matriwords

Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)

Hinduism and India’s Future – Part 1 (by Kittu Reddy)

Note from matriwords:

Sri Aurobindo’s insights and commentaries presented in his essays, letters, speeches, and talks on various aspects related to India – her culture, civilisation, religion, politics, society – are amazingly vast, rich and deep. Though more than a hundred years have gone by since he wrote bulk of his writings on these topics, they remain just as relevant today and perhaps more so. Indians and anyone else wanting to get in touch with the spirit of India can not afford to ignore a study of Sri Aurobindo’s remarkable insights on India and her mission for the world and humanity.
One of the aims of Matriwords is to present selected contemporary writings that bring to light some key insights from Sri Aurobindo in a form which helps readers see their great significance in the present social-cultural context. We are delighted to share one such essay today. 
Hinduism and India’s Future is an important writing from one of our teachers, Prof. Kittu Reddy. For all who are interested in a real renaissance of India, a true renewal of the truths Indian civilisation and culture stand for, this should be a must-read. We are happy to present this essay in a serialised form on Matriwords.
Living Faith-Dinesh Khanna

Living Faith by Dinesh Khanna

Indian culture has been from the beginning and has remained a spiritual, an inward-looking religio-philosophical culture. Everything else in it has derived from that one central and original peculiarity or has been in some way dependent on it or subordinate to it; even external life has been subjected to the inward look of the spirit. (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, The Renaissance of India and Other Essays on Indian Culture, p. 108)

It is this inward-looking religio-philosophical culture which goes by the name of Hinduism. However, in modern times, both in India and abroad, it is under severe attack and is often branded as communal, narrow and reactionary.

Let us therefore take a close look at the true and deeper meaning of Hinduism; we will then be in a position to make a sound judgment and then follow it up by making the necessary corrections and remove all the misunderstandings, genuine and deliberate, that have recently cropped up.

In one of his letters, Sri Aurobindo writes:

…as for Hindu culture, it is not such a weak and fluffy thing as to be easily stamped out; it has lasted through something like 5 millenniums and is going to carry on much longer and has accumulated quite enough power to survive. (CWSA, Vol. 35, Letters on Himself and the Ashram, p. 208)

From where does this power to survive emanate? Wherein lies the secret strength that has enabled it to last so long and is even now considered by many enlightened persons both in India and abroad as a powerful instrument for the betterment of human life?

To understand this phenomenon of survival, let us cast a quick look at the history of civilizations and cultures. We see that all civilizations go through the cycle of birth, growth and death. As a matter of fact, most of the ancient civilizations have not survived and some have disappeared. This phenomenon has been explained succinctly by Sri Aurobindo in the following words:

A people, a great human collectivity, is in fact an organic living being with a collective or rather—for the word collective is too mechanical to be true to the inner reality—a common or communal soul, mind and body. The life of the society like the physical life of the individual human being passes through a cycle of birth, growth, youth, ripeness and decline, and if this last stage goes far enough without any arrest of its course towards decadence, it may perish,—even so all the older peoples and nations except India and China perished,—as a man dies of old age. But the collective being has too the capacity of renewing itself, of a recovery and a new cycle. For in each people there is a soul idea or life idea at work, less mortal than its body, and if this idea is itself sufficiently powerful, large and force-giving and the people sufficiently strong, vital and plastic in mind and temperament to combine stability with a constant enlargement or new application of the power of the soul idea or life idea in its being, it may pass through many such cycles before it comes to a final exhaustion. Moreover, the idea is itself only the principle of soul manifestation of the communal being and each communal soul again a manifestation and vehicle of the greater eternal spirit that expresses itself in Time and on earth is seeking, as it were, its own fullness in humanity through the vicissitudes of the human cycles. A people then which learns to live consciously not solely in its physical and outward life, not even only in that and the power of the life idea or soul idea that governs the changes of its development and is the key to its psychology and temperament, but in the soul and spirit behind, may not at all exhaust itself, may not end by disappearance or a dissolution or a fusion into others or have to give place to a new race and people, but having itself fused into its life many original smaller societies and attained to its maximum natural growth pass without death through many renascences. And even if at any time it appears to be on the point of absolute exhaustion and dissolution, it may recover by the force of the spirit and begin another and perhaps a more glorious cycle. The history of India has been that of the life of such a people. (CWSA, Vol. 20, pp 396-97, emphasis added)

The Decline of Indian Culture

Sometime in the middle of the 19th century, it seemed and was thought by many historians and observers that India was at the point of dissolution. The society was steeped in superstition, manacled by primitive customs, and it seemed that the sense of community had all but vanished. The country was facing a crisis of immense proportions.

The situation was similar to what India had faced earlier in the 14th century. At that time, the question was the continuity of India’s life – whether her separate identity in culture, social organization, religion and thought would be maintained or whether she would be merged in the expanding commonwealth of Islam. Then, India was saved by the spiritual revival of the 14th and 15th centuries.

This time, in the 19th century the question was different – it was not only about the continuance of the Hindu culture. Rather, the bigger problem facing India now was the confrontation of a superior, expanding and highly dynamic civilization with an old, static and as it appeared decaying culture. India was colonised by a civilization which was convinced not only of its own incomparable greatness, economic strength, and technological and scientific superiority but was moved by a firm belief that the form of life it represented was the final one to which all others must conform. Along with this there was another problem that confronted Indian culture – it was the relationship of Hinduism with Islam and the problem of their coexistence in the new circumstances under the domination of a people alien to both.

It was at this critical moment that the Indian renaissance began and this was essentially due to the manner in which Hinduism reacted to the foreign domination. This reaction, which first started in Bengal, spread to all other parts of the country and included all the fields of culture. The sole exception was in the political field; for, till the end of the nineteenth century, British rule was accepted as a beneficent development. Raja Rammohan Roy publicly thanked God for having placed India under the British rule. Prasanna Kumar Tagore declared: “If we were asked what government we would prefer, English or any other, we would one and all reply English by all means, even in preference to a Hindu government.”

To be continued….

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About Beloo Mehra

Beloo is the author of two books, one on Indian Education, titled "ABC’s of Indian National Education" and an ebook featuring a selection of her essays, titled "The Thinking Indian." She holds several degrees in Education and Economics, has extensive teaching experience at school and university level in India and the US, and has a keen interest in the educational, social and cultural thought of Sri Aurobindo. She currently lives in Pondicherry, spends her time doing some reading, some writing, some teaching, some gardening and a whole lot of reflecting on life, living, society, politics, religion, art, literature, India, the World, and everything else under the Sun and the Moon.

9 comments on “Hinduism and India’s Future – Part 1 (by Kittu Reddy)

  1. Bikramjit
    December 16, 2015

    I do feel that way too .. we were far better under british ..

    reminds me of sardar Shaheed bhagat singh’s words who told us to be aware of those who would come after the british Left.. and look at what has happened since the independance…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      December 17, 2015

      I am not sure I can agree with the assessment that British rule was better for Indians. No foreign rule can be better than self-rule, no matter how bad the majority of present generation politicians are. Political freedom is a pre-requisite for any other freedom or goal a nation or society may want to puruse. All that has happened since independence requires a great deal of in-depth study to assess what went right and what went wrong. I can agree that the colonial experience of India served an important purpose in the overall evolutionary march of India, even the worst calamity has a role to play in that regard. But for a real renewal of Indian civilisation and culture, political freedom from a foreign rule was an essential thing to happen.
      Appreciate your sharing your view, Bikram. Always good to hear from you 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. adsunsri
    December 17, 2015

    Cultural degeneration takes place when we blindly ape other civilizations and try to adapt ourselves to them, thinking that there are lot of shortcomings and inadequacies in ours, as the grass on the other side is always greener and this makes us like square pegs in round holes!
    http://www.specs-buffy.blogspot.com

    Liked by 2 people

    • Beloo Mehra
      December 18, 2015

      Thank you for sharing this important point. This mindless aping is a sign of our mental colonization. And it’s high time we take this problem seriously as a nation and society. Sadly this problem manifests most severely in those who are generally among the educated social-economic elite.
      Appreciate your stopping by and sharing your pov. Welcome to Matriwords and I hope you will return for other parts of this series.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Hinduism and India’s Future – Part 2 (by Kittu Reddy) | matriwords

  4. Pingback: Hinduism and India’s Future – Part 3 (by Kittu Reddy) | matriwords

  5. Pingback: Hinduism and India’s Future – Conclusion (by Kittu Reddy) | matriwords

  6. Sathya
    March 8, 2016

    I agree with the statement that a soul idea governs the changes of its development and is the key to its psychology and temperament, but I feel that due to globalization our spiritual culture has changed into a wrong dimension of superstition which makes us real hard to understand about inner consciousness and spiritualism. I hope that, as like in the 14th and 15th century a spiritual revival is necessary for people who wants to spiritually transcend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      March 8, 2016

      I think a lot of superfluous stuff got added on to what might have been the core of our Indic spiritual traditions. Some of it could have been simply because of the way things progress over time and how the highest ideals get diluted over time. Some of it could have been due to various external and internal challenges that came up historically, and in recent times as you point out some of it could have been due to globalisation. And the challenge now is to rediscover that core spirit and create new forms which can hold and express that spirit which is timeless and eternal. You are right, a spiritual revival is necessary, that’s the only way India has renewed and rejuvenated herself. Our history is a testimony to that.
      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

      Like

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This entry was posted on December 14, 2015 by in Guest Post, India, Research, Spirituality and tagged , , .

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