The Tormented Indian Spirit - Redemption or Regression

(Speech given by Kum.B.Nivedita, Secretary, Educational Wing,Vivekananda Kendra, KanyaKumari at IIT-Madras)


Respected faculty members & my dear sisters and brothers,

I am here today with a group of persons who are brilliant, not only brilliant but also with an inner urge to know more about the spirit of our Nation. All of us here are trained in rational and analytical thinking. At the same time we are not trained to know the spirit of our nation, which is holistic and synthesizing, which gives the vision of the interconnectedness of the whole universe. To know the spirit of our nation, training not only of the intellect, but also of the body, mind and spirit is needed. Unfortunately, our educational system does not give an insight into this holistic approach and therefore we are the representatives of those who feel something different deep inside but are unable to harmonize it with our learning {in schools and colleges}.

Let me illustrate it with one incident that happened in November 1997 in the Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture at Guwahati. We had a seminar, "Traditional Customs and rituals of Nagaland". Nagaland is the most disturbed northeastern State of our country. Anti-national activities and insurgency, are at their highest. Very recently, that is on Jan 8 1998, a news item appeared on Nagaland in" The Hindu" and "Indian Express", saying that the situation is such that every one has to pay a separate tax to NSCN, the militant organization there, without any protest. These insurgent organisations like NSCN openly declare, "We are not part of India, you Indian dogs get out of Nagaland" They say they are more akin to England since they are Christians as the people of England are, and so they want to become part of England. I have seen these printed pamphlets of NSCN. So, on such a State, the seminar was organized. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dr. Anthony Patten of Nagaland University delivered the keynote address and many professors and lecturers, very eminent persons from Nagaland , presented papers on "Traditional Customs and rituals of Nagaland". The common thread running through all the papers and the discussions that followed was, 'We do not know much about the customs and rituals of our Naga people. So we are presenting here, whatever we have studied from the books. I do not know how to explain certain rituals and taboos but there is some truth in them. But I do not know how to give a rational basis or explanation of it '. That is what everyone was saying, not in so many words but more or less to that effect. In his keynote address, Dr.Patten said two interesting things. He said, "The topic of today's seminar, I feel, is taking us backward, it is regressive while we should always go forward; we should modernize and we should keep pace with the emerging trends in the world".

Thus on one side we deeply believe in our traditions and yet on the other we feel following them is regression because of the Western worldview and our training. That is the torment we all undergo. Later in our discussions and while proposing the vote of thanks, I told, "Dr Patten has rightly pointed out that we should never regress and we should be modern; but what is modernization" Modernization is not just imitation of the West. Modernization is not cutting ourselves from our roots. Modernization is self-renewal. Whatever is my spirit I express it further, more vibrantly and in tune with the demands of the time. That is modernization. What are the emerging trends? If we l in the West. His approach towards the human body is to treat it as a whole, and not as separate and different mechanical systems like digestive system, nervous system & respiratory system etc. put together. Similarly the world can not be divided into different blocks. We are all interconnected. The physicists here know it. Even one single sub-atomic incident has its effect on the whole universe. So with such interconnectedness existing, one cannot say," I will think whatever I want, I will live however I want".The thought and life of each one has an impact on the whole universe! If I am destroying nature, it is I who will be destroyed in the end, as I am also a part of nature. If I am exploiting nature, it is I who would get exploited. So our life-style has to be in tune with the surroundings. It should be in tune with nature. And India is a nation, which has lived for thousands of years with this philosophy, long before the West thought of it. {It also could be said that this populous nation lived and progressed for thousands of years precisely because it followed this philosophy.}


So then what is our nation? How has our nation survived so long? Certainly, we must have understood the secret of life. Are we aware of it now? How has this nation come into existence? We are all celebrating the 50th year of independence; unfortunately I have seen in certain schools and colleges, the way Independence Day is celebrated. Children get the impression that our nation is only 50 years old. In one school I heard a chief-guest say "children, this is the 50th happy birthday of our nation"! We were not born just 50 years ago. Did this nation come into existence only when the British united India politically? We assume that the British gave the concept of nation to us and consequently we say that the nation is in the making. We confuse Nation with State. A State is merely a political and governing entity. On the other hand, a nation is evolved from a set of values, beliefs and attitudes that bind people together. We were thus already a nation. It is a different matter that politically we did not have one single system of governance. But we were trying to express our unity as a single State also. But before the experiment was concluded successfully, we had to face invasions after invasions during the last thousand years. But political unity was not of paramount importance to us. We had the deepest unity any nation could have, and as Ernest Renan, the French historian of religion said, "Nation is a spiritual concept, and only India has tried this". Even Vincent Smith, who is not a lover of India, admits that India has a much deeper cultural unity than any other country. The consciousness that this nation is culturally and spiritually one was never lost. Throughout our literature, this consciousness of nation has expressed itself in referring to India as Punya Bhumi, Dharma Bhumi, Gyana Bhumi etc.

This nation is very, very ancient, and how has it come into existence? There are many ways in which nations come into existence. Countries like the USA, or Australia, or some of those in South America, have come into existence by EXTERMINATION. That is, people went from some other countries and destroyed the native inhabitants. The natives Red-Indians were killed, or driven deep into the jungles. In Australia also the same thing happened, and then they started establishing their own values from their parent country. And thus there is a nation today called the USA, which has come out of extermination. Then there are nations which came into existence naturally thrive only on exploitation, like most of the European countries. All their wealth is built up by exploiting Asia and Africa. England came up so well only by exploiting India. Why was Churchill against giving up Indian colony or giving independence? Because, she was a major source of wealth. Then of course there are a few nations, which come into existence because of partition, like some in the Middle East or Pakistan. Such nations cannot survive without the fuel of hatred, which is the cause of partition.


How has our country come up and survived for all these years? In Atharva Veda there is a reference. A Sukta (19.41.1)says,





"In the beginning desiring the well being of humanity the Rishis the knowers of the Self underwent penance, and out of that penance this nation was born alongwith strength and vitality. Gods serve this land with all humility."

Firstly it means that the very existence of this nation is for the well being of humanity. So when we say India has to be again a strong, vibrant nation, that doesn't mean that it will do so at the cost of other nations or she will be harmful to others. India has never been a conquering nation. It is the only nation in the world that does not have a single stain of blood on her hands. As a nation we have never butchered anyone, never conquered anyone, never made anyone our slave nor have we destroyed anyone's indigenous faith and way of life. We have only given our good thoughts and ideals for expediting the development and evolution of their own ideas in the natural way. For example, when Indian culture spread to different countries and continents, we never said there that their way of worship was wrong, never held that their God was false. We told, "yes, this is how you should worship, but understand that He is not limited to this area, or only to the sky; He is everywhere. He is occupying everything and He - the One has become the many, and therefore He has got many names." That is how we accepted and absorbed so many tribes and communities, which came to our country. No one was rejected. Rejection or denial, our country has never practiced, but has only helped everyone to evolve from within. Mutual cooperation-Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah is the cardinal principle of our nation and not the concepts like "struggle for existence" or "survival of the fittest". Therefore we see in the West that the origin of a family is traced to a notorious dacoit, pirate or a warrior, whereas in India it is traced to the Rishis. This is the greatness of this land.


For the well being of humanity this nation was born. And how has this nation survived, how was this nation nurtured? - By the penance of the Rishis. The Rishis went on enquiring and contemplating as to where lies the happiness. Different groups, different races had different analyses and thinking. Some came to the conclusion by mere observation. Happiness lies in the objects of enjoyment. So gather more and more things, that is the way of life. Some people got revelations that in this life a lot of suffering is there, and suffering cannot be fully removed. So they said "you believe in God and in the life after death; you will have all the happiness when you will go to heaven. So in this life you believe, pray to God, worship Him, that's all". Our Rishis did penance. They went deeper and deeper into truth. Swami Vivekananda says our Rishis never feared truth. Fearless researchers of truth, they were. In India God has never been an object of belief, God has been the subject of search, and therefore to such highest flight of thought India could reach. The quest for happiness amongst the Rishis eventually led to the realization (to which modern science is also coming) that everything is ONE. Therefore, life has to be in harmony with nature, a family with the community, a community with the nation and a nation with the whole of humanity. And with that realization that the purpose of life is to realize that oneness, is to be in tune with oneself and hence the whole world, this nation was nurtured. How was the society evolved and structured to be in tune with the realizations of the Rishis? What were the aspirations and values, cherished and evolved, that helped the nation survive so long?


What is the aim of life? Society is multilayered in its consciousness. The aim of life has to take this fact into account and regulate the life of individual soul as per its capacity. We had defined aims of life as four-fold - Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. We now think these are 'puraana' things, but the deeper we delve, we realize that, our life has been analyzed in a most beautiful way. Dharma is defined in many ways because English language is inadequate to express its exact meaning. The simplest definition is ? Dharma is that which connects, relates {effectively and harmoniously} an individual to the collectivities (like family, community, society, nation, humanity and the whole world and beyond)? Thus bringing harmony with all others around is Dharma. Dharma holds things together. When I think of others' rights, it is Dharma. What is my 'kanya' Dharma? - To think of my parents. See the beauty, in our country, we never talked about rights, we always thought about duties. The husband was asked to uphold his pati-dharma. He should care for his wife. The wife was never asked to assert her rights. If each starts asserting rights, there will be only fights as we are seeing now. So each one was told to follow Dharma. The pati's Dharma becomes the right of the wife and wife's Dharma becomes the right of the husband. The mother's Dharma becomes the right of the children. The children's Dharma becomes the right of the parents. The son took it that it was his Dharma to take care of his parents so we didn't need any old age homes. Never did a father tell his son that this is my right and you should give me this. No, we never talked of rights, we talked of Dharma. And Dharma was for social harmony. In India we always believed in having 'welfare society', rather than welfare state. And even during the foreign and hostile rules society could take care of itself, and the nation could survive. The society as a whole was conscious about its duty towards the destitute, orphans, aged. The precept and pursuit of Dharma was the basis for the 'seva'. Therefore we did not need extraneous social service institutions. Even though one may suffer while following Dharma, one should courageously take it in one's stride, for the welfare of society. Draupadi, obviously fed up with her suffering, once asked Yudhishthira, "What have you got by following Dharma? You have been only suffering in your life. " Yudhishthira replies, " Dharmarthakushale (Exponent of Dharma and Artha) Draupadi, I know you say this not because you really mean it but because of the extreme sufferings and humiliations you underwent. I follow Dharma not because by following it I get something. I follow it because it is to be followed." If we want to raise our nation, reestablishment of Dharma in the society is to be given preference and not follow western methods like granting of rights or fighting for rights or welfare schemes for the needy etc. If children take care of their Dharma, old age homes will not be needed. If men take care of their Dharma either as pati-dharma or pitru-dharma or bhratru-dharma destitute homes are not needed.


Second aim of life is Artha. India is a country that never looked down upon wealth. Here Artha is given a lot of importance, only it should be acquired in a dharmic way. It should not be done by destroying the social system, by exploiting others, for then it is not true pursuit of Artha but rather a wrong way of life. But Artha should be acquired. The wealth of the wealthy was again regulated by the concept of Dharma. Wealthy man was not expected to be ostentatious and yet the natural tendency of a man to show of his wealth was taken care of by stipulating such acts of merits which directly helped the society. Thus we see it as the common practice that it was Dharma for the wealthy persons to run schools, to help the poor scholars, to build roads, tanks, temples, to feed the poor, to organize the Katha-kirtans etc. India was the richest land till the British came. Whereas Britain's share when they came to India was only 9%, India's share of export was 19% now it is 0.5 %. We are told that the foreigners came to India to learn spirituality or wisdom from us. It is only partly true. Actually most of the foreigners came to India in search of her fabulous wealth. Ernest Wood writes,"In the middle of the eighteenth century Phillimore wrote "the droppings of her soil fed distant religions." No traveler found India poor until the nineteenth century, but foreign merchants and adventurers sought her shores for the almost fabulous wealth, which they could obtain there. "To shake the pagoda tree" became a phrase, somewhat similar to our modern expression "to strike oil". (An Englishman Defends Mother India by Ernest Wood pp 15-16)". The poverty is the 'gift' of the British to us. Even now the MNCs have come for wealth, for market, and not to do any upakara (service).


The third aim is Kama, the desire. The Indian had a healthy view of life. Desire or Kama was never considered bad. Bhagavad Gita says "Dharmavirudhhobhuteshu Kamosmi Bharatarshabha. (VII.11)-Desire that is not against Dharma is divine." Marriage was never looked down upon as was done in some other religious societies in other countries. But in India the desires for enjoyment or to achieve success were not looked down upon as long as these were in tune with the progress of the society and were for the evolution of the society.


The ultimate aim of life is Moksha, realization that every thing is One, realization that the One has become many, or, to put in ordinary language - God-realization. We all have to get it. We are all going towards it. And therefore each and every action should be a sadhana to ultimately achieve Moksha. Moksha as an aim of life is too distant and less motivating for ordinary man. But it was considered that if other three purusharthas Dharma, Artha and Kama were followed properly then one would naturally attain Moksha. In difficult situations if one has to choose among the three, then Kama should be dropped but Dharma and Artha should be followed. Again in still more extreme situation, if one has to choose among the two then Artha should be dropped but Dharma has to be followed at all costs. Because from Dharma alone springs the Artha, Kama and even Moksha.


How was life divided? Life was divided into 4 ashrams - Brahmacharya Grihastha , Vanaprastha and Sanyasa. What a beautiful idea! Brahmacharya is the pursuit of truth. It can be any truth. The joy of knowledge is not in its extent but in its depth. In India we see individuals giving their whole life for the study of one book, diving deep into it. Here no truth was rejected. The pursuit of truth was the highest in India. In any field of human life one could dive deep to understand its secret. Because this realisation was given to us by our Rishis that knowledge in any branch, if taken to its logical conclusion will surely lead to the same ultimate truth that "One has become many" And therefore you know in India there was never any clash between science and spirituality. On the other hand, Charaka and Sushruta who contributed a lot to medical science, Panini who was the greatest gramarian, or Vatsyayana who wrote Kamasutras were all revered as Rishis. A lot of rules were there for those who were seeking knowledge. Brahamcharya Ashram was the first stage of life in which a strong foundation for the pursuit of knowledge was laid. That is how this land is known through the millenia as Jnanabhoomi. It is said that a party of young men went to Emerson and desired to know how they might become learned. He told them to read good books for five hours every day, They asked, "What books?" His answer was: "Any good books that you like." But as they were about to depart he called them back and said, "But do not forget to read the Hindu books." (An Englishman Defends Mother India by Ernest Wood pp 14)


Then comes Grihasthashrama. The basic unit of the society is not an individual but a family. Married life is also a tapas; it also has to be considered so. Do you know why? Because we considered that for the evolution of humanity, the next generation has to be intellectually, emotionally and spiritually better. If the mother is such that she has prepared herself in all the necessary ways the coming progeny will be better than the previous one. And nowadays the talk has already started about pre-natal education, post-natal education and how a woman can give different ideas or directions to her children even during conception. If we want to understand this Grishasthashrama, we have to first understand the role of women.

The concept of man and woman as viewed in India is to be clearly understood. Man and woman are complementary to each other. They are equal, but their functions are different. Even traditionally and theologically, it is said that Brahman the creative principle divided itself into two and that is how man and woman were created. The woman has more 'stri-tatva' in her and man has more 'purusha-tattva' in him. This does not mean that they are exclusively man or woman. But when 'stri-tatva' is a little more it is called womanhood. There are some women who are more manly, and there are men who man can achieve is being called 'mother' For example, Jnaneshwar had such wonderful qualities that people were not satisfied with calling him Maharaj, and instead they called him Maauli, - mother. If a man ill-treats a woman, he turns into a beast because he is actually showing disrespect to the divine qualities themselves that are embodied in a woman. Women should not have to suffer under men. She should understand that she has the capacity to correct man. We suffer under someone because we do not have confidence in our own strength. So women should not feel helpless.


Merely framing rules or making a law cannot reinstate the dignity and respect with which she is to be treated. If the consciousness is evolved, we don't require many rules. Rules do not solve the problem. For example, take the drive against dowry. In most communities the dowry is taken from the girl; Therefore we feel woman is oppressed and ill treated and therefore also unwanted. But in many North Eastern communities the dowry is given by man to woman. Does that mean that the fate of women is any better? Not at all. Man has to give dowry to the girl's parents. After she comes to the husband's house all the people will tell her that now she has to work in the fields because "we have paid so much to your parents"! So she works and the man simply sits and idles away. Thus a rule giving 33% reservation in the Parliament does not basically change the fate of women. It is the evolved consciousness that matters. What is discussed in the parliament will not affect the fate and life of women in rural areas. It is only work among them, and also the awareness among men that will help. And that's why Dharma has to prevail more and more. "It is my Dharma to treat my family members properly. Otherwise the whole family would be disturbed". It is this consciousness of Dharma that can save the society. That is what our sadhus and sanyasins, the moving talking, walking universities were doing, our family members were also doing the same. Now that system is almost broken down.


A woman is called Grihalakshmi - the presiding deity of house. Man only a grihastha, the one who stays in the house. Sri Ramakrishna once used a slightly harsh word against Sarada Ma. And thinking he had spoken very harshly he started telling his nephew Hriday, "Hriday, please go and see if your aunt is unhappy, see whether she is alright.". Hriday said, "Uncle, why do you worry so much? After all, you are the husband. If you speak one harsh word what is wrong? Let her be unhappy. She will be alright after sometime". Sri Ramakrishna replied, " No, no. It is not like that. Even if a single tear comes in those eyes all my sadhana will be wiped out because she is the guarding deity". Woman is the presiding deity of the family and so she does more tapas in this ashram called grihasthashrama. Because if the coming generation has to be better than the earlier generation - as only then evolution of humanity can take place - the woman has to be a better and better instrument because she being the mother, the child is more under her. Have not the mothers of great souls prayed for years and years together? If we want great souls to be born again, we require such mothers first! Of course, hat does not mean man needn't be better!


The higher qualities in man or woman must come out. It starts with the physical level. Man gets joy from a woman (and vice-versa), and slowly the sense level is transcended and more of the 'tyaga-bhava' starts appearing. Family is a place where the attachment to wife, husband, children and other relatives slowly mellows down the individual and the higher emotions like sacrifice, respect, concern for others, etc, develop. I will just give one interesting example. In Arunachal Pradesh we have a number of schools; it is meant for those whom we call tribals. There was a man who was considered a rogue in one basti. People used to tremble seeing him. He got a daughter. When she was three and a half years old he brought her to the school. He came for admission. He told us that after a long time a daughter was born to him. So when the girl was born he kept on watching over her so that nothing happens to his little one. He said," Didi, my little child, she is a girl, and when she grows up she must put up with a lot of trouble. I have harassed my wife so much. So, her husband might also harass her like this. I should not have done like this to my wife.". This realization came to him through the family. Initially he thought only about himself, but slowly higher values dawned on him. That is how families were considered very important to mellow down even rogues, at least towards his children, at least and his family members; then he starts becoming a better and better person. So that was grihasthashrama. Initially Kama and Artha are pursued and gradually, higher values of life also start coming into the family. In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkya says to his wife Maitreyi.

Sa howacha Na wa are patyuhkamaya patih priyo bhavati. Atmanstu kamaya patihpriyobhavati. Na wa are jayayai kamaya jaya priyo bhavati Atmanastu kamaya jaya priyo bhavati?? Atma wa are drashtavyah srotavyah mantavyah nididhysitavyah Maitreyi Atmani khalvare drishte shrute mate vidjnatam idam sarvam. (IV.V.6)

"It is not for the husband's sake that a husband is loved , but for the sake of the Atman he is loved. It is not for the sake of the wife that the wife is loved but for the sake of the Atman the wife is loved. ?..(children, money, Gods ,lerned persons, vedas etc are covered this way) My dear Maitreyi this Self should be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon. When the Self is realised by being heard of , reflected on and meditated upon, all this is known."

Thus the things that we love or get enjoyment from, like wife, husband, children, money, learning, books etc should ultimately lead us to the original source of Joy- the realization of the Self or the realization of the ONE that pervades everywhere. Grihasthshramis take care of the society by working for it, they contribute to the further evolution of humanity by contributing such children who are even better than the parents and ultimately adding to the wisdom of the nation by realizing the higher truths of life - the truths towards which the Grihasthashrama is supposed to lead men and women.


The logical and successful culmination of Grihasthshrama is Vanaprasthashrama wherein every person should do contemplation on whatever he or she has understood in his or her active social and family life. Unless each one uses the experience of life for contemplative study, it is no use gathering so much experiences. Mere analytical thinking will not do; there has to be a synthesis between one's thinking and one's living. Therefore, every person should go to a secluded spot, contemplate for years and years together, realize the truths in the light of the needs of the current situations and then as a sanyasi he must go round the country, not staying in one place for more than three days, spreading great ideas and ideals. Even God- realization is not only for the individual, its benefit is supposed to teach the whole society. Our sanyasis were walking, talking universities. If you go to the interior parts of our country, even an ordinary man understands the concept of Dharma, Leela,, Karma, Maya etc, which even the intellectual stalwarts in the west find difficult to understand. Even now if something wrong is done, a very "uneducated" person will say "this is not Dharma, I should not have done this", or, "he should not have done this". That is how great principles were made living principles for us. ? I accumulate knowledge, then I produce better progeny, then I contemplate and realize, so that behind my words there is power to keep the society on the path of Dharma. By that I contribute to the society to evolve still more.? -This is the gist of human life as per our culture.


Then there was the Varna system, the most controversial system at present. There is a reference in the Vedas that the Purusha sacrificed himself and from his mouth came Brahmins, from arms came Kshatriyas, the Vaishya came from the stomach and from legs came the Shudras. Our concept of society was organic. Society was organised in such a way that the humanity could be taken to the next stage of evolution. Two basic facts were taken into account that i) All men are not equally talented or gifted by nature, even though it has been generous enough to furnish a distinct and outstanding tendency to every individual. And secondly ii) every individual in the society must be provided for. Manu the great law giver says-"Harmlessness, truthfulness, honesty, cleanliness, sense-control - this, in brief, is declared to be the duty of all castes"

If humanity is to be taken higher in the path of evolution then it should have such ideal persons and guides who are the best but demand the least.e. So the Brahmins were to set up the higher ideals in the society. They were supposed to know all the Shastras to teach all the Varnas but they should not enter any profession or compete with other Varnas. They should not accumulate more wealth. If they get more wealth than needed in the Dana given by others, they should donate it to the needy. These were the injunctions for Brahmins. We see till the 18 th century the Brahmin is praised very highly for his knowledge, the character and the intelligence by the foreign travellers and foreign scholars.


In the society one class of persons - Kshatriyas were for protecting the society and for the preservation of Dharma. King was not supreme in the land. The ritual of coronation illustrates this point beautifully. After being declared the king, he would stand up and proclaim that ?I am above punishment.? Then the Rishis or royal family teachers present there would hit on his head with their staff and declare that Dharma is supreme and you are under it. Dharma can punish you. Thus in any kingdom it was the rule of the Dharma that was supreme and the king was only a trustee. Even kings after their rule were to take to Vanaprasthashrama. Only in India we see the kings leaving all wealth and power and retiring to the forests for Self-realization. Actually many seers of the Upanishads are Kshatriyas. There are many references in which even Brahmins went to these Rajarishis for getting knowledge. Another important benefit of this system was that even during war times the Kshatriyas alone were engaged in fighting and the society was left unaffected to pursue its vocations. Thus even after millenia of invasions the society remained rich and vibrant till the time after British conquest. Nation survived even under the foreign and hostile regime.

Dharma for us is not religion in Semitic sense that is belief in one defined name and form of God, but the eternal and unifying principle for all upasanas and ways of life. Because of this concept of Dharma and that the Kshatriya was meant only for protecting Dharma, India never sent out armies for conquering, looting or destroying other countries. On the other hand, we absorbed, assimilated and humanized the semi-barbarous hordes of invaders that came to our country. In our tradition we had the concept of Arthavijaya and Dharmavijaya though we were also aware of Asuravijaya. Arthavijaya means the king would try to conquer other kingdoms but would neither replace the king or the way of life of the people. Only insistance would be to get recognition as an emperor and some annual tribute. Dharmavijaya means getting the recognition from the conquered king that he was the emperor and the best protector of Dharma. Asuravijaya meant not only money but even the kingship would be taken over by the conqueror to destroy the beliefs and way of life of the conquered. India never indulged in Asuravijaya.


The most populous Varna was of the Vaishyas. All artisans, farmers and traders were Vaishyas. The point is whosoever produced food and material and added to the wealth of the nation was considered Vaishya. Vaishya also was a very respected class. Traditionally the king was enjoined by the Shastras to include four Brahmins, seven Kshatriyas, twenty-one Vaishyas and eight Shudras in his governing council. That much importance the Vaishyas were given as they added wealth to the nation. Respect to them meant respect to Artha, one of the four aims of life. These three Varnas were known as the twice born. Manu says,"Not birth, not even formal sacraments, not superficial learning, make the twice-born; those who know the inmost truth, the Rishis, have declared that character and conduct alone determine the caste of a man."


The Asrama system is the social system whereas the Varna system is mainly for the progress of the individual, though it is also for the establishment of strife-free society. As per the individual tendency and the Samskaras the individual was to take up the responsibilities in the society and also to decide about his mode of work so as to proceed in the path evolution without stress. Shudra was the one who did not have the initiative to undertake any function in the society and carried the work allotted to him. The Shudra constitute the leg of the society and if they are not taken care of properly society cannot develop. You know if the legs are not working properly, if they are weak, then the whole body (that is, the society) is unable to move, the progress is affected, the dynamism is lost. In all our Shastras this injunction is continuously given to the other Varnas, to keep the Shudra happy by giving him all that is needed. If the Shudras are not happy then the society will be affected. Here there is no question of great and small. When we prostrate the great people we touch their feet. Our concept of nation or society or family is organic. There are no absolute individual rights. As there is no question of the rights of hands or head or the legs as all organs are interrelated parts of the one whole. Each organ does the function for which it is best suited.

Sri Bhagavan Das writes in the "Science of social organisation" that, "We may infer what the sprit of the ancient culture was towards the Shudras of the community. The epithets of "youngest," "latest born," "littlest brother," are applied to him constantly, and the tone is of affectionate patronage and gentle but firm rule. He is to labor, but his food and clothing must be sure, and such instruction as he can assimilate must be given to him. He is the child soul, the younger member of the family. He is mentioned in the same breath with the women and the children, all objects of equally tender care. The ultimate aim of life was God -realization and any one belonging to any Varna could do it. It was believed that one could realize one's Self by performing the function for which one is best suited for (the path of least resistance) to the best of one's ability. Many times Manu is quoted to prove that the tradition has sanctioned ill treatment of the Shudras. In the Laws of Manu there are occasional verses which violently disagree in sprit or method with the body of the work. We must regard these as interpolations, using common sense and not quote them as authentic. So the Rishis or Shastras or our culture is not responsible for it though it is a fact that the system had become rigid in course of time.


The question naturally arises as to why the system of Varna became so distorted. The reason is that any system need to be regularly evaluated and reinterpreted as per the needs of the time. When times change the context also changes. At the same time imperfect human beings finding the ideal difficult pulls down the ideal to its level. Therefore consistently ideals are to be put forth in the language needed at that time. Retaining the eternal principles underlying the system, the outer form is to be changed as per the need. Continuous foreign invasions for nearly eight centuries engaged the creative intelligence of the society. When dacoits attack the house, all are engaged in the protection of the family. No one will think of writing poems, singing songs, cooking nice dishes or even teaching children. To put in Swami Vivekananda's words, "The degeneration of India came not because the laws and customs of the ancients were bad, but because they were not allowed to be carried to their legitimate conclusions. Every critical student knows that the social laws of India have always been subject to great periodic changes. At their inception, these laws were the embodiment of a gigantic plan, which was to unfold itself slowly through time. The great seers of ancient India saw so far ahead of their time that the world has to wait centuries yet to appreciate their wisdom, and it is this very inability on the part of their own descendants to appreciate the full scope of this wonderful plan that is the one and only cause of the degeneration of India." ( CW IV p 324 - 325)

But we have to keep in mind a few things when we set out for national reconstruction. The caste provided a sort of bigger identity and safety net the individual. It gave stability to the society. Even now many caste-based associations and organizations take care of the interests of the students, women etc of their respective communities. It also has gone very deep in the Indian psyche.When olitics trie ggravated by the policies of the British which very few of us are aware of. They found that they had conquered this nation, and yet, this nation was strongly rooted in its own culture. They thought that it was their duty to bring the light of Jesus here because they believed it was the whiteman's burden. But conversion was not possible as long as the nation was aware and even proud of its traditions. India had got a very well spread system of education and that system had to be made ineffective for their purposes. Now all of us sitting here believe - because we are taught to believe (I also thought so, until I came across the facts) - that education was in the hands of the Brahmins and through Sanskrit medium, and that the other castes had no education. But we should know the facts about how the British destroyed the Indian educational system and made the most literate nation in the world illiterate.


Apart from the missionary zeal to bring the light of Jesus to India, the British were also after the wealth of this land and so they tried to earn money by all possible ways. In India 50% to 35% village lands were revenue free and the revenue collected was utilized for running schools, temple festivals, medicine, feeding pilgrims, irrigation etc. British in their greed brought this revenue free lands down to 5% from 50%. When there was protest they assured that government would create an irrigation department to take care of irrigation and an educational board to take care of education etc. The initiative of the people was destroyed. By 1820 British had already destroyed the financial resources of our educational system for nearly twenty years. But still the Indians persisted with their system of education. So the British decided to find out what their system of education was. And therefore a survey was ordered in 1822 and was taken by the British district collectors. In the survey it was found that Bengal presidency had 1 lakh village schools, in Madras presidency, there was not a single village without a school, in Bombay presidency if the population was 100 it had a school. Which caste was educated? Teachers as well as students of all castes were in these schools. From 7% to 48% were the Brahmin teachers, and from 18% to 78% were the other castes teachers in any given district, and also, all the children had their education in their mother tongue. The education was for 4 to 5 years that is correspondingly the primary education of our day. We all know that it is universal primary education that is important to take the nation ahead, not just a few getting higher education. The British Administrators admired the dedication and capacity of the Indian teachers. By the time the students came out of the schools, they acquired the capacity to be competitive, to understand and to have proper insight in their culture.

Mahatma Gandhi; when he went to London for Round Table Conference in 1931, said in one of the speeches, " The beautiful tree of education was cut down by you British. Therefore today India is far more illiterate than it was 100 years ago." Immediately Philip Hartog, who was a member of parliament stood up and said," Mr. Gandhi, it is we who have educated the masses of India. And therefore you take back your statement and apologize, or prove it" Gandhiji said he would prove it. But he could not do so for lack of time. Later one of his disciples, Shri Dharmpal, went to the British Museum and went through the reports in the archives and published the book "The Beautiful Tree". It is worth reading. It gives a survey report in detail along with the detailed information about the British education at that time. One Mr. Bell, a Christian missionary in Madras took Indian system of education, went back to England and introduced it there. Until then only the children of nobles alone were given education, and he started the education for the masses of England. It is from India that the British adopted the system for educating the masses.


But what happened in India? The missionaries even resented the nominal amount of rupees one lakh kept aside for the education of the Indians. The British cut down the financial resources and brought one after other regulations like there has to be a 'pucca' building, there has to be affiliation for the school, the medium of instruction has to be English, to destroy our system. The British did not stop there; they went further. T B Macaulay was invited to decide about how to divert the money, what should be the medium of instruction and mode of educating the Indian. He made English as the medium of instruction and they diverted the money for English education. G. D. Trevelyan writes in 'Life of Lord Macaulay' (vol I p 164) New India was born in 1835....What Alexander, Ashoka and the western missionaries had failed to do was accomplished by Macaulay's educational minutes, decreeing that India was to receive through English education, the school and the language of the West?. The very foundation of her ancient civilization began to rock and sway. Pillar after pillar in the edifice came crashing down."

But he did a more harmful thing that is not told to us. He adopted the ?downward filtration method? for educating the Indians. What is this "downward filtration method" ? The problem in front of Macaulay was that Indians were numerous and British were handful. How were they going to educate the Indians? How could this nation be weakened so that in self-forgetfulness it would support the British Raj? When he was in Ooty, as he was sitting in his residence, the story goes - we do not know whether the story is true or not but what decisions he took are of course true and well documented - that he saw an Indian officer coming and touching the feet of a peon sitting outside his office (on the lower hill of his residence), and Macaulay was surprised. Why was an officer touching the feet of a peon? So he asked someone. They said, " You do not know, this Indian society is a peculiar one. Here Brahmins are respected and the peon belongs to that caste and the officer to another caste, and they respect Brahmins. That is what he has done". Macaulay told, "I have got the answer!" So downward filtration method was formulated. As per it the forward caste (even this name was given much later) was given preference in schools. His idea was - in his own words, "But it is impossible for us - with our limited means to educate all in English. ..We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and colour but English in tastes, in opinion, in morals, and in intellect."

This system of giving preference to the Brahmins in the government and missionaries' schools went on for nearly hundred years. In the meantime the other castes had lost their business due to the flooding of the Indian markets by British goods and also deliberate strangulation of their business by British. Due to the land policy of the British born out of their greed, the farmers had become landless laborers in their own lands, and the landlords the cruel stoogies of the British. The systematic destruction of the Indian system of education deprived these castes of education. Thus over hundred years these castes had become impoverished and ignorant and the Brahmins who were supposed to lead the society became distorted in their understanding due to the foreign education.


In Macaulay;s letter dated 12 October 1836, he writes to his father that, "Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully, we find it difficult to provide instruction to all. The effect of this education on Hindoos is prodigious. No Hindoo who has received an English education ever remains sincerely attached to his religion.It is my firm belief that if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respected classes in 30 years hence. And this will be effected without our efforts to proselytize:I heartily rejoice in the prospect."That was the confidence with which they set out. But they did nor know that they were encountering a nation that was nurtured by the gods, goddesses and Rishis. It was in 1836 that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa was born who through idol worship realized the greatest truths and propagated them to the West through his disciple Swami Vivekananda. The missionaries after years of toiling in vain, realized that their efforts of proselytisation had not been successful. So after nearly 100 years there was a conference of missionaries in India in 1882. They sat together and discussed about the effects of their education on the Brahmins. They found that though to the extent they were successful in taking away the Brahmins from their ideals, the conversion had not taken place. A decision to slowly target the other castes and tribal in their educational institutions was taken. Generally we think that the Brahmins were responsible for the condition of the other castes. Till the British started ruling India most of the castes were educated and prosperous but the deliberate policies of the British are responsible for their present condition. The Brahmins who were supposed to set the standards of behavior in society were targeted and when they strayed away from their path, they were blamed for the condition of these castes. Brahmins are responsible for the condition of our society at present; there is no doubt about it. But they are responsible not because they kept learning to themselves as is generally assumed but because they allowed themselves to be intellectually corrupted by the British and because they entered all the professions of the different castes and also government jobs, thus paving way for competition and hatred among castes. Today they stand discredited in general and no more are respected as the examples to be followed. The intellect of the Brahmins were corrupted, distorted and uprooted from their culture. Although Brahmins became corrupted and distorted in their intelligence, it goes to the credit of all the other castes that though they too were targeted, they stood firm. It is thus the Brahmins who first went astray - of course they still follow the traditions and rituals but not the spirit of the system that 'the best should have the least. The best should sacrifice for the good of the many.'


After independence India should have sincerely taken a fresh look at all the systems so as to express her soul in all its freedom and to contribute to the world. After all, what is the strength of a nation? When the flow of national thought current is strong in all the fields, the nation is alive. When India became free, she should have adopted the old educational system. If we had done that today we would not have had illiteracy in our country. We didn't do that. We should have concentrated on Ayurveda; all our technology should have been such as to be in tune with nature. But it hasn't happened. So even in top institutions like IITs, we have western models, western thinking and western problems for research. Indian life is different and our research also should be altogether different. So we never followed Ayurveda, our system of education, our system of governance or our irrigation methods. This nation is getting weakened further and further. We know less and less about our own nation. After all how does a nation die? One way is by physical destruction as the Europeans who settled in America destroyed nations in the Americas. Another is that the people lose faith in their own way of life, their philosophies, their principles, their thought currents etc, and the nation is destroyed. For example take the present Greece and Italy. What great civilizations they were! But there came a time when the intelligentsia lost faith in their way of life, in their forefather's wisdom. They adopted a totally different philosophy. Greece did not physically die. People did not die. People now in Greece, Italy, Persia (Iran) are the descendants of those who were the originators of those great civilizations. But today if you go and ask them what your forefathers thought of life, they would say we do not know just as those Nagaland professors were saying in the seminar that we do not know, it is in the books, it is in the exhibition, you go and refer to it. That is how a nation is totally destroyed. How does the nation get weakened? A nation gets weakened when the ignorance of the people about their own roots increases, or when they become ashamed of themselves or of their forefathers. Actually that is where real regression of a nation starts. A nation which wants to forget about itself and imitate other nations cannot redeem itself. It is on the path of self-destruction. That regression is there in our nation at present and if we want to redeem ourselves of it, we have to free its soul to renew and express itself in all walks of life in the context of modern times.


We have to be self confident and free for the self-renewal of our nation and for full and free self-expression. But at present we are not free intellectually. We were systematically made prisoners of certain terms and certain ideas. The media was controlled and even now to a large extent it is so. For many years under the British, only Christian missionaries or the British Government could own the printing media. Political system is free but those who rule are not in tune with thel soul. Not only the state but the elite of the society too consider it unnecessary to look into the theories and concepts taught during British period and even now through media. These theories and concepts are accepted unchallenged and have become too sacred to even question them in a spirit of the scientific inquiry or with an urge to know the truth. Anyone who dares to do it is called as regressive and also chosen abuses are showered on him. Even good intentioned persons tell "What is the need to look in the past? Look at the future."

Swami Vivekananda has told very clearly, "Nowadays everybody blames those who constantly look back to their past. It is said that so much looking back to the past is the cause of all India's woes. To me, on the contrary, it seems that the opposite is true. So long as they forgot the past, the Hindu nation remained in a state of stupor; and as soon as they have begun to look into their past, there is on every side a fresh manifestation of life. It is out of this that the future has to be moulded; this past will become the future. The more, therefore, the Hindus study the past, the more glorious will be their future, and whoever tries to bring the past to the door of everyone, is a great benefactor to his nation" (Vol. IV p 324) But if anyone wants to save this nation and do service to it and to humanity it is necessary to look into these concepts in the context of our culture. So, there are certain ideas of which we have become prisoners and because of that nation is unable to express itself.


Another concept that has imprisoned us is the concept of religion. Religion has two meanings. We who have a Hindu background take religion as a way of life. But religion in the Semitic tradition is different. It has a defined form of God, with a specific book, with a belief of divine origin. In India, we have different sects. All these sects with their form of Gods coexisted and allowed people to worship, as they deemed fit. Because the principle in our 'way of life' is that any path of worship can take one Godward. God is everywhere. The One has become the many. And therefore God can be worshipped in any form and in any way. It is not necessary that one has to sit and offer flowers or close eyes and meditate in a particular way only. Even the work that we do can be worship. Even the dance that one does can be worship of God i.e. the art becomes sadhana. That was our concept. This way of life, woven around these eternal principles, of life is the Hindu way. A couple of years ago, even the Supreme Court has decreed that Hinduism is not a religion in the sense that we understand the word religion. Hinduism is a way of life. But we have equated Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. Whenever in schools or colleges we have a program on National Integration, one David will come, one Mohammed will come, one Krishnan will come and pray and say we Hindu, Muslim, Christian, all should be together, united and all that. Thus with all good intentions this intellectual prison is further fortified. It is like saying infinity + one + one. Infinity plus one plus one is infinity only. All of us here in India are Hindus whether we are Muslims or Christians, or worship Shiva or Vishnu. We may equate Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Islam, Christianity, saying that all lead to God but not Hindu Dharma with Islam and Christianity. This conviction and practice of the principle that all paths lead to God is the Hindu way of life. That is unity in diversity. But by our faulty definitions and understanding we have made unity as one of the diversities by equating Hinduism with defined sects, which it is not.

Though Shaivism, Vaishnavism etc and Islam and Christianity are paths to reach the Ultimate, still there is a difference between Vaishnavism, Shaivism etc. and Islam and Christianity. A follower of Shiva will say that Shiva is the greatest and the world came from Him; and Vishnu came after Shiva. The follower of Vishnu will say that Shiva came from Vishnu. But the difference is that the more and more the devotee evolves spiritually and his realization , everything. Whereas in other religions this does not happen. That is why they have become spiritually stagnant. It is the responsibility of Indian Muslims and Christians who have grown up in the Hindu tradition to give this vision to their own religion by enlivening themselves spiritually. It is a very great challenge before them. That will be the lasting contribution of Hindu Muslims and Hindu Christians to Islam and Christianity. They are also Hindus because they have been brought up in this tradition. But this "divide and rule" policy and some external forces are not allowing them to realize their own tradition. Swami Vivekananda says," In religion lies the vitality of India, and so long as the Hindu race do not forget the great inheritance of their forefathers, there is no power on earth to destroy them." (IV p 324) As long as we neglect the soul of our nation the regression is sure and we will be tormented. To redeem our nation we have to nourish its soul that is the Sanatana Dharma.


To add to further confusions of religion are the terms like secularism, which are grossly misunderstood. What is secularism? And how did it originate? In Europe, the church was very powerful. It had it's own army. The King also wanted to become powerful. He had his own army. But the church was supreme, even over the King, and the tussle went on, though both had the same religion and were both praying to the same God. At last, the tussle was resolved in such a way that the church was allowed to take care of Sundays and the rest of the days were taken care of by the King. So in secular things the Church would not interfere and in sacred matters the King would not interfere. This internal arrangement of two institutions belonging to the same religion is called secularism in the West. And we are applying that secularism in our multisectarian society. The meaning of the term secularism in our country is tolerance and equal respect for all forms of worship. Is there any need to teach tolerance towards others religions in our country? In India have we ever ill-treated any religious minority or sect? Syrian Christians were given a place here. The Mohammedan were welcomed here when they were not coming as invaders. The Jews were persecuted in their country 2000 years ago and got scattered over 108 countries. Of all the 108 countries, it is only in India that they were treated with respect. Now in our times the Tibetan Buddhists are received warmly and given all help to follow their traditions. We have always welcomed people of various traditions and customs. We never forced them into our ways. But have rather always created a conducive atmosphere for their survival and growth. Because that is in our tradition and we do not need the theory of secularism. Yet at present it is the most talked of term. Its practice has actually meant not knowing or respecting the traditions of nation. Upanishad and Geeta which reflect our national soul cannot form part of our education, because they are termed as the texts of only one religion and following that could be against the practice of secularism! Can there be worse distortion in the thinking of any nation?.

Another harm this concept of secularism has caused is that it has gone against the very basic concept of our nation. Indian concept is to look upon everything as sacred. Whereas secularism, as Dharma-nirpekshata, tends to secularize everything, thereby breaking the integral-value system that is the basis of Indian culture. So Dharma is fading away and our nation is getting weakened. The practice of religion (that is Dharma) for us was always in 'being' and not in 'believing'. So each and every act was supposed to be the pursuit of Dharma to reach the ultimate. Our life was never compartmentalized into sacred and secular. But now secularism verily undermines it. Thirdly, secularism with its best definition only means equal treatment and tolerance of all sects. But our concept of Dharma is much higher and encompassive concept as it not just tolerates but accepts all the paths as true. Our history of thousands of years also substantiates it that we did own and respect all the paths and not just 'tolerated' them. Fourthly, Dharma word is more easily understood and inspiring to the masses of India than the word secularism. The usage of Dharma and acknowledgement of it as the foundation of our nation would inspire the whole nation to revitalize itself.


Gobbel's technique has been used in our country even before it came to be known after him, that is -concoct false theories and then, keep on talking and quoting them very often so as to give them an halo of truth. To weaken our nation many such theories and researches have been floated. For example the division into tribal - non-tribal and Aryan - Dravidian and Brahmin and non-Brahmin.

The theory that is very persistently used to divide us is the Aryan Invasion theory. But it is only a theory and not a fact. Let see few points in to substantiate it. It is very interesting to note that when we study the Sangam literature, if at all there was any memory of migration of Tamil people, it was from south to north. The first Sangam age was in the south of Kanyakumari, then sea encroached that area so that people moved northward. After second Sangam age again the sea encroached and so they still moved northward to Madurai. And in Madurai was the third Sangam age. There is no evidence for the Aryan invasion theory. Many historians have successfully challenged the Aryan invasion theory. Yet our textbooks fail to take note of it. Till now more than 1500 sites belonging to 7000 BC to the 1500 BC have been found which show the continuity of a culture. There are altars (the yagnakundas) in the houses in these settlements the description of which is given in the Vedas. The settlements on these sites got slowly abandoned because of natural disasters like drying of river Saraswati, changes in weather etc. The river ?Saraswati? extolled as the biggest in Vedas started drying around 4000BC and dried completely around 2000 BC. And yet we are told that the Aryans who supposedly drove the Dravidians came here after the river had dried up. And thus we have the ridiculous proposition that the Vedic Aryans praised the Saraswati river as the biggest river after centuries of its drying up. Again it was given as a proof that horse was not known to the people of Indus civilisation. The horse, the symbol Swastik, was brought by the Aryan. But when the horse bones were found in the Indus sites the "scholars" promptly declared them as belonging to some rare species of donkey. Later even the paintings of the pictures of horses and also the Swastika were found in the sites, so now these are simply ignored by the scholars but the "sacred" theory of invasion is not changed. To put the folly of invasion theory in the words of David Frawley: "On the one hand its ("Indus civilisation") people, though highly literate, would have left behind no literature-- only a huge physical presence now brought to light by archeology; and on the other hand, the alleged Aryans, admittedly illiterate, handed down to us an enormous literature (of archaeology, city planning, descriptions and sciences for building palaces and forts etc.), yet left no physical trace of any sort ?!!"


As the north and south were divided through the Aryan invasion theory British also divided Indians into tribal and non-tribal. British government invented a term `Adivasis' (meaning the original inhabitants). The foreign missionaries falsely propagated that the superior races (Aryans) drove the original inhabitants into forest and hills, and occupied the mainland in India. This is precisely what the Christian missionaries and European Christians did in America, Mexico and Australia. An estimated 110 million people were exterminated in America and Mexico during the exploration. The European explorers, who ultimately prevailed, are the masters in those countries whereas the original inhabitants subsist in forests as secondary citizens. Nothing even remotely similar happened in India. And yet this theory was propagated for dividing the people. As per our tradition those who lived in towns were Nagaravasis, those who lived in villages were Gramavasis, and who lived in mountains or forests were called Vanavasis (as all mountains had forests). We believed in people living where they were; we never conceived the idea of anyone driving out anyone and occupying their place. All the three were very much part of Indian culture and have contributed to Indian culture. Parvati, Valli, Shanmukha, Guha, Shabari, Hanuman, Vali, Sugreeva and many other great men and women were all Vanavasis. Most of our Rishis lived in forests. The third stage in man?s life (called `Vanaprastashrama?) was entry and stay in forest for deeper contemplation. Education was in the Ashramas situated in the forests. One part of Vedas is called as Aranyakas mean that part of Vedas which is realised in the forests. Since Vedic times, many Vanavasi communities are considered Kshatriyas as they were adepts in warfare.

The word `Adivasi? was concocted and introduced by the foreign power in India deliberately, with a design. In the year 1901, directions were given to census officers to enroll the Vanavasis as animists, meaning that their religion was animism - so that they were not regarded, and they did not regard themselves, as Hindus. Previously, they were counted as Hindus. Like the Buddhists first, then the Sikhs, and the Jains later were enumerated separately and not as Hindus. All this was part of the missionaries plan to fragment the Hindu society. Till 1901, the Vanavasis were regarded as Hindus and were enrolled as Hindus in the national census. After the census, many officers actually reported that it was not possible to decide who was a Hindu and who was an animist, as Hindus too worship animals and nature. Yet the rule was continued. In the next census, it also happened that some who were earlier enrolled as Hindus got enrolled as animists and some others who were enrolled as animists got enrolled as Hindus. Yet the British government, under the influence of missionaries, persisted in this. And by 1931, the census policy was changed explicitly to enroll all those who stayed in forests and mountains as belonging to separate religions which were named after their respective communities - like say Adi community as Adi religion; Santhal community as Santhal religion. By this separate and distinct religions, identities were concocted by misusing the community feelings and identities. In one shot two objectives were attained - the objections to calling the Vanavasis as animists were made meaningless, and by a more ingenious device, a distinct religious identity separated from the Hindu identity was superimposed. After some years it became easier for the missionaries to design the conversion by telling these communities: "you are not Hindus; you have been exploited by them; you, who are the original inhabitants, are today nothing; your religion is no good; you have only superstitions"


In spite of all these the nation survived because the family-system was vibrant in our country. It is in the family that the value development continued and so as the basic unit of our nation -FAMILY-was intact and the nation still survived. Woman plays a pivotal role in the family so next target of the anti national forces is the woman.. Here in India woman was considered the repository of all the divine qualities. Her responsibility was much higher. She is a mother first. As a mother whose function is to beget and bring up such children who are more evolved than the previous generation she had to be an evolved person. Thus the women were expected and strived to be more spiritual and duty conscious than the body consciousness.

In this land, beauty was considered in the light of the spirit shining through oneself. The accounts of the 18th century Europeans travelers are worth reading. They say the Indian women are so beautiful. Why? Because they are totally unaware of themselves. Their innocence and inner beauty is reflected on their face. Today our women are more and more body conscious. Earlier there were no questions like whether the husband will accept his wife if she puts on more weight or whether the wife will accept her husband if his hair falls off, because all the dimensions of wife or husband were equally important. The acceptance and affection for each other was total irrespective of how he or she looked. If somewhere the hair starts graying they become sleepless. Now many girls are afraid to eat for fear of becoming obese and if they cannot control their obesity they develop the disorder which comes out of fear that whether I will be acceptable they overeat. The concept is that you are acceptable only if you are physically handsome and thus the mother is losing her higher qualities. She is becoming only body conscious.

To make matters worse, there are beauty contests. Earlier also Indian women were participating. But now it has become a subject of discussion much more because a few of the Indian women got the Miss Universe and Miss World crowns. There were articles about it. Many of these international awards are not without strings and ulterior motives. When liberalization started, the MNCs felt that if the sale of their products is to be increased there has to be an Indian face to it plus a craze for it. That is how Indian women started getting the Miss World and Miss Universe titles. That is how this contest got more and more media focus on it. Today what is the result? Even in a small village, there will be a Miss Village, and then there are Miss College, Miss City and so on. Women are becoming more and more body conscious wasting hours in beauty parlors and hundreds of rupees in purchase of cosmetics thus supplying the market to MNC products.

The other concept that is ruining the womanhood of our country is the development and freedom and career for the women. Many people ask "what about her career; should she not go after her career?" She very well can go for the career but then better not take to the family life, or even if she has taken to it, her first and foremost duty has to be towards her family mainly the children. In Vedas and Mahabharat too there are references to the women who did not take to married life and continued their pursuit of higher studies. Actually there is a separate name "Brahmavadini"for women who did not marry and continued their studies. After all what is career? It is your own development and contribution to society. And our concept of development is measured neither by the amount of money we get nor by the name we earn. Our concept of development is that we become spiritual; we are more and more at ease with ourselves and others.


Now there is so much talk about the women's liberation movement. Even recently in Madras when my book "Bharateeya Womanhood through the Ages" was released, a principal of a well-known college said that "religion, family and culture are bondages for woman. She must break all these barriers and free herself." Because in the West religion and culture had put down the woman here too we are just parroting the language used in the West. But what is the result of the liberation movement for women in the West when woman tried to break herself free from all the responsibilities?? Betty Freidan, an American lady gave momentum to the liberation movement with her book 'Feminine Mystique', The women started asserting their 'independence' and marriages were broken. So Betty Freidon, 20 years later, after seeing the effects of the so-called women's liberation movement wrote another book 'The second stage'. In that book she says," Yes it is true that the liberation movement has given some economic and social freedom to women. But women's dignity, honor, her own identity as a person have not been achieved. On the other hand many negative features have appeared like the breaking of the family, increasing divorces, neglect of children and widespread experience of emotional privations by men and women. Women cannot have liberation apart from men, that there is no separate liberation for man or woman. Men and women have to work together for human progress. The integrity of the family, which is essential to ensure the happiness and fulfillment of man or woman should be maintained. ? She pleads in the book not to consider her reactionary for saying so. But once the devil of selfishness and sense enjoyment at any cost is set lose, it is too difficult to control it. Thus inspite of the warning given by Betty Freidan and others the ill effects of the liberation movement gathered momentum. What is the result today? Women have become so materially oriented, so career- oriented that in the 80s in America, per person the rate of divorce was ten! In this decade even that has been lost. They say what a headache! You go to the court, register your marriage, and then after two months you go to the court again to get a divorce! So no more marriages! If I like a woman, I will stay with her. If I get bored of her I will stay with another. What is the result?

Recently a book has come in the market. The name of the book is 'Fatherless America'. Today at present in America 48% of the children are fatherless. They either do not have their father with them or do not know who their father actually is because of promiscuous living. And the author says in the book that if the present trend continues, by 2025 AD, 96% of the children will be fatherless. But he says that stage will not come because before that the Americans will become mad and society will be destroyed. 'Preparing for 21st century' is a book by Paul Kennedy where he says, "Yes, America appears to be the number one country. But from within it is collapsing". Samuel Huntington in his widely discussed book "The Clash of Civilizations" also says the same thing. Because of broken families and insecure childhood, juvenile delinquency, violence, use of drugs is increasing in America. When a society is disturbed, women are the first victims. So the liberation movement has not in the real sense made woman free and happy. All this came because the women asked, "Why only I should be primarily responsible for family and child-care and why not man. I am equal to man and shall compete with him" ??


We have our concept of rebirth. Now even science has reached the stage where it cannot deny rebirth, though it doesn't accept it because it doesn't know how to scientifically explain it. So our concept is that the Jivatma in its progress towards the realization of the Ultimate or the state of Oneness chooses different births, sometimes as man and sometimes as woman and when it needs to have certain experiences it chooses its birth as woman. There is no sex for a soul. Thus answer to above questions in India is that, it is you who have chosen to be a woman. That's all. So your responsibility is in this area is more. Your responsibility here is more than that of the men.? And woman has by nature more of self-surrender and understanding. That is why there are rules that only women should be teachers in primary schools. Because they understand the child's psychology. In hospitals women should be the nurses because they have patience as well as soft feeling for those who are suffering. A woman has the capacity to forgive which is essential to keep the family together. Unless families are intact, the society and the nation cannot progress.


In Bhagavad-Gita (X.34) it is said that God is present more prominently as seven divine qualities in women. God means the inner self or the ONE that has become many. So it means that woman can express or manifest her inner Self through these qualities the best or these are the qualities through which she interconnects the many into One. These seven qualities are Keerti, Sri, Vak, Smriti, Medha, Dhriti and Kshama. Women by nature have these qualities in them.

Keerti is that quality that inspires others to follow the person who has Keerti. Woman as a mother has that influence on her children, which makes them follow mother to be like her. This quality of a woman is essential for having a more evolved society.

Sri in its purest form is wealth coupled with contentment. A woman is the driving force for man to earn money. If she has manifested Sri in her then she will not be driving the man to earn money by wrong means thus minimizing corruption in the society.

Vak is the capacity to win over others through the speech. Woman can keep man and whole family as such on the path of Dharma if she realizes the full potential of this innate quality in her.

Smriti is capacity to remember and retain the minutest details. It is the experience of all teachers that the girl students memorize faster than boys. This quality if properly utilized enables woman to run the family in perfection in minutest details and also to pass on our cultural knowledge to our children through many stories and songs of great seers..

Medha is capacity to understand as a whole. Men have the analytical intelligence but women have Medha. She understands the needs of a child or family members more intuitively. By more feminine, that is, motherly approach towards the ills in the society woman can provide for further evolution of mankind.

Dhriti is the forbearance that allows a person to hold on and not to quit in any difficulty. This quality is very essential in building durable relationships and working for a stable and evolving society. Mother has this quality in abundance. In competing with man woman is fast losing this quality in West and so divorce rates are increasing and families are breaking.

Kshama is forgivance. It is a very great spiritual quality. Mother needs this quality and so only she is born with this quality which is needed in tending and protecting the family ties. Paramatman, the interconnecting and unifying substratum of this universe, itself became these qualities in women because these are the most essential ones to keep the family, society and nation together. It is not that men do not have these qualities. Compared to women men have to strive to manifest these qualities. As said before, the highest honour a man can have is being considered and called as ?mother.? Nowadays there is also a term in use. Ecofeminism that is if ecological balance is to be maintained; then we have to be feminist in our outlook towards nature. For saving this family called earth we have to be more motherly. To save a family a woman has to be more motherly in nature. ?And because, as the Jivatma I have adopted this body, I have to fulfill this obligation. So if I have taken to married life I must fulfill my duties as the mother, and because as soon as I conceive the child it is in my hands as mother, to offer a more evolved - Dharmic child to the society.? -This is the required attitude in our society for women and we so many of our mothers have it in abundance.


Woman is the mother of humanity. Her duty is much higher and mainly it is towards family. So some might ask, should she keep herself within the four walls? Just cooking and taking care of children? Of course, taking care of children - if she takes in the right spirit - will be a permanent contribution to the society. After all what is career? It is a sense of fulfillment, achievement and recognition. A mother can achieve it on much more permanent basis. But again our concept of family or house is not of merely four walls. It is not a static concept. They need not confine themselves to the family because our concept of family is ever expanding concept -"Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" - Earth as a family, as we say. Expanding individual is family. Expanding family is community. Expanding community is society. Expanding society is nation. Expanding nation is the world. Expanding world is the whole universe. That is our concept of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam". My contribution to the whole world stands locally. Not that I think of the whole universe and here I don't do anything! I speak of universal brotherhood but I can't be kind to my own husband and children or wife and children. I can't be kind to my own relatives or neighbours around me and I am the exponent of universal brotherhood It cannot be so. Women have a very great role to play. A nation can be nurtured and strengthened by women - and of course by men also. Men also have equally to contribute. But again, men are whatever their mother chooses them to be. Thus the responsibility of women is much higher. They are very precious and essential in taking the nation ahead. So to weaken this nation, they are made the target.


When we discuss progress, we only think of big industries and buildings. Just imagine, India is so progressed that we have 'big big buildings', 'big big roads' and we have all those ?small nuclear families?. Wife having her own accounts-total economic freedom- husband having his own account, but both rarely meet each other, the children having their careers and going away when they are 18 or even before that, leaving their parents to their fate. Would we like such an India or rather will that be INDIA? Is it for that purpose that India has lived for thousands of years? Even now so many foreigners come to India in search of wisdom, in search of peace of mind. What have we done to nurture her way of life, to make this nation vibrant in the real sense? We are thinking only of material progress, only of western models. We can never be first rate Americans in spite of all our efforts, even with hundred percent exertion; (actually that will destroy the earth because if the American standard of living India adopts, the strain on the ecology of the earth will destroy earth) we can only be second rate Americans. But with little effort, we can be first rate Indians who will contribute to the peace of the world. Swami Vivekananda says, ""O India! With this mere echoing of others, with this base imitation of others, with this dependence on others, this slavish weakness, this vile detestable cruelty-wouldst thou, with these provisions only, scale the highest pinnacle of civilization and greatness? Wouldst thou attain, by means of thy disgraceful cowardice, that freedom deserved only by the brave and the heroic? O India! Forget not that the ideal of thy womanhood is Sita, Savitri, Damayanti; forget not that the God thou worshippest is the great Ascetic of ascetics, the all-renouncing Shankara, the Lord of Uma; forget not that thy marriage, thy wealth, thy life are not for sense-pleasure, are not for thy individual personal happiness; forget not thou art born as a sacrifice to the Mother's altar; forget not that thy social order is but the reflex of the Infinite Universal Motherhood; forget not that the lower classes, the ignorant, the poor, the illiterate, the cobbler, the sweeper, are thy flesh and blood, thy brothers. Thou brave one, be bold, take courage, be proud that thou art an Indian, and proudly proclaim," I am an Indian, every Indian is my brother." Say," The ignorant Indian, the poor and destitute Indian, the Brahmin Indian, the Pariah Indian, is my brother." Thou, too, clad with but a rag round thy loins proudly proclaim at the top of thy voice: "The Indian is my brother, the Indian is my life, India's gods and goddesses are my God. India's society is the cradle of my infancy, the pleasure-garden of my youth, the sacred heaven, the Varanasi of my old age". Say, brother: "The soil of India is my highest heaven, the good of India is my good", and repeat and pray day and night, "O Thou Lord of Gauri, O Thou Mother of the Universe, vouchsafe manliness unto me! O Thou Mother of Strength, take away my weakness, take away my unmanliness, and make me a Man!" (C W IV- 478 to 480)

So we have to learn to develop the Indian perspective and understand the problems of our country from an Indian perspective which is badly lacking today, whether in our media, educational institutions or even in many of our families. We Indians are at present tormented; because we have not developed our own vision of development or success. We should be clearer at least at the thought level. It is the nature of the Indian psyche that once it will start contemplating on it and clear about what is to be done, then it will start coming into action too. It is a big challenge. Still in one sense, nothing much is lost. It is only the educated and the intelligentsia that have drifted away from the roots than our rural India. But they are not the ones who can give the lead. We can give this lead at our level; we know the Indian perspective. Let's not go by what the western thinkers say. Let's have a forum to discuss this, and then courageously put it into practice. This is what is expected from the students of IIT who have gathered here in the name of Swami Vivekananda.

I shall narrate you one example. Prof. Indrajit Dey and Dr. Basu professors of BITS, Ranchi felt that what they were doing in their research labs was totally cut off from the needs of the country. If we really want to bring technology to our villages, it has to be solve our problems in our own way and not the western problems in a western way. And so they started interacting with the villagers in the evenings. Many villagers started coming. But being part of the prestigious institute they found it difficult to work in the existing system. They started thinking and then took a decision to resign. Since then for many years they are running a Society for Rural Industrialization, SRI as it is called, to bring technology in the Indian way to the people. They have very good training institutes; science clubs for rural youth and the women are also taught how to save money for the family. They do a lot of thinking, they read Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore and Gandhiji and then think about how these can be applied in the Indian way. Actually there are many such individuals or groups functioning and they are quite successful.

First we must create awareness. Groundwork for great movement is generating awareness and clarity of thought about the direction that movement should take. When USSR disintegrated or when Germany united, we felt it was too sudden. Just three years before that happened; we would have considered anyone a fool who talked of such possibilities. But things were working and suddenly it exploded. So we need not feel whether mere thinking or talking about the vibrant self-expression of our nation will help? In fact already there are many who are not only thinking or talking about it but also working for it. When a change comes it may appear too sudden. I am confident it will come. But there is no blueprint for such things. People have to be aware and should discuss. Original thinking and creativity has to develop in all fields. The more intelligent and educated we are, our responsibilities become still higher in redeeming our nation. Those of us who are sitting here are also inspired by the message of Swami Vivekananda. His clarion call gives us direction as well as strength to take firm decisions and fulfill our duty towards this great land of Bharat born for the welfare of humanity. Let me conclude in his soul stirring words. " Shall India die? Then from the world all spirituality will be extinct, all sweet-souled sympathy for religion will be extinct, all ideality will be extinct and in its place will reign the duality of lust and luxury as the male and female deities, with money as its priest, fraud, force, and competition its ceremonies, and the human soul its sacrifice. Such a thing can never be."

Thank You

Reference Books