ARISE AGAIN O ANCIENT INDIA
This should be India’s motto for the Third Millennium, after five centuries of self-denial. For, in spite of its poverty, in spite of the false Aryan invasion, in spite of the Muslim holocaust, in spite of European colonialism, in spite of Macaulay’s children, in spite of the Partition, in spite of the Chinese threat, in spite of the westernised framework, India still has got tremendous potential. Everything is there, ready to be manifested again, ready to mould India in a new modern nation, a super power of the 21st century. Of course, India has to succeed its industrialisation, it has to liberalise, because unless you can compete economically with the West, no nation can become a super power. India has also to solve its political problems, settle its separatist troubles, get rid of corruption and bureaucracy. And lastly, it has to apply quickly its mind and genius to its ecological problems, because the environment in India is in a very bad way, near the point of no-return. Thus, if India can succeed into its industrialisation and liberalisation, become a force to be reckoned militarily, economically and socially, then the wonder that IS India could again manifest itself.
And what is this Wonder ? Beyond the image of poverty, of backwardness, beyond even the wonder that is Hinduism, there is a Knowledge – spiritual, occult, esoteric, medical even – still alive today in India. This Knowledge was once roaming upon the shores of this world – in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece… – but it has now vanished to be replaced by religions, with their dogmas and rituals, do’s and don’t, hells and heavens. For we have lost the truth. we have lost the Great Sense, the meaning of our evolution, the meaning of why so much suffering, why dying, why getting born, why this earth, who are we, what is the soul, what is reincarnation, where is the ultimate truth about the world, the universe… But India has kept this truth, India has managed to preserve it through seven millenniums of pitfalls, of genocides and attempts at killing her santanam dharma.
And this will be India’s gift to this planet during this century: to restore to the world its true sense. to recharge humanity with the real meaning and spirit of life, to gift to this dolorous Planet That which is beyond mind : the Supra-Mental. India will become the spiritual leader of the world :
“It is this religion that I am raising-up before the world, it is this that I have perfected and developed through the Rishis, Saints, and Avatars, and now it is going forth to do my work among the nations. I am raising forth this nation to send forth my word…When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Santana Dharma that shall rise, it is the Santana Dharma that shall be great. When it is said that India shall expand and extend herself, it is the Santana Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world. It is for the Dharma and by the Dharma that India exists”. (IUttarpara speech)
This knowledge does not necessarily reside in mystical realms, but in authentic Indian traditional forms of genius which can be very practical. Take for example ancient medical systems, like Ayurveda, or Siddha. Today, allopathic medecines are found even in India’s remotest villages, making people dependant on harmful drugs which are expensive and only serve to enrich the big foreign multinationals. It takes a Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, to remind the world that Ayurveda is one of the greatest medical systems ever devised; that 3000 years ago, when the rest of the planet lived in total medical ignorance, Indian doctors were already performing plastic surgery, knew that the origin of many diseases were psychosomatic, had found in Mother nature the cure for most of man’s ailments and realised that the five natural elements have to be made balanced in the human body for a perfect harmonious life. Not only that, but Indian doctors were also yogis. They perceived that beyond the human body was another divine reality, of which the soul was the vehicle on earth. Today, Western doctors (and many Indian ones) are totally ignorant of the different planes of consciousness which superimpose our terrestrial life. Hence these doctors and the psychiatrists of the West are, as Sri Aurobindo pointed out, « searching with a torch light in the dark caverns of man’s Unconscious ». This ancient knowledge is unfortunately now being neglected. As a result, American companies are attempting to patent medicines using the properties of neem or haldi, for instance, which were known 3000 years ago by India’s forefathers. As in the case of Sanskrit, the Indian Government should thus put its energies and resources towards the reviving of Ayurveda.
Or take pranayama, the science of breathing. The effects of pranayama have been studied for thousands of years and Indian teachers know exactly what results will this type of exercise have on you and what kind of routine you should do to improve that particular problem, or develop this certain faculty in you. Pranayama, in Sanskrit, means breath – and in India, it is known that prana circulates in the whole body and that one breathes not only trough the nose and mouth, of course, but through ANY part of the body, making thus prana flow everywhere. Thus, according to yogis, prana can revitalise all these parts of our body which do not receive enough energy – and which, as a consequence, become weak and lose their vitality, like the eyes for instance. Pranayama is in fact everywhere : in the air which surrounds us, of course, but also in animals, in Nature, in the mineral world even. It is also found in food : today, one speaks of vitamins, proteins, calories – but one does not understand that it is actually the prana in the food which gives us energy; and the quality of this prana depends on the sort of food we are partaking.
Pranayama is probably the best suited Indian yogic discipline for the West, as His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Movement has shown. It is so down to earth, so scientific : there are no miracles, no levitation, no smoky mysticism, as everything can be explained in a rational way. And again, the U.S.A., always prompt to experience new techniques, is using this knowledge : quite a few American companies have included exercises of pranayama in the peps sessions of their executives; sportsmen too are experimenting with it to improve their performances, as the film « the Great Blue », has shown when the hero does a series of breathing exercises known in India as « Viloma », to store as much air as possible in his lungs, before breaking a world record in underwater diving without oxygen.
And what about Kalaripayat, a very ancient multi-faceted martial art, which is still practised in the villages of Kerala ? In 522 A.D., an Indian Buddhist monk named Boddidharma, who had become a master of Kalaripayat (Buddhist monks, who travelled a lot in Asia to propagate their religion, used bare-handed fighting and the bamboo stick they used for walking to defend themselves against attacks) and was the son of the king of Kancheepuram in the state of Tamil Nadu, arrived at the court of the Chinese Emperor Liang Nuti of the 6th dynasty. The Emperor granted him a, audience and gave him travel documents to walk to the Kingdom of Wei (now Junan province) at the foot of the Han Shan mountains, to a Buddhist monastery called the temple of Shaolin.
Father and founder of Zen Buddhism (called C’han in China and Dhyana in India), Boddidharma taught the Chinese monks the barehanded fighting techniques of Kalaripayat, a very ancient Indian martial art, so that they could defend themselves against the frequent attacks of bandits. In time the monks became know all over China as skilled exponents of barehanded fighting, which came to be known as the Shaolin boxing art.
The Shaolin temple which was handed back a few years ago to the C ’han Buddhist monks by the Chinese Government, inheritors of Boddhidharma’s spiritual and martial teachings, is now open to visitors. On one of its walls, one can see a fresco depicting dark-skinned Indians teaching their lighter-skinned brothers the art of barehanded fighting. On the painting is inscribed : « Tenjiku Naranokaku », which means : « the fighting techniques to train the body (which come) from India.
Kalaripayat, or Shaolin boxing as it is came to be known, passed from China to Japan, through the Ryukyu islands, landing in Okinawa to blossom in the art of the Empty Hand, or later, Karate. Later it manifested in the Japanese mainland as jiu-jiu-tso, judo, Shorinji Kempo, etc. Karate, the art of the Empty Hand, father of all Japanese martial arts, is a blend of Boddhidharma’s martial teachings and the local fighting techniques, which existed there before the advent of Zen Buddhism. All Asian martial arts, particularly those of China and Japan, recognize their origin in the Shaolin Temple and honour Boddhidarma, (whom the Japanese call Dharuma). His portrait is often displayed in their dojos, where martial arts are practised.
And what about meditation, queen of all the yogic sciences ? That which is above everything, that without which any yogic discipline is impossible. That which interiorizes us, carries us within ourselves, to the discovery of our true soul and nature. There are hundreds of different mediation techniques, simple, cartesian, easy to experience, which have been devised by Indian sages since the dawn of Bharat. Each one has its own characteristics, each one gives particular results, which has been experienced by the billions of aspirants who have practised them since the dawn of Vedic times. Meditation is being practised more and more in the West and there have been numerous scientific studies, which have shown the positive effect of meditation on heart problems, psychological stress or blood circulation.
The irony of it all is that not only most of the Indian upper class and intellectual elite does not practise meditation and pranayama, ignores what is Kalaripayat and does not gets treated for its problems with Ayurveda, but that none of these wonders are included in the schools and universities curriculum. So you have this wonderful knowledge, which has disappeared from the rest of the world, but if you go to cities like Delhi, or Bombay, you realise that most of the youth there have no idea about meditation, or have never heard of pranayama. They are totally cut off from their ancient culture, from the greatness of their tradition, and even look down on it. So unless Indians start taking pride in their own culture, India will never be able to gift it to the world.
Famous French writer Andre Malraux had said that unless the 21 century is spiritual, then it will not be. What he meant was that the world has now come to such a stage of unhappiness, of material dryness, of conflicts within itself, that it seems doomed and there appears no way that it can redeem Itself : it is just going towards self-destruction, – ecologically, socially, spiritually. So unless the 21st century allows a new spiritual order to take over – not a religious order, because religion has been a failure, all over the world – then the world is going towards pralaya. And India holds the key to the world’s future, for India is the only nation which still preserves in the darkness of Her Himalayan caves, on the luminous ghats of Benares, in the hearts of her countless yogis, or even in the minds of her ordinary folk, the key to the planetary evolution, its future and its hope.
The 21st century then, will be the era of the East; this is where the sun is going to rise again, after centuries of decadence and submission to Western colonialism; this is where the focus of the world is going to shift. And as when India used to shine and send forth Her Dharma all over the Orient: to Japan, Thailand, China, Burma, or Cambodia and influence their civilisations and religions for centuries to come, once more She will emit Her light and radiate, Queen among nations: “India of the ages is not dead nor has She spoken Her last creative word; She lives and has still something to do for Herself and the human peoples. And that which She must seek now to awake, is not an anglicised oriental people, docile pupil of the West and doomed to repeat the cycle of the Occident’s success and failure, but still the ancient immemorial Shakti recovering Her deepest self, lifting Her head higher towards the supreme source of light and strength and turning to discover the complete meaning and vaster form of Her Dharma”.