© 2014 Prof. Farok J. Contractor, Rutgers University
*An expanded version of this article was published in the June 21, 2014 edition of Parsiana—International Zoroastrian Community Magazine as a “Comment” under the title “What drives Narendra Modi? Hindu reformist Swami Vivekananda’s ideals and Chinese traveller Hsuan Tsang have helped to shape the new Prime Minister’s worldview.” Click here for the PDF: What Drives Narendra Modi_Parsiana_2014-06-21. This briefer version appears here with permission of the editor.
Many consider Modi’s background with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to indicate that he believes in the primacy of Hindus and Hindu culture and the suppression of minorities. Many still look back in horror at the Godhra riots in 2002, when more than a thousand persons—a majority of whom were Muslims—died in intercommunity violence. However, a closer examination of Modi’s philosophical and cultural motivators would suggest a more inclusive worldview. On entering Narendra Modi’s home or office, visitors are struck by bare, unadorned walls—except for pictures of Swami Vivekananda and some gurus—and Spartan living quarters. Modi’s office and desk are also reported as being sparse and uncluttered, a sign, some say, of mental discipline and executive dispatch.Two salient influences seem to have shaped the worldview and career of the Prime Minister of India: (1) the teachings of the 19th-century Swami Vivekananda and (2) being the product of a Gujarati caste with millennia of commercial experience and historic links to the Silk Road and international trade, exemplified by the travels of 7th-century Chinese Buddhist monk and scholar Hsuan Tsang. … CONTINUED ON ARCHIVE