Indian Culture and Integral Humanism

via Dr M. P. Ajith Kumar Vice-President (Kerala Unit) College Adhyapaka Sangham published on April 8, 2015

Among the many ancient knowledge systems that guided humanity down the millennia the manual for man India developed proved outstanding and singularly perfect.  She developed coherence, a harmony of values resulting in a perfectly balanced world view. All inclusive was her outlook, versatility her hallmark and concordance her culture. “India is an epitome of the world”. This comment by the world’s most noted philosopher historian explains well India’s all comprehending culture that took to the inner most recess of its heart all the noble aspects of the world’s cultures, living as well as dead. India, Toynbee believed, is a living civilization whose vitality would enlighten the future humanity, contribute to human unity and strike a balance between the extremities of all kinds.

    In fact all the later thoughts on integral approach to man and universe developed in India were based exclusively on the ancient teachings that emanated from the above mentioned perfectly balanced world view that sourced off from the Vedic tradition. And the teachings of Integral Humanism as expounded by the modern Indian thinker, Deendayal Upadhyaya too could not be an exception. Better to say, Deendayal was the true representative of the Indian psyche, all imbibing, all comprehending and all encompassing that strove to bring in perfection, balance and the resultant beauty – Saundarya – which is synonym for God. The theory of Integral Humanism was based on the perfectly scientific idea of Creative Unity.

   Vasudhaivakutumbakam – the whole earth is one single family. The philosophy of Integral Humanism thus advocates the simultaneous and integrated programming of the body, mind, intellect and soul of every human being whom the Indian thought deems the incarnation of the ultimate entity, the God. It is a synthesis of the material and the spiritual, and the individual and the collective. Man is a perfect entity, a harmonious existence, multitudinous fused to one. All the seeming diversities harmonise in him into unity. Coherence is his underlying nature and unity his hallmark. Man is the Perfect Being, the earthly representation of the Ultimate being.

  This coherence or concord is well reflected in all the facets of India’s national culture. God has written on the brow of every nation a line that reads out its mission, opined Joseph Mazzini, philosopher of patriotism. Nations are born with a mission that God has inscribed “upon the cradle, the past life, the national idiom and physiognomy of each”, he said. To India, prove itself to be the epitome of the world by harmonising all the human values proved its historic mission. Sama=vaya e`va sa=dhu – concord alone is meritorious, India chanted down the lane of her long history.  

    India’s culture sees everything as the essential part of an integrated whole. All these seemingly different parts are in fact one and the same and hence the seeking of the unity underlying all. Interdependence, cooperation and concord rather than conflict, contradiction and discord are zeroed in on. India wishes the well being of all and upholds principle of integration as its hallmark.

  It is this spiritual philosophy that is seen expressed even in India’s social philosophy. Casting aside all the ideas of the inherent conflict between individual and society, India’s philosophy of humanity has it that society is the macrocosm and individual the microcosm. Individual is the society in miniature and society his larger edition and that the both are complementary. If to quote Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, “A flower is what it is because of its petals, and the worth of the petals lies in remaining with the flower and adding to its beauty”. Any destruction of individuality for the furtherance of the society would only leave the society stunted. They should not conflict but only complement.

 Man is the aggregate of body, mind, intellect and soul and the progress must therefore be all-round. Playing down one and exaggerating the other ones would maul the balance. Spirit and matter are compatible and co-existing. One cannot exist without the other. Man is, to quote India’s Master Poet Rabindra Nath Tagore, a “creature of the borderland”. Harmonious blend of material aspects, peace, enlightenment, and the feeling of identification with the ultimate truth of which all the creations are manifestations makes man happy as a social being. It is the identification or tada=tmatva with the entirety that makes life meaningful. This principle is further inlayed in the idea of purusha=rth/a. The balance among the four aspects – dharma, arth/a, ka=ma, mo=ksha –would enhance the twin objectives of life, individual advancement and social welfare. Arth/a and ka=ma are to be achieved only by following the principles of dharma which is of prime importance. dharma according to mi+mamsa is the performance of duty which benefits the soul. dharma is not a physical existent or a subject of sensual perception but manifestation of the supreme truth of which the knowledge is derived from Ve`da. Hence the mi+ma=msa viewpoint that the Self stands independently of and separate from body, senses and understanding. The body is only a means to an end i.e. to serve the soul which directs it. But this does not negate the importance of the body, it being the seat of the soul. After all in Indian thought both the body and soul were of importance. Spirit and matter coexisted and cooperated to bring out the ultimate Unity. The concept of dead matter as seen in Classical physics did not occur in Indian thought. Both were looked as seats of the infinite energy, or s`akti and hence the chant c/its`aktis`c/e`tana=ru=pa jad/as`aktijjad/a=tmika. Therefore the ultimate dh/arma or the divine has its reflection in human plain in the form of right living. What provides one with the ultimate happiness alone is dh/arma and is expected to bring about order, and the action resulting in loss or pain or disorder is not dh/arma. And it is to tune human activity in line with principles of the ultimate dh/arma that the dh/armas`a=stra originated. It is to be noted that the Vedic injunctions lay down details of dh/arma i.e., good actions to be followed as prescribed by Ve`da and all the sruti literature including Upanishads and Gi+ta.

   Dharma thus means those eternal principles which sustain an entity – individual and corporate in its achieving material prosperity and spiritual salvation. It is indeed the set of eternal principles for a changing society. Circumstances, time and place may change, but the dh/arma of an individual would not though different are the dharma of different individuals. It is his duty to see his dh/arma compulsorily observed and leave others to do their dh/arma. Because interfering with others’ dharma is against the principle of dh/arma, says the Bhagavad Gi+ta. (svadh/arme` nidh/anam sre`ya paradh/armo= bhaya=paha Gi+ta.III.35). A life system thus based on the principles of dharma integrates all aspects into a good living.

   But it is not that the arth/a or economic aspect is to be overlooked. In fact in the mundane existence nothing looms important like money which decides the material status of man. Property gives the individual a sense of dignity, security and satisfaction. But the question is with the kind of property ownership. Some subscribe to the idea of trusteeship, that the property belongs to God and that man is only a trustee. (te`na tyakte`na bhu=nji+th/a ma= gruth/a kasya=svidh/anam. s`a=ntipa=t/ha of i+s`a=va=syo=panishad) This is a commendable philosophy, but subject to the regulations and limitations regarding the trustee’s conducts which must be flexible in accordance with change in time and place. Economic theories, whatever they are, should aim the all-round progress of man in company of the entirety.  (Explain the non-difference between Capitalism and Socialist economies, Fascism and Marxism, non-existence of Surplus Value, Corporate etc. What we call scientific socialism is unscientific. Man is neglected in the both)

 The philosophy further has it that even when the rules of the trusteeship are violated still the enjoyment of wealth by all is feasible through the decentralisation of economy.  Here the wealth would not be concentrated in the hands of a few as in case of both capitalist and socialist systems. Production units like industries, small trades and farms would be in the hands of individuals, co-operatives and families. After all India’s economy is dependent on villages in which every family is a production unit. It is this village economy that is to be boosted up, Pandit Deendayal believed like Mahatma Gandhi.

    But state is not the supreme, it being only a temporal adjustment to see to it that the individual-nation relationship works. Nation which according to the Vedic view is self-effulgent – ra=jadi+ptau – is supreme, the divine. Nation soul is the collective soul of the individuals, the former the parama=tma and latter the ji+va=tma. A state or any like arrangement should be for the full growth of the individual. Not an end in itself but a means for the complete exposure of the infinite potential latent in man, the duty of the state is to eternally end itself up to enlighten the individual soul for the light of the collective. That the individual is just a granule on the body of the mechanism called state and is bound to die for it or turn oneself fuel to run a heartless machine, an ideology found common in Fascist Corporate State or the Communist state theory, is something the world has shunned long ago. What was in contradiction to the basic dharma the Nation Soul nurtured, the nation used to reject. Even the constitution of a state itself “has to follow certain principles of Nature”. For, it is for sustaining the Nation. Any constitution that impedes the growth of the nation is improper, and hence the need to amend it in line with the dharma and tradition of the nation concerned. According to Deendayal Upadhyaya even federalism would do away with the national integration. Therefore he favoured the unitary constitution instead of the federal one (Document drafted by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya and adopted by Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh in its meeting at Vijayawada from 23rd to 25th January, 1965). Even change in governments would not undo the national culture. Down the millennia India did not give importance to states which came up and withdrew. Her history is replete with the emergence of different state systems, including those of the foreign conquerors, all to stoop one after the other. But the nation i.e. the Bharat with its perpetual cultural undercurrent continued to keep its ebb and flow and is still alive. Our nation is eternal, incarnation of the infinite, the one that never ends – ananta.     

 “Nation is para=s`akthi [supreme energy] concealed in geographical entity”, opined Sri Aurobindo. According to him “Nation is a persistent psychological unit which nature has been busy developing throughout the world in the most various forms and educating into the physical and political unity… Nationalism is an avata=r or incarnation and cannot be slain. Nationalism is a divinely appointed s`akti of the eternal and must do its god-given work before it returns to the bosom of the universal energy whence it came”. The nation is divine with its indwelling soul – the nation soul, the c/iti. Like the soul indwells a body so also the collective soul a nation.

   Nation is the collective psyche in which the individual-national relation is like the micro-macrocosmic kinship. This clearly reveals the integral relation between the two complementary poles of the very same entity. It was in fact this integral approach that maintained the vitality of Indian culture down the millennia. But many nations and cultures of the past perished to withdraw from the screen of history even though their people lived together in certain pieces of land. Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya quotes the case of the Jews as an exception. The Jews, he says, lived down the lane of history in different places far away from their homeland. They never lived packed in particular spot. But their feeling of oneness and kinship based on their common culture helped them stand the onslaughts from the many adverse forces. The case of India excels all the like examples.

    What made India stand the vicissitudes of time and tension that had completely done away many coeval cultures? Definitely it was India’s idea of integration, all comprehending nature, her readiness to imbibe the noble aspects and bring about coherence to give the final touch to the culture of humanity. Greece was an aesthetic culture with its tendency to glorify and enjoy everything beautiful notwithstanding whatever defect what it deemed beautiful had. Discipline, shape, size and what not, the Greeks would ignore. Only beauty they were particular about. Hence the aesthetic nature of the Greek Culture, opined Indian Seer Sri Aurobindo. Ancient Rome, Aurobindo says, ran in contrast. Beauty the Romans discarded, and zeroed in more on the ethical aspects of life than anything. Enjoyment of beauty gave way to ethics and disciplines of life. A strong and muzzled body was preferred to the beautiful. They never thought of any beauty attainable through the discipline like the Greeks who didn’t have any idea about the discipline leading to a higher beauty. Beauty and discipline thus had run parallel, never to make their rendezvous in a creative unity. But India’s culture is aesthetics and ethics combined. She harmonized both discipline and beauty, making the former a means to realize the latter. Down the millennia she was disciplining life to realize the ultimate beauty which if to quote the poet “is a joy forever”. Her eternal tapas or discipline leads her to the ultimate Beauty or saundarya which is another synonym for God.  She is both ethics and aesthetics perfectly mixed with superb finish as if in a music that combines sruti and laya to make its notes dulcet. It is this harmonising nature of India which perpetuated the mission of forging unity out of diversity that made her sojourn the eons even as many ancient cultures breathed their last. Hence India’s credit that made her claim the place, if to quote Arnold Toynbee, of the living civilisation in history.

   After all the very philosophy of India, the very core of all Indian teachings is the truth of Oneness, that all beings are the emanations of the one single invisible reality, the Brahman – the ever growing, ever expanding entity. Brahman is the undifferentiated consciousness (akhand/abo=dh/asatta) which, splitting itself, expresses as many. In the eternal phenomenon of creation, the scriptures say, the universal or cosmic intelligence divides itself into the many so that manifoldness appears.

                      so=ka=ma=yata. bahusya=m praja=ye=ye=ti.

                      so=tapo=tapyata. sa tapastapa tva=m idam sarva masrujata

                      yadidam kimcha tat srusht/va= tade`va=nupra=vis`at.

                     (Taittiri+ya Upanishad. 6.)

The universal soul desired to be born into the many. It sank into a long meditation. Out of the energy thus acquired it created everything and entered into all creations pervading them with itself.

Brahman or the consciousness lying at the heart of the cosmos is the highest harmonizing force. In fact the destiny of the world itself is the result of synchronicity worked out by this universal consciousness or non-local intelligence. Thus sums up Dr. Deepak Chopra:

The final stage of living synchrodestiny occurs when you become fully aware of the interrelatedness of all things, how each affects the next, how they are … “in synchrony”, which means operating in unison, as one. Picture a school of fish swimming in one direction, and then in a flash, all the fish change direction. The fish don’t think, “The fish in front of me turned left, so I should turn left”. It all happens simultaneously. This synchrony is choreographed by a great, pervasive intelligence that lies at the heart of nature, and is manifest in each of us through what we call the soul. (Deepak Chopra, Synchro Destiny, Landon, 2005, pp. 27, 28.)

The relation as well as the difference between the local and non-local minds or the plural and singular consciousness is thus well explained by Schrödinger:

From the early great Upanishads the recognition ATMAN=BRAHMAN upheld (the personal self equals the omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta … was really to assimilate in their minds this grandest of all thoughts … To Western ideology the thought has remained a stranger … Consciousness is never experienced in the plural, only in the singular. (Erwin Schrödinger, What is Life, Dublin, 1944, Epilogue.)

Consciousness multiplies to manifest into the universe of differences where to quote Schrödinger it “finds itself immediately connected with, and depends on, the physical state of a limited region of matter, the body”. Following the Vedantic lines, he compares the world with a dream wherein mind dons several roles. In a feast, for instance, enjoyed in dream, mind becomes three-in-one i.e. the food enjoyed, the enjoyer and the process of enjoyment, all that vanish while waking up. Dream is the half-conscious mood wherein mind gets multiplied and acts as the many. Sankara’s ma=ya=va=da, says that life itself is a dream the soul or atman falls into from the state of undifferentiated consciousness, the Brahman. If this is so, the atman which is Brahman split is bound to return to the totality just as the dreaming mind returns to the wakened mood. The Atman-Brahman evolution and involution, according to Ve`da=nta, thus determines the infinite process of creation. It is the reality of monism which stands above and beneath all the pluralities. “The only possible alternative”, as Schrödinger points out, is simply to keep to the experience that consciousness is singular and that “there is only one thing and even in that what seems to be a plurality is merely a series of different personality aspects of this one thing, produced by a deception (the Indian MAYA), the same illusion … produced in a gallery of mirrors and in the same way Gaurisankar and Mt Everest turned out to be the same peak seen from different valleys”. (Schrödinger, What is life?, Epilogue) Schrödinger continues:

You may suddenly come to see, in a flash, the profound righteousness of the basic conviction in Vedanta; it is not possible that this unity of knowledge, feeling and choice which you call your own should have sprung into being from nothingness at a given moment not so long ago; rather this knowledge, feeling and choice are essentially eternal and unchangeable and numerically one in all men, nay in all sensitive beings … This life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is in a certain sense the whole … This as we know, is what the Brahmins express in that sacred, mystic formula which is yet really so simple and so clear: Tat tvam asi, this is you. Or, again, in such words as ‘I am in the east and in the west, I am below and above, I am this whole world. (Erwin Schrödinger, My View of the World, Connecticut, 1983, pp. 21-22)

He further writes:

To divide or multiply consciousness is something meaningless. In all the world, there is no kind of framework within which we can find consciousness in the plural; this is simply something we construct because of the spatio-temporal plurality of individuals, but it is a false construction. Because of it, all philosophy succumbs again and again to the hopeless conflict between the theoretically unavoidable acceptance of Berkeleian idealism and its complete uselessness for understanding the real world. The only solution to this conflict, in so far as any is available to us at all, lies in the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads. (Schrödinger, My View of the World, p. 31)              

The consciousness both physics and metaphysics say, is undifferentiated or akhand/a.  It is the great zero, the pu=jya or the revered one. It is to this worshipful infinite or the undifferentiated consciousness all beings seek to return, to find bliss (a=nanda) in a final creative unity. Cosmos was to Indians not merely a subject of study, but something they were the inseparable parts of. It was to them the path they walked to the ultimate enlightenment or the wisdom of supreme light. The very nomenclature Bha=rat, meaning one who finds enjoyment (rasa) in bha=sa or supreme light or wisdom is of much significance. Light was the symbol of the supreme wisdom or consciousness the seekers were after. Hence the exhortation of the Gita to seek asylum in bo=dh/a or the undifferentiated consciousness through selfless action since any action instigated by selfishness or desire would be mean. Because the temporal selfishness based on ego, a product of split consciousness runs in contrast to the idea of non-ego emanating from the awareness regarding the all pervading impersonal or super personal content which the Vedas call Brahman, a=nanda, bo=dh/a etc. Therefore the Gita’s direction to seek asylum in the cosmic consciousness:

        buddhau s`aran/amanvis`chha krupan/a= phalahe`tava (Gita. II. 49)

or the Buddhist prayer:

                               buddh/am s`aran/am gachha=mi

                   (I take asylum in the ultimate consciousness.)

The word brahman could thus meticulously be interpreted as that which grows or expands. Brahman is the cosmic energy that expands and contracts. Swami Vivekananda clarifies this idea as follows:

What is the most evolved notion that man has of this universe? It is intelligence, the adjustment of part to part, the display of intelligence, of which the ancient design theory was an attempt at expression. The beginning was, therefore, intelligence. At the beginning that intelligence becomes involved, and in the end that intelligence gets evolved. The sum total of the intelligence displayed in the universe must, therefore, be the involved universal intelligence unfolding itself. This universal intelligence is what we call God. Call it by any other name, it is absolutely certain that in the beginning there is that Infinite cosmic intelligence.  This cosmic intelligence gets involved, and it manifests, evolves itself, until it becomes the perfect man, the “Christ-man”, the “Buddha-man”. Then it goes back to its own source. (Complete works, Vol. II, 209-210)

It was this idea of the basic oneness that was seen reflected in all the facets of Indian life. India experienced the divinity within her in everything. She saw herself in all others and all in herself. She developed coherence at all levels of life. India’s social, cultural, spiritual and educational visions were concord centred. Discord was never in her thought or national life. Integration rather than disintegration was her byword. It all centred on man or mankind as a whole rather than a particular man. All are the ji+va=tmas of the same parama=tma=, and she down the millennia felt this divine fraternity.  

Her religion – dh/arma was motivated by the principle of making human life perfect. Man making was her mission and turning the life divine was its end. In fact in all the faculties of thought India developed, man was of prime importance. On the incubator of her thought was always a religion or dh/arma of humanity. The entire nature was the ground for man’s sadh/ana or preparation for the higher life. India’s religion of man helped him attain the supra rational beauty or the God within himself. The religion of humanity India developed down the millennia has it that man must be worshiped as God is. It aims at discovering and acknowledging the inherent divine potency and intrinsic superiority of man. Summing up India’s religion of man Sri Aurobindo wrote: Man must be sacred to man regardless of all distinction of race, creed, colour, nationality, status, political or social advancement. The body of man is to be respected, made immune from violence of outrage, fortified by science against disease or preventable death. The life of man is to be held sacred also, given scope, protected from violations, from suppression, from mechanisation, from belittling influences. The mind of man is to be released from all bonds, allowed freedom and range and opportunity, given all its means of self-training and self-development and organised in the play, of its powers for the service of humanity. And all this too is not to be held as an abstract or pious sentiment but be given full and practical recognition in the presence of men and nations and mankind. This speaking largely is the idea and spirit of the intellectual religion of humanity. This is the reflection of a nation’s aspiration to elevate man into godhood and the whole earth to the kingdom of heaven or to quote Mahayogi Sri Aurobindo once again, “to raise the world to God in deathless light, to bring God to the world on earth we come, to change the earthly life into life divine”. This is the religion of India that stands above all fetters, limitations and confinements of creed, group or narrow minded nationalism.

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