By P.R. Sarkar
The inner spirit of the word society (Sanskrit: samája) is “to move together”. That is, the vitality of society depends on two factors: its existence – a collective creation – and its inherent dynamism. The characteristic of an activating force is that it does not move in a perfectly straight line, rather its movement is rhythmic or undulating; and this rhythm or wave is not monomorphic but systaltic. The force that moves society forward is also systaltic. When the nature of movement of individual life does not hinder the rhythm of collective movement of society, there remains the possibility of forming a society from the collective movement of numerous individuals – there lies the possibility of creating a universal intellectual structure inspired by the brilliance of sublime ideas.
If we try to judge the nature of something by analysing the inner spirit of the word used to describe it, we will have to say without hesitation that humanity has not yet learned how to build a “society” worthy of the name. Even to this day, people have only a very vague notion of the reasons for needing society, let alone of how to build a true society.
Movement means the active effort to destroy an existing structure and construct another. The very effort to destroy old, worn-out systems gives rise to the possibility of creating newer systems and codes. It is wrong to infer that because a force is temporarily static after being attacked it is inert; it still possesses the potential to strike back. Of course the force under attack tends to absorb the striking force in an effort to survive, but it cannot do this successfully. I have already explained why. To retard the systalticity of the movement of the striking force is contrary to the characteristics of force. That is why vested interests cannot hold back the progress of society.
A careful study of the social history of the world will reveal that until now every attempt at counter-revolution has not only caused enormous psychic and financial suffering and plunged humanity into the mire of gloom and despair, but has also lengthened the period of social contraction. This in turn, in the next phase, has helped to accelerate the speed of the period of social expansion – has inspired the chariot of revolution to advance towards victory with greater momentum.(1)
Does this forceful, dynamic movement manifest as a senseless whim, devoid of wisdom? No. In individual life the propensities of an underdeveloped mind appear whimsical to the external world, but in collective life, that is, in social life, there is no scope for whimsical movement. Nor would I say that dynamic movement is always inspired by wisdom. But I will say this: without wisdom, it is impossible to express dynamic movement.
The internal clash of forces provides the dynamic movement with constructive guidance. However, the amount of wisdom that is required to stop the erosion of the internal vitality of the dynamic movement is not manifest in all individuals. There are some people who manifest a great deal of wisdom, but, reasonably speaking, no matter how much that manifestation of wisdom is criticized as being a relative thing, it has some special value of its own. The easiest way to determine this special value is to ascertain its efficacy in the field of application.
Now the word “efficacy” often raises a storm in the philosophers’ teacups, because both materialists and idealists argue in more or less the same way. Here I do not want to say much about the idealists, but I must say that the arguments of the materialists are to some extent contradictory, because the efficacy of something in the field of application can only be judged by a sound mind, and at the time of passing judgement the mind has to be kept above matter. Let me elaborate this point.
Matter is the be-all and end-all of materialism. To a materialist, mind has been created out of matter by a process of chemical transformation, and so it does not have any independent or special significance beyond its materialistic value. Who, then, is to pass judgement on the efficacy of something? Can we justifiably accept the mind as a judge when its very existence is in principle denied? And conversely, if the mind is elevated to the status of a judge, does materialism retain its validity? No, it capitulates to idealism.
There are many other contradictory arguments in the philosophy of materialism, but they are not relevant to the present discussion. However, I do not want to dismiss the world as illusory either, as do the flighty idealists. In my opinion, mind must be given the special importance it deserves.
Although the physical body appears to imbibe ideas, psychologists will surely agree that the mind is the receiver or perceiver of ideas. They will also have to accept that the appraisal of any object in the absolute sense is not possible unless we can find a yardstick – for all times, all places and all people – to evaluate the mind. In the vast multitude of relativities, how is it possible to determine an acceptable absolute measurement for all times, all places and all people? From a little analytical study of the functional differences between the subjective and objective parts of the mind, whether underdeveloped or developed, it is clear that the mind cannot maintain its unit identity without an object. Mind must have an object to contemplate. If that object transcends time, place and person, it will then be possible for the mind to perceive the temporal, spatial and personal factors from a broad angle of vision.
Only a magnanimous and pervasive mind deserves to be called the Macrocosm. The ideological component of the unit mind which provides the initial inspiration for the individual to attain that Cosmic state, is called “morality”. Every aspect of morality sings the song of the Infinite, even in the midst of the finite. In other words, or put more simply, I wish to say that those magnanimous propensities which help to establish one in the Cosmic state are the virtuous principles of morality.
Social life must take morality as its starting point – it must take inspiration from morality. Only then will society be able to put an end to the erosion caused by divisive internal conflicts and to advance towards victory. But before we can start work, we also have to understand the difference between morality and religion, or so-called dharma.
Dharma means the attainment of bliss or the endeavour to attain bliss through regular sadhana in the subtler spheres of one’s nature. This blissful state is considered by wise people to be the Supreme Entity (Brahma ), and by devotees to be one’s very soul.
The word dharma is often loosely used for so-called religion. The reason for this is that the founders of almost all the world’s religions propagated their respective doctrines among the common people, claiming them to be the messages of God [i.e., to be dharma]. These founders never followed the path of logic. Whatever their intention might have been, the result was that humanity lost its supreme treasure, its rationality.
In the Middle Ages some selfish people proclaimed to the backward masses, “I am the messenger of God. Whatever I say is a revelation from God,” just to inject fear and terror into people’s minds. Was it beneficial for humanity to have such doctrines imposed on them in this way?
Almost every religion has claimed that only its followers are God’s chosen people and that the rest of humanity is cursed and bound by the chains of Satan. One religion has declared, “Our prophet is the only saviour. There is no escape from mundane sufferings except by taking refuge in him.” Another religion has declared, “I am the last prophet. Prayers must be said before God a specific number of times in a certain manner each day. Special animals must be sacrificed on particular days. These are the wishes of merciful God. Those who follow these injunctions will attain heaven on the Day of Judgement.” Yet another religion says, “Know ye, my son, thy God is the only God. All other gods are false gods.” Just imagine, all these religions preach universal fraternity, and yet this universal fraternity is kept within the confines of their own community. Humanity gasps for breath at such preposterous claims of universal fraternity.
Carried away by the grandiose slogans of their respective religions, the followers of these religions have at different times whipped up a frenzy of communal(2) hatred and indulged in orgies of genocide. Had their founders seen such sights, they would have hidden their faces in utter shame. Of all the bloodshed that took place in the Middle Ages, a major part was a natural consequence of this communal “universal fraternity”.
Directly or indirectly, religion encourages communalism. “Communalism” means a group psychology(3) based on religion.
In the distant past, long before the Middle Ages, so-called religions repeatedly tried to “show the light” to the simple, ignorant masses, and are still doing so today; and in the process they have in most cases created disasters. In fact, they do not feel any genuine love for humanity. The standard-bearers of these religions have never hesitated to use force of arms, wily intellect or financial power to gain some petty mundane advantage.
That is why I maintain that throughout history religions have proved to be flagrantly unworthy institutions, incapable of providing even the physical necessities of life, let alone spiritual salvation. By preaching disharmony, they have systematically prevented people from understanding that they are part of one integrated human society. And in support of their interdictions, they have cited many irrational precedents – a load of mouldy, rotten, worm-eaten papyrus.
Religion tries to transform the human mind into a state of staticity, because anything static is easily exploited. However, inertia is the exact opposite of the nature of the mind. A knotty problem! The founders of religion wanted human beings to give up their dynamic nature, and out of fear or delusion, unquestioningly accept certain ideas as the infallible truth. To prevent their shallow knowledge from being exposed, some so-called religious teachers avoided answering people’s questions by pretending to observe silence. This got around all the fuss of answering queries, and even gave the person the opportunity to appear sagacious. In order to stifle the inquisitiveness of the human mind, some of these charlatans even used to claim that an inquisitive nature is extremely bad.
Read any so-called religious book: one will seldom find anything resembling tolerance of the religious beliefs of others. I am not saying that one should accept whatever people say, but surely non-acceptance and intolerance are not the same. Why is there a mania for refuting the views of others anyway? If necessary, different views can be compared and presented in philosophical books. The philosophical and psychological loopholes in an argument may be pointed out without being disrespectful. But is the attempt to insult others indicative of magnanimity? In so-called religious books there is a greater tendency to refute the religious doctrines of others than to propagate one’s own ideas. Observing all these machinations, genuine theologists cannot hold religion in high esteem.
Wise people say:
“If a child says something rational, it should be accepted, and if the Supreme Creator says something irrational, it should be totally rejected.”
Yuktiyuktamupádeyaḿ vacanaḿ bálakádapi;
Anyaḿ trńamiva tyájyamapyuktaḿ Padmajanmanáh:
“It is undesirable to accept something just because it is written in the scriptures, because if irrational sayings are accepted and implemented, the decline of dharma will be the result.”
Kevalaḿ shástramáshrityaḿ na karttavyo vinirńayah;
Yuktihiina vicáre tu dharmahánih prajáyate.
The derivative meaning of the Sanskrit word niiti (morality) is “that which contains the principle of leading”. It is the starting point on the path of spiritual practices. But this is not the only significance of morality. If morality fails to provide human beings with adequate guidance about how to move towards perfection, it does not deserve to be called morality. As morality is distinguished by its capacity to lead and inspire human beings, it cannot afford to lose its dynamic nature by limiting itself to a specific time, place and person. Morality is a living force, the practice of which makes the mind increasingly contemplative, thereby establishing it in supreme subtlety, in supreme cognition. There is a state from which human beings cannot be led to some other state – the question does not arise. Morality is only worthy of the name if it can inspire human beings to reach that state.
Moralism is not the unrealistic dream of the idealist, nor is it the means of fulfilling the mundane needs of the materialist. Rather it is something that provides people with the possibility of merging their mundane objectivity into supramundane Cognition.
The spirit of morality will have to be instilled in human beings from the moment that they first start to learn the lessons of interaction. By interaction I mean social interaction. Viewed from this perspective, the mind of a child is the best receptacle for morality.
But who will impart moral training or education? Parents find fault with teachers, and teachers in turn argue that they cannot give personal attention to an individual child in a crowd of two or three hundred children. Although it is true that most parents are either uneducated or semi-educated, and while it is not unreasonable to expect that teachers will be well-educated, it is not proper to place the sole responsibility for children’s moral education on the shoulders of their teachers. Increasing the number of teachers in educational institutions may partially solve the problem of moral education, but the key to the solution lies with the parents themselves. In cases where the parents are unfit to shoulder this responsibility, the teachers and well-wishers of society will have to come forward and demonstrate their greater sense of responsibility.
Remember, humanity’s very existence is based on morality; when morality leads human beings to the fullest expression of their finer human qualities, then alone is its practical value fully realized. The concerted effort to bridge the gap between the first expression of morality and establishment in universal humanism is called “social progress”. And the collective body of those who are engaged in the concerted effort to conquer this gap, I call “society”.
(1) For an elaboration on how the systaltic force moves society forward through periods of expansion and contraction, see “The Kśatriya Age” in the author’s Human Society Volume 2.
(2) “Community” and “communal” as used here generally refer to religious communities. See the definition of “communalism” a few lines below. Also see The Dangers of Communalism
(3) For further discussion on group psychology, see Service Psychology and Group Psychology