Britishers leave a shadow in our mind and the signs of the colonised mind are the lack of creativity. The idea of education was the best possible imitation of our British coloniser. In the late nineteenth century, Swami Vivekananda saw this danger and criticised Bhartiya for constantly looking towards the West for approval and validation. Similarly, Rabindranath Tagore also talked about the danger of imitation.
Sri Aurobindo’s Reservation With English Language and Culture
To illustrate another example, Sri Aurobindo, long before he became a spiritual teacher, was a professor of English in the Baroda College. While still a boy, Sri Aurobindo was sent to England for further schooling by his father. His father made sure that he had a complete Western education and never learnt anything related to Bharat. He knew seven foreign languages, but could not speak his own mother tongue Bengali. He touchingly writes, “Why are they teaching English literature which has no relevance to our own culture? We are not learning anything about our culture and instead are forced to memorise an alien culture in an alien tongue.”
This fascination for alien culture is still continuing now. For example, which anybody can see around us is that the Halloween festival of the USA is getting increasingly popular among Bharatiya kids. This is a power gradient and very little information is going to flow up. It is like a one-way street. The dominant power culture in your age, whether it is England 70 years ago or it is America today. We have to deliberately put an effort to stand on our feet and then absorb whatever is coming from the West. So, truly we have a synthetic culture.
Bharatiya Logic More Sophisticated than Greek
Another example of the British subjugation is that when logic as a subject is taught, students were taught about Aristotelian logic which is Greek. Bharat has one of the most sophisticated systems of logic ever developed in the ancient world i.e., ‘Nyaya’ system and ‘Navya-Nyāya’ system. They are far more sophisticated than the ancient Greek logic. Why didn’t we hear about them? This is because the syllabus designed by the British has been modified a little bit every 10 years and every university kept on following the same. There was no attempt to re-think and that is because we are not grounded in our own thought system.
Following in the Footsteps of Colonisers
We want to be the economic power of the world. This is an idea-driven economy today. An idea requires creativity. The loop is closed here. There is a direct link between being rooted in your tradition and being able to respond creatively to the world and to the situation and from there to economic development. When we got our Independence, we should have looked at what kind of framework we want for our nation. We did not do that and just allowed the framework designed by our coloniser to continue. When the British came, they changed things and made a framework as per their requirement to rule ‘Bharat’. They knew very well that our strength is our culture. Hence very systematically, they engineered how to break the Bharatiya culture. The extent of colonisation, I am not sure, was widely understood since it has seeped into the subconscious mind. It created a new language of representation replacing earlier languages. Decolonisation of the mind is critical in developing creativity. Physical imperialism ended a long time ago but mental colonisation continues on in the present day.
When we got our Independence, we should have looked at what kind of framework we want for our nation. We did not do that and just allowed the framework designed by our coloniser to continue
Domination of Mental Universe of Colonised
While colonial powers succeeded in physical subjugation through bullets, language was the means of “spiritual subjugation.” The domination of people’s language by the languages of the colonising nations was crucial to the domination of the mental universe of the colonised. English became the decisive determinant of a child’s progress up the ladder of formal education. The colonial power conditions a child to approach the world with images and expressions from a different language. This leads to a state of colonial alienation, for there is a disassociation between the natural and social environment and the written world. The language of a child is not the same as the language of its culture.
Need to Write in Mother Tongue
I think writers should also write in their mother tongue rather than express themselves in the English language only. To starve or kill a language is to starve and kill a people’s memory bank. With language, culture and politics being intricately interwoven, how could liberation from the colonial era be achieved without a return to and revitalisation of that memory bank? True decolonisation extends beyond the removal of physical objects of oppression, such as cannons. It involves a return to and advancement of one’s identity shaped through language. The introduction of imperial languages and the displacement of indigenous languages were deliberate interventions of the ‘metaphysical empire’ on colonised spaces. Decolonisation does not mean a rejection of the West altogether. There are many even among the writers of the West who have raised their pens against colonisation and imperialism.
Creating A Disconnect With the Past
In my opinion, we may have black or brown skins but we had begun to wear white masks. Colonialism enslaved the native mind, making it believe that what had emerged in the colonial encounter was good. It produced a shadow mind whose creativeness was eroded and which, unknown to itself, adopted an intellectual life that was marked by imitation and mimicry. It led to an erasure of cultural memory, creating a disconnect with a millennia-old intellectual and cultural life. It gave the (mistaken) impression that the concepts that inhabited the European intellectual universe, particularly those that had their origin in the Enlightenment, were context-free and had universal validity. It made the colonised people feel that their cultures were inferior and that abandoning them, and adopting the cultural practices of the coloniser was, therefore, the way to go if one wanted to be respectable and be accepted as civilised.
So, decolonising is imperative because of the dead-end that we find ourselves in large parts of the world today. Non-Western states attempting to mimic Western capitalism in a world where all possibilities of further “development” stand exhausted and a planetary crisis stares us in the face.
One of the consequences of the decolonisation is the transformation of social mind in Bharat. Foreign rulers redefined Bhartiya social, cultural and political landscape. As a result, we, the followers of Dharma have become defensive on certain issues and importantly several misconceptions have arisen in our minds. Because of this we are forever measuring ourselves against Western concepts without knowing and understanding the Bharatiyata. Bharatiya women were given a higher status long before. Do you know of the dialogue between Yajnavalkya and his wife Maitreyi and Gargi Vachaknavi? It shows enlightened (spiritual knowledge) women intellectuals of that time. In the recent past, Rani of Jhansi and Ahilyabai Holkar (ruled over Indore from 1766 to 1795), and in today’s world, Sudha Murthy has done womankind proud. Yet Bhartiya are constantly accused of not treating their women well.
Appropriating Bharatiya Traditions
On plagiarism, here are two examples of Americans having appropriated Bharatiya traditions.
One, millions of Americans practice yoga, it is a billion-dollar industry. Since it originated in Bharat should not Americans have taken permission for its use, paid royalty and credited Sanatan, Buddhist and Jain Dharma traditions? Instead, the Americans coined a term 'Christian Yoga where Hindu symbols are substituted by Christian ones for e.g., Surya Namaskar is Son Salutations, where the Son is not Surya but Son of God i.e., Jesus Christ'.
Two, The Anthroposophical Society that was founded by Rudolf Steiner, was formerly with the theosophists where he picked up his main ideas from Hinduism, and where
J Krishnamurti later became the head. The huge movement known as 'Mindfulness Meditation' is nothing other than Vipassana and its American copyright claimant Jon Kabat-Zinn learned it from SN Goenka. 'Lucid Dreaming' is a technique widely taught in the USA including the US Army and various medical centers, but it is in fact ‘Yoga Nidra.’ Are we Bhartwasi buying back our own ideas from the West?
Usually we believe, the British gave us the concept of secularism. Some Christian countries criticise India for its alleged failure to protect secularism but using Bharatiya parameters which are communal in nature for example, the U.S. President takes oath of office with one hand on the Bible unheard of in Bharat. Many are concerned about what they call 'Internet Hindutva'. Until the advent of the internet, ordinary readers had no way to counter Left-leaning articles in the print media. The internet has changed this monopoly. Now they are unable to deal with this new reality.
Unfortunately, the Congress took over from where the British left. Socialist policies after Independence made ‘profit’ a dirty word. Yet Indians worship ‘Lakshmi’, the Goddess of Wealth. From time immemorial, the main aim of human endeavour in Bharat was Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha roughly translated as righteousness, wealth, worldly pleasures and salvation. While Artha (wealth) has a much deeper significance than merely wealth, making profit was never a dirty word in our concept. What really mattered was how the wealth was earned and spent.
Rise in Poverty Due to Socialism
For nearly fifty years after Independence, we pursued inward-looking Socialist policies. This hindered Bharat’s progress. Notably, it reduced her share of world trade (1950: 1.29 per cent, 1970: 0.68 per cent, 1990: 0.52 per cent, and 2000: 0.67 per cent), increased poverty and created a shortage economy. Yet, historically we have always been global citizens. Symbols of Bhartiya influence are still visible in South-East Asia and the Far East. When a nation or human being behaves in a manner i.e., alien to their inner nature, long-term progress is impossible.
India must conquer the world and nothing less is my ideal. Our eternal foreign policy must be the export of the Shastras to the nations of the world
Science and rationalism happen to be very prominent parts of our legacy. There can be little doubt that disciplines like medicine (Susruta, Charaka), mathematics (discovery of ‘Zero’, decimal system and trigonometry), Astronomy etc. were primarily empirical and logical disciplines of Bharat.
Exporting Shastras in Foreign Lands
I want to conclude by quoting the words of Swami Vivekananda from the book, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, “India must conquer the world and nothing less is my ideal. Our eternal foreign policy must be the export of the Shastras to the nations of the world. One of the reasons for India's downfall was that she narrowed herself, went into a shell, as the oyster does and refused to give her treasures and jewels to the other races of mankind outside the Aryan fold”.
“Expansion is life, contraction is death. Love is life, hatred is death”