Arise Arjuna: Hinduism and the Modern World

by Dr. David Frawley
American Institute of Vedic Studies
Dr. David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri), Director


Over the last few years , I have written a number of articles and essays on current issues in Hinduism. These reflect the social, intellectual and historical issues that are important in Hinduism today. Based upon the suggestions of Hindu friends, I decided to include a number of these articles in one volume so that they can reach a larger audience.

The topics chosen are among the most difficult and controversial, which therefore many people may not want to examine so as not to offend anyone. However, unless we examine these topics I don't think we can arrive at Truth, particularly in this time of world crisis which requires that we examine everything.

This book is intended mainly for an Indian audience, which naturally is going to be more familiar with these issues. Unfortunately there are very few people in the West who understand India or Hinduism enough to understand this book or appreciate its seriousness (I might add a number of Hindus fall in the same category).

Westerners have taken up certain spiritual aspects of Indian civilization, like its yogic practices, which they use mainly for their own personal benefit, and seldom concern themselves about the state of the culture and how it has suffered under Western religions, political and materialistic influences.

I have written a number of books on the spiritual side of the Hindu tradition including the Vedas, Vedanta and Tantra, as well as works on Ayurveda and Vedic astrology. I have examined Hinduism as a whole in my book Sanatana Dharma, The Eternal Tradition of Hinduism, which is the work most relevant to this current study.

From the river of Heaven, Hindu and Vedic Knowledge for the Modern Age is also relevant to the present study and outlines the different aspects of Hinduism. One might wonder therefore why I would concern myself with the cultural or apparently mundane side of Hinduism. Those immersed in Hindu spiritual practices may see no necessity for concerning themselves with these outward issues.

The ancient sages of India did not confine themselves to the inner teachings only. They made their comments about society and about other religions. They produced various Dharam Sutras or teachings regarding one's conduct in the world. Modern teachers who wrote on social issues include Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirtha and Ganapati Muni who provided the inspiration for what I have attempted.

While I certainly don't wish to compare myself to such great personages, the point is that such a tradition is also important and sadly neglected today. Knowing Sanskrit, traveling widely in India and meeting people of all backgrounds, I have seen the tremendous ignorance and misconceptions many intentional) that have been created about the role of Hinduism and various Hindu groups even in India.

People today rely on second hand information, mainly through the news media or from academic sources, which are generally unsympathetic and inaccurate, and so the picture they get is highly distorted and requires an alternative. Seeing this I have been compelled to speak out.

This book is divided into four areas.

1) Social Issues: primarily the misrepresentation of Hinduism both in India and the West and the need for a Hindu awakening.

2) Religious Issues: the Hindu view of religion, the unity of all regions, and Islam and Christianity from a Hindu perspective. I have devoted more space to Islam as this religion is more inimical to Hinduism and few people appear willing to really examine it.

3) Historical Issues: particularly the Aryan Invasion theory, and the division of India along north-south lines (the Aryan-Dravidian divide).

4) Cultural Issues: Hinduism relative to the world as a whole, and the value of Hindu culture. The book has a wide scope of subjects but all are important for understanding India today and show the need for a revival of Hinduism in its true spirit.

I have already examined the ancient history issue in my other books Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization and in The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India. For this reason I didn't go much into this topic in the present volume it is relevant.

For Hindus, they may wonder why a Westerner would take interest in these issues. Yet do not Hindus take interest in the affairs of Western culture? Why should it be surprising if those born in the West take interest in Hindu culture, which is one of the oldest and richest in the world ?

For this book I would like to thank Dr.B.L.Vashta, who first encouraged me to write along these lines, and to the many other individuals and groups both in India and the United States who have encouraged me to continue, particularly the various publications that have printed my articles, which gave me the confidence to present them to a broader audience.

Most of the essays in this book have appeared in article form either in India or in the United States, though a number of them have been greatly revised for the book. These publications include, in the United States, Voice of Asia, New-India Times, India Times, and Fortunes India, and in India, the Organizer, the Observer and Hindu Vishwa.

India today unfortunately is still asleep to its real heritage, caught in a deep inertia (tamas), and not yet functioning according to its soul. Yet even in this state of sleep it has produced perhaps the greatest spiritual figures of the twentieth century. For the world to really develop spiritually, which is critical today, India must awaken. This book is dedicated to the awakening of India, not for the sake of India but for the sake of all humanity in this era of global crisis.

Santa Fe New Mexico David Frawley
December 1994

Arise Arjuna

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. "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 twenty 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 next millennium and for the world's deliverance.

Hinduism In Crisis

A new "Quit India Movement" has arisen in recent years. Unlike the old quit India movement, which was established by Indian freedom fighters in the early part of the century to remove the British rule from India, the recent movement has an opposite intent-to embrace Western materialist culture and abandon traditional Hindu culture and spirituality perhaps altogether.

This movement is very strong in India itself, particularly among so-called modern Hindus, who are largely Western educated and trained to look at their native tradition with alien values and suspicious eyes. The intellectual elite of India takes pride in being in contact with the latest developments in Western culture, art, science and technology, while remaining ignorant and unappreciative of traditional Hindu teachings.

Not all of these Westernized Hindus have actually studied in the West, nor do they need to. The educational system of India itself follows primarily Western standards and values. While the British may have left India physically, their Hindu emulators still run much of the country and see it largely like the British did as a realm to be remade in a Western image.

However it is not merely a British model that they follow but a Marxist-Socialist model with its atheistic and anti-nationalistic orientation. The stifling bureaucracy of India, which is finally beginning to break down, is not the product of Hinduism but an imitation of the Soviet style of administration introduced through Nehru to thwart the development of capitalism.

Part of this quit India movement has expressed itself in a number of Hindus emigrating to other countries, particularly for better job benefits. There are now small but significant Hindu minorities in many Western countries including the United State and Great Britain. Yet Hindu abroad generally appreciate their own traditional culture better than Westernized Hindus residing in India.

The reason for this is that Hindus abroad, living apart from their cultural base, have developed a nostalgia for it. They have also seen the limitations of Western culture-its crime, drugs, promiscuity, greed and almost total lack of spiritual values-which is demonstrated to them daily, particularly through the mass media. This makes traditional Hindu values of family, natural living and spirituality more appealing to them, even if they are not possible to accomplish.

Modern Hindus in India see the tremendous social problems of India today, which they tend to blame on the Hindu religion. This is rather strange because India over forty years ago and prior to that had the foreign rule of the British for two hundred years and over five hundred years of Islamic rule by Afghans and Turks before that, who all along have been blaming the Hindu religion for the problem of India under their rule.

India has not been under predominantly Hindu rulers for the better part of a millennium. How can such rulers be the cause of the condition of the country today? However, a new movement is now developing to counter to this Westernization phase. A number of Hindus today are looking to rediscover their Hindu roots, and this has also become a strong movement among Hindu emigrants to foreign countries.

This movement is not simply a regressive return to medieval Hindu values, but a rediscovery of the both the future as well as the past. It includes discovering the importance of Hindu Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda, Vedic astrology, classical Indian art and culture, and the Hindu view of society and government.

A number of Hindus in India are working to make Hinduism more a living presence in the country, with a social and cultural, as well as religious influence. This I would call the "new Hinduism," those who are embracing Hinduism from both a point of tradition and one of modernity, recognizing its relevance for the entire world. For example, the new Hinduism is bringing back traditional Hindu accounts of history, like the rejection of the Aryan invasion theory, which recent archeological in India, like the rediscovery of the Sarasvati river, are also proving.

They are a European perspective, as if anything good in India only came from the west (which is the present view). They hold that Hindu values, a culture of Dharma, has its place in the educational system of India, which should not merely imitate Western intellectual or political views, like the Marxist views which have dominated most of the universities of India over the past several decades. Westernized Hindus generally try to hide their Hindu roots. They do not like to be seen going to temples, though they may go to churches and mosques as a demonstration of their universality in religion.

They ignore Hindu social causes like the mistreatment of Hindus in Fiji or in Islamic countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan or Malaysia or the fact that Hindus working in Arab countries are not allowed to practice their religion in public. However, they will take a stand for Palestinian rights in order to show their humanitarianism and global concerns.

Such Westernized Hindus are suspicious of the new Hinduism. They label it out hand as fundamentalist, backward, or fascist, even though Hinduism is the most liberal, universal, synergetic and diverse of all the world's main religions with its many Gods, sages, scriptures and yogic practices. Westernized Hindus appear to take pride in denigrating Hinduism.

On the other hand, they do not criticize religions like Islam or Christianity which are generally exclusive, monolithic, militant and not accepting of other beliefs the way Hinduism is. They like to paint Hinduism as fundamentalist and dangerous while promoting a tolerant adresspectful view of Christianity and Islam, including their fundamentalist sides.

They have little tolerance for vocal Hindu religions groups like the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) but they have a great tolerance, for example, for the government of Iran, which Western countries like the United states, have labeled a terrorist country, but which the government of India has been friendly toward, even at one point considering selling nuclear reactors to the country and proclaiming a period of national mourning when Ayatollah Khomeni died.

Contrary to this East to West movement there has been a smaller but still important movement within Western culture itself. Many Westerners have developed an interest in Eastern spirituality including Hindu Yoga, Vedanta, and Ayurveda following a West to East movement. There are now ashrams, temples and Yoga centers throughout the Western world and in much of Asia as well.

Gurus from India have often gained large followings in the West. Projecting Hindu spirituality not as backward but as progressive, futuristic and universal in its orientation, they have found it to be appealing to people all over the world. This movement, which began largely in the late sixties, is still increasing on a yearly basis. Now it is moving to Western Europe as well, with the collapse of communism. It has even proved at times popular in Islamic countries, but has been suppressed by the authorities there.

Westernized Hindus are naturally perplexed by this movement. It makes them feel perhaps a little guilty that Westerners find value in their spiritual tradition which they have probably never studied or taken seriously. They would like to believe that such Westerners are uneducated, misinformed, or merely some fanatic fringe of progressive Western society and its distrust of any spiritual or yogic practices, which many other Westerners, particularly the religious fundamentalists, would label as cults.

However many of the Westerners studying or practicing Hindu based teachings are well educated. They include a number of scientists, artists, doctors and teachers. For example, while modern Hindus look down Hindu mythology, Joseph Campbell broadcast its value on American Educational Television a few years ago. Instead of showing Hindu mythology as a strange superstition, he showed it as a sophisticated spiritual and psychological science.

I myself have been a product of this West to East movement. I discovered Hindu Yoga and Vedanta teachings at a young age in the late sixties, after having studied Western science, art, philosophy and religion. I found in Hindu teachings a science of spirituality that shows us how to understand ourselves and the vast universe in which we live, not as an external phenomenon but as part of the universal consciousness which transcends time awns space.

Such spiritual knowledge and realization is almost non-existent in western religions or in Western intellectual culture, which has not yet understood the deeper layers of consciousness like the Hindu sages. Compared to Hindu yogis and spiritual giants, like Ramana Maharshi or Ramakrishna, the intellectual giants of Western culture, like Einstein or Fred, appear like children in intelligence and in understanding life.

Compared to them Western religious leaders like the Pope, who reflect little knowledge of higher states of consciousness, appear like beginners in the spiritual realm. Later in my life, in my thirties after I had written books on Hindu spirituality, including some published in India, I visited India for the first time and had a number of discussions with modern Westernized Hindus.

There I contracted the quite India for the West movement first hand. I was appalled at how little so many Hindus either valued or understood their own tradition. They would equate Hindu spirituality with a superstition on par with caste and untouchability. They were found of quoting Marx or Shakespeare but would certainly not mention the Bhagavad Gita, which they regarded as regressive. They used materialists and atheists lie Freuds at all. While I was interested in visiting temples and ashrams in India, they wanted to talk about the latest developments in Western technology. While I was a vegetarian, they ate meat. While I admired the sculpture in Hindu temples, they preferred modern Western art.

While I liked Indian classical music, they liked Western classical music or even rock and roll, if they were younger in age. Yet more surprisingly, I discovered that the same Westernized and anti-Hindu attitudes were common in the English language press of Indian, which often appeared more appropriately the press of a foreign or no-Hindu country than that of a land where over eighty percent of the people are Hindus (the vernacular press is better I might add but still reflects the same trends).

The English language press of India appears merely as an Indian version of the Western news media, with the same basic types of news and views, only with a more leftist political orientation. There was little of anything in them of Hindu spirituality or little positive said about Hindu culture.

If we look at the English language press of Indian, the term Hindu occurs mainly relative to various negative appellations like fundamentalist, chauvinist or even fascist-not merely in regard to small or fringe Hindu groups but relative to some of the largest to small or fringe Hindu groups but relative to some of 0the largest Hindu religious groups.

Even the Western news media world rarely, if ever, apply such terms to a majority religion like Christianity or Islam in their own countries, particularly to the largest groups representing the religions. Meanwhile I saw that non-Hindu groups are seldom so criticized in the Indian press, which would make it appear that Hinduism is the more intolerant than other religions, which any real Hindu knows is not the case at all.

While in India, I also came into contact with the new Hinduism, which I had gained an appreciation for through my own studies. Studying the Vedas in the original Sanskrit I discovered that what the Vedas themselves said was quite even different than their modern interpretations by Western and even some Indian scholars.

The Vedas were twisted by Western scholars to fit into a Euro centric view of history that saw how the earlier Western colonial domination of Asia left that these colonialist views of the Vedas were still taught in schools in India today and even embraced by the anti-colonialist Marxists).

I decide to take it upon myself to help correct these wrong views, which I have attempted to do in various books and articles that I have written over the past few years.

When I visited I met with representatives of the new Hinduism, modern Hindus seeking to rediscover their Hindu spiritual roots. They had a broad view of Hinduism as part of a movement toward a global culture and universal spiritual, Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma.

Such individuals were generally highly educated, knew a number of languages, had travelled to many countries, and valued Hinduism from a standpoint of intelligence and modernity, not out of lack of contact with the greater world. To my surprise and chagrin, I found that these were often the same people that the English language press if India would label as fundamentalists.

They were called fundamentalist not for any aggressive religious conservatism, but for finding real value in Hinduism and not embracing materialist political values. These people demonstrated an appreciation of religion, spirituality and science, such that I found in no fundamentalist groups in America, or in even the orthodox among Western religion.

As I met these representatives of the new Hinduism before I knew of the social and political polarization of India, I could not be influenced by the negative portrayals of them in the press. Perhaps the greatest irony of this situation is that Westernized Hindus are looking for a universality, humanitarianism and enlightened attitude about life, such as only exists within their own tradition which they are denigrating without ever having really examined. True enlightened culture does not reside in liberal or leftist but in the science of yoga. There is also no conflict between traditional Hindu or dharmic values and the most enlightened and global values of humanity.

One can promote traditional Hindu spiritual values and not only be modern, but super-modern and futuristic, not only Indian but universal. Traditional Hindu spiritual vales promote a culture of Dharma, a yogic way of life, a life in harmony with the universe, through recognizing the same Self in all beings.

There is certainly much wrong with India today. Yet it is wrong to think that these problems are simply caused by Hinduism. Certainly they are not caused by Hindu spirituality, which is the most comprehensive, liberal and expansive in the world with the most comprehensive, liberal and expansive in the world with its view that all the world is one family and all the universe is One Self.

Some of these problems, like the caste systems, have their roots in the Hindu social system. But these are usually not based on a real understanding of Hindu cultural forms but on their misapplication through time, in which they have become rigid. There are indeed some Hindu groups which could be called fanatic, backwards, or superstitious. But these represent only a small part of Hinduism and very few of the Hindu groups which have been accused of these things.

Compared to Western religions the percentage of Hindus who have exclusive and intolerant ideas about religion is very small. In fact most so called fundamentalist Hindus have a far more liberal view of religion than orthodox or even liberal Christians and Muslims.

Many of the problems of modern India have been caused by socialism and communism. In this regard the economic and social problems in India have their roots in centuries of foreign domination that causes making efforts to improve themselves. This has been aggravated by the prevalence of anti-Hindu ideological movements, like Communism, Christianity and Islam, which still maintain a strong missionary presence in India.

What the English language news media of India portrays as a battle between modern secular liberals and backward Hindu fundamentalists is more commonly a struggle between a corrupt and rigid communist-socialist elite and traditional Hindu spiritual groups concerned with the real welfare of the country.

The so-called militant Hindu fundamentalists are seldom really militant or fundamentalist, but simply a voice of political dissent. The so called secular liberals include corrupt politicians sustaining themselves by various vote banks through promoting social Davison along religious and caste lines the very things they accuse the Hindu groups of doing.

Each country, like each person, has a soul and a destiny. India has her soul and its destiny, which is to be a land of religion freedom and spiritual practices. Unless a person lives up to their soul value or Dharma, he or she cannot be successful or happy in life. The same is true of a country. It is not the soul or Dharma of India to become another Westernized economic giant, which is not to say that India needs to remain poor.

It is not her Dharma to become another communist land, and communism is already a thing of the past. Nor is it her Dharma to adapt an exclusive religious belief like that of Islam or Christianity, which claim that order religions are false, inferior or our of date. Above all, it is not India's Dharma to slavishly imitate the West in culture, mind or religion.

India must wake up to her destiny, which is to revive her spiritual culture and share it for the benefit of all mankind. This requires that the intellectual elite of the country cease denigrating the soul of India in hasty and superficial attempts to be modern and humanitarian. It requires a new Hinduism that corrects the social evils of the older Hinduism while maintaining that greater spiritual basis of the tradition.

Such a new Hinduism or awakening to Sanatana Dharma, the Universal Tradition, is essential not only for India but for the entire world. Without reconnecting with our older spiritual traditions and their yogic sciences we will not have the foundation to move forward to a real enlightened age for humanity. Fortunately India appears to be beginning this awakening, however slow, difficult or painful it may be.

Misrepresentations Of Hinduism In The Press

Hindus do not have a history of invading other countries. They have not sent missionaries to other countries preaching to them that their own religions are evil and trying to persuade or intimidate them to adopt Hindus beliefs. They have not economically exploited other countries as their colonies. They have never said that Truth or God belongs only to Hindus and those who believe otherwise are unholy or sinners.

Hindus have a history of tolerance and respect for all religions, which is almost unparalleled in the rest of the world. Yet we find that in the news media, including that of India itself, anti Hindu attitudes are common. Hindus are spoken of in negative way that is not done relative to religious groups whose behavior has been more violent, exclusive or oppressive. Anti-Hindu statements appear to be acceptable to everyone and no one questions them very much.

Let us take the Ayodhya incident in December of 1992. Newspapers throughout the world stated that "Hindu Militants Destroy Mosque," projecting the image of Hindus both as militants and as mosque destroyers. But what really took place and what is the history behind it?

Hindu groups involved did demolish a building that was built by a Muslim invader from Central Asia some four centuries ago, and the building had been used as a mosque, but not for over fifty years which was the last time Islamic worship was performed there. In recent years the so called Ayodhya mosque, Babri Masjid, has only been used for Hindu worship, and it has contained Hindu religious statues in it since 1949.

The structure was not originally constructed in the style of a true mosque, lacking minarets and other architecture of a typical mosque. Above all, the site was claimed by the Hindus as the original location of a great Hindu temple to Lord Rama, one of the Hindu Divine incarnation, that was first demolished for the building of the mosque or victory monument by invading Muslim armies.

Hindus (and Sikhs we might add) fought dozens of battles over the centuries to reclaim the site and succeeded several times in holding it under their power. The site was not in any Muslim holy place like Mecca or Media but in one of the seven sacred cities of the Hindus. Calling the site a mosque is thus inaccurate. It should have been called a "disputed structure," which is how newspapers in India generally designate it.

Yet the press did not say that "Hindus destroy a disputed structure in their sacred city of Ayodhya, which Moslems had not used as a mosque for fifty years," because this would not have been much of a story. The result was that the press not only misrepresented what the Hindus had done but inflamed Islamic sentiments, which added fuel to the riots that followed, which were mainly initiated by the Muslim community of India on the belief that one of their sacred sites had been wrongly desecrated by the idolatrous Hindus.

During the Islamic invasions of India-which were not provoked by any Hindu attack on Islamic lands and which lasted for over a thousand years tens of thousands of Hindu temples were destroyed, in fact most that existed on the subcontinent. The many great temples that Chinese travelers in the seventh century saw throughout India, which were not only Hindu, but Buddhist and Jain, cannot be found today.

These temples were not abandoned suddenly, nor did they disappear of their own accord. The invading Muslims willfully destroyed them in an attempt to before Hindus to convert to their faith, or to steal the jewels that Hindus temples abound in. The most sacred temples of the Hindus, like those built on the birthplaces of Rama and Krishna, were special targets.

Not only were temples destroyed they were often replaced with mosques, converted into mosques. The temple deities were often buried at the entrance of such mosques so that Muslims could trample over them as they entered into their mosques, thus humiliating the Hindus further.

The cruel history of the Islamic invasion of India which involved massive genocide and enslavement of Hindus-is not known by many people, particularly in the West where the history of Asia is not regarded as very important. Some would like to pretend that it didn't exist at all, or that the scale of atrocities was really very small, that its intentions were not religious conversion but military conquest, or that being a thing of the past we ought to forget about it today in order to protect communal harmony in the country.

India partitioned itself in 1947 in favor of the Muslim minority, which claimed that it could not live in a Hindu majority state. In the process the Hindu temples left in Pakistan were taken over by the Muslims and frequently destroyed. Even the governments and armies of Pakistan and Bangladesh at times have participated in such Hindu temple destruction activity.

The real history of India is thus one of Hindu temples being routinely destroyed by Muslims on a massive scale, and yet this is seldom ignored. On the contrary, the image of Hindus as mosque destroyers was portrayed, not that of Muslims as temple-destroyers which is a much more accurate depiction.

At the same time as the Ayodhya demolition, and in retaliation for it, dozens of Hindu temples were destroyed in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Some were attacked in Great Britain and other countries outside of India as well. Yet such stories were treated as more footnotes to the Ayodhya mosque destruction, as if the Hindus were responsible for them by what they did with one disputed mosque, and Muslims were not responsible for their own actions once provoked by Hindus.

If we look at how the news media treated the event it appears that one Hindu demolition of a disputed mosqueid more news worthy and an expression of greater intolerance than Islamic destruction of any number of Hindu temples. In this not prejudice and an anti-Hindu attitude of great proportions? Why is the destruction of Hindu temples not a newsworthy items, but the destruction of one disputed mosque worth global headlines? In fact Muslims also destroy the mosques of other Muslim sects, like the Ahmadiya mosques which have been destroyed in Pakistan, and this is not treated as a news worthy item either.

The real question that should have been asked after the Ayodhya incident was why did Hindus finally take to this demolition, when for over a thousand years they have allowed their temples to be routinely destroyed and turned into mosques with little retaliation? The question itself provides the answer.

Whether one approves of the act or not, such a history can create a sense of injustice for which revindication may be sought, particularly if it is not addressed through legal means. The news media also failed to give importance to the fact that the Ayodhya dispute had been in the court of India for over forty years, with no decision as to whether the structure was really a mosque or a temple that had been stolen.

Hindus, like many other oppressed peoples, appear to be waking up to the history of their oppression. Like other racial, religious or sexual oppressed groups, this awakening involves a release of anger or hostility which can appear extreme and is certainly contrary to what has been their normal behavior.

Yet it can hardly be simply condemned as the news media appears to be attempting. It is part of a process of rectification that will eventually find its balance. Given the modern age of information, wherein the facts of history are known, and wherein oppressed groups of all types are awakening and seeking to gain equally, we must expect that Hindus will also go through this process.

Westerners may not be accustomed to regarding Hindus as an oppressed group, but if we examine the history if India we see that Hindus have been subject to racial and religious oppression, along with economic and military aggression since the Muslim invasions of the eight century, followed by the actions of the Portuguese and the British in the colonial era. So far modern India has not yet adequately dealt with its past.

What should really interest us is not why Hindus took to this demolition but how Hindus could tolerate the massive destruction of their temples for centuries with such forbearance. This is an act of tolerance unprecedented in Western history. That it should now appear to be coming to an end should not shock anyone.

The real wonder is that it lasted for so long. The issue should get us to look at the historical grievances of the Hindus, which they are certainly entitled to claim. Even if one regards the Ayodhya demolition as wrong, it hard not to feel some sympathy with Hindus historical grievances on these issues once the matter has been studied thoroughly.

To examine the issue of anti-Hindu attitudes in the press further, let us compare how India is treated with how two other countries are treated. The first is Saudi Arabia in which all religions are illegal except for Islam. Other religious practices are not allowed except in private and for foreigners only.

Their is no difference between church, state and police, which is all run according to traditional Islamic law. By all accounts Saudi Arabia is an intolerant fundamentalist state. It has funded various Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist groups all over the world through the years. However Saudi Arabia is called a "moderate" Islamic country.

If Hindus were to try to do in India, even a small portion of what the Saudis have done in their country, the world community would be appalled and might even take up arms against them. Why is Saudi Arabia treated specially? The answer is very simple, because the world dependency on Saudi oil. Economic need fashions the global press and structures global ethics. We can ignore the intolerance of those whom we want to have good business relations with.

Since the Western world, which dominates the mass media, has little economic need for India, India is treated unfairly in the press (though with the economic liberalization of India and more interest in Indian economically by the West this may charge in time). There is no need economically to cater to the Hindus, and no threat of Hindus retaliation economically or through terrorism, so they can unfairly condemned or bullied.

Next let us compare how India is treated relative to that of China, a communist dictatorship, whereas India is a democracy. China has long held the most favored nation trading status with the United State, in spite of the Tienanmen massacre in Peking a few years ago. Anti-Chinese attitudes are seldom found in the press.

Chinese are seldom criticized for militancy and no real action is taken against them even though they sell weapons of mass destruction and nuclear technology to other countries and have had an ongoing campaign of genocide of the people of Tibet. Why China treated differently than India? It appears also to be potential economic gain, as well as fear of China's size and power.

It is curious to note how humanitarian issues follow economic imperatives and that countries which are economically valuable can be easily excused for their violations of human rights, while countries that have little economic importance can be either ignored or denigrated.

Next, let us compare how the Hindu minority is treated in Islamic countries with the treatment of the Islamic minority in India. Pakistan eliminated its Hindu minority long ago through forceful conversion or genocide. There are almost no Hindus left in a land which before partition had a significant minority of them. Yet hardly any one even cares to mention this fact.

The Hindu minority in Bangladesh has been continually oppressed and dispossessed of its property, and is therefore dwindling in number. Yet the global press does not mention this either. While it has been recognized that the genocide in Bangladesh in 1971-72 was one of the worst in history and numbered over three million people, the press seldom mentions the fact that it was mainly who were killed.

Hindus in work in Arabic countries are not allowed to practice their religion in public and yet no country, including India, protests this, though non-Hindus working in India are certainly not prevented from public worship (and would certainly protest fiercely if this were attempted).

On the other hand, though Muslims may be subject to some degree of discrimination in India and are certainly very poor, their numbers have grown, and many Muslim immigrants have come to India form Bangladesh, several million. Clearly India has not stifled Islam the way Pakistan and Bangladesh have stifled Hinduism.

India has allowed Islam to increase within its borders, while Pakistan has all but eliminated Hinduism from its. More over India has more Islamic sects than any Islamic countries, with some, like the Ahmadiya who have been made illegal in Pakistan taking their refuge in non-Islamic India! Yet the Ayodhya incident proclaims Hindu Mistreatment of Muslims and does not mention the much greater Muslim mistreatment of Hindus. It appears that Hindu mistreatment of Muslims is a newsworthy item, while Muslim mistreatment of Hindus, even on much larger scale, is not.

In countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh Hindu temples can be destroyed or taken over easily. They have no government protection like mosques in India. Hence it is not an issue if temples are destroyed in the normal course of things, and cannot possibly provoke any national crisis, as is the case in India.

Why is there such of disparity of treatment? The greater number of Islamic countries and the influence of petrodollars is certainly part of this, as is the clearly of Islamic terrorist retaliation. India's own lack of concern of Hindus in other country is another factor. This often goes back to leftist and Marxist influences in India who are opposed to the Hindu religion which is their main political opposition in the country.

The Western press also proclaims Hinduism as polytheism and idolatry, not as monism and spirituality, which it really is. Hindu practices of Yoga and meditation, its seeking of cosmic consciousness and view of Self-realization as the highest goal of life, and its many great modern sages like Ramakrishna, Aurobindo, and Ramana Maharshi are seldom given any credit.

The sophisticated nature of Hindu philosophy, psychology and cosmology are generally ignored. Western news media accounts of India generally focus on such social evils as the caste system, mistreatment of women and dowry deaths, without showing the deeper side of Hinduism. This would be like representing American culture through drug addiction, sexual promiscuity and divorce courts and ignoring the other aspects of the culture.

Or if the spiritual teachings of India are mentioned, they are regarded as "cults," even though they have been the fabric of one of the greatest civilization of the world through history. It appears that any religious teaching not part of traditional Western culture is liable to be called a cult in the Western press, particularly if it gains any following.

How would Western people feel if predominant Western religious were called cults in the Eastern world? How would Christians feel if the news media of India called Christianity a cult? Christian missionaries in India have broken up families and sowed distention in Hindu society far more effectively than any so called Hindu cult leaders in the West.

The Waco Texas incident in 1993, in which ninety followers of Christian cult leader David Koresh were killed, has been used to attack Hindu and other Eastern religious groups in America as cults, in spite of the fact that Koresh, like Jim Jones, the other recent cult leader who led great numbers of his followers to death, was a Christian !

Some Hindus themselves claim that Hindus must be subject to a higher standard, that their religions may accept or even promote. Hence oppression of Hindus does not bother them as much as Hindus oppressing non-Hindus. Yet to create a higher standard for Hindus does not mean to misrepresent their behavior relative to other groups.

We cannot say that temple destroying is alright for Muslims because it is part of their religion, but reclaiming mosques built on Hindu sacred sites is not right for Hindus who should follow a policy of total religions tolerance. There must be one standard for all human beings.

The higher standard of tolerance in the Hindu religion does not mean that anything that suggest intolerance among Hindus should be broadcast to the global media as a great evil, while intolerant actions among other groups, particularly against Hindus, should be ignored.

There should be a common standard for all humanity and Hindu groups should not be especially attacked, while other groups are ignored or excused for what may be more violent or intolerant behavior. Hindus need not be given any special favorable treatment, but the special unfavorable treatment of them which now exists should come to an end.

Hindus should be portrayed not just for what the Western mind finds wrong with them but as they are. The full extent of Hindu culture, religion and spirituality should be made known. Given all this, it is imperative that anti-Hindu attitudes are questioned. They are a form of ethnic and religions discrimination, which should be unacceptable to any open minded person.

As long as such negative attitudes persist in the press they can only further misunderstanding and disharmony. Yet the place where they must be changed first is in the English language press of India. We cannot expect the global press not to follow anti-Hindu attitudes that come from India itself. And India can never rise up as long as it is attacking itself.

As a Westerner who has studied the deeper side of Hinduism and learned how much Hinduism is misrepresented and misunderstood. I have been compelled to speak out on these issues. Greater communication on these issues would probably go far in correcting this anti-Hindu prejudice. Given the extent of the problem it will take time to correct and the vested interests who are opposed to it will not give in easily.

However there are now those who are presenting the Truth and the old distortions will no longer go unchallenged. In closing, I am not saying that Hindus have not done anything wrong or that there is nothing questionable about Hindu political groups or social practices.

Hindus must take it upon themselves to reform there society, which is badly needed, but this should be done according to the soul of India, which is Dharma, not according to Western political, intellectual or religious ideologies, which are generally adharmic, that is unspiritual, however modern or well-funded they may be.


About the Author

David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri) is one of the few Westerners ever recognized in India as a Vedacharrya or teacher of the ancient Vedic wisdom. His field of study includes Ayurvedic medicine, Vedic astrology, Tantra, Yoga and Vedantic philosophy. In India his translations and interpretations of the Vedas have received acclaim from both spiritual and scholarly circles. His books include Ayurvedic Healing, A Comprehensive Guide; From the River of Heaven; Hindu and Vedic Knowledge for the Modern Age; and The Yoga of Herbs.

Presently, he is director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

1. Arise Arjuna : Hinduism And The Modern World, Hindu Books Universe, Published on: 2003-02-07
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