National Seminar on SDGs and Integral Humanism

Posted on Sunday, 24 September 2017 | No Comments

Text of Keynote Address delivered at the National Seminar on SDGs and Integral Humanism organized by RIS in New Delhi on September 23, 2017

Through the day today, we are going to explore the various dimensions of this great concept called Integral Humanism. My job is limited to making initial comments by so called keynote address. I will actually not get into what Integral Humanism is about. I have seen and gone through the schedule for all the sessions and it’s going to cover all important aspects of Integral Humanism.

Let me begin by saying when we decided to have something called Millennium Developmental Goals in the year of 2000 in the period for about 15 years, that itself showed importance about the previous century. The 20th century was actually a laboratory of ideas. If you can see last 100 years plan, you have seen totality of regimes, you have seen dictators, you have seen monarchs, you have seen the rise of democracies, and rise of capitalist ideas. You have also seen the rise and demise of communist ideology of socialism in 20th century. We have demonstrated all the ideas which were products of the genius man. But at the end of it we have decided that the basic things have not even addressed.

What are MDG’s? These are basics for human kind. You are talking about freedom from hunger, freedom from malaria, these are the basic things a man needs to be happy and healthy. Something was wrong with all those ideas that were experimented in 20th century, friends. That one lesson we have to draw from the experiments of the 20th century although they all are important experiments. They were championed by eminent people.

Those were highlighted by two persons one of them was French Catholic philosopher Jacque Maritain. He was the first to talk about agonists, the existing model whether it was totalitarian dictatorship or the communist regimes or the socialist models. By saying that, in this man as an integral entity is missing. Either man is seeing as political entity; give him a vote, what we call as democracy.

Man is a political animal or like the socialist or communist idea. Basically the communist idea slightly diversified into socialism that man is nobody. It is a state which is everything and important. In both the ideas man as an integral has not been recognized, is what Jacque Maritain first identified and highlighted some time in 1930’s, his theory of Integral Humanism, 30 years older than Deendyalji’s  Integral Humanism.

He wrote about it in 1936. He also took the contemporary socio-political reality into account while propounding his theory of integral Humanism. Interestingly after about 3 decades after India became independent in 1947, Deendayal Upadhyay also highlighted the same things stating that all existed models in the world are very compartmentalize, they are addressing only one part of the problem, they are not looking at as a whole. We need to look at the whole as one. In that whole, man is at the epicenter but thinking has to be integrated. It cannot be in compartments.

Man is separate, society is separate, nature is separate, world is separate, universe is separate. This compartmentalize thinking does not really work because that is not a basic nature of the creation. When you address this separately you will not go anywhere, finally you give a man vote thinking that he is a political animal. Take the vote and be happy. But after sometime he will come back and say I am not happy. I don’t have food to eat but have a vote. You will say ok vote is not important for you and food is important. Then I will give you food and a job to settle down.

After sometime we will say I want some freedom to speak so man needs to looked at from an integral perspective is what Deendayal Ji, had proposed in 60’s through Integral Humanism. Jacque Maritain made democracy and Jesus Christ as the basis of his idea of Integral Humanism. He said give democracy as a political thought and give religion as a social thought to man so that you will be addressing all the aspects of a human being. In fact his efforts had led to social democratic movements in the world. Social democratic parties you find in some of the European countries are all the products of Jacque’s Theory of Integral Humanism.

What Deendayalji did was, he did not talked about democracy or Christ in the sense of god or the religion separately. He made Dharma which encompasses the two things but many more things as an axis of his Integral Humanism Theory. For him the concept that has Dharma, as the axis is what needs to be the future of the mankind. When we talk about MDG’s and SDG’s these are basically addressing two aspects of the mankind, two dimensions.

One of it is the material needs of a man. Man is also a material being. Catholics ideology thought that man is a materialist being only. You fulfill his material needs that is end of it. We in India have not believed that man is a material being only. But, we must remember that man is a material being also. In fact Sachin Ji also said about the MDG’s and SDG’s that they address so many basic needs of the man in order for a man to lead a happy life. I was at a conference in China, and one Chinese scholar made a very interesting comment. He said, you Indians can never catch up with us, that you are the worshipers of poverty. आपके लिए कंचा पहनकर रहनेवाले आइडियल है।  Is it true? Are we really worshipers of poverty? No doubt we are worshipers of sacrifice. We worship people you give up. But that does not mean we are practitioners of poverty.

Indian philosophy is as much about material happiness as any other material philosophy whether it is communism or capitalism in the world. What is out daily prayer सर्वेऽपि सुखिनः सन्तु’ (Let everybody be happy), `सर्वेसन्तु निरामयः’ (let everybody be free of diseases, `सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु’ (everybody should enjoy goods in life). You should have a fridge at home; have a car, AC rooms, bed, sofa etc. `मा कश्चित् दुखः भाग्भवेत’ (nobody should have any sorrow in life). This is the most materialist prayer. But remember, the operational word in this is सर्वेऽपि, this has to be available to everybody. That has been our prayer. We are worshipers of happiness but happiness to all, not to selected ones to those who are capable of enjoying it, capable of achieving it.

Western philosophies like capitalism and communism believed that if you are capable you will achieve all those things. You will become rich. But we said no, in fact Deendayal Ji said, those who have earned shall eat. Everybody who is born should have a right to eat that is called `सर्वेऽपि सुखिनः सन्तु’. But for everybody in order to have something to eat then everybody has to contribute something. इसलिए दीनदयालजी कहा करते थे, जो पैदा होता है वो खायेगा, जो कमायेगा वो खिलायेगा। One who earns will feed. तो हमने तो इस प्रकार के जीवन का एक विचार किया है।

The central question I want to raise here is, nobody will have dispute about MDGs and SDGs. As I said these are things that ordinary man should have, throughout the period, no question about, but why are they not there. We in India have had an excellent opportunity to address this issue when we became independent in 1947. We could have thought about it. Ok, Deendayalji was not there to warn us in 1947. He was there but he was not in a position to warn the country at that time. Jacque was in Europe, but we had our own people like Gandhiji, who were cautioning us. Look, don’t go on that European path, you will suffer and Gandhiji used to tell European will suffer.

Today these MDGs and SDGs are here because the world is suffering and even remember 15 years of MDGs, UN officials are sitting here they know it very well, we have not achieved 100% success in them. There are areas where we still have to work. These areas are in the societies which are not essentially European or Western. The reason is you tried to impose a model which is not native, which does not suit their genius. You have to think about models which will suit their genius.

We had an excellent opportunity in 1947. In fact this debate about what should be the way forward for an Independent India began just few years before 1947, none other than Gandhiji had raised this question. It is interesting to hear that, whenever anybody asked Gandhiji about the vision of Independent India he would say Ramrajya. Now Ramrajya one can say, it’s a theocratic idea. No, Ramrajya is an Indian model of democracy where the view of the last man prevails.

You hear about the story in Ramayana, when Ram comes back after conquering Lanka and brings in Sita back to Ayodhya, somebody in his audience in his kingdom, a Dhobi says something about Sita and Ram says if one person has a view about it, I will have to respect his view. Now there can be a feminist argument on that, there can be a gender argument on that. But the fact is that, the view of the last man prevailed in the Ramrajya.

We have our own concept of democracy. Gandhi Ji talked about Gramrajya, Gram Swarajya. In fact he is ridiculed even today, when we talk about Gramrajya. This so called progressive society ridicules us. What do you mean? You want India to live in villages. What are these MDGs all about? This is about betterment of the people, living largely away from the urban centers. It also tackles the issues of the urban centers.

In India the reality has been that majority population lived in villages but when the issue came up just before the independence, one person who stood up and told Gandhiji that you are wrong was none other than Nehru. Nehru said, India should follow the European Model. He said socialism is the way forward. We had a dispute at that time. He tells Gandhiji that you are talking about villages. Let me tell you there is a letter written in 1945, 9 September.

He writes to Gandhiji, he says, Gandhiji you talk about villages; I say villages are the centers of narrowness, backwardness and selfishness. If the country has to prosper you need to have cities and city culture has to flourish. Gandhiji’s argument was different. He said, India lives in villages. When I say village centric development model, I am not saying villages should live backward. I am saying that you have a model that develops villages. I have a dream about Indian villages. I want my dream to be fulfilled. I want ideal villages today. You have to create good model village which provides employment at the village level but for some reason Nehru had a different model. He had a European model in mind.

Unfortunately Gandhiji died in 1948. It came on the shoulders of Deendayal Ji to look out the way India is progressing under the idea of socialist’s society. It is very interesting thing, if you study the first 14-15 years of Nehru Government, you see Nehru was never consistent about his concept of socialism. Please read. He first used socialism then he said socialist pattern of society. When somebody asked what is the difference between socialism and socialist pattern of society , on one occasion he says both are the same and another occasion in parliament when questions were raised on failure of socialism. He said you do not understand. Socialism is different and socialist pattern of society is different and very interestingly, in all his life he never defined what he meant by either socialism or socialist pattern of society.

We were imposed with certain ways and models of the west. We never tried our own model. What Deendayal Ji tried to tell us was, here is your own model based on three principles. Two of them are covered under SDGs but third one is not. First is dignity. Man wants dignity. All your models of development have to keep dignity of man. When I say man it includes woman. Second is freedom. Man’s ultimate urge is freedom. Freedom does now only mean political freedom. In fact there is very important statement that Gandhi Ji dictated to Miraben on 27 January 1948 in which he recommended the devolution of congress as a political party. The reason he gives is very interesting. He says, now we acquired our independence but it is only the political freedom. We have become politically free on 15 August, 1947. But for people living in more than 5,00,000 villages in India, social, economic, moral and ethical freedom is yet to come. They are not socially free.

Economic backwardness, illiteracy, moral degradation still needs to be addressed. The status of women in the society, status of schedule castes in the society, harijans in the society needs to be addressed. The solution he suggested was so to disband congress as a political party and create lok sevak sangh. It should then address these three issues then only I will consider India has become independent and free. Freedom has this big spectrum. So man wants freedom and peace.

The third is unity which cannot be addressed by MDGs and SDGs. It is a higher level idea. Unity is not uniformity; there are forces in the world in the name of particular ideology. Communists tried it, capitalists tried it, but at the end of it UNESCO in 1981 document accepts the point that world is so divert you cannot have any one model to suit the entire world. The models have to be different. You cannot think of uniformity but you have to strive for unity. Unity what Deendayalji says, what Indian philosophy says essentially, unity with respect for diversity.

India has a philosophy which is what Swami Vivekanand had said at his Chicago Speech in 1893 at the World Parliament of Religion. I came from a country where we just don’t limit ourselves to tolerance. Tolerance of religion he says is an inferior idea. Because tolerance is when you behave badly still I tolerate you. Tolerance has arrogance.

Vivekanand says, I come from the philosophy which does not just tolerate but accept the diversity. We validate different ideas and different philosophies. We celebrate diversity. विविधता का उत्सव मनाना, उसके अंदर एकता का निर्माण करना.

So, unity, freedom and dignity are the three aspects that humankind requires. Integral Humanism is an idea which addresses these three important aspects. The 16th SDG about peace is the most important aspect, probably the only aspect that comes under the third aspect, unity that I have talked about. The natural state of the universal creation is peace.

War is not the natural state. It is another matter that history that we teach to the mankind today is history of wars, conflicts. Read European history or any country’s history the benchmarks that you will find are about wars, victories and kingdoms. You have to talk about the history of communities, history of people that is the way to bring peace in the world. Peace is the natural state of creation.

We in India in our mythology, we read in a sanyasi’s ashram there is a tiger, there is a cow, there is a man, child all of them living together. Through our institutions, constitutions we have created conflicts where by each one fights anguishly with the other, each one tries to conquer the other, we try to conquer the nature, nature tries to conquer us then you have all the issues of climate change etc. Indian philosophy which Deendayalji highlights is about the core natural idea of the creation called peace. That is why any Indian prayer begins and ends with ‘Om Shanti Shanti Shanti’, let there be universal peace in the world. This is the direction in which Deendayalji wanted thinking of the world to turn towards.

Deendayalji did not give any model, he only created an idea. This Deendayal Ji’s idea is an idea of a quintessential Indian genius which we have acquired and developed over millennia of its existence. I think on that idea we have to build institutions that suit the 21st century. I always say that the model has to be contemporary.

We are the only people who believe that there will be eternal principles but models have to be changed to suit the changing times. I am sure in the day long proceedings today lot of discussions will happen on these issues. I heartily thank the organizers, Atulji, Sachinji for giving me this opportunity. Thank you. Namaskar.

Author: Ram Madhav

National General Secretary, BJP; Member, Board of Governors, India Foundation

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