NATIONS are created on the basis of race, religion, language or ethnicity. India, however, is a mind-bogglingly complex combination of all these ingredients and more. Sameness has been the basis of the making of nations. India stands in total defiance of this formula!
In some ways, we’re probably the oldest nation on the planet. Although we comprised over 200 political fragments in the past, we were still seen-from outside and from within this subcontinent-as an entity with a certain civilisational unity. And so, this land was called Bharat, or sometimes Hindustan.
The term ‘Hindustan’, it must be remembered, pre-dates religion. It did not refer to one particular faith. It meant a geographical identity-the land between the Himalaya and the Indu Sarovar (as the Indian Ocean was known).
But why was this subcontinent considered one entity? This is an important question for anyone trying to understand Indian democracy. After all, for every 50 miles you drive in this land, people look different, speak different, dress different, cook different, eat different. Everything about them is different.
What, then, makes us a single entity? The reason is unique to India. And it is this: this is not a land of believers. This is a land of seekers. A seeker can never be a believer because you seek only when you realise you don’t know anything about life! Everywhere else, people have organised themselves around a religious belief, an ideology, a philosophy. But this is the one land on the planet that does not hold God or heaven as the highest goal. We hold mukti or freedom as the highest. To be sitting eternally on God’s lap is not our aspiration. Our aspiration is liberation. To be free from God also — that is the goal!
It is a totally erroneous concept that people have to believe in a single thing to stay together. People who believe in one god or one ideology have always been at war all over the world. When there is no belief system, no fixed set of ideas in your head, life is your mission, life is your teacher. You are receptive, willing to learn, always seeking your way through life.
This milieu sets the right atmosphere for a democratic process. If we have predetermined ideas of what party, caste, creed or race we’re going to vote for, a democratic process cannot happen. It is just a wasteful exercise—feudalism of a kind. Real democracy can happen only when an individual is willing to look at everything afresh, without any preconceived ideas or beliefs. Only if each of us is willing to exercise our individual intelligence, does democracy make sense.
So, the roots of the spiritual process are also the roots of the democratic process. Spiritually, it makes no difference what your ancestry or karma is; if you are willing, you can aspire to the highest. Likewise in the democratic process, your pedigree or your past makes no difference; who you are makes the difference. Every citizen, like every seeker, has an opportunity to make his life the way he wants.
So, India has the necessary credentials to be a great democracy. The scale and efficiency of our electoral process is quite incredible. But for us to have a truly alive democratic process, it is important not to lose sight of the fundamental spiritual thread that holds us together.
When I say ‘spiritual’, I do not mean anything religious; I mean a scientific way of looking at human well-being. No culture has looked at the human mechanism and its ultimate possibility as profoundly as this culture has, without any system of dogmas or beliefs. This is the fundamental contribution of the East to life on this planet. Which is why when Mark Twain visited India he said, “Anything that can ever be done by man or God has been done in this land.’’
It is time to reinforce and strengthen this unique spiritual thread, which has been hacked in an active, organised manner for far too long. It is time for India to establish itself once again as a land of spirituality beyond religion, spirituality beyond sectarianism, spirituality as a process that is relevant to every human being.
Vol. 8 | Issue 9 | December 2014