By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
In ‘The Foundations of Indian Culture’, mystic and poet Sri Aurobindo laid much emphasis on the dharmic culture and ancient spirit of the land of the rishis. For him it was the prime force underlying its evolution through the ages and sustained its civilization.
Dharma is the Eternal Truth that enlightens every aspect of the exploration of the spirit, the scientific understanding of the Cosmic Energy and the Laws of Nature, how they illustrate the unity of beings, the various forms in which this unity is expressed and celebrated in the aesthetics, sculpture, arts, devotional songs, music, dance and the general outlook on humanity, life, politics and society. The spiritual dimension of this dharmic culture permeates all aspects of its age-old civilization. It is about spirituality being a prime motive, and not a cosmetic artifice that is evoked conveniently to give credibility to and justify actions undertaken by alien forces that clashed with Indian civilization over centuries up to modern times.
How long the ancient spirit of India will survive depends on the will of its sons and daughters to sustain it. Pic – eSamskriti
How long the ancient spirit of India will survive depends on the will of its sons and daughters to sustain it – or to let it be engulfed in the whirlwind of other pursuits and to then perish slowly. Sri Aurobindo pointed at the imitation of western political system, which started in the de-colonization period, as a warning sign of the corrosive effects such imitation might engender if it is swallowed wholesale, as it is not in harmony with the ancient spirit of Indian civilization.
In today’s world, it should matter to the people of India, its diaspora and people of Indian origin whether the upbringing in their homes and the formal education imparted in schools and colleges open the doors to the knowledge of their own culture, past and history, and equip them with the necessary tools to guide and give a holistic sense of purpose to themselves, the society they live in, and Indian culture at a higher level. We cannot but agree with François Gautier, an outspoken voice on Indian culture, who underlines the fact that an intellectual of the calibre of Sri Aurobindo would have been held in high esteem in France and his books on culture, politics, philosophy, and poetry studied and discussed in universities. This is far from being the case in India itself.
Sri Aurobindo belongs to modern history when you think of it. How much the younger generation knows about the influence of the Vedas and the Upanishad on thinkers like Schopenhauer in Germany, Spinoza in the Netherlands and Thoreau in America is anybody’s guess. Let alone the names and works of past mathematicians and scholars in various fields of science who are blithely ignored. For example, it would seem the findings of leading nuclear scientists in the 20th century do not receive due recognition. The career of a contemporary space scientist, Dr Narayanan, has been ruined for political reasons by a Congress-led government in Kerala since 2009. He was harassed and thrown out of a rickshaw in Kerala. Despite the humiliation, Dr Narayanan remains a staunch patriot and refused a brighter future offered to him in the US.
Scientists are honoured in advanced countries, Europe, the US, Canada, Japan and China. Their interviews and conferences are highlighted in the media. Intellectuals, philosophers and writers are treated like demi-gods in France, a status which has been monopolized by politicians in developing countries where political rivalry and ego issues overweigh national interests. Western countries have borrowed a lot from Indian thought and science without acknowledging it. Even Steven Spielberg’s film ‘ET’ in the 1980s was an imitation of Bengali film producer and writer Satyajit Ray’s short story relating the accidental landing of a UFO in a village illustrated with a drawing of an alien being. Spielberg ignored the protests of Indians in New York.
Western countries did not predict the future and potential of Information Technology and were ill-prepared to cater for the huge demands in various sectors in the 1990s. It caused a brain drain of engineers, educated at Indian taxpayers’ expense, to the West at a time when India was hardly beginning to emerge from under-development. Ayurvedic medicine recipes are copied by Americans and smartly marketed with different labels with capital A and exported to India to make it sound local. Cosmetic brands like the British Estée Lauder came to India to study Ayurveda and used it without paying a single penny to India. Just see how the Americans send lawyers to hound any foreigner who ventures to copy their brands with disrespect to property rights.
Since the days of Maharishi, the teaching of yoga spread fast across the US, self-knowledge led to a distorted sense of self-development in the west at large. Breathing exercises used in the treatment of patients in western hospitals come from the teachings of yoga. These years different sorts of discipline inspired by yoga are cropping up with different names in France. People from prosperous western nations are using yoga and meditation for their physical and mental well-being without giving any credit to India and Indian culture. There is even an inclination to associate yoga with western culture and Christianism in the US, a sign of conceit and arrogance to hide the embarrassment of cultural appropriation.
The point is how much credit India itself has given to its intellectuals, thinkers, and scientists so that they could be role models for the younger and upcoming generation. A policy of appeasement and a distorted sense of secularism that marked decades of Congress-led governments as from 1947 are singled out as the causes for an inadequate knowledge of history in Indian schools. To what extent a free market economy, borrowings from IMF, introduction of American TV channels have opened the way to further gross imitation as Sri Aurobindo warned about is an open question. An all-Sanskrit-based medium of teaching is reported to be undergoing experimentation in the US to create a new breed of mathematicians and scientists. By 2012, budget cuts in Sanskrit by the Congress government drew criticism in India. Interestingly there were then more foreigners studying Sanskrit in India than locals. Has the situation changed?
With millions of people to be taken out of poverty, the need for electricity and water, proper sanitation across the country, there are huge challenges it faces. A remake of Swachh Bharat to galvanize the public and weed out corruption is necessary. No country can expect to rise if there is no strict law to demand accountability in public and private finances. Backtracking on farmers’ law, CAA and Shaheen Bagh protests sent a negative signal to the country. Being oversensitive to loud voices in world media and local groups brings grist to the mill of adverse forces which are hell-bent on undermining the current government’s reform policies.
It seems that 800 years of foreign rule have created a mindset which is seen as yielding to the ones who shout loudest. However, the other half of the glass is full of energy, India’s Shakti embodied by rulers who are striving to assert their values and national ambitions in a spirit of patriotism despite all the odds and obstacles.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 12 August 2022
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