Dialogue April - June, 2004 , Volume 5 No. 4
The Content and Context of Interface among Civilizations and the Relevance of the Indic Vision†
If one looks at the march of humanity, as anyone baffled by its chequered course or worried about its next century is ever tempted to do, one can make out a number of tendencies, which, apparently, keep clashing against each other rather than work towards anything like a harmony. A few do stand out, especially in the last two millennia, and two will form the core of this paper: those of East and West, if we may use a rather outdated terminology. Since the nineteenth century, so much has been written on these two regions of the world and their civilizational encounter that it may appear wearisome to want to add any thing – especially when we are told that the world has shrunk to a “global village.” Indeed, if that is so, there is hardly any room left for East or West, much less for distinct civilization; perhaps the brave new world was only a crowded hamlet, after all. And in that case, all our questioning, discoursing and dialoguing will soon die down in a well-regulated monoculture and one-track life, in which civilization will be no more than an academic curiosity of the past.
But that is unlikely to happen. Our very nature rebels against uniformity and drives to multiplicity. Not just human nature: all of Nature does, all the way to the stars and galaxies. If one fact is certain, it is that humanity will continue to experiment with many lines, village or no village, globalization or not. That is what postmodern exponents of pluralism and multiculturalism have realized. But how do we ensure that the various lines and cultures still produce a harmony and not more horrors, bloodshed and destruction?
In dealing with such questions, one current academic approach tends to steamroller various lines of human experience onto a two-dimensional map from which all reliefs have disappeared. It then tries to read the map as best it can, with the verdict often reflecting the personal cultural preferences or persuasions of the particular map-reader. Or where there is real objectivity, we get a flattened vision in which a motley crowd of cultures mingle, and this “diversity” seems to become an end it itself. Just after 9/11, Ibn Warraq, a well-known critic of Islam, protested against such leveling:
*Dr. Michel Danino, born in France in 1956, drawn to India and to Sri Aurobindo and Mother, participated in the English translation and publication of many books related to Sri Aurobindo and Mother, in particular Mother’s Agenda (13 volumes); edited India’s Rebirth and India the Mother among other titles.
†Paper presented at the International Seminar on Civilizational Interfaces and the Contemporary Global Context: an Indian Perspective, organized by National Book Trust, India and Vivekananda Kendra International at New Delhi on 15-16 February 2004. Courtes:y National Book Trust, India.
Multiculturalism is based on some fundamental misconceptions. First, there is the erroneous and sentimental belief that all cultures, deep down, have the
same values; or if these values are different, they are all equally worthy of respect. Multiculturalism, being the child of relativism, is incapable of criticising cultures, or making cross-cultural judgment. The truth is that not
all cultures have the same values, and not all values are worthy of respect.1
A forthright and, of course, politically incorrect statement, which we need to explore further, especially in the current context of a U.S. -driven Western civilization having to deal not only with the Islamic civilization, but also with the sole surviving ancient civilization, India’s.
The Titans and the Sage?
Before we do so, we may propose an alternative approach, which is to look upon humanity as nothing more than an experiment – by what experimenter, with what primary ingredients, catalysts and reacting conditions, are questions we will leave aside. What is sure is that in this wide-ranging, long-lasting, complex process, a few dominant lines stand out.
The West has been driven in its remarkable expansion and achievements by an aggressive conquering impulse; it is rajas in action and is ever driven to seek and overrun the earth, it was founded on military and political expansionism, as we can see with ancient Egypt, Akkad, Greece, Persia or Rome, the Hittites or the Vikings. The advent of Christianity turned this into politico-religious expansionism, which became the mainspring of colonial conquests. The post-colonial age has focused more on the manipulation of markets and economic expansionism, but the two earlier forms have by no means disappeared – they have only become more discreet, more adept at garbing the old impelling force in modern terminology: today’s political language is one of engagement, interaction, defence of national interests, spread of democracy, the making of a safer world, etc.; the religious drive still speaks openly of evangelization, conquest of continents for the faith, but generally prefers the more artful nomenclature of education, social service, social liberation, empowerment, and of course human rights – the same human rights it almost always denied when it held the reins of power.
Politics, religion and economy are thus the three branches of the West’s trishul, one and the same phenomenon at bottom – a prodigious generator of strife and instability, upheaval and brutality, but also a tireless explorer, shaper and creator, a first-rate catalyst for change and evolution. Islam its Judeo-Christian foundations, has behaved in much the same way: though its cultural background and outer forms are more “Oriental” than Western, it has been a religio-political power machine conquering minds and nations, again sowing destruction as well as change in its wake.
Religions, cultures, nations, empires disappeared under the onslaught of those two Titans. The experiment may seem cruel, but clearly, it is neither moral nor judgmental.
Another line of human experiment has been that of Asia and more particularly India. It would be tempting to say that if the West is rajasic, Asia is both tamasic and sattwic. But that is not likely to account for the complexity of reality. Not is it wholly true that the West is predominantly materialistic and intellectual while the East is primarily spiritualistic: until recent centuries, Eastern civilizations were more developed materially than the West, and produced many more and deeper intellectuals. Nor also is it correct that the East yearns for peace in contrast to the West’s love of strife: warring in India and the rest of Asia gas been an almost permanent feature (with the possible exception of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization). So where exactly does the difference lie?
If we look at India, we see an attempt to place a comprehensive spiritual culture at the centre of all life; the regions of the world that fell to Christianity and Islam could no longer do it, those two religions having dug an abyss between the divine and the mundane, the heavenly and the earthly, the creator and the created. Expansionism did take place from India, but almost never as a military phenomenon; rather the stress was on interchange, integration and assimilation. When China and South-east Asia opened up to Buddhism and Hinduism, they did so willingly, welcoming the new elements and fusing them with their own cultures. Within India too, the spread of Vedic, Buddhist or Jain cultures generally followed those rules, never giving rise to violent clashes and forcible imposition of the kind we see in the blood-soaked histories of the West, the Near and Middle East.
Sri Aurobindo, writing almost a century ago, put it in these terms:
At no time does India seem to have been moved towards an aggressive military and political expansion beyond her own borders, no epic of world dominion, no great tale of far-borne invasion or expanding colonial empire have ever been written in the tale of Indian achievement. The sole great endeavour of expansion, of conquest, of invasion she attempted was the expansion of her culture, the invasion and conquest of the eastern world by the Buddhistic idea and the penetration of her spirituality, art and thought-forces. And this was an invasion of peace and not of war, for to spread a spiritual civilisation by force and physical conquest, the vaunt or the excuse of modern imperialism, would have been uncongenial to the ancient cast of her mind and temperament and the idea underlying her Dharma.2
An “invasion of peace” sums up the whole issue and the difference in civilizational behaviour. For it is not as if civilizations have not dialogued in the past; they have never stopped doing so. The Egyptian with the Mesopotamian, the Greek with the Egyptian, the Roman with the Greek, the Chinese with the Central Asian, Korean or Japanese, the Arab with the Asian and the European, and the Indian with all of them, perhaps even with Africa and Mesoamerica.
If, today, we hear so much about the need for a “dialogue of civilizations,” it is out of fear and necessity. Perhaps for the first time in history, the West feels profoundly threatened. Columbus or Vespucci did not exactly invite America’s “savages” to a civilizational powwow around a cup of cocoa, nor did the British or the Portuguese feel the need for an intellectual exchange with India’s natives: you do not dialogue with subhumans you have come to crush and plunder. Now that the West professes to have veered away from such methods – occasional misadventures notwithstanding – and has started tasting a “terror” it never shrank from inflicting on now vanished civilizations and cultures, it is slowly realizing that dialoguing may not be such a bad idea, after all.
This may be putting it crudely, but the truth of it is apparent from the fact that the West calls for a dialogue mostly in the context of a perceived threat: with Islam, clearly a physical threat, and to a lesser extent with China, a rising economic rival. India is beginning to receive attention only insofar as she could become another economic “superpower”. Indeed, we have heard no loud call for a debate with African cultures or Amazonian tribes. Power thus remains the first rule of engagement, which means that we have an interface of barbarisms rather than of civilized entities. Some ninety years ago, sociologist Benjamin Kidd opined that civilization has not yet arrived, and that Western civilization “is as yet scarcely more than glorified savagery.”3 This may be just as true today.
If late in the day and for the wrong reasons, the process of dialogue must still be welcomed, not with a naïve hope that it will produce quick results, overnight wisdom and all-round peace, but because it is valuable in itself, an exploration that, at the least, offers a challenge worthy of a humanity in search of new definitions, a new languages and ultimately a new nature.
For such a process to offer any hope, two conditions will have to be met. They are so self-evident as to be banal, yet offer a supreme difficulty when we look at them from the point of view of the “dialogue” – for it soon becomes apparent that current notions of dialogue hinge around a dialoguer-dialoguee interface, not a exchange between equal partners.
Such, in fact, is the first condition: a true respect of difference, an absence of any sense of superiority, racial or cultural, an openness that enables one to appreciate and attune to an alien culture. (That, incidentally, has little to do with the much-vaunted “tolerance”, which rather suggests a great effort to conceal one’s contempt for or disgust at the Other.) True, we hear a lot more today on native cultures of America, Africa or Australia, restoration of tribal lands or apologies for past genocides. And we find more and more individuals and groups working towards lasting cross-cultural understanding and interaction.4 Yet, seeing the persistence of the old prejudices and sometimes their resurgence, as in the fresh rise of racism in parts of Europe, it is clear that we have a long way to go.
The second condition is even more difficult: an end to all forms of political, economic, religious or cultural aggression. If the will for dialogue were sincere, real non-aggression, not only in deed but in intent, would automatically follow. The picture the West gives us instead is:
Should this overview appear sweeping or lop-sided, it would help to narrow it down to the case that is of immediate concern to us, that of India’s interface with the West in recent decades.
Politically, India has for decades been a victim not only of terrorism but of the most biased treatment by the U.S.A., the U.K. and a few other Western countries. In the last twenty years, thousand of deaths among Kashmiri pandits and their entire displacement hardly drew a few whispers; massive and incontrovertible evidence of Pakistani support to numerous acts of terrorism in India from Coimbatore to Mumbai and Hyderabad to the Lok Sabha, produced only a few homilies on the need for restraint (the more trigger-happy Western nations providing the loudest homilies). India’s minorities are regarded as sacred while her majority is expandable, and remains so if it happens to be a minority in neighbouring counties. Naturally, India has only herself to blame ultimately for putting up with such constant blood-letting, but the fact is that the West remains the reference of the political game with two sets of rules: one for the self-appointed “guardians of civilizations,” and one for the rest (yet to be fully civilized?). The very structure of the United Nations is evidence enough that might is right.
Economically, India has been forced to open her markets by the World Bank; while she was yearning for liberalization after decades of the most regressive Socialist regime, the massive entry of multinationals has started spelling doom for native small industries and tried to convince Indians to ape the wasteful consumerist habits of Westerners. However the creation of artificial needs, on which consumerism rests, has so far had only a limited success, and India’s complex multi-layered economy retains an enigmatic resilience and dynamism: a Western dominance in the field is by no means assured.
The religious field is, let us face it, the most problematic one. Resurgent Islam and Christianity make no bones about their determination to conquer India. The very existence – or rather survival – of a predominantly Hindu nation appears to be unacceptable. Formidable arrays of missionary organizations plan and implement multi-pronged campaigns through their “armies” of volunteers backed by powerful finances, including vast networks of donors who often think they are contributing to “serving the poor” or do educating them, but also by corporate and even governmental support.5 Those two religions justify their zealous drives by the fact that their respective Scriptures have mandated them to preach and save souls. However they do not explain why they should also use deceitful methods of allurement and occasionally coercion, as we can witness in India. The result of such campaigns is unsettling: division of communities and resulting social tensions, unnatural massive acquisition of real estate, cultural disruption, and occasionally, demographic warfare.
In India, Christianity and Islam are loud on “religious freedom,” “human rights” and of course the ubiquitous all-weather “secularism”- concepts which, again, they tried to smother wherever and whenever they were in power. In actuality, however, they grossly take advantage of the natural openness, non-aggression and tolerance of Hinduism. The great art critic and thinker Ananda Coomaraswamy wrote in 1909:
Such tolerance the missionary uses to spread his own intolerance….All that money, social influence, educational bribery and misrepresentation can effect, is treated as legitimate… But even Hindu tolerance may some day be overstrained. If it be intolerance to force one’s way into house of another, it by no means necessarily follows that it would be intolerance on the owner’s part to drive out the intruder.6
To establish their own “tolerance,” Christian missions and intellectuals have of late been calling for “interfaith dialogue”. If they are based on a genuine desire to understand other cultures and religions, to achieve mutual enrichment or at least mutual harmony, they can prove to be part of a fruitful interface of civilizations, the Western with the Asian. But with the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, declaring that it is the “sole repository of the truth” and openly calling for a “harvest of faith” from Asia for the third millennium, it is hard to see what purpose there could be in such initiatives: laudable as they may appear on the surface, they will lead nowhere. We find well-meaning Hindus and Buddhists taking part and ranting about the “oneness of God” or the equality of religions, while Christianity and Islam carefully refrain from any such catchwords, or reject them outright if cornered. Those are not “dialogues,” except in the sense that a dialogue of the wolf with the lamb is no doubt beneficial to the wolf.
In India’s case, the problem is compounded by serious misportrayals in the cultural field by Western (and sometimes Indian) academia and the media.7 All too often, it is considered acceptable and desirable to ridicule some aspect of Indian culture, to submit some Hindu god or saint to psychoanalysis so as to reach the most grotesque conclusions, or to trace India’s social evils to her religion. Colonial Indology is strangely reborn in current academia dominated by an obsolete Marxist historiography. We have here a pattern reminiscent of Catherine Mayo’s Mother India, and clearly, no fruitful interface can take place on such a foundation. There are still many genuine students of Indian civilization, in India and abroad, but they are content to do their work silently, while the more visible and sometimes vociferous “experts” find it strangely worthwhile to spend a lifetime hating the object of their studies. Indian scholars generally maintain an attitude of indifference, having seen “a long list of misunderstanding works abusive of our country and its culture,” but as John Woodroffe wrote in 1918, in a masterly rejoinder to one such work, “This indifferent attitude is a mistake. India cannot at the present moment allow any charges against her to go unanswered.”8 Today, at last a number of scholars, thinkers and writers, from inside and outside the academia, have taken up the gaunlet.9 This is all more urgent since, as we all know, the denigration of a culture is only the first form of aggression against the nation that holds it – with other forms waiting to follow. As Woodroffe again put it very lucidly:
The question of the value of Indian culture is not merely an academic one. It has present practical bearing on the future of India and the World. …Is Indian civilization about to be renewed or to be broken up – another instance of that disintegration which has followed the introduction of Western civilization amongst Eastern peoples? Its poison does not harm the snake but is death to others…In every way, the coming assault on Hindu civilization will be the greatest which it has ever had to endure in the whole course of its long history.10
This is not to say that Indian society is perfect. The result of many strands and conflicting pulls, ancient, traditional and “modern”, it remains an evolving process, with points of decay but also of dynamism. Assume we paint a portrait of Western society by concentrating on its mafias, large destitute classes, drifting communities, dysfunctional families, drug abuse, all-pervading violence, racism and anti-Semitism, its cultural rootlessness and high levels of criminality (often hundreds of times higher than in India in relative terms); assume we also mention a long list sickening facts, including the Church’s latest sex scandals, the feeding of cattle with meat from infected cattle, or of calves not with milk but with blood from slaughtered cattle,11 or the U.S. administration’s proposal to allow hunters and the pet industry to kill, capture and import animals on the brink of extinction in other countries.12 Would the resulting picture be a truthful one, let alone legitimate? Yet these are exactly the methods we have seen in recent years not only in the field of Indology, but in English-language Indian media and its Western counterparts.
The saving grace in the interface between the West and India is found at the popular level: people-to-people contact, as the phrase goes. Here, we have an organic process which, thankfully, escapes all control. It is the natural continuation of the gentle, silent but remarkably effective manner in which India has radiated her civilization. Thus we see a fast spread of techniques of yoga and meditation, a growing popularity of Buddhism (the fastest growing religion in France and Australia13), an increasing appreciation for Indian music or dance, even some nascent recognition of India’s vast contributions to world civilization.14 In a way, this is truer interface than the academic, and if it is allowed to pursue its present expanding trend, it will offer not only a corrective to the limitations of the academic debate, but a healthy example of civilizational interface. One only wishes that in the process, India were exposed to a few beneficial traits of the West rather than the sort of degenerate non-culture flooding the country.
The Indic Model: Difference vs. Unity
In the twenthieth century, leading Western nations thought they could offer a viable model of integration of non-White, non-Western communities: the “melting pot” of the U.S., which has worked up to a point, also the “assimilation” that former colonial masters like France or England boasted of. Today, with the growing assertiveness of multiculturalism, the emphasis has shifted to preserving the distinct identities of those communities.15 There should be nothing wrong with either approach, except that they often appear to clash in practice. The current controversies in France about the wearing of religious symbols, and in Italy on the display of crucifixes in public schools, the demand by some U.K. and U.S. Muslims for separate laws in tune with the Shariat, are pointers that the West is increasingly unable to deal with the problem of “minorities” and to harmonize them with its concept of secularism. Indeed, nothing was more ironic than the recent protest by an Italian cardinal against the “tyranny of minorities”16 (Muslim minorities in this case), when in the Indian context all that we hear from the same voices is the need to defend the rights and privileges of the same minorities.
If this trend is any indication, rather than dialogues we will soon have a proper Tower of Babel; indeed, delicate ears opine that we already have it. And it is not hard to grasp the cause of the whole confusion. Diversity and pluralism are all very well, but they cannot reach a harmony without the awareness and acceptance of an underlying unity – “unity in diversity,” as the catchphrase goes. It was hoped that some vague philosophy of humanism or idealism could provide such a unity, but this has repeatedly shown itself to be a chimera.
There is probably only one place on this earth where the experiment with unity in diversity has been successful on a large scale and for a long period of time. For thousand of years (at the very least since the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in the third millennium B.C.), India has shown unique ability to harmonize regional subcultures, with Vedic culture enriching them while being enriched by them in return. To that extent, India saw no “Other”; faithful to her view of one divinity manifested through myriads of forms, she created a culture supple enough to ceaselessly assimilate and integrate new elements and to adapt itself to apparently alien forms. Tribal gods were invited into the Hindu pantheons, while tribes adopted the great Indian epics and heroes as their own; different rituals, customs, languages, ethnic origins were no bar, as long as India’s central spirit was accepted.
Today it is customary to praise India’s diversity, but all too often the unity without which this diversity could not have blossomed is overlooked. What made this unity possible? In Sri Aurobindo’s words:
The inner principle of Hinduism, the most tolerant and receptive of religious systems, is not sharply exclusive like the religious spirit of Christianity or Islam; as far as that could be without loss of its own powerful idiosyncrasy and law of being, it has been synthetic, acquisitive, inclusive….[Hinduism is] a non-dogmatic inclusive religion and would have taken even Islam and Christianity into itself, if they had tolerated the process.17 Which they have not.
Tagore held the same view of India’s unity:
In America and Australia, Europe has simplified her problem by almost exterminating the original population. Even in the present age this spirit of extermination is making itself manifest…India has all along been trying experiments in evolving a social unity within which all the different peoples could be held together, while fully enjoying the freedom of maintaining their own differences…. This has produced something like a United States of a social federation, whose common name is Hinduism.18
Travellers to India of all times bore testimony to this central fact of her civilization. India’s formula has worked remarkably well, despite severe disruptions and periods of stagnation and even decay. It fulfils the two conditions we mentioned at the start: a profound respect of difference, and a complete lack of any form of aggression. But it goes further by providing a worldview which can harmonize with any non-dogmatic culture. That has been one central secret of India’s endurance. “All civilizations are mortal,” said Paul Valery, but he probably knew only those of the West.
The model of the West is that of the amoeba: create ever-new pseudopodia (“pseudo” indeed) and phagocytose all you can. India is more of a polyp colony inviting everyone to come and add to its coral structure, although India’s structure is far more flexible than the coral; or like the proverbial banyan tree constantly replanting itself, except that unlike the banyan, Indian culture allows a lot of undergrowth to thrive. It is a non-destructive organic growth in a naturally harmonizing medium. In today’s left-dominated intellectual scene, it has become fashionable to deny any such centrality to Indian culture or society and project an imaginary “imposition” of “ Brahminical” culture, forgetting that the internal coherence of Indian culture has been made as much by the common people as by Brahmins, and that the former were never under any physical or moral compulsion of the sort used in the expansion of Christianity and Islam.
The west is not going to adopt the Indic model overnight. It must first reach the end of its line of experiment. It could veer towards a less destructive line only if Christianity and Islam learned the secret of lasting peaceful coexistence, which they are still unwilling to do. In the meantime, a truce or alliance between the two Titans is undesirable from an Indian point of view, because that would not stem from a real transformation of their svabhava, and in practice, it would be at the cost of other religions and cultures of the world.
As regards the politico-economic front, the danger posed by Western aggressiveness may be far more easily dealt with, first in the form of unexpected backlashes (no one can predict the future behaviour of Frankenstein monsters created in various parts of the world, from Yugoslavia to Iraq), secondly because of the feet of clay of the apparently powerful economies of “leading nations.”
Where this will lead us is more than anyone can say. But it is clear that for any civilizational interface to be fruitful, it must not shy away from all the clumsy questions that are in everyone’s minds:
· Are Western nations on a new “civilizing mission,” or are they prepared to accept that they can draw lessons from more ancient cultures? Can there be any meaningful civilizational interface as long as they remain the self appointed masters of this planet?
· What factors or events could transform the animal instinct of greed and conquest at the root of Western civilization? Or is the new Anglo-American doctrine to become an established norm?
· Do Christianity and Islam have a right to conduct aggressive campaigns of conversion, generally through unfair methods? In our era of human rights, does such a policy not interfere with individual freedom and freedom from cruelty?
· Do they have a corresponding right to dismember nations, redraw borders, carve out Christian or Islamic nations out of older ones as they have been doing for a few centuries, once the societies they set out to penetrate have become unstable enough? (This is not yesterday’s question of Pakistan, but today’s Kashmir and India’s North-East – and tomorrow’s of the rest of India.)
Only if such questions are addressed with some degree of honesty will the ground be cleared for a next stage in the human experiment. But the answers will likely come from circumstances rather than intellectual debates. Sri Aurobindo wrote in 1915:
That stupendous effort [of the West] is over; it has not yet frankly declared its bankruptcy, but it is bankrupt. It is sinking in a cataclysm as gigantic and as unnatural as the attempt, which gave it birth. On the other hand, the exaggerated spirituality of the Indian effort has also registered a bankruptcy; we have seen how high individuals can rise by it, but we have seen also how low a race can fall which in its eagerness to seek after God ignores His intention in humanity. Both the European and the Indian attempts were admirable, the Indian by its absolute spiritual sincerity, the European by its severe intellectual honesty and ardour for the truth; both have accomplished miracles; but in the end God and Nature have been too strong for the Titanism of the human spirit and for the Titanism of the human intellect. The salvation of the human race lies in a more sane and integral development of the possibilities of mankind in the individual and in the community. The safety of Europe has to be sought in the recognition of the spiritual aim of human existence; otherwise she will be crushed by the weight of her own unillumined knowledge and soulless organisation. The safety of Asia lies in the recognition of the material mould and mental conditions in which that aim has to be worked out, otherwise she will sink deeper into the slough of despond of a mental and physical incompetence to deal with the facts of life and the shocks of a rapidly changing movement….
Mankind has been drawn together by the developments of material science and for good or evil its external future is henceforth one; its different parts no longer develop separately and in independence of each other. There opens out at the same time the possibility that by the development and practice of the science and the life of the soul it may be made one in reality and by an internal unity.19
This seems to be only way for humanity’s various lines of experiment to finally converge. So far, the West has shown its inability to follow its own saner voices; the dialogue of civilizations remains a non-starter, because it has been neither a dialogue nor between civilized entities. Whether it does take off or not depends on the collective will behind the human experiment and the course of circumstances; for only if those are compelling enough will the destructive course we have adopted be altered. As Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s companion, once put it,
The only hope for the future is in a change of man’s consciousness and the change is bound to come. But it is left to men to decide if they will collaborate in this change or if it will have to be enforced upon them by the power of crushing circumstances.20
1. Statement by Ibn Warraq on The World Trade Centre atrocity (available on http://www.secularislam.org/).
2. Sri Aurobindo, The Foundations of Indian Culture (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1972), p.425.
3. John Woodroffe, Is India civilized? (Madras: Ganesh & Co. 1918), pp. viii-ix.
4. Many examples could be provided. Among them, the COMPAS programme is particularly inspiring. See Food for Thought: Ancient Visions and New experiments of Rural People, eds. Bertus Haverkort and Wim Hiemstra (Leusden: COMPAS, Bangalore: Books for Change & London: Zed Books, 1999), and for instance pp. 30-31.
5. See for instance official figure from the website of India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (http:/mha.nic.in/fore.htm). A book on FCRA regulations (downloadable from www.accountaid.net) also contains a wealth of data on Christian organizations in India receiving considerable amounts from abroad. See also a recent article in the Deccan Herald by Nina Benjamin, www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/feb012004/i3.asp; an excerpt: “As many as 1,192 NGOs in Karnataka, registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act-1976(FCRA), received Rs. 534 crore from foreign funding agencies during 2001-02 while the tally for the previous year was Rs. 486 crore. Of this amount, Christian NGOs alone received Rs. 471 crores. The protestant groups received Rs. 288 crores and Catholics Rs. 183 crore. Hindus, Muslims and others together got only Rs. 63 crores.”
6. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy; Essays in National Idealism (1910, reprinted Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1981), p. 131.
7. See “Critiques and Interpretations of Indian Culture” by Michel Danino (unpublished).
8. John Woodroffe, Is India Civilized? op.cit., p.i.
9. In a healthy trend, there is a long and growing list of them, among whom Rajiv Malhotra, Subhash Kak, Yvette Rosser, Kapil Kapoor, David Frawley, Bharat Gupt, Koenraad Elst, Vishal Agarwal, Sandhya Jain, Francois Gautier, Shrinivas Tilak, Somnath Bhattacharyya, S.N. Balagangadhara, Sankrant Sanu, Ramesh Rao, Rajeev Srinivasan….
10. John Woodroffe, Is India Civilized?, op.cit., p. v-vii.
11. See for instance “FDA toughens safeguards to protect against mad cow disease” by Shankar Vedantam in Washington Post, 27 January 2004.
12. See “U.S. May Expand Access To Endangered Species” by Shankar Vedantam in Washington Post, October 11, 2003.
13. For instance, census figures published in 1996 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics mentioned 199,812 Buddhists in Australia. This was an increase of nearly 60,000 from the 139,847 Buddhists recorded in the 1991 census. In 1996, Buddhists now make up 1.1% of the Australian population. In 1991, the number of Muslims exceeded the number of Buddhists by 7,660 but gap decreased to 1,073 in just five years.
As regards Buddhism in France, see for instance http:/www.religionnewsblog.com/1079-_Buddhism_in_france_is_booming.html
14. Let us mention, among recent studies, The Crest of the Peacock by George Gheverghese Joseph (London: Penguin Books, 2000), The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer by Georges Ifrah (John Wiley & Sons, 2000), and Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science – from the Babylonians to the Maya by Dick Teresi (Simon & Shuster, 2002).
15. See for instance the recent article “Multiculturalism. A dangerous word….just like apartheid” by Matthew Parris in The Times, January 24, 2004 (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,175-975055,00html).
16. See for instance “Cardinal Tucci Warns Against “Dictatorship of Minorities’ In Wake of Judge’s Decision to Bar Crucifix From School,” Rome, November 2, 2003 (www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=43843).
17. Sri Aurobindo, The Foundations of Indian Culture, 14.76-90.
18. Tagore, “Nationalism in India” (republished New Delhi: Macmillan, 1999), p.69.
19. Sri Aurobindo, “Our Ideal,” in Birth Centenary Library (Pondicherry: 1972), vol.16, pp.311-312.
20. Mother, in a message of January 31, 1964.
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