In a recent newspaper interview with renowned Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, about the restitution of Nalanda, the 5th century Buddhist University in India, the journalist comments: “But Buddhism has practically vanished from India and emerging India may have little interest in the values you talk about.”
Thurman responds to that with:
[So] What is emerging India going to contribute to the world? Just compete with China to make more cheap goods and take away more jobs from industrialized and unionized countries, and pollute themselves?
He had my attention there for a split second. And then he spoilt it. He responded in a way, that I’ve heard so many westerners respond to India, sort of in a patronizing way. The way you talk to rowdy children, when you want to encourage them to stop doing what they are doing, and do the right thing. It’s form of speech that I find condescending. He said:
Values of self-control,gentleness,tolerance of others,and even ahimsa.. influenced by Buddhism are still very strong and thats what makes India very distinctive…India has a unique thing. Apart from wealth and confidence it has self-control, yoga, spirituality and pluralism and tolerance. The Nalanda movement should not be about creating new Harvards but to recreate something that India had.
I was disappointed. Certainly Thurman has known India long enough to know better. Yoga and spirituality – please! The exotic imports that are probably mass marketed, like the cheap goods Thurman talks about, with the catchy gimmicks and sell-by dates. And pluralism and tolerance? Come on! Surely he’s knows about the Sikh massacres in Delhi, the Muslim massacre in Gujarat, the caste system, the demand for all other communities and cultures to leave Bombay, the female genocide and best still India’s marvelous tolerance for all this!
That’s why I thought the Indian journalist who was interviewing him was much more forthright when she said: “emerging India may have little interest in the values you talk about.”
Today there are 17 hospital beds for every 100,000 Indians. We are hungry, illiterate, uneducated, unemployed, and wedged in the deep-dark-destructive quagmire of religion, customs and traditions.
Yet “emerging” India produces more billionaires than the U.K. It provides a gluttonous market for the fat-cat multinationals. It unscrupulously exploits the country’s languishing majority, and forms partnerships with foreign companies to do the same. It has the largest stash of black money in off-shore banks. It splurges like a wealthy emperor on its nuclear program and military toys.
What has the emerging Indian strata given India? Nothing! It has leached it dry!
And tomorrow when India crumbles without all the infrastructures that are needed to hold up any viable nation: schools, hospitals, roads, water, electricity, a functional and accountable government – then these vultures who have their money stashed abroad will flee first, leaving this country to stew in its own destruction.
I think the question to ask is not what can India can contribute to the world. Rather, what is India contributing to itself?