Individuals Who Make Up Society ◄ Acharya Mahaprajna

Posted: 08.05.2014

The Times Of India


By: Acharya Mahaprajna on May 07, 2014

Individuals Who Make Up SocietyMan and society are two realities. Individualistic philosophers believe that man can live without society, implying that before he became part of a society, he was an individual in his own right; that for the security of his property, rights and life or for the attainment of some other goal, man created society.

Socialist philosophers believe that man and society cannot be separate; both have equal importance in human development. The Jain concept of anekanta, plurality, defines man and society in relation to each other. In a man both individualistic and social traits are found; his capabilities define his individuality. Their expressions are part of his social skills. That is why individuals and society are different from one another. Man's individuality can never be non-existent.
Despite remaining an integral part of society, man still retains his individuality and so is different from society. Man develops his desires, aspirations and activities through interdependence and exchange. Here, man is not different from society but where man develops his desires, aspirations and activities and establishes inter-dependence in society, he is also different.

Man is limited by his feelings. One who experiences love, happiness, fear and grief, is a complete man. These feelings are not a common experience; they cannot be exchanged or substituted. Exchange is the bridge between man and society. The fundamental base of an individual is his emotions and that of society is exchange.

According to some sociologists, society is a matrix of life-sustaining relationships. Emotions are neither established nor are they life-sustaining. They are intrinsic to man. From the perspective of emotions, man is a reality and from the perspective of life-sustenance, society is reality. There is no conflict here. Man lives comfortably only with the assumption that society is real and keeping this in mind, safeguards social norms and values.

Two fundamental principles govern social organisation: Desires and wealth. To fulfill desires, social relationships develop. Wealth is a tool to fulfil desires. Through dharma, social organisation is worked. Kautalya gave importance to wealth, that it was the root cause for kama or attachment and dharma. Ttherefore, wealth is important.

In contemporary social organisation also wealth is important. In such a society, a man has no individual, independent value. Without controlling individual freedom, a social organisation cannot survive. A man does not give as much importance to the feelings of others as he does to his own.

Therefore, two situations arise in individualistic social organisation: The need of the self and need for others. In such a situation crime, immorality, exploitation and corruption have grown. Burdened by these, society tries to overcome differences -- between self and the other -- through socialism. But even after independence of individualistic social organisation, this problem could not be overcome. That is why man is a puppet in society.

Individualistic social organisation creates imbalance in society. Some people become very rich and some remain poor. The rich are engrossed in consumerism. They are constantly worried about their own comfort and prosperity and not about others. Their sense-needs increase; they have little time for anything other than consumption. The poor have to struggle to get the level of comfort they desire. They do not get the opportunity to reflect. Hence there is imbalance.

Mahavira did not organise society; nor did he give vision for a social organisation. He explained dharma as being neither individualistic nor social. It is related to the atma or soul. The measure of dharma is transcendental consciousness, beyond feeling and action.

As told to Lalit Garg[1]

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