Because of the caste system? Because Islam was superior to Hinduism? Because of our belief in non-violence? Because of our disunity? Or was it because the rulers who failed us? All these and many more could have caused our defeat and subjection to the Muslim invaders.
But how is it that there is no authentic work on this subject? Because we did not want to give offence to the Muslims by exposing their past to the detailed scrutiny of our people. Tagore says: We have drawn a tight veil over their past.
But it is time we lifted this veil. Why? Because we Hindus must know our own past?more so our failures. We have to go to the root of our own history?to the very infancy of our people?to understand where we made the first false step. And the first mistake we made was in not trying to know, even vaguely, why we are here on this earth. Surely, it was not to liberate ourselves from the cycle of birth and death! It was not as if we were here only to catch the next train! As if the earth was railway station!
It is true, we will never know why we are here. But we can arrive at an intelligent answer: that our job, now that we are here, is to assist nature to unfold the purpose of creation.
Johannes Voigt, the philosopher and historian, says that ?history offers no second instance of a country where the inward life of the soul has completely absorbed all the practical concerns of a nation?. In other words, the inward life of the Hindus was engaged in knowing what was involved in the cosmic mastery. All this at the expense of a practical life! The gods should have protected us. But, alas, they did not! Only such a view of ancient India, Voigt says, could provide the key to understand why India was subjected to repeated conquests. I agree with him.
Complete involvement of the individual in the inward life of his soul led to another mistake: to the growth of individualism and the neglect of the community, of the collective, of society. More so, of the state, which dealt with the material life of men. Indian philosophy was hardly interested in society. Only Manu, the law-giver was. Neglect of society and state led to the neglect of human welfare and the security of people?indeed to the general neglect of governance.
The Hindu thus lived in the world of gods. Soon his gods became more important for him than his fellowmen. The social nature of man was forgotten. The idea was how to become a saint, not a hero. Hindu philosophy expected man to rise above social virtues.
The Brahmins had hardly any civic duties. They were denied a role in politics of economics. Their activities were characterised by idealism and a tendency towards quietism or inaction. The rishi chose to live away from the people?in forests. And the people of the villages lived away from war.
No wonder, the Brahmin had no interest in matters of security! And certainly they had no interest in defence research. We did not even invent the crossbow that the Chinese invented!
Having brought about the division of labour through the caste system, many enjoined upon each caste to remain within its fold. Thus, the duties of the Brahmin were confined to religion. Manu forbade them from trade and other gainful activities.
Thus, matters of defence were left to the Kshatriyas. Why did India fail to produce another man of the calibre of Kautilya, whereas China produced a number of philosophers of militarism.
Indian society set the highest value to knowledge and wisdom. The measure of greatness was declared to be neither birth, nor age, nor wealth, but knowledge and wisdom. And since education was confined mainly to the Brahmin caste, their main concern was for the life of the inward spirit.
People can make mistakes. Colossal mistakes! To make themselves immortal, the Egyptians built the pyramids, which are useless. But the practical Chinese built the Great Wall. The Hindus are not very practical. Or, have we got over it?
(More on this subject later)