We live in the age of the information revolution, which has taken a quantum leap since the introduction of computers. The information flood is changing the nature of the society in which we live, in ways that we do not yet know and for which there is no precedent. This information revolution is in many respects an information war, with different groups struggling to put their views out to the general public as the truth. It is often a disinformation war as well, with groups trying to discredit those who have different views, using the media as their weapon.
In this contest whoever puts out information first usually gains credibility by defining the field. Whoever puts out information in the most sophisticated and high tech manner has the best audience and generally the best success in promoting their agenda. In the media realm packaging is more important than content and strong assertion often takes the role of real proof. People tend to believe what has been well presented in the media, even if it is otherwise biased or limited. Billions of dollars are being poured by various vested interest groups into this information war, with religious and political groups making great efforts to represent themselves in this new global arena. Advertisement, public relations, and lobbyists are hard at work, often to the highest bidder, to give a good image and strong media presence to their clients, if the price is right.
We live in a mass media dominated society, with daily exposure to some sort of radio, television, computer, newspaper or magazine. It has been said that the media is the message, that the media itself has made itself into the focus of our lives. The media has become our mind. Many of us spend more time taking in media information than interacting with other people or with the world of nature. These media images serve to build up our minds down to a subconscious level. They program our behavior, a fact that advertising has long known and sought to benefit from.
Now the Western information and media culture is spreading throughout the entire world, including what is called the third world, with the globalization of the world economy. Even villages are now getting television and the other trappings of Western modernity. India, China, and Asia in general are being brought under the influence of the media world.
Unfortunately, this Western media and commercial culture continues the same goals and influences as previous colonial forces, which only fifty years ago lost hold in Asia. This commercial culture seeks to supplant native and traditional cultures with a Western model, not only in terms of practical conveniences but in terms of thought and belief. It attempts to Americanize or Europeanize the world. Western religious groups, particularly Christian Evangelical groups, are learning to use the media for their advantage as well, doing preaching and proselytizing, and broadcasting their mass rallies through the media. Yet Christians as a whole use the media in Asia to promote their agenda over native Asian religions, which the media often stereotypes as primitive.
Islamic groups are also realizing the power of the media and spending large sums to influence public opinion in the Western world, stressing the humanistic side of Islam. The Islamic lobby in the United States is one of the largest lobby groups in the country. In Islamic countries the power of the media is recognized both for good and ill. The media is strictly controlled by the state to project an Islamic image, and portray Islam only in a positive light, while striving to keep the Western media and its views out.
In the context of India the question arises where are Hindus in this information war and media presentation? The answer is that, with a few notable exceptions, Hindus generally are not present or only feebly present, apologetic or half-hearted in their self-presentation in the information field. The image of Hindus and of Hinduism that prevails in the information age is created by non-Hindus and by anti-Hindu forces, not only by intention but also by default because Hindus themselves seldom challenge wrong views or provide an alternative. In this way Hinduism is being eroded, particularly in the minds of young Hindus, who seldom find their religion represented, or who find it denigrated in the media world around them that is rapidly becoming their reality.
Since independence India has been dominated by Marxist and socialist thinking that has viewed Hinduism, with its spiritual and religious values, as its main enemy. Now gradually a more commercial influence is arising with economic liberalization, but it similarly is trying to undermine and replace Hindu culture, which, with its self-sufficiency and spirituality, does not make for an easy commercial target. Hindu culture, which managed to survive as the predominant model in India even through a thousand years of domination by first Islamic and then European Christian influences, finds itself under a new threat, less overt but perhaps for that very reason more dangerous.
The intelligentsia of India since independence has been often self-righteously anti-Hindu and naively accepting of Western ideologies, often merely echoing or imitating the old colonial and missionary propaganda against their own venerable complex religion that appears alien to these disenfranchised souls. The result is that the ruling political parties of India have done little to protect the dominant culture of the country from media distortions but have in fact often encouraged these. They have used anti-Hindu propaganda projected through the media both in the West and in India to try to keep Hindus suppressed and afraid of asserting themselves, so that there is no Hindu challenge to their power. The result is that Hinduism continues under siege and often with little defence, particularly in this new battleground. Even Hindu religious groups and leaders are often more concerned about their own particular faction and seldom willing to come to the defense of the culture as a whole.
Clearly unless this situation is corrected the future of Hinduism is threatened or at least diminished. While several Hindu groups have noticed this problem, it still has yet to be faced and addressed in a complete manner. Hindu society is becoming aware of their difficulty but it has yet to really awaken and deal with it in the real world.
The front line of the battle in the world today is no longer on any particular battlefield with the exchange of bullets or bombs. It lies now in the media and in the information field, which can be quite as deadly and poisoning in its results as any battlefield. Even the battles that are fought with weapons gain much more importance if the media is there. A few people killed in Israel can become world news and shape global strategies because of the media. Dozens of people killed in Sudan or China, where there is no media, will have no effect.
In this information war a different kind of warrior is necessary and a different strategy is required. This is not an entirely new issue because there has always been something of an information war in the clash of cultures, nations and religions that has occurred throughout history. But today it has much more importance in the information age and has become the central issue.
Each culture has its intellectual defenders. These are its great thinkers who articulate its cultural values. These intellectual defenders serve to challenge negative views of the culture. They also serve to present a more favorable image of the culture and define its future. Hindus traditionally had their Kshatriya or warrior class to defend them. There has always been an intellectual Kshatriya as well, those who defend the culture from attack in the realm of ideas, which usually precedes or accompanies physical attack.
However Hindus today have failed perhaps more than any other group to create a defense for their culture in the media world. Hindus are routinely portrayed through stereotypes of caste, dowry deaths, widow burning, strange cults, poverty and superstition. The worship of Shiva appears in The New York Times as the phallic cult of the God of destruction. Krishna is portrayed in Western universities as an erotic God with questionable morals. Brahmins appear in the Western media as rich landowners oppressing their poor slave Shudras, right out of communist propaganda stories.
The world mass media seldom considers any Hindu point of view. Though Hindus are the third largest religion in the world, and the largest non-biblical tradition, in many presentations of world religions Hindus are left out or denigrated as polytheists, idolaters and animists. Some universities in the West teach that Hinduism is not a religion at all but a collection of cults mainly of a primitive nature. Such schools also teach that India as a nation was created by the British and was otherwise just a collection of warring states with little in common.
Though India is the largest democracy in the world and the second most populated country, it has no permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. In events of global importance neither an Indian or a Hindu point of view is given much consideration. In Bangladesh Hindus are under siege and frequently have their property taken from them. In Pakistan Hindus have been almost entirely eliminated. In neither country has there ever been any prominent Hindu leaders or government officials. In Fiji Hindus are routinely oppressed. In Malaysia they have to accept an inferior position, where Hindus can be converted to Islam but no Muslims can become Hindus. When Hindus work in Islamic Gulf countries Hindus have to hide their religion. Saudi Arabia requires that India send only a Muslim ambassador and India has always meekly complied, bowing down to a nation with 1/20 its population!
In India itself foreign missionary activity is perhaps at its highest point in history, particularly targeting tribal groups, even to the extent of encouraging them to secede from the nation and form Christian states. In South India Catholic priests routinely dress up like Hindu Swamis and go to the villages speaking of Yoga and Vedanta in order to convert Hindus to Christianity. Yet Hindus seldom raise a voice and the world hardly knows of these facts. And, most strangely, it is the media of India that works probably the hardest to suppress knowledge of these goings on.
In America the large Islamic lobbyist money works to promote a positive image of Islam and does not hesitate to denigrate Hindus or India. In England Pakistanis organize to create a political influence and bend their politicians to criticize India on Kashmir, while Hindus in the same country, in perhaps larger numbers and affluence, do little to counter this. There are many other examples of the same phenomenon, a Hindu indifference to the media that puts them at a disadvantage even in their own country.
What Hindus need today, in fact what the whole world needs is an intellectual Kshatriya or intellectual warrior class. It needs a group of dedicated workers and activists who uphold the Dharma against this media and information onslaught. Such individuals must be above commercial manipulation and self-promotion, working tirelessly to counter this disinformation flood.
Yet this movement must start in India and in the Hindu community itself to be really credible. For example, when Hindus in America complained against media distortions of Hindu groups in India to The New York Times they were told that the information came from Delhi itself. Clearly the change must start in India to have any real effect.
In India the English language media is generally anti-Hindu and often pro-Marxist. The universities in India are frequently dominated by professors whose heart is not in the Dharma of their country but in Western materialism. Kerala and Bengal today remain under the yoke of communist governments. In Kerala Hindu workers are being killed. In Bengal Hindu sadhus are commonly attacked. It is no wonder that Hindus outside of India are subject to oppression, when Hindus in India itself are under siege.
The Vedas say that Brahma or spiritual power and Kshatra or political power must go together. When Brahma or spiritual power develops it creates an appropriate Kshatra or social power to extend its influence into society. It provides a dharmic order to our human relations, both individual and collective. If Brahma or spiritual power fails to impact the social order and raise the social Dharma, then it is a sign that this Brahma or spiritual power itself has failed, that it is not legitimate or real.
Sri Krishna, the great avatar, worked throughout his life to create a dharmic Kshatriya, an order of noble souls who could establish and sustain a dharmic social order. He was willing to promote a great battle, a civil war among the Kshatriyas themselves, to allow his handpicked dharmic Kshatriya followers to gain power. He purified the Indian Kshatriya with the blood of a dharmic war. Because of his great achievement a Kshatriya order was established that maintained a dharmic society for many centuries. This example should not be lost on us today. The Kshatriya of India today, its social and political leaders, require a similar dharmic purification, perhaps not a Kurukshetra in the literal sense but a purification from false values and egoistic practices that are rampant everywhere.
Let us also look at the example of the great Swami Vidyaranya of Sringeri, an Advaitin and a Mayavadin, who yet inspired two Hindu Kshatriyas who had become Muslims to reconvert to Hinduism and found the great Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar to protect the Dharma. Would not one say that if all is Maya or illusion, why would a great Swami start a kingdom? Such a question shows a profound misunderstanding of Hindu Dharma. One can only transcend the world by fulfilling one’s dharma and one’s karma, and even if one has done so for oneself, one still has the duty to others to teach, guide and raise the world. Let us also look at the example of Samartha Ramadas, who inspired the great King Shivaji.
Unfortunately so far modern India has not created a Prime Minister of this sort of inspiration. Many modern Hindus, taking up an excessive view of non-violence, have rejected the idea of any Hindu Kshatriya altogether. They have felt that Hindus should not have an army and should not defend themselves against violence, but should rather offer themselves meekly to their enemies. This attitude has naturally led to the idea that Hindus should not even challenge media distortions of them.
However in the Vedic view a country cannot exist without a Kshatriya order, which is the pillar of the society. The Mahabharata states that if there is not a righteous Kshatriya rulership that employs the danDa (rod) or is willing to punish adharma, then the people will end up eating each other. In the information age we could say that if Hindus do not create an intellectual Kshatriya then the people will end up destroying themselves with false beliefs and propaganda.
If a dharmic Kshatriya is not created through the force of Brahma or spiritual knowledge, then the law is that an adharmic Kshatriya will come to fill in the vacuum. This is exactly what occurred not only in modern India but throughout the rest of the world. After the excessive non-violence in the Indian independence movement no genuine Kshatriya could or was created in the country. This left the country prey to a false Kshatriya, based mainly upon Marxist ideals, mixed with war lord temperaments, such as we have found in communist countries, who similarly have misled the people and prevented the real growth of the nation.
One must remember the example of the Sikhs in India. Originally a purely spiritual movement, they were forced to take up arms and to adapt a Kshatriya order by the cruel oppression perpetrated against them by the Muslim rulers of the time, in which torture and genocide was the rule of the day. In this way they grew and flourished and became a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately India as a whole at that time did not take up the call of Sikh Dharma, which was the call for a real Kshatriya revival. The resurgent voice of Hindu Dharma that both Brahma and Kshatra are required, that spiritual knowledge must create a strong social order and discipline, was muffled. This movement of a new spiritual Kshatriya of modern Hindus, which the Sikhs began, needs to be completed today, not only for the regeneration of Hindu society but for the revival of Sanatana Dharma or the universal tradition of truth throughout the world. But it must be completed not so much in the field of arms as in the field of ideas. The only Kshatriya that can carry the day today is the intellectual Kshatriya.
Hindus must create a new intelligentsia that has the power to overcome and absorb the alienated and Western dominated intellectuals of India. Hindus must project an intellectual view that is articulate and compelling. They must bring the influence of Sanatana Dharma to the intelligentsia of the world. For a culture that has produced such thinkers as the Vedic seers, Upanishadic sages, Kapila, Buddha, Patanjali and Shankara, and in the modern times Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi, this is certainly possible. In fact we can find in such great modern figures of India as Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda good models of intellectual Kshatriya as well as spiritual masters. Clearly the success of Hindus in such intellectual fields as science, computers, engineering and medicine shows that they have the capacity. What is lacking is the motivation, the guidance, and perhaps the inspiration.
Another mistake Hindus have made is being too accommodating under the guise of synthesis, which erodes clear thinking. Under the guise that all religions are one Hindus hesitate to develop a proper criticism, however justified, of the exclusivist creeds working to convert them, and of other adharmic actions done in the name of religion in the world. There is also the danger that in trying to attract minorities into their fold Hindu groups in India will seek to appease minorities rather than to help them in a dharmic way. The true Kshatriya will help and lead, giving a positive direction for others to follow, not merely appease and accommodate in order to gain popularity. A true Kshatriya is devoted to dharma and cannot be won over by name, fame, influence or money.
The youth in particular need to be awakened to this call for an intellectual Kshatriya. They have the idealism and the vision of the future, as well as the vitality, but this needs to be directed not only by a spiritual urge but one that addresses the problems of society as well. To be truly relevant, particularly to the youth, this intellectual voice must address not only the social issues of today but environmental problems, the role of science, and the future evolution of humanity.
An intellectual Kshatriya must not merely be defensive but creative and expansive. It must project a positive view of Hindu Dharma, and give it a futuristic vision. Its purpose is not merely to adjust present or historical wrongs but chart out a new direction for all to follow. In this regards Hindu intellectuals must go to the universal roots of their tradition and find a compelling vision that can gather people of all backgrounds, helping them break through limited and unspiritual beliefs, toward a yogic vision of humanity. This is not to water down Hindu Dharma but to revitalize it in the world today. This new Kshatriya must be willing to spread Hindu Dharma in a dynamic way along the lines of the old Vedic impulse - kriNvanto višvam ãryam, make all the world noble.
Such an intellectual Kshatriya must be based upon deep thought. It cannot be developed through mere rhetoric, character assassination, or slogans. It requires not only a well thought out critique but a positive program of action. It requires not only a Hindu examination of religion, science and politics, but the creation of a Hindu alternative to existing systems. It also requires a model for revitalizing Hindu society itself.
For those who wish to take up the role of intellectual Kshatriya there is much that can be done. An intellectual Kshatriya must challenge media distortions, whether in schools, books, newspapers, or in the media or the internet. It must also produce genuine information expressing the truth of Sanatana Dharma, whether relative to history, art, politics, religion or philosophy. This means a new revival in the field of Hindu education, which is perhaps the key factor.
This Hindu intelligentsia must be willing to debate with other groups, including exposing their distortions and wrong beliefs. It must resurrect the tradition of tarka or intellectual debate that makes the darshanas or philosophies of Hinduism so significant. It must create a forum in which everything is critically examined so only truth remains. In short, it must wield the sword of viveka or discrimination, discerning the true from the false, and not bowing down to ignorance anywhere.
This new intellectual Kshatriya must also throw up an ethical challenge, which is the challenge of Dharma, exposing the danger of exclusivist religious cults, materialistic political philosophies, and unchecked commercialism. The West throws its ethical challenge to the world, criticizing other countries, including India, for a lack of human rights. This requires a Hindu response. Let us take an obvious example, the same America that tries to speak for human rights and democracy all over the world is also the biggest weapons seller and arms supplier in the world. The biggest buyers of these weapons are the Gulf Oil producing Islamic states, none of which are democracies and none of which have good human rights records, yet none of which are under any American imposed sanctions. Clearly the Western voice of human rights is not truly dharmic but motivated by commercial and nationalistic interests. Hindus need to create an ethical alternative to such questionable Western humanitarianism.
For it to truly develop, Hindu groups must cultivate and honor their intellectual Kshatriya, which not only includes listening to them but promoting their views, and funding their work if necessary. They must stop hiding in the veil of spirituality and allowing the forces of adharma to rule the world and even pontificate over their religion, telling them what it is and what it is worth.
In Western intellectual circles the talk today is of a “clash of civilizations”. This is mainly spoken of as a clash between the West and Islam, or a clash between the West and Chinese culture. In this clash of world civilizations the Hindu has been recognized as one of the players but has already been written off as minor. Why is this the case? Because the Hindu voice has only a small place in the world sphere whether politically, economically or intellectually. Clearly without an intellectual Kshatriya, Hindus will not likely be part of this churning out of a new world order.
Now such may not be pleasant items for Hindus to hear. Should we rather not speak of Rama and Krishna and forget this turmoil of Kali Yuga, some might say? True spirituality is not an escape but a transcendence. A truly spiritual person can face the facts of the world, however unpleasant, without having to turn away or without losing inner composure. This is also the message of Rama and Krishna, if we really look at their lives and actions.
are those who may fear that an intellectual Hindu Kshatriya may promote
a new Hindu fundamentalism or oppression of minorities in India. The Hindu
Kshatriya tradition is not one of aggression but of protection, not of
forcing conversion to a religion but upholding the Dharma. It is a tradition
of holding to truth and creating a culture in which freedom to pursue truth,
not only in the outer world, but in the religious realm, is preserved.
Is this not what the global age really requires? It is time for that Kshatriya
to arise again. The extent that it does will be the measure of the future
of India and perhaps of any dharmic revival in this generally adharmic
world. Let us hope that this call is heeded! Who is there to answer it?