Indians need to break free from the shackles forged by their own fears and ineptitude.
Pritam Choudhury is from Agartala, Tripura. He studied electrical engineering at IIT Roorkee, after which, he graduated in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge. Currently, he is pursuing doctoral studies in programming languages at the University of Pennsylvania. He is deeply interested in Dharmic studies and exploring the wisdom of ancient India.
When a nation lives in slavery for a long time, it loses itself. The men lose their paurusha (पौरुष) and the women their teja (तेज ). In the absence of paurusha, the men always look outside for external validation. When there is external validation from the superior colonial masters, there is a show of subservience and the bond of slavery gets more tightly tied. When there is external validation from the inferior countrymen, there is a false sense of pride whose other face denigrates those same countrymen for their inferiority. When there is no external validation from the masters, a sense of meaninglessness grips their lives and life itself seems like a huge burden to them. They try hard to get something from the masters, if not validation, then punishment. The sole motive of their lives is to become a good slave. The idea of a life beyond slavery is unimaginable to them.
In the absence of teja, the women no longer forcefully demand their men to be brave or to protect their dignity. They try to keep up with their men, not happily, but as a means to drag their lives forward, a day at a time. The children see the pain of their mothers and the cowardice of their fathers, but they are too weak to protest. Gradually, they also get habituated to it and become like their parents. The boys share the shame of cowardice of their fathers, the girls share the pain of their mothers silently deep in their hearts. Though the boys have had a chance to rise up, soon enough they start feeling that this is the order of the world and there is no point in protesting against it. The shame of cowardice weighs so heavy on their conscience that they are unable of standing up again with dignity. The girls, too, had a chance to rise up, but then, the silent pain of their mothers weighs so heavy on their hearts that they feel like going with the flow is the only way. And thus, slavery perpetuates itself.
We have lived under slavery for a long time. The paurusha of our men and the teja of our women have diminished a lot. Though we claim that we rule ourselves, the truth is that the structures of slavery built in our minds over centuries by the colonial masters rule us. Our food, our lifestyle, our good and bad, our dos and don’ts are all dictated by the Western masters. We understood the worth of yoga only after it was vindicated by them. We judge the value of any person by the accolades he or she has earned from them. We do something and it’s right only if it has been so pronounced by them. What, then, is the status of our viveka (विवेक ) and vichara (विचार)?
It is like we have closed our eyes and want to be informed about the world through them. Where then is our place? We have forgotten that we can do things, that we don’t need their encouragement or discouragement. We have forgotten that our land is a gift to us, our heritage is a gift to us, our culture is a gift to us and we can mould them the way we want. We have forgotten that we are the masters of our destiny, that we ourselves can give life meaning. We have forgotten that this land is our playground and it is up to us how we play here. We have forgotten that we can create, preserve and destroy. We have forgotten that ages ago, on a day like this, out of sheer joy of life, the rishis sang the Vedas. We have forgotten that on a day like this, out of sheer joy of life, the rishis lit the fires and called upon the gods to accept their offerings and bless them. We have forgotten so much. In fact, we have forgotten that we are alive.
But let not the shackles of history bind our feet and mind. We have nothing to be ashamed of, for our allegiance is not to any ideology or dogma. It is to truth alone. The truth alone is our guide. The truth alone is our refuge. Let our hearts be not heavy with grief, for a life is too precious to be passed in lamentation. What is true cannot be destroyed, and what is untrue cannot forever be. Why then should we grieve? Let us look out for truth. We have nothing to be afraid of. Cutting the chains of slavery is not an easy task, surely there will be obstacles. But let us not turn back because of obstacles. A life lived in fear is a continuous dying process. Let us realise that we are alive. Let us wake up and rise.
If we realise our potential, we can get out of this prison. Slavery is the roof of the prison, false pride and jealousy are its side walls, moha (मोह) its back wall, weakness its front wall. Fear and temptation are its two guards. Only a steadfast mind with viveka (विवेक) and vairagya (वैराग्य ) can break this prison and be free.
Once we free ourselves, we have a lot of things to do. We first need to reconnect to our roots --- develop our disciplines from where our ancestors left. We then need to give our nation a vision. We need a vision that can withstand the challenges of the twenty-first century without any compromise on our ideal of truth. Our vision should strike the right balance between the purusharthas (पुरुषार्थ ). We should not reject the material world because such an undertaking has proved to be destructive time and again. We should be as good in material pursuits, as any other nation in the world. But our purpose would be different – our purpose would not be the exploitation of nature, but using it appropriately for the realisation of truth. May we realise the truth. May the truth nourish us. May the truth guide us. ॐ