There was a time, when India was a land of the unbelievable?of golden palaces, of wise Brahmins (Appolonius of Tyna), of happy people, holding truth and virtue in high esteem (Megasthenes) of high-minded, upright and honourable people (Hieun Tsang) and of religious tolerance (al-Biruni). It was a country that A.L. Basham called ?the wonder that was India.?
India inspired the Utopia of Sir Thomas More and its language, Sanskrit, was ?more perfect than Greek and more copius then Latin?(Sir William Jones.) And of Mohenjodaro, Sir John Marshall, its excavator, says that its ?well-built baths and commodious houses? and no parallel in the world.
What happened then? How did Hindus come to live in ?darkness?? How did they fall in the eyes of the world? The answer can be given in two words: ?Foreign rule?. The foreign rulers of India, both Muslims and the British painted India in the worst possible image, for obvious reasons. But the missionaries continue to say that Hindus live in ?darkness?, that they need the ?light? of Christianity and Islam.
Of the British rule itself, this is what Malcolm Muggeridge, a distinguished British journalist, for long a resident in India, had to say: ?An alien culture (British)?, he observes, ?itself exhausted, trivial and shallow, was imposed on them (Indians). When we (British) went, we left behind a spiritual wasteland.?
Dear Reader, turning our country into a ?spiritual wasteland?, both in body and mind, was the work largely of the missionaries.
Today the abuse of Hinduism has shifted to America. It is inspired by Katherine Mayo (of ?Mother India? fame). She saw nothing in India but ?loathsome eroticism?. But her contemporaries, the makers of the American renaissance?Emerson, Thoreau, Mark Twain and whitman?found in Indian thought what they had missed in Greek philosophy and Christianity.
The Southern Baptists of America propose to bring ?light? to India. Not to light our path, but to start fires, as Tagore says.
They believe that the Bible is the word of God. That the sun moved around the earth? Did Christ say, ?My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?? What are the facts?
In 1922, a Commission of the Bishops of York and Canterbury was appointed to go into the truth of Christ'scrucifixion and resurrection. In its report, published in 1938, they said that the Bible story was not correct. Recently, a book called The Myth of God Incarnate, written by seven of Britain'smost eminent theologians, challenged the claim of Christ'sdivinity.
Prof. Whitehead, the philosopher, says: ?The trouble with the Bible has been its interpreters? and the first interpreter of the New Testament was the worst?St. Paul.? He made Christ in his own image. And made him divine too.
Religions have borrowed from each other. But they seldom admit it. Herbert J.Mueller gives a few instances. He says that the idea of God as a maker of heaven and earth came from Babylon, the story of God and Satan came from Persia, of the Last Judgement from Egypt, the resurrection drama from Syria, communion from Mithraism, non-violence and parables came from Buddhism. There is very little that is original in Christianity.
Much is made of the credo that salvation in not possible except through Jesus Christ. He was made divine at the Council of Nicaea for this.
On this momentous episode, Gibbon, the great historian, had this to say: ?The faith of the Catholics trembled on the edge of the precipice, when it was impossible to recede, dangerous to stand, dreadful to fall?? Was there anything more poignantly said of the predicament of the Church!
But in the Gita, more ancient than Christianity, the Lord promises to incarnate himself again and again to redeem the world from evil. Why should the Hindus seek salvation through Jesus? India needs no light, certainly not from the Christian quarters.
India will not be judged by ?drainage? inspectors (Gandhiji's reference to Katherine Mayo) or Southern Baptists. It will be judged by impartial scholars. Such a scholar was Max Mueller. This is what he has written about India.
?If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed?I should point to India,? he says. Exaggeration? No. He says: ?As we measure the Himalayas by the height of Mount Everest, we must take the true measure of India from the poets of the Vedas, the sages of the Upanishads, he founders of Vedanta and Sankhya philosophies and the authors of the oldest law book.?
This new image of India has taken time to emerge. But it has finally emerged.