Bharat Darshan – The role of Cultural Nationalism vs Secular Nationalism in the Defense of the Republic of India
Essence and Existence in the Land of India:
Today, on August 15, 2012, people of India also known as ‘BHARAT’ are celebrating the 66th Independence Day in commemoration of 65 Years of Independence. In this context, we have to examine the relationship between Spiritualism and Nationalism. In the ancient Land of India, human beings have lived continuously for thousands of years. But, it was a Land divided into several hundreds of small and large kingdoms until Indian people joined together in a Nationalist Movement to win their Freedom from foreign rule and occupation. Indians won this Freedom on August 15, 1947 when Great Britain ceased its occupation of India.
What is Nationalism?
Nationalism is the state of mind in which the individual feels that everyone owes his supreme loyalty to the Nation-State. Nationalism is a modern movement and it belongs to the modern world. Before the 18th century, people gave their loyalty to their communities, tribes, feudal lords, princes, or religious groups. The historical sense of attachment to the native soil, to social and cultural traditions, and to established territorial authorities has changed by the end of the 18th century when Nationalism began molding public and private life. Since then, Nationalism has become an important factor of modern history. The American Revolutionary Wars (1775-1783), and the French Revolution (1789) could be regarded as the first manifestations of Nationalism. It led to the formation of modern National States in Europe. The 19th century has been called the Age of Nationalism in Europe. The World War I, and World War II resulted in the spread of Nationalism in Asia and Africa and has manifested itself as a struggle against European Colonialism.
Nationalism began to appear in India after World War I. The Indian National Congress founded in 1885 began a new political process in the private and public lives of Indian people. It had produced leaders such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) who joined the Nationalist Movement for Indian Independence during 1915. The people of India started replacing the king as the center of the Nation. The State had become the people’s State, a National State, and a Motherland.
Nationalism is not a political program or ideology; it is a perspective on such programs or ideology. Nationalism can be described as a sentiment that places the existence and well-being of the Nation highest in the scale of personal loyalties.
In political terms, it signifies a person’s willingness to work for the Nation against foreign domination. It reflects a person’s willingness to resist foreign political, economic, and cultural domination. Nationalism implies a group’s consciousness of shared history, language, race, and values. Its significance lies in its role in supplying the ties that make the Nation-State a cohesive, viable entity. The terms such as nation, state, or country describe a political entity in which people are united under a particular political organization and are occupying a defined territory. However, the term ‘Nationalism’ demands more than the existence of boundaries or political institutions. Nationalism includes the feelings or thoughts of patriotism, zealous love of one’s country, advocacy of national unity or independence and it involves the creed that fidelity to one’s State or Nation is more important than fidelity to individual interests.
We, the people of India and of Indian origin have to truthfully examine if ‘Nationalism’ has ever existed in the Land of India. We have to truthfully explain as to why the Land of India exists as an easy target for foreign invasion, foreign conquest, foreign occupation, and foreign political, economic, and cultural domination. The Cultural Unity of the people of India was not enough to stop the foreign aggressors who ruled over the Land of India.
Indian Nationalism won Freedom at a huge cost in human lives. The British Empire while leaving India during 1947 had divided the Land creating new National entities. The disorder that followed the Partition of India caused the loss of over one million human lives. The concept of Cultural Nationalism cannot and will not defend and preserve human life in the Land of India.
The Problem of National Unity and the role of Cultural Nationalism in India:
There is a fundamental problem with the experience of life in the Land of India. The Nation – State was nonexistent during the greater part of Indian history. People did not give loyalty to the Nation – State but to other, different forms of feudal states. Before 20th century, political allegiance was determined by mostly local and regional factors such as that of a local princely ruler, regional language or regional culture.
Indian Cultural Nationalism mainly consists of expression of some national characteristics through nonpolitical activities such as art, literature, music, dance, and other forms of culture such as the performance of Temple Worship and Pilgrimage. A vast multitude of people may come together at a particular place in celebration of an event and return to their native places. India did not exist as a large, unified territorial state with political, and economic centralization.
The political, and economic centralization that existed in India was largely a product of foreign rule and foreign occupation of the Land of India. This lack of National Unity and the lack of a National identity and Individuality made India an easy target for foreign, military attacks.
The History of Jihad in India
Sir Jadunath Sarkar, a former Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, a historian, reviewed the records kept by Al- Utbi, the Secretary of Sultan Yaminu -d- Daula Mahmud bin Subuktigin known as Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna. The Secretary in the Persian document called the Tarikh -i- Yamini recorded the details of several episodes of bloody campaigns waged by Sultan Mahmud between 1001 A.D. and 1027 A.D. Persian historian Ferishta (“Tarikh-e- Fereshteh” work by Ferishta about Mahomedan Power in India) also recorded the military conquests of India by Sultan Mahmud. The Sultan of Ghazna directed his military attacks on places of spiritual pilgrimage in India. He attacked the temple towns of Nagarkot, Thanesar (1011), Mathura (1018), Kannauj (1019), Kalinjar (1023), and Somnath (1024-25). He also attacked the holy places of Varanasi, Ujjain, Maheswar, Jwalamukhi and Dwaraka. These attacks were witnessed by Persian writers such as Al-Biruni (Muhammad bin Ahmad al-Biruni) and Ferdowsi (Abu ol-Qasem Mansur or Firdawsi/Firdusi). All of these historical records and documents reveal the scale of loss of human life. It is estimated that about two million people died in the Land of India during Sultan Mahmud’s repeated attacks. Asaru -l- Bilad, a Persian geographer had also described some of the foreign conquests of India.
K.S. Lal, an Indian historian estimated that about sixty to eighty million people in India may have died between 1000 and 1525 CE due to foreign invasions. It clearly demonstrates that the idea of Cultural Nationalism did not play a significant role in defending Indian people and had failed to preserve human life. Apparently, Cultural Nationalism did not generate the cohesiveness or Unity that is needed to resist and to defeat foreign military campaigns.
Cultural Nationalism vs Secular Nationalism – The Clash at Kurnool Medical College, Andhra Pradesh:
I submitted an application to Chief Minister Office, Government of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, India on September 02, 2012. The request made by me is registered by the Secretariat Departments of Government of Andhra Pradesh and the Application Number is shown as : SR 12014477 and it reads as follows:
“I was a student of Kurnool Medical College from November 1965 to June 1970. I represented the State of Andhra Pradesh as a student delegate at the four-week long National Student Seminar on National Integration sponsored by Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, New Delhi during 1967 to promote the need for developing a National Identity and National Individuality for National Unity and National Integration. I encouraged students to ignore any identity that is derived from region, religion, language, and caste as India needs Secular Nationalism and not Cultural Nationalism. This was opposed by Dr. Sripada Pinakapani, M.D., who then served as the Professor of Medicine and the Superintendent of Kurnool Government General Hospital. Since he had actively opposed the principle of Secular Nationalism, I would request you to reconsider the decision made by the Government of Andhra Pradesh to name a building on Kurnool Medical College/General Hospital Campus to honour him.”
ESSENCE AND EXISTENCE IN THE LAND OF INDIA:
The ideas about human soul or spirit( Atman or Atma in Sanskrit language) find their profound expression in the oral and written literature of India. Indian thoughts about the nature of man and his existence can be traced to the ancient texts of Vedas (the Rig-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, and the Atharva-Veda) which were compiled from c. 1500 B.C. to c. 500 B.C. The Sanskrit texts known as the Upanishads (c. 900 – 500 B.C.) have systematized Indian philosophy. There are six classical systems of Indian philosophy that accept the authority of the Veda and the Upanishads; 1. Nyaya (6th century B.C. ) is a school of logic and epistemology, 2. Vaisheshika (3rd century B.C.) posits a sixfold classification of Reality (Substance, Quality, Activity, Generality, Particularity, and Inherence), 3. Samkhya (6th century B.C.) expounds two basic metaphysical principles; Purusha or Soul and Prakriti or Material Nature, 4. Yoga (2nd century B.C.) of Patanjali accepts Samkhya metaphysics, presents an eight-stage discipline of self-control and Meditation, 5. Purva-Mimamsa (2nd century B.C.) sets forth principles of interpretation of the Vedic texts, and 6. Uttara-Mimamsa or Vedanta which includes different schools of thought based on the Brahma-Sutras of Badarayana (early century A.D.) which summarize the Upanishadic doctrine and explain the teachings of the Upanishads. The most important schools of Vedanta are 1. the non-dualist (Advaita) Vedanta of Shankara (A.D. 788-820), 2. the qualified non-dualist Vedanta of Ramanuja (A.D. 1017-1137), and 3. the dualist Vedanta of Madhva (A.D. 1197-1276). Buddhism and Jainism are two important schools of thought that do not accept the authority of Veda and Upanishads. To a great extent, Indian traditions claim that man is an embodied soul. The mind, and body that represent the physical person is an illusion as the human body is thought to be “Asat”, or unreal, perishable, full of ignorance, and not happy. The real or true man as represented by soul or spirit is unborn. The real person is viewed as an eternal person who is not subject to change called life and death. Indian tradition considers that the Objective Reality of man or Essence of man is soul or spirit.
We must note that it is impossible to describe this mental concept called soul or spirit if it is never associated with its human body. The separation of man into body, mind, and soul is not supported by scientific study of man. Man comes into existence from a single, fertilized Egg-Cell. This man cannot be separated into distinct entities like material or physical body, thinking substance called mind, and an immaterial principle called soul. These three aspects of man have no independent existence of their own. There is no life and there is no human existence if body, mind, and soul are separated. Who you are describes your Essence and it is defined by What you do to establish the fact of your Existence. In other words, the Essence (Who you are) is preceded by the reality of Existence (What you do). Thus, Existence is the precondition to recognize Essence. Hence, I describe man as a living soul and not as an embodied soul.
In my impression, the traditional Indian views about human soul or spirit have failed to recognize the importance of human Existence as a precondition to define the nature of human Essence. Indian people have to give due recognition to the problems of human existence and must realize that Essence has no value if its meaning is not attached to the condition called Existence.
In my opinion, Spiritualism demands the existence of a Living Soul or Spirit to understand its characteristic functions that generate peace, harmony, and tranquility as a living human experience. Indians must define the concept of Spiritualism in the context of Self-Preservation.
If Indians seek their existence as a Nation, they have to forget the parochial differences to develop national individualities and the primary focus of allegiance must be the Republic of India and not that of the local language, religion, or culture.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Danavaipeta Municipal/Corporation High School, Rajahmundry, East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh, India,
S.S.L.C. Class of March/April, 1961.