An ad in the NY Times caught my attention. It runs for a full three pages in the Sept 25th issue, touting the glories of India's contributions to the world. There's a bold headline: Experience India In New York, announcing a series of cultural events and conferences. The ad has its token images of sitar players and Bharatnatyam dancers along with pictures of business execs in ties. The ad's real intent is not to introduce Indian culture to the West, but rather to broadcast how India is adapting to Western culture so magnificently.
There's no mention of Gandhi, India's acknowledged greatest figure of the past 100 years. Of course, no one would want to mention that Gandhi urged his followers to burn their British made clothes and reject British manufacturing methods and have Indians spin their own clothing. When asked about Western civilization, he said that he thought it would be a good idea. Gandhi wanted to strengthen the rural economy and small businesses of India, which echoes the intent of Thomas Jefferson who felt that the strength of America lay in the small farms and small businesses.
Gandhi and Osama Bin Laden are probably on the same page in regards to the West's decadent influence although they obviously differ in their methodology. Had Bin Laden adapted Gandhi's non violent tactics he may have had a far more reaching positive impact. But I digress. Back to my main point
When Mark twain visited India over a hundred years ago, he recognized India s greatness. He wrote, India is the cradle of the human race, the birth place of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.
But it would have been impossible to tamper with the greatness of Indian culture had not first the Hindus themselves tampered with and perverted their own tradition. Srila Prabhupada, the noble ambassador and scholar of India's spiritual culture, explains that the Hindu caste system is artificial and many who were designated as low caste preferred to become Muslims. India's spiritual heritage was being diluted. After the Muslims came the British. Finally, the multi-national corporate culture appears on the scene, and it will leave India only as a hollow shell of what it once was. Even now many farmers in rural India are committing suicide because they have fallen into debt to a duplicitous and unforgiving corporate structure.
Unfortunately, the real India, the Land of Dharma, is being covered over, and to experience it, one must somehow probe deeply into dharma, the principals of spirituality. Prabhupada has provided a wonderful service to humankind by making the real India accessible to all. Prabhupada, in the 1960's, in an almost mythical journey at the advanced age of 70, almost penniless and under tremendous personal inconvenience, arrived on these shores on a freighter from India.
Just like Bush, who thought he would take his war against terrorism to the front lines, Prabhupada brought the fight against materialism to New York, the capital and epitome of materialistic culture. But unlike Bush's war, Prabhupada did not need any bombs or armored vehicles or vast sums of money to entice the people or pay mercenaries. Prabhupada arrived in America armed only with the Holy Name of Krishna, with the sacred teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavat Purana, and with the blessings of the previous acaryas (spiritual teachers). He came to give us a true understanding of the soul, of who we really are as eternal beings, and to reawaken our eternal relationship with the Supreme Soul, Sri Krishna.
This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed. Bhagavad Gita 9:2
Sanjaya said: 'Thus have I heard the conversation of two great souls, Krishna and Arjuna. And so wonderful is that message that my hair is standing on end.' Gita 18:74
For more articles like this by Sankirtana das visit www.nytsanga.blogspot.com
Sankirtana Dasa offers multicultural and sacred storytelling programs in schools, colleges and a variety of venues. He also provides coaching to dramatic artists and writers. He is a recipient of a West Virginia Artist Fellowship Award. He and his wife have resided in New Vrindaban for over 30 years.