Bharat – India: Continuity or Two Worlds?

A Right judgment of the life-value of Indian philosophy is intimately bound up with a right appreciation of life-value of Indian religion; religion and philosophy are too intimately one in this culture to be divided from each other. 

Sri Aurobindo, The Foundations of Indian Culture. 

Bharat is an ancient Civilizational State and India is a young Nation State. Bharat evokes a deep sense of timelessness even as it responds to specific historical time. It is as modern as it is ancient. Like the innumerable names of Hindu Gods and Goddesses that describe aspects of their traits and actions, Bharat – the original name carries layers of meaning – from “Seekers of Truth” to a combination of Bhava – aestheticized emotions (Rasa) and Raga – melodic flow that denotes freedom, open-endedness and a variety of moods and seasons and hour of the day, and Tala – that denotes Rhythms of Life, structure, convention, Grammar and a momentary closure in an open world. Bharat stands as an emblem of all these wondrous qualities. 

India is a name given by the Other – perhaps based on the Indus River that flows in this region. It is a geographical marker, without a whole lot of layers of meaning. At the very time of its birth – India – at least in its narrative text – detached itself from Bharat – in an attempt to be like other European Nation States. When an individual or a nation takes on a name given by the other, we also take on the attributes and traits that the dominant other assigns to you. More than the name, the assigned attributes do considerable damage to one’s identity and psychological well-being. One relinquishes authorship of their self-image, their lived past and their civilizational genome and this leads to poor self-esteem and even hatred for the self. 

Since, I am a Professor of Psychology, let me begin with family as a unit of analysis before getting to the nation. In any authoritarian household, some members yield as they prefer to take the path of minimal resistance and/or reap the rewards of conformity. They often are ill-equipped with psychological resources to resist and retaliate. With this mind set they see the authoritarianism as a natural order of life to keep the family intact. Or worse, they don’t even see it as authoritarian, but as something charismatic and desirable. As they grow up with this mindset, they prefer not to even recollect the events of family life. Remembering is too costly. But there will be a few who resist. They challenge and they tend to quickly get branded as troublemakers. Unlike the conformists, they receive no rewards. When they tend to remember the past, they are given long sermons – “move on,” “stop being bitter and angry,” “others in the world have suffered even more,” “get over it,” – and these are the ways to mute inconvenient truths. Whereas, the conformists, when they get the first opportunity, they become even more vicious in wielding power. The logic is simple – if you can’t beat them – join them. Thus, the cycle repeats. On the other hand, the ones who resist have the potential to grow and transform, despite persistent vilification and marginalization, because they did not stray away from truth. The irony is glaring – the weak and timid who would never enter the battlefield – preach to the warrior. 

The pattern is similar, even for a civilization like Bharat that has faced conquest after conquest and engaged in mutiny after mutiny. India as a Nation State – from the time of its birth – did not want to record the conquest or has whitewashed the conquest or even worse, pointed out the merits and benefits of conquest – and more tragically refused to highlight the innumerable mutinies and resistance that occurred for so long in so many regions of the land by so many brave warriors. Instead, it gave a victim narrative. Like a family that wants to hide its dysfunction and not even bring it to conscious awareness, India as a nation recorded a distorted history, in a misguided attempt to maintain societal harmony. The Islamic invasion looted and destroyed temples, converted millions to Islam and ruled by the sword and the British Imperialism did something even more insidious – they too looted the wealth and converted millions to Christianity by force and succeeded in invading the mind. The Human Mind – the most valuable apparatus that we have is also the most colonized site. Even decades after the British left the Indian soil, the Indian mind is yet to rid itself of the colonial categories of viewing the world, and this the most tragic chapter in modern Indian history. Lately, what we are witnessing is a very dangerous trend: India turning against Bharat.  

And now, we have no one to blame except ourselves. Furthermore, ongoing destructive chaos only fulfills the colonizer’s fantasy – that India would splinter due to its own folly. Therefore, it is incumbent on every citizen and well-wisher of India to be vigilant to this danger and take necessary corrective steps. Fortunately, India need not look for corrective measures elsewhere; just turn towards Bharat. 

Bharat/India – Defining Features

Had the Nation State India defined itself as a continuation of the Civilizational State Bharat, this discussion would not be necessary at all. Since there are numerous distinctions, they must be pointed out. Bharat is the birthplace of numerous faiths: Sanatana Dharma is Anadi – Timeless Eternal Truth and has no beginning and it is the genesis of other Dharmic Systems like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism and many more and all of them are inclined towards spirituality and they are not rigid codified religions. Furthermore, they are time-tested methodologies to be on a path towards Higher Truth. Thus, Bharat is a land of Seekers and not Believers, this land calls for verification and experimentation in its search for higher truth and not blind acceptance. Therefore, Science and Faith go hand in hand, not as polarities. Bharat also made room for belief systems that came from outside and if I may dare say added lustre to those faiths, in spite of facing brutal atrocities and forced conversions. Thus, diversity in faith, customs, practices within and between religions is part of its civilizational genome body. While Bharat ensured freedom for all faiths, post-Independent India defined itself as secular along the Western-European lines – that is, freedom from religion in public affairs. The principle of secularism and the practice of it moved far away from the spirit of it that Bharat espoused. The spirit was Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava – recognizing and respecting innumerable paths towards Truth. The secularism of India erased the distinctions between religions and placed Indic faiths within the Abrahamic framework, in the name of Universalism.  

Unfortunately, the educational institutions, particularly universities have aided in crystallizing the colonial forces operating in the mind. In post-independent India, the academia has been defined and dominated by the Left and very literally abided by the Marxist dictum that – Religion is the opium of the masses – and thus religion became undifferentiated, and all faiths thrown into one basket and seen as source of all evil and conflicts. In order to advance this characterization – imported from the western history and ethos – India detached itself from Bharat, whose very identity is spirituality and intense faith. Sanatana Dharma sanctions ample freedom for its seekers to choose their path, their Sampradaya, their language and their personal and preferred God from the Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. Hence this eternal truth of Bharat is never meant to be a codified religion. Whereas secularism sought freedom from religion and paradoxically created its own dogma and religion. Therefore, universities did not tap into the intellectual traditions of Bharat to make sense of the world around us. Vedic-Puranic texts and philosophies of ancient Bharat were confined primarily to Sanskrit and Indic Studies departments that did not enjoy any elevated status.  

The philosophical traditions of Ancient Bharat have not left any topic untouched: Epistemology, Logic, Ethics, Philology, Aesthetics, Performing Arts, Philosophy of the Body – the upper and the lower stratum of the body – Laughter and Satire, Subtleties of Dharma, Political Science and much more, and each of these topics have divergent viewpoints. These philosophical systems are neither exotic nor other worldly; they are rigorous, dialogic, and incredibly persuasive with remarkable explanatory capability. These topics are grounded within the Advaita – Non-Dualism framework. Universities in India paid very little attention to these home-grown knowledge systems and instead looked towards western philosophies. These imported philosophies did not necessarily serve as equal partners in a dialogue with philosophies of ancient Bharat; instead, they came to replace indigenous knowledge systems to dominate and discredit them. Furthermore, the philosophies that took shape in other cultural soil operate to a large extent on dualistic principles and tend to hit an impasse not only on the Indian soil but actually even in the western world. Hence, students in the universities become ill-equipped to make sense of incredible diversity that characterizes Bharat/India. 

In recent years, the western world is dealing with concepts like Pluralism and Dialogue, whereas long before these topics became vogue in the West, ancient Bharat addressed the Philosophy of Dialogue in an amazingly comprehensive manner. In this globalized world, with close encounters with other cultures, the world has no choice, but turn towards knowledge systems that Bharat had worked out. India no longer can afford to ignore Bharat. 

What ails universities in India is much more than ignoring Bharat; in fact, it is becoming cataclysmic. The Left dominated universities packed with what Vivek Agnihotri has termed as “Urban Naxals” have been turning students into directionless and mindless warriors in an all-out frontal attack on their own civilization. Instead of awakening students’ mind, educators are using them as mechanical mouthpieces and foot soldiers to carry out their bogus and dangerous ideologies. In his films – Buddha in a Traffic Jam and The Kashmir Files – Vivek Agnihotri introduces us to cunning, manipulative, and brain-washing educators – in the former played by Anupam Kher and in the latter played by Pallavi Joshi – both viler and more diabolical than Mama Sakuni in The Mahabharata. These educators had in their possession all the empty rhetoric to poison the minds of students. For decades, this dangerous trend remained not only unchecked, but also encouraged and rewarded. The real tragedy is the contemporary world is waging war with its own ancestry. India at war with Bharat.  

The most glaring and horrific attacks on Bharat Mata has been happening in Kashmir – literally and figuratively her head. As the Shakti Peeth Sloka says, Kasmiretu Saraswati – this land is the site of Learning since time immemorial. The Sharada Civilization is the hallmark of Bharat – profound, pluralistic, dialogic, and open-ended with timeless and timely philosophies on every topic one can think of and this rich civilization has been persistently under attack by the Sharia Law. From the time of its birth, India turned this region into a perennial conflict zone and failed to safeguard the Sharada Civilization against the Sharia onslaught. Named after Sage Kashyap the Kashmir valley has become a permanent site for Devasur Sangram. This perpetual conflict reached a boiling point that resulted in Hindu Genocide in 1990, when the Kashmiri Pandits were brutally slaughtered and forced to flee the valley. 

The great Tamil Nationalist poet – Subramania Bharati – wrote long before the birth of India – Bharata Desam Endre Peyar Solluvar, Midi Bhayam Kolluvar… just the mere utterance of Bharat kills fear… in such a land people deserve freedom from fear. Destructive forces must be eradicated. It is the most tragic chapter in India that Kashmiri Pandits faced so much unimaginable terror. 

This horror was brilliantly and truthfully depicted by Vivek Agnihotri in his recent film – The Kashmir Files. Undoubtedly, this film has touched a raw nerve of India. The nation heard the story that was hidden and/or distorted for decades – the governments, media and universities played a very reckless and sinister role in it – but the evidence presented in the film could no longer be disputed. Discussions around the film pointed out that equal or a greater number of Muslims in Kashmir were killed in years of conflict, that is, when they went against the local commander. YES, that fact also is uncontested. But who killed them? Not the Kashmir Pandits. They fell prey to the same Sharia Law that assaulted the Sharada Civilization. It is important to remind ourselves that Sharada and Sufi can co-exist in harmony, but Sharia is a danger to both. We need to be very clear in identifying the source of danger – not the peaceful Muslims of India, but the radical global Islam that is spreading everywhere. 

It is in the soil of Bharat that Sufi tradition flourished and most certainly India must safeguard that tradition. The past of Bharat has been so chequered that we must consider all the trends – the good, the bad and the ugly. Fortunately, the corrective measure for the division between Bharat and India can be found only in Bharat. The complicated past allows us the pick-up and highlight what has been desirable. Think about innumerable Ustads and Begums who have been singing Bhajans with intense devotion. The list is endless. I learnt Carnatic Music from Tamil Mami and Hindustani Music, mainly Bhajans from Khan Saab. These relationships – be it with Mami or Khan Saab – are simply sacred. No amount of ugliness in the streets can sully this relationship. In various walks of life, we are routinely in such special relationships. The atrocities of the past, that continue to repeat in many forms is real and the sacred bonding is also real. And the innocents need not pay the price for the sins of their forefathers. That said, the innocents cannot take umbrage at any mention of the truth of the past, despite their understandable discomfiture. Mami and other Vidwans from whom I learnt Carnatic Music and Bhajans of Tulsidas, Kabir, Guru Nanak and many other innumerable Sants that Khan Saab taught me – they stand as emblems of living Bharatiya Sampradaya. When Sant Khalas, a Muslim poet writes in his beautiful composition – Ram Nama Jap Leejo Pyare… meditate on the name of Ram – he belongs to the same galaxy of Sants and Sadhus Bharat has produced. 

The Civilizational State of Bharat recommends three D’s – Difference, Dialogue and Development – that is, the reality of Differences in the culture in every realm, that perhaps nowhere in the world we find such a cornucopia of differences – necessitates a Dialogue. The call for dialogue is very strong in a pluralistic world and responding to that call can lead to Development of individuals and culture alike. Unfortunately, the Nation State of India seems to be operating on different D’s – Differences leading to Dispute and consequently leading to Destruction. The three D’s of Bharat promotes fecundity of mind, while the three D’s of India leads to impoverishment of human life. 

Hope will emerge when India conjoins with the wonder called Bharat.

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