The world, perhaps as usual, is in a state of crisis. Yet unlike previous crises, which were local in nature, the fate of the globe itself is now at stake, not only humanity but all life on Earth is threatened. And in this extremity no nation has yet arisen as a defender of the Truth or spokesperson for the spiritual values of humanity.
The communist nations, after decades of floundering in confusion and corruption, have recently faded with the collapse of their economic structures through perpetual mismanagement. Only the ghost or shadow of communism lingers, while whatever idealism it might have had has been traded in for personal gain.
The capitalistic nations strive to maintain their wealth and affluence by exploiting the planet, selfishly consuming the future resources of humanity for their present transient enjoyment. Between new technological wonders and a growing disillusionment with material gains, they move at an uneasy pace.
The underdeveloped or third world falters under exploitation both within and without. Some poor nations slide backwards and carve up their forests to cover short term economic debts to the wealthier countries. Others strain to recover from civil wars fed by arms suppliers from wealthy nations abroad. Yet others are held back by ever growing populations.
Famine and disease lurk behind them and prey on them periodically, threatening an all out attack on them in the coming years. The environment of the planet is reeling under all forms of chemical and industrial pollution and toxic wastes. The Earth is groaning under the weight of human greed and a sense of great planetary changes, climatic and atmospheric appears imminent.
Will we be able to continue as we have without something major going wrong in the natural world that we have spoiled? Even if we avoid nuclear war our wastes may prove as lethal as our bombs. Our very medicine itself, which attacks nature, may create the new diseases that will bring down our excessive numbers.
Most of the religions of the world, remnants of worn medieval mind, struggle between a new secular modernism and an old retarded fundamentalism. Some are still trying to impose their selfish will upon the world and convert the planet to their narrow beliefs – that theirs is the only true God, prophet or holy book – as if the acceptance of their religious dogma would somehow solve our human problems.
Other religions have comprised and are willing to take a corner in the new material age, bowing down to science as long as they are given a place to continue ruling over their diminished flocks. The great spiritual traditions of the East, Hinduism and Buddhism, do battle with the economic and ideological forces of the West, and the continued shadow of proselytizing Western religions which would still destroy them if they could.
In this struggle we must ask: Where is India? and what role does she have to play? India too struggles with ethnic and religious divisions, with a rapid and often ugly industrialism, with a plundered land and a population out of control. She has here leftists and communists who have twisted her economy and tried to turn the souls of her people against her spiritual heritage.
She has her new capitalists ready to make quick money or to ally themselves with the multinational corporations who see India as a great new land to exploit. Where is the soul of India today? Where is her will? She tries to stand for the underdeveloped world, for peace, tolerance, the unity of humanity and respect for all religions. But her direction is not clear. It appears that she can’t even discipline herself.
Western secularism, a popular culture caught up in superficial sensation, marks one line of attack against her. Western religions, their exclusive belief systems and their vast resources spent on conversion, attach on the other side. India would like to please everyone. And each group, religious, ethnic or political wants their portion of the country.
Separatism reigns, with each group placing its own interests before that of the country as a whole. Everyone wants to take and no one appears willing to give. No one is standing firm to halt this tide of growing sectarianism, selfishness and materialism. In this battle the modern Hindu does not want to fight, or even to speak out.
He accepts the growing secularism and sensationalism coming to his culture from the West, as perhaps necessary for economic growth, or may even see it as progressive, modern and humanitarian.
He tolerates in silence the continuing assaults on his culture and its spiritual values from Islamic and Christian forces within his own land. He doesn’t like to criticize anyone’s religion even if they mock his. He seems weak, in disarray, without confidence or self-esteem. He appears to think that if he ignores these things they will go away in time, but like an infection they continue to spread and poison the country.
The image of the passive Hindu has arisen:
“They do not resist. They do not stand firm. You can take anything you want from them and they won’t say anything. They retire in fear, though they hold on to their superstitions. First, they let the Muslims conquer them, then the British. They seldom fought back. They often joined hands with their conquerors and took sides against their own people. Now that they are free they don’t know who they are or what to do. They don’t know how to rule themselves. They are used to being ruled. They are lucky their country doesn’t fall apart. They are looking for a new conqueror, perhaps the economic forces of the West.”
Such are the ideas about India that one hears today. But classical India was never passive and resigned, never gave up without resistance, never gave in without defending Truth in all possible ways. India was a land of great sages and yogis, like Buddha and Shankara, but they were not merely concerned with the Transcendent, they tried to raise up the country and unite it toward a higher goal, turning it into a land where the spiritual life was honored.
India was also the land of Rama and Krishna, of great kings and warriors who knew how to rule according to a higher law and protect the spiritual life. India was not a land contracted in itself but open and expansive, spreading its culture of yoga and enlightenment across the seas.
In time the riches of India became the great spoil for all the kings and peoples of the Middle East and Central Asia to assault. Some of these forces gradually made headway into the country. Native dynasties arose in time and drove the invaders out. They did not compromise with outsiders who were inimical to their spiritual heritage. While India’s kings gave refuge to the oppressed, they did not bow down before the forces of exploitation.
Even the Muslims made dozens of invasions before they ever gained a foothold. The souls who strove so hard, who gave up everything, including their lives, to maintain a land where the spiritual life could flourish should not be forgotten. We must call on them to return again.
Today India as a whole appears to be in the dejection of Arjuna, standing between two great armies before the great and unavoidable battle. “He has no will to fight. He does not believe in his cause. He would rather let others win than have to challenge or defeat them though he could. It is not simply cowardice that motivates him. It is sensitive soul that does not delight in conflict.”
This is how the spirit of the country appears. But life is always Kurukshetra. There is always a difficult choice that has to be made. There are always two forces in life, not simply the good and the bad but the ascending force of spiritual growth and the descending force of worldly illusion and division. Nor are the two forces entirely separate. What is one day a spiritual force may in time become a force of ignorance and falsehood once its spirit is lost.
These forces cut across humanity and may divide a nation or a family, not to speak of the world itself. To not be willing to face opposition, even from those whom we love if necessary, is to accept the force of decay. This does not mean to be aggressive or violent but to take a stand for the Truth, even if the world turns against us.
“Arise Arjuna! Yours is not a battle at one point of time only. It is for all time. It must be fought over and over again, even for eternity. Truth cannot compromise itself with falsehood. Someone has to hold the limit. If not you, who will it be? And what will you say to your children? What will you bequeath them having surrendered your soul without a struggle?
What would Arjuna say in these circumstances:
“I will not give in, even one inch to the forces of destruction. If I must be sacrificed, so be it. But I will dedicate my total effort to the fight. Death in the battle is preferable to a life without dignity. The Dharma must be upheld. With adharma there can be no tolerance. We cannot rest until it is completely removed and first it must be stripped from our own hearts.”
Such is the spirit that India and the entire world need today. As a Westerner who has followed Hindu spiritual teachings for over thirty years, returning to the West from India I find some people who delight in the problems of India and other who ignore them. I tell them that to take pleasure in the problems of India is to delight in the sufferings of one’s own mother, as India is the mother of the world.
India is like the heart center of the planet. That the heart of the globe suffers is not surprising when the head and the hands of the world (Western scientific and technological cultures) are acting without a heart, are living as though their petty pleasures alone were real, anaesthetized to the suffering of the majority of humanity.
India may have difficulties by they only reflect those of the world as a whole. Hence my concern with the fate of India though I am not an India. The fate of India mirrors the real conditions of the world.
A force inner strength and spiritual guidance for the world is unlikely to come from the countries of the West. The West is too immature, too distorted by the mass media and its culture of self-indulgence. Its spirituality is mixed with a seeking of new sensations and personal achievement, trapped in the body and intellect, and generally far short of any real renunciation or realization.
Westerners are more concerned with their own personal, emotional and family problems, not with any greater life of service or spiritual practice. Though there are those in the West who appreciate true spirituality and their number is growing, they are still too small to produce the kind of spiritual leadership that the world needs.
Such a spiritual force is less likely to come from Islamic countries. They are still caught in a karma of violence and oppression, in a religion that is more a political movement to gain worldly power, than any spiritual search. Their religion is dominated by fundamentalism and militancy, not with respect for life and seeking of truth.
China, the other great culture of Asia like India, unfortunately will take decades to assimilate communism and develop economically before recovering its more spiritual roots, but it too will arise in time. Its great Buddhist and Taoist traditions are too strong to remain suppressed for much longer.
India alone as a country has the potential to take the role of spiritually guiding the world. But if there is corruption in India, in its leaders and thinkers, it can have no moral force in the world or even within its own borders. Or if India is unwilling to offend any country, group or religion by challenging the negative and thoughtless practices of our times, it will have no voice.
To compromise with falsehood is not tolerance or nonviolence. It is self-destruction. To turn away in fear or hesitation, not to stand up for what one believes is true, is not modesty but self-betrayal. The world needs a spiritual and moral force that speaks out, or a Divine silence that makes us question all that we do.
Not only the leaders of India, Whether political, intellectual or religious, must arise with the force of Arjuna, they must defend humanity as a whole, the environment as a whole, the Earth as our Mother, religion as a force of universality and peace. This is not merely to tell everyone that they are right and approve of all cultures and all religions. It is to be the conscience of the world and most people will not like to hear its voice, as we have been ignoring it so much and for so long.
The true leaders and teachers of India-those who are willing to defend at all costs the religion of Truth and the culture of universality-must speak out. And if they do, Vishnu will come again and for the whole world. However for this to occur India must undergo a radical change. India today does not represent the soul of India but only its shadow. It is inexcusable for the land of the Rishis to be filled with such corruption, ignorance and servility as pervades the country today.
Those who know the true spiritual greatness of India can only be shocked and disheartened to see the state of the country. Yet the rest of the world is no better. The Western world has only succeeded in greed, materialism and religious dogma, not in the spiritual life. For this India, with all its short-comings, still holds the torch, however feeble. Let India awaken and for this the true spirit of Arjuna must arise! This is the prayer for the world’s deliverance.