Truth, Different Paths
By David Frawley 'Vamadeva Shastri'
India possesses a great indigenous civilization dating
back to 7000 BC, such as recent archaeological discoveries at Mehrgarh clearly
reveal. It had the most extensive urban culture in the world in the third
millennium BCE with the many cities of the Indus and Sarasvati rivers.
When the Sarasvati river of Vedic fame dried up in the
second millennium BCE the culture shifted east to the more certain rivers of the
Gangetic plain, which became the dominant region of the subcontinent. Gone is
the old idea of the Aryan invasion and an outside basis for Indian culture. In
its place is the continuity of a civilization and its literature going back to
the earliest period of history. Based on this reclamation of its glorious past
India can now look to the future as the broadest and most enduring culture on
The oldest Indian text and perhaps the oldest book in
the world, the Rig Veda boldly proclaims: "That which is the One Truth the
seers teach in many different ways (Rig Veda I.164.46)," and "May
noble aspirations come to us from every side (Rig Veda I.89.1)." This
bedrock of Indian or Bharatiya pluralism gave rise not only to the many
different sects of Hinduism but also to Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh traditions,
perhaps the largest diversity of spiritual teachings in the entire world. Though
largely misunderstood in the West as polytheism or a worship of many Gods, this
Bharatiya pluralism reflects an open quest for truth and a free flowering of all
human potentials beyond any restriction to a particular name, form or
institution. It embraced art and science as well as religion and metaphysics.
Unfortunately, over the first fifty years since
independence India has not discovered its real roots. Its intellectuals have
mimicked Western trends in thought. They have forgotten their own profound
modern sages like Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo who projected modern and
futuristic views of the Indian tradition. While Westerners come to India seeking
spiritual knowledge, Indian intellectuals look to the West with an adulation
that is often blind, if not obsequious.
The world is now entering into a global age in which
pluralism must be the foundation of world culture. It is no longer a missionary,
colonial or communist era in which one group can be allowed hegemony in the
world. It is a new age of dialogue and respect in which we must learn to honour
and cherish all the cultures of the world. This should start with tribal peoples
who are the custodians of the Earth and of the wisdom of nature that we are so
quickly losing to a destructive technology. It must include the great traditions
of the East like Hinduism and Buddhism which have a firm foundation in tolerance
and synthesis. We must learn to embrace all human beings and their cultures as
part of one great family. Let our differences be a cause for admiration and
celebration, not for mistrust or hatred.
It is time for India to once more be a leader and an
innovator in world culture, rather than a follower and imitator as it is at
present. Sri Aurobindo remarked that India's real role was to be the guru among
the nations of the world. At present it can hardly keep order within its own
frontiers. While we see Indians doing well outside of India as the elite of
foreign lands, inside India they are still floundering. Why is it that India
today cannot nourish or promote the remarkable capacities of its own people?
To change this situation a new vitality and creativity
is necessary that honours the country's venerable traditions but does not
restrict itself to past forms and conventions. Above all, it requires a new
generation of thinkers who are global in outlook but grounded in the practical
spirituality of Yoga and Vedanta. Indian thinkers must return to their cultural
wellsprings, not to stop there, but to create a new vision for humanity. New
rishis, yogis and bodhisattvas must arise to complement the old.
We can already see how such traditional Indian
disciplines as Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta are gaining respect worldwide for
their integral and holistic approach. Such an Indic or dharmic perspective
should be added to enrich religion, philosophy, and science all over the world.
The new generation of Indians should take up this task of world-making as their
goal. The new world order of the computer and the information revolution offers
the country a situation quite favourable to its unique spiritual and
intellectual talents. But for this to occur India must stand up and speak out,
not merely to please everyone, but to blaze a new trail to the universe that
dwells both inside and outside of ourselves.
Such a new India would combine science and spirituality
in a global perspective, adding the intuitive insight of the ancient rishis to
the critical acumen of modern scientists. If a unitary consciousness is indeed
the basis of the universe, as quantum mechanics requires, India's yogis have
already shown the way to realize it. It would create a system of medicine that
would combine the advances of biochemistry along with an understanding of the
life-force and the soul which mirror the greater human being that is cosmic in
nature. The new India would develop our material potentials but for the glory of
the Spirit, the Self of all beings, just as classical India combined a vast
flowering of art, architecture, music and dance along with numerous philosophies
of the absolute and yogic paths. The new India would protect the earth while
reaching out to the planets and stars, reclaiming the paradise that this
tropical land of many rivers used to be. It would honour our spiritual ancestors
and their legacy, fulfilling the deeper urges of our species and not merely
accepting material affluence as enough. It would raise the poor and the
downtrodden, not to convert people to a belief but to help all people become
happy and free in both body and mind.
Such an awakened India is crucial for world culture,
which presently remains trapped between a destructive consumerism on one side
and a rigid religious exclusivism on the other. Today the United States is only
superpower in the world. But it is a superpower in the outer world only. Its
material wealth hides a spiritual poverty and growing psychological and social
unrest. No technological superpower can properly guide the world. Only a
spiritual superpower can do this, which India has the best potential to become.
The question is whether the country and its leaders are willing to make the
sacrifice that this must entail. India holds the Shakti, the spiritual power and
evolutionary force of humanity. It is the great World Mother in her
manifestation. Let its yogic force come forth once again for the benefit of all!