Hinduism and the Clash of Civilization continues the line of thought introduced in my earlier books. Arise Arjuna: Hinduism and the Modern World (1995) articulated the need for Hindus to stand up and protect their tradition in order to face the current cultural and religious challenges assaulting them on every side. My subsequent book, Awaken Bharata: A Call for India’s Rebirth (1998), emphasized the need for a new intelligentsia, as ‘intellectual kshatriya’ or intellectual warrior class to handle these challenges in a systematic way.
Over time it became clear that such an intellectual movement requires a school of thought, a world-view as its proper foundation. Naturally, an intellectual Kshatriya should be trained in a Vedic or dharmic school of thought. Therefore, the present volume arose to articulate the greater Hindu world-view-the perspective of the Hindu mind on the current civilizational challenge, which is not only a cultural assault on India but a churning within all cultures throughout the world. Today as a species we stand at a critical juncture, before either a new age of global harmony and world spirituality or a possible global catastrophe from a voracious materialistic civilization out of harmony with nature.
The wisdom of the Hindu tradition, rooted in universal consciousness, can be a great aid in helping us move in the right direction, but it is seldom brought into the picture even in India. Hinduism is now a global force as the third largest religion in the world, the largest non-biblical belief, and the largest of the Pagan, native or indigenous religions. Therefore, a Hindu voice not only on spiritual but also on cultural issues is necessary to provide a balanced view on the global situation today.
Hindu or Indic ideas are now present in most countries in the world today, generally in a dynamic way through Yoga, Vedanta or Vedic sciences like Ayurveda. However, there is little recognition of the overall civilizational perspective behind them. Most of the focus is on the spiritual side of these traditions and the broader civilizational concerns are ignored. While Christian, Islamic and Western secular points of view are readily available on most issues, the Hindu view is seldom recognized and does not have corresponding spokespersons or information outlets in the world forum. Hence the need of the present volume to encourage the projection of such a Hindu perspective.
Hinduism most project its entire dharmic view, its unique vision of the universe, God and humanity, rather than simply respond to side issues framed by the Western mind. It must articulate its own critique of civilization, including that of Western civilization. Hence my emphasis on the need for a ‘New Indic School of Thought’, specifically on the need for new ‘Vedic schools’, developing and articulating the older dharmic traditions of India to meet the new circumstances today.
I first became aware of David Frawley’s work earlier this year when I was t the University bookshop in Bloomsbury, near to my London home. It used to be called Dillon’s and owned by a long-established and worthy firm. Now it is Waterstone’s, a thrusting ‘success story’ of modern entrepreneurship. No longer a traditionally British bookshop, staffed by friendly amateurs, Waterstone’s has all the characteristics of a giant American emporium: glory, squeaky- clean and staffed by indifferent, overworked students. Like its American counterparts, it is replete with self- help guides for stressed male executives and bitter, miserable career women, both products of a disturbed society. In the basement, a bar serves caffe latte, chocolate muffins and a bewildering variety of fruit juice. Waterstone’s, in other words, is a microcosm of the global monoculture, that spiritual and economic malaise which Frawley so incisively explores. Yet beneath all the gloss, there persist many of the qualities of a fine English bookshop, where rich gems of scholarship and wisdom come to unexpected light, just as rich traditions of spiritual insight still withstand the modern Fetich of the market.
Exploring the ‘Eastern Religious’ sections, I came upon a book by David Frawley, or Pandit Vamadeva Shastri, to give him his true name. It was entitled From the River of Heaven: Hindu and Vedic Knowledge for the Modern Age. Whilst glancing at it, I got talking to a silver- haired Indian, a distinguished- looking fellow in an impeccable pinstriped suit. He told me that he was an engineer, and an atheist, but that Vamadeva Shastri was a religious teacher he respected and who told the truth. He was a true Vedacharya, or teacher of ancient Vedic knowledge, and not a Western dilettante jumping on fashionable Orientalist bandwagons. His words confirmed me in my decision to buy the book. Since then- and it was only earlier this year- David Frawley has become for me a source of knowledge with wisdom, a teacher and valued friend. His exploration of the Vedas is intellectually rigorous but accessible, humane but making no compromises with the crocodile- tear compassion and phoney ‘political correctness’ of Western liberals.
Frawley’s embrace of Hinduism- and the Vedic teachings at its core- is wholehearted and at the same time non-dogmatic, as dogmatism is quite alien to the Hindu Dharma. Vamadeva’s teachings have confirmed as suspicion that I have long held, although I am a political scientist by training; that the root of our problems, as a society, is not political as such, but spiritual. This means that much of modern political activity, especially single issue campaigns for minority ‘rights’, gay ‘rights’, women’s ‘right’, etc,. is superficial and deeply unsatisfying. It is just another form of consumerism, by which politicians confer group ‘right’ as advertisers dream up ‘niche’ markets. True political activity requires an awareness of the sacred, of the connection between humanity and the rest of nature. True empowerment requires a surrender of power, or rather the acceptance of a holistic world-view, which understands that all life forms are interconnected. Many indigenous religious possess (or possessed) this insight, including Native American spirituality and the pagan religion of old Europe. The latest insights of modern physics and biology also reject the ‘modern’ ideas of mechanistic progress and humanity as the centre of the universe. Yet the eternal dharma of Hinduism, whose rishis or seers the Greeks admired from afar, provides the strongest, most consistent critique of materialism. It is the philosophical tradition best adapted to our post- modern age.
In Hinduism and the Clash of Civilization, Vamadeva calls for the Indian culture he loves to reassert itself against the failed ideologies of the West : state socialism and global capitalism. He lambastes the official intelligentsia of post- independence India for eschewing their own culture and turning to Western, mechanistic dogmas, from Marxism to neo-liberation. Whether they worship the state or the Market, such intellectuals dishonor their country’s noblest traditions. They are as craven as those American and British academics who place politically correct considerations before the pursuit of truth and intellectual freedom. In the best of Indian popular culture, however, Frawley finds an integrity, a latitudinarian tolerance and a connectedness to nature lacking in intellectual circles- and lacking in ‘Western civilisation’ today.
Crucially, Vamadeva also sees a connection between the universalist assumptions of Western monotheism, which underlay the colonial adventure, and the actions of Westerners today. For whether they are Christian evangelists or secular ‘development lists’, today’s Western missionaries adopts the language of human rights and equality. What they really mean are Western (i.e. consumerist) ideas of rights and a process of cultural leveling down. In ‘liberal’ capitalism and state socialism, there is no respect for either biodiversity or cultural diversity. Traditions of scholarship and craftsmanship are vilified, local environments polluted, local economics disrupted and local choice eliminated- all in the name of standardization and ‘progress’. These simplistic ideologies of process are based on commercial expediency and the bureaucrat’s love of power. However their roots are to be found in the missionary impulse, the doctrinaire certainty that is the Christian tradition’s negative aspect.
Hinduism by contrast, offers true universalism, that is to say unity-in-diversity. In the Hindu dharma, the individual can approach the divine in his or her own way. The eternal truth is the same truth, but can be pursued by different means, according to personal or cultural preference. Hindu economics is based on local production for local production for local need, a principle to which the green movement now looks. Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of swadeshi restores economics to its original meaning of ‘good housekeeping’. Swadeshi is based on the village economy, pride in local craftsmanship and self-sufficiency. Rooted in Hindu philosophy, it offers a humane alternative to the failed socialist planning of Nehru- and the ascendant Coca Cola capitalism, the iniquities of which become more apparent every day. Similarly, the ethical teachings of the Vedas provide for a healthy balance between masculine and feminine principles, to the advantage of both and the detriment of neither. Above superficial ‘right’ for individuals or groups, Vedic teaching exalts our responsibilities- for each other, as human beings, and to our fellow creatures how have souls as we do. Hinduism gives spiritual underpinnings to the new wisdom of Deep Ecology and the revelations of modern science.
Vamadeva’s new book is angry in places, and rightly so. He decries the great injustice done to Hinduism, by Islamic and Western invaders, by missionaries old and new and by Indian elite who have made a new religion of secularism. He is angered and saddened also by the corruption of Hindu social customs, such as the caste system, which was originally a fluid rather than a rigid hierarchy and was about division of labour and not disparity of wealth. That anger, however, yields quickly to a spirit of boundless, inspiring optimism. Hinduism has survived its historical tribulations and is finding a new voice in world affairs. The twenty- first century CE could well be the Hindu Moment, in which a revised sanatana dharma gives coherence to the ecology movement and satisfies the New Age seekers of the West. India, land of the Divine Mother, will once again be a beacon for the world.
‘East is East and West is West and ne’er the twain shall meet.’ So, famously, wrote Rudyard Kipling. But David Frawley/ Vamadeva Shastri has proved him wrong. His writing straddles that artificial divide to open our minds and hearts to Vedic truths. Like Sri Ramakrishna, Aurobindo or Ramana Maharshi, Vamadeva Shastri is a modern seer. It is therefore a great honour to commend his book.
Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations continues the line of thought introduced in my earlier books. Arise Arjuna: Hinduism and the Modern World (1995) articulated the need for Hindu to stand up and project their tradition in order to face the current cultural and religious challenges assaulting them on every side. My subsequent book, Awaken Bharata : A Call for India’s Rebirth (1998), emphasized the need from a new intelligentsia, an ‘intellectual kshatriya’ or intellectual warrior class to handle these challenges in a systematic way.
Over time it became clear that such an intellectual movement requires a school of thought, a world-view as its proper foundation. Naturally, an intellectual Kshatriya should be trained in a Vedic or dharmic school of thought. Therefore, the present volume arose to articulate the greater Hindu world view- the perspective of the Hindu mind on the current civilizational challenge, which is not only a cultural assault on India but a churning within all cultures throughout the world. Today as a species we stand at a critical juncture, before either a new age of global harmony and world spirituality or a possible global catastrophe from a voracious materialistic civilization out of harmony with nature.
The wisdom of the Hindu tradition, rooted in universal consciousness, can be a great aid a helping us move in the right direction, but it is seldom brought into a picture even in India. Hinduism is now a global force as the third largest religion in the world, the largest non-biblical belief, and the largest of the Pagan, native or indigenous religions. Therefore, a Hindu voice not only on spiritual but also on cultural issues is necessary to provide a balanced view on the global situation today.
The current clash of civilizations is not merely a commercial or religious encounter. It is an encounter between the schools of thought, the way of thinking that each civilization represents. Each civilization has its own language, logic and history of ideas that shape and mold its perceptions and actions. When civilizations clash it is first at this level of ideas and beliefs. In the present world context, the Hindu and Indian (Bharatiya) idea of civilization and cultural is overlooked. If Hindus enter into debate, it is in the context of the Western school of thought, which is not sympathetic to or even aware of the logic of Hindu ideas or how the Hindu mind works. Like players in a game that has rules they don’t understand, the Hindu cause seldom comes our well.
Therefore, Hinduism must project its entire dharmic view, its unique vision of the universe, God and humanity, rather than simply respond to side issues framed by the Western mind. It must articulate its own critique of civilization, including that of Western civilization, which modern Hindu thinkers like Aurobindo or Gandhi so eloquently expressed. There is also an order, comprehensive and well- articulated Indian school of thought through the Vedas, Sutras, Puranas, Tantras and Shastras and a related literature on consciousness and dharma through Buddhist and Jain traditions as well. But these are often out of date and don’t consider the changed circumstances of the world today.
Hence my emphasis on the need for a ‘New Indic School of Thought’, specifically on the need for new ‘Vedic schools’, developing and articulating the older dharmic traditions of India to meet the new circumstances today.
A new Western dharmic school of thought is also important, taking the insights of the Indic school and applying them in the Western context. Ultimately, a new global dharmic school of thought is the goal. Hopefully, the new Indic School of Thought can provide a model and a starting point for it.
While Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations is a sequel to my earlier books, it brings in new themes that neither Awaken Bharata nor Arise Arjuna addressed. It has a more futuristic vision and a constructive as well as critical side, outlining a Hindu vision for the entire world. It not only seeks to remove obstacles but also sets forth ideas and models for a new creation- a new age of consciousness on Earth initiated by a revival of Vedic wisdom and culture.
Naturally, I was always asked how I, as someone born in the West, was able to take up this cause or write such books. For this reason, I wrote How I Become a Hindu: My Discovery of Vedic Dharma (2000). That recent book is also relevant to the current title. Hinduism and Clash of Civilizations also supplements my books on ancient India like Gods, Sages and Kings, the Myth of the Aryan Invasion, Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization (with N.S. Rajaram), and the recent the Rigveda and the History of India. However, the present volume focuses on the background philosophical and cultural issues behind the historical concerns examined in detail in these other works.
Besides history, the book examines Vedic Science, including its relationship with modern science, which I have not addressed significantly in previous titles. It touches the subject Vedanta, which was explored in my book Vedantic Meditation: Lighting the Flames of Awareness. Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations, therefore has a broad scope and looks to the future as well as to the past, to spiritual as well as cultural issues.
The book is divided into three sections. The first surveys the challenges of India and Hinduism today and its scope for the future. The second examines the clash between Western intellectual culture and the spiritual and intellectual culture of India. It highlights why an independent Indic school of Thought is required, not just an Indic perspective in the current world dominant Western school.
The third section suggests principles and main lines for a new Indic/Vedic school of thought. I have separately discussed in Vedanta, Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedic astrology in specific books on these topics. The purpose of their discussion here is relative to their place in a new school of thought, not to delineate their approaches in detail.
Some chapters have appeared as articles in various publications in India like the Times of India, Vedanta Kesari, Advent, Organiser, Naimisha Journal etc. I have rewritten these to fit in with the flow of the book and avoid unnecessary repetition. I would like to thank various individuals who have stimulated my thought in the book including Subhash Kak, N.S. Rajaram, Aidan Rankin, Michel Boutet, Ram Swarup, Swami Dayananda, J.C. Kapur, and many young Hindus, both individually and in different groups and organizations. Jai Durga!
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend