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Acharya Tulsi - Fifty Years Of Selfless Dedication: Reflections on World Problems

Published: 08.10.2012
Updated: 02.07.2015

Andhra University, Waltair

It is important that world problems should be reflected upon, investigated and discussed by individuals and groups that, in Paul Valery's words, 'adhere to no system or political party and who, therefore, are still at liberty to question what is in doubt and not free to deny what is beyond question' (Reflections on the World Today, Trans. F. Scarfe, London, 1951, p.7). But it is so difficult to say objectively anything fundamental about today's civilization or modern man, for, as C.G. Jung points out, all of us are 'caught in the same presuppositions and blinded by the same prejudices'. Only a man who is 'wholly of the present' can say something important about the present-day world, and only he who has 'the most intensive and extensive consciousness' of himself and his situation can hope to be such a man (Psychological Reflections, ed. J. Jacobi, New York, 1953). While individual and group empirical and theoretical research by scientists and scholars is very much necessary for this, what Martin Heidegger calls 'essential thinkin’ or J. Krishnamurti calls 'total seeing' by competent persons can provide apercus of paramount value for apprehending the problems and predicaments of contemporary civilization and for getting an inkling of their possible solutions.

Cartesian thinking and the ideology of the Will to Power have produced the present scientific-technological age which the First World has entered and the Third World is trying to enter. All societies in the former are versions of the same social type, and those in the latter are engaged in transforming themselves into one or the other of these. Technology has become a part of human existence, a mode of man's being; it is the horizon within which human future has to be planned. It has, as N. Weiner points out, modified our environment so much that we must modify ourselves. Only 'essential thinking' or 'total seeing' commensurate with this momentous epoch can grasp its nature somewhat fully, while research can do much to clarify it.

There seems to be a general agreement that the two major dangers confronting the world today are: (i) the growing confrontation between the superpowers and the increase in and spread of armaments; (ii) the continuing indigence of many millions of people and the widening gap between the developed and developing nations.

Of these (i) is the result of the intensification of the situation after the emergence of the atomic age. Long ago Freud wrote that the knowledge that men's control over natural forces enabled them to exterminate their whole race with their help created 'unrest, unhappiness and anxiety' Civilisation and Its Discontent, New York, 1962, p.92). The precarious negative peace in the shadow of terror imposed by technology has produced a reaction in man's psyche, and the awareness that he is a constant target and his collective fate is in suspense is dehumanising and brutalising him, producing neurosis, apathy, fatalism and torpor. But can disarmament produce tranquillity and prevent conflict? Will states disarm without security, and can there be disarmament without lasting security? Yet, is universal destruction inevitable?

Cannot moderation based on political wisdom, as Raymond Aron opines, ensure survival, thus providing a middle way between the Universal State and perpetual peace on the one hand and human suicide on the other? In 1950 Sri Aurobindo thought that 'the ultimate union of the world's peoples' and 'general destruction' were the only two alternative destinies of man, and expressed the view that the latter had 'every chance of being as chimerical as any early expectation of final peace and felicity or a perfected society of the human peoples' (Social and Political Thought, Birth Centenary Library, Vol.15, Pondicherry, 1971, p.570). He saw that there was a 'manifest direction and intention in the World-Energy' and an evolutionary urge towards the former. Do we find evidence for this vision? According to him the only hope of the future is the spiritualised 'religion of humanity,' with its aim of recreating human society in the image of the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity becoming 'the inner law of human life' (op.cit. pp.545,543,554). Teilhard de Chardin considered the atomic age to be the age of union in research which disclosed to man that the supreme purpose of his existence was to pursue to the end the forces of life, and gave him a taste of supercreativeness (The Future of Man, Trans. N. Denny, London, 1964). According to him, the time has come for us to decide between the Faustian spirit of autonomy and solitude and the Christian spirit of service and giving. Then we have Karl Jaspers who pointed out that through 'luminous encompassive thinking' contemporary political consciousness must be transformed and a new kind of politics adequate to the threat of atomic doom should be created. 'Now, at the brink, mere life depends on worthy living. This alone leads to the actions that would bar atomic doom' (The Future of Mankind, Trans, by E.B. Ashton, Chicago, 1961). It is to be observed that even the hard-headed and eminent political scientist Margenthau asserts that to think conventionally about nuclear weapons is fallacious. Some non-conventional ways of thinking are indicated by Aurobindo, Teilhard. Jaspers and such others.

Connected with this is another problem - that of polymorphous violence, as Raymond Aron calls it. The senseless violence and callousness of ordinary people all over the world as well as the determination with which nations of all sizes are arming themselves and engaging themselves in either hot or cold wars is leading to a crisis in civilization. But it may be pointed out by some like Sartre that there is an 'irrepressible violence* which enables man to recreate himself and that only through 'mad fury' can the wretched of the earth become men. It won't do to recite non-violence as a mantra. Let us remember that decades ago Romain Rolland wrote to Subhas Chandra Bose that nonviolence cannot be the central pivot of all social action, as it is only one of the means and suggested forms. 'What must be at the centre of our concerns', he wrote, 'is the establishment of a more just and humane social order-and to be established it must be imposed' (The Hindu, Oct.17, 1976). Clearly the problem of violence requires deep reflection, and it has to be pointed out that J. Krishnamurti seems to have made penetrating observations on how to go beyond and above inward and external conflict, violence and the contradiction 'which breeds aggression, hatred, antagonism' (Talks and Dialogues, Avon, New York, 1971, p.167). This has to be examined and evaluated by psychologists, sociologists and philosophers.

I come now to the second major danger mentioned earlier, viz. the abysmal poverty in the Third World and the widening North-South gap. This is the problem of development towards which a new approach has become necessary. A conference at Quito (Ecuador) organized by the Unesco has called for an 'overall, endogenous and integrated development', and in its Medium Term Plan (para 3106) for 1977-82 the Unesco defined 'development as an awakening of the very soul of society'. If, as M.A. Sinaceur says, economics is 'a praxis of complicities and cooperative conflicts' and development consists in 'achievement, fulfilment and liberation' leading to creation of knowledge and value, we need, as Francois Perroux argues, an economic theory not only elaborated with reference to quantum mechanics, molecular biology and non-linear thermodynamics, but correlated with an adequate philosophy of action. 'An intelligible and avowable meaning for economics cannot be dissociated from an intelligible and avowable meaning for human destiny' (Perroux A New Concept of Development, Unesco, 1983, p.168). Inspiration need not be sought for this only in Marx's philosophy of praxis and in the philosophy of action derived directly or indirectly from Maurice Blondel, as Perroux asserts. The classical Indian philosophies - Mimamsa and Vedanta (especially the Isa Upanishad and the Gita)—and the writings of some modern thinkers (e.g. Sri Aurobindo) contain outlines of philosophies of action which are no less valid than the Western ones, and perhaps more relevant to our developmental needs and aims. Social scientists and philosphers should work out policies and strategies in tune with development and economic theory conceived in this way, taking also into account non-Western cultures and philosophies.

A couple of connected problems may be mentioned. In restructuring and developing societies, should we be guided by equality of opportunity and 'the principle of achievement' or by equality of result and 'the principle of ascription'? Should all societies de-industrialise and computerise with human intelligence as the basic raw material and the microchip replacing oil? Will this create increased employment opportunities also and satisfy all needs (as the Keindanren and the Paris Group argue), or will it pose a serious unemployment threat (as Professor Tetsuo Ihara of Tokyo University thinks)?

Can we in India take a sort of quantum leap from the industrial age, which we have not till now fully entered, into the computer age?

If the Taif, the Mitsubishi, and the Brandt Reports and the Report of the 13 US Govt. agencies in Carter's time agree upon anything, it is on the need for reform of the present economic and monetary system, the mutuality of interest between the developed and the developing to do so, and the 'interdependence of population, resources and environment'. An inevitable bursting asunder of the integument of the present society based on strife, necessity and scarcity and its replacement by the one based on harmony, freedom and abundance do not seem to be in sight. Human vision, thinking, will and action—these alone can bring about a new global social order. The new society which science and technology are bringing about is a knowledge or information society, which will have its own conflicts and struggles. Technology is a creation of human freedom, but the latter should not be endangered by the former. How to organise scientific and technological research? How should the individual escape being an item within the programme of management? How to avoid increasing statism and bureaucratisation and how to replace 'rule over men' by 'administration of things'? These are problems to be tackled. Technical thinking alone cannot cope with the problems technology has created. Ultimately the essential question, as Daniel Bell points out, is that of values; the problem is more political than technical, as he says. In this connection the Jasperian insight that only a new kind of politics born out of 'luminous encompassive thinking' can provide a solution may be remembered. It is a task for philosophy as well as the social sciences.

The present civilization (that in the First World which the Third World is struggling to appropriate) is 'not worth having', opines Simone Weil, for it suffers from what she calls a 'quadruple defect: a false conception of greatness, the degradation of the sentiment of justice, the idolization of money and the lack of religious inspiration. Moreover, it is sick, she says, because it does not know exactly what place to give to physical labour and to those engaged in it (The Need For Roots, Boston, 1952). In the late twenties of this century S. Radhakrishnan spoke on the future of civilisation (Kalki, The Future of Civilisation, first publ. 1929, since reprinted many times). Civilisation was passing through one of its periodic crises, he said, and to avert it he called for religious idealism and 'cooperation and not identification, accommodation to fellowmen and not imitation of them, and toleration and not absolutism'. Asserting that spiritual evolution was the destiny and therefore the great need of the human being, Sri Aurobindo wrote much on 'a dynamic recreation of individual manhood in the spiritual type' (op.cit., pp 247, 250). Today Krishnamurti goes on saying that the fundamental issue is how to bring about a radical revolution in the human being living in this world, so confused, so miserable, and at war (op.cit., pp.50, 153).

Are these and such persons talking sense? If not, where does sense lie? Human life has been so much modified qualitatively and quantitatively by science and technology and such a novel situation has arisen that, as Paul Valery says, 'the future, like everything else, is no longer quite what it used to be'. 'By that I mean', he continues, 'we can no longer think of it with any confidence in our inductions* (op.cit., p.135). Science may be able to do some forecasting, but it has its limitations, and it may not be infallible. Let us also heed what the sages and speculative thinkers have said about human destiny and men's future, and examine it in the light of certain knowledge.

Acharya Tulsi - Fifty Years Of Selfless Dedication
Jain Vishva Bharati Ladnun
Shrichand Bengani


R.P. Bhatnagar


● S.L. Gandhi
● Rajul Bhargava, Department of English, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur
● Ashok K. Jha, Department of English, LBS College, Jaipur

First Edition, 1985-2000

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