Why is Dharampal Ignored?

Question from Pawanji:
It seems like the Indian academic world has not opposed Dharampal but has ignored him. What do you think?

Rinpocheji’s answer:
In this regard, it appears like people have treated Gandhiji and Dharampalji the same way. To be in opposition you need logical arguments. The academic world doesn’t have any. Whatever opposition can arise will be superficial. On a rational ground neither Gandhiji nor Dharampalji can be opposed. They (people who ignore Gandhiji and Dharampalji) only say – but how do we stop development? Development is such a big thing, whether good or bad, and it needs to be allowed in. With such hollow talk they put their ideas forward and ensure their livelihood inside the developmental paradigm. Not having the capacity or the logic to oppose Gandhiji and Dharampalji, they ignore them.

And they do not agree to what Gandhiji and Dharampalji are saying because that is uncomfortable and not acceptable. Nehruji must have surely understood the ideas of Gandhiji. In the beginning he did some minor opposition to Gandhiji but quickly realized that he could not oppose Gandhiji logically. The solution Nehru found was to continue to do the things he wanted to do after putting Gandhiji on a pedestal and making him a Mahatma. It is true that if Nehru had opposed Gandhiji a process of dispute and dialogue would have started and Gandhiji’s ideas would have reached a wider audience.

Gandhiji, Vinobhaji, Dharampalji – people have not opposed them, in fact they have only praised them. They were made Mahapurush. But their ideas were not accepted and were wholly ignored. But how long can they be ignored? A time will surely come, a limit will be reached, beyond which we will not be able to live in the current paradigm. Then, possibly, the ideas of Gandhiji and Dharampalji will be paid attention to. Right now people are all intoxicated, like someone asleep after taking opium, or in an alcoholic stupor. People are dazed, unconscious, in the intoxication of modern civilisation. What opposition can one do then? They will not accept the ideas but will also not be able to oppose them.

The alienated elites of India

“एक भाग है उन आधे प्रतिशत लोगों का जो अपने सहायक तथा सेवक वर्ग के सहारे, जो कि लगभग १५-२० प्रतिशत बैठता है, भारत के तंत्र और साधन क्षेत्रों को नियंत्रित करते हैं। दूसरा भाग उन ८०-८५ प्रतिशत लोगों का है, जो अपने अति सीमित साधनों और अवशिष्ट बल से ही जी रहे हैं ।. . . . लेकिन बृहत् समाज को हीन मानकर, उनका उद्धार और कल्याण करने की युक्तियां देते हुए, राष्ट्रीय साधनों स्रोतों पर नियंत्रण रखना तो हमें छोड़ना ही होगा। ऐसे न्यायपूर्ण विभाजन, संयोजन और समन्वय द्वारा राष्ट्र में २०-३० वर्षों के लिये दोनों हिस्सों का शक्तिपूर्ण सह अस्तित्व रह सकना सम्भव है। ऐसे सह अस्तित्व की अवधि में, हमें कुछ अधिक साहस और शक्ति मिली तो हम मिलकर आगे का भी सोच सकेंगे और ऐसे रास्ते व व्यवस्थायें बना सकेंगे जिनके द्वारा हमारा यह टूटा बिखरा समाज फिर से एक होकर आगे बढ़ सकेगा।”
– धर्मपाल, ‘हमारे सपनों का भारत?’

I recorded a zoom meeting with Pawanji where we talked about the above quote by Dharampalji and what it meant for people like us – the 15-20% elite class of India. I have edited a relevant video clip and uploaded it on the SIDH Youtube channel.

This is a conversation that we at SIDH are very eager to engage in. I hope that you find it thought-provoking and useful.

Reading Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala – Report

What: Retreat at SIDH campus at Kempty
When: May 2nd to 6th, 2022
People: Around 20 participants from Bareilly, Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Vizag.
Idea: Reading, contemplation and discussion on ‘Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala’ can perhaps show us a direction to be at peace with ourselves and the world.

How the retreat went:

We were trying this kind of retreat for the first time at SIDH and it was well received by the participants. What we did was loud reading of one or two chapters of the Hindi version of the book every day followed by discussions that tried to connect what we read to our individual lived experience. The discussions ranged from the Shastras and Itihaasa to the problems of modern life.

The book is written in very simple language and talks about the disconnect that we educated Indians feel as we live our lives governed by systems that are misaligned with our Indian identity. For example, Dharampalji asks a simple question – Who does this 20th-21st century belong to? Because, it seems like most of the people of India have another conception of Kaala, they live in some other time-frame. This does not mean that we are backward or need to catch up with the century of the West but that we need to organize our lives in some other way.

Like Gandhiji, Dharampalji also talks about our essential Bharatiyata being preserved and propagated through the ordinary Indians. His recommendation is that if we can understand the Chitta, Manas and Kaala of the ordinary Indian we would perhaps understand the Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala. He goes on to say that this is now difficult because the educated Indian is far removed from the ordinary Indian.

Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala is a book that points to ways in which we can understand who we are and begin the work of coming out of the disconnect of living in somebody else’s world. Looking inwards at what is going wrong in our lives is a painful process and the retreat was helpful in starting a contemplative conversation about it.

Reading Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala

What: Retreat at SIDH campus at Kempty
When: May 2nd to 6th, 2022
Idea: Reading, contemplation and discussion on Dharampal’s visionary book ‘Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kaala’ can perhaps show us a direction to move forward as a conscious Indian who is at peace with himself and the world.

There are many amongst us who are concerned with the direction which Bharatvarsha has taken since we gained independence in 1947. There is a feeling that by and large we have been following the same path that the Britishers laid down to keep us subjugated. The western powers were very anxious that India remains in the ‘Western orbit’ (Dharampal papers: President Roosevelt in conversation with the British ambassador to the US) even after independence and it looks like they were completely successful in this effort.

Many of us can sense and feel the deep discomfort of something very wrong, but are unable to articulate the problem or pinpoint the cause. Perhaps:

  • Our sense of the past is flawed
  • Our understanding of our traditions and of the Western modernity that we have unthinkingly adopted is unclear
  • A distorted perception is making us lead a life which is alien and not really ours

Is there something we can do? At SIDH we feel that a collective reading of Dharampalji’s ‘Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala’ , a book of 50 odd pages available in both Hindi and English, can give us some strong clues on not just what is wrong but also where to look. We are proposing a five day retreat of reading, silence and dialogue where we try to get to the deeper meaning, implications and to connect various dots. The retreat could potentially give us clues to connect the macro issues (societal, cultural, civilizational etc.) with the process of sense-making in our individual lives. The participants will be expected to go through the book (in either Hindi or English) at least once, before joining the retreat.

Follow us on Telegram here for daily updates.

‘Bharatiya Chitta, Manas aur Kala’: Seminar No. 1

The 3-day seminar on Dharampalji’s ‘Bharatiya Chitta, Manas aur Kala’ that was jointly organized by SIDH and IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts) finished yesterday evening. This was the first part of a series of 4 seminars on various aspects of Dharampalji’s powerful book.

Two SIDH publications were released on the first day of the seminar. ‘Rediscovering India’ by Dharampalji (which had been out of print for some time) and ‘The White Sahibs In India’ a hard-hitting book by a sympathetic Englishman, Reginald Reynolds, that talks about the barbarity of the British rule in India.

The four main speakers included Padma Shri Dr. Kapil Tiwari who has worked extensively in the area of India’s folk traditions and Padma Shri Dr. J.K. Bajaj who translated Bharatiya Chitta Manas aur Kala into English. The 50 participants included many people who had the good fortune of having known Dharampalji and therefore could speak with authority about the various subtleties of the book.

In the closing session of the seminar, Shri Ram Bahadur Rai, Dharampalji’s close friend, author, senior journalist and the current president of IGNCA put forward the radical idea that we should probably consider this book of Dharampalji to be of equal importance as Gandhiji’s ‘Hind Swaraj’. This is perhaps the proper way to honor the precious gift that Dharampalji has given all of us by drawing our attention to Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala.

Four Seminars on Dharampal’s work

“We the educated elite of India are wary of any attempt to understand the Indian mind. . . . Deep within, we, the elite of India, are also acutely conscious of this highly elaborate structure of the Indian mind. We, however, want to deny this history of Indian consciousness, and wish to reconstruct a new world for ourselves in accordance with what we perceive to be the modern consciousness. Therefore, all efforts to understand the Chitta and Kala of India seem meaningless to us. The study of the history of the eighteenth and nineteenth century India, which I undertook in the nineteen sixties and the seventies, was in a way an exploration into the Indian Chitta and Kala. . . . That study, of course, was not the most effective way of learning about the Indian mind. It did help in forming a picture of the physical organisations and technologies through which the Indians prefer to manage the ordinary routines of daily life. But it was not enough to provide an insight into the inner attitudes and attributes of the Indian mind. The mind of a civilisation can probably never be grasped through a study of its physical attributes alone.”
– From Dharampal’s Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala

Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) and the Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas (SIDH) are jointly organizing four seminars anchored around Dharampal’s important essay, Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala between April 2022 and March 2023. Around 40 people who are familiar with the works of Dharampal will be invited to participate in the seminars. The seminars will be three days long, residential and will be held at IGNCA, Delhi. The seminars are designed to initiate and spread a conversation about our civilizational identity and its role in creating a vibrant future for our nation.

Tentatively, the topics for the four seminars are:

  1. What did Dharampal mean by the words Bharatiya Chitta, Manas and Kala? And why did he think it was so important to understand these words?
  2. Our ‘educated’ people have become separated from the Chitta, Manas and Kala of our ‘ordinary’ people. What are the reasons and resolutions for this? What are the obstacles that come in the way of the resolution and how do we deal with it at an individual and societal level?
  3. Western modernity has ended up creating a uni-polar world over the last 100 years. Is the Indian thought and foundational values in alignment with this?
  4. What are the ways and practices for reconnecting back to the Chitta, Manas and Kala of the ‘Ordinary’ people?

These seminars will be recorded and the videos of the expert presentations and discussions will be made available in various formats (YouTube videos, articles, books on the proceedings etc.) by IGNCA and SIDH.

IGNCA-SIDH Dharampal centenary program

It is heartening to see that there appears to be an awakening of interest and a recognition of the importance of Dharampalji’s work. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) and SIDH are collaborating on a year-long program to study and popularize his writings. This program was inaugurated by a distinguished panel on 19th February, 2022. Here are some photos…

Lighting the lamp by the Minister of Culture, Arjun Ram Meghwal

Launch of the advance copy of Dharampal’s ‘Rediscovering India’.
Left to right: Ramesh Chandra Goud (Dean, IGNCA), Pawan Gupta (SIDH), Arjun Ram Meghwal (Hon. Minister of Culture), Suresh Soni (Senior RSS leader), Ram Bahadur Rai (Chairman, IGNCA), Mahesh Sharma (Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Bihar)

Pawanji speaking at the event

One of the posters with Dharampal quotes in the lobby outside the auditorium.

I will be speaking more about the details of the program here and on our Telegram channel at https://t.me/joinchat/6L8R1CROo6AyZWM1.

Rediscovering India – Preface

(The following is an abridged version of the Preface to the second edition written by Pawanji. Take a look…)

Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, highly revered monk and founding Director (later Vice-Chancellor) of Tibetan Institute of Higher Studies, Sarnath, as well as the first elected Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile, makes an important distinction between what he calls an ‘ordinary rational mind’ and the ‘original mind’. While felicitating Dharampalji in an award ceremony jointly organised by the Infinity Foundation and the Centre for Study of Developing Societies in 2004 he said, “Buddha had an original mind. Dharampalji has an original mind.” That is a high tribute but also the best way to describe Dharampalji. To put him in any category will be limiting our understanding of the man. He was not even a graduate having left his studies mid-way in 1942 during the Quit India movement. So, to call him a Historian, a Gandhian, a Philosopher, would not do justice to him and will blinker our understanding.

Jayprakash Narayan recognised his brilliance very early and persuaded him to become the General Secretary of AVARD (Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development) of which JP was the President. It was here, while studying the functioning of the newly introduced Panchayati Raj system of the Government of India that he realised the following: that Indian society functioned according to traditional idioms and beliefs, that ‘outward-looking’ (educated) Indians were completely alienated from the way our ‘ordinary’ people took their decisions and led their lives, that the educated had no understanding of our indigenous social systems and their dynamics, and that the picture of the Indian society that the educated have is all wrong.

Perhaps this and other similar experiences led him to undertake the long, intense and arduous research lasting more than 30 years in various libraries and archives both in England and in India. He wanted to know how the Indian society functioned before the British conquered it. It is difficult to imagine that what Dharampalji discovered in various archives and libraries was not seen by others before him. Gandhiji himself had referred to the existence of such records in 1931 while he was in London for the 2nd Round Table Conference. But it was Dharampalji’s sharp eye and his ability to see and cull out what others often tend to gloss over or remain oblivious to that made all the difference. What impressed him most was the relaxed and easy manner in which we were able (till the 19th century) to organize our collective life – organically and naturally.

“Rediscovering India”, being republished after a gap of almost 20 years is an important book to understand the British mind, their strategies, how India got destroyed, the ramifications of changes brought about by the British knowingly or unknowingly, the shift from societal systems to systems imposed by the State. As the Nobel prize winning author V.S. Naipaul used to say, India is a “wounded civilization.” “Rediscovering India” helps in the diagnosis of this long festering wound and points towards the path to a healthy India.

Rediscovering India – Excerpts

I have been carefully going through the ‘Rediscovering India’ document before we send it for typesetting and printing. I started copying out paragraphs that I thought were hard-hitting and am now having trouble selecting 500 words for this blog post. I have 9500 words to choose from. 🙂

Take a look…

“While there can be some controversy about the prosperity or poverty of the Indian people, or any seg­ments of them during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, the term backwardness does not in any sense apply to them then. Rather, it was the newly arrived Europeans in India who felt that the Indians applied such an appellation to them (the Europeans) for their manners and greed which were considered barbaric and uncouth, about the color of their skin which was thought to be diseased, or even the system of dowry which is said to have obtained in eighteenth century England, but to have been looked askance in eighteenth century India. By the end of the eighteenth century when large parts of India had effectively been conquered and subdued the tide obviously changed and instead the term “backwardness” or images of similar nature began to be deliberately and extensively applied to Indian society.”
– From the chapter titled ‘A question of backwardness’

“Those who have become Westernized – the Western type of commodities may be used by a very large number of people, but those whose minds have been Westernized – I think are not more than half a percent of us. Probably less, basically not more than half a million people – the officer class in the European sense of the term, which could mean scholars, administrators, army personnel, high dignitaries, managers of industry, etc. And those who are completely lost, among these half a million wouldn’t be very many, maybe a few thousand or so – the rest I think can be brought back by a movement backed by spirit and courage and hope.

“Such a movement, however, has to be of much greater dimensions and inner energy than even the freedom movement under Mahatma Gandhi. It may not be pan-India, it could be initially a regional thing, because if we are going to wait for the spark to be all over India, then we would be waiting for many generations. The spark may arise in some corner of Tamil Nadu or in Bihar or anywhere, or in areas where movements like that of Swadhyaya have made visible impact dur­ing the past three to four decades, wherever there is this feeling of ‘What happened to us’, ‘We have got lost’, ‘Let’s stand up, do something’.”
From the chapter titled ‘Five hundred years of western domination’

“What seems to have disturbed Mahatma Gandhi most during his early contact with Europe, was the manner in which the civilisation of Europe, especially of Britain, treated its own people, how it eroded their individual dignity as human beings, how it subordinated them to powerful hierarchical systems, rather than the damage done by Europe to his own country. The latter he could oppose as a patriot but the former violated his humanity. It is this former aspect which seems to have decided for him that his own country and anyone else who would listen to him should have nothing to do with such a civilisation at any stage. Yet, he failed to impart this understanding to men like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.”
From the chapter titled ‘The common grounds of slavery and modern science’

Rediscovering India

At SIDH we are republishing an out-of-print book, ‘Rediscovering India’, by Dharampalji. With a foreword by Chandra Shekharji, former Prime Minister of India, it is a book of essays and speeches (1956-1998) in which Dharampalji talks about a wide range of topics. The book has 27 chapters divided among three main sections:

  1. Indian Society at the Beginning of European Dominance and the Process of Impoverishment.
  2. Problems Faced by India after the End of European Dominance.
  3. Some European Characteristics and Their Worldwide Manifestations.

The following are some excerpts from the book:

“Over the last 40 years, Dharampal has written several articles, given many talks, read papers in conferences and seminars. These are significantly different from his research work, where he has by and large refrained from interpretations. These articles are based on the insights gained by him during the painstaking research and from his dwelling on them later on. In these articles, Dharampal is speculative, tries to conjure a picture of what the Indian society may have been like, how it may have functioned, taken its decisions, arranged its affairs, what were its ways of protest etc. before or immediately after the arrival of the British. It also tries to draw a picture of the manner in which the British may have looked at our (alien) ways and how the systems imposed by them must have contributed to disrupting the society. Perhaps for the first time the articles have been collected and put together for readers to get a glimpse into Dharampal’s world.”
From the Preface to the first edition written by Pawan Gupta in 2003.

“I think it is a false impression that the early nineteenth century British mind was in any sense concerned with economic or social backwardness of India and that its usage of terms like ‘ignorance’, ‘misery’, pertain to any socio-economic context. What obtained in the early nineteenth century Britain were a well-defined hierarchical structure, a rigorous legal system, an administrative and military structure admission to which was based on birth, patronage or purchase. To such a mind the liveliness of ordinary Indian society, its relative cohesive social structure, its educational institutions, admission to which did not depend on wealth, its joint ownership of land, etc. were points not in its favour but elements which indicated its depravity and laxity.

There was a debate in the House of Commons in 1813. Many members were of the view that the people of India and the Indian society (in spite of the turmoil and disorganisation it was passing through) were still to be envied for their enlightened manners, their tolerance, their social cohesiveness and their relative prosperity. The debate was primarily concerned with the saving of the soul of the Indian people and its main mover was the great nineteenth century Englishman, Mr. William Wilberforce. He argued that Greece and Rome were wretched till they got converted to Christianity. Therefore, it was impossible that the Indians could be happy, enlightened, in their unchristian state. Mr. Wilberforce concluded that India must be wretched, depraved and sunk deep in ignorance till they could become Christians.”
From the chapter titled ‘India must rediscover itself’.

“Having taken it for granted, on the basis of what the West popularized about itself, that the history of European man and his aspirations and theorizations had some universal validity, we also seem to have assumed that we were also capable of repeating what the West had done in the past 1,000 years of its history. The images we had of Western man were either of the individual plunderer of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, or the Western man of the twentieth century – sophisticated, polished, consider­ate, charitable, and at least theoretically, advocating equality and fraternity amongst all men. . . . We did not realize that to reach this present dazzling stage the West had to be harsh, cruel, exploitative, etc., not only to the non-Western world but to its own people for many centuries. The supposition that the West has arrived at its present democratic and welfare arrangements because these had been in-built in its medieval and early modern society is as much a myth as the supposition that the people of India led impoverished and politically oppressed lives for thousands of years.”
From the chapter titled ‘The question of India’s development’