A (T)Radical Critique of Modernity — Sanatana Exceptionalism in the Light of Modernity

A (T)Radical Critique of Modernity — Sanatana Exceptionalism in the Light of Modernity

Image — Courtesy of — Pinterest

Coming to Grips

The family is in steep decline, but nobody knows it. On the contrary, we have been fed, and we have accepted wholeheartedly, the subliminal message that we are “progressing” and “well settled”. Who has fed us those messages and why is a deep and complex topic that I have tangentially explored here1.

But one does not need to understand complex arguments to witness the obvious. My paternal grandfather was one of eight siblings, my paternal grandmother was one of eight siblings, my maternal grandfather was one of five siblings, and my maternal grandmother was one of eight siblings. My father, growing up, had thirty-eight first cousins and siblings. I had twelve. My children have exactly three first cousins (all abroad). But this is not merely a matter of making more babies (though it is deeply connected to the other thing I want to discuss…) as this is, for many families of my socio-economic profile, the bleeding edge of a genetic and cultural extinction being played out in real-time.

We, with our wealth, foreign connections, and grasp of Dickensonian English, what could we possibly have in common with Khora and Bo2, the last of the Great Andamanese tribe? Well… it appears that we share their fate of cultural and genetic extinction (at the very least, branches of our family trees do).

When we die, we will die alone (or very nearly so). No clansmen from far-flung villages will drop their day’s work and rush to our funerals. Our bodies will not have to wait until the last troupe of relatives, from the most distant branch of the family, arrives bearing flower-garlands and shedding tears. Our final journey will be from the aseptic environs of the ICU to the eerie silence of the electric incinerator. Not for us the final march through the paddy fields; not for us the final blessing as we are borne away on bare shoulders past our Kula Devata, one last time through the streets we played in as children. Not for us the long final pause, waiting for the sound of drumbeats to subside before we are consigned to the flames. No chanting of Ram Naam Satya Hai.


I am not going to be the last man standing.

I am not going to be the dead-end of my ancestral tree.

I am not going to be the man who presides over the final extinction of his ancestral culture, preserved with such passion through war, famine, death and disease by generation upon generation of great men and women who came before me.

What is it I have to do to turn this tide?

If these sentiments mean nothing to you and if this last question does not resonate in your heart, then the rest of what I am about to discuss will also be of no importance. But for those of you to whom the answers to this question matter, we have a long and complex journey ahead of us. The routes we take may be many, but the general direction of our journeys will be the same.


I was 28 when Luis, a Mexican-American friend, declared that different parts of the world belonged to different peoples each of whom have their own colors, flavors, and stories. I had just come to my own conclusion that all the stories I had been fed throughout my boyhood were false, and that in order to shed that old identity I had to climb beyond the constraints of geography, history, and culture. I had come to believe that the only real identity I could have would be one that I gathered through the breadth of personal experience… a singular set of stories that would define “Me”. To be able to “live anywhere,” “do anything,” and “be anyone” had become my emancipatory personal credo. Not surprisingly, I had laughed at Luis’s suggestion, but he was adamant. He said we were free to visit other places and build friendships, but we were not free to claim other lands and cultures as our own or appropriate them like “modernity” does for tourism and entertainment. He seemed to suggest that there was something essential about culture and place that served a deeper purpose, and that impulse needed to be respected.

Though opposed to that limiting point of view at that time, that conversation stayed in my mind, probably because I too had embarked subconsciously on a journey to recover my roots. I had turned my back on America and “progress”. I was to return to India, where I would, inevitably perhaps, soon grow disenchanted with urban life, seeing it as a pale shadow of the life I had consciously rejected in America. I would turn to rural Tamil Nadu for a sense of the authentic. And there I would attempt to rediscover and pick up the weave of broken ancestral strands.

It has taken me 20 years since then to finally understand Luis’s position and build an intellectual bridge between my position and his.

I have come to see that indeed everything is just a story that we tell ourselves, but some stories ring truer than others because they are our stories, they tell the tale of how we came to be born, how we are connected to our parents, and through them to their parents and to all those who came before them, and how that long chain of people is connected ultimately to this land, the stars, the Kula Devatas and the deeds and words that were passed on like precious jewels from mother to daughter, father to son. All other stories start to fade into inconsequence.

Central to this point of view is the understanding that if those precious words and deeds were not passed on and were not stewarded (often at great personal cost) by successive generations, then there would be nothing living to connect us with our ancestors, creating the equivalent of a still-birth for our personal life stories. This results in a rootlessness that has profound implications for our understanding of identity and purpose and ultimately for the well-being of both humans and the natural world.

This is the great schism between the two worldviews, the “Way of Maintenance” and the “Way of Experience”. The Way of Maintenance is the traditional way; it posits that culture is what defines our identities, and what we choose to do as individuals is just the tadka on top. The Way of Experience is the modern way, and it posits that what we choose to do is what defines our identities, and our cultures are merely the tadka on top. The Way of Maintenance is a responsibility-centric vision of human purpose, where our life experiences, in the service of tradition, lead to greater depth. The Way of Experience, on the other hand, is a desire-centric vision of human purpose. It surrenders the idea of responsibility to the Tech-State while urging people to explore “Life”. Such an exploration leads to a great breadth of shallow experience, but not to depth.

So, who are we then? Are we mere consuming individuals composed of multiple chains of carbon molecules as Economics and Science tell us? Does this hedonist-materialist description ring true? What if we were to stop for a minute and truly internalize this self-perception… how would we then behave? How would we understand morality, family, children, love, honour? In a purely material world what would be the basis to determine value? How would we place value on ancient, unspoken, positive human needs such as purpose, belonging, connection, love, participation, contribution, fulfilment, well-being? Why are those needs valued? To whom are those needs valuable? And, What is the nature of that being? It has become obvious in the modern world that we can’t and we don’t ask these questions. That is our hypocrisy. We want the fruits of the materialist worldview, but we think we can avoid bearing the true physical, emotional, and spiritual costs of such a worldview.

Take for example the ridiculous Happiness Index3, the announcement of which has become an annual farce. The countries that regularly rank at the top of this index also rank at the top of global anti-depressant4 usage. So, what does it even mean? Quantitative metrics have replaced qualitative metrics and we have started to define ourselves by access to a set of curated experiences provided by the Tech-State rather than by who and how we are. “Oh, you have access to a club with a swimming pool, then surely you must be happy”. “Oh, you have access to a hospital with MRI facilities, then surely you must be happy”. “Oh, you have access to a road without pot-holes, then surely you must be happy”. The sheer reductive nature of these suppositions shows us clearly the limitations of the materialist worldview that assumes that we can take apart an organic, complex, and dynamic system such as Culture and put it back together more efficiently using a set of mathematical rules.

Wendell Berry’s primal question remains as relevant as ever – “What are humans for?”

What is it that lends our lives meaning, that gives us connection and contentment?

“People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”
— Wendell Berry5

In the old world, it was the traditions (the manifest structures that held and supported abstract cultural values) that performed those tasks. They connected people backwards in time with their ancestors, forwards in time with their descendants, and sideways across geography with their community. In other words, traditions held us steady in the matrix of space-time. In the ocean of life, the traditions were a raft, the rituals were the poles, and our shraddha the rope that bound the poles together. Without that raft, we experienced a metaphorical drowning… a loss of meaning with profound emotional and physical consequences.

Modern cultural artifacts such as Hollywood movies or TV shows regularly explore this “drowning” theme, but instead on focusing on how to rediscover our cultural rafts, they cloak the “drowning” itself within a garb of romanticism. For example, in the stress-laden, depression-soaked, “un”-human worlds that they conjure up, the everyday normalcy of trusting another human being would be shown as the most heroic act one can possibly perform, or the act of having a baby or family would be depicted as some sort of holy grail rather than the absolutely normal and natural thing that it is in  traditional thinking. We are all familiar by now with the protagonist who chooses to remain human in an alien world, who maintains sanity in an insane world, or who shows love in a loveless world. None of these movies ever questions the baseline assumption that the world is inevitably alien, insane, or loveless. Twenty years ago, such movies were called dystopian (remember American Beauty?). Today, they are the norm, the accepted backdrop for all human-interest stories. Every generation severed from its cultural roots, takes us further and further into a world where rootlessness is normalized, and loss of meaning becomes the baseline human state. The sane begin to be seen as insane, the authentic as weak, and the rooted as alien. When most people are broken, they are no longer seen as broken. Instead, anyone who displays even a smidgeon of “wholeness” comes to be treated as a pitiable curiosity who has not experienced “real” life. People start to bond not over what connects them, but over the extent of their dysfunctions. The threads that have bound the world since the dawn of time have started to unravel, and our systems of law and governance, far from resisting this descent into chaos, are primed to incentivize that unravelment.

See a recent example – “Why a shortage of Mr Rights means single mothers hold the key to the falling birthrate6”. No family? No problem! The author advocates that the government must incentivize children growing up without their fathers. Sheer dystopian genius. In such a world, every band-aid for the now broken crystal we inherited from our ancestors must be seen, in due course, as more beautiful than the crystal itself. Because, how else would we rationalize the processes of modernity and the continued normalization of our personal dis-integrations?

And so, it comes to be that all attempts at nurturing the ancestral crystal or putting back together its broken pieces are labelled as either quaint or downright evil by the self-justifying intellectuals and artists of modernity. They say “tradition” must die because it is oppressive, that family must end because it is fascistic, and that civilization must fall because it is patriarchal. Instead, they celebrate as “freedom,” the depression, the addiction, the loneliness, the dis-connect, the dis-content, the mal-content, the in-human scale, the enslavement to corporations and the profit motive, the belittling of human purpose and spirituality and the actual cultural and physical suicide that modern life represents, as if all that was not oppressive, fascistic, and patriarchal.

We all come from divorce. This is an age of divorce. Things that belong together have been taken apart. And you can’t put it all back together again. What you can do, is the only thing that you can do. You take two things that ought to be together and you put them together. Two things! Not all things.”
— Wendell Berry7

Modernity is a deal. The entire contract can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power.
— Yuval Noah Harari8

The contentment of innumerable people can be destroyed in a generation by the withering touch of our (Western) civilisation; the local market is flooded by a production in quantity with which the responsible maker of art cannot compete; the vocational structure of society, with all its guild organisation and standards of workmanship, is undermined; the artist is robbed of his art and forced to find himself a “job”; until finally the ancient society is industrialised and reduced to the level of such societies as ours in which business takes precedence of life. Can one wonder that Western nations are feared and hated by other people, not alone for obvious political or economic reasons, but even more profoundly and instinctively for spiritual reasons?
— Ananda K. Coomaraswamy9

If we are not already at a point of no return, it is high time our systems of law and governance moved from an Ideal-Based Morality to an Outcome-Based Morality, where societal outcomes are judged as per actual cultural values that cater to authentic human needs of connection, contentment, beauty, and purpose. In other words, “law,” definitionally, must re-establish its ancient compact with the culture of the land over which it holds sway. Law cannot stand removed from the people, and it must not be allowed to bear first allegiance to reformist ideals instead of the people it is beholden to serve.

“What kind of world do we want our children to live in, and how do we get there?” are more important questions to ask and answer than blind participation in a check-box culture of ideals, outcomes be damned! Let us recognize that “liberty” lurks in Broken Families10, Loneliness11 and OnlyFans pages12; that “equality” lurks in drag queen story-hours13 and puberty blockers14; that “fraternity” lurks in NATO determined regime change15 and indigenous children’s graves16 in Canada. I’m sorry, but “No”. These may all be reasonable ideas (not ideals) and context-permitting they may be implemented as subordinate to higher values such as harmony, contentment, beauty, cultural coherence, and metaphysical meaning. I have explored the fork in this moral road here17.

Many modern Hindus do not connect these dots because they grew up in a traditional world. They already have their pockets full of meaning. Their parents, extended families, and grandparents still loom large in their consciousness. In other words, they can afford to turn their backs on “tradition” because the labors of their ancestors continue to subsidize their cultural profligacy. The question to ask such modern Hindus is – “Can they provide their children what their parents provided them, and their grandparents provided their parents?” If the answer is “No”, then their attitude is culturally (and genetically) unsustainable. This inter-generational attrition will lead to erosion and finally to extinction, both cultural (mimetic) and genetic. It is only when the old guard has passed and the old world has disappeared that we will realize the worth of all that we have taken for granted and that we can never hope to recover.


Tradition and Community

From an anthropological perspective, the idea and practice of “tradition” does not have a spiritual goal, though the Gods are an indelible part of it. The actual aim of tradition is communal. To repeat, tradition is that socio-cultural force that holds people together by connecting them vertically in time with their ancestors and descendants, and horizontally in space with their fellow traditionalists. Tradition literally holds and defines us in space-time.

So, any person speaking in favour of tradition must at once become aware that he is speaking in favour of those connections that it fosters — in other words “community” (of which “family” is a subset). Individuals, we know, can only have habits, and not traditions… it is only communities that have traditions.

Now, the minute one speaks in favour of community, one has to engage in a dialogue with its arch enemy, “individualism”*. Any person with a traditional bent of mind will see immediately that what one stands to lose with the loss of tradition (connection and meaning), is far more weighty than what one stands to gain by the wholesale adoption of individualism (autonomy and pleasure). And even though, in these modern times, we will accept a compromise between the two worlds, this realization of loss logically leads us, at the very least, to acknowledge the importance and perhaps superiority of community life. This is a fair beginning to make for any supporter of tradition. From this stage, we can start to view post-industrial human history as a tussle between the forces of “community” and “tradition” on one side and “individualism” and “modernity” on the other. This can be essentialized as a tussle between the forces of “identity” and “meaning” on the one side with the forces of “convenience” and “efficiency” on the other. Even the iconoclastic Abrahamic religions, which stood against tradition for so many centuries, are now forced to fight this fight18. In the face of the structures of Western modernity, they suddenly find themselves in the same boat they once put pagan cultures in – “Convert or Die”.

Once we recognize that community is rooted in tradition and individualism in modernity, a closer look at the structures of modernity brings us clarity on how it functions19, how it enables individualism and why it promotes individualism as a great value. More dangerous, from our point of view, is modernity’s Western origin with its Christian baggage of having to compulsorily save the world. This stance leads it to demonize its opponents and attempt to destroy them by all means at their disposal. This explains why modernity is not just pro-individualism which we could ignore, but actively anti-community and anti-tradition, which we cannot afford to ignore.

Western modernity came to Bharat with the spread and control of the East India Company and more urgently post-1857. It was accompanied by the wholesale conversion of our political elite into the creed of “Liberalism,” via the process of “Secularization”. What was done then, in the not-so-distant past, through direct colonization, continues today through schooling, academia, movies, regime change and NGO-led “social reform”.

Swami Vivekananda nailed it very early on”

“The child is taken to school, and the first thing he learns is that his father is a fool, the second thing that his grandfather is a lunatic, the third thing that all his teachers are hypocrites, the fourth, that all the sacred books are lies! …We have learnt only weakness.”20

“A single generation of English education suffices to break the threads of tradition and to create a nondescript and superficial being deprived of all roots—a sort of intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or the West, the past or the future. The greatest danger for India is the loss of her spiritual integrity. Of all Indian problems the educational is the most difficult and most tragic.”20

* Note: I don’t see the individual per se as being opposed to community. All people are individuals. The question is does the individual see himself as belonging to a community or to no one but himself (Individualism).


Sure, individualists may also claim to be religious and devout believers in God but their conception of both religion and God is vastly removed from the traditionalist’s conception of religion and the Gods. For the individualist, religion is personal and God exists merely as a mechanism by which he can self-rationalize his degeneracy – the “God made me this way” argument. For the traditionalist, the Gods exist as a mechanism of self-control and surrender – the “I will hold myself up to the standards set by the traditions so that my actions will please the Gods” point of view.


I have covered each step of this discussion in detail here:

The Cultural Logic of Tradition —

A Defence of Community —

The Moral Failure at the Heart of Individualism —

The Hidden (but terrifying) Structures that define Modernity and their implication for Community and Tradition —

The Mechanics of our Journey from the Dharmic Tree of Life to the Western Tech-State  —


The Communal Foundations of Liberty

So, for those willing to take the next step… for those who see that it is not possible to speak in favor of “tradition” without simultaneously speaking in favour of “community,” we have to understand that it is not a simple thing. Community is not mere neighborhood. Community is not that feeble word that is bandied about on American TV. Community is real, flesh and blood people you are connected to through birth, marriage, and shared tradition. It is the people who will be by your side when you are down and out, who will cry at your funeral, and who will take in your children if something were to happen to you. It is those people in whom you see a reflection of your ancestors… co-stewards of those precious inherited jewels.

Most people in the Western world have forgotten that such a thing ever existed. They are now in the grip of “social” security, city “services,” and child “care,” all of which are available upon submission of one’s sovereignty entirely unto the State. For those among us over whom “liberty” (in its original sense) still exerts a tug upon the heart, it becomes important to see that the individual has no liberty within the confines of the Tech-State. The modern surplus-driven cage may be golden, but it is still a cage. We have exchanged true liberty for the conveniences that the Tech-State has brought us — TV, internet, fridge, AC, and the three-weeks paid vacation.

So, is this it? Life?

We fail to see that as the convenience graph moves up to include surveillance, bio-manipulation, and so-called Artificial Intelligence, the liberty graph moves down, until pretty soon we find ourselves in an Orwellian zone (which, of course, is “for our own good”).

For the liberty-minded who get this, there is only one alternative to the Tech-State, and that is a revitalization of “Community” — a human-scale grouping of individuals whose ability to help each other creates a bubble in space-time where survival becomes possible, where camaraderie and contentment become possible, where a degree of autonomy becomes possible because even though we consciously sacrifice for the good of the whole, we are among brothers and sisters. And as I have said earlier — “Yes, we are yoked, but we are yoked not to corporations, advertisements, revolution, negative emotional roller-coaster rides, foreign cultural tropes and chemicals, but to the archetypes of our ancestors who gave us life, and the words and deeds of our sages who fill our lives with positive thoughts and constructive actions – this is integrity.” This is living with “tradition” and “community,” and in fact, the only true and responsible definition of “liberty”. A limited but authentic liberty set within the boundaries of responsibilities to our fellow-brothers and sisters.

Brings us to the Doorstep — What does this Mean for us Today?

Unfortunately for the West, in its great future-worship delusion, it has burned all its bridges with tradition and community. Today, the fringe of both the far-Left and the far-Right of Western society recognizes this deep structural problem at the heart of their culture and are attempting to course-correct by exiting mainstream capitalist society and establishing new intentional communities, either environmental (such as this26), Christian (such as this27), or New Age (such as this28). These communities, many founded by well-intentioned people, soon find they have nowhere to go, no template they can fit into, no fertile cultural earth they can still till that will bear fruit, where their children can find affirmation and belonging. They end up being islands in both time and space, separated from the lineage that birthed them, and unconnected to their neighbors. Inevitably, such groups start to define themselves by who they are not, rather than by who they are. And so, the cycle of rootlessness is passed on to the next generation, a kind of reactionary rootlessness. The documentary “Wild Wild Country” is probably the best study of how the attempt to “create community” ultimately implodes. Without the organic, historic, genetic, and cultural ties that actually bind people together, they will fall apart. As true solution-seekers, we must stop thinking in terms of decades, and return to considering centuries and millennia as the true test of the suitability of ideas.

In America, the far-Left, unable to escape its obsession with the idea of “Rights,” finds itself tied at the hip with Big Government, because only it has the wherewithal to uphold and enforce the idea of rights. The far-Right, on the other hand, unable to escape its obsession with the idea of “Autonomy,” finds itself tied at the hip with Big-Tech, because only it gives us the illusion of autonomy and control in this increasingly complex world. So, even though these two factions literally define themselves in opposition to the Modern State for entirely different reasons, they find that they are irretrievably bound with that very same universalist, centralizing, Tech-State because it gives them the things that they need most. This is the source of the deep inner contradictions that plague these factions. Their enemy is their oxygen! Big-tech, autonomy, big government and rights are all tied at the hip. We cannot have one without the other.

In India, such factions (whether social-work collectives, alternative schools, or neo-religious cults), display a similar kind of schizophrenia. They denounce capitalism but they continue to survive on subsidies distributed from within that very system. They dally with communism but fail to understand that the minute a true communist government was to come to power, they would immediately be shut down and packed off to some gulag factory. They rant and rail against Big Government but fail to understand that the very rights they so extol are fragile creations of capitalist surplus (they cannot exist outside of that surplus) and can only be upheld by a governmental structure that has its tentacles in every crevice of human society — something that they themselves would, ironically, find unacceptable. But most damagingly, they fail to see that they are able to live the rural, connected, and sometime beautiful lives they lead because they live among traditional Bharatiya communities which provide the warmth, context, and support necessary for them to feel human. If not for that traditional context, these intentional communities would simply be strangers in a strange land eventually succumbing to loneliness and in-fighting. They owe a debt of gratitude to Bharatiya hospitality and social structure that could adapt so easily to provide a space for them in their midst. Unfortunately, not only do they fail to see this obvious truth, they also fail to acknowledge the essential traditional nature of those communities. They choose not to belong in those communities by living aloof, and they fail to honor those communities by helping strengthen them in their traditionalism, working, instead, in cultural blindness, to undermine them with ham-handed attempts at “helping,” “educating,” “reforming,” and “teaching” them about “oppression” and rights. These anti-capitalist rebels, ironically, far from helping create an alternate model for living, end up becoming the sword arm of the Tech-State in remote parts of the country that were, until they arrived, relatively independent and self-sufficient!

As the Tech-State has grown in India with the spread of the Industrial Revolution, traditional communities have been broken down by a series of state-led technological and economic interventions. Common folk, hailing from communities which were remarkably autonomous till just a couple of generations ago, have become more and more tied to the State and to corporations for their livelihoods. This happened a hundred years ago in the USA and is happening in India right now, as we speak. It was in this context of growing state power that the idea of “Rights” was originally envisioned, to protect individuals from the excesses of the ubiquitous, impersonal State. Ironically today, the media arms of the Tech-State have us convinced that the idea of rights is not for our protection from the State, but rather for our protection from the last remaining vestiges of traditionalism (which are repackaged and sold to us as bastions of oppression). We are now taught to stand against our own grandparents. This has been one of the foremost master strokes of Tech-State duplicity.

The plain and irrefutable fact is that individuals don’t have traditions, only communities do. And communities are always, in the final estimate, birth-based. Even if we were to form new communities today, they will soon become birth-based. Children born in intentional communities or even in neo-religious cults end up marrying within the fold, creating new birth-based communities with new (albeit dilute and flimsy) traditions. The great advantage that we Hindus have over these Western and westernized “free radicals” is that we still have our tribes and cultural homes reasonably intact that we can return to and spruce up. We still have authentic thoughts to think and Gods to worship.

How will a world that is focused away from the toxins of Capitalism, Individualism, and irreverence look? What kind of social and metaphorical organization could form the scaffolding of a world focused on sustainability, community and reverence?


Sanatana Exceptionalism

The only remaining, and in fact most-successful, model for such a world is Sanatana Bharat. Sanatana society, though recovering from a thousand-year war, and under constant siege by the secular government suffering from deep coloniality, still continues to display the genius of its ancestral vision. Away from the twin Western poles of “Tribalism” and “Individualism,” Sanatana Bharat offers a third, ethical, humane path — that of the Purusha… the coming together of the tribes to create the one divine individual (the Purusha). This is the deep source of our diversity in unity — a phrase often used (in reverse), but seldom understood.

There can be no such thing as a “global village.” No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it.
— Wendell Berry29

Millennia before Wendell Berry put pen to paper, our rishis had intuited this human and humane truth. They consciously rejected both an unregulated, Papua-style pagan diversity, as well as a totally regulated Abrahamic-style unity. Instead, they created the unique vision of the Purusha, where the many come together in the divine form of the one Purusha. The observation that human society is constantly falling apart was not resisted but was built into the model. Jaati is the mechanism that allows for different points of view to co-exist, and that which gives us the framework to hold together the explosive entropic quality of human society. The more this quality is resisted, the more explosive society becomes. The more unity is sought, the more unethical become our actions in its pursuit (see European and Arabian history). While the rest of the world has engaged in constant ethnic and ideological warfare for millennia, it is only Sanatana Bharat that has avoided that fate, and there is only one reason for this miracle — Jaati. If this is not cause enough to celebrate our social structure, I don’t know what is.

Jaati served as a pressure valve (as seen above), gave us human-scale identity, professional monopolies, economic predictability, and therefore inter-community peace. If Jaati was the “yin,” a framework for containing the explosive urge to universalism, then Varna was the exact opposite, the “yang,” a framework for containing implosive urge to tribalism. Varna was the mechanism that helped us avoid internecine warfare by mapping the thousands of jaatis onto the one Purusha. It is the mechanism that took the many and made them one, and gave them purpose and nobility while simultaneously retaining their uniqueness. That was genius, the genius of a forest-based civilization that could say “Yes, we are all different trees but we make up one forest,” and “Yes, we are all different limbs, but we make up one body.”

Now imagine this two-dimensional mapping onto the Purusha drawn out in a third dimension where the sharp edges of the divisions start to blur – jaati becomes kula becomes sampradaaya becomes darshana becomes raashtra. This telescopic vision of our society was created by our rishis and maintained and tended to by our ancestors. This remarkable framework for division of human society in physical space while simultaneously providing the framework for their unity in metaphorical space has had its limitations in the face of external aggression and human ego, but there is no doubt, when it is compared with other civilizational systems, that it has been the most ethical system for human organization ever devised. It has helped us avoid tribal insularity, genocide, ethnocide, slavery, dictatorship, irreverence, fragility, and unsustainability. Every question we may have today about the human condition has already been asked… every answer, already given… the seers have seen deep into our hearts and the future.

We have a tendency, ever since our brush with Western Modernity, to think that open, universalizing systems (for example, Abrahamism and Modernity) are automatically more ethical than partially-closed, particularist systems (for example Paganism and Hinduism). Indeed, this has become the de-facto lens we use while analyzing (and inevitably denigrating) our own culture. But history shows us today in dazzling clarity that it was the universalist, open systems that enslaved Africans; that brought genocidal death to Native America and Bharat; colonialism to Asia and Holocaust to the Jews; that plunged the world into World Wars and eventually into the hundred million deaths of Communism. Today, under the shadow of capitalist unsustainability and rising de-spiritualized irreverence, we are careening towards an Orwellian world of mass surveillance and bio-manipulation. If the horror of Auschwitz could not shake us, if the poisoning of our food supply could not shake us, if Mao, Stalin, Pol-Pot, napalm and the nuke codes could not shake us, if COVID cannot shake us, if the terrifying possibility of the surveillance state and the bio-manipulative state cannot shake us from our slumber, then I don’t know what will.

Well-meaning anti-establishment people who see that there are problems but believe that the solution lies in some other form of open-ended universalism (New-Age, one world, one love, etc.) have not fully understood the root of the problems. The root of the matter is not Capitalism, it is what Capitalism represents — the anti-tradition, anti-community place where it comes from. If we are too afraid to point out that the root of Capitalism is Individualism, then we will never speak the truth, let alone act upon it. Individualism is the pursuit of the fatal idea that our freedom lies in the final severance of our bodies and minds from the connections we share with Bhu-Devi, Mother Earth, and our communities. From this utter absence of relationship-consciousness comes its callous destruction of everything our ancestors held dear. More damagingly, the origins of the cult of Individualism can ultimately be traced to the rise of Protestantism and “Humanism” in Europe30. The West has too much invested in these historical processes to set its house in order. It cannot introspect because doing so would call into question its very foundation. It will not introspect. The solution to our crises has to come from elsewhere, from a place that still understands “tradition” and “community,” and has the intellectual tools to steward inter-community dynamics. Unfortunately, that place, Sanatana Bharat, far from taking on a leadership role, is caught in a multi-level whirlpool of colonial self-hate.


A Visual Comparison of Civilizational Models

Where all my words have failed, perhaps a diagram will better capture Sanatana Exceptionalism and what it stands for at a deep, organizational level.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of any information in this article.

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Maragatham returned to Bharat after earning an engineering degree in the US. He moved to a farm in rural Madurai District. Working with rural communities in both farming and construction brought him face to face with the untruths of universalist Western education resulting in his conscious ghar wapsi to Dharma, Hinduism, and the ways of his ancestors. His self-published books include, “Light In The Forest: A Dharmic Landscape for Hindu Kids and their Parents,” and “It's Not For Nothing That We Stand For Something: Basic Intellectual Self-Defence for Hindu Parents”. He tweets at @bhoomiputraa, and writes under a pseudonym to protect his family from left-liberal attacks.