This post is prompted by the release of the final draft of the National Register of Indian Citizens in Assam Province on 30/7/18. This verification exercise was made in accordance with the terms of the Assam Accord of 1985. Not surprisingly more than 4 million did not qualify as they could not prove that they or their ancestors entered the country before midnight on March 24, 1971 – the eve of the Bangladesh War. Obviously, most of these are Muslim Bengalis, who or whose ancestors presumably fled overpopulated Bangladesh.
Australians contrast India as a Western Democracy against China as Communist in geopolitical terms. We sub-consciously see India is a ‘friend’ and China as a ‘foe’. We have a natural bias in favour of India, and blinded to their faults and frailties because among other things, we are members of the Commonwealth, English is ubiquitously spoken in India, we share the same English ‘common law’ foundation and the love of cricket. And if you play cricket you one of ‘us’.
But India independent and free and even though an Anglophile is no longer the Colonial lackey boy of the past if you read Shashi Tharoor’s indictment of the British in India, and you have kept up to date with the ascendancy of the Hindutva Movement under the BJP Government of President Narendra Modi. No matter how you read it, the Hindutva policy imprint is all over the National Register of Indian Citizens in Assam. The message is quite apparent – ‘Keep the Muslims Out’! If you read up on the current local affairs in the Indian media you cannot help but notice that the Hindu hardliners behind Hindutva treat minorities like Christians and Muslims as foreigners! You would think it would be very foolhardy for India to take Christendom and Islam head-on.
Do not be fooled! India has Western democracy or free market capitalism but only with Indian characteristics. And China has Soviet Communist or free market capitalism but only with Chinese characteristics. As the aphorism goes. You try to make a white man out of an Indian you get a ‘coconut’. You try to make a white man out of a Chinese you get a ‘banana’. The Indians are no ‘coconuts’ and the Chinese are no ‘bananas’! However, Indians will always be Indians and the Chinese will always be Chinese. We are never going to teach these ‘old dogs’ new tricks.
When it comes Australia understanding why ‘Hindutva’ is synonymous with India and ‘The Middle Kingdom’ or Zhōngguó is synonymous with China, you have to make a paradigm shift and think outside the square and not see the world or geopolitics or nation-States in Westphalian terms. The Indians and the Chinese have an inconceivable inexplicable sentimental continuing abiding ‘identity’ of ‘belonging’ with or to an antiquity of an ancient people cultural civilisation.
This is not as preposterous as it sounds. On 19/7/18 the Israeli Knesset passed its 14th Basic Law defining the ‘identity’ of Israel as a Jewish Nation State. This concept goes beyond race and nationalism per se. Other than the foregoing threesome I cannot think of any other people cultural civilisation nation-States, as it is predicated on an existing continuing living antiquity. The modern Greeks, Romans, Assyrians, Egyptians have all lost their cultural and spiritual and philosophical ancient antiquity somewhere or somehow along the way back in history. Egyptians do not speak Egyptian. Romans and Greeks no longer worship ancient gods.
The Jews believe in God obviously. Besides having a religion they practise the philosophy of the Ecclesiastes and other writings found in the ‘Ketuvin’ of the Jewish Bible. Christianity, Islam and Judaism are the Abrahamic faiths, they share the God of Abraham.
The Indians of Hinduism practise a yogic spiritual philosophy called ‘Hindu Advaita Vedanta’. Basically, yoga is a spiritual practice in solitude of meditation and contemplation about life and its reality. What Westerners perceive as ‘gods’ in Hinduism are in fact ‘deities’ or intercessors. Brahma is not a Supreme God-Head but more like Cosmic Consciousness. It conjures something inconceivable that is absolutely immutable and unchanging.
The Chinese with their ‘Three Pillars of Chinese Society’ – Taoism, Confucianism and Zen Buddhism appear to be atheists. Taoism is an obtuse enigma of a philosophy of Mother Nature. Confucianism is a humanistic philosophy. And Zen or Chan is described as a child whose father is Taoism and mother is Buddhism. In fact, the Buddhist Sutras when translated into Chinese were expressed and explained by way of Taoist words and concepts or lexicon.
Which brings me to the point as to what the West needs to fundamentally know spiritually about the Indians and the Chinese. Hinduism and Taoism/Zen share common soteriology, epistemology and eschatology. They share a base humanistic spiritual foundation of ‘filial piety’. Moving on, both believe in the immutable law of karma or the law of causality. In fact the Abrahamic faiths also share a similar tenet in the ‘The sower and his harvest’. Accordingly karma explains the endless cycles of rebirths (Zen Buddhists) or reincarnations (Hindus) in Samsara. But Samsara is just ‘Śūnyatā’ or an illusion or phantasm or a dream. Liberation from Samara is ‘moksha’ for Hindus as in an Ātman or soul being liberated and returning to Brahma (as the Dreamer). The Chinese in Zen/Taoism believe in ‘nirvana’ (no more existence) as they do not believe in a soul and that ‘consciousness’ itself is an illusion. That is, the ‘Dreamer’ does not exist when the dream ceases.
When the West (‘In God We Trust’) meets the East (‘It is all illusion of Śūnyatā‘) as in India and China there will not be any connectivity in dialogue if both do not first adjust and attune their frequency wavelength to facilitate mutual communication and understanding.
Vincent Cheok is a retired lawyer and accountant. He worked in the Australian Taxation Office, HK Inland Revenue, PNG Internal Revenue Commission, SA Crown Law and later as a corporate and fiscal lawyer in private sector