Evolutionary vs. Revolutionary
Belief systems in the world can clearly be classified into 3 kinds.
First , are the pagan practices like Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Babylonian et al. These were eclectic and evolutionary religions with many layers and differences. Of all these evolutionary religions, none exist today.
Then came the second layer of religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These religions had an individual agent of change – and these religions trace their birth, growth and existence to that one individual (and his followers). These were reform religions – a response to oppression and exploitation in the respective societies. I am not including Zoroastrianism and Baha’i religions as these have minor followings (mostly in India).
Third is the dharmic system of India. Unlike the Desert Bloc, India did not have religions. What the West recognizes as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism are non-unitary systems. Jains recognize 24 Tirthankaras and the Buddhists have more than a 100 Bodhisattva. These more than 100 preachers were at the forefront of anti-slavery crusade between 2000BC and 500BC. Indic rulers (like The Hittites, Mittanis and the Elamites) confronted and had to compete with slave owning Asura societies – especially in the Middle East.
Historically, India had no religions. Modern religions are a construct of the Middle East – and given birth to the 3 major religions of the world. Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In India, the belief structure centres around Dharma – धर्म.
The difference between dharma and religion? Major!
For one, religion is about worship. There are many other differences also – in method of worship (how you worship), object of worship (what you worship), frequency of worship (e.g. every Sabbath; five times a day), language of worship (what you say, in which language), etc.
The cornerstones of modern religions from the Desert Bloc are One God, One Book, One Holy Day, One Prophet (Messiah), One Race, One People, One Country, One Authority, One Law, One Currency, One Set of Festival are the root of most problems in the world. From this Oneness, we get the One Currency, One Language logic – a fallacious syllogism. Once you accept One, you will accept all others.
Indian worship practices are infinite. Even non-worship to is acceptable – for instance, the Charvaka school of Indian philosophy was atheistic and did not prescribe worship. Structure and deviation from worship practices are a non-issue in Indian dharmic structure. Dharma has no equivalent in the ‘Desert Bloc’ vocabulary of religions. Dharma is the path of righteousness, defined by a matrix of the contextual, existential, moral, pragmatic, professional, position, etc. Dharma is more than moral and ethics.
The really big difference is the holy books – Judaism, Christianity and Islam have one Holy Book each. No deviations. Indian dharma tradition has thousands which are more than 1000 years old – at last count.
The Desert Religions
Judaism, Christianity, Islam were all born within 500 miles of each other and share a common culture and history. Judaism can be said to have been born when Moses led the Hebrew slaves from the Pharoah (across the Red Sea) – to ‘freedom’, that is ‘free’ to enslave other peoples. This possibly happened around 500 BC at the latest to 1500 BC at the earliest. His earliest followers were the Hebrews and they were a significant part of the Middle Eastern history all through till today. The very same Hebrews and Jews continued with slavery.
The next major religious reformer in the Middle East was Jesus Christ. For the first 300 years, Roman slaves were the major believers in his teachings. Emperor Constantine earned the loyalty of his Christian troops and won the war for Roman throne by his win over Maxentius at Milvan Bridge. Prior to Maxentius, for the previous 30-40 years, Christians had been persecuted by “rule of four’ Tetrarchy reformists in Rome, headed by Diocletan. Hence, the Christian slave soldiers of Constantine were eager for victory – as the persecution under Maxentius would have been worse. Yet the biggest users of slaves in history has been the Western Christian world – especially from 1500-1900.
Liberated slaves were the founders and rulers of Islamic dynasties, (in India, the Slave dynasty – builders of Qutub minar). Thus all the three “desert religions” were first adopted by the slaves and only after gaining significant numbers of adherents, these religions became mainstream and commenced militant proselytising, conversions – and enslavement.
Slave Religions Promote Slavery
The 3 ‘desert religions’ instead of reforming slave societies, just enabled the transfer of slave titles. Freedom meant old slaves became the new slave masters. Slavery (capture, kidnap, sequestration, transport, trade and transfer, re-capture of human beings) continued in the “desert bloc” till the 20th century.
When the followers of Mani (a teacher of Buddhist and Christian teachings) were encouraging the slaves to revolt and declare themselves free, administrators of the teachings of the “Lord of lords, and King of kings.” (Revelation 17: 14) at the Council Of Gangra, 325 AD, approved of slavery. Arabs slave traders were active in Congo – till they were replaced by Europeans.
Whats Going On Here
‘Caste systems’ (by different names) are prevalent all over the world, in all societies, based on colour, race, income, wealth, education, social status, political position, et al. Most such ‘caste systems’ have no force of the state behind it or are legal. They are the burakumin in Japan today and the African Americans in Europe and USA.
The most ‘respected’ caste system is the British nobility which exists even today – a caste system, approved by law. In India, colonial administration encouraged and increased divisions within society.
In order to ‘whitewash’ their own ‘dark’ history, the West is now (speciously) equating the Indian caste system with slavery. In 1919, under the Treaty Of Versailles, Western Nations set up the ILO – along with the League Of Nations. Post WW2, it was co-opted as a specialized agency of the UN in 1946. Western propaganda efforts using the ILO, have seen some success. This leading light of Dalit Christians blindly accepts Western propaganda that slavery was abolished 200 years ago in the West – and casteism is equal to slavery!
Slavery (capture, kidnap, sequestration, transport, trade and transfer, re-capture of human beings) continued in the “desert bloc” till the 20th century with the legal backing and the full might of the of the State.
In Indic territories, slavery was an inherited institution – and last seen in the Hittite rule around 1000BC. There is no record of sale and purchase of human beings in the last 3000 years in the Indic Bloc. Faced with West Asian reluctance to give up slavery, Indo Aryan rulers disengaged politically from West Asia and Middle East from around 1000 BC. Possibly, the slave revolt of Egypt by Moses itself was a result of the liberalising laws of the Hittites. Hence the fade out of the Indic rule from the Middle East – but the continuation of Buddhist influences, trade and peoples contact.
Competing With Slave Societies
After the slave revolts in the Middle East, India spearheaded major anti-slavery movements – like Buddhism Manicheanism, etc. More than a 100 Bodhisatvas and 24 Jain Tirthankaras were major figures in India’s anti-slavery reforms in the Middle East. Modern history, influenced by Western historiography, recognizes only the “ahimsa twins” – Gautama Buddha and Vardhamana Mahavira. Both of these were princes of royal blood – Prince Siddharth and Prince Mahavira.
Their first adherents were the rulers and their methods of proselytising was also aimed at the ruling class. Ashoka, The Great, sent missions with his daughter Sanghamitra to Sri Lanka – where Buddhism was established.
Guru Nanak Dev came from from the upper caste family and his focus was to end feuding on the basis of caste and creed. His first converts were from upper class families – cutting across religions (hence the opposition from some of the Mughal Kings).
Gandhiji was from the upper caste and the first item on his reform agenda was end to the “bhangis” carrying faecal refuse on their heads. His initial focus was social reform and less of anti-British activities.
Yet, from the time of Hittites to now, for 4000 years, Indic culture did not accept slavery.
The Two Halfs
There is a major difference in the Indic reform idiom compared to the Desert Bloc. Half the world today follows Indic dharmic systems and culture. The other half follows the “desert religions”. Our future lies in understanding both the halves. The development trajectories of these two halves has been significantly different. The motivations, behavioural and acceptable civilizational norms for these blocs are different – and mostly opposite.
Do we understand this adequately?