Hindu Thought and Culture for a Globalizing World
by T.H. Chowdary, PhD
Spectacular developments in technology have taken place in the last 50 years. Industrial production is getting more and more automated and robotized. This is reducing human toil and instead of physical labour, men are increasingly having to use their brain power in order to bring about mechanization, automation and robotisation for all of which computers and communications are used extensively. Envisionment and design are requiring mental activity, analytical skills, intelligence and the ability to handle huge quantities of information. Computers with giant memories and their getting linked over telecommunication high ways on a global scale are transforming the nature of work itself. Information (as in voice, text video and data) is electronified and stored in solid state memories, coupled to telecommunications networks over which the stored information can be accessed through appropriate devices for presentation in the multi media mode i.e. voice, pictures and text at the same time. This network of computers on the world wide scale is the Internet. The production, storage, exchange and utilization of information and knowledge for every type of human activity design, consulting, merchandising, transfer of money, balloting etc, can all take place and are indeed taking place on world-wide scale on the Internet. Various components manufactured at different places in the world are put together by information exchanged between the production units and are finally assembled into finished products in one place and marketed on the Internet and delivered by world-wide delivery services. The exchange of information and therefore knowledge, cannot now be contained at national boundaries. Examples of national boundaries becoming ineffective in this age of instantaneous flow of information on a global scale are the events connected with the Tiananmen massacre of students in Beijing in 1989, the collapse of the communist empire because of “glasnost” in the former USSR, the horrors that took place in Bosnia Herzgovina inviting the world’s attention for rectification and very sadly, the terror network of Al Quaeda encompassing 58 nations across the world.
2. We are in the information and knowledge age. By intensive application of our mind and intellect and the use of science and technology especially of computers and telecommunications networks, we see that more and more is produced with less and less of human labour, material and money. As an example is the mobile telephone. In the early 1990s; it weighed a few kilograms and had to be carried in a special cradle in the automobile. It is now less than 100 grams; can be in the pocket or palm; it is tending to be so small as to go into a wrist watch. The material used is less but the intelligence in it has increased several thousand-fold. So the present epoch can be seen to be characterized by information and knowledge intensity and their availability across the globe as and when they are generated by and for people appropriately educated and skilled and equipped. The linkages of thought and action are global.
3. By including services in the regime for world trade now there is truly a global regime for the regulation of the global trade in goods as well as in services. For example; education is a service. It can be delivered over the Internet in the multi-media mode i.e. audio and video, in interactive method with the teachers in, say Harvard and students in say, Hyderabad and Sidney and Moscow. The territoriality of Universities just like the boundary of nation states, is slowly getting extinguished. The infringement of freedom of expression or of assembly in any country is getting instantaneously known elsewhere in the world and pressure of world opinion is bearing heavily upon the oppressor. Action to remove the oppressor is initiated by global coalitions as for example, vacation of Iraq’s aggression on Kuwait or taking over of Afghanistan by Taliban backed by the international terrorist organiation Al Quaeda. So we find that whether it is education or trade or terrorism or advocacy for freedom every activity is getting globalised. This is becoming possible because of people everywhere in the world are able to communicate by voice, images and text and make machines and robots produce goods; they can communicate for work and commute only for pleasure . Localized communities arose and thrived because of impossibility and difficulty of extended and expensive communication. It is now possible by technology communication to weave whole human beings into one community. Indeed, a study by academicians at the Princeton University has discovered a very interesting relationship. As communications become extensive and inexpensive, first the number of cultures that can be sustained goes on increasing and afterwards, the number declines. That means there will be convergence of cultures as communications increase. For example, in the United Kingdom when the BBC was not there, there was no standard English i.e. English that could be understood in every part of the United Kingdom. But with the growth of BBC broadcasts, the local variances in English language, including pronunciation have declined and there is nearly a standard English language and pronunciation all over the UK. I am referring this linkage between technology and communications on the one hand and cultures and communities on the other to show how ancient Hindu thoughts and aspirations about the entire universe being one family can now be realised.
4. The current times are also characterized by three malevolent forces. One is that of communism still remaining in “rogue” states like North Korea and Cuba and in a very subdued form, in China and Vietnam. The totalitarian, dictatorial communist rule has disappeared from the former USSR and its satellite states in eastern and central Europe and constituents in Central Asia. Communism is fundamentalist, intolerant, and exclusive and had the ambition to convert the entire world to communism and bring the whole humankind under communist rule. It is rooted in the Marxist philosophy further developed by Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung. Fortunately, democracies led by the United States of America had been able not only to contain it but challenged it in ways and to the extent that led to the collapse of communism. Communism has failed to fulfill any of the goals that the theory and philosophy predicted. Communism is no different from two religions which also depend upon faith and belief; which hope to change the entire mankind to one view and to one faith. If it could not convince or convert; it would eliminate the unconverted. Communism characterized non-believers and resisters as “enemies of people”, and millions of such had been eliminated in Status ruled by Communists.
5. The second malevolence is jihadi Islam which is asserted to be entirely different from the peace-loving and tolerant Islam. This faith asserts that non-believers, the infidels, the kafirs should all be converted by if necessary, by the sword and war. Terrorism, suicide bombings, dirty radiation bombs, even biological weapons are all usable to eliminate the infidels. For them, what all requires to be known has already been revealed and committed to a holy book; and once and for all. None can alter or add to what was revealed 1400 years ago in one of the most backward places on earth, in one of the least developed civilizations. The horrors that the jihadi islamists committed under their rule in Afghanistan and the cynical disregard for human live that they are exhibiting in several parts of the world, are repulsive. The world is waking up to the horrific threat that jihadi Islam poses for the mankind. It is comforting to know that some Islamic leaders are saying that the terrorists, though swearing by Islam, are not true followers of Islam.
6. Third malevolence is represented by those missionaries and organizations who are wanting to reap a harvest of souls for Christianity from Asia and parts of Africa. These forces also are exclusivist. They believe that their faith alone is true, that all others are sinners and it is incumbent upon them to take the gospel to everyone, everywhere in the world and convert them to their faith. Luckily for mankind, in present times they do not believe in holy wars and use of force and the Whiteman’s burden to convert every soul and bring him into Christianity. It is nevertheless malevolent because they have billions of dollars and work like businesses with targets and programmes of sowing, growing and harvesting the unconverted to their faith. They also believe that it is enjoined upon them as good Christians, to propagate Christianity and convert others. We can see that these two determined faiths, namely jihadi islamists and the Christian missionaries are bound to come into clash because both are vigorously contending to convert others. Both believe that they are exclusively right; both assert that their concept of God and mode of worship alone are true and valid and should be established all over the world among all the peoples. While these two are contending in the name of God through the instrument of religion, communism aimed at the same thing, i.e. gaining all souls for communism and establishing the benign rule of communism everywhere in the world. Luckily the last one is mostly dead, excepting in the two rogue states of North Korea and Cuba, but since they can be little threat and not destructive of the entire world, we may draw some comfort.
7. Since Christianity and Islam are mutually exclusive and each one assumes to be fundamentally and forever right, and each one enjoins upon its followers the obligation of converting the rest of humanity to its own faith, each is inherently promotive of the idea of “us and they”. If the followers of each of the faiths truly and aggressively practise what is enjoined upon them as their religious duty, conflict is inevitable. For example, wherever Muslims are in a compact area in the territory of a nation state, there is now a movement for separation, for secession, for division of the country and to establish another state. And such movements are encouraged by people of the same faith in other countries. Separatist movements and therefore terrorism and insurgence in support of separatism and secession are there in the Mindanao islands of Philippines, Kosovo in Serbia; Chechnya in Russia; Sinkiang in China, north-western portion adjacent to Albania and Kosovo, of Macedonia; north-eastern portion of Cyprus; Arakan area of Myanmar; south-east portion of Thailand adjoining the Islamic state of Malaysia, and of course, the Kashmir valley in J&K of India. This separatism is not limited for carrying out a Muslim State but pressed on, even for a district within a country. The example is that of a Muslim majority area in Malabar district of Kerala, (India) separated from the rest of the district to constitute a Muslim majority (Mallappuram) district. In Indonesia, the Christian majority area Aceh is wanting to separate out from Indonesia. We are familiar with the deadly and horrible slaughter in northern Ireland between catholic and protestant Christians and between Moslems and Christians in Lebanon. The exclusivism in Islam is so explicit that the 58 nations in the Organisation of Islamic Countries produced an Islamic Declaration of Human Rights separate form the U.N’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
8. I intend showing that what is known as Hinduism is totally unlike the two semitic religions, Christianity and Islam and that it is eminently facilitative of the evolution of a a truly global fraternity, family and fortune. Christians holds that everybody is born as sinner and his sins will be washed by baptism, by faith in Christ who has paid for all sins of all humanity by his crucification. It beats one’s imagination as to how my sins can be washed away by somebody else’s sacrifice, by the simple fact of my acknowledging faith in Jesus Christ. Christians believe that those who do not convert to Christianity will all go to hell. In spite of 2000 years after the death of Christ, over 80% of living people in the world, are still not Christians. What a pity that all of them will go to hell! Islam likewise believes that those who are not Muslims will all go to hell and that it’s God has enjoined upon Muslims to save other people from going to hell by converging them even by force if necessary, to Islam. The faith of Muslims in their correctness is as ardent and irreconcilable as those of the Christians. Again in both these religions faith alone it be it in Yahweh or Allah is not sufficient to attain heaven. People must believe in the agent of that God in one case Jesus the only son of God an din the other case, Prophet Mohammed If one practises all the virtues spoken of but does by Jesus Christ but is not a Christian he is unfit to go to heaven ! Similarly, if one practises all the virtues enjoined by Allah but does not believe in Mohammed he cannot go to heaven; he is inferior to any Muslim(This was made amply clear by no less a person than Maulana Mohammed Ali, who was Mahatma Gandhi’s “brother” for the period of the Khilafat movement of Muslims in Indi, joined by Hindus at the behest of the Mahatma for the restoraion of the Caliph to the Turkey’s throne and the lost Arab territories to Turkey, after the defeat of Turkey in the 1st World War . The Maulana said and reiterated it in another meeting an interrogation that Mahatma Gandhi however virtuous he was, is according to his faith inferior to a fallen, sinful, adulterous, murderous Moslem ! Mahatma Gandhi tool no offence!). The intermediary, the agent of God even more powerful, more necessary than that of the principal, God himself. If the son of God is in Christianity or the prophet in Islam are found to be lacking in some virtue or the other, then is the divinity itself deficient to that extent because of the association of the agent and his inseparability from if not superiority over the principal God?
9. In contrast to Christianity and Islam, Hinduism has no founder, has no prophet, has no one Book which is to be held to contain what God himself spoke or revealed. Hinduism asserts, aham brahmasmi, I am God; tat tvam asi; you are God. It further says that we are amrutasya putrahas, we are the children of deathlessness, i.e. God. Since every one of us is the child of God and have the divine in us, it is the foundation for equality of all human beings. Democracy is therefore absolutely inherent in our belief. It is not that the divinity in every one of us gives divine power for every one of us. The divinity has to be realized. It is to be discovered through Sadhana (endeavour) a series of Sanskaras. Discipline and learning and practice of virtue enable us to discover the divine potential in every one of us; we can be guided and helped to realize by people who are knowledgeable, who are virtuous and who can be Gurus i.e. preceptors.
10. It is the Hindu’s aspiration that we should ennoble the entire world – Krinvantu visvam aryam . It is not sufficient that I alone become noble and discover and realise divinity. We should help every one, everywhere in the world to discover the divine and to realize his potential. The word visva means the entire universe, not only the globe, earth.
11. Another concept is vasudhaiva kutumbakam. All the people on this planet, earth are one family. It makes no distinction between “us” and “they“. Conceptually, and by belief Hindus hold that all human beings, in fact, all creation is one family. This idea has no room for the belief and faith of one people being superior to others and compulsion of others to conform to Hinduism. Just as mutual love, affection, brotherhood and readiness to help one another are the characteristics of a family, kutumba, so would do the Hindu concepts extend to embrace all the people in different countries. Our ardent prayer has been, lokaha samasthah sukhinobhavantu:. May the people in all worlds live in comfort; sarve santu niramayah: may all people live without any illness. Now these ideas that encompass all beings on this planet and the entire universe are not confined to animate ie. to human beings but extend beyond.
12. The Isa Vaasya Upanishad begins: Isa Vasyam Idam Sarvam Jagat: what ever is in this world, is the abode of God. Whether it is a mountain or river; animal or human being; every matter and being is the manifestation of God himself. Naturally this teaches us reverence for all forms of life and even inanimate matter. Abuse nature plants, forests or mountains and rivers and seas by polluting them is un-Godly. It is lack of reverence for life that is responsible for some people to have innumerable children although they do not have the means to feed or educate them. Lack of reverence for life is also responsible for the horrible slaughter of not only men but even animals for over indulgence, for the delight of the palate. The same verse says, tyaktena bhunjithaah; i.e we should enjoy by sacrifice and sharing and we should no accumulate beyond what is needed. Since all the people in the world and all worlds are one family, we are all children of God, globalization is in tune with our thought. It can always be realized because of technologies and technology-based communications, and production and distribution.
13. Since Hindus do not have only one Book, (the only holy book like the Bible or Koran); one last prophet (Mohammed) and only one son (Jesus) of God but hold everything as manifestation of God, we have absolute freedom of thought and belief and the path by which we can realize the divinity in us. Multiplicity is inherent in our belief system. Conformism is not enjoined. That we have so much freedom and everyone can choose what he wants to and the manner in which he wants to do, are brought out in the Bhagavad-Gita. Lord Krishna has imparted so much information and knowledge, answering several questions of Arjuna. Every doubt that Arjuna expresses Krishna made clear and in the end when Arjuna says that his delusion was gone and therefore he would do as told by lord Krishna, Krishna was not pleased. Instead he said: “Itite gnaanam aakhyaatam gutyaat guhyataram maya; etat aseshena vimrisya, yathechasi tatthaakuru” “I have revealed to you profound knowledge, the most complex and unknown and secret. It is proper for you to critically analyze and evaluate what all I have said and do whatever you wish (but not what I have told you). Freedom is given to every person . One is not to follow what is said to be the truth or right. He must be a rational being, a questioning being, a critic and only in the light of vast knowledge that is acquired that that one should act as appears proper to him because he is responsible for his own actions. That is why there is no place for creed and dogma in Hindu thought. Each one can choose the path that is most in conformity with his nature. There is no requirement in as Christianity or Islam, that he must believe in some intermediary or that he must obey what is said to be the command of God to convert others. No conversion is necessary. In the Gita, the Lord tells Arjuna “Sarva dharman partyajya, mamekam saranam vraja“. Forget and give up and discard all the different “religions”. Come to me direct. That means every human being can have a personal relationship with God. He can choose the path and form that is most pleasing to him, easily understood and comfortably attained by him. This conduces to multiplicity and not monopoly. This allows individual choice and negates compulsion.
14. The most profound ideas that are the thoughts and aspirations of Hindus are eminently conducive to the emergence, sustenance and growth of global communities for every thing happening and progressing on a global level. In the past, since we had no means of global communications, globalization was slow. Today, with the wonderful information and communication technologies and the declining need for physical movement for communication, evolution of humanity into a global village and a global family, is possible. The ancient Indian ideals are all in the process of realization. It is the thought and philosophy of Hindus that conduce to universal brotherhood and the non-division of human beings into “us” and “they“. It is Hindu though that all human beings, everything animate and an inanimate is but a part of God and that every one of us is capable of realizing the divine potential in our own way, by using our own intellect that conduces to the avoidance of conflicts and the promotion of harmonious living among human beings and all forms of life and non-life. Parasparam bhavayantah sreyo param avaapsyathah..”. May we assist and satisfy and please one another to attain the highest good and welfare of all. Let me end this by the non-denominational, globe-encompassing aspiration, wish, thought:
Om Sahanaavavatu, sahanu bhunaktu
Om! Shantih, shantih, shantih!
May we protect ourselves together, experience/ enjoy together, perform valorous deed together, not quarrel among ourselves, may our learning be brilliant. Peace, peace, peace !!! ( for all, everywhere, all the time)
T.H. Chowdary, PhD
Director, Center for Telecom Management & Studies
Information Technology Adviser, Government of A.P
Fellow: TCS & Satyam Computer Services
Chairman, Pragna Bharati
Chairman, Telecom Users’ Group of India (TUGI)
Former Chairman & Managing Director, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd., Bombay