical nature. If a Dalit behaves like a brahmana, then he is a brahmana. Period!

6) Learn to interact with modernity in a successful manner. That means, without excuses, rededicating yourselves to excellence and perfection in everything you do and communicate.

7) Build your own economy instead of depending upon the West for economic success via immigration and outsourcing of jobs. To do this, you will need to completely exorcise your economy of even the slightest taint of socialism and collectivism. Once and for all – Socialism simply does not work!

8) Start to carry yourselves with courage and pride in your Vedic heritage, rather than viewing this heritage as an embarrassing burden from the past. If you do not reclaim your immense Vedic heritage, someone else will reclaim it from you.

9) Make spoken Sanskrit the sole recognized language of your nation.

10) To successfully achieve all of the above, stop reaching for any and all excuses for why you have not yet been able to achieve these goals. Victory belongs only to those who reject excuses. Then, and only then, will Bharat regain the respect of the world.

Dharma Nationalism: A New Revolutionary Approach

The new stage that Hindu activism needs to take is undoubtedly the Revolutionary approach. It is clear that Indian Hindus now need to enter the Post-RSS phase of Hindu activism. As a starting point, 21st century Hindu activism needs to make a sharp break from its more paranoid and pessimistic past, and begin to start thinking in much more realistic, concrete, strategic and winning terms.

The enemies of Dharma have had the gift of being able to think and strategize on a long-term basis. Their end goal has always been the end of Dharmic civilization and the creation of their own dystopic vision of reality ranging centuries into the future! Contemporary Hindu activism, on the other hand, has only seemed able to operate reactively, only thinking about some immediate injustices that have just occurred in the news today – and even then only rarely reacting effectively, if at all. The contemporary Indian Hindu activist movement needs to stop looking for excuses, and beat the enemy at their own game.

A truly Revolutionary Dharma activist movement has not existed on the world scene until 2012.  The seeds of its birth have now come to fruition in the form of the Dharma Nationalist movement.

Indeed, the Indian nationalist fueled “Hindu” activism of the past will now quickly take a back seat to the spiritually fueled Dharma Nationalist activism of the future. Unlike parochial “Hindu Nationalism”, Dharma Nationalist activism is, indeed, comprehensively total in its application. It is based primarily upon spiritual/philosophical concern, and only secondarily on ethnic/national concern. It is motivated by the spiritual insight and compassion gifted to us by the eternal Truth of Sanatana Dharma, and not merely on an empty pride residing in the relative and temporal, ever-changing geographical boundaries of the nation-state of India. It fosters a true selfless action akin with that of the rishis, and not merely a series of political calculations based upon the personal need for power and aggrandizement.

More crucial than any other juxtaposing comparison to the failed Hindu activist endeavors of the past: Dharma Nationalism presents a clear, realistic, and achievable strategic diagram revealing exactly how society should be best structured in order to ensure the maximal amount of happiness and prosperity, to the fullest degree of qualitative and spiritual depth, for the greatest number of living beings. This fact will be abundantly evident upon an attentive reading of The Dharma Manifesto.

[1] Tentatively translated as “Hinduness”.

[2] Born as Margaret Elizabeth Noble, an Irish social worker who abandoned Christianity and became a follower of Sanatana Dharma.

[3] The second leader of the Theosophical Society after Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891).

[4] “Indian People’s Party”.

[5] Reactionaries do not look to ancient or Classical antecedents for guidance for the present, but tend to only look back a few generations at most.

[6] See Guillaume Faye’s Archeofuturism: European Visions of the Post-Catastrophic Age for more on this innovative concept.

[7] My term for the deceivingly comforting psychological phenomenon exhibited by any given generation that convinces them that the particular era in which they find themselves represents the most important and advanced era in history. A much more healthy approach in reconciling one’s subjective perception with the particular times in which one finds oneself was nicely stated by the German philosopher Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) in the following manner: “Live with your century, but do not be its creature.” (On the Aesthetic Education of Man)

[8] Edgar J. Jung, Deutsche uber Deutschland (Munich, 1932), p. 380.

[9] Savitri Devi and Savarkar were in agreement on several basic issues of Hindu Nationalism. Babarao G.D. Savarkar, brother of V.D. Savarkar, even wrote the Forward to Savitri Devi’s book “A Warning to the Hindus“.

[10] “India is dear to us because it has been and is the home of our Hindu Race, the land which has been the cradle of our prophets, and heroes and Gods and godmen …. The real meaning of Swarajya then, is not merely the geographical independence of the bit of earth called India. To the Hindus independence of Hindusthan can only be worth having if that ensures their Hindutva – their religious, racial and cultural identity.” (Vinayak Damodar Savarkar  Hindu Rashtra Darshan, vol. 4, pp. 218-9)

[11] Approximately 83% of the Indian population are followers of Sanatana Dharma – a clear majority.

[12] Balraj Madhok, the president of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh party in the late 1960s, is a living example of the patriotic fervour of Hindu Nationalism. He wrote the following in 1970: “Western countries also have been exerting to exploit India’s illiteracy and poverty by using their economic aid measures, their cheap and provocative literature, and, above all, their missionaries as instruments for a campaign of mass conversion. We want to warn these foreign powers not to indulge in activities that violate India’s sovereignty and independence and demand that the Government of India take stern measures to curb them.” (Indianisation? What, Why and How. New Delhi: S. Chand, 1970, p. 103)

This article is from chapter 2 of the groundbreaking new political work “The Dharma Manifesto”, by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya.

The Dharma Manifesto serves as the first ever systematic revolutionary blueprint for the nascent global Vedic movement that will, in the very near future, arise to change the course of world history for the betterment of all living beings. The Dharma Manifesto signals the beginning of a wholly new era in humanity’s eternal yearning for meaningful freedom and happiness.

About the Author

Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya has been acknowledged by many Hindu leaders throughout the world to be one of the most revolutionary and visionary Vedic spiritual masters on the Earth today.

With a forty year history of intensely practicing the spiritual disciplines of Yoga, and with a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, Sri Acharyaji is one of the most eminently qualified authorities on Vedic philosophy, culture and spirituality. He is the Director of the Center for the Study of Dharma and Civilization.

His most historically groundbreaking politico-philosophical work, “The Dharma Manifesto”, is now offered to the world at a time when its people are most desperately crying out for fundamental change.

The Need for a New Indic School of Thought

The Need for a New Indic School of Thought
By Dr. David Frawley

During the Eurocolonial period, Indian history and civilization were distorted to fit European perceptions. A new school of thought is needed that will see Asian history and tradition with Asian eyes and thought, beginning with India.

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 public lives. This clash is partly because of rising historical and cultural awareness on the part of newly-independent countries, beginning with India . The Western-European/North American culture 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, control of the entertainment industry, domination of commercial markets, continued missionary aggressiveness by Western religions, and – as important but sometimes overlooked – control of educational institutions and curricula worldwide.

This control of education has resulted in a Western-European/North-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 may be the actual country of their birth. They will experience an alienation from their native culture in which they have not really been raised. They easily become a fifth column for the Westernisation of their culture, which also means its denigration or, at best, its commercialisation. 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 or Indian school of thought.

The Indic school of thought

What is the Indic school of thought, one might ask? 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. It is the emphasis on dharma, on karma, on pluralism and synthesis, on yoga sadhana and moksha. It 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 regional languages and dialects of the subcontinent, most of which have older literary traditions than the languages of Europe such as 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 framed 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 , UK or Germany , which it can never be, nor should be. This only makes Indians feel inferior or wrong.

The Western school of thought has denigrated or overlooked the Indic school, particularly 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 and have much internal consistency. However, in writing the history of India , the Western school does not give these any place. They are dismissed as, at best, mythology and, at worst, fraud. Instead, it 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, which makes India seem dependent upon the West in order to advance its civilization again today.

The Western school of thought negates the relevance of the traditions of India . 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.

When India as a nation arose is defined by the Western school as 1947, the year of 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. 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 through history. This spiritual or yogic orientation can be found in the cultures of all the regions of India from Tamil Nadu to the Himalayas , pervading even in the folk art and folk songs of all regions, as well as “high” culture.

Western distortions and the Indian response

In the Western school of thought, an Aryan invasion or migration is used to describe the way in which ancient Vedic civilization took root in India , as if it were an alien force of intruding barbarians. In the Indic school of thought, the whole idea of an Aryan invasion/migration is a sign of ignorance. The Indic tradition arose from the rishi tradition of spiritual endeavour, characteristic of the 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 all reflect the same principles, peoples and dynasties of kings.

In these current cultural debates, therefore, an overriding greater debate is ignored – that which takes place between the Western and the Indic schools of thought. The Western-style media and academia tries to see what is authentic in Indian 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 values than does the Western tradition. Similarly, from the standpoint of the Indic tradition, we must question Western civilization itself. Is the Western school of thought enlightened? Is it appropriate for India? Can it understand the unique civilization of the subcontinent?

The Indic school itself is often 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 wrote on the limitations of Western civilization, while appreciating it in certain areas.

Secular missionaries

The West similarly tries to control any debate on cultural ethics, using slogans of democracy and human rights, which are only used to intimidate weak nations and conveniently ignored relative to stronger or wealthier nations like China or Saudi Arabia . Organizations operating under the cover of human rights are among the most aggressively alienating influences 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 compelled to take action against them. Meanwhile, it is the West that is selling the weapons and profiting by terrorism and civil strife throughout the world. The West originally trained many terrorist groups, such as the Taliban fighters in Afghanistan .

Such groups highlight social inequalities in India , but ignore a colonial history marked by attacks on indigenous Indic culture. The same charges of cultural backwardness have been used throughout the colonial era to undermine the native traditions of Africa , Asia and the USA , and to justify forced religious conversion and political domination, which is their real aim. Sometimes native intellectuals are taken in by these Western approaches to social issues, not realizing that they are just promoting the colonial agenda of world domination in a more covert form.

New rules of debate

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

The world today needs a critique of “modern civilization” from an Indic or Dharmic perspective, an interpretation of capitalism, socialism, communism, Christianity and Islam from a tradition that is much 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 of us who are part of the Indic school of thought should emphasize such a 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 all these? Can we understand our history through outer approaches like archaeology, linguistics or genetics, or is a higher consciousness or more intuitive view required as well? Are the records of our ancient sages to be rejected so lightly, whenever we think they do not agree with our views?

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 outward 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 reclaim.

Towards a new school of thought

India needs a different type of scholarship, an Indic school of thought that has its own values, traditions and methods of reaching conclusions. Those of us who follow the Indian civilization should develop this Indic school in its own right and not merely try to justify our views in terms of the Western or European school of thought, which is hostile and radically opposed to Indic cultural tradition.

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 fundamentally requires the creation of such a new Indic school of thought. Such a new Indic school of thought concerns not only philosophies of liberation or yoga, but Indic, Hindu and Dharmic approaches to ecology, the global marketplace, health, science, the status of women, religious freedom, in short to all the main issues in society today – and it should also look beyond these issues, which are often the issues of the Western school, to yet broader concerns. How can we integrate humanity and nature, with its underlying cosmic intelligence? How can we reclaim our spiritual heritage, as a species, that the great yogis have pointed out for us?

Such a new Indic school of thought requires new institutions to promote and embody it, or new Vedic schools. This will arise not through Indology departments in Western-style 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 and its religious, commercial and political bias.

An intellectual renaissance

The problem is that the Western school created Indian academic institutions that reflect Western values. To try to gain credibility for Indic thought in the context of European institutions, as some well-meaning Hindus are attempting, may be a helpful strategy but misses this main point. Western universities have their own agendas that they will not readily give up. They will not change simply because a few well-intentioned people and 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.

It is not on single issues that we need to make headway but on promoting the Indic tradition as a complete school of thought in itself, rather than merely as a side subject of Indological study in Western-defined academia. We must look back to such Indic models as Naimisha, Takshashila, Nalanda or Mithila, not only to their institutions, but also to the Gurukula approach and its more intimate and spiritual form of learning.

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 civilization as defined by the West. Instead look to the great traditions of India that have their own deeper roots and use it 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 greater traditions and not simply imitate the West or seek to justify Indian civilization from a Western perspective. True scholars of the Indic tradition need not go to Harvard or Oxford to seek credibility, rather these institutions should come to them.

About Dr. David Frawley

Dr. Frawley has a thirty-year background in natural healing, including the systems of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, Western Herbalism and Vedic Astrology. He has a doctor’s degree in oriental medicine (O.M.D.) from the International Institute of Chinese Medicine, Santa Fe, NM, where he taught herbal medicine for several years. He is associated with the Ashtanga Ayurveda College in Pune, India and other Ayurvedic schools in India, where he has lectured on a number of occasions. Currently he is director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Dr. Frawley studied Ayurveda back in the 1980’s with world-renowned author and Ayurvedic Physician, Dr. Vasant Lad, B.A.M.S., M.A.Sc. Dr. Frawley is the author of numerous books and articles on Ayurveda and other Vedic topics. He has presented seminars at the Ayurvedic Institute for many years.

Please visit his website, The American Institute of Vedic Studies, at


The Assault on Tradition

The Assault on Tradition

by Professor Subhash Kak

Modernity is associated with the idea of industrialization, a strong nation-state system and identity, progress, rationality, reason and objectivity that emerged in the mid-eighteenth century Western Europe. All this sounds great, but there is a price to pay. Mechanistic logic in human affairs results in oppression and regimentation, objectification of life, and alienation and loss of freedom. From it arise self-hate and destructive behaviour.

The end of the Cold War led some to announce the end of history; in reality, it only intensified the struggle in different societies between modernity and tradition. In the US, the right has exploited the deep unhappiness with the oppressive aspects of modernity by promoting its economic and social agenda as a palliative, when, in reality, its policies promote further ‘industrialization’ of human affairs. The right’s prescriptions may be false; but it is winning because the left has not come up with a consistent argument to counter it.

Meanwhile, the ‘industrialization’ of human affairs marches on, facilitated by new technologies. This globalization is not only in the spread of American pop-culture or control of increasing public space by the multinational corporations, it is also in the practice of law, which in traditional society was quite decentralized. Modernity in the legal sense is the notion that only the state or the sovereign can lay down the body of rules for citizens to follow. Here it draws from the tradition of the Christian Church with its claim to be the sole interpreter of law.

The resistance of Muslims to westernizing modernization is natural, given that it sees itself as a revelation that supersedes Christianity. But the agents of westernization have been surprised by the claims of other non-Western societies for validity of their culture and attachment to their own social and legal arrangements. This explains the puzzlement of the westernized elite at the continuing affirmation of many for the Hindu tradition.

The Matter of Law

The modernist is puzzled because he does not understand the Hindu tradition, a situation getting worse due to the declining knowledge of the classical foundations of this tradition. According to Werner Menski in his path-breaking ‘Hindu Law: Beyond Tradition and Modernity’ (Oxford University Press, 2003), “Hindu law today must be seen as a postmodern phenomenon, displaying its internal dynamism and perennial capacity for flexibility and realignment.” Menski argues that the modernist reading of the tradition is a caricature, perpetuated because “studying Hindu law is often seen as regressive activity.” Menski adds:

“Anything ‘Hindu’ is quickly denigrated in many ways, not only by many followers of the monotheistic religions, but also those who imagine and assert that a modern world, by which is often meant a Western-inspired world, can do without so-called primitive religion and cultural traditions. Lawyers (as well as more recently whole cohorts of diasporic Indian scholars)… have had specific reasons to argue for modernity. Colonialism added its own ideologies and arguments to subjugate not only Hindus, but also Hindu law, all in the name of universalistic legal constructs.”

In the complex process of scholarly manipulation, many scholars have engaged (often unwittingly) in misleading and sometimes simply wrong representation of Hindu ‘tradition’. Prominent amongst these misrepresentations is the assumption that ancient Hindu texts prescribed’ certain rules, which even infects the most intricate subaltern writing.

In recent years, arguments such as Menski’s (or those of Triloki Nath Madan and Ashis Nandy before him) have been criticized by the modernists as being dangerous because they provide support to the political right. But that is a false argument because the political right in India has not analyzed civilizational dynamics in terms of the push and pull between modernity and tradition. Indeed, the right’s insistence on a common civil law for all Indians is inspired by the modernist ideology, as are its many policies that promote centralization. The right has mostly been reactive, fighting at best for symbolic gains, hoping — erroneously, as it found to its grief — that these would suffice to ensure victory at the next election.

The stakes are very high since they have implications for the manner in which India will be able to respond to the pressures of globalization. Menski reminds us:

“Arguments about the inherent political incorrectness and modern irrelevance of Hindu law have conveniently forgotten that the so-called modern traditions have their own roots in specific Western cultural and religious traditions. So how could Indian be called upon to ‘modernize’, if that simply meant, at one level, shedding the social and cultural concepts that make up the fabric of the various hybrid Indian identities? How can hundreds of millions of Hindus be expected, let alone forced, to abandon Hindu law?”

Modernity, calling on all ‘others’ to assimilate to the supposedly higher, apparently secular and ‘modern’ value system represented by the West, amounted to thinly veiled pressure to abandon various indigenous traditions and convert to the supposedly universal notions of modernity. In other words, modernity expected and demanded unidirectional assimilation to alien lego-cultural norms and models, and a stepping outside of one’s own inherited traditions. It demanded de-Hinduization, abandoning of Hindu customs, habits, and traditions. While modernity was, at one level, not concerned about religion, it expected the modern world citizen to be of a secular disposition, thus seeking to prescribe one particular religious perspective as appropriate for modernity.

Since the modern university is a vehicle for westernization, with hardly a representation for those who are schooled in the Indian classics, there hasn’t been a proper debate on identifying the proper tension between modernity and tradition in the Indian context. This is one reason the state has been paralyzed in making legal reforms, and has ceded decision making in many spheres to the judiciary.

Modernity and Temple Administration

It is in the relationship between the state and religion that the lack of clear thinking becomes most apparent. Observers of recent Indian history express incredulity at how the Indian state (whether ruled by the left or the BJP), which professes to be secular, has taken over the management of most Hindu temples. This has proceeded in the face of corruption, and diverting of the temple income for non-religious purposes, or even for the maintenance of religious institutions of rival religions.

Typically, the government creates trusts to run these temples, with active management entrusted to officers of the Indian Administrative Service, with the government’s representatives sitting on the board taking decisions regarding where the income is to be banked (gaining kickbacks from the banks in the process) and how it is to be invested, and even the sale of temple properties. Naturally, these bureaucrats have no interest in any larger vision associated with the temple.

In spite of its numerous shortcomings, the medieval temple included all jatis as stakeholders in a complex system of obligations under the yajamani system. But that is not the case with the government controlled modern temple, where the bureaucrat is the supreme authority. Operating in a system without appropriate checks and balances, it is easy for him to succumb to greed. For such an officer, who is on a temporary assignment as a temple chief, there is no incentive to look at the larger role of the temple in the community, and he, at best, is an instrument of the status quo. Such temples are not the harbingers of social change that they should be.

A few months ago, I heard from one of the government trustees of the Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu, who was visiting the United States. He wanted some advice on how to go about recruiting faculty for the newly established Mata Vaishno Devi Temple University, of whose existence I was not aware until that moment. He explained that the government had decided to create this university with the income of the Vaishno Devi Temple; this university, it had been decided, would focus on information technology and biotechnology.

I asked him why the university, which is being run on the donations of the pilgrims, did not include Hindu religious studies on its curriculum. He said since the university operated within the parameters of a secular state, it could not teach any subject related to Hinduism. The bottom line: the donations of the pilgrims support activities that have nothing to do with the pilgrimage.

The control of the Hindu temples by the government, when the mosques or the churches have not similarly been taken over, is defended on the ground that the modern Indian state is the successor also to the earlier pre-British Indian states where much of the great temple ritual was around the person of the king. The chief ministers, being the democratically elected successors to the kings, are within their rights to continue with this tradition irrespective of what the Constitution says.

Meanwhile, many Hindu groups have begun agitating for the Hindu temples to be restored to the Hindu communities. If there is need for a better legal and administrative framework for the running of temples, they demand that all Hindu communities are made stakeholders with complete separation between the government and the management boards, with the judiciary to act as referee in case of dispute.

Globalization and Body and Soul

The seizing of the temples by the Indian bureaucracy is only a small part of the larger war for individual freedom. Friedrich Hayek in his classic The Road to Serfdom (1944) warned that government control over production led to totalitarianism. Now the danger is much greater.

Technology makes it easy for the state and multinational corporations or even guilds to assume unprecedented power over not only production but also distribution. This power is likely to be exercised in neocolonial control of national economies and natural wealth; meanwhile, it is being increasingly applied to the last frontiers before man, the human body and the mind.

Western medicine has become a handmaiden to pharmaceutical firms, resulting in the vast majority of Westerners becoming dependent on some sort of medication, as documented in John Abramson’s Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine (HarperCollins, 2003). The philosopher Ivan Illich once said: “Modern medicine is a negation of health. It isn’t organized to serve human health, but only itself, as an institution. It makes more people sick than it heals.”

The other force of globalization is the use of media and marketing theory to sell organized religion and to separate individuals from their traditions and cultural history.

But our age of confusion is also an age of enormous promise. One hopes that out of the current conflict will arise better understanding and compassion and more freedom for people everywhere. But this will be, at best, a rocky road.

About Dr. Subhash Kak

Subhash Kak is an Indian American computer scientist, most notable for his controversial Indological publications on history, the philosophy of science, ancient astronomy, and the history of mathematics.