India's Truth


This talk asks the question whether there is a special “truth” that India stands for and must espouse both to itself and to the world.  In the context of increasing globalisation, such a question assumes an added importance:  should India cease to be itself and become like all other nations or should it preserve its unique character not just for itself but so that it can play its destiny in the comity of nations?  If the latter, then what are the key ingredients—philosophical, cultural, and political—that India must strive for and express?  How do we know that these constitute its “essential” character?  The talk will focus on questions such as who are we?  What are our values?  What can we actually offer to the world?  It will focus not only on India’s past, but also on India’s present, and possibilities for the future. 

              In trying to address these issues, the speaker will offer what he calls “the third way,” which may be considered a variation of the ancient “middle path.”  In this path, the quest for svarajya or, in its modern abridgement, svaraj, is crucial.  India’s truth may then be seen as striving for its own svaraj and that of others.  In this ideal, the self, the family, the community, and the larger Indian society may be connected in the ever-expanding “oceanic circles” that Gandhi spoke of so that our sphere of action may embrace the whole world. 

              Raja Rao:  desa and darsana.

              Start with Decolonization and Development.  Chapter called defining India, I said:  1.  India is plural; 2.  it is spiritual.

Metaphysics:      Non-dualism; politics:  svaraj; culture:  the third way.

Story of Shakuntala.  The two chariots.  Bharat. “to be or to be maintained; bearer of oblation”:  Kanva rishi; Maricha rishi. “Love, born in the paradise of childhood and innocence, is regained, transmuted and magnificently widened, in another paradise that one could call divine.  … As there are two chariots, a terrestrial and a heavenly one, so there are two journeys:  one through the forest that leads the king to a world of marvelous purity, and the other through the regions of the sky that brings him to a universe of light.  From the union of the two is born Bharat, ‘the support of the worlds’, the king who gave his name to India, that is to say Bharat.”  (13).  Shakuntala or The Ring of Remembrance.  Adapted by C.D.  Trans. from the French by Roger Harris.  Auroville:  Editions Auroville Press International, 2000.

Bharat as a Shakti.  Sri Aurobindo’s quotation from the Uttarpara Speeh:

We speak often of the Hindu religion, of the Sanatan Dharma, but few of us really know what that religion is.  Other religions are preponderatingly religions of faith and profession, but the Sanatan Dharma is life itself; it is a thing that has not so much to be believed as lived.  This is the Dharma that for the salvation of humanity was cherished in the seclusion of this peninsula from of old. It is to give this religion that India is rising.  She does not rise as other countries do, for self or when she is strong, to trample on the weak.  She is rising to shed the eternal light entrusted to her over the world.  India has always existed for humanity and not for herself and it is for humanity and not for herself that she must be great. (5)


When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall rise.  When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall be great.  When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world.  It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists.  [My italics]  (12)


Aurobindo, Sri.  Sanatan Dharma:  Uttarpara Speech.  Pondicherry:  Sri Aurobindo

              Ashram, 1983.

Svarajya in the Vedas.  Rg Veda and the Upanishads:  Kausitaki 4.20; Chandogya, 2.24.12, 3.6.4, 3.7.4, 3.8.4, 3.9.4, 3.10.4; Taittriya 1.6.2; Maitri, 6.36.  Svaraja is the plural of svarat, sva + rat, from the root rajr deeptau, raj=to illumine, shine forth; svarat is a self-luminous person; svarajya is the state of being svarat.  Svarajya is the principle of perfection; refers to the internal government of a person, senses, organs of action and so on; can then be applied politically.  Svarat is one who is not ruled by others; svarat vs. anyarat.  Ruled by the self means by the Self, one’s highest potency; ruled by others means to perish, subject to others, ruled by others, they cannot move in freedom but inhabit perishable worlds:  Chandogya 7.25.2.

How to deal with “Others”?  sanatani, co-sanatani, non-sanatani, anti-sanatani.  What to do with the latter?  Shatrubodh is very important.  Self-defence, the Gita, and so on.

a.. it suggested that Indian culture was not a culture in its own right, but a synthesis of elements from other cultures   b.. it implied that Hinduism was not an authentically Indian religion but the result of cultural imperialism   c.. it suggested that Indian culture was static, and only changed under outside influences   d.. it suggested that the dark-skinned Dravidian people of the South of India had got their faith from light-skinned Aryan invaders   e.. it implied that indigenous people were incapable of creatively developing their faith   f.. it suggested that indigenous peoples could only acquire new religious and cultural ideas from other races, by invasion or other processes   g.. it accepted that race was a biologically based concept (rather than, at least in part, a social construct) that provided a sensible way of ranking people in a hierarchy, which provided a partial basis for the caste system   h.. it provided a basis for racism in the Imperial context by suggesting that the peoples of Northern India were descended from invaders from Europe and so racially closer to the British Raj   i.. it gave a historical precedent to justify the role and status of the British Raj, who could argue that they were transforming India for the better in the same way that the Aryans had done thousands of years earlier   j.. it downgraded the intellectual status of India and its people by giving a falsely late date to elements of Indian science and culture.

  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape