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I would like to start with an allegorical story of the peacock and an eagle.

Once there used to live a peacock and an eagle in a forest. The peacock built his nest on the ground and used to roost on the low branches of trees, while the eagle had built his nest on top of the trees. Peacock used to eat flower petals while the eagle used to hunt in the sky. The peacock used to feel bad that while eagle has his nest up in the trees and could fly high in the sky, he had to build his nest on the ground and could only fly as high as to go only up to the branches. He looked at his plumage and thought, only if I did not have this train of feathers behind me, I would be able to soar as high in the sky as the eagle. So he cut down his tail and put in full effort to fly as high as he could, but no matter how hard he tried, he still could not fly as high as the eagle. Looking at this tail less peacock struggling to fly up in the sky was a great amusement for all the animals in the forest.

It is so unfortunate that a lot of Indians behave just like that peacock. It is a well-known fact that we Indians have an inferiority complex ingrained in us. Many of us think that anything that is Indian is inferior to whatever is western and whoever thinks otherwise is an ignorant Hindu nationalist and ultra-patriotic moron. It is evident everywhere. There is a general perception in India that the more western you are the more modern, progressive and intelligent you are.

I have lived in the US for the past 12 years and there are a few things that I have observed. Whenever I visit India, someone always complains about the situation in India and how everything is bad about India while life in the US must be all picnic. When my relatives visit me in the US, they always feel inferior to the people here. They always say people here are so advanced while we Indians are so backward.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many things that need improvement in India and we need to cover a lot of ground, but blindly thinking that anything western is better and we should all behave like people in the west is absurd.

Why do we feel this Inferiority?

Last thousand years of Indian history has been very rough. First there is the Muslim rule from 11th to 18th century and then there was the British rule for the next 200 years. All of this has completely shaken our national confidence. Traditional social practices such as caste system, child marriage, dowry and Sati practice do not help the matters either.

Our educational system then adds insult to injury. While our educational system does a great job in terms of training us in science and mathematics, it does a terrible job in all other areas. British designed the modern Indian education system and as expected it was great in instilling western values in the Indian youth but it downplayed the importance of Indian culture and values. It is of course not their fault, in fact we should be thankful to the British for the wonderful gift of the modern education system, it has served us really well. However, after independence our curriculum should have adapted Indian values also, which we did not do very well.

Ignoring our Own Culture

Our culture is very rich, and the achievements of our ancestors are laudable. Just to name a few, we have our great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, which are one of greatest in the world. In terms of philosophy we have been a superpower. Looking at Gita, Upanishads and Dhammapada will just be scratching the surface. For politics and administration we have great work of Chanakya, Arthashashtra. For medicine we have Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita and then who can forget about mathematics, where we have huge contributions from Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Bhaskara and more. We have great plays from Kalidasa and beautiful fables of Panchatantra and Jataka tales. Despite the abundance of such literature, how much of this is taught in schools.

Being still a poor country most of the kids in India are interested in becoming Doctors and Engineers. As a consequence we take mathematics and science very seriously. Most of the great work in Science and Mathematics recently has been done in the west (There is a reason for that and I will cover it in the later articles). However keep in mind that in Ancient India great work in Science and Mathematics was done by Indian sages also. If our schoolbooks can just dedicate a portion on Indian achievements in the field, it will do a great service in terms of improving the self-confidence of our kids.

I will just give you one example here; in later articles I will cover more details. John Dalton is credited with coming up with the theory of atom in the 19th century. In his theory Dalton claims the following

  1. Elements are made of extremely small particles, which he calls atom

2. Atoms cannot be subdivided, created or destroyed

3. Atoms of different elements combine to molecules

Now consider the work of Kanaad (Kanada) who lived around 6th to 2nd century BCE. He proposes something similar. In Kanaad sutra he mentions “everything can be subdivided, but this subdivision cannot go on forever, and there must be smallest entities (parmanu) that cannot be divided.” He then says that paramanu is eternal and aggregate in different ways to yield complex substance.

Clearly Maharishi Kanaad proposed atoms, 2 Millennia before Dalton. People in the West do not recognize this, I can understand, maybe they are not aware of this. But why is this thing not taught in our schools is beyond me. In our schoolbooks, Kanaad should be given the credit for atom over Dalton, or at the very least his name should be mentioned while teaching atoms to the kids, because if we do not give credit to him, no one else will. After all, it is our duty and nobody else’s to remember the achievements of our ancestor, it is our duty to respect it and understand it deeply and it is our duty to preserve and promote it.

It is such indifference for the achievements of our ancestors that result in the Indians thinking that everything great came from the West. Then we think we are inferior and lose self-respect. This follows with a lack of self-esteem and our confidence dwindles. Without confidence we become awkward and incompetent. This is the reason why India’s achievement in everything from arts to sciences to philosophy and sports has been abysmal in the recent times. It is only when our kids will see the achievements of our ancestors that they will be inspired to do great things themselves.

Loss to Muslims and British can be Explained

The fact that we lost to Muslim invaders and the British, in my opinion is nothing to be ashamed of. These were the events that happened on the global scale, completely out of the hands of an individual. The evil social practices were not as unfounded as they appear to be when we look at them through our modern lens. They can be explained very logically and it is my plan in the next few posts to go over these events and practices toexplain why at their time, those practices were popular.

History goes through different cycles time and again. Our philosophy clearly says, nothing is permanent, with time everything changes. Right now the world has a Eurocentric view, but as time passes, things will change. As the old saying goes, time is very powerful; keep it on your side. We need to make sure that as the time passes we still preserve and promote the achievements of our past , so that our coming generations can look back at their past with pride.

Western civilization has taught us a lot and can teach us even more, however this by no means implies that our civilization is completely worth less. The achievements of our culture are plentiful and if we do not appreciate it, no one else will.

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