If Indian Civilization was so Advanced then why did India lose
I get this question quite often, if Indian civilization was so advanced, why did India lose. In this article I will give you a few reasons as to why it happened.
If you look at the Indian civilization right now, you see that it is in a pretty bad state. Once a powerful civilization with its ideas influencing a wide geographic area extending from Japan in the east to Greece in the west, right now the influence of Indian civilization is reduced to the level that people think that India has been under slavery forever. Look at the state of two great religions coming out of India Hinduism and Buddhism and you get the picture.
Both Hinduism and Buddhism are pretty weak right now, when compared with Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is a natural question to ask, when India was so advanced at one point of time, what brought it to the state it currently is in. It is very important that we understand this so that we can do something about. Firstly, we should be thankful to our ancestors, it is through their sacrifice that we managed to survive the hard times. But at the same time, we must look at their mistakes and teach our children never to repeat them in the future.
With that said, let us understand how civilizations work. You will listen to this all the time that Money is not really important for happiness in life. This applies pretty well for an individual, but not to the society or a group as a whole. Immanuel Kant who is a great German philosopher gave a universal law of morality. He said whenever thinking about the appropriateness of any action think about what will happen if everybody in the society starts doing that. As a simple example, think of a society where everyone starts to live by stealing others belongings. Such a society will soon collapse. So, by that logic you should not steal. Now this was obvious, but let us look at from the point of view of money. If in a society everybody stops caring about making money than what will happen. Well such a society will soon collapse, as no wealth will be generated in such a society. We have already seen what happened in India during the license raj times, when India hated her wealth creators and looked at them with suspicion.
So, money is a very important factor when it comes to the success of a society as a whole. You can be the wisest person in the world, but if you do not have the money, everybody will think you are a fool. The philosophy of Hinduism and Buddhism is way advanced than that of Christianity and Islam and yet most common people in Muslims and Christians countries do not take us seriously because both Hinduism and Buddhism have been poor for the past 1 millennium when compared with Islam and Christianity. If these religions will become wealthy again, as they were in first millennium, they will regain their prominence, if not then no matter how good they are they will go extinct. We can be as proud as we want to be about our civilization but if we do not become rich, we are doomed.
So basically, civilizations thrive on money and resources. Right now, western civilization has the most money and so they have the most influence everywhere. Islam is sustaining because of the Oil money been pumped into it from the Gulf. When in the first millennium, Dharmik civilization of India was prosperous, we had a huge influence. But after we lost political and economic power from 1200CE onwards the financial backbone of Dharmik tradition also was broken and our tradition lost influence.
So now the question that comes up is how come outsiders were able to politically dominate us after 1200CE when Indian civilization was traditionally so rich and scientifically advanced. There are multiple reasons for it and I will enumerate them 1 by 1
1. Pursuit of Knowledge over Military Strength
To understand this, imagine a fight between Bill Gates and Mike Tyson. Bill Gates is rich and scientifically oriented but if he has no protection from the police, Mike Tyson can easily take all his wealth from him. Just because you are rich and scientifically advanced does not mean you are safe against aggression from someone who is militarily stronger than you. Imagine if Australia did not have protection from US and has to fight a direct war with Pakistan, what will happen? There is a significant probability that Pakistan will beat the crap out of Australia even when Australia is much richer and scientifically advanced compared to Pakistan.
2. Political Disunity
To understand this, think about Russia and European Union. Russia is economically and scientifically behind the European Union, but Military wise Russia is much stronger than any European Nation. Now, if you look at Europe you notice that the big part of military power in Europe lies in the hand of UK and France. If Russia were to start attacking Europe from the east, these East European Nations stand no chance to fight against Russia without the military support of these two Nations. In a hypothetical situation if Russia attacks the eastern European nations and due to political disunity the western European Powers do not come to their aid then this will lead to the overall weakening of the entire Europe. In the long-term Russia will become more and more powerful while western European nation’s power will decrease. Eventually even UK and France will fall under Russia. This type of political disunity is the second reason for our defeat.
3. Social Decay
This is a deeper and more fundamental cause for the rise and fall of empires and has a lot to do with the human nature. We all know the challenges of poor parents in raising their children, but actually rich parents also face challenges in raising their children. If you are a rich parent you can fulfill all the needs of your children pretty easily. But this poses a challenge; your children never get to experience hardships. Which means they never get a chance to toughen up to the challenges of life. Challenges in life are inevitably and when they come in life, rich kids are just not prepared to face them and are at a higher risk of failing. Similar problem rich civilizations face.
Once a society gets wealthy, everybody becomes satisfied. With increased satisfaction, focus on making money goes down. People become more relaxed and the internal drive to succeed decreases. People start focusing more on ethics and morality and less on growth. Ideas such as environmentalism and non-violence take precedence over commercial pursuits and military ambitions. Now let’s go back to our old friend Immanuel Kant. If everybody in a society becomes non-violent then will such a society be able to defend itself against external aggression. This is another reason why we lost to external aggressors.
Once we lost political power then it’s downhill from there. Without political power our religion and culture did not have the money to sustain it. No patronage for Sanskrit scholarship, no patronage for traditional Indian arts and sciences. For a thousand years Indian culture had very little political support for its nurturing. Rigid Monotheistic way of thinking dominated the politics, which tried everything in its power to impose itself on our culture. Lack of resources causes internal divisions, as people prioritize personal gain over common good, which leads to internal strife. With no way for the community to officially organize itself, ignorance increases and bad social customs came into practice. Best example of these practices are Caste System, Child Marriage and Sati
Based on this historical experience of ours we still did not learn from our mistakes. When India had gained independence in 1947, there is an incidence where Nehru got angry at the then Chief of Staff Rob Lockhart and told him that India believes in Non-Violence, we do not have any external threats and so we do not need any armed forces, a police force will be sufficient. Well then Kashmir happened and Nehru had to use the army. Still he did not learn his lesson and neglected the army. During the 50s again in our naïveté of Hindi Chini bhai-bhai, we condemned Tibet to a long servitude to China and then in 1962 lost the Aksai Chin Area. If not for the valor of 13 Kumaon we would have lost full Ladakh. We were betrayed again in 65 and 99. Moral of the story is, we are a nation of both Chanakya and Buddha. While the teachings of Buddha are great at an individual level, our policy of implementing teachings Buddha at the level of the nation has cost us dearly. If Indian has to succeed as a national level then it needs to cultivate Chanakya like thought. All the great nations of the world behave that way.
One country that I love as much as India is the USA. On the personal level American people are very friendly and cordial, aberrations are always there just as there are in any country, but overall Americans are good people. I also believe that the world has become a better place because of a liberal world order that USA follows. I mean just imagine if Germany at won the world war 2 or USSR would have won the cold war. That said, USA can impose her liberal world order only until she is the most powerful nation on the planet and therefore USA never shies from using hawkish means to attain her objectives. This is what makes USA a great nation. All the other nations which are considered great also follow the same approach, examples include Israel, China and Russia. India must also understand this, at the personal level ethical ideals must be followed, but at the national level what is important is to uphold the dharma at any cost.
Originally published at https://stoicsadhu.com on June 28, 2020.