Expropriation

Ever since the West’s first contact with Eastern civilization, it has been grim tale of marauding conquests, imperialism, and expropriation of knowledge. Tremendous amount of knowledge was expropriated from two very large civilizations, India and China, in areas of schools of thought (the different schools of logic, grammar, philosophy, psychology, epistemology, metaphysics, mathematics,..) and technologies (in areas of textile, steel, ship building, dye, medicine, economics, accounting…).

Philosophy

The various schools of Hindu thought alone were so advanced that it dramatically influenced almost all of great Western thinkers between the 14th-19th century. There legions of Europeans in India translating and taking back knowledge to Europe, where it was scrubbed, sanitized, and re-branded (just as Islamic scholars had done before the advent of Europeans). Many of these were not merely “influences”, but outright plagiarism. Just because you spent years studying Indian languages (like Sanskrit, Tamil, etc), translate it into English, and rebrand it using Western names, does not make it a product of Western civilization.

Maths

The media and academics always showcases the West’s contribution to world civilizations. Little is known for example, that much of mathematics (see Mathematics) were known at least 2-3 centuries before Greek civilization, in both India and China (independently), and were heavily used in their applied sciences and technologies (architecture, astronomy, navigation, ship building, etc). Over time things are being acknowledged and credit is being given where due.

I remember one Chinese colleague, to whom I asked the question, “what does he think about China taking knowledge from the West?” His reply was very strong “I don’t give a damn what the West thinks, as the West has stolen tremendous knowledge from China and presents it as their “discovery”, so its now our turn”. There is  nothing wrong in sharing knowledge. What is wrong is when you steal the knowledge and call it your own idea or invention.

Hinduism

In American school books for example (even in progressive states like California), in the study of “Hinduism”, not one word is mentioned of Hindu’s contribution in terms of yoga, mathematics, grammar, ayurveda, or its richness in culture, diversity, plurality, or its many schools of philosophy. Not one word is mentioned about Vivekananda for example who spent much of his life bringing concepts of meditation, yoga, spirituality over religion, and pluralism into the reach of the West — all of which were alien concepts to the West back then.

One reason for this might be that Hindu culture has never been proselytizing in nature. In contrast, Christian and Islam have had over a century of experience in proselytizing and hence brand-name marketing. To put it in perspective, if all the diversity you see in India (spiritual sciences, classical music, classical dance, arts, philosophy, metaphysics, classical literature, etc) were native to the Christian culture, they would have done far better job of marketing than Hindus (like the West has done so successfully with the Yoga). Christianity goes further by not just marketing, but in re-branding anything that they see as a threat (while at the same time branding the source as heathens needing to be “saved”).

Bio-piracy

For example, there has been a flurry of patent activity by Western companies on Indian medicinal plants. After the knowledge is stolen, repackaged, and re-branded (as their “discovery/invention”)… what is worse is that it is pushed back onto the native culture in the form of drugs, and go to even further, by branding anyone practicing ancient Hindu medicine as “witch doctors”.

FYI, this was done before also in Europe, when Christianity turned the pagan wise men and women of Europe known as wiccans (“the wise ones”) into “witches”. Wiccans were spiritual practitioners and medicine men dwelling forests (similar to the Siddhas and Rishis of Hindu culture). The women spiritualists were treated as heretics and often burned alive. We all know the grim history of this period. But what we don’t know is the amount of knowledge expropriated from them, and the amount of propaganda to almost permanently discredit them (till the 21st century, thanks to the information age, this is all coming out).

An example of every day medicine expropriated from Wiccan culture is Aspirin. In ancient Europe when people had headaches or fever, they’d go to the forest to get treatment from Wiccan doctors. The Wiccan doctor would give them water boiled in a wooden pot made of willow bark — contains methyl salicylate, which in turn becomes salicylic acid — which is aspirin. This made it difficult for Christianity: either your loyalty is 100% to the church or you’re a heathen. So the Christians invented propaganda in the form of stories to malign and discredit the Wiccans (the wise ones) like Hansel and Gretel, stories about witches, possession, the devil, etc. Repeated enough to children they grow up to repeat to their children… pretty soon there are no Wiccans or “wise ones” in the forest, but only “witches”, forcing you to run to the Church if your need healing, not to the Wiccans.

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