In India: A Civilization of Differences Alain Danielou builds a bold and cogent defense of the Hindu caste system, viewing it not as racist inequality but as a natural ordering of diversity. Instead of being a hierarchy with some who are privileged and others who are despised, it is an organizing principle of a society wherein differences are embraced rather than ignored. Danielou argues the point that negative stereotypes about the inequality of Indian society were invented by Westerners to justify the goals of colonialism.
In classical India, social ethics are based on each individual's functional role in society. These ethics vary according to caste in order to maximize the individual's effectiveness in the social context. In the caste system it is up to the individual to achieve perfection in the state to which he or she has been born, since to a certain extent that state also forms part of a person's nature. All people must accomplish their individual spiritual destinies while, as members of a particular social group, ensuring the continuity of the group and collaborating in creating a favorable framework for all human life-thereby fulfilling the group's collective destiny. The notion of transmigration provides an equalizing effect on this prescribed system in that today's prince may be reborn as a woodcutter and the Brahman as a shoemaker.
Danielou thoroughly explores this seldom-heard side of the caste debate and argues effectively in its favor. This rare collection of the late author's writings contains several never-before-published articles and offers an in-depth look at the structure of Indian society before and after Western colonialism.
ALAIN DANIELOU CI 907-1994) spent twenty years in India studying music and philosophy with eminent scholars of the Hindu traditions. He is the translator and author of more than thirty books on the religion, history, and arts of India and the Mediterranean, including The Complete Kama Sutra, The Myths and Gods of India, and A Brief History of India.
Caste and freedom for Alain Danielou
Caste problems reared their head in Alain Danielou's family before his birth. Indeed, his mother belonged to the Clamorgan family, one of the most ancient noble families in Normandy, some of whose members were crusaders. The father of Madeleine Clamorgan was, according to the traditions of his caste, a general in the French Army. She herself was a devout Catholic and devoted to Pius X.
The Danielou family, on the other hand, was non-religious, with neither glorious family traditions nor noble title. Alain Danielou's grandfather, the Mayor of Douarnenez, was buried without religious rites, a fact that was scandalous and very rare at that time. Charles, Alain's father, had not been baptized when he met his wife. A member of Parliament, he became the leader of the parliamentary radical party, a movement that was considered to belong to the extreme left. In the thirties, at Chateaulin, a tiny sub-prefecture and Danielou's constituency, one of my distant relations, Guillaume Laurent-known familiarly as "Tonton Laouic"-was his electoral agent. They defended secularism and the state schools and violently fought against the clergy and the Catholic movements at a time when the school war was raging in Brittany. They were the "Reds" against the "Whites."
Curiously enough, it was the Dreyfus affair that brought together Alain Danielou's parents, persons not very likely to meet. On the subject of this racist affair that divided French opinion, they both declared in the Captain's favor, which may seem evident for Charles, but was much less so for Madeleine, a soldier's daughter.
Very early on, Alain Danielou became aware of the strange nature of this marriage and the problems it raised. In his memoirs,:' he writes about his mother: "The truth was that my mother thought of her children as bastards; because she was an uncompromising woman, she most surely have faced that problem at some point in her life. She always refused to introduce an into 'her' world, one could she bear to see us mingle with her husband's political friends. . . ."
In 1926, Alain Danielou spent a year at Saint John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. He was amazed at the profound racism he encountered in the United States: the Blacks were relegated outside the towns; he was briskly reprimanded by the college dean for having spent the weekend at the home of a Jewish friend.
In 1930, a study trip to Algeria was cut short because the local colonials looked disapprovingly on this Parisian who frequented the "natives" on an equal footing, the height of dissidence!
His set of articles, Le Tour du monde en 1936, gives us a better glimpse of Alain Danielou's ideas at that time. Speaking about Harlem, where he saw Macbeth played by a Negro cast, he wrote: "Shakespeare corrected, arranged, erased by these Negroes, I feel a racial prejudice within me I should never have thought myself capable of. . . . Harlem is boring; I dream of the beauty, the refinement, the poetry of other colored peoples, in the dazzling Indies."
Sacred Order and Man Society
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, it appears that the Western view of India is starting to change. The reception given to Alain Danielou's work in Europe and the United States is both one of the signs of this change and one of the causes. Increasingly widely considered as a first rate Indologist, musicologist, and seeker after truth, Main Danielou is one of the rare Europeans to have been accepted within India's traditional society, for which he became a spokesman. On his return to Europe, he contributed enormously to saving the world's traditional music by setting up the Institute for Comparative Musical Studies in Berlin and Venice. Later he published a series of seminal works on Indian mythology, history, music, sculpture, and social structures that established his international reputation and helped to change the Western view of India.
This book contains unpublished works of Alain Danielou, as well as papers read at conferences and articles published in journals, which deal with the delicate and controversial theme of the "caste system." These works were all revised, corrected, and expanded by the author toward the end of his life. Occasionally, two similar texts have been combined or cuts have been made where two articles repeated each other, and at times the author redefined his ideas in the light of questions or objections put forward by Jacques Cloarec or myself. As the texts were written over the span of many years-between 1938 and 1991-it is consequently not surprising to find occasional differences of expression and even apparent contradictions, bearing witness to the vital development of his thought.
The articles in this book thus represent various highlights on, or approaches to, a central theme: that of the balance between social cohesion and individual freedom, between the interests of communities and those of the wider entities of which they form part, between human groups and animals, plants, forests, hills, and rivers, traditionally considered in India as manifestations of a sacred order, of which human society is merely a correspondence or reflection.
Such a concept is very far from that of the modern West, which has arisen, first and foremost, out of opposition to the ancient order of things and appears to be entirely centered, not only on the individual and his "rights," but on the economic aspect of his activities. The Western reader must therefore be ready to question his or her habitual judgment, vocabulary, and ideas, and in particular must strive not to politicize the caste question, which has so often been caricatured by modern writers.
The following articles complement the views expressed elsewhere by the author, in particular in his Virtue, Success, Pleasure, and Liberation; While the Gods Play; and Shiva and Dionysus (reissued as Gods of Love and Ecstasy). Danielou's clarity is there, as well as his sense of being a free man, loving paradox and irony, and belonging-like Marguerite Yourcenar-to a generation that uses, for example, the word "race" without inhibition and without any negative coloring, because in their eyes differences are not only legitimate, but the very basis of harmony and beauty.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Item Code: NAQ845 Author: Alain Danielou Cover: PAPERBACK Edition: 2005 Publisher: Inner Traditions, Vermont ISBN: 9781594770487 Language: English Size: 9.00 X 6.00 inch Pages: 160 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 0.28 Kg