The Indian philosophy, traditions, and religion are possibly the oldest living phenomena on this planet. It is supposedly because of this that these traditions and teachings are complex in nature. Various teachers and gurus, over the years, have tried to break these complex molecules into simpler atoms for everyone to understand and implement.
Over the centuries the Indian philosophy has evolved to fit in with the ever-changing society. It is safe to say, that this change has also been the result of criticism of the growing minds of our society. The religion, a huge aspect of the Indian philosophy, has taken the heat for it mostly. This evolution, so to say, has caused some chaos amidst which some fear that the rich traditions and culture of the Indian subcontinent are being lost. In this article, fearing to open a Pandora box of debate and criticism, I have tried to answer if we are addressing our Indian philosophy enough or are we ignoring it to adapt to a different belief altogether to account for the ongoing modernization.
When I think about the modern Indian philosophy, names like Swami Vivekananda, who spread Yoga and Vedanta in the western world; Paramahansa Yogananda, whose Autobiography of a Yogi enlightened hundreds and hundreds not only in the east but in the west too; and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose Transcendental Meditation technique continues to help people all over the world, comes to my mind. These spiritual masterminds taught parts of Indian philosophies not only at home but made it a point to enlighten the Western people of the peaceful teachings and scientific techniques these philosophies have to offer.
The western world grabbed the teachings just like a drowning man would grab a rope to save his life. That was how bad they needed a source of peace and spirituality. Following the successful movements led by these spiritual leaders and many more of the same cloth, the west had been enchanted with the beauty of the east. They specially grasped the philosophy of Yoga and Meditation. This could be seen in ‘American Veda: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West’, a book by Philip Goldberg and many such books. People were enticed and looked to find even deeper meaning in the teachings in books like Gitanjali, Mahabharata and the Vedas.
The disappointment, unfortunately, lies right here at home where the constant change, called Westernization by some, has led people to deviate from their own traditions. Myths have bordered the otherwise scientific clad religious teachings. Hinduism, a religion based on Indian philosophies, has been belittled by the educated minds of the modern world questioning the idol worship, caste discrimination, inequality against women, and the large range of Gods the religion has to offer.
What these educated minds overlook is the role the society plays in these dilemmas and just how little religious teachings get a say in this. How can a religion which recognizes forms of God as feminine can support inequality against them? But I guess, these men and women of brains have not grasped the difference between religion, culture, and society.
With the concept of Individualism in trend, we forget to teach the younger generation about our culture and traditions. The young minds fail to join the modern liberal views with the ancient teachings. This failure can be viewed with the decreasing Agriculture and disappearing artforms which heavily carries in them the essence of the Indian philosophies.
It is my view that the West takes more interest in our ancestry and teachings than we do. The acclaimed British film – ‘Man who knew Infinity’ based on the life of Ramanujan, the great mathematician directed by Matthew Brown, turned out to be a critical hit but it is unfortunate, that only a few know about the existence of the film and the book of the same name here at home.
Evidently, there is ignorance and resistance on our part. It is quite possible, that we will travel west to learn about our own traditions and history. The few who try to keep the teachings and philosophies alive are often neglected or are forgotten. Be it the Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi or the Auroville, a community based on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, all these efforts are quite easily forgotten or overseen.
The technical advancement has given some people the chance to take our traditions and religion for granted. Our philosophies have been misunderstood and mistaken gravely. The teachers have fallen victim to corruption. As one of the schools of Indian philosophy believes, everything is Maya, it seems that we are actually falling for the attraction of the outside world forgetting the richness our soil has to offer.
What we need to do is not to follow but to understand the teachings so that they can be played out with the evolving society as harmoniously as possible.