Religious colonialism: Islamic vs. Christian

1. As Indians, if we have to access the Indian traditions we need two things: (a) it must be possible for us to access them; (b) we must know how to access them. That is to say, growing up in the Indian traditions not merely means that we have the possibility of accessing them if we want to but we have also learnt how to access them when we want to.

Only for the sake of convenience, let me put it this way: in so far as we are brought up in the Indian culture, in ideal conditions, we learn two things: (a) we learn to access our experience (one kind of ability); (b) we also learn to access the Indian traditions that are the results of accesses that the earlier generations have had to their experience (a second kind of ability). If we get only the ability (a) transmitted to us, it is like reinventing the wheel but a through a cumbersome process: trial and error, stumbling and standing upright, going through dead ends and false avenues and so on. Some might succeed in this venture, yet others might fail. There are no signposts, no heuristics, and no established results to work with etc.

In ideal conditions, we also learn “the Indian way” of accessing (a). That is, (b) is also transmitted to us.

2. In the worst case scenario, the Indian culture disintegrates. That is neither the ability (a) nor the ability (b) is transmitted. In the ideal case, both are transmitted.

What about situations (1) where (a) is transmitted and (b) is not? In this case, (2) what if instead of the “Indian way” [what (b) is] some other way, say the “western way” starts making up for its absence? Colonial consciousness, as I see it, is about both the situation (1) [Islamic Colonialism] and situation (2) [the British colonialism]

We learn to access our experience because our culture has not disintegrated. But we have not learnt how to access this experience in “the Indian way”. [To learn this is to learn how to access the Indian traditions. Currently, we access the Indian traditions the way the West has taught us to access them: as texts, whether they are considered philosophical texts, religious texts, or whatever else.] Of course, it is the case that the transmission our culture which teaches us to access our experience will also help us reinvent the “Indian way” (if the need arises) all over again. In a way, we are doing this now: in the process of reinventing “the Indian way” of accessing experience, we discover that we can regain access (in some fashion) to the accumulated “Indian way” as well. But because we are reinventing, our relationship to the past will be in terms of how the reinvention today is taking place: through the language of the present, and driven by our exigencies.

If you disagree with this, then your difficulty is with the issue itself: you probably think that (b) is also transmitted (through stories, rituals, etc) without taking into consideration that we treat these stories and rituals the way the West treats them.


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