Your skepticism about the collective Indian ability to leap frog is understandable. The
subcontinent could hardly produce an indigenous ruler for centuries. Almost every time, a
dynasty declined in Delhi, a new invader came to take charge of the throne. No one could
defeat or throw back an invader. It was not a Hindu Muslim factor. Sultan Ibrahim Lodi
with an army of one lakh was unable to beat back Babar's 13,000 men at the first Battle of
Panipat in 1526. The redoubtable Moghul emperor was able to do little with either Nadir
Shah in 1739 or Ahmed Shah Abdali's raids since 1747.
When the Khyber Pass dried up, we had invaders arriving without
resistance via the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. When after WorldWar II, the colonial
era ended, our electorate plumped for the Nehru dynasty. Some scholars have attributed
this phenomenon to the lack of confidence among Indians to govern themselves. Other social
scientists have expressed the opinion that the damage was done by the caste system. The
Hindu civilisation was dependent on the Kshatriya to soldier and rule, to protect and
govern. When the caste failed to produce the quality of kings who could respond to the
challenge of Islamic invasions, the civilisation caved into subordination. Yet another
explanation by foreigners was that Indian has forever been on the lookout for professional
Eight centuries make a long past; long enough to vindicate our doubts
about collective Indian ability to always combine, with stand and conquer, if necessary.
But social arithmetic is seldom predictable. Two plus two do not always make four. In the
circumstances, I recommend that we need to get hold of the reason. And then enquiry if
anything could be done to correct the timidity. I have in my own way pondered,
introspected and analysed. I have considered a number of opinions expressed over the
decades by scholars, foreign as well as Indian.
Take the most common western view: that Hindus are fatalists. They
believe that fate is pre-determined, whatever will be will be! What therefore is the sense
in struggling? Slide along the line of least resistance as the end is predestined.
Logically, a fatalist should be devoid of initiative. He would not be driven by ambition
or be an achiever. If he happens to achieve, it would only be incidentally so. Some
foreign commentators have gone to the extent of saying that the Hindu is such a prisoner
of his faith in karma that he just could not be driven to action.
Yes, the Hindu explanation of life centres around the theory that a
person's karma leads to his bhagya. His deeds are the basis of his destiny.
Karma includes his deeds in his previous as well as his present incarnation. Remember, to
the Hindu birth and death are punctuations between lives or incarnations. They do not
represent either the beginning or the end. In the Hindu belief, cosmic existence has no
start and no finish. Jain (a protestant offshoot of Hinduism) philosophy states this
concept of eternal continuity in the words anadi anant. There is no beginning and
Karma is cause, bhagya is effect. Deeds are the cause.
Destiny is the effect. What could be more logical than this? There is no God or his vicar
to sit on judgement. Nothing, which could be either subjective or partial. The Hindu
belief reminds one of physics and Newton's laws. Every action has a reaction equal and
opposite. That is karma and bhagya. There is only one unknown factor. And
that is the time gap between a particular karma and its resulting bhagya, a
cause and its specific effect. It could be immediate or might take a life time or more.
Seen from a different perspective what impetus can induce a greater
urge to initiative, ambition and action than this formula of cause and effect? This belief
is designed to drive the Hindu to infinite effort. The Output would be equal to his input.
For there is no power including that of God to judge or decide. The Hindu view is unlike
the Judaic dispensation where man should lead a righteous life of god deeds towards his
fellowmen, and when he dies, his only incarnation or life ends. Thereafter, his soul has
to wait until doomsday or qayaamat to get God's judgement as to whether he is
awarded a blissful place in heaven/paradise or he is condemned to hell/purgatory forever.
God's discretion is total and the fate is either black or white, hell or heaven. Nothing
in between. Surely, most human beings lead imperfect or mixed lives, full of good as well
as indifferent or bad deeds. Yet the reward or punishment would be total and absolute.
Surely, the incentive to greater and greater effort is much less than under the Hindu
dispensation of cause and effect, deed and destiny. Yet, it is often dismissed as
fatalistic. On the other hand, the Judaic or western ethos is supposed to induce ambition
So much for a comparison of the philosophies, the Hindu and the Judaic. Let us now get
down to practical life and see what has gone on.Individually, the Hindu could be inordinately
ambitious and commensurately hardworking. See how he is doing overseas whether in the
USA, or elsewhere. The Indian has won a number of Nobel prizes. How many have the
Chinese or Japanese won? Yet collectively or nationally, both these people have made
remarkable achievements.Nearer home, the Hindu has been more successful than his Muslim
brother, whether in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. The Hindu did better than the Christian
even under British rule. How could this happen if the Hindu ethos is fatalistic?