Let Us All Work For the Greatness Of India

Afghanistan Fiasco: A Deeper Perspective for India in the Inspiring Words of Swami Vivekananda


Last month, on July 8, The US President Joe Biden announced that America’s “military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31st.” In the time since the statement, the Taliban offensive has overrun city after city across the country. Finally, on Sunday, August 15th, the militant group entered the Afghan capital of Kabul, and seizing the presidential palace, practically took the reign of the country in its hand.

As the Afghan Military put virtually no resistance, the Taliban, in a statement, said its rapid gains showed it was popularly accepted by the Afghan people. The Islamic Emirate, as the Taliban calls itself, “will, as always, protect their life, property and honour, and create a peaceful and secure environment for its beloved nation,” it said.

While the US and several other countries, including India, are hurriedly evacuating their embassies and citizens, amid a lot of rhetoric and opinionated noise, we hear an interesting statement by Imran Khan, the Pakistan’s Prime Minister. He said, “You take over the other culture and become psychologically subservient. When that happens, please remember, it is worse than actual slavery. It is harder to throw off the chains of cultural enslavement. What is happening in Afghanistan now, they have broken the shackles of slavery.”[1] Certainly, the Taliban does not exist in vacuum. The society must have provided the soil and seed. Other external factors might just have provided water. Findings of a research[2] done by Pew in 2013 showed that even after living in the liberal regime for more than 10 years, 99 percent of people in Afghanistan favored making Sharia, the Islamic Law, the official law in their country.

In Pakistan (89%) and Afghanistan (85%), more than eight-in-ten Muslims who want Islamic law as their country’s official law say adulterers should be stoned, and almost same percentage of the people, 76% and 79% respectively, support taking lives of those who convert to other faiths.

Muslims who pray several times a day are more likely to say sharia is the revealed word of God, to say that it has only one interpretation and to support the implementation of Islamic law in their country. There are 26 predominantly Muslim countries which have anchored Islam or a specific form of it in their constitution as a state religion. Among them 8 countries[3] –  Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen – are Sharia ruled.

The above research and also increasing numbers of sharia zones in even most liberal and developed countries, compels one to conclude that these people are rooted in their faith, however barbaric or savage it may be or seem to our sensibilities. Reform, if any, must come from within and can’t be imposed from outside. In the absence of reforms, the cult may collapse under its own weight and inner conflicts.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the Taliban or its ideology and culture must be hailed and supported. Certainly, it is a barbaric cult and its invasion of the country would be regressive according to the modern notions of development, perhaps leading it back to the stone age. But then, isn’t it quite undemocratic to impose democracy on a population where a majority doesn’t want it at all?

Besides, do our modern scientific developments along with the western notions of liberty and equality really take us, or the world, forward? And forward to where? Recent crisis of ‘Covid-19’ pandemic, which is apparently the outcome of such ‘development’ and which brought the world to its knees, proves otherwise. Prospect of the unbridled so-called development is perhaps a complete annihilation of mankind, or any ‘kind’, from the earth. In two of our publications, “The Truth About Modern Polity” and “The Truth About Economic Development”, we have elaborated the subject in detail. To quote a passage from one of the publications, “These latest flowers of modern man’s efforts – Democracy and Capitalism – have been successful in cultivating a more and more acute and shortsighted spirit of utilitarianism among the masses. This is perhaps one of the grossest expressions of man’s egoism and selfishness.[4]

At present India has to chart its course out of two opposite attractions that it has been facing since the nineteenth century and still does – the move towards the orthodox religious spirit or the modern materialistic scientific culture of the West. With the new revival of the nationalistic Hindu spirit this struggle, which seemed to have been moving decisively towards the materialism of the West during the last seventy years after Independence, has become animated again. Even though there is practically hardly any risk of India falling into any kind of orthodoxy, whether native (Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist) or semitic (Muslim or Christian) still we cannot completely rule out the possibility. More than a hundred years ago, Swami Vivekananda – seeing behind appearances with his penetrating spiritual gaze – had seen this issue very clearly. He stated, “There are two great obstacles on our path in India, the Scylla of old orthodoxy and the Charybdis of modern European civilisation. Of these two, I vote for the old orthodoxy, and not for the Europeanised system; for the old orthodox man may be ignorant, he may be crude, but he is a man, he has a faith, he has strength, he stands on his own feet; while the Europeanised man has no backbone, he is a mass of heterogeneous ideas picked up at random from every source – and these ideas are unassimilated, undigested, unharmonised. He does not stand on his own feet, and his head is turning round and round. Where is the motive power of his work? – in a few patronizing pats from the English people. His schemes of reforms, his vehement vituperations against the evils of certain social customs, have, as the mainspring, some European patronage. Why are some of our customs called evils? Because the Europeans say so. That is about the reason he gives. I would not submit to that. Stand and die in your own strength, if there is any sin in the world, it is weakness; avoid all weakness, for weakness is sin, weakness is death. These unbalanced creatures are not yet formed into distinct personalities; what are we to call them – men, women, or animals? While those old orthodox people were staunch and were men. … Stand on your own feet, and assimilate what you can; learn from every nation, take what is of use to you. But remember that as Hindus everything else must be subordinated to our own national ideals. Each man has a mission in life, which is the result of all his infinite past Karma. Each of you was born with a splendid heritage, which is the whole of the infinite past life of your glorious nation. Millions of your ancestors are watching, as it were, every action of yours, so be alert. And what is the mission with which every Hindu child is born? Have you not read the proud declaration of Manu regarding the Brahmin where he says that the birth of the Brahmin is “for the protection of the treasury of religion”? I should say that that is the mission not only of the Brahmin, but of every child, whether boy or girl, who is born in this blessed land “for the protection of the treasury of religion”. And every other problem in life must be subordinated to that one principal theme. That is also the law of harmony in music. There may be a nation whose theme of life is political supremacy; religion and everything else must become subordinate to that one great theme of its life. But here is another nation whose great theme of life is spirituality and renunciation, whose one watchword is that this world is all vanity and a delusion of three days, and everything else, whether science or knowledge, enjoyment or powers, wealth, name, or fame, must be subordinated to that one theme. The secret of a true Hindu’s character lies in the subordination of his knowledge of European sciences and learning, of his wealth, position, and name, to that one principal theme which is inborn in every Hindu child – the spirituality and purity of the race. Therefore between these two, the case of the orthodox man who has the whole of that life-spring of the race, spirituality, and the other man whose hands are full of Western imitation jewels but has no hold on the life-giving principle, spirituality – of these, I do not doubt that every one here will agree that we should choose the first, the orthodox, because there is some hope in him – he has the national theme, something to hold to; so he will live, but the other will die. …But mark you, if you give up that spirituality, leaving it aside to go after the materialising civilisation of the West, the result will be that in three generations you will be an extinct race; because the backbone of the nation will be broken, the foundation upon which the national edifice has been built will be undermined, and the result will be annihilation all round.”[5] “… the way out is that first and foremost we must keep a firm hold on spirituality – that inestimable gift handed down to us by our ancient forefathers. Did you ever hear of a country where the greatest kings tried to trace their descent not to kings, not to robber-barons living in old castles who plundered poor travellers, but to semi-naked sages who lived in the forest? Did you ever hear of such a land? This is the land. In other countries great priests try to trace their descent to some king, but here the greatest kings would trace their descent to some ancient priest. Therefore, whether you believe in spirituality or not, for the sake of the national life, you have to get a hold on spirituality and keep to it. Then stretch the other hand out and gain all you can from other races, but everything must be subordinated to that one ideal of life; and out of that a wonderful, glorious, future India will come – I am sure it is coming – a greater India than ever was. Sages will spring up greater than all the ancient sages; and your ancestors will not only be satisfied, but I am sure, they will be proud from their positions in other worlds to look down upon their descendants, so glorious, and so great.

Let us all work hard, my brethren; this is no time for sleep. On our work depends the coming of the India of the future. She is there ready waiting. She is only sleeping. Arise and awake and see her seated here on her eternal throne, rejuvenated, more glorious than she ever was – this motherland of ours. The idea of God was nowhere else ever so fully developed as in this motherland of ours, for the same idea of God never existed anywhere else. Perhaps you are astonished at my assertion; but show me any idea of God from any other scripture equal to ours; they have only clan-Gods, the God of the Jews, the God of the Arabs, and of such and such a race, and their God is fighting the Gods of the other races. But the idea of that beneficent, most merciful God, our father, our mother, our friend, the friend of our friends, the soul of our souls, is here and here alone. And may He who is the Shiva of the Shaivites, the Vishnu of the Vaishnavites, the Karma of the Karmis, the Buddha of the Buddhists, the Jina of the Jains, the Jehovah of the Christians and the Jews, the Allah of the Mohammedans, the Lord of every sect, the Brahman of the Vedantists, He the all-pervading, whose glory has been known only in this land – may He bless us, may He help us, may He give strength unto us, energy unto us, to carry this idea into practice. May that which we have listened to and studied become food to us, may it become strength in us, may it become energy in us to help each other; may we, the teacher and the taught, not be jealous of each other! Peace, peace, peace, in the name of Hari!”[6]

“Let them talk of India’s regeneration as they like. Let me tell you as one who has been working – at least trying to work – all his life, that there is no regeneration for India until you be spiritual. Not only so, but upon it depends the welfare of the whole world. For I must tell you frankly that the very foundations of Western civilisation have been shaken to their base. The mightiest buildings, if built upon the loose sand foundations of materialism, must come to grief one day, must totter to their destruction some day. The history of the world is our witness. Nation after nation has arisen and based its greatness upon materialism, declaring man was all matter. Ay, in Western language, a man gives up the ghost, but in our language a man gives up his body. The Western man is a body first, and then he has a soul; with us a man is a soul and spirit, and he has a body. Therein lies a world of difference. All such civilisations, therefore, as have been based upon such sand foundations as material comfort and all that, have disappeared one after another, after short lives, from the face of the world; but the civilisation of India and the other nations that have stood at India’s feet to listen and learn, namely, Japan and China, live even to the present day, and there are signs even of revival among them. Their lives are like that of the Phoenix, a thousand times destroyed, but ready to spring up again more glorious. But a materialistic civilisation once dashed down, never can come up again; that building once thrown down is broken into pieces once for all. Therefore, have patience and wait, the future is in store for us.

Do not be in a hurry, do not go out to imitate anybody else. This is another great lesson we have to remember; imitation is not civilisation. I may deck myself out in a Raja’s dress, but will that make me a Raja? An ass in a lion’s skin never makes a lion. Imitation, cowardly imitation, never makes for progress. It is verily the sign of awful degradation in a man. Ay, when a man has begun to hate himself, then the last blow has come. When a man has begun to be ashamed of his ancestors, the end has come. Here am I, one of the least of the Hindu race, yet proud of my race, proud of my ancestors. I am proud to call myself a Hindu, I am proud that I am one of your unworthy servants. I am proud that I am a countryman of yours, you the descendants of the sages, you the descendants of the most glorious Rishis the world ever saw. Therefore have faith in yourselves, be proud of your ancestors, instead of being ashamed of them. And do not imitate, do not imitate!”[7]

These words of Swami Vivekananda should leave one in no doubt about the vulgarity of the course we have been following in India, especially after Independence. It is right that we tolerate all faiths and beliefs and assert a man’s right to chart his chosen course in life so long as he does not refuse the right of others to do the same. Semitic religions have still to learn this kind of tolerance. As long as they maintain a spirit of conversion forced or otherwise, one has to be on one’s guard against the tendency and defend oneself by whatever means necessary. India suffered for almost a millennium at the hands of savage and uncivilised hoards largely because of the failure of Indians to rise to the true virile spirit of Sanatana Dharma sticking, instead, tamasically to the tolerant spirit of Ascetic Spirituality even going so far as to be tolerating that which ought not to be tolerated for the good of everyone. Forceful resistance – certainly India was not without a great deal of it – to such tyranny or intolerance is in line with the true spirit of Sanatana Dharma and brings about the real well-being of all including of the perpetrators of tyranny. To see things clearly is to know that “it is also the divine compassion that smites down the strong tyrant and the confident oppressor, not in wrath and with hatred, – for these are not the high divine qualities, the wrath of God against the sinner, God’s hatred of the wicked are the fables of half-enlightened creeds, as much a fable as the eternal torture of the Hells they have invented, – but, as the old Indian spirituality clearly saw, with as much love and compassion for the strong Titan erring by his strength and slain for his sins as for the sufferer and the oppressed who have to be saved from his violence and injustice.”[8]

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/asia/south-asia/taliban-pakistan-imran-khan-afghanistan-b1903821.html

[2] https://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-beliefs-about-sharia

[3] https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/countries-that-follow-sharia-law.html

[4] The Truth about Modern Polity, Page 76.

[5] CWSV 3: 151-53

[6] CWSV 3: 153-54

[7] CWSV 3: 380-81

[8] CWSA 19: 58-59

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