Difference between India and China

Recently, I spent time with my mother in Germany. She lives in a small town near Nuremberg with only some 6000 inhabitants. I was missing India.  Reading newspapers and watching news on TV, it seemed as if there was no India. Yet when I met people and mentioned that I live in India, all were curious, positive and keen to know more about the country. I couldn’t help telling how special India is because, as I see it, India and Indians have a lot going for them, more than any other civilization. Parts of the Indian tradition have been hijacked by Westerners without acknowledging the source, be it yoga, transpersonal psychology or several scientific discoveries, apart from such basics as the decimal system. Yet strangely, there is still no official attempt by India to own up and project India’s strong points abroad. 

In contrast, China is doing a lot to project a good image by making full use of their main ancient sage, Confucius. Even in that small town near Nuremberg, twelve high school students have signed up for a Chinese language course. It came in the local newspaper. The Confucius institute is financing it. The teacher is a young Chinese.

On the airport, I picked up the International Herald Tribune, and not surprisingly, there was an 8-page Advertising Supplement about China prepared by China Daily. Confucius was all over the supplement: “Confucius lives”, “The way of the Sage”, etc., were some of the articles. Professor Zhang Qun, former head of the Confucius Institute, University of Naples, was quoted, “Western culture started to spread to China long ago, but now it is time for Chinese culture to be promoted to the Western world.” He underwent a wide range of training, including intercultural communications, religion, and even Chinese Opera, tai chi and paper cutting, “because foreigners love these things”, he said. Around 100 million foreigners are learning Chinese, the Chinese education ministry estimates. Though the Confucius Institute started only in 2004, it has now 350 institutes affiliated with universities and 430 ‘classrooms’ affiliated with secondary schools in 103 countries. 260 more universities have applied for Institutes to be set up. 7000 young teachers are recruited every year from Chinese universities, who are sent abroad for two years…

Again, I was missing India. India is the cradle of civilization, it has Sanskrit, the language which, according to NASA, helps develop the brain apart from being a perfect language, it has the deepest philosophy still expressed in a vibrant religion, a huge body of literature, amazing art, dance, music, sculpture, architecture, delicious cuisine and yet Indians are in denial mode and wake up only when foreigners treasure India. They don’t seem to know the value and therefore don’t take pride in their tradition, unlike westerners who take a lot of pride in theirs even if there is little to be proud of.

An example that Rajiv Malhotra gave IIT students in Chennai recently illustrates it. Malhotra was a successful NRI businessman who retired early to set up the Infinity Foundation promoting Indic studies in the US. In 2005, the Crown Princess of Thailand wanted to have a World Sanskrit Conference. She herself was a Sanskrit student, had sent her sons to India to learn Sanskrit, had brought out a Journal on Sanskrit and wanted to start a Sanskrit College. A professor from Delhi University was organizing the conference for her, but to his dismay, the Indian government did not want to sponsor it. He felt it was embarrassing, as many of the eastern countries, including Thailand, look to India as their mother civilization. And here is this mother not taking any interest. So he frantically called up Malhotra, asking him to help save face. His Infinity Foundation agreed to sponsor the event. The program was set, when a few days before the start, the Indian HRD minister suddenly woke up and wanted to inaugurate the conference. A compromise was reached and both, Malhotra and the HRD minister, represented the Indian side. The conference was a success and the Indian Embassy in Bangkok gave a reception. Malhotra asked the young diplomats there about the Indian foreign policy in regard to projecting Indian civilization as an asset, as soft power, as something of value in Asian countries. They were taken by surprise. “Sir, we don’t have any policy like that. We are a secular country”, the diplomats proffered. Malhotra wondered what this has to do with secular. “There is a demand, so you should supply it”, he suggested. “Set up Colleges of Sanskrit, of Indian thought, of dance, etc. It will also help in trade, in technology, in setting up business in these countries.”

There is a demand for Indian thought and culture not only in Asian countries; it is there in Western countries, too, though maybe still unconscious. It would bring fresh air in the fixed thought structures that make westerners believe that there is either a god or no god, that one has the choice only between believing what has been written in a ‘holy book’ and being an atheist.

India has a different approach. Already in 1887, Paul Deussen, professor of philosophy in Germany, had written, that it would be of benefit, if Indian Weltanschauung would spread in the west: “it would make us realize that we are stuck in colossal one-sidedness with our entire philosophical and religious thought and that there is a completely different way of approach than the one that Hegel construed as the only possible and reasonable one.”

There is however a difficulty. Most educated, English speaking Indians, who could project Indian culture abroad, know neither Samskrit nor the strong points of their culture and philosophy. In fact, some of them might rather bite their lip than acknowledge that India is a great civilization. And many of those who know Sanskrit and who know the strong points of Indian culture don’t speak English or are not interested in teaching foreigners. Maybe the solution is to start, like the Chinese, with students. Give students a chance to delve deep into original Indian thought in Sanskrit, bridge the gap between academics and Sanskrit pandits, between universities and gurukuls, and let the students go abroad for a couple of years. They may turn out to be good ambassadors for India and may actually love the idea of being sent abroad. Never mind if they get disillusioned there.

by Maria Wirth 

 

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21 comments

  1. An interesting contrast. But I wonder if there is something innate about it. Through it’s 5000 years of recorde history, India has come under central authority on on rare occasions. It’s principla religion – Hinduism – too has eschewed a central organization and a single authority. Even the purna avatar of Krishna did not attempt centralizing the teachings of Sanatana Dharma. And, I htink, it was this comfort with self-organization that gives Hinduism it’s plurality, it’s liberal and accomodating outlook, and it’s vibrance of expression in dance, music and festivals.

    The flipside to not having a central authority, though, is that there is a greater responsibility on the individual. Nothing is imposed, everything must be SOUGHT. It is only then that the teachings, and the journey towards tranformation can be ccaried through with strength, inner conviction, and without the fear of an external authority. And as it is said in the Hindu dharma, a guru appears when the shishsya is ready for him/her.

    I think that is how it will be with Hinduism and the Hindu culture. It will be individuals, organized or not, who will carry it’s beacon. Yes, such an approach can be slow and would be attacked by institutions who feel threatened by it’s liberating and enlightening philosophy, but it is only through the examples of individual Hindus that these teachings would find a resonance with a wider audience. And people like you, Ms. Maria, are a part of that journey of individuals who through years of study, reflection and practice of the deep, enlightening and invigorating Hindu dharma, carry this treasure with them.

    1. vivekanandan pillai · · Reply

      what a profound understanding

    2. Aapne mere man ki baat kah di….

    3. In complete agreement with you. To add to your statement, knowledge must always be sought. Otherwise, it ceases to exist. The tragedy of kali yuga, as professed in many of the Puraanas, is that the knowledge will be there, even if dimished, and the teachers will also be there, even if few and far between. But there shall not remain any students who seek.

      As far as the distribution goes, I personally think it is the best, and in the long run, the only, sustainable design for a knowledge society. Centralized approaches have always failed. Libraries have been burnt, destroying the knowledge repository of entire civilizations. Remember Alexandria? In other cases, where the central repository has thus far survived, those in charge of protecting it have grown tremendously insecure, and rightly so. The Vatican is the perfect example of this insecurity.

      The distributed approach is the best not only for preserving knowledge, but also for peace, harmony … and even material possessions like, say, gold!

      Why peace? Take a look at traditions that rely on a single sanctum sanctorum, be it Jerusalem or Mecca.

      Why harmony? Because a Tamil Hindu travels to Gangotri, a Bengali Hindu travels to Tirupathi, a Marathi Hindu travels to Kailash, a Tibetan Buddhist travels to Gaya. This organic process gives birth to mutual understanding and respect, and people are able to see/realize that the “us versus them” is only a superficial difference. The underlying unity is the truth.

      Why gold? Think of what happens during wars. The victor walks into a nations central bank or something equivalent (a King’s palace, etc.), and walks away with all material wealth reserves! India imports an insane amount of gold, but can any external attack, even if victorious, gather and collect all the gold from all the hohuseholds and walk away with it? I don’t think so.

      In conclusion, no matter what your perspective is — spiritual or pure realpolitik — distribution is a protection and a means of sustenance.

    4. Prateek Ruia · · Reply

      Very well said. Appreciate.

  2. Dear Ms Maria, India is not a free country yet. It is being ruled by the servants of former masters on the lines dictated by them. When India will become Bharath the rats will flee and you will see a new and real different free India. The current hindu hating rulers are sabotaging all areas of indian growth. India is still being poisoned from within.

  3. “…Never mind if they get disillusioned there.” That was a real stunner at the end of the post. Captures all that needed to be said. Pranaam Maria-ji!

  4. Prashant · · Reply

    You understanding india. my country is great. there is no any kind of show of unrealistic think like poverty yes u c it. talent yes u c it. happy ness u feel it. no wall bet people rich or poor. high or lower. our media raise voice or needy people.no jeousy every one happy in their state. various religion, various mothertouge,various people but we are united.

  5. really thought provoking! you must write to the new government to implement sanskrit studies and knowledge worldwide. I am proud to be born an Indian and of her ancient history and tradition.

  6. sethuraman · · Reply

    Arnold toynbee says (essrntially about india)
    ” The east bows before the west , in patient deep disdain.
    It allows the legions to thunder past and plunges in to thogjt again.”

    I think that sums it all up.If Sanatana dharma could survive the onslaught of islam and christianity under their respective rulers forcing conversion for ages, it had nothing to fear in the future. Yada yada hi dharmasya …,

    1. Yes, but please also be aware that of the around 1,3 billion Muslims over half of them were Hindus. it does not mean just to sit back and think Dharma will survive. aren’t we meant even to fight for it if it is in danger?

    2. @Sethuraman

      You exhibited a typical docile Hindu psyche- Just sit and pray- all will be all right-

      Read Indian history? Hindu land occupied year after year- looted, massacred at ease by invaders-
      Converted by sword with no mercy.

      Your kind of mindset is the main reason of India’s misfortune & decline of Hinduism. Sincerely hope not many exist like you in India

      1. Pl. read the comments made by sumant,anurag saghi which are in line with my thinking. Looking for action in areas beyond ones comprehension is not good.

  7. Arjun in Mahabharat got Gita Updesh to fight for DHARM from Lord Sri Krishna- So We have to fight for our survival as Hindu, the great tradition still existing on earth

  8. If Asuric world is made up of State-dominated, centralized systems using propaganda very liberally

    and

    If you see India as a continuum, then that will explain liberal usage of propaganda by China, US, EU, Russia and India’s hesitant use of propaganda

  9. Well Sanatana Dharma is not about statistics of people inhabiting this land identified by their religion. Sri Ramakrishna experimented with all religions and acknowledged that all are equally true.Personally I feel institutions and state should have nothing to do with it. It is incarnations who understand what is Dharma in the first place and they appear when the need arise.

  10. China has to plan everything and then execute it, India is opposite.We want freedom,1991 Indians/hindus got economic freedom,2014 Hindus got freedom (or) proud to call themselves as Hindus.

    Just wait&see Achedin will arrive

  11. Lack of pride in being Hindu and ignorance of ancient Indias achievement is due to the value system imparted by Macualey inspired education system and the leftist twist to the Indian history taught in the schools and colleges since last few decades of Congress rule.
    The entire Indian education system will have to be rewhamped purging it of its perverted anti Hindu bias and pro invaders lenses of looking at its past and in its place introduce the education system which while modern and scientific in its outlook will have positive Hindu and Dharmic ethso at it’s foundation and should encourage and reward studies in ancient Indian Dharmic literature and reinterpreted the history logically and get to the bottom of facts in cold clinical fashion.
    Also the Indian archailogical exploration must look for the evidence of ancient India in all possible potential places such as under the sea Dwarka,mounds all over India,delhis purana qila etc

    1. Agree with you. Inexplicably (unfortunately it can be explained..) the exploration in Dwarka stopped. hope it starts soon again.

  12. […] The article first appeared as- https://mariawirthblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/difference-between-india-and-china/ […]

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