Wednesday, April 18, 2012

India’s Underused Soft Power

Hu Shih, (1891-1962), Chinese philosopher once said: ’India conquered and dominated China culturally for two thousand years without ever having to send a single soldier across her border‘.

I got to see a glimpse of this soft power of India during my recent visit to Sarnath – the Birthplace of Buddhism. People from all over the world arrive here to pay homage to Gautama the Buddha. This was the place where Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment.

Buddhist Monks from around the World at Sarnath, the birthplace of Buddhism.

Sarnath is about 13 Kms from Benares. The city of Benares has pathetic public infrastructure, totally ignored by the successive Governments. It is the oldest living city in the World, and it hasn’t got the attention it deserves. There is little attempt to preserve the cultural heritage. The road to Sarnath is broken, with illegal encroachments all over. While the Japanese Govt has offered to preserve and promote the ancient monuments at Sarnath, the State Govt has shown little will.

Swami Vivekananda said more than 100 years back, that Spirituality is the reason for India’s existence and it’s contribution to the World: 

Touch him on spirituality, on religion, on God, on the soul, on the Infinite, on spiritual freedom, and I assure you, the lowest peasant in India is better informed on these subjects than many a so-called philosopher in other lands… We have yet something to teach to the world. This the very reason, the raison d’être, that this nation has lived on, in spite of hundreds of years of persecution, in spite of nearly a thousand years of foreign rule and foreign oppression. This nation still lives; the raison d’être is, it still holds to God, to the treasure house of religion and spirituality.

Unfortunately we have ignored the powerhouses of Spirituality in India, places like Benares and Sarnath are just an example of that.

The Ocean churning scene from Indian mythology at the Bangkok Suvaranbhumi Airport

Several spiritual Gurus from India have spread the message of spirituality around the world, starting from Swami Vivekananda, Paramahamsa Yogananda, Osho, J Krishnamurthy, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Mata Amritanandamayi, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Baba Ramdev etc, who have millions of followers world wide and continue to grow each day.

We have something the world needs today more than ever before. This is our soft power. We need to recognize it and wield it in the right way.

In religion, India is the only millionaire – the One land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined‘ – Mark Twain

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