Is India forgetting its culture?

Answer by Vijayraj Kamat:

Image source: The Naked Monk

The problem is not losing our culture, but our meaning. Gautam Buddha would have been as great in a pair of jeans as well.
If someone abandoned his dhoti to wear jeans to become as 'cool' as the Buddha(because the Buddha had a lot of followers), the problem lies in the imitator. The imitator does not know 'why?'.

I think it's OK to lose our 'culture' if you replace it with something better. That's not a 'loss', but an 'evolution'. But India is losing its meaning, and so are others.

Some extreme examples:

  • Would you prefer a guy wearing a pair of torn jeans, tattoos, and spiked hair playing music in an old age home on the weekends to spread joy, or a guy in Kurta, with a tilak on his forehead, reciting Gita shlokas and interpreting it to justify hatred?
  • Would you prefer an Indian girl who does amazing Western hip hop dance and has explored its darkest depths, or a girl who has grudgingly passed some exams of Bharat Natyam because her parents forced her to?
  • Would  you prefer a guy who always listens to the 'old Hindi great' songs(probably because his childhood was filled with them) and thinks they are the only emblems of greatness, or someone who has heard many things, but prefers Mozart(after having heard Hindi songs too) and can tell you exactly why?
  • Would you prefer a someone in India who goes to the US and follows his passion for the 'joy of action', courageous enough to 'not be deterred by others opinions' or ridicule, working hard to create as much of an impact on society as possible and staying true to herself; or an Indian American in US(or in India) who has learnt to recite Gita shlokas having no clue what they mean – but has earned the 'Ideal Indian child' title from the Indian American circles?

Blabbering "E=mc2" when you are 3 years old does not make you an Einstein or a child prodigy!

The futile pursuit of 'Identity' under the guise of 'culture'
It's OK to be 'cool'. Question is what is our definition of 'cool'? If it's just imitating somebody(an American rapster or an Indian saint) without knowing why, or wearing an Indian attire to a Western cocktail party(to proclaim your 'Indianness') then both paths are equally meaningless. Both will have awesome 'justifications' though.

We often pursue ''Identity" mistaking it for "culture". The common problem is trying to achieve greatness through forging a 'Lasting identity' rather than 'constant action'. The search for identity can manifest itself through conformance ('chasing cool' – following the majority) or division(rebellion, 'Moving back to the roots' – following the minority). The problem is in the "following" itself, not in 'what' is being followed.

Following the right things for the wrong reasons…
Wearing an Indian attire is OK. To do so to 'make a statement' is silly. Listening to old Indian songs and loving them is OK. Assuming they are the only things worth listening to is being ignorant. Listening to Indian Classical music because you enjoy it is OK, but doing so because "You SHOULD" is meaningless.

Regaining meaning
Knowing ABOUT the scriptures is OK. Trying to UNDERSTAND them is really cool. Not because they are Indian, and hence 'great' by default; but because they force us to delve deeper into ourselves. And that tells us about our unique individual contribution(action) and how it relates to the greater whole…at every moment.  It is a living, breathing 'process'. If the process stays consistent over a long period of time, an 'identity' might be forged. An old mountain is changing as much as a fleeting cloud, but the mountain SEEMS more static. So it has an 'identity'. But it is an illusory side-effect, not a lasting aim!

The Himalayas do not scorn the clouds that hover over them for "having no culture".

Culture is not about WHAT we do and surely not about who we FOLLOW. It's about WHY we do something, and HOW we do anything. So yes, we are losing our culture. But that "feeling of loss" is not because we are not following Indian things, but because we are desperately following too many things without knowing why. It's a loss of meaning.

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Is India forgetting its culture?


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