Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Living by "Indian Tradiion"

Arun Shourie told an audience in Coimbatore last Friday that Indians must “know, understand and live according to” Indian tradition. Speaking at a seminar on scientific and cultural perspectives on India, he expanded on the theme as if it were a purely academic matter: knowing Aryabhatta’s work, understanding the mantras of pundits, and studying Hinduism at the university level.

 I’m afraid he missed the point.

 We’ve been so colonially brainwashed, even a scholar like Shourie seems to have lost sight of the fact that the essence of our tradition does not lie in understanding the Word of the Shastras but in our resonance to their Spirit. Hundreds of millions of Indians, most of them uneducated, do know, understand and live by that Spirit. Those who do not, as Shourie unwittingly exemplified, are our urban sophisticates.

 How can I make such an assertion without benefit of survey or study? Because it is a truth that can be deduced from the fact that despite a burden of elite corruption that has no parallel outside China, India continues to be a stable and largely honest country, with its fundamental instincts and affections still guided by the best in our traditions.

And what are the “best” of our traditions?

The philosophical essence lies in the first verse of the Ishopanishad: “God the Ruler pervades all there is in this Universe. Therefore renounce and dedicate all to Him, enjoying or using the portion that may fall to your lot, without coveting what belongs to others.”

Conceptually, the best of our traditions lie in the great idea of Universal Law, Dharma, applied to human life in terms of the moral causality of action, Karma.

Most uneducated Indians live by these fundamentals of our tradition, evincing their faith in personal gods and goddesses, but as the Gita says, bowing ultimately to the Universal Self.

In contrast, the educated classes, especially those who people the realms of power and commerce, have been completely unmoored from the sheet anchor of tradition. The wealthy curled darlings of our nation who now disgrace Tihar jail with their presence, obviously do not believe in Dharma or Karma. Two generations after independence, they seem to be blind even to the large lesson hammered in so mercilessly during colonial rule: that the well-being and safety of our country depend on the integrity of its leaders.

It would be instructive to have them face an inquisitorial television camera on these large issues.

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