Thousands of years ago, in ancient India and other neighbouring lands, a great civilisation arose. To me, being a Hindu makes me an heir of this civilisation and confers upon me the responsibility for its well being and continuity.
Despite some errors and aberrations, Hindu civilisation has made a unique contribution to humanity’s collective knowledge and heritage, achieving great things in all fields of life. It produced great philosophers and thinkers, great merchants and adventurers, great warriors and heroes. But above all else, it had one pre-occupation, and that was for the spiritual life – the experience of those truths which are beyond the grasp of ordinary sensory experience. Millions of men and women from this civilisation devoted their lives to experiencing the great truths of life which can be seen not by the eyes, can be heard not by our ears and can be understood not by our logical reasoning.
This civilisation existed at the same time as many other great ancient civilisations of the past – the Mayans, Babylonians, Aztecs, Greeks, Romans, Persians and Chinese. Whereas all these civilisations were destroyed and lost their continuity with their past at some point in time, my civilisation alone managed to survive and preserve an unbroken continuity with its past. Our civilisation still lives its ancient culture, still has a memory of its great heroes, still celebrates its ancient festivals and still has practitioners and teachers of its ancient spiritual wisdom and other systems of knowledge. It was only by a great deal of determination on the part of our ancestors that Hindu society managed to survive the many onslaughts which it had to face throughout history. It was these same onslaughts which brought an end to all the aforementioned civilisations.
It was a combination of the faith of the common man and woman, bravery of our warriors, determination of our saints and sages and strength of our family and social structures that allowed Hinduism to survive through many dark ages of subjugation. It gives me great pride and a strong sense of identity to belong to such a resilient people.
I don’t think it is a coincidence or a fluke of history that Hindu civilisation has accomplished the remarkable feat of continuity. It is my firm belief that the Divine has willed this, for the knowledge that we have preserved, that goes today under the name of ‘Hinduism’ is supremely important for the world’s progress and future wellbeing. It is a knowledge which can heal the wounds that humanity has inflicted upon itself and upon the planet. It can raise the human consciousness, dulled from centuries of material infatuation, to new heights and then project the higher consciousness into a vision of a more enlightened, noble and cultured society.
Today, with the new age of globalization, it should be an ideal time for us Hindus to once again come into our own and really make a difference in the world. But this cannot happen if we sons and daughters of Hindu civilisation forget our roots, and fail to honour our heritage and learn to appreciate its tremendous potential for change in the modern world. Today, Hindu civilisation faces a grave danger. For perhaps the first time the biggest threat to its existence isn’t barbarian rulers who are out to quash us. Today it the carelessness and inactivity of people like us that poses the greatest risk to our survival.
It would be a tragedy of an enormous magnitude if the knowledge of Hinduism would cease to be a living presence, and would in effect perish before it had a chance to make its mark for the better in this modern world. This is not a far fetched scenario; it could come to pass if people like me and you do not make the effort to learn about Hinduism so that we can imbibe it in our lives and pass it on to others.
Please don’t take what I write as pessimism. I would much rather it be taken as a wake up call. The ability to make change is not confined to a select few. The ability rests with each one of us, and I am confident that our civilisation has such intrinsic strength that it will continue to produce the right people to take it forward at a pace that is willed by the Divine.