Chapter XII

 

Characteristics and Values of Indian Culture

WU YONGNIAN

 

At the first press conference after his election, Indian President Abdul Kalam emphasized the need for the Indian younger generation to learn scientific knowledge and also correct values from their older generations, and added that India should get rid of poverty and become a developed country in twenty years.

Why did President Kalam mention Indian values anew in his first press conference? This question deserves studying. But what’s more important is to clarify what Indian values are. Before we start, we should have some knowledge about Indian culture and its characteristics. The reason is Indian values have taken shape in the fertile soil of Indian culture, which has cultivated the specific values of Indian people and made them differentiate from those of Chinese culture and Western culture. These are issues affording food for thought and research.

CHARACTERISTICS OF INDIAN CULTURE

Being an Oriental ancient civilization, India has a history of 5000 years. And its culture, extensive, profound and mysterious, has made immeasurable contributions to the world progress and civilization. Its distinct characteristics and personalities have made scholars and experts of academia today excited and confused, arousing their interest in probing the mysteries inside. But no consensus has been reached among them up to now. Some experts divide the characteristics of Indian culture into eight aspects, while others argue that there are no more than three.

I would argue that the characteristics of one specific culture must meet two requirements as follows. One is commonality. The Indian cultural system is made up of numerous cultural elements. So the characteristics of Indian culture must be incarnated in each of the cultural elements with their own personalities, representing the mainstream of Indian culture. The other is individuality that represents the uniqueness of Indian culture and plays the role irreplaceable in the system. I would sort the characteristics of Indian culture into four categories, using the two criteria mentioned above. They are religiosity, diversity, inclusiveness and regionalism.

Religiosity

India is a religious country, and almost all the people sincerely believe in religion. Religion touches every corner of the Indian society and the soul of all the ordinary people, thus maintaining tight and close links with Indian society, politics, economy, military, art and literature. Indian people witness the great and irresistible pacts imposed by religion on themselves in every aspect of life. In short, ‘Life’ will have no meaning without religion. In the first few years since independence, the Indian Government headed by Nehru took the policy of secularism as the fundamental one of developing economy, getting rid of poverty and stabilizing the society in order to mitigate the conflicts among different religious sects. The Indian National Congress, however, didn’t comply with this policy consistently due to the deep and vast influence of religion on the Indian society. It was unable to fully pursue secularism and sometimes even made use of religion to meet some interests of the government due to the interweaving religious and caste contradictions. It’s the incomplete secularism policy of the Congress that led to the soaring power and influence of Hinduism throughout the 1980s. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) used this as an excuse to attack the Congress’s secularist program and dismissed it as "camouflaged secularism" because it couldn’t represent the interests of Hindus. The Muslims, for their part, also didn’t consider this policy in their interests. This is one of the main factors that led to the humiliating defeat of the Congress Party (despite a history of more than 100 years) in the 1990 election.

If we try to analyze and do some studies on the language, literature, art, music, dance and sculpture of India, it will not be hard to find that they are all centered on religion, both in form and content. Even the legislation of the country, the shaping of individual morals and traditional customs and habits of ethnic groups are developed under the influence of religion. Religion has been fully integrated into Indian culture. In short, there will be no Indian culture without religion. For example, in literature there are many works regarded by the academia as the purely religious literature such as the well-known Pancatantra, which was edited and disseminated by religious figures especially for their descendants and is full of passionate feelings that preached the religious spirit.

Even in the liberation movement of the Indian people against the British colonial rule and for national freedom and independence, the idea of nonviolence in the movement of nonviolence and non-cooperation advocated by their greatest national hero Mahatma Gandhi also originated from the benevolence and humanity of Indian religious thoughts. It was from the tenets of Hinduism such as "perseverance in truth", "abstention from killing" and "self-renunciation" that the ‘nonviolent’ thinking derived, with which Mahatma Gandhi invented the unique path in the struggle for national independence and liberation, and won the final victory and established the Republic of Hindustan.

If we observe the life experience of Mahatma Gandhi closely, we can see clearly that he persisted in using religious tenets through his whole life to instigate people to take part in the struggle against British colonists. For he deemed that "politics will lose its soul without religion". He also strongly believed that the strength of patriotism, the willingness to sacrifice and the national dignity could be unbounded, if aroused by religious thoughts. The reason was they represented the intrinsic elements at the very core of Indian culture with a history of 5000 years and the highest ideal the Indian people pursue. For that reason, he held a firm belief that the religious and moral strength of ‘nonviolence’ thinking could eventually force the British colonists to correct their errors since they also cherished justice in nature.

Diversity

Diversity stands out as one of the most prominent characteristics of the Indian cultural system. Within this system, there are different cultural elements such as Hellenic culture, Islamic culture, Persian culture, English culture and Chinese culture. The reason for this diversity is multifaceted and the most important factor is the alien cultures brought to India by invaders. For example, the Indian Islamic culture was launched after Babur defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodi, the ruler of Delhi, in 1526 and founded the Mogul empire. Babur, who had a Mongolian origin and came from Central Asia, was one of the descendants of the Turkish conqueror Timur. The introduction of English culture into India was completed after the British colonists invaded India and imposed colonial rule on it, which lasted for 200 years. Only the spread of Chinese culture into the subcontinent had occurred by peaceful means. Moreover, the friendly cultural exchanges between the two sides have been lasting for several thousand years. This is a matter for renewed collaboration on both sides. As Prof. Ji Xianlin put it, "it’s rare in the world history for two countries like China and India to have a history of cultural communications and friendly interactions for at least 2000 years "

Even in Indian pure vernacular cultures, there are different types of vernacular cultures with different characteristics resulting from varying periods, conditions and environments for subsistence and development. They include Vedic culture, Aryan culture, Dravidian culture, Brahmanic culture, Marathi culture, Punjabi culture, Assamese culture, if defined by time period and linguistic area. They include Brahmanic culture, Buddhist culture, Indian Islamic culture, Jain culture, Christian culture, Sikh culture and Bahai culture that rose in the modern times, if defined by religious sects. It is the diversity of Indian culture that exhibits its antiquity, brilliance and glory, making it without parallel in the whole world.

Inclusiveness

Inclusiveness is another salient characteristic of Indian culture that distinguishes it from other cultures. Of all kinds of local cultures, linguistic cultures and religious cultures of India in history, each contains a variety of elements in part from alien cultures. I have experienced it deeply since I started learning Hindi and engaging in the study of Indian culture and South Asian affairs several decades ago. Although all the major languages of the world have loanwords and alien elements, which accords with the law of linguistic development to realize their functions through constant assimilation and creation, Hindi is most salient in this respect. I want to take this as an example to prove the value and universality of the inclusiveness of Indian culture. The constituent elements of Hindi that my colleagues and I have studied are summed up as follows:

Every language has loanwords and alien elements, but those of Hindi are unique. The analysis of the etymology of Hindi shows that Hindi absorbs many words from English, Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic and even a few from Turkish, besides its own derivations. All these words integrate into the vocabulary of Hindi, perfectly representing the contents of Hindi. If we open a Hindi-Chinese dictionary, we will find that the etymologies of many words are given at the end of the entries, indicating their origins, either from English, or Persian, or Sanskrit, etc. There are also compounds, either made up of a Hindi word and one from a foreign language or composed by two alien words. The reconfiguration of words from different languages not only enriches and enhances the expression of Hindi but also enables it to express meanings that didn’t exist in Hindi before. For instance, the word "contract" and the word "separation" are both combinations of Arabic and Persian words so that they are capable of expressing meanings more accurately.

The assimilation of English by Hindi is manifested not only in its vocabulary but also in its absorption and broad use of English grammar and punctuation. English has left a great impact on Hindi, especially modern Hindi. Owing to the influence of English and its absorption and use of English, the capacity of Hindi is further enlarged both in depth and breadth and keeps up with the modern era, thus evolving for a prosperous future. The assimilation can be sorted into two aspects. First, there are many loanwords from English. The linguistic culture brought by the British after they entered India had many words to represent new things with no equivalent in Hindi. Consequently, Indian people had to copy the pronunciations and meanings from English in order to represent things absent or unrecognized in India. Second, there are some paraphrased words and mixed words. Paraphrased words are those created by using Hindi’s own linguistic materials and transplanting the meanings of English words according to its word-building rules. Mixed words are those words or phrases that integrate the borrowed components from English with the form of Hindi. Besides English, many other foreign languages also share their contributions to the development and prosperity of Hindi, which can be found if further research is to be carried out.

Regionalism of Culture of a Tropical Subcontinent

Being a result of the particular geographic environment and climate, regionalism is the unique characteristic of Indian culture, which some scholars tend to call the "culture of the tropical subcontinent". From a geographic point of view, the Indian subcontinent is just like an isolated island projecting into the Indian Ocean. The geographic separation and scorching weather are the main external factors contributing to the regionalism of Indian culture. Snow covers the Himalayas, the towering ‘world roof’, all year long and no one would set foot on the tops of these mountains in the winter . Oceans and seas surround India in the east, west and south. The only land which links it to the outside world in the east and west is also blocked by mountains, forests and deserts. People are terrified by the vast virgin forests permeated with noxious mist and miasma and the boundless deserts in which strong winds blow sands and stones day and night, so visitors have no courage to go beyond these limits. The Ganges and the Indus, mother rivers of India, bring benefits to the people, while they often cause serious flooding. Moreover, the tropical and subtropical climate also produces broiling weather and monsoon downpours.

The residents of Indian subcontinent felt insignificant and powerless in the face of the nature, so they held it in more reverence, thus giving birth to the thought that humanity and nature is identical. They imaged hazily that there was a dominating force in the heaven, earth and midair and that humans and everything on earth were nothing but its illusion. This dominating force was later on called ‘Brahman’. Gradually, the ideas about "the identity of Brahman-atman" and Self and self were fixed in their minds.

The scorching weather of Indian subcontinent often made Indian people unable to pursue their normal life and work, forcing them to go into the woods or gather under the trees so that they could unfold their endless imaginations about all the phenomena of the nature. As time passed, their imaginations had been enriched and their talents of expression had also grown. The abundance of food and availability of all sorts of tropical and subtropical fruits made it easy for Indian people to eat their fill. So the intellectuals and religious people among them had more time to probe into such questions as the nature of humans, the origin of cosmos, the delicate but concrete relationship between humans and nature or between humans and spiritual world,—all from their unique perspectives. Thus Indian culture has been marked by the characteristics of the culture of tropical subcontinent, and Indian people are famous for their imaginative thinking and eloquence. The works they created are charming, extending their philosophic thoughts aimlessly to rewrite the historical events and the real stories of the heroes in order to mix them with the rich and colorful myths of India. Great poems that are beautiful in rhythm had been compiled and spread wildly. As time passes, it’s hard for the later generations to tell the histories from the poems. Ramayana and Mahabharata, the two most famous epics of India, are among the greatest works of this culture of the tropical subcontinent. Both not only reflect the historical facts of India in that period, but also cover broad fields including philosophy, medicine, literature, carving, music, dance, astrology, geography and meteorology. The epics also spend a large portion of volumes touching upon statecraft such as politics, law, morality and traditions.

VALUES OF INDIAN CULTURE

In recent years, many scholars and experts engaging in studies of cultural values have emerged in China. As a result, quite a few dissertations and works analyzing the values of Chinese and Western cultures have been published. However, those dealing with Indian cultural values are less, not to mention those that expound Indian culture and its values systematically and comprehensively and conduct comparative research about them in international cultural research. So I want to explore this topic to the best of my knowledge in order to receive advice from experts and colleagues.

According to knowledge about cultural values, the patterns, factors and traits of specific values are determined in many aspects such as politics, morality, religion, nation, equality, justice, truth, goodness and beauty. However, they can still be generalized into three major aspects. As Tugalenov, a scholar of the former Soviet Union, put it in his book On the Values of Life and Culture, all the cultural values can be classified into three categories: material values, social and political values and spiritual values. In the following paragraphs, I will use these three criteria to advance my study of the values of Indian culture.

Material Values

The material value on which Indian culture puts emphasis is the perfect devotion/commitment of humans. Though enjoyment of material values is a part of Indian cultural values, it is only a part and cannot represent the ultimate goal the Indian cultural values pursue, that is, to realize the perfect devotion of humans. Most Indians brought up by the traditional Indian culture care less about the possession and enjoyment of material values: thus there exists a strong national mentality of helping those in distress and aiding those in peril. In India as well as in other countries, it’s not surprising to find that a rich person, even a very wealthy one, hands over his fortune for the good of social welfare. But the difference between India and others lies in the fact that Indian people see it as one way to fulfill their value objectives. It is no doubt that this mentality is linked to such religious thoughts as acquiring merit, doing good, good being rewarded with good and evil with evil. But we can’t deny the reality that Indian people pursue spiritual values much more than the material ones. Of course, there are Indians who collect wealth by unfair means or dissipate money without restraint. However most Indians pay little attention to clothing, food, shelter and means of travel and live a plain life. Even senior officials or wealthy people may not certainly seek the enjoyment of modern material life. A number of millionaires, presidents, premiers and ministers eat simple food, live in common houses, wear native clothes and travel by homemade unrefined cars. This is not artificial, but is exactly the spiritual pursuit of Indian people. Most Indians don’t think much about possessing their properties after death because they don’t believe that man must take money and valuables with him in order to continue his enjoyment. Generally there are no luxuries and treasures buried with the dead after cremation, which is the reason why the majority of Indian cultural relics remain aboveground rather than underground. Another example is Mahatma Ghandi, the leader of the Indian independence movement and the founding father of India. During the Indian struggle for national autonomy and liberation and against British colonial rule, he proposed that Indians weave native cloth themselves, wear native garments, and refuse to use foreign fabrics exported to India by the British. He also led several hundred thousand followers to evaporate brine to make salt. At first glance, it seems that everything Mahatma Ghandi did was just to resist the cruel suppression and rule of British colonists over the Indian people. The ultimate goal of Mahatma Ghandi, however, was the nonviolence as a means and a thinking, that is, he tried to awaken the conscience of the vicious British colonists by demonstrating the self-sacrifice of Indian people, to achieve independence and autonomy of India, and to make Indian and British people live in harmony. Through his whole life, Mahatma Ghandi cared little about personal gain and loss of material interests in his pursuit for material values. He led a strenuous and simple life. He lived just as common people, carrying nothing valuable with him. However, he believed in the law of cause and effect and sought release from the cycle of death and rebirth through realizing the oneness of Brahman-atman.

Social and Political Values

The social and political values of Indian culture are that humans should intend to create a harmonious environment, using the eternal law of the cosmos to normalize their own conducts in order to reach the ultimate stage of oneness with Brahman-atman. On the one hand, India attaches some importance to pragmatic interests and desires. On the other hand, more importantly, it spares no efforts to promote that everyone should persevere in his life and undertake the obligations of his family and his nation for the prosperity of the society and the wellbeing of his posterity rather than personal pursuits and gains. People must follow law and submit to it, complying with the social rules and morals prescribed by the eternal law, which is more than mere civil law and covers a whole range of meanings such as the task and justice of man, human relations and the social order. So the Indian traditional cultural values strongly emphasize that only by dedicating oneself selflessly to the society can his behaviors truly accord with the social and political values and can a harmonious environment be created.

The comprehensive survey of the historical development of the Indian society shows that its social and political values came into being through a strenuous course. In the era of the Upanishads, Indian religious philosophy considered that "karma" was the cause of the round of death and rebirth. So man had to suffer from the round and could not return to Brahman. The only way to eliminate the cause of "karma" was to quit working and stand aloof from worldly affairs. Therefore, it became more and more popular for Indians to sit in meditation and enter into religion in order to cultivate themselves according to religious doctrines.

This trend of thought developed even further and reached its peak with the rise of Buddhism. Buddhism taught people that life was no more than sufferings, the root of which is ‘karma". Man can’t escape from the round of death and rebirth because of "karma". It’s a dead circle that life follows death, and death is at life’s heel. Therefore, the only way to extricate oneself from the endless sufferings is to seclude oneself from working, family and society. The attitude of looking down upon fame and gain, power and wealth, and tending to keep distance from the secular world became a big obstacle holding back the productivity of the Indian society and one of the factors eventually leading to the decline of Buddhism in India.

When Hinduism prospered in India, it began to amend the conception of "karma". According to its doctrines, those who dedicate themselves wholly to their work, abide by laws and social norms, and adhere to the eternal law to discipline their behaviors are considered to be free of "karma". Thus, Hinduism changed the utmost way of release from the round of death and rebirth from ‘standing aloof from the worldly affairs’ to ‘joining into the worldly affairs’. The principle of behavior of Hinduism stressed that man is always content with his lot and is able to control his feeling and get rid of insatiable desire. If he works whole-heartedly, he can set himself free from "karma". The social responsibility and dedication that Hinduism advocates reflects the identity of the social and political values of Indian culture and the nature, which are linked together by the same core contents as benevolence and kindness. Because only by love and benevolence, by loving people and by loving and kindly treating everything on earth can the political values be embodied perfectly. For this reason, Hinduism requires that people should speak, act and work in order to coexist with everything in nature rather than stress blindly on conquering it.

Spiritual Values

The ultimate goal that the spiritual values of Indian culture pursue is to realize the oneness of Brahman-atman, which is the only way for final salvation. India is a religious country. As early as the Vedic era, Indians had a strong belief that some kind of individual personality existed after death, which was considered to be the primitive soul of a human. This belief developed into the thought of heaven at the end of this era. It was said in Atharva Veda that the soul of the dead could reside in heaven, earth and midair, but heaven is the most ideal place. While it was believed in Rig Veda that those people eligible to enter the heaven were sadhus who conducted ascetic practices, soldiers who gave up their lives on the battlefield and devotees who didn’t hesitate to sacrifice their properties to Brahman could also enter heaven. Then the conception of ‘karma" began to emerge in Atharva Veda, which claimed that man must hold responsibility towards both the good karma and the evil karma on his own, and evil deeds must be punished accordingly. Based on this concept, the idea of the round of death and rebirth came into being. Evildoers must be punished, either being sent to the hell or being transmigrated into such humble things as pig, dog and muck, while those who did good would be rewarded by paradise. It was in the Upanishad era that such issues as the time limit of punishment and reward, soul and salvation were developed and clarified further.

The appearance of the Upanishads had a positive significance to a certain extent because the text was founded on the three major guiding principles of Brahmanism. It was the result of the efforts of some Brahmanic scholars who aspired to seek advanced thoughts to interpret the ultimate meanings of the ‘forest treatises’, part of the Vedas. These treatises included philosophic thoughts, so they were also called Vedanta philosophy. After it was finalized, the Vedanta philosophy claimed that the dominant in heaven, earth and midair was Brahman. Though invisible and unrevealed as it was, it would appear in every place at any time. The material world and everything in it were just its illusion. Individual soul was essentially one with Brahman. This was the thinking of "the identity of Brahman-atman". Therefore, Hinduism sees the self-realization of the identity of Brahman-atman as the loftiest goal of reaching salvation. But because of "karma" man can’t experience and recognize the atman. "Affected by Karma, the atman is unable to return to Brahman to identify with it after death. So man has to suffer from the round of death and rebirth or be reincarnated into a bird, a beast, a worm and a fish." For that matter, Indians consider life to be painful and that they must strive hard to find the way to reach salvation and the identity of Brahma-atman so that the suffering from the round of death and rebirth can be exempted, ‘escaped from’. In order to achieve this goal, new paths had been put forward in the Bhagavad Gita, the classic work of Hinduism. They were the path of behavior, the path of devotion and the path of knowledge.

Path of Behavior. The believers must abide by the moral norms strictly, devoting themselves to the gods. Actions derive from freedom, so Hinduism encourages people to participate in all kinds of working practices, to love their jobs and to dedicate themselves to their jobs, which quite differs from the Buddhist way of salvation by quitting jobs to eliminate the cause of "karma". As put in the Bhagavad Gita, one whose every undertaking is devoid of the motivation of desires and their objects and who has incinerated all activities in the fire of pure knowledge,—he is the one the spiritually intelligent describe as educated. After giving up attachment to object-driven results, always satisfied, indifferent to external phenomena, he in spite of being engaged in activities does not ‘do’ anything at all. Bereft of desire, controlled in mind and body, relinquishing all conceptions of proprietorship whereby a person can incur sinful reaction, he performs only sufficient actions to maintain body sustenance.

The "spirit of self-forgetting aloofness of the Indian people", which people in today’s India often talk about, is considered to be the ultimate truth they are pursuing, which requires that they exert their efforts to cultivate this spirit in order to work selflessly. This spirit also incarnates the correct values of India that the Indian President Kalam called upon the young people to ‘inherit’. Kalam himself is the model practicing these values: he dedicates himself wholly to his work selflessly and remains indifferent to personal gains and losses in his pursuit for the causes of India, be they missile projects or prosperity and strength. So his colleagues described him as a work maniac. For the sake of the missile programs, he pledged to remain a bachelor all his life and joked that he had already married missiles. This is the reason why he is called the "father of missiles" in India. In fact, it is Hinduism itself that has turned the way of release from the round of death and rebirth from aloofness to a joining into worldly affairs and promoting a spirit of ‘involved detachment’. Therefore, the great Indian poet Tagore asserted this spirit promotes a ‘stage of perfection’ which is a combination of philosophic theory and practice. This is also the highest spiritual value modern Indians seek.

Path of Wisdom. Being a Hindu, he must seek truth in rationality and try to realize the identity of soul and Brahman through grasping the experience that "Brahman is atman". He must recognize that the identity of Brahman-atman is the absolute truth, since only Brahman is the absolute existence while all other things are nothing but an illusion. Only through this understanding can he break up the limit of ignorance and eventually reach salvation. The Bhagavad Gita described the importance of the path of wisdom vividly. In the world there is nothing that exists as purifying as transcendental knowledge. One perfected by the science of uniting the individual consciousness with Ultimate Consciousness automatically attains that knowledge in the self in course of time. One with full faith, attentively focused, who has conquered the senses, achieves transcendental knowledge and having achieved transcendental knowledge attains supreme peace. Moreover, the Bhagavad Gita clarified further the importance of knowledge to the people who master it: It is directly related to reaching the highest state of the oneness of atman with Brahman.

The path of wisdom is very popular among Indians today. To most intellectuals, they feel subconsciously the urgency to master knowledge and open the door of wisdom not only for the sake of finding a favorable living and working condition, but also for approaching God and identifying with him.

Path of Devotion. If a Hindu loves a god and submits to him piously in the extreme, this is also a way of gaining the god’s favor and reaching salvation. It is an effective way to identify with a god to cherish the god in heart, to do everything for god and to read the name of god silently every minute. For example, Mahatma Gandhi was so pious in his commitment to Rama that, after being shot down by a young Hindu fanatic, he kept murmuring the name of Rama as he used to, until his last moment. His last word, "hay, Rama", was carved on the black gravestone. His commitment to Rama also reflected the piety of Indian people at large. There was one passage spoken out by the god in the Bhagavad Gita, explaining this matter profoundly. "I am equally disposed to all living entitles; there is neither friend nor foe to Me; but those who with loving sentiments render devotional service unto Me, such persons are in Me and I am in them. Even if one committing the most abominable actions renders service only unto Me exclusively without deviation, one is to be considered saintly because one is correctly resolved and properly situated. One swiftly becomes endowed with righteousness and justly obtains everlasting peace. O Arjuna declare it boldly, My devotee never perishes."

‘Nonviolent’ Thinking in Indian Cultural Values

Nonviolence is the goal and state the Indian cultural values seek to achieve. According to Vedanta philosophy, everything in the world is self deriving from Self, so it should be friendly and equally disposed to others. Everything’s true nature is divine and has the true, good and beautiful moral conduct, so people should be kind to and love each other. Moreover, the spirit of friendliness and love ought to be extended to beasts and birds, flowers and plants. Thus, killing is forbidden.

Within the ideological system of Mahatma Gandhi, nonviolent thinking derived from the tenets of Hinduism such as abstention from killing and restraint from harming others’ feelings. Nonviolence is love, which means loving everyone and doing more good. He even considered asceticism as the criterion for love. For he always believed that everyone is identical in nature and shares the same humanities as kindness and conscience. He advocated that the nonviolence seekers fully express their inner kindness through self-sacrifice and self-refinement in order to awaken the internal conscience of their enemies, so that they can give up evil and return to good.

The core of ‘nonviolent’ thinking of Mahatma Gandhi is "perseverance in truth". He believed that the truth was the ultimate reality and source of the cosmos and that everything in the world was no more than its external manifestations. He also presumed that the truth and the god are the law dominating every life in the cosmos. This view of Mahatma Gandhi emphasized that the human internal spirit originated from the same source as that of god, reflecting the divinity in human body. The Indian cultural values believe that people are identical with each other in spiritual nature because god is absolute and indivisible. It is this theory that drove Gandhi to stick to such doctrines as nonviolence and perseverance in truth in the national liberation movement. It needs to be pointed out that Gandhi’s thought belongs to historical idealism, which takes truth, goodness and beauty that are abstract and colored with mysticism as something eternal that goes beyond history and class and as the only way to handle human relations and solve social contradictions. But it also needs to be noted that India is a religious nation and people have strong beliefs in religions. Religion is so popular in India that religious thoughts have penetrated deeply into people’s minds and touched every corner of the society. Gandhi succeeded in creating a new ideology that collected the core values of Indian culture completely by combining his view of truth with the idea of nonviolence. Therefore, he was able to mobilize Indian people sufficiently to realize his thinking through arousing the spirit of self-devotion. And his thinking perfected the pursuit of Indian people for spiritual values, leading to the final victory of perseverance in truth and the movement of nonviolence and non-cooperation (with colonialism) and the founding of the Republic of Hindustan.

Although Gandhi’s ideas about nonviolence and non-collaboration and perseverance in truth were influenced by Western humanitarianism, it was the spiritual values of Indian culture Gandhi inherited that played the fundamental and decisive role. His theory combined traditional Indian philosophy closely with religion, ethics and social political theories. His ideal was to build a Europe-type society with Indian religion, and adhering to the view of truth and epistemology derived from mystical Indian philosophy and basing its hopes on gods and the identity of humans with God.

NOTE

1 Wu Yongnian is Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Indian and South Asian Studies of SIIS.



Last Revised 07-Feb-09 12:53 PM.