When the colonial British were leaving India after gifting Pakistan to Muslims, they were convinced that India, a conglomerate of 565 princely States, would never stay united as one nation for long; it would fragment into several pieces within few years. Most Western leaders held the same opinion. Clearly, the myriad diversity – lingual, cultural, traditional, and geographical – was beyond their rational comprehension shaped by the monotheist Christian philosophy that discourages diverse opinions. In fact, they had seen no prior example of such highly diversified society surviving anywhere in the world. But the history post-1947 suggests that they needed some extra learning to justify their ‘expert’ title, because the Indian ‘unity in diversity’ is still going strong at the age of 70!
Recent History of Fragmentation
Let’s look at the recent history of nation-state fragmentation around the world.
End of the First World War gave birth to several new nations – Finland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungry, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia etc.
The mono-cultural Islamic State of Pakistan could not stay intact even for a quarter century; in 1971 the East Pakistan wing became sovereign Bangladesh. It is currently battling to keep together the Balochs, Pakhtuns and Sindhis as Pakistani entities. Yet, Pakistan also runs a terror industry to produce Jihadis who want to break away Kashmir from India! The Muslim Middle East is highly divided and turbulent despite common faith, culture and traditions; it is weird to see Shia Iran standing aloof from rest of the Sunni states as if there are two separate Islams! The Kurd’s are restless for a separate nation. The dream Caliphate of global jihadis, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born and gone already despite the hallucination of converting it into a global Caliphate!!
Europeans who lecture the world on democracy and liberalism can’t stay united as one “European Union” despite the common Christian cultural monorail. After Brexit many more nations are likely to leave the EU. In Spain, Catalonians are restless for a divorce. Between 1989 and 1992 Yugoslavia broke into seven pieces. In 1991, the USSR gave birth to 15 nations. Chechnyans are still demanding separation from Russia.
Creation of Israel in 1948 brought misery for the Palestinians. Very recently in 2011, Sudan broke into two pieces.
It is clear that ‘religions’ lack the force to keep united their own “believers” – they can only divide the humanity though!! Why is that so? That’s because they have degenerated to the level of rigid and life less ‘faiths’ and ‘beliefs.’
In major democracies like the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Australia arrival of people from across the world has brought diversities over the decades. Now they are discovering new challenges of heterogeneity and multi-cultural social setup despite the romantic ideal of ‘secularism’ to accommodate different “faiths.” They have much to learn about managing diversities beyond their so-called “secularism.” Many people foolishly think that “secularism” unites people of different “faiths”; secularism is mere separation of religion and State. It is utter ignorance to think that a Bible Believer will not have a discriminating mindset against say a Quran Believer because that discrimination is inherent in his “belief.” The same goes with the Quran believer.
‘Dharma’ is the Force that Unites Indian Diversities
Starting from 1000 AD, Mohammadan barbarians repeatedly plundered and destroyed the Somnath temple over several centuries; and it got built that many times! The looters also repeatedly indulged in mass slaughter, slave taking and forced conversions. But Hindus never lost trust in power of goodness; this is the resilience coming from trust in Dharma!! Dharma does not live in temples, costumes or rituals; they are mere symbolic. It doesn’t live in the words of some special Book – ‘dharma’ lives in people’s understanding and conduct. In the 14th century, philosopher Amir Khusro wrote that Gujarati Muslims (offspring of Hindus forced to accept Islam under threat) used to first visit the Somnath temple to pay their respect before departing for Hajj pilgrimage. These unfortunate ex-Hindus had retained the Dharma wisdom despite forced conversion into Islamic ‘faith’!
Most globe watchers wonder how India has managed to assimilate so much diverse forces into one national mainstream. If they really want to find out the unifying force behind Indian unity, they need to understand the essence of Indian culture which is ‘Dharma’. Dharma is the invisible glue that binds Indians into one civilization, despite the fissures created by foreign born faiths and religions.
On the contrary, religions fail as unifying force primarily because they try to erase the natural human diversity – by imposing a uniform mindset on all “believers.” They ignore the natural reality that no two people have the same fingerprints, no two people can ever have the same mindset or the same thinking. Diversity or dissimilarity is built-in the humanity at the individual level – as a natural trait. It can’t be erased by inventing artificial god philosophies and forcing them on people. Additionally, religions are inherently divisive. Thus, today there are 73 different sects of Islam and 146 subdivisions of Christianity! If each of these cults has its own “truth” and “God” there must be 219 different “truths” and “Gods” which is plain nonsense!
In the past two millenniums, insane “believers” have killed more people in their so-called holy-crusades or holy-jihads than all other wars of the history combined. The history of Islamic expansion since the 7th century is nothing but a repetitive tale of human genocide and terror “in the glory of Allah.” For example, explore: 1000 Years of Islamic Jihad in India.
On the contrary, recognition of this human diversity and its respect is an inherent part of Indian ethos which directly comes from its ancient Vedic philosophy that revolves around “Dharma” – the natural and universal truth. So, talking about dharma means dealing with nature’s order that applies on human beings. Unfortunately, foreign languages have no equivalent words to convey the meaning of Dharma. Even in India misguided foreign educated left leaning people have wrongly translated Dharma into English language as “religion.” That’s absolutely absurd and misleading.
What is Dharma
For the lay people, the Vedic science deals with how the physical universe and life science are governed by nature’s laws. If human life is led as per these laws life is good, meaningful and peaceful, and going against them automatically brings pain and suffering. For instance, you can’t hurt someone without hurting yourself in some way – it’s a nature’s law. “Dharma” points to such natural order, the right ethics and adopting them in personal conduct. It is all about right human values and morality, and their practice in life. Thus, all India-born different philosophies of life like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc stress the right human conduct in their own ways. But they all translate into practice of non-violence, non-greed, and understanding the natural law of Karma which means doing good deeds bring good fruits in future and harming others invite pain and misery.
The highly profound Vedic literature and Upnishads resulted from the experience of countless Yogis and sages of the past; they were adept scientists exploring the inner world through meditational techniques. They discovered that everything is interconnected through some divine force that pervades everything and every being – this reality has been also often called God, although not necessary. Thus, Indians respect all forms of life as well as nature’s gifts like rivers and mountains; and see humanity as one big family (vasudeva Kutumbakam) – respecting diversities. This knowledge permeates throughout India, right from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Meghalaya to Maharashtra.
In fact, in ancient times when the boundaries extended to most of East Asia and to Afghanistan and beyond in the West, the Western and Chinese travelers saw just “One India” everywhere, despite so much diversities. Even early Christians and Muslims, who had to escape their homeland to avoid religious persecution and found shelter on the Indian soil, merged among congenial Hindus effortlessly despite their foreign appearance and ‘faith’.
Indians practice such a lifestyle in various ways “regardless of their beliefs” – using their own wisdom, knowledge and rationality. They remain their own master, have full freedom to explore and are responsible for everything they do or don’t do. They don’t have to surrender to some specially invented god or his special son or messenger and then robotically indulge in some pre-specified set of “beliefs” and ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ given by unknown strangers.
For the programmed minds of Muslims and Christians such an unstructured and open art of living with absolute freedom of thinking and believing is certainly uncomfortable and confusing. But this is what human freedom is all about – taking responsibility to live without imposed alien ideas of others!!
Indian Christians and Muslims have the golden chance to re-board the Dharma expressway, from where their ancestors were forced out in the past centuries! Don’t let the ‘imposed foreign faith’ become the reason for ghettoization and isolation.
You may also like to explore: World Needs More Dharma, Less Religion!