10. The Great Indian Myths
Since independence a few Great Indian Myths have done immeasurable harm to the country. Yet not only do they survive today, but they are often reborn under different avatars. One of these enduring myths concerns Ashoka the Great embracing Buddhism, and making it a State religion. Another of these other extremely pernicious myths is the Great Indo-Chinese friendship, which even the BJP today seems to sometimes believe in. The Mahatma Gandhi created the Myth of an inner war in the Gita and not an outer one. On the lower scale, we find the Great Cricket Myth, a game of gentlemen, where Indians naturally excel, although this myth has taken a bit of battering recently.
“Did Buddhism Harm India ?”
There is little doubt that Buddha came at a time where Hinduism had got bogged down in too much philosophical talk, rituals and casteism - it would need much later a Shankaracharya to give it again a new impetus - and Buddhism offered a simple way out of human misery to anybody, whatever their caste and social status. This may explain why Ashoka, whom historians love to call “the Great” embraced Buddhism after the battle of Kalinga, or why at the beginning of our era, the entire northern and eastern India was practicing Buddhism. Unfortunately, after Buddha’s death, his followers and disciples gradually made of Buddhism a religion of rigid tenets, do’s and don’t, which not only diminished Buddhism’s popular appeal, but also may have harmed India. This harm has two facets: non-violence and Maya.
Many Buddhists like to believe that Buddhism disappeared from India, because it was slowly “swallowed” back by Hinduism at the hands of the vengeful Brahmins, who had lost their principal source of income with the self-liberation methods of Buddha. But the truth could be entirely different. Hinduism of the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita always held “ahimsa” as one of its highest spiritual values, but at the same time understood that violence can sometimes be necessary to defend one’s border’s, women and children, in a word that Might has to protect Dharma. Which is why, until Buddhism made of non-violence an uncompromising, inflexible dogma, India’s borders were not only secure, but extended from Afghanistan to Kanyakumari. But when Ashoka embraced Buddhism, India’s great protecting armor, which had worked for milleniums, had been breached.
As the first Muslim invasions started submerging India in the seventh century, Hinduism was able to initially withstand the extremely violent onslaught of Islam, thanks to its tradition of Kshatriyas, the warriors; but contrary to what History books say, Buddhism was literally wiped-off the face of India in a few centuries, as it REFUSED to oppose any resistance. For the Muslim soldiers, Buddhists, who adored statues and did not believe in Allah, were as much Infidels as the Hindus, and they razed every single Buddhist temple (and also Jain, as the ruins below Fathepur Sikri have proved) they encountered, burnt all the precious libraries (Buddhist philosophy, particularly of the Shankya School, had shone like a beacon of light on the entire Western world much before Christ and was quoted till the late 19th century by western philosophers like Nietzche) and killed tens of thousands of monks, without encountering any resistance. This is why you cannot find a single trace of Buddhist structures today in India, save for a few stupas, which were too cumbersome to be destroyed.
The second unfortunate legacy which Buddhism gave to India is Maya. “Everything is illusion, everything is misery, misery, misery, Buddhists said - and still say today - and the sooner you get out of it by attaining Nirvana, the better. Fine. But Hinduism had always taught that the Divine is concealed in all things, animate and inanimate and that every aspect of life has to be conquered by the Spirit: even the Asura is a fallen Angel, doing unknowingly God’s work. Hence Hinduism had addressed itself to all aspects of life, from the Mundane, as brilliantly shown in Khajurao, to the subtle spiritual planes which stand one after the other above Mind.
In contrast, Buddhism came and said : “Just leave Matter and take refuge in Buddha”. And as result, because Buddhism has had a subtle influence on Hinduism, India started disdaining Her physical envelope, Her very body and material sheath, India’s yogis started withdrawing more and more in their caves, its people neglecting their surroundings, its leaders forgetting about Beauty. And the result is there today for everybody to see: an ugly India, full of trash and refuse, with very little sense of aesthetics left; cities unplanned, polluted, crowded, hideous; a people who says it worships its Mighty Himalayas and Sacred Ganges, but which has allowed the former to be nearly completely deforested and the latter to be so polluted, that sometimes it is not even fit for bathing. And Indians cannot put all this on account of poverty, because its rich people are probably the most guilty, often not caring for anything and anybody beyond their own doorstep.
It is true that Buddhism has nearly completely disappeared from the subcontinent, but its rigid spirit endures in subtle ways: Mahatma Gandhi was no doubt influenced by Buddhist non-violence when he refused Churchill’s proposal in 1943 for a Commonwealth status after the Second World War, if India collaborated with the Allies’ efforts against Japan and Germany; or when he constantly gave-in to Muslim intransigence, thereby precipitating India’s Partition. Today, we see that the enemies of a dharmic India often use Buddhism as a weapon, whether it is the much hyped Ambedkar, who advocated conversion of Dalits to Buddhism, as he himself showed, or Indian intellectuals such as Prafulla Bidwai, or Aundhadi Roy, who borrow from Buddhist Thought to show why India should not have the atom bomb (and let itself wipe-out by Pakistan or China, who have no such qualms).
We see also, in a country like Sri Lanka, a very militant Buddhism, chauvinistic in its promotion of Sinhalese interests and anti-Hindu in its persecution of Sri Lankan Tamils. We notice too that new avatars of Buddhism, such as the remarkable Vipassana movement of Shri Goenka, have not fully lost their anti-Hindu slant and are still proponing a very rigid non-violence.
For more than fifty years, China has managed to pretend that it was a friend of India, while covertly, or sometimes even overtly, doing everything to harm India’s interests. Remember how Mr Jaswant Singh came back all glowing from Beijing and announced “that the two sides would enter consultations on establishing a security mechanism”. But a few hours later, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji slapped India in the face : while expressing a token “satisfaction at a new warming in Sino-Indian relations”, he repeatedly kept silent on the proposed security cooperation.
How is it, that after five decades of bitter experience at the hands of the Chinese, of double talk, betrayal and contempt, India still gets hoodwinked by the Chinese ? And on top of that, hasn’t Mr Singh proposed that India and China celebrate 50 years of friendship ? Fifty years of friendship - is that a joke ? Doesn’t Mr Singh know that China still occupies one third of Ladhak, which it took during the 62 war, still claims for herself the whole of Arunachal Pradesh and has not only furnished Pakistan with its missiles (via North Korea), but has given them the know-how to manufacture nuclear weapons ?
How can Mr Singh (who otherwise is a fine gentleman), say that China is not a security menace to India ? Doesn’t he know also that according to the CIA, China has transferred one third of its nuclear arsenal to Nagchuka, 250 kms away from Lhassa, a region full of huge caves, which the Chinese have linked together by an intricate underground network and where they have installed nearly one hundred Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, many of them pointed at Indian cities ? The reason for this is that the Chinese, who are probably among the most intelligent people in the world, have always understood that India is their number one economic, military and nuclear competitor in Asia (remember Beijing’s hysterical reaction after Pokhran II). Does Mr Jaswant Singh also know that the Chinese have killed 1,2 million Tibetans, that 6254 monasteries have been razed to the ground, that 60% of religious, historical and cultural archives have been destroyed and that one Tibetan out of ten is still in jail ? Today a quarter million Chinese troops are occupying Tibet and there are 7,5 million Chinese settlers for six million Tibetans - in fact, in many places such as the capital, Lhassa, Tibetans are outnumbered two to one…
To understand this Indian obsession for hindi-chini bhai bhai, this crave for appeasing China, whatever the cost, one has to go back to Nehru, who had decided that India and China were the natural ‘socialist’ brothers of Asia. Nehru should have had second thoughts when China showed its true face in Tibet - but he chose to ignore the warning. In a brilliant book (Har-Anand), Tibet specialist Claude Arpi throws light for the fist time on the Tibet-China-India triangle and Nehru’s iniquitous role. Mr Arpi first recalls how shortly after Independence, the Indian Army Chief of Staff had drafted the first paper on the threats to India’s security by China, along with recommendations for a clear defence policy. But when Nehru read the paper, he said : “Rubbish. Total Rubbish. We don’t need a defence plan. Our policy is non-violence. We foresee no military threats. Scrap the Army. The police are good enough to meet our security needs.” We know the results of that remark : when the Chinese invaded India in 1962, the Indian army, thanks to Nehru’s blindness and appeasement policy, was totally unprepared and was so badly routed, that the psychological scars even show today.
But the biggest blunder that Nehru did was to betray Tibet, a peaceful spiritualized nation. For Tibet had always been a natural buffer between the two Giants of Asia (in fact, the Dalai Lama’s repeated offer that Tibet becomes a denuclearized, demilitarised zone between India and China, makes total sense today and Indian leaders should have immediately adopted it). But unfortunately, if there is one thing which all political parties in India share, it is the policy of appeasing China in exchange for a non-interference of the Chinese in Kashmir. But what non-interference ? It can be argued that not only China gave Pakistan many of the weapons that it is using - or will be using against India in the future - but it also may be quite possible that Beijing knew in advance of Pakistan’s Kargil plan (in fact Pakistan’s army Chief was in the Chinese capital at the beginning of hostilities). What Mr Jaswant Singh does not understand is that it is not China that has to appeased to contain Pakistan; but rather, ultimately, it should be Pakistan that has to be appeased (in the true sense of the term = making peace with) to contain China. Because everything - bar religion - unites India and Pakistan : customs, languages, culture, ethnic stock, history Whereas India and China have very little in common, except Nehru’s elusive dream of a socialist brotherhood.
It should also be clear that as long as India does not stand-up up to its responsibility towards Tibet and continues to recognise China’s unjust suzerainty of it, there will be no peace in Asia. For China needs space and we have to wake-up to the fact that it has hegemonic aspirations : it got Tibet, it got Hong Kong, it got part of Ladhak; now it wants Taiwan, Arunachal Pradesh, the Spratly islands and what not ! Fifty years ago, during the Korean war India’s great Sage, Sri Aurobindo, had seen clearly in the Chinese game: “the first move in the Chinese Communist plan of campaign is to dominate and take possession first of these northern parts and then of South East Asia as a preliminary to their manoeuvres with regard to the rest of the continent in passing Tibet as a gate opening to India”.
India should also understand that contrary to Indian political leaders, who keep making statements and not acting upon them, China keeps silent, but it ACTS - and then denies having acted with a straight face (like it denies the theft of nuclear secrets from the US). In fact, India should take a lesson or two from the Chinese communist leadership, which first decides upon a clear, one track policy (we will keep Tibet, by all means) - and follows it, regardless of what the world says ! It does not care about a goody-goody image, like India. The story of the Panchen lama is a perfect example of that : Beijing decided that one of the ways of getting rid of the Dalai lama was to provide an alternate source of spiritual leadership to the Tibetans - hence the choice of another Panchen lama, overriding the one chosen by the Dalai lama. Now after six years of indoctrination in Beijing, the counterfeit Panchen lama has surfaced again in Tibet - and its very presence there is further jeopardising the possibility of a free Tibet.
What one does not understand is how the BJP, a party which wants to be different, who has always stressed before coming to power, that it sympathises with the Tibetan people’s aspiration to regain their independence, can follow the same old Congress policy of appeasement towards China ! One should be realistic and learn from Swami Rama Thirtha, a great sage of the beginning of the century :”The policy of appeasement is never successful. It increases the demands of the bully and encourages his unreasonableness. He will never listen to you. On the contrary, he will further insult you, by heaping imaginary allegations on you and finding baseless aberrations”.
100 years later, India has still not learnt that lesson : the need of the day is not “hindi-chini bhai-bhai”, but “hindi-chini bye-bye”.
The Gita and War
The Mahatma Gandhi, as well as many scholars, have seen in Krishna’s discourse to Arjuna, when the latter throws down his bow and says: ” I will- not- fight”, an exhortation not to a physical war, but to an inner war, against one’s own ego and weaknesses. While there is no doubt that the Bhagavad Gita is essentially a divine message of yoga that is of transforming one’s own nature while reaching towards the Absolute, it is also fundamental to understand that it uniquely reconciles war with the notion of duty, dharma.
Since the beginning of times, war has been an integral part of man’s quest. Yet, it is the most misunderstood factor of our human history. And that is but natural, because, as writes Sri Aurobindo in his remarkable ‘Essays on the Gita’: “_Man’s natural tendency is to worship Nature as love and life and beauty and good and to turn away from her grim mask of death”. _Thus, war has often baffled or even repelled man. We saw how Ashoka turned Buddhist after the battle of Kalinga, or in the previous century how some of the American youth refused to participate in the Vietnam war; and we are witnessing today massive protests against the atom bomb.
Yet, what does the Gita say ? That sometimes, when all other means have failed and it is necessary to protect one’s borders, wives, children and culture, war can become dharma. That war is a universal principle of our life, because as says Sri Aurobindo “it is evident that the actual life of man can make no real step forward without a struggle between what exists and lives and what seeks to exist”. And that humanity periodically experiences in its history times in which great forces clash together for a huge destruction, and reconstruction, intellectual, social, moral, religious, political.
The Gita also stresses that there exists a struggle between righteousness and unrighteousness, between the self-affirming law of Good and the forces that oppose its progression. Its message is therefore addressed to those whose duty in life is that of protecting those who are at the mercy of the strong and the violent. “It is only a few religions, writes Sri Aurobindo, which have had the courage, like the Indian, to lift-up the image of the force that acts in the world in the figure not only of the beneficent Durga, but also of the terrible Kali in her blood-stained dance of destruction”. And it is significant that this religion, Hinduism, which had this unflinching honesty and tremendous courage, has succeeded in creating a profound and widespread spirituality such as no other can parallel.
Has India understood this great nationalist message of Gita ? Yes and no. On the one hand you have had Rajputs, Mahrattas, and Sikhs; you have had a Shivaji, a Rani of Jhansi, or a Sri Aurobindo, who, let us remember, gave a call as early as 1906 for the eviction of the British by force if need be at a time when the Congress was not even considering Independence. But on the other hand, apart from these few heroes, the greater mass of India seems to have been for centuries the unresisting prey of invaders. Wave after wave of Muslims intruders were able to loot, rape, kill, raze temples and govern India, because Hindu chieftains kept betraying each other and no national uprising occurred against them; the British got India for a song, bled it dry (20 millions Indians of famine died during British rule), because except for the Great (misguided) Mutiny, there was no wave of nationalism opposed to them until very late; we also saw above how in 1962 the Indian army was routed and humiliated by the Chinese, because Nehru had refused to heed the warnings posed by the Chinese. In December 99, we also witnessed how India reacted during the hijack of the IC flight from Kathmandu: instead of storming the plane when it was in Amritsar, India’s leaders got cowed down by the prospect of human casualties from their own side and surrendered to terrorism. But in the process India’s image and self-esteem suffered a lot and the liberated separatists are now spitting even more venom and terror.
Why is this great nationalistic message of the Gita forgotten ? There are two main factors. The first one, as we have already seen, is Buddhism and the second is the equally rigid non-violent philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. There is a lining in the sky, though: the Kargil war has shown that Hindu, Muslim and Christian soldiers can put their country above their religion and fight along side each other. We see today a new wave of nationalism rising not only in India, but also amongst the very influential expatriate Indian community, particularly in the US. The nationalist message of the Gita is not only still relevant today, but it is essential for India’s survival in the face of so many threats: the “Islamic” Bomb of Pakistan, the hegemonic tendencies of China, or the globalization and westernization of India, which is another form of war. One would be tempted thus to address this message to this wonderful, diverse, and extraordinary country, which has survived so many threats during her eight thousand years history: ARISE AGAIN O INDIA AND REMEMBER KRISHNA’S MESSAGE TO ARJUNA : TRUTH IS THE FOUNDATION OF REAL SPIRITUALITY AND COURAGE ITS SOUL.
Cricket the Vampire
Here is a game which is a colonial legacy of the British. It is meant to be played in a cool weather on a green English meadow with a few spectators who shout “jolly good” from time to time, while sipping lemonade. It is not a game meant for a tropical country where you stand for hours under a blistering sun with frenzied fans screaming their approval or displeasure. Cricket has become an obsession in India
But above all, cricket has totally vampirized all the other sports in India. There is so much money that sponsors, televisions and even the Government has concentrated only on cricket at the expense of all the other sports. For the truth is that India is nowhere on the international area of sports and its standard is pathetic if not ridiculous in all sports except for another two British legacies: tennis and hockey. But look at China, in the early eighties it also could not compete in any discipline, bare table tennis, but in a span of thirty years, it has become a sports superpower in all areas, even in some where it had no natural ability, such as swimming.
Why can’t India, the country which gave to the world hata-yoga, which has been copied the world over, or even pranayama which is now spreading like wildfire all over the planet, have a coherent and comprehensive program which would build world-class athletes in two decades?
Because of cricket! And it is so unfair, athletes such as long distance runners will train in miserable conditions, get a pittance as sponsorship and often have to work full or part time in some obscure Government jobs. Compare this to cricketers who are often spoilt brats, who stay in five star hotels, get millions of rupees in sponsorship and advertisement, are often arrogant and. still manage to lose most of the time!
The INDIAN Government should restrict the number of international matches played by Indian cricketers happening both within and outside India. This will ensure automatically that cricketers get less sponsorship and have to concentrate on home turf. And it should evolve a bold and clear plan for developing other sports, trying as much as possible to bypass bureaucracy who stifle and kill all the good plans (it would maybe make sense to privatize some of the areas such as training). The only will India become a superpower ports. It has the manpower in sports and cricket takes its just place as just another sports where Indian excel.
Luckily, the recent cricket scam, where it has been discovered that players of international repute many of them Indians are in the habit of fixing matches, has put a bit of a damper on cricket madness. But it is not enough, as the game of cricket goes on, as if nothing happened. We need a Government with a clear vision of sports. Unfortunately, many of India’s leaders are too old to think about sports