Real Freedom is the Freedom to Retain the Ownership of a Civilization

Every country that takes itself seriously employs strategies to ensure that it retains the ownership of its civilisation in its own hands
Real Freedom is the Freedom to Retain the Ownership of a Civilization

To begin with a familiar refrain, one of the unfortunate trajectories of roughly the last 150 years is the fact that a significant chunk of Hindus has been alienated from itself. And as we shall see, self-alienation is the first step towards cultural estrangement ultimately leading to civilizational destruction. In the collective Hindu consciousness of say, the last fifty years or so, the most visible mark of this self-alienation is this: Hindus as a collective have forgotten the fact that they are the inheritors of a grand civilization, which continues to sustain itself in different ways.

This is not merely a civilization in the dictionary sense or as we commonly understand it but it remains unbroken in its continuity because its philosophical, Vedantic core has remained intact. The tragedy of our time is the fact that this core continually struggles to find expression in public life and has been shoved to the wall by determined foes operating in various realms. Equally, Indian history shows that the country prospered and harmony existed when it marched to this Vedantic tune.

Real Freedom is the Freedom to Retain the Ownership of a Civilization
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The same self-alienation has also led to another amnesia: the sanctity and the inevitability of Bharatavarsha as a sacred geography, cradle, incubator, and mother of the Hindu spiritual civilization. Finally, and we never tire of repeating it: the Hindu civilization is the last surviving non-Abrahamic civilization in the whole world, still bravely battling the threefold imperialisms of Islam, Christianity and Communism reincarnated as Wokeism.

However, Hindus have been fighting this battle—especially after India attained mere political independence—without direction, without a definite goal, and largely in a purposeless fashion. This is because Hindus are fighting it in a subconscious manner, sans an expressly defined aim: of safeguarding and rejuvenating their civilization.

We can consider some major civilisations throughout history: Sumeria, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, China, and India. All these roughly began around the same time. When we survey their common traits, we find that they were what we today call with different names: Pagan, animist, nature-worshipping. That is, all of them believed in and worshipped multiple deities derived from various forces of nature. Of these, how many have survived intact till date? None. None except the Sanatana or Hindu civilization. Neither is it mere survival: the Hindu civilization has kept both its philosophical core and most of its traditions, practices, festivals, customs, etc intact over this extraordinarily long period.

Map of World Religions
Map of World Religions

The enormous significance of this fact becomes clear when we look at the religious map of today’s world: of the 195 countries, there are fifty-two Islamic countries while Christianity is spread across every single continent. However, Hindus have only Bharatavarsha. Ironically, tragically, even in the land of its own birth, its only homeland, Hindus can’t call Bharatavarsha their home. This is the fate of the world’s third largest religion.

Think about that for a moment.

But how did these ancient civilisations disappear? The answer is well-known: they were all wiped out and forcibly made to disappear at their first brush with Christianity and later, Islam. In that sense, both Christianity and Islam are not civilisations proper: they are political imperialisms pretending to be religions. What they built after destroying these earlier civilisations were not civilisations or cultures but systems and structures that could only be sustained by brute military power backed by unquestionable religious dogma. Among the very few things that I agree with Mohandas Gandhi is his memorable quote. When a foreign journalist asked him, “what is your opinion of Western civilization?”, Gandhi said, “I think it’s a good idea.”

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But to understand this phenomenon in more contemporary terms, let’s briefly look at something called the American civilization. Think about who first coined the term “American civilization.” Answer: the Americans themselves. Oscar Wilde gives perhaps the best description:

America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.

So, what is the American “civilization?” The blunt but honest answer: it is a black hole of deranged materialism where no enduring civilization can be created because money has supplanted the spiritual yearning innate in humans. At the turn of the twentieth century, the sagely W.T. Stead predicted the makings of this black hole in beautiful phraseology:

A young and vigorous race has been let loose among the incalculable treasures of a virgin continent…The American tendency is to consume the whole of our powers in the process, leaving none for the cultivation of the higher soul. This is an unlovely spectacle, very much like a vision of hell.

Yet, the same America is deeply Christian and vast sections of its political spectrum zealously guard this Christian element. Its founding fathers were committed Christian fundamentalists in the most genuine sense of the term.

To look at this Christian element in our current setting, let’s consider something called the National Prayer Breakfast, a euphemism for an annual meeting with the US president, typically held on the first Thursday in February.

The origins of the National Prayer Breakfast can be traced to 1953. It was the culmination of the dogged and sustained efforts spanning a quarter century of an American Methodist minister, Abram Vereide, originally from Norway. An inveterate Christian fundamentalist, Abram had a grand vision for America where “every Christian [is] a leader, every leader a Christian.” A veteran US investigative journalist chillingly describes this vision:

…this ruling class of Christ-committed men [would be] bound in a fellowship of the anointed, the chosen, key men in a voluntary dictatorship of the divine.

Abram wildly succeeded. Every President from Eisenhower up to Biden has attended the National Prayer Breakfast. Over time, the NPB steadily extended its tentacles pulling more and more powerful people into its embrace. The more significant fact is that right from the beginning, the NPB continues to be sponsored by Congress, that is, the US taxpayer pays for spreading Christian fundamentalism, helping it to acquire greater power. One of its prized captives was a filthy rich oil baron named George W. Bush who in 1985 discovered his faith through a Community Bible Study.

Real Freedom is the Freedom to Retain the Ownership of a Civilization
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On average, the NPB is attended by 3000 grandees drawn from a cross section of society including powerful Church heads, corporate leaders, and representatives of various nations. In 2007, the entry ticket costed $ 425 per attendee. The following is a typical scene at an NPB meeting described by the aforementioned journalist:

For most, “breakfast is just that, muffins and prayer, but some stay on for days of seminars organized around Christ’s messages for particular industries. In years past, the Family organized such events for executives in oil, defense, insurance, and banking. The 2007 event drew, among others, a contingent of aid-hungry defense ministers from Eastern Europe, Pakistan’s famously corrupt Benazir Bhutto, and a Sudanese general linked to genocide in Darfur.

And now, let’s return to India and ask a straightforward question: can you even imagine the heads of all Hindu Mathas and other traditional Hindu institutions sitting with the Prime Minister and President for breakfast once a year?

Yet, it is the same America that preaches the virtues of secularism and tolerance to India.

Christian fundamentalism is one of the lesser-known methods through which America protects itself and spreads its power and influence in multi-pronged ways. It is both an offensive and defensive strategy: it wields tremendous clout in national politics through Church-based political lobbying, which in turn, enables it to spread American influence by exporting its evangelists into countries like India.

Abram Vereide
Abram Vereide

But if we regard the macro picture, at its heart, the so-called American civilization is a deeply insecure civilization. If we take 1776 as the starting point, it is clear that in less than 250 years, this so-called civilization is coming apart before our eyes. The ongoing downfall of America in many ways, is a good place where the past meets the present. But that’s a story for another day.

Let’s also look at one of the most brilliant descriptions of the Sanatana civilization and culture given by the towering scholar, Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri.

The civilization and culture of India, like the country itself, is indivisible and timeless. Just like its indivisible geography that stretches from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Vishweshwara to Rameshwara, from Bindu Madhava to Sethu Madhava, Indian culture too represents this indivisible continuum from the Rishis of the Vedas all the way up to Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. The spiritual outlook that lies at the heart of Indian culture is the reason it is still alive and flourishing in the world. It is also the reason every single facet of Indian culture—food, social customs, business ethics, philosophy, aesthetics, investigations into the nature of truth and beauty—holds a special distinction. Not only does Indian culture embody universal values, it has also infused its unique value system both at the level of the individual and the society.

And when we take away the “Sanatana” or “Hindu” component, India will instantly cease to be a civilization: at best, it will resemble any of the soulless Western materialisms and at worst, fanatical Islamic despotisms constantly at war with each other.

When we think about it, there is a wider meaning to the famous proverb that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. Freedom means the freedom to retain the ownership of a civilization, and this ownership should always be in the hands of the people who built the civilisation.

Every country that takes itself seriously employs strategies like the NPB or like China, which uses its Confucius Studies Institutes both as leverage and soft offensives. For the longest time, India on the other hand, has allowed its inept and corrupt babus stationed abroad to build personal business empires in the name of promoting Indian “culture.” Given this, we seriously wonder if we will ever regain the ownership of our own civilization.

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