Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Curtailment of Indic quest of power & its implications

The following is a video of the meet of Kalyan Rishi with Alexander, from the popular Chanakya serial aired on DoorDarshan (India's national channel)

As we heard, Kalyan Rishi warns Alexander about the futility of his warring and conquering nature, and tells him to conquer his mind instead. Another point the revered Rishi makes is that a state can be controlled with the head at the capital and not at the fringes of the state (w.r.t. Alexander's presence in NW India & not in Macedonia)

If the account of the meet expressed in the serial is true, then drawing an extrapolation of what the Rishi said can lead us to two thoughts prevalent at the time:

  1. Harnessing of ambitions of other people's territory was discouraged.
  2. Any ambition was curtailed and people were trained to control their natural urges.
Now, it is true that overt ambition can lead to a disaster. But some amount of ambition is required to get some things done. Besides, ambition coupled to a sustained chain of efforts has often lead to great achievements in the human society. A lukewarm ambition and a lukewarm approach to getting things done will only develop a status quo society, a society of moderate achievers and few spectacular achievements. Which approximately describes our condition today. We seemed to have taken the Rishi's preachings to the other extreme.

A specific quanta of ambition, a desire for success should be as inseparable as the five senses of the body. And as was said in the holy Gita about the sense organs: - "that they need to be controlled, not suppressed." So should be that quanta of ambition and desire for success.

Because of our emphasis on controlling desires and not allowing the positive feedback loop of more and more ambition take root in at least limited sections of the society, while our civilization has lived long because of more energy spent in the basic necessities of living, we have a few unintended consequences:

  1. Once a territory of the nation was lost, and a constantly new national identity was created in the lost territory (ala Afghanistan and other reputed cases,) it has proved difficult to create the national fervour to get the territories back.
  2. With lust for power in others' territories stopped, and assuming that such lust for power is unavoidable by the ruling classes after a stretch of time, the only way to get more power was to grab it from fellow people. Could this be the reason for large amounts of infighting among Indian kings?
  3. Lack of sense of strategic importance of certain geographical locations. For instance, our inability to control entries from the Khyber pass vis-a-vis the Chinese creation of the Great Wall (although it failed in its immediate objective, but 10/10 for the effort).
  4. Lack of the above sense is also responsible for the inability to get diplomatic allies and India digging its lone furrow.
  5. Lack of extraordinary achievements in fields of sciences beyond certain blips of time.
Time to let loose a controlled quest of power so that we can rise above from being a status quoist power, and realise an India that not only we are content at looking up to, but our allies would love to befriend and our enemies would fear to face.


Shankara said...

What the Rishis says may be a reflection of our collective national consciousness but then we did create great marvels and made technological advances so attributing that Indians became complacent may not be completely true.

From my reading Buddhism was very instrumental in making us pacifist and teaching us to be content with what we have and not covet more. Ashoka gave up war after he became Buddhism. Many other Kings who became Buddhist gave up ambition and we read it in our text books too. We are not told but between Ashoka and Adi Shankaracharya approximately 1000 years India was completely Buddhist. There were Hindu Kings like the Guptas but they tolerated all religions and were from minority Hindus.

Only after the renaissance of Hinduism under Adi Shankaracharya did India revert back to Hinduism. But by then the damage was done, Islam was on the door step as Shankara tried to battle Kumarila Bhatta and defeated Mandana Mishra on Advaita philosophy.

Hindu Kings of the Shahi dynasty in Sindh Pakistan especially Raja Daheer defended NW India for nearly 200 years for much longer than Buddhist did in Persia and Afghanistan.

Second reason why we failed to go out and conquer was because we never had a forward policy. Raja Daheer and his clan only defended their position successfully but never went out and hit the muslim HQ in Persia which actually would have weakened them. Maybe he never had the resources or thought the trouble was over. Same thing happened under the Rajput confederacy which defeated muslims and chased them away but never pursued them to the end.

Napoleon has said "never fight a enemy too often for too long else he will learn your ways of fighting". This is what happened with the muslims, they learnt how our Kings fight and then used counter strategies.

Let me tell you these muslims soldiers were not half the fighters our Rajputs and other Kshatriyas were because it was a honour for them die in battle. They used to fight like men possessed just so that they could die. They always carried a one way ticket into battle. To return alive was not seen a very good thing. The logic they used was 'oh so he may not have been in the place where fighting was fierce'

So coming back to your conclusion in the post we cannot make up our minds by one episode especially when India is huge, heavily populated with diff people, diff mentality and who knows how many people really listened to forest dwelling Rishis.

Karmasura said...

Thanks for the brilliant comment. But there is more to the hindu philosophy of controlling the mind and pacifying urges.

The Gita divides the mindscape into three modes: 1) The Good, 2) The Passionate and 3) The Ignorant.

Assuming I interpret that correctly, the good is something which is done with a spirit of duty and worship to God, while the passionate is something which is done with a spirit of aggressiveness towards the goal. The ignorant is well, something that is done without proper knowledge of, or under deep trance which will ultimately produce sloppy results.

Now, one thing that I have noticed is that the Gita remains open about the mode of passion, despises the mode of ignorance and shows the virtues of the good.

So, the points I wished to raise through this post are:
1) It would need a mind of a fine caliber to understand that a forward policy of furthering political power is part of duty towards the nation and is thus to be pursued and not part of other modes.

2) Or maybe, we do need a combination of the mode of good and the mode of passion in our lives today.

The Gita remains open on the choice of either of the two options. Perhaps it was by design, so that it doesn't become a rule book like Mao's lille' red book, the green book or the book of love. Perhaps the times in which it was spoken did not require such a clarity.

Hence, the conclusion of the post.