On the Value of Constructive Approach to Synthesis
This article is intended as an attendant to the recently posted historical, literary and philosophical review of the English wording of Prout (PDF 1 mb).
By Trond Øverland
The short and long of any theory is whether the practical application of it will make the world a better place – for all, for many, or for some. Or, should we only conclude that theoretical goals may justify any means, and hope for the best, in which case the theory may not be good at all?
"Prout's approach to regulation of the mental and spiritual is not about limiting on principle, but about maximum utilization and practical rationality."
The revolutionary theory of Prout does not make for such careless approach. Shrii Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar’s theory of progressive utilization carefully considers:
- The limited supply of physical resources;
- The limitlessness of psychic and spiritual resources;
- The proper utilization and rational distribution of the those resources;
- The proper adjustment amongst those utilizations, and
- Variances over time, from place to place, and from human to human and society to society, of the same.
Prout’s first fundamental principle1 ends the current marketplace thieving, stealing and robbing (effected through stock exchanges, banks, etc.) of private and public wealth. The remaining four principles focus on the proper utilization and rational distribution of all sorts of potentialities and resources – physical, mental and spiritual.
The aim of Prout is the good and happiness of all. For its complete realization, Shrii Sarkar supplied numerous substantiating resources, such as the theory of dynamic balanced development (Prama), the spiritual-ecological philosophy of Neohumanism, political theory (including Samaj, world government, and the theory of the social cycle and Sadvipra leadership), economic theory (including concepts of and practical programs for economic democracy, decentralized economy, and cooperative industry), theories of progress, revolution, ideology, and of theories, and several other progressive-minded concepts and practical approaches.
Above and beyond theory, Prout deems practical spirituality to be pivotal to individual and societal success. As the spiritual is all-pervading, all-encompassing and universal it is key to both individual and collective all-round development.
"In this socio-economic set-up people are at full liberty in the spiritual and mental spheres. This is possible because the spiritual and psychic entities for which people can aspire are themselves unlimited, and the extent of possession in this sphere does not hamper the progress of others in their quests. But the supply in the physical sphere is limited, and hence any effort for disproportionate or unrestricted acquisition of physical objects has every possibility of creating a vast majority of have-not's, and thus hampering the spiritual, mental and physical growth of the larger majority. So, while dealing with the problem of individual liberty, it must be kept in view that individual liberty in the physical sphere must not be allowed to cross a limit where it is instrumental in hampering the development of the complete personality of human beings; and, at the same time, must not be so drastically curtailed that the spiritual, mental and physical growths of human beings are hampered."2
Shrii Sarkar determined:
“There is in the living being a thirst for limitlessness.”3
“Human beings have a limitless thirst. They keep on harping ceaselessly, “I am hungry.” The hunger for a thousand will change into hunger for a hundred thousand (lakh), and the hunger for a hundred thousand will make room for hunger for ten million (crore). Thus, the amount of hunger goes on increasing until a limitless amount of money is attained. This limitlessness is inherent in the Supreme Being (Brahma), and so your hunger can be satiated in the Supreme Being alone.”4
Any human being is aware of his or her life thirst. For some, life is mostly about the physical. Others live more of a mental life. A few are spiritualists. Whatever our constitutional makeup, we have this much in common: Hitherto we have made a gigantic mess of it! Instead of cooperating in a united effort to realize the life goals of all, societies and the entire world are veritable hells of robbery, fighting, and shedding of human responsibility. Everywhere we witness indescribable forms of suffering and fear. In short, what we call society today is characterized by negative analytical approaches serving egotism, dogma, and materialism.
"The world and each one of us either regress or progress; there is no alternative. Therefore, Prout pays attention to the existential movement of both individuals and society."
Analysis and synthesis
When approaching any problem or issue, one of two possible avenues open up to us: analysis or synthesis. Due to its manifest crudity, the physical world invites analytical processes to a greater degree. This is so because the physical is limited and its limitations are so obvious to us. There are only so much money, so many physical resources, etc. Today, this reality is being expressed in that a handful of those who specialize in capitalism have become stupendously rich while all others have become beggars at the capitalism roadside. Clearly, it requires a very different special competence and insight to deal successfully and in the interest of all with the physical world.
Obviously, we beggars should start cooperating among ourselves in order to figure out our challenges and improve our situation. After all, that is what the dishonest rich robbers do but we have not started yet. While the cooperation of those dishonest robbers is based on opportunism and unholy alliances, ours should be based on genuine feelings of the universal family of greater humanity and all living beings. We should cooperate in building a righteous society and regain power. In this area we are way behind schedule!
Perhaps the closest we can get to synthesis in the physical world is by way of cooperation. There is a story of a community who one day were cursed by a demon into being cross-armed. This new situation posed great challenges to them. For starters, they could no more eat like they did in the past, by simply placing food in their mouth using their own two hands easily. As each of their arms now stuck out to the opposite side of their body this was no longer possible. How did they survive? Their solution was as simple as it is beautiful: They started to feed each other, one by one and side by side.
The story of the cross-armed community is a story about human cooperation. In strict physical terms, feeding one another is not an example of synthesis. The feelings of love and humanity that this story arouses in us will, however, be of synthetic nature. Possibly, many will be disposed towards stating that human cooperation in practice is synthesis-oriented however much it may be analytically motivated!
Avenues of the mind
Due to its greater elasticity, the mental is situated at the center on the analysis-synthesis axis: The thinking, feeling, remembering mind may go either way. Those who say, “It’s either them or us!” display an overt analytical disposition. An example of synthesis-oriented thinking would be the parent who takes an unruly child on his or her knee, saying sweetly, “Oh my dear little one, you are certainly most naughty, causing me distress day in and day out, testing my patience sometimes severely. But I love you very much and I want you to feel that most of all. So let us see what we can do to make our life together more meaningful and rewarding.”
With the continuous tide-and-ebb of thoughts, memories, feelings, concepts, visions, dreams, etc., it may be hard to determine where mental waves start and where they end. But it is not impossible. It is only because we tend to get distracted that we fail to understand the movement of our mind properly.
In reality, the mind is constantly occupied with one thing at a time. Focusing on an activity, some object of interest, or enjoying a state of being such as beauty, presence, etc., it seeks satisfaction in one of the three basic spheres of existence – in physical, mental or spiritual objects.
In fact, the mental mind produces no coherent flow of activity, only a very long series of unit events or moments. However absorbed we may be in what seems to us a complex, composite, compound reality, our mind is only able to make out one bit at a time.
This is a unique trait of our mind: It is singular in scope and multifariously inclined. However rapidly or deliberately the mind chooses to move from one thing to another it remains uni-operational. This is the reason why our mind is constantly restless, as opposed to Cosmic Mind whose capacity is infinitely manifold and whose scope is singular, which is the reason why the Cosmic is all-encompassing and is always at peace with Itself.)
The human mind has another particular modus operandi. At any time, its traffic operates along the following axis:
Practically, it means we human beings allow our mental activities to flow in a number of directions:
- Purely psychic
- Purely spiritual is not an option in this regard as the mental dissolves and ceases to exist at that stage
For instance, we can choose to make something physical out of a mental idea, which would be a psycho-physical process. Works of everyday art, such as the art of cooking, design, architecture, engineering, etc. would be examples of it. Vice versa, we are able to infuse physical objects with subtler meaning such as psychic significance and even spiritual ideation; physico-psycho-spiritual processes. Places and objects of particular work, celebration, and worship would be cases in point. And we are able to transform spiritual truth and higher states of consciousness into dry ideas – spirito-psychic processes – and even turn such ideas into physical objects, such as statues, pictures, rituals, scriptures, amulets, which provide examples of psycho-physical processes, something that dogmatic systems and their modus operandi provide numerous examples of.
In more rare cases, the traffic of the mind may remain more or less within one and the same sphere, such as in purely psychic processes, as may be the case of highly developed and concentrated intellectual minds. Finally, Prout's threefold model of mental traffic indicates that the mind can turn wholly or partly into crude matter if it falls totally into that area, remain for some time a psychic entity fluctuating within the mental mostly, or dissolve into the spiritual depending on its ability to remain steadfast in that direction.
The point is, there is no further alternative. Although, by nature the mind will believe its movements to be innocuous and adequate, its tendency will be to habituate itself to moving again and again in the same direction, a repetition that increasingly generates incontrovertible results. Many know this fundamental dynamic as "karma". This being a universal phenomenon, Prout pays particular attention to individual and collective progress and possible regress. Status quo – in this case a purely psychic existence that is neither pure analysis or pure synthesis — is only a theoretical proposition and not something we witness in practice as human life unfolds.
"Mundane knowledge and spiritual knowledge must be as free as light and air; and like the unhindered flow of a fountain, they must keep society in a dynamic state and be a continuous source of inspiration to one and all."5
As mentioned initially, the first fundamental principle of Prout regulates people's accumulation of physical wealth. Still, some may like to think that the accumulation of even mental and spiritual resources, and not only physical ones, need to be limited. This is wrong and an example of unprincipled, if not negative psycho-physical approach.
Consider the following example: If people are taught advanced kundalini yoga exercises, without first being properly prepared, such hyper-dynamic exercises may seriously overburden the system of most people and invite more harm than good. It may even ruin people’s physical and psychic health for a long time or, in worst case scenarios, forever. I know one person who, because of hasty initiation into quite extreme yoga and meditation practices, was consigned to a wheelchair for years afterwards. Even after getting back on her feet she did not feel to take up yoga again and remains cautious if not disapproving. Who would blame her?
Possibly, those who argue for limited access to all types of wealth, including the mental and spiritual, would opine that such instances of reckless practice of yoga provide excellent examples in support of their comprehension: Everything must be subject to censorship!
That is not the case.
First, it is correct and proper that sufficient warming-up should precede advanced yogic practices. It is the correct approach as subtler states of being require a sound fundament of personal integrity and attuning to. Personal issues may first need to be worked out over time, the body gradually made ready for influx of higher energies that come with deeper existential realizations, there may be dietary and other health concerns, etc.
In short, many things in life may have to fall gently in place for spiritual realities to unfold in purposeful and sustaining ways. For many, such processes of getting prepared means hard, long work. Indeed, in ancient India spiritual aspirants regularly had to serve humbly for years and years before receiving even the simplest of spiritual instructions. So yes, we should pay attention.
Such vigilance does not demand, however, that people should on principle be denied access to the mental and the spiritual. Barring someone from greater existence would be to approach any problem or challenge negatively. Instead, Prout is all for a positive approach. For example, to make one’s child understand the hazards involved in drugtaking it is not needed to move to a place where there are no drug users, if there exists such a place today.
On the contrary, what is required is to explain the matter nicely to the child, and then take good care. If the internal base is strong then children will be able to take care of themselves in any environment. A teacher should not need to refrain from teaching certain things in chemistry class. He or she only has to see to it that students receive a properly rounded education that makes of them mature, educated citizens.
As indicated, Prout is not in favor of suppression, oppression and repression of knowledge of anything or anyone. Prout states knowledge should be free as light and air. At the same time, principles of balanced approach, proper utilization, and rational distribution should also apply. Here Prout places crucial importance on sufficiently enlightened leadership who can understand even the subtlest needs of their fellow human beings.
Another example: A person wants to do a Masters degree without even being in the vicinity of her Bachelor so far. Still she presses on with plans to do it all in two years’ time; starts studying around the clock, only to collapse and go half-crazy half a year later due to stress and exhaustion. Proper counsel in this case would not be about disallowing the overeager and unrealistic student but of allowing sufficient time for the process to unfold in a more productive way.
We are all in need of good counsel but none of us need to be cut off. Prout’s second and third fundamental principles address this need for free access within one's own existence. Mental and spiritual freedom is the birthright of all. Prout is in favor of natural, well-intended, purposeful, realistic, and constructive ways. Again, on no account is Prout in favor of limiting people’s access to subtle wealth. It would be a negative and overtly analytical approach that would stand in danger of reintroducing any of the innumerable ills and dogmas that have plagued human society and the rest of creation since the dawn of history.
And yet again, the reason Prout’s first fundamental principle limits accumulation of physical wealth is that such wealth is found only in limited supply; the overaccumulation of physical wealth of even just a few persons results in scarcity for the many. There is no such need in the mental and spiritual spheres as there is enough of that for all to go around and more.
Prout’s constructive approach
"If people are allowed unbarred psychic and spiritual freedom, human society will achieve greater psychic and spiritual progress."6
The above speaks of Prout's approach to regulation of the mental and spiritual. It is not about limiting on principle, but about maximum utilization and application of rationality in practice. Prout’s approach is affirmative and tends towards synthesis. In these spheres Prout allows and guides. Prout also generates a growing sense of responsibility. In the above examples, Prout places greater responsibility on the teacher than on the student. It befalls the one who knows better, the more experienced, to make the tenderfoot aware of the situation and potentialities both.
The term spiritual denotes “the subtlest, or original, life breath of all”. The spiritual is therefore relevant and meaningful to all, and not only to human beings. Human beings however can realize the spiritual in their individual and collective life. Prout is the socio-economy of human dignity, of spiritual awakening and of balanced physico-psychic-spiritual approach to solving all life’s problems large and small.
During any process – physical, mental and spiritual – Prout aims at a physico-psycho-spiritually balanced approach. Human beings cannot realize the spiritual without a physical body, and vice versa the mostly physically-oriented should not be allowed free reins in society, a truth that is well-documented in human history. We are human beings, beings of well-reflected consciousness.7 Hence, it is from the point of the mental that we may decide on worthwhile courses of action, as delineated above.
Shrii Sarkar is known to have said: “I have propounded Prout to pave the way for Dharma.” Spiritual Supreme Being is the only unlimited entity or state of existence. It is human nature to move towards attaining Supreme Being and thus slake all life thirst.
“The word dharma signifies ‘property’. The English word for it is ‘nature’, ‘characteristic’ or ‘property’. The nature of fire is to burn or produce heat. It is the characteristic or property of fire and is also termed the nature of fire. Similarly, the dharma or nature of a human being is to seek the Cosmic Entity.”8
Prout is essentially a spiritual theory, a spiritually oriented socio-economic theory. According to Prout, the human dharma is a combined individual and collective effort. Prout means to establish a society where all can live well, progress properly, and freely practice undogmatic spirituality.
Prout recognizes that:
- Spiritual potentiality is infinite in scope and infinitely available.
- Psychic potentialities are relative in scope although infinitely available.
- Physical potentialities are relative in scope and available only in limited quantity.
Prout holds that without pointed individual efforts for common welfare societal ills cannot be remedied, and without a well-functioning society each one of us will be hampered in our effort for all-round development:
“Collective welfare lies in individuals and individual welfare lies in collectivity.”9
Prout advocates all-round individual and collective development – physical, psychic and spiritual – for the emancipation and realization of all human individual and collective potentialities. The world we live in consists of physical, mental and spiritual resources. The creation represents no real obstruction to anyone realizing all their potentialities.
It is we who have been the problem, we human beings. By our egotism, our thirst for limitlessness has made us crooked and foreign to each other’s genuine need for actual progress. Instead of cooperating, we are stealing from each other, making each other suffer because of imposed dogmas, suppression, oppression, and repression resulting in wars, droughts, floods, etc. The man-made catastrophes and calamities of today are innumerable and undignified. In a word, we have been given to negative overtly analytical approaches and inhumanity for far too long.
However, we also have the key to solving our challenges and problems. It is high time for us to embrace synthesis and a balanced approach overall.
Our innate longing, our dharma, remains the indelible script on our human heart. The only purpose of our existence is to realize all our potentialities and attain Supreme Being – oneness with all there is. Indeed, we need to make constructive efforts one by one and together all to realize that human dharma and attain our goal.
2 "Cosmic Brotherhood," Idea and ideology (1959). Ananda Marga Publications
3 Ananda Sutram 2:5 («Purport»), Ananda Sutram (1962). Ananda Marga Publications.
4 "The Intuitional Science of the Vedas – 3," Subhasita Samgraha Part 2. Ananda Marga Publications.
5 "Social Justice," Human Society Part 1 (1959). Ananda Marga Publications
6 "Questions and Answers on Society," Prout in a Nutshell Part 3. Ananda Marga Publications.
7 Words like mental, man and human derive from the Sanskrit; manas “mind”, manus “man”, and manav “human”.
8 “What is Dharma?” Ananda Marga: Elementary Philosophy (1955). Ananda Marga Publications.
9 Ananda Sutram 5:14 («Purport»), Ananda Sutram (1962). Ananda Marga Publications.