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A Call For The Intellectual Kshatriya...by David Frawley

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reproduced from Hindu Voice uk





A Call for the Intellectual Kshatriya


David Frawley


The Challenge of the Information Age


We live in the age of the information revolution, which has taken a quantum leap since the introduction of computers and the opening up of the Internet. The new information flood is changing the nature of the society in ways that we have yet to know and for which there is no precedent. This information revolution is in many respects an information war, with different groups vying 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 in the long run and generally the best success in promoting their agenda. In the media realm packaging is more important than content and strong assertion takes the role of real proof. People tend to believe what is well presented in the media, even if it is otherwise biased or limited. For this reason various vested interest groups pour billions of dollars into this information war, with religious and political groups making great efforts to promote themselves in the new global arena. Advertisement agencies, public relations firms, and lobbyists are hard at work, often to the highest bidder, to give a good image and strong media presence to their clients, simply if the price is right. Even terrorist groups like Hamas have used the media to their advantage, as have fundamentalist dictatorships like Saudi Arabia. The issue is not one of truth but of business.


We live in a mass media dominated society, with daily exposure to some sort of radio, television, computer, newspaper or magazine for almost everyone alive. It has been said that the media is the message, that the media has made itself into the focus of our lives. The media has, we might say, become our mind and influences, if not dominates, our thinking. Many of us spend more time taking in media information that interacting with other people or with the world of nature. These media images serve to color our minds down to a subconscious level. They program our behavior, a fact that advertising has long known and sought to benefit from.


Now this Western information and media culture is spreading all over the planet, including the Third World, with the globalization of the economy.

Even villages are getting television and the other trappings of Western modernity. India, China, and Asia in general are being brought under the influence of the media moguls. Unfortunately, this Western media and commercial culture has largely the same agenda as previous colonial forces, which only fifty years ago lost hold in Asia. This commercial culture seeks to supplant traditional cultures with a Western model, not only in terms of practical conveniences but also in terms of thought and belief. It attempts to Westernize, Americanize or Europeanize the world. Western religious groups, particularly Christian Evangelical groups, are learning to use the media for their advantage as well, preaching and proselytizing on the screen, and broadcasting their mass rallies through the media. Yet all Christian groups use the media in Asia to promote their agenda over native Asian religions, which the media stereotypes as primitive or inhumane.


Islamic groups have similarly realized the power of the media and spend 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 lobbies in the country pouring billions into the political and media arenas. 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. The media is a tool of Islamic propaganda with religious shows and prayers as the dominant themes.


Hindus and the Information Age


Therefore the question arises particularly in the context of India: where are Hindus in this information war? The answer is that, with a few notable exceptions, Hindus generally are only feebly present, apologetic or half-hearted in their self-presentation in the information field. The image of Hinduism that prevails in the information age is created by non-Hindus and 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.


In fact one must ask: Is there any real Hindu intelligentsia in the world? Is there any group of thinkers dedicated to Hindu values and causes and making themselves known in the media realm? Certainly all religious groups have their great intellectuals and thinkers in the world area. Hindus, among all religious groups, seem to have the least of these.


It is certainly not a case of lack of intelligence in Hindus. They have excelled in all the fields of the mind and culture. They have done well in modern fields of science, medicine, computers and engineering, as well as their own traditional cultural fields. Hence there is no reason why the media realm should be beyond their capacity. Certainly Hindus have succeeded in articulating the views of their particular religious groups. There are great Vedantic thinkers, great Vaishnava thinkers and great yogis active today. Almost every great Hindu guru has his intellectual exponents. But when it comes to the field of the religion and spiritual tradition as a whole, particularly its social and political concerns, we find little thought or regard. A Hindu thinker can write a great book on Yoga or Vedanta, but will write only a short article on Hinduism, generally stating how broad and tolerant the religion is, making sure not to offend any other religious beliefs in the process.


Hinduism has produced many extraordinary minds in modern times. Excellent Hindu critiques of the West and of the modern world can be found in the writings of great Hindu gurus like Aurobindo, Vivekananda, Shivananda or Chinmayananda. The problem is that their works get placed in the religious or spiritual field and do not enter into the intellectual realm. Their teachings are often confined to their disciples, who personalize them rather than promote them for their global relevance. Much of the work of creating a new Hindu intelligentsia should consist of taking the works of these great gurus and reformulating them for a broader and more intellectual audience.


Hindu intellectuals have generally failed in the modern information revolution. They have not articulated their views in a clear way. They have produced little by way of books, and almost nothing by way of magazines and newspapers to express what they hold to be true, even in India. While other religions have given clear views on various social and political topics, Hinduism is often without a voice. The most notable exception to this trend is the magazine Hinduism Today coming out of Hawaii (USA), organized and written mainly by Western Swamis. Yet such a magazine has no real counterpart in India or its different dialects.


Even pro-Hindu political parties like the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) have failed to produce any important or widely circulated newspaper or magazine to promote their views. The result is that distorted views of Hinduism prevail and are often promoted without question. When Hindus have taken to defending their tradition, which is the exception, they often do it in an uncritical way, using blind faith or rhetoric rather than clear thinking, writing books and articles mainly for a Hindu audience that already accepts such views. This is no way to influence intellectuals of a non-Hindu persuasion.


The language of modern discourse, perhaps unfortunately, is English. This should be of some advantage to Hindus as English is often their second language. However Hindus seldom learn to write good English. They often emulate nineteenth century British English with its long sentences, redundancy and antiquated words. To gain a place in this media dialogue they must sharpen their media skills and learn to use the English language to their benefit.


Clearly there needs to be a new Hindu intelligentsia to deal with this current challenge. Hindus must set forth their ideas in a modern and rational way that appeals to people, just as the great Rishis did of yore. They have much ground for doing so and many good arguments to present. It may be difficult for India to really change unless there first is an intellectual revolution in the country. Of course there must be a spiritual urge behind this intellectual change for it to be effective. It is not just a modification of ideas that is required but of the intellect following a greater spiritual urge and insight. This is what a true Hindu intelligentsia can offer a world in which intellectuals are usually in the service of dogmas and ideology, not Dharma.


Since independence Marxist and socialist thinking has dominated India, which has viewed Hinduism, with its spiritual and religious values, as its main enemy. Now gradually a more commercial influence is arising along with economic liberalization, but it is similarly 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 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 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 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. Hinduism continues under siege and with little defense, 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 severely 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 this 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. Hundreds of people killed in Sudan or China, where there is no media, will have no effect.


An Intellectual Kshatriya


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. They also serve to present a 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 Hindu 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. The Hindu sense of animal protection is not looked at in ecological or animal rights terms but as a primitive worship of cows. 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 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 UN Security Council. In events of global importance neither an Indian nor a Hindu point of view are given 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, 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 the knowledge of these goings on.


In America large Islamic lobbies works to promote a positive image of Islam and do not hesitate to denigrate Hindus or India along the way. 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 larger numbers and affluence, do little to counter this. There are many examples of the same phenomenon, a Hindu indifference to the media that puts Hindus 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 (Bauddhika Kshatriya). 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, but this can be aided by the activities of Hindus all over the world.


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 not safe or secure.


Hindu groups in India often state that the media does not matter, that they prefer grassroots activity and would rather go directly to the people, that the media applies only to the Western educated elite which does not represent the real masses of the country and so is really not that important. Certainly this grassroots activity is important, but the realities of the modern age must be faced as well. We are all compelled to use cars and airplanes for travel. So too we cannot ignore the power of the media. The media more over is not a closed field. Hindus have the affluence, the numbers, and the intelligence to change it, just as Muslims, holding a more negative image in the West, have been able to do so. But little will occur if no effort is made. In this regard Hindus should not blame the media if they are unwilling to work with it. In abandoning the media field Hindus make their other activities more vulnerable. In projecting a stronger media influence they will give support to all their other projects. Hindus should remember how effectively Mahatma Gandhi used the media. Other Hindus can do the same.


Code for an Intellectual Kshatriya


Many modern Hindus, taking up an excessive view of non-violence, have rejected the idea of any Hindu Kshatriya altogether. This attitude has naturally led to the idea that Hindus should not challenge media distortions of their religion either. 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 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.


The Vedas declare that Brahma or spiritual power and Kshatra or political power must always 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 human relations, both individual and collective. If Brahma or spiritual power fails to impact the social order and cannot 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.


This true combination of Brahma and Kshatra creates an intellectual Kshatriya. For the true Brahmin his weapon is his speech. Many such Kshatriya Brahmanas existed in the past. In fact the Puranas relate that the Angirasa Rishis, the oldest Vedic seer family, was one of Kshatriya Brahmanas. This movement of a new spiritual Kshatriya of modern Hindus needs to be completed today, not only for the generation of Hindu society but for the revival of Sanatana Dharma or the universal tradition of truth throughout the world. The main 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, projecting an intellectual view that is articulate and compelling. They must turn Sanatana Dharma into a world cultural force, not merely a religious curiosity. 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 such great modern figures of India as Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda are good models of intellectual Kshatriyas as well as spiritual masters. Clearly the success of Hindus in such intellectual fields as science 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 flatter 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. He is not seeking office, to create a vote bank, or to gain followers, but to uphold Dharma without compromise or inflexibility.


The youth in particular must 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. 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. Otherwise it will get caught in the past. 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 to 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 new Kshatriya must be willing to spread Hindu Dharma in a dynamic way along the lines of the old Vedic impulse, krinvanto vishwam aryam, make all the world noble.


Such an intellectual Kshatriya must be based upon deep thought and careful analysis. It cannot be developed through mere rhetoric, character assassination, or slogans. It requires not only a well structured critique of opposing forces but a positive program of action. It requires not only a Hindu examination of religion, science and politics, but also the creation of a Hindu alternative to existing systems. It 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 wrongs beliefs, even if someone might get offended by this. 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.


The new intellectual Kshatriya must 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, which is to expose the West's promotion of arms sales, environmental depredation, and projection of sensate materialism all over the world. 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 and one that can absorb what is genuine in it as well.


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. 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 these 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, which, in both cases, included the battlefield.


There are those who may fear that an intellectual Hindu Kshatriya may promote a new Hindu fundamentalism and result in an 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 promoting a culture in which freedom to pursue truth, not only in the outer world, but also 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 adharmic world. Let us hope that this call is heeded! Who is there to answer it? Let them stand forth.


This article is taken from the book 'Awaken Bharata: a Call for India's Rebirth', by David Frawley. The full text of the book can be accessed on line.


David Frawley is currently the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies, which runs numerous study courses of various branches of Vedic systems of knowledge. More information can be found at the institution's website .

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