The theme of the present book is the need for a resurgent Hinduism, particularly on an intellectual level; a new Hindu intelligentsia to meet the challenge of the media and computer age and the burgeoning information revolution. Such a new Hindu intelligentsia requires both a critique of anti- Hindu forces, which are numerous and well-funded, and a self-examination among Hindus, exposing the weakness within Hindu society and in contemporary Hindu thought.
On the first count, Hindus must learn to articulate their views to the world mind, even if other groups may feel challenged by what they may have to say. Hindus must be aware of those who oppose them and strive to counter the distortions about them that are prevalent both in the media and in text books. Hindus must learn to defend their great spiritual heritage, even if this may place them at odds with more circumscribed beliefs. It is no longer enough for Hindus to be apostles of tolerance with no clear principles or doctrine with which to sustain it. They must stand for the truth, which cannot always be popular, and not simply seek to placate everyone.
Clearly Hindus in old India did these things quite well, developing critiques of all existing systems of philosophy and religions as well as establishing firm principles of social harmony. This we can clearly see by examining the older teachings of Hindus Dharma, including the six schools of Hindus philosophy, the various Dharma Sutra, and above all the great Mahabharata, which presents teaching for all types individuals and all social groups. Modern teachers, like Sri Aurobindo or Swami Vivekananda, have performed a similar work in recent times, offering important critiques of Western religion, Philosophy and culture as well showing how to regenerate India based upon spiritual, yogic and Vedic models. Unfortunately, modern India has not followed these examples, which has led to most of its current problems. Now is the time to reverse this trend.
Awaken Bharata is being released as a companion to a related volume by N.S. Rajaram. Originally we hoped to do one book together but it soon became clear that there was too much material for a single book. Readers should examine Rajaram’s book as well and his other writings as a whole, which are all extremely insightful. One area that I have not dealt with in this particular volume, except in passing, is the need for a new historical model of ancient India, though I have addressed this in other books. However, Rajaram has examined the issue in his book, which can be consulted for the latest information on this important topic. Another writer whose works are helpful to clarify the views presented here are those of Arun Shourie, who has boldly, perhaps more than any other writer, challenged negative stereotypes and misconceptions about India and Hinduism today.
David Frawley(Vamadeva Shastri), is one of the few Westerner ever recognized in India as a Vedacharya or teacher of the ancient Vedic wisdom. His field of study includes Ayurvedic medicine, Vedic astrology, Tantra, Yoga and Vedantic philosophy. His more specific work is with the Vedas themselves, including a reexamination of ancient history in light of new archaeological finds in India and a more critical examination of Vedic texts. He has written ten books and many articles on these subjects over the last fifteen years, which have been published both in India and the United states. In India his translation and interpretations of the Vedas have received acclaim from both spiritual and scholarly circles. Presently he is director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies.
The theme of the book Awaken Bharata: A Call for India’s Rebirth is large and by its nature has to cover a wide field. Frawley does it with distinction and insight.
He discusses dangers Hinduism faces, mainly those of an ideological nature. But he does not allow the readers to be overwhelmed by them; on the other hand, he treats them as challenges and opportunities. He asks Hindus to take these difficulties as a means to awaken themselves and assume an active role in the world as defenders of Dharma. Many of these threats are really old but they appear in new dresses.
Frawley identifies two dangers in particular- in itself a great service. One is the danger of “dogmatic religious fundamentalism”; the other is western economic-political onslaught. Western Imperialism is now trying to look more amiable in the post-colonial era but retains its old aggressiveness and destructive potential. These lie hidden behind its consumerism and control to the global economy.
Islam and Christianity
Let us take up the danger of religious fundamentalism first. By this Frawley mainly means Christianity and Islam, the two conversion oriented religions that have long targeted Hindus and sought to add India to the list of countries that they have conquered for their faith. Though they have a religious dimension in having vigils, fasts and pilgrimage, they are very different in their intuition of God and man. Their god reflect the image of a tribal chief who is trying to become universal through conquest; they have no idea of one humanity beyond religious difference; they only know a church, an umma as supreme.
They worship a “jealous” god. He is a “choosing god” who has his “chosen people” and also his chosen enemies. He makes special covenants with special people though parties of this covenant change. Those who are outside of the convenant become accursed people. The gentiles, the pagans, the infidels stand already condemned in the eyes of this deity and his followers. Thus aggression and oppression are central to these religious traditions and are part of their fundamental thinking. While there have been a few mystics within them who have taken a more spiritual and compassionate view, they have been outnumbered, if not oppressed by the majority. Their leaders still seek world domination for their belief, regarding it as the highest truth for all human beings.
We know of Europe’s conquest of Asia. Africa and the Americas, but know very little of the Chiritian conquest of Europe. It was an equally cruel conquest by great bloodshed. During many centuries of Christian dominance, European pagans were put under inquisition. Jews became pariahs. They were second grade citizen if this term could be used at all in this context. In many places, as for example in Taulouse, they were obliged to send a representative every Good Friday to the cathedral to have his ears boxed. At other places, the Christian mobs had the right to stone Jews ‘house during the Holy week.
When Islam appeared, it had already a ready-made model of follow. But it also made its own contribution to the theory of imperialist conquest and domination and was equally cruel and unsparing in practicing it. According to Islamic thought, the earth belongs to the believers and the infidels are merely squatters. They are meant to be dispossessed, despoiled, and even eliminated. But on more practical grounds, living infidels are more useful than dead ones. So they are retained as serfs to serve the community of believers. Islam’s ideas of dar al-harb and dar al-islam (realm of the infidels and realm of the believers), of jihad, zimmi and jazia form a coherent and thorough- going theory of imperialist conquest and hegemony. Their rule has heavenly sanction. The infidels must pay jazia “in humiliation” as the Quran lays down. While making payment, the zimmi stood, often in the sun and even spat upon; he was struck on the nape of his neck, a symbol of zimmi’s humiliation. The concept of zimma (zimmitude) or second- grade citizens is part of the fundamentals of Islam, though it is another matter that it cannot always be practiced and Muslims do not have all the cards in their hands.
The tendency in the West is to place such religious excesses in the context of the Europe’s Middle Ages when these were the order of the days. But these are not mere ghosts of the past. Unfortunately a similar attitude of aggression is still directed against not only Hindus and Buddhists but pagans everywhere, including tribal groups and aboriginal people who are often defenceless against such an onslaught. Islam still honours traditional Islamic law, the Sharia, that is moulded after medieval prejudices long since rejected in secular law codes, enforcing its religious belief with a penalty of death for those who stray.
While discussing Islam, Frawley also discusses Sufism and Sufis. He shows that with some exceptions, the sufi movement as a whole has been an ideologist wing of prophetic-militant Islam, much as the Jesuits promoted the activities of the church. Frawley’s discussion of the subject is illuminating and could be read with great profit by all serious students.
In this connection, he says that there are two forms of mysticism: devic and asuric. Perhaps these are strong words, but they represent an important historical experience as well as deeper facts of the psyche. It has happened often enough that the good have also served the bad. Sufis started by protesting against prophetic Islam, but soon they learnt to survive by accommodating themselves to its categories. Thus their talents and accomplishments came to be used in the service of an intolerant idea. It is a case in which the winner takes all.
Brahma and Kshatra
Frawley stresses the need for a resurgent Hinduism, particularly at an intellectual level. He wants a new Hindu intelligentsia to meet such challenges, both new and old. He speaks of baudhika kshatra, of intellectual Kshatriyas. There is nothing esoteric about this idea. It has found great emphasis in Hindu scriptures. The Mahabharata says that Brahmins and Kshatriyas come from one source (ekayoni) and they must be together to fulfill their duties. Manu says that the two are effective only when they are together (samyukta). Baudhika kshatra welcomes bravery and courage, but it also emphasizes the importance of analysis, study and understanding, of policy and strategy, and above all of vision.
At some stage in our history, the two got divorced, and as a result suffered in effectiveness. We fought bravely, but we did not try to understand the enemy, his weaponry, his ideational and ideological drives and motivations. We did not study the hostile forces that were gathering in our neighborhood and on our frontiers. One result was that we always fought our wars at Panipat, when the enemy was at our doorsteps. In time, brahma and kshatra suffered further in quality. Kshatra lost its edge and purpose, and intellect its guiding role. It became merely a theory of mandalas, in which your next neighbor was your enemy. Buddhi lost its vision.
Frawley makes another point. He says that while old-style wars are disappearing, the old aggressive forces remain and continue to work under more ideological covers. They pretend that they are better than they appear to be. They set up moral and ideological standards to judge and condemn weaker countries; and as often happens, even good standards are interpreted to the advantage of the powerful. For example, religious liberty, a valuable things, has come to mean liberty of Christianity’s well- drilled and well- oiled missionary armies to subvert pacifist local cultures and religions in the Third World, and not their right to protect themselves against such aggression. Similarly, the slogan of human rights has often been used to promote terrorist groups in the weaker countries. Frawley points out that in the new warfare, ideas play a big role and whole battles could be won or lost on this front. He advises that Hindu intellectuals should not neglect this side of the conflict.
Several years ago I wrote two books on Hinduism and India. The first, Arise Arjuna, was a compilation of different articles on contemporary problems, including difficult and controversial social and political issues. The second, Hinduism: The Eternal Tradition was an attempt to clarify the broader meaning of Hindu Dharma in the modern world, including a series of questions and answers on topical matters. Since then I have continued to write various articles on Hinduism and on important issues facing India today. The present volume is the result of that work, reflecting not only development in my own thought but the changing situation in the country.
The theme of the present book is the need for a resurgent Hinduism, particularly on an intellectual level: a new Hindu intelligentsia to meet the challenge of the media and computer age and the burgeoning information revolution. Such a new Hindu intelligentsia requires both a critique of anti-Hindu forces, which are numerous and well-funded, and a self-examination among Hindus, exposing the weaknesses within Hindu society and in contemporary Hindu thought.
On the first count, Hindus must learn to articulate their views to the world mind, even if other groups may feel challenged by what they may have to say. Hindus must be aware of those who oppose them and strive to counter the distortions about them that are prevalent both in the media and in text books. Hindus must learn to defend their great spiritual heritage, even if this may place them at odds with more circumscribed beliefs. It is no longer enough for Hindus to be apostles of tolerance with no clear principles or doctrines with which to sustain it. They must stand for the truth, which cannot always be popular, and not simply seek to placate everyone.
On the second count, Hindus must learn to project a united front on a social level and reclaim the greater field of Hindu Dharma that covers all aspects of life and culture and was not merely confined to the temple or the ashram. They must not only reform Hindu society but use the great yogic and Dharmic principles of their tradition to help reform the world today that is descending into a quagmire of either sensate materialism on one hand, or dogmatic religious fundamentalism on the other. In this regard Hindus need to understand why they have become divided and are failing to meet current challenges. They must project a new effort to promote Hindu Dharma as a whole and not be content merely to support their particular sect or local tradition, however great that may be.
Clearly Hindus in old India did these things quite well, developing critiques of all existing systems of philosophy and religion as well-as establishing firm principles of social harmony. This we can clearly see by examining the older teachings of Hindu Dharma, including the six schools of Hindu philosophy, the various Dharma Sutras, and above all the great Mahabharata, which presents teachings for all types of individuals and all social groups. Modern teachers, like Sri Aurobindo or Swami Vivekananda, have performed a similar work in recent times, offering important critiques of Western religion, philosophy and culture as well showing how to regenerate India based upon spiritual, yogic and Vedic models. Unfortunately, modern India has not followed these examples, which has led to most of its current problems. Now is the time to reverse this trend.
Awaken Bharata asks for Hindus to awaken and stand up as Hindus in the greater sense of Sanatana Dharma: a broad, open and enduring tradition of truth for humanity, not as modem or new age universalists with no real tradition, nor as sectarian Hindus caught in local religious forms. For those who may not know, Bharata is the traditional name for India. It derives from the great king Bharata, one of the early emperors of the region in Vedic times. It also refers to India as the carrier (Bharata) of humanity's sacred flame of spiritual aspiration. Awaken Bharata is a plea for that ancient spiritual soul of the country, which was beaten down by a thousand years of brutal foreign domination, to come alive today and lead not only India but the world into a new spiritual age. It calls for Hindus to return not only to the way of the great Rishis who realized the Divine reality behind the universe, but to the way of the great kings and warriors of Bharata, who were willing to lay down their lives for Dharma in order to maintain a land where the spiritual life could be pursued without oppression by worldly forces.
In this book I have dealt primarily with broad principles and not tried to address the specifics of passing events. This is partly because, living in the United States and only visiting India, I may not be informed of the details of specific issues so as to be able to deal with them properly. But it is also because inner principles are more important than changing outer circumstances. As the book consists of what were originally separate articles, there is some overlap of their material and their themes, but hopefully not much that is repetitious.
Awaken Bharata is aimed primarily at a Hindu audience and addresses issues that other groups may not know of or perceive in the same way. Each religious community has its internal issues and its particular language that may not be clear to others. Hence non-Hindus may not be able to relate to all that is said within these pages. And, if I were speaking to a non-Hindu audience on similar topics, I might also relate them differently. However, non-Hindus can benefit by this book to help them see a more Hindu point of view.
For those of a non-Hindu background, including academicians or even sympathetic friends of India, there may be much in the book that is challenging. The West needs to hear a Hindu critique of its ways, including its vulgar commercialism that is spreading its tentacles all over the world. Islam and Christianity need to hear the Hindu voice, which represents the Pagan religions that they have demonized and continue to assault with their conversion efforts. Western academia as well, limited to humanistic and historical perspectives, needs to hear a critique of its anthropocentric views from a cosmic and eternal perspective such as Hindu Dharma offers.
There has been such a tendency to attack Hinduism, particularly through negative stereotypes, without anyone speaking out to defend it, that some people may be disturbed to find a Hindu response to deal with. The very term Hindu is offensive to those who think that there is nothing valuable in any Hindu point of view, which by its very name sounds primitive and communal. But this book, though perhaps among the first by a Westerner to strongly articulate a Hindu critique, will not be among the last. Hopefully it will help engender a new mode of thinking to remove present distortions.
There are those who may accuse me of creating intolerance for questioning the view that all religions are good and, in particular, for criticizing Islam and Christianity from a Hindu point of view. True tolerance, we must note, should be able to accept criticism. What attempts to blot out criticism or stifle differing points of view is intolerance and nothing else. Why should modern religious tolerance be based upon a refusal to question religious dogma? That is more like the inquisitions of the Middle Ages that prevented any church from being questioned. Freedom of religion requires freedom to criticize religion as well, or it is not a real freedom. In this regard a Hindu critique of other religions is the one most lacking and necessary to provide a balanced view, while anti-Hindu views are readily available from missionary groups everywhere, as well as occurring commonly in the media.
Unfortunately most students of India or practitioners of Hindu-based Yoga teachings are ignorant of the real state of the country or its traditional political ideals and practices. They naively believe the leftist controlled English language news media of India, or Western academic or media views of India that are at best condescending and at worst maligning. They do not realize that what has been happening to Hinduism in India is not much different than what has happened to Buddhism in China, where leftist and Marxist forces have sought to destroy older spiritual traditions, regarding them as fascist or communal, because they challenge their urge to rule the country. The same anti-Hindu leftist forces in India have not supported the cause of Tibet either, which they similarly regard a a backward and oppressive culture.
While some readers may want to reject my characterization of a leftist and communist domination of the Indian media and universities, they should not forget that India still has two communist ruled states, Kerala and Bengal. The communist chief minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, was one of the main prime ministerial candidates proposed for" the United Front, a leftist alliance, when it came to power in 1996. His name is being projected again as the possible Prime Minister should the front come to power in elections slated for early in 1998. Even a newspaper such as The Hindu of Madras supported Basu for the Prime Minister position. This is a good example of how Marxists forces remain powerful in India, something the West should not forget, though Marxist professors from India like to appear in America as mere social liberals!
Above all, I encourage people to study more about India, particularly outside standard media or academic sources, seeking to listen to Hindu groups and Hindu voices at least to learn what they have to say. A definition of Hinduism and Hindu politics by non-Hindus is bound to be biased and not give the complete story. Denouncing the current Hindu revivalism as regressive may be a convenient political ploy or intellectual escape but certainly this oldest religion and culture of the world deserves a better hearing, without which any picture of humanity cannot be complete.
As a personal note I took up this cause after having studied and written extensively about the Vedas, Yoga, Ayurveda and related aspects of Hindu Dharma, and -having first discovered comparable distortions in all these areas. I had to break through many false views before I could understand how much Hindu Dharma as a whole has been misrepresented. I hope other readers can similarly take the time and think deeply, in order to break through this barrier of perception. I have always been something of a revolutionary and strive to go to the core of things, even if this upsets or goes against prevailing opinions. I have taken that stance here as well because this is often how new insight is born and how we are able to move beyond present limitations to a greater truth. Certainly something in the world and in India in particular needs to change, and it is necessary to stir up the waters to bring this about.
Others may question how a Westerner can comment on the complex and unique issues of such a foreign nation and culture. Well Hindus have for decades been naively following the views of Westerners who project negative ideas about their traditions and divide their country up in various ways in order to conquer, convert or Westernize it. Therefore, there may be some benefit in Hindus listening to an American who has a more positive view of their traditions. At least I have taken the time to really study the tradition in depth before making conclusions, something most Western commentators on India do not even attempt.
Awaken Bharata is being released as a companion to a related volume by N.S. Rajaram. Originally we hoped to do one book together but it soon became clear that there was too much material for a single book. Readers should examine Rajaram's book as well and his other writings as a whole, which are all extremely insightful. One area that I have not dealt with in this particular volume, except in passing, is the need for a new historical model of ancient India, though I have addressed this in other books. However, Rajaram has examined the issue in his book, which can be consulted for the latest information on this important topic. Another writer whose works are helpful to clarify the views presented here are those of Arun Shourie, who has boldly, perhaps more than any other writer, challenged negative stereotypes and misconceptions about India and Hinduism today.
My previous book Arise Arjuna, asked for Arjuna, the Dharmic soul of India, to rise up again. The present volume continues that call to Bharata, the ancient spirit of the region, to awaken once more. Only the idea of a land such as Bharata can inspire an Arjuna. Only a character with the strength of Arjuna can create a spiritual land such as Bharata was meant to be. More Arjunas are required to awaken Bharata. A new vision of Bharata is necessary to inspire new Arjunas. Without any land of Bharata the nations of the world are without any real spiritual leader and the world is indeed a poor place to live. Without any Arjunas or spiritual warriors, there can be no Bharata. May this vision find those who can both deepen and fulfill it !
Many people have helped encourage me to do this type of book and I am grateful for all their help. Most notably I would like to thank the Hindu Students Council (HSC) of America and the National Hindu Students Forum (NHSF) of Great Britain for their interest and support, as well as Ashok Chowgule of the Hindu Vivek Kendra in Mumbai. These groups are doing excellent work with the media and the Internet to promote a fair presentation of Hindu Dharma, and are living examples of the work I am encouraging Hindus to take up in this book.
Finally, I would like to dedicate the book to my friend and teacher Dr. B.L. Vashta of Mumbai and Pune (1919- 1997), an important thinker and journalist in the field of Hindu Dharma, who introduced me into this greater study, encouraged my activity within it, and who remains as an inspiration to carry it further.
Brahma Sutras (79)
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