HINDU India was never a great political force in the world. You may ask: why? Because India never gave any importance to the state.
Basham (author of the The Wonder That Was India) writes that “the Hindus were incompetent as far as political organisation was concerned. “This is largely true. Even today the Hindu is unwilling to create a powerful state.
In contrast, the Chinese gave the greatest importance to the state. So, when the Chinese state was under constant attack by nomads of Central Asia, they built the Great Wall of China, a wonder of the world, 3000 miles long! In this way, they blocked the way of the nomads into China.
India, too, was under attack by the Central Asian nomads. How did the Hindus respond? They did nothing. They could have blocked the way of nomads with much less resources. Result? They paved the way for foreign subjection for a thousand years!
The Hindus paid a heavy price again for their indifference to their state. They were forced to partition the country, thus creating a hostile neighbour for ever.
Have the Hindus learned anything from their bitter experience? Almost nothing! All their attention was and is focused on themselves and never on the state.
The Hindu civilisation was born in freedom. The Hindu was thus a free man. No wonder he became an individualist. Freedom and individualism led to excellence in all he did. But the security and strength of the state are based on collective efforts, which explains why India was a weak nation. By making the individual more important at a time when there were no state institutions we made an incipient state even weaker. It is a long story. But it has to be told.
The Hindu was the first to observe certain regulatory principles at work in the universe. He called this principle dharma. It was within everything. Not without.
Dharma has no equivalent expression in any other language. It is a purely Hindu concept. Dharma is a code of regulatory principles. The Hindu introduced these principles at a time when there was no state.
In the Semitic tradition, it was God who directed the universe from without. This is the fundamental difference between Hinduism and the Semitic religions.
Thus dharma became second nature to the Hindu. It became the foundation of life. Without dharma life was impossible. But a were these regulatory principles eternal? No. They were partly eternal and partly temporal. Here was saswatha dharma and yuga dharma. Saswatha dhrama was inviolable. But men had the freedom to change the Yuga dharma.
Dear Reader, that is how the state became secondary to the Hindu. His main emphasis was on dharma. But adharma grew. There was need for a ruler-a king-to punish those who broke the dharma and to protect the people. Thus, at the coronation of a ruler, he took the oath: May I be deprived of heaven, life and offspring, if I oppress you. “And the priest advised him to provide equal justice to all. Protection and equal justice , therefore became the foundation of the new social order. It was from this moral code that the ruler drew his authority.
The Hindu never wanted a powerful state or a powerful king. Nor was he willing to concede the “divine right of kings” as in Europe. He never deified kings as the Romans did. In a way, the idea was to reduce the power of the ruler and the state. Similarly, while the priests were powerful, they were not allowed to create theocracies. There were other measures which reduced the power of the state. For example, the support of the scriptures to personal endeavour. It reduced the need for state institutions. The early scriptures gave no importance to fate. In fact, the Yoga Vasishta was passionate in its advocacy of the nobility and grandeur of human efforts, and dismissed fate as an invention of fools. The state thus remained secondary.
To conclude, the question before us is this: is dharma more important or the state? Dharma helps man in his evolution by internalising the regulatory principles (If only Christians had internalised the Ten Commandments, Christianity would have been today a greater religion.) But, remember without a state we can no more ensure our security and welfare. Here dharma is of no help.