[Preface: This post was the result of thoughts triggered by some messages in an email list, so certain references should be considered in the context of an e-group.]
There is no doubt that unlike Judeo-Christian society, dharma traditions are very comfortable with chaos. However, too much comfort with chaos (coupled with a lack of discipline) can often lead to a false sense of security and can be exploited by hostile forces within and without.
Western society has for a very long time overwhelmingly comprised of (White) Christians. While that is slowly changing, it is still largely true. Western (Christian) society never faced existential external threats the way Hindu society did, and further, it fattened itself on the blood and sweat of its various colonies around the world. To top that off, most dangerously, in the post-colonial period it has injected sundry constructs into non-Western(/Christian) societies that may seem like universal but are actually its own memes that dutifully serve the interests of the Christian West. Secularism (specially as practiced in India) is a perfect example of such a meme.
Hindu society however has always consisted of diverse elements, reflecting the inherent pluralism of Hinduism. Of course, there was always the unifying thread of dharma, but that is besides the point. In a diverse society, a decentralized, distributed power structure is more successful.
- It has the ability to self-organize
- It is vastly adept in handling large amounts of noise without being too disturbed
- It is difficult to completely destroy since some vestige of one power structure may seed another
All of these points are validated by historical and extant instances of Hindu/dhArmika society.
The now corrupted varNa system, in its original, pristine form as devised by our wise ancestors, was a wonderful conception of a distributed, fluid power structure which while being comfortable with chaos still encapsulated discipline. Notwithstanding what ideologically motivated historians would have us believe, the varNa system wasn’t entire a liability and played a part in resisting the Mohammedan whirlwind. Christianity however is way more sophisticated than Islam in exploiting any perceivable chinks in the heathen armor. Under these circumstances and in its current corrupted form, the liability of the varNa system cannot be stressed enough. Indeed, the corrupted varNa system is largely responsible for the lack of political leverage for Hindu interests in India. It is also worth pondering over how much this corruption of varNa system has contributed towards decadence in Hindu society. There is not only too much chaos, but also a very high degree of laziness. Further, due to pervasiveness of Christian memes like secularism and liberalism, several members of Hindu society have actually become rabid Hindu-hating zombies who dutifully serve interests of the anti-dharma block, specially the Christian West. This in turns leads to increased chaos in dhArmika society coupled with a disconcerting lack of guiding and disciplining influence. The lack of discipline is even more dangerous since in a society as diverse as the Hindu society, chaos can be turned centrifugal with the right push at the right places. Forces inimical to dharma and India are already very active in doing this. “Breaking India” provides ample evidence of such inimical forces at work. And when the centrifugal chaos gains enough momentum, fragmentation is very likely to happen.
While the importance of discipline even in seeming chaos is undeniable, the question that arises is, who enforces or inculcates this discipline? Western (Christian) society does enforcement from an organizational level. The best example being the Church. However, Hindu society is more dependent on capable, influential individuals. There isn’t really an established mechanism for discipline (or even dharma for that matter) being inculcated from an organizational level. This of course is tied to the comfort with chaos in dharma traditions. At some point(s) of Hindu history, temples played an important organizational role (as the savant RC Mazumdar has demonstrated), but even so, the individualist element has always been very strong. There are sampradAya specific organizations like svAdhyAya parivAra, Chinmaya Mission, ammA trust, etc. (Swapan Dasgupta calls this folk Hinduism). But when considering hard ground realities, even their collective influence over Hindus is still very limited. So, in the want of capable, influential individuals, dharma suffers. In my humble opinion, AchArya sha~Nkara probably realized this and in his short but momentous life-span sought to rectify it by establishing the various matha-s. Unfortunately, today those who claim to be his spiritual heirs are deep in stupor and hardly have the AchArya-‘s monumental vision or sharp, incisive acumen. But I digress. We need not look further from this e-group to see the overwhelming dependence on individual rather than organization at work. Contrast this to the militarily efficiency with which Christian organizations; both missionary and memetic (secular, liberal, progressive, humanist,…) forms; advance their interests. The different seminaries, theological colleges, secular social science programs that regularly churn out well-trained agents who actively propagate the smokescreen of sameness to aid their unscrupulous mining of dharma knowledge systems are fine examples of the organizational approach. As are the extremely organized evangelical missions. I once saw a video of an Indian Christian who heads an evangelical program in India, reporting to a largely White Christian gathering on the different conversion tactics, the number of converts gained in India, etc. The presentation, the data mined and the methods employed for conversions, gave the impression of a meticulously planned militarily operation. That video is probably still available on YouTube. Interestingly, that Indian Christian is also employed in a public institution supported by the secular Indian government, that explicitly propounds Christian mores for gaining converts. But, I again digress. While I do not make claims of this contrast of order vs. chaos, organizational vs. individualist being either good or bad, it does presents ample food for thought.
I have had these sort of discussions with some folks who sadly, more often than not, fall back on a Utopian sapta–sindhu/Gangetic valley Vedic past. Perhaps to avoid confronting uncomfortable, bitter truths about extreme dharma-hostile agents within and without. Or perhaps simply out of laziness, or a false sense of security. Some of these folks are also what I like to call “Safe Hindus“. Nonetheless, the point being, harping on what has long since gone is hardly helpful for survival and revival of Hinduism. To quote shrI Aurobindo, “…the body must change to suit its changing environments if it wishes to live.”
A person I highly admire rightly points to leadership training being a solution to address the problem of excess chaos and lack of discipline. But who trains these leaders and more importantly, who sustains and supports them? Perhaps, the ostensible deficiency of an extant inherent organizational support mechanism presents a more fundamental problem.