For over 5,000 years, India and China as we know them today have been characterized by foreigners in the English language. We need to view them from the perspective of the local people. The original Sanskrit Sindhu (meaning a large body of water – referring to what we know today as Indus River) was changed by Persians (today’s Iranians) to Hindu to describe “people east of the river” before the anglicized name India. Hindu was describing a group of people with their way of life, not a religion.
Before our industrialization less than 200 years ago, India and China built advanced civilizations related to commerce and trade that accounted for 50% of the global GDP as recently as the year 1820. The key difference between India and China today is India’s very young self-governance (less than 100 years). Whereas China grew as a unified nation beginning 2,200 years ago, India continued with regional warlords. Some regions were colonized as early as 2,500 years ago by many foreigners like Persians, Greeks (or today’s Macedonia), Chinese Mongolians, and Christian Europeans. Even though Buddha was born in Nepal where Buddhism is still the official religion today, Buddhism is typically associated with India, along with many other religions like Jainism and Sikhism. When India gained its independence in 1947, it came at a cost of losing Pakistan and Bangladesh. India would have been the most populous country on earth if its population includes Pakistan and Bangladesh.
India’s moral standards took shape after the Indus Valley civilization, during the Vedas (or knowledge) period between 2,500 and 4,000 years ago. While the original oral communications cannot be dated, ancient Vedas written words (puranas or ancient times) are older than the written Torah in Judaism. Vedas has six parts: 1) Shiksha (phonetics, phonology and morphophonology); 2) Kapla (ritual); 3) Vyakarana (grammar); 4) Nirukta (etymology); 5) Chandas (meter), and 6) Jyotisha (astronomy). It was the rituals Kapla that united the Hindu community into a single civilization. The Grihya Sutras (domestic ritual), Srauta (ritual of offerings with Verdic chants or Yajna) and Dharma Sutras (righteousness thread), along with Varnashrama Dharma (classes of men) have been Vedas traditions that defined common and criminal law, code of social behavior and relationship, property rights, as well as the social doctrine that prescribes the suitable activities or different stages of life. Life is divided into four periods, brahmacharya (period of celibate education), grihastha (domestic life), vanaprastha (retirement) and tapasya (ascetic search for divine life).
Ramayana (Rama’s Journey on human values) and Mahabhrata (on the 18 day Kurukshetra War possibly 8,000 years ago) were two epic stories introduced during the late Vedas period 2,500 years ago, when chaturvarnya (doctrine of the four colors) emerged as a conscious organization of the Hindu society that is now known as the caste system. The four castes are: 1) Brahmin (to learn and guide); 2) Kshatriya (to fight and protect); 3) Vaisya (to trade); and 4) Sudra (to be common people). In addition to the four colors, there was a caste of the non-colored called Avarnas or Panchamas (the non-colored), representing a large mass of people who were denied social rights and were held as “unclean.”
Moral Innovators seek knowledge on how best to work with our world. India is undergoing many changes at this time, including the removal of the caste system, the introduction of democracy as a form of government, and presenting India as a self-governed nation. The potential is incredible, as illustrated in its ability to demonstrate nuclear capabilities within a short time of China’s demonstration of nuclear capabilities. India has successfully creolized monotheistic and polytheistic religions living together in a henotheistic world. The challenge for Moral Innovators is to keep up with the ongoing changes. Until Indians know how best to work with the Indian government and faiths, the current diaspora will likely continue where Indians continue to shine with their knowledge outside India.