In the past, all great thoughts from India went abroad after they were practiced in India for quite some time. Thus, there is a need for our own population to be tolerant of different shades of opinion and use technology to light up the lives of the rural poor.
It is a historical fact that India was the only country in the world that withstood the onslaught of Muslim conversion. Every country in Africa, Europe and Asia fell to the Muslim conversion. But India which was occupied and ruled for almost 500 years by Muslim rulers never became a Muslim country. Why was it so?
A probable answer lies in the higher quality of Indian spiritual thought. Though physically beaten by the external rulers they could not conquer the hearts and minds of Indians. Another reason could be that religion was a very personal matter for most Indians. They had a personal god based upon India’s ancient tradition, which they were not interested in surrendering to the messenger of God!
I feel that there is a great lesson for the world from this history, especially at this time when world over the forces of ethnic killings, conversions and fundamentalists are on the rise.
Every act of violence or ethnic cleansing brings faith to the fore and the strong reaction to it forces the population to become even more fundamentalist. The whole basis of the subjugation of one religion by another brings is greater misery and more radicalization.
All religions control the hearts and minds of their followers mostly by coercive means. In fact, all 'isms' and religions have been used for such control. The spirit of inquiry is missing in most of them, and their message is explicitly based on faith which is always blind.
Ancient Indian philosophical thought
We need to revive ancient Indian philosophical thought. It is not a religion in the narrow sense but a celebration of humanity. The Indian philosophical thought as enumerated in Vedas, Upanishads and Patanjali Yoga Darshan transcends all castes, creeds, and physical boundaries and that should be the guiding principle for our national and international discourses.
The ancient Indian philosophical thought was based on the spirit of inquiry where the guru only showed the way – the disciple had to find the goal. That goal was mostly discovering the self which ultimately led to truth and happiness. That is the higher form of thought process and is spiritual in nature rather than the dogmatic approach followed by all religions.
The hearts and minds of people can only be captured in a non-violent way by higher thought. No matter how criminal or evil a person is, he or she is always influenced by higher thought which is universal in nature. That is what the great personalities of the world have taught us. They include Buddha, Jesus Christ, Guru Nanak, Mahatma Gandhi, and the authors of Indian philosophical thought among others.
In India itself, the discourses of Adi Shankaracharya with Buddhist leaders showed the path. In a nonviolent way he discussed, debated, and defeated the Buddhist monks and priests and then brought them back into the Hindu fold. He also handed their temples back to them showing his magnanimity and internal security that came from the knowledge that his thought was superior and hence he was not afraid that they will convert back to Buddhism. This winning of their hearts and minds through higher intellectual thought is the way forward in this time of ethnic strife and violence all over the world.
Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi through his non-violent way won the hearts and minds of all Indians. He distilled the ancient philosophy of Gita and used it to raise the level of discourse to a very high level thereby achieving remarkable results.
However for this transformation to happen we need large numbers of Adi Shankaracharyas and Mahatma Gandhis who will understand the great Indian philosophical thought and then spread its message in the country and to the world. Together with this should be the use of technology to create a new paradigm of development.
Technology as a driving force
Demographically, India is the youngest country in the world. Around one billion Indians - out of a population of 1.4 billion - are below the age of 35 years. This youthful population is the biggest asset for our country. With an increasing literacy rate and with proper guidance we can become the technological powerhouse of the world.
What is needed is proper education for our youngsters to work ethically and in showing and educating them to solve the technological problems of rural India. If this is achieved then the one billion rural population of India can be lifted out of poverty and made to enter into the mainstream of development. This will help India become rich and prosperous and can also show the way for the world to get out of poverty.
Our philosophical thought together with high technology should therefore be our philosophy of development. Spirituality helps us in tempering our greed and gives us the wisdom to use technology judiciously and efficiently. And technology helps us to make our lives comfortable and easy. This combination will help us to live sustainably, efficiently and in an emotionally satisfying way. Besides, it may also give us a sense of purpose. I think this could be the basis of a new philosophy of development for India and the world and will help show the world a new paradigm of development.
Nevertheless for the world to follow this strategy we have to first make it happen here in India. In the past, all great thoughts from India went abroad after they were practiced in India for quite some time. Thus, there is a need for our own population to be tolerant of different shades of opinion and use technology to light up the lives of the rural poor. By understanding the greatness of our ancient philosophical thought, we can also remove our fears and insecurities and work for the common good.
Implications for world peace
The long-term political implications of this strategy for world peace can be immense. China which got its Buddhism and, before that Hinduism from India, may yet get its new philosophy of development from our country.
With two of the biggest nations on the earth united by this idea of using technology guided by spirituality for common good, will help usher worldwide prosperity and peace. And India will rightly be called Vishwaguru (global leader).
(The writer is Director and Hon. Secretary, Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute, Phaltan, Maharashtra. Views are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)