This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
The Indian Leadership Experience
A Foundational Report of Findings and Observations from an Exploratory Assessment of the History and Evolution of the Concept of Leadership with Reference to the Development of an African Leadership Approach
1.. Why Use Philosophy to Access Leadership Experience?
2.. Inadequacy of Scientific and Religious Beliefs
3.. Causes of General Skepticism about Philosophical Knowledge
4.. Relation of Indian Philosophical Theories to Practical Affairs
5.. Distinction in the Meaning of the 'Practical' in India and the west
6.. Philosophical Underpinnings of Indian Leadership Experience
7.. Philosophical Foundations of Indian Leadership
8.. Patterns of Indian Philosophical Thought and Tradition
9.. The Individual and Philosophy in Indian Society
9.1. The Position of the Individual in Indian Philosophical Thought
9.2. The Position of the Individual in Indian Ethics
9.3. The Spiritual Good (Sreyas) is Different from the Social Good.
9.4. 'The Individual in Social Thought and Practice in India
9.5. The Individual in Early Periods of Indian Society
9.6. The Individual in the Medieval Period of Indian Society
9.7. The Individual in Contemporary Indian Society
. South African and National Indian Perspectives
10.. Assessing the Suitability of the Indian Leadership Model
11.. Research Insights into Indian Transformational Leadership
1. Why Use Philosophy to Access Leadership Experience?
A legitimate question that readers may ask themselves as they work their way through this review is: why use philosophy when more contemporary vehicles are readily available to transport us from our ignorance to discovery and enlightenment about the leadership experiences of different people, race or ethnic groups? From traditional to modern or contemporary society, philosophy has been the most effective medium through which to articulate the wisdom and customs of a people. Traditional society, in particular, has been most adept at handling paradoxes, ambiguities and contradictions which life presents to humankind. The review has revealed how each of the three traditional societies African, Indian and Jewish have used philosophy or philosophical traditions to express the ambiguities and paradoxes which life presented to each of the societies.
Contemporary society has lost touch, trust, respect or love for philosophy. Many people's knowledge and understanding is too little and lethally poisonous. The pedestrian curiosity of many would not been aroused had we elected to look at the leadership experience of Africans, Indians, Jews or Afrikaner through such trusted discipline of inquiry as anthropology, history, literature, social psychology, or science. After all each of these disciplines or combinations of them have been and continue to be used as research tools for mining, recording and transporting information about broad issues relating to human experiences including leadership. Some will, indeed, view or dismiss our philosophy-based approach as an attempt to intellectualise or lend scientific credibility to a topic which has eluded even the most serious of scholars throughout the history of human civilisation and development.
The temptation to intellectualise the study of leadership experience may, indeed, have been appealing, yet the most serious consideration which persuaded us to use philosophy in conjunction with the other disciplines or tools as the basis for an intellectual inquiry flows out of a fine essay by the Indian philosopher, S. K. Saksena (1), titled Philosophical Theories and the Affairs of Men. Saksena's essay addresses the shortcomings imposed by western society's progressive withdrawal of philosophy from the practical or daily affairs of ordinary people's lives and work. The essay also points out that the western approach to philosophy is radically different from that adopted by traditional society. In the case of the latter, philosophical traditions and thought are interwoven into the lives of the people whereas in western society the opposite applies. Saksena also points out that the adoption of the western approach to philosophy as a tool for addressing or managing practical affairs of men introduces some serious tensions between religion and science.
In the paragraphs that follow, we present a paraphrased summary of Saksena's assertions on the role played by philosophy in the affairs of ordinary people within India's traditional society. The essay also shed some light on the influence that philosophy has on the leadership experience and dynamics of Indian life. Saksena's argues that before we inquire into the relation which philosophical theories as a class may have with the practical affairs of men, it may be worth while to ask what it is which generally guides and determines our conduct. The answer would probably be that it is by our beliefs, religious or secular, that we generally live and act. As the Gita says, 'Man is of the nature of his faith: what his faith is, that, verily, he is.' (1) These beliefs may or may not be true, but, in the last analysis, it is these true or false beliefs which determine our conduct. While beliefs may be acquired in different ways, their chief sources are either the religious experiences of mankind, transmitted through theological knowledge, or the scientific knowledge of the day. These two sources of our beliefs cover almost the entire range of man's activities.
2. Inadequacy of Scientific and Religious Beliefs
Saksena maintains that while the above two sources of our beliefs, religious and scientific, are practically the originators and modifiers of our conduct, there is a philosophical unsatisfactoriness about each of them. Scientific beliefs, which have the merit of objective validity, have, nevertheless, a grave defect inasmuch as they do not refer to man's deepest questions regarding the meaning and purpose of life, nor do they deal with questions of valuation and worth. Scientific knowledge, which deals with the true, ignores the good, and theological beliefs, which have the opposite merit of being practically useful by virtue of their relevance to the practical aspirations of man, have the great defect of lacking objective validity and rational appeal. In other words, while theological beliefs are practical without being always true, scientific beliefs are true without being practical in the sense that, while they ascertain for us the relationship of ends and means, they do not tell us anything of the ends to be pursued by us.*
Saksena maintains that the realization that scientific knowledge and beliefs are not adequate since they do not touch even the fringe of man's problems of life and that the religious beliefs of one individual are of no use to another unless they percolate through his own rational thinking leaves the thoughtful man with a sense of vacuity and despair in the matter of the proper guidance of his life. While some have made their peace with science or religion, a large number are unable to do so. Nor is the mental vacuum thus created intellectually tolerable.
Contemporary Scepticism about Philosophical Knowledge
According to Saksena, it is obvious that the task of philosophy is more difficult than that of science or religion because while philosophy is unable to accept the unproven beliefs of theology, it is not aided by science in its quest for the good and the valuable. Nevertheless, philosophical knowledge, if it is to fill the gap, must combine the virtues of both science and theology without the defects of either. It must furnish us with beliefs about the real nature of the world and the meaning and the purpose of our lives which will not only possess the subjective certainty of the religious consciousness but also the objective validity of the sciences.
A glance at the balance sheet of contemporary philosophical performance with special reference to its practical utility will no doubt show that philosophy has drifted far away from life and that men no longer look to it for guidance in their daily lives. Deprived of both the subjective certainty of theological knowledge and of the objective certainty of the sciences, philosophical knowledge today seems to have surrendered its role of providing men with a fundamental or basic system of beliefs to live by, leaving men to be guided in their practical affairs by such beliefs as they may chance to have or not have. Saksena cites one of the most pessimistic of modern philosophers, Bertrand Russell (1), who maintains - in this respect that to teach how to live without certainty is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.
Commenting on Russell's opinion on contemporary western society's view or approach to philosophy, Saksena states that this opinion of philosophy and philosophical knowledge reveals the extent to which the modern mind has despaired of philosophical knowledge. This itself is a rational belief which has not only guided Russell but also influenced a large number of his admirers and followers in this age of philosophic uncertainty. Saksena opines that it may be true that philosophers have so far made only a negative contribution to modern society's systems of beliefs, yet our philosophical beliefs or our lack of them is all that we as rational human beings have to depend on and live by. In being contemptuous of the role of philosophy in the determination of our beliefs we should not forget that the contempt applies, not to philosophical knowledge as such, but only to particular varieties of it which, by and large, may deserve the condemnation.
In Saksena's view, there is no denying the fact that philosophy has today stepped down from its high calling and has been progressively withdrawing itself from the practical problems of life and straying into both a rarified realm and a stultifying method in which, by the very nature of the case, no conviction or faith is either possible or even desired. The philosophy, therefore, which is to be genuinely inspired by the scientific spirit must deal with somewhat dry and abstract matters, and must not hope to find an answer to the practical problems of life. It appears that philosophy, now by ridiculing religion, now by imitating science, and in turn being ridiculed by both, has itself become ridiculous without being able to correct the faults of either.
From ancient times to modern and from modern times to contemporary, the journey of philosophical reflection in the west has been, broadly speaking, from the 'practical' to the 'useless' and from the 'useless' to the 'nonsensical.' This may appear as too unsympathetic an oversimplification, but the element of truth in it cannot be denied. There is little relation today between philosophical theories and the practical affairs of our lives, and such little relation as might seem to exist between political or economic theories, which have practical results, and their philosophical background is due more to the demands of respectability and propaganda than to any logical relation between them and their philosophical counterpart. (1)
That philosophy should have come to such a predicament in the matter of providing certainties and conviction for the guidance of our daily life is regrettable and is certainly not in keeping with its best traditions throughout its history of more than twenty-five centuries. Philosophical reflection throughout the world was the earliest and has been the boldest effort of man's reason and thought to face the mystery and complexity of life and existence without passion or attachment to any particular creed or dogma. So long as man has an awakened mind whose energies and function exceed his biological and economic needs, there is no relinquishing of philosophical pursuit, which by nature must seek the real behind the apparent and not rest until man has attained to the highest truth and the destiny of his being. Man was, thus, never without a metaphysics or a philosophy about the world, or without some ideals for his life. (1)
Citing the philosopher, Bradley (1), Saksena posits that the choice for man has never been between metaphysics and no metaphysics but only between a good metaphysics and a bad metaphysics. He must have metaphysics of life, of right and wrong, and must, from time to time, undertake a revision of this conceptual or ideal framework with which he necessarily thinks about the world. This drawing or the re-drawing, in the world of his thought, of the map of total reality and integrating it with his life, this ideational framework of the highest possible generality, which constitutes his metaphysics, is inevitable for him, for a thoughtful life is not possible without it. This is not to say that philosophical theories are merely inevitable and do not have their uses. The metaphysics of Hegel (1) had a great effect on historical studies in the nineteenth century, and the philosophical ideas of the Renaissance were responsible for the political and social revolutions of the eighteenth century. Nor have scientific discoveries and religious faiths been without inspiration from metaphysical insights and presuppositions, as is evident from the lives of a number of scientists and saints. If the purpose and function of philosophy are understood properly, there is no reason philosophical theories and knowledge should lack conviction and fail to supply men with a rational and comprehensive system of beliefs for a better guidance of their lives.
Saksena is of the opinion that, in decrying philosophy and philosophical knowledge, we are prone to forget that we are criticizing thought by thought. If it is through our philosophical reasoning that we are critical of either theological or scientific knowledge, the same philosophical reasoning should also provide us with positive beliefs for the guidance of our lives. The alternative to philosophical beliefs is either to allow the practical affairs of our lives to be governed by the haphazard uncertainties of a skeptical age or to surrender our minds to men who have 'power without knowledge' (the politicians), 'faith without truth' (the theologians), or 'knowledge without purpose' (the scientists). This would be a sign more of our mental regression than of our intellectual advancement.
There is still another reason philosophy should not only step in but also be specially fitted for the task of belief-formation for the guidance of life. Looking at the map of world thought today, we find that the unity of man and his being is torn into numerous separate, disintegrated, and autonomous fields of reason and passion, persuasion and coercion, simultaneously pulling him in mutually contradictory directions without at the same time supplying him with any integrated view of life or of the ends to be pursued. While knowledge in these separate fields is constantly expanding, man's belief and conviction are progressively receding, because truth and knowledge gained in one direction are negated and contradicted by knowledge acquired in another. Lack of unified knowledge weakens belief, and it is philosophical knowledge alone which can stand for comprehensive and unified knowledge. The need of a synoptic vision was never so imperative and urgent as it is today, for, if, in these days of increasing multiplicity of fields of narrower and narrower specialization, philosophy also is to succumb to the temptation of specialization, all hope of a unitary knowledge is lost. Philosophy or philosophical reflection, which is distinctive of man's nature, should, therefore, be resurrected from its present plight and helped to undertake and perform its proper function. (1)
3. Causes of General Skepticism about Philosophical Knowledge
What is wrong with philosophy and philosophical knowledge today? Why does it fail to supply us with a system of beliefs to live by? Saksena provides the following answers to the questions just posed. (1)
Lack of a Synoptic Outlook
The first cause of skepticism about our philosophical pursuit is that philosophy, in its subject matter, has tended toward an increasing alienation from life. To be a philosopher is no longer to know anything about the business of life. It is always the other fellow, the non-philosopher, who is the expert in the art of living and who must take care of the philosopher's own problems of life. Knowing and living have become two separate compartments of life, so that a philosopher can live in a world of ideas and knowledge, while others inhabit a world of life quite unknown to the philosopher. Philosophy no longer means a philosophy of life but only analysis and clarification of terms and propositions which have no reference to beliefs or conduct. Its outlook is no longer either practical or synoptic.
The tragedy of the theoretical or the abstract philosopher is that the end sought by him is often lost in the activity itself. Seeking itself comes to occupy the place of finding. His aim is no longer truth but knowing. This is a paradoxical situation but not quite unlike an abstract philosophic search, Little wonder, therefore, that philosophical pursuit should be devoid of conviction and should inspire philosophers like the Buddha to declare that 'the Tathagata, O'Vaccha, is free from all theories.' Knowledge for the sake of knowledge has never been the proper function of the philosophical pursuit. As the Gita says, 'insight into the end of the knowledge of Truth - this is declared to be true knowledge, and all that is different from it is non-knowledge.' The true philosophical endeavor is not just one theoretical discipline among others but one supreme quest for the whole of truth, which is both known and lived in the soul of man.
A philosophy which is not of life and practised in life is barren. How can our philosophical theories inspire us to belief and action when we find philosophers who have made great intellectual strides in their theoretical fields suffer in their own daily lives from almost all the failings of common man? Philosophy should be no more divorced from life by reason of its rational approach than religion should be bereft of philosophical truth by virtue of its insistence on the life of realization.
Lack of an Integralist Epistemology
The other and more important reason which makes philosophical knowledge and theories unconvincing is what Charles Morris (1) has called its intellectual excessiveness and what Saksena refers to as its intellectual exclusiveness. By 'intellectual exclusiveness', Saksena refers to a fundamental defect in the epistemological belief of philosophy itself. Saksena's view is that, it has been too long assumed by philosophers that man has one or more cognitive faculties, such as sense, reason, and intuition, each of which separately and appropriate to its own nature and function reveals to him knowledge of the outside and the inside world. He has senses for external objects, reason for objects not to be grasped by the senses, and intuition for the reality not to be grasped by either. The common assumption about philosophical knowledge has been that reason alone is its cognitive apparatus and that whatever belongs to or comes through the realm of the heart, feeling, will, or vision is an unphilosophical blend.
According to Saksena, this analytic view of man and his epistemological tools is a great blunder, for, in reality, the integral cognitive-affective-conative man is never so completely abstracted as to be all sense without reason, or all reason without feeling. Even if he were so abstracted for a moment, we have no reason for thinking that the truth or the reality revealed to him by any one of his absolutely pure and exclusive apertures is for that reason more reliable. In fact, it should be less trustworthy. While the atomistic view of the faculties of man stands condemned by modern psychology, it is not a little surprising that this analytic division of man still persists in philosophical discussions. What, then, should be the source of philosophical knowledge? It is neither sense, nor reason, nor intuition, but the whole of the man. Philosophy is the reaction of the whole of man to the whole of reality. Man is a spirit, an integral whole, consisting of his body, mind, intellect, passion, and will, and his reason alone can no more exhaust him than his animality can encompass his reason. Reason or rational thought is only a part of his being. Purely rational knowledge, therefore, militates against and contradicts the affirmations of the rest of a man's being and receives acceptance only by a corner of his self.
Saksena posits that to know is to believe in what one knows. It does not make sense to say that one knows something but does not believe in what one knows. What one believes in may not be true, but what one knows has to be believed in so long as that knowledge lasts. That seems to be true of all knowledge except philosophical knowledge. The question should therefore be asked as to why is it that, of all kinds of knowledge, only philosophical knowledge should lack conviction in what is thus known. Is it because of the object of philosophical knowledge or because of the method of philosophical knowledge or because of both? To a certain extent, it can be said that, since philosophical knowledge concerns itself with the ultimate origin and end of the whole of reality and wants to grasp it with man's finite mind, an ultimate skepticism about it is involved in the very nature of the rational situation. This may be so, but still there is no reason to suppose that in the ultimate scheme of things this rational skepticism is not overcome in an integral vision (darsana) within the philosophical endeavor itself, an integral vision such as was attempted by the earlier philosophies of India and the west.
The real misfortune of philosophy seems to have been that philosophers themselves have misunderstood the function and the purpose of philosophy. They have generally agreed in calling it a rational and intellectual search, and, today, when the results of this rational quest are before us in the form of philosophical scepticism and lack of any reliable system of philosophical beliefs, it is time for us to re-examine our premises and presuppositions and begin anew. As W. P. Montague maintains that the problem of validating belief is intimately associated with the problem of ascertaining the sources of belief. Philosophy, therefore, should not be conceived of as merely a rational or intellectual quest, but a spiritual endeavor of the whole of a man's being.
It is only of a knowledge born in the whole of a man's being that we can say that to know is to believe. In this way alone does a man acquire the additional authority and power to speak with the language of reality and fact. As the Yoga (1) says, 'truth-bearing is, then, knowledge.' In the last analysis, it is this psychologically integral quality of Indian epistemology which gives it an intuitive (or, technically, the 'saksat-kara') attitude, which F. S. C. Northrop (1) calls an aesthetic sense and which it has never lost. According to Northrop, this integralist standpoint, or the necessity of a unified epistemic correlation between the subjective and the objective, has remained a characteristic, not only of the Hindu, the Buddhist, and the Jaina theories of philosophy and knowledge, but also of all western philosophies which have not been purely speculative or concerned with abstractions alone.
Closely related to the integralist theory of knowledge is the question of the immediacy of knowledge. When philosophical knowledge is not grounded in the direct experience of the whole of a man's being, it lacks a necessary union of the knower and the known. The distance that is thus produced by the separation of the two and the inevitable mediation of thought which thinks out the things are also not conducive to conviction and belief. In revealed or self-discovered knowledge the knower feels an identity with what he knows as true without any shadow of doubt. The case of scientific knowledge is similar. No one will seriously maintain that scientific knowledge is either mediate knowledge or purely deduction. (1)
If scientific knowledge is a blend of many elements such as imagination, hypothesis, generalization, verification, and perception, it is at least the most integrated knowledge that we know of in which the knower is so related to what is known that knowledge is equal to faith in what is thus known. And theological and scientific knowledge, which are responsible for our beliefs, have this characteristic in common: they both carry instant conviction. This may also be due to the fact that, in both cases, there is neither mediation between the knowing subject and the known reality nor any dialectics of thought making doubt possible. In this they both differ from philosophical knowledge, in which what is thus known can be doubted at the very moment of knowing and the truth of knowledge depends either on another knowledge or on something outside of knowledge, and hence fails to carry conviction. (1)
Knowledge as we understand it today can hardly yield conviction or certainty about what is thus known unless a state of identity of the subjective and the objective is reached at some stage of our endeavor in knowing. As F. H. Bradley (1) admits, ideal or perfect knowledge would not be anything like what we mean by knowledge, it would be more like feeling, in that the distinction between the knower and the known would have disappeared altogether, and knowledge would no longer be mediated through the forms of language or through our limited categories of thought. It would be direct and intuitive, an identification of mind with reality. For this reason, the use of these mystical phrases is the necessary consequence of following an entirely rational line of argument, as a kind of last chapter, of metaphysical systems.
Purely rational and mediate theories of knowledge have lacked conviction, and hence only such philosophical theories as have been based on some form of the unitary theory of knowledge, such as that of the mystic, the sufi, and the Upanisads, have carried conviction and certainty and have been successful in influencing conduct. Also, pure thought, by its very nature, works in dialectics: it creates and develops its own antithesis. It is one of the characteristics of rational and discursive thinking that it is at the same time aware of the other side also, and therefore an element of doubt is always there in the thinker's mind. No stable convictions can be built on mere dialectics. No true philosopher would ever be sure that there could not be another viewpoint or argument which has escaped him. It is of this kind of partial and unconvincing knowledge that the Isa-upanisad speaks:
Into blind darkness enter they
That worship ignorance;
Into darkness greater than that, as it were, they
That delight in knowledge. (1)
It would thus appear that whatever is immediately or intuitively known is believed in, at least for the moment, and, the more the mind of man takes to a discursive, an inferential, and a mediate way of knowing, the more there is skepticism or lack of conviction in what is thus known even at the time of knowing. Belief or conviction and an immediate theory of knowledge seem somehow to be related to each other, as also mediate theories of knowledge and skepticism seem necessarily to go together. For philosophical theories and knowledge to be practical, it is necessary that they should be believed in, and, in order to be believed in, they should have a basis in some form of immediacy. (1)
Knowledge, therefore, before it can lead to action, must be accompanied by a conviction about its truth: knowledge without conviction is practically useless, and man without faith, as the Gita says, perishes: 'but the man who is ignorant, who has no faith, who is of a doubting nature, perishes. For the doubting soul (atman) there is neither this world nor the world beyond, nor any happiness.' (1)
According to Saksena, in addition to the fact that philosophy has not adopted an integralist theory of knowledge, it has barred valid sources of knowledge other than reason or perception, as, for example, the testimony of a reliable person, which exclusion is not justifiable, especially from the point of view of its role of belief-formation. Indian philosophy, besides admitting the two kinds of perceptual knowledge, sensory and non-sensory, acknowledges testimony also as a means of true knowledge. It also subordinates other valid means of knowledge, such as inference, analogy, and others, to the two primary ones of perception and testimony, and perhaps much can be said in support of their being included within the legitimate epistemological sources for philosophical knowledge. Of course, it is possible to say for that reason it is not philosophy but the point is that to the extent it relies on immediate knowledge, philosophy influences man's conduct, and, if this is not to be thought of as philosophy, then whatever is philosophy can neither produce beliefs nor be practical.
Philosophical knowledge and theories will assuredly achieve all that they can - namely, critical acumen, sharpening of wit, even occasional insight - but will ever lack conviction so long as they confine themselves to inferential and ratiocinative knowledge as the only valid knowledge. In other words, philosophy, before it can affect men's conduct, must revise its ideas about the exclusive validity of its accepted sources of knowledge and include once again what it excluded when it became contemporary and purely scientific. (1)
Saksena maintains that what has been said above about philosophical knowledge does not apply to the validity or the truth of that knowledge but only to its quality of being psychologically believed. What is maintained here is that philosophical knowledge and theories will carry conviction and give man a system of beliefs to live by only when philosophical knowledge stands for knowledge acquired by the whole of a man's self and by no single part of him. The truth-quality of such philosophical knowledge will depend on the all-round perfection of the integrated being of the knowing self. It follows that, if philosophical knowledge is the result of the whole of the integrated personality of a man, the more perfect the soul of the knower, the purer his mind, senses, reason, and heart, the greater will be the philosophical truth revealed to him. No man will claim to have true knowledge in any sphere if he believes his instruments of cognition to be defective. Similarly, no philosopher can hope to attain the truth except in proportion to the perfection of his soul. Ultimately, therefore, it is the intellectual, the moral, and the spiritual perfection of the man which reveals the perfect truth. The ideal philosopher, therefore, will be the yogin (or yogi), in the sense of the most integrated and spiritually the most perfected individual.
Saksena has gone to some length to clarify two separate but related points, the recognition of both of which is considered important if philosophical knowledge is to be both convincing and true. The first refers to the standpoint and the second to the conviction-value of philosophic knowledge, i.e., a synoptic outlook and an integralist epistemology for the philosophic quest. One reason philosophical knowledge has been open to doubt is found in its too narrow and exclusive epistemology - in its acceptance of only perception and reason (and that, too, in its too obvious and superficial meaning), to the exclusion of other parts of a man's being. It is suggested that sound sources of knowledge other than reason should also be admitted by philosophy in its integral search for total reality. This relates only to the valid sources of knowledge and not to their validity.
The second point deals with the criterion and validity of knowledge. Here it is suggested that the criterion of philosophical knowledge cannot be merely cognitive. For philosophical truths to be valid, the cognized material should have come through perfect receptacles. Philosophy does not seem to recognize the necessity of any moral or spiritual development on the part of its seekers after truth and seems to think that a developed intellect or reason is competent by itself to achieve its objectives. This is open to doubt: an integralist epistemology for the sources of knowledge and an ethical or spiritual perfection for the validity of knowledge seem to be two neglected requirements of the philosophical pursuit without which philosophical knowledge will neither produce conviction nor be true. (1)
4. Indian Philosophical Theories and Practical Affairs of Life
Saksena observes that Indian thinkers of the past left behind some fundamental philosophical beliefs which have not only governed the lives of the Indian people for ages but have not lost much of their hold on men even today. But, before we pass on to these beliefs and see their intimate relation to conduct, we might look at the origin itself of the Indian philosophic endeavor. This is rooted in the indubitable experience of suffering in the affair of living itself as contrasted with the origin of philosophy in the west, which lies in the intellectual possibility of doubting the nature and the existence of anything whatever. This reaction of the whole of a man's being to the experience of suffering is common to almost all the schools of philosophy in India. Philosophical endeavor in India thus began with a practical aim and purpose, which was not merely understanding the why and the wherefore of suffering but an absolute and final elimination of the curse of it all, and of the bondage of the causal chain of desire, and of the attainment of a state of liberation from even the possibility of suffering in this life and hereafter.
Saksena states that this concept of liberation (moksa) of men from suffering from all bonds and fears whatever is not only a common Summum Bonum of all the different systems of Hindu philosophy, Buddhism, and Jainism, but is also a philosophical concept which is not to be dismissed as merely a theological or religious dogma. The Upanisadic philosophers, who were at the same time sages, arrived at this concept by their reflection on the nature of the one and the many, and founded their doctrine of freedom from pain and death - to be more precise, from fear as such (of any sort whatever) - on the truth of the oneness of reality to be realized within their own and irrefutable direct experience. (1)
The systems of the Nyaya-Vaisesika, the Samkhya-Yoga, (1) and the various forms of the Vedanta have been led to the same goal of liberation by not being able to accept philosophically the conditioned and empirical existence of man as his true state, which is declared to be that of a state of freedom from all limitations. These systems have differed among themselves by emphasizing one or the other of the three ways for the attainment of moksa - knowledge, devotion, or action. They also differed concerning the exact nature of the liberated state in terms of its positive or negative character. But what is of significance for us to note here is that all the different schools and systems of philosophy have been occupied with this practical problem of man and with the practical means for its resolution. With all of them, it has not been merely the problem of knowing or of solving an intellectual puzzle but of finding a more satisfactory way of living. Even if all of Indian philosophy had given different answers to the questions of the true nature of man and of the means to its realization, it would have been entitled to the claim of a practical philosophy by virtue of its adherence to the practical problems of man and his life on earth.
It is also significant that, among the different systems of Indian philosophy, tradition should have given the highest place to the Yoga. Saksena points out that Patanjali's Yoga, and his school, is through and through a system of psychological discipline, and its being a necessary practical counterpart of the theoretical philosophy of the Samkhya has never been doubted. Saksena argues that there is no other system of philosophical reflection in which a course of conduct has been classified under philosophy. This shows how theory and practice, or knowledge and conviction, went hand in hand and influenced men's conduct in the past. As Huston Smith (1) has pointed out, India's specialization has been in psychological wisdom as against the natural and the social emphasis of the west and the Chinese, respectively.
Saksena notes that the Vedanta has quite another kind of peculiarity in this respect but with an identical result. Here, what is primarily claimed is not that any practical discipline is required for the attainment of true knowledge or the annulment of obstinate and inborn nescience itself constitutes the miracle of the attainment of the highest; for, in reality, nothing is to be attained or approximated except the lifting of the veil of maya, or partial knowledge, something like the claim of modern psychoanalysis in the attainment of freedom from neurosis. Here again, knowledge and action are not separated or even distinguished. The Vedanta came to this conclusion of the unity of theory and practice, knowledge and action, through criticism and analysis of the process of knowledge itself. All knowledge at the empirical level is conceived of as a mixture of true and false knowledge, which is the cause of all striving and activity at that level. Complete and pure knowledge was found to be all there is. Thus, while the Yoga is practical in the psychological sense of the term, the Vedanta is so in a metaphysical sense. By its insistence on the absolute reality of pure and absolute knowledge alone, it reduces all activity to the removal of nescience, or the lack of true knowledge.
The philosophical distinction between the partial reality of this world and the absolute reality of quite another kind of world has had perhaps the most profound and most durable influence on the conduct of men in India. While in all philosophizing a distinction has always been made between the sensory and the ideational, the empirical and the transcendental, or, at least, between appearance and reality, and, while all the scientists and philosophers in all parts of the world have had to start from a distinction of a 'this' world and a 'that,' the distinction has remained practically a dead letter in the conduct of our daily lives. In spite of Plato's 'world of ideas,' Hegel's 'Absolute,' Kant's 'Transcendental Ego,' Husserl's or Hartmann's 'Essences,' and, even in spite of the 'original' or the 'neutral stuff' of the realists and their distinction between the primary and the secondary qualities of matter, the practical affairs of men have proceded as if these theories did not exist. But, in India, it would not be correct to say that this distinction is altogether erased from the daily conduct of men, even today, when philosophy, traditional or living, is not playing the dominant role it played in the past. (1)
According to Saksena, that the theory of maya is believed to have altered the outlook and the life of its believers in India is clear from the reproach Indian thought has received from the western world. That the cause of India's present backwardness, political and economic, should have been put on the shoulders of the philosophical theory of maya is an evidence of the fact that the theory was believed to have been followed in life. The point here is not whether a particular philosophical theory is correct, but only whether it is believed in and guides conduct. We are concerned only with the question as to whether philosophical theories are believed and acted on and, if so, how?
As Saksena again points out, the philosophical pursuit was not conceived of as merely an intellectual excellence but was meant to be integrally related to the personality and the life of the philosopher is shown from the Indian doctrine of adhikara, or of the merit and qualifications of the aspirant to philosophical wisdom. One of the repeated strains of Indian philosophical thought is that true knowledge and wisdom can be acquired only by the pure in heart, by one who has already attained the requisite moral virtues and is free from the psychologically and morally undesirable traits of personality and character. He must have controlled certain ignoble emotions and must be free from unworthy motives and desires. Mere mental gifts or intellectual abilities are not enough for the attainment of the highest truth. Indian philosophical literature abounds in its repeated emphasis on this fourfold discipline (sadhana-catustaya) for aspirants to philosophical wisdom.
According to Saksena, this blend of virtue and knowledge, of thought and moral practice, may seem to be a distasteful superfluity to the modern mind, which cannot understand the reason things clearly separate could not be treated as separate. But the view that philosophical wisdom should be ethically conditioned should cause no surprise to anyone today, when it is being increasingly realized that the intellectual and the moral cannot be separated in any ideal system of instruction and learning. If this is true of everyday knowledge, how much more true it would seem to hold that, for the realization of the highest truth of reality, adequate moral and spiritual preparation is necessary. After all, what is it to be intelligent or rational? Is it really possible to be intelligent or rational without being moral?
Saksena argues that if we analyze the behavior of a truly rational man, we are sure to find a number of qualities in him which will prove to be moral. To be rational, for instance, is not to be partisan, or to have prejudices, or to be swayed by passions or self-interest, or to falsify truth, or to have double standards, but it is to stand for truth under all conditions, etc. These are moral qualities. In fact, to be rational is to be moral, and to be completely rational is to be completely moral. The moral and spiritual qualification of a philosopher is, therefore, a condition of his philosophizing properly. Passion or ethical failings cannot but distort the vision of even a philosopher. In fact, what is called intuition is not so much an independent faculty as a purity of the moral being of the knower which itself constitutes enlightenment. As the Upanisad says, 'Therefore let a brahmana become disgusted with learning and desire to live as a child.' It is one of the merits of Indian philosophical thought to have insisted on virtue for knowledge, for it is only thus that knowledge leading to belief and action can be acquired.
In terms of Saksena, the Indian doctrine of karma, which is the extension of the universal principle of causation to the realm of the inward and the outward life of man, also illustrates the application of philosophical theory to life. The belief that there is no escape from the welcome or the unwelcome effects of our minutest thoughts and deeds has had the most profound effect on the practical affairs of men in India. It has saved men from temptations and has provided great consolation in their hour of misfortune. Related to this doctrine of karma, which provides an Indian with a practical and ready reckoner of the deeds of his life, is the corresponding theory of non-attached living (niskama-karma), which is believed to undo what the law of karma does. The law of niskama-karma is a philosophical antidote to the evil of bondage to the law of karma. While the Law of Karma binds the doer to the fruits of his deeds, the practice of niskama-karma frees him from this thralldom. As is said,
'Thus on thee - not otherwise than this is it -
The deed adheres not on the man.' (1)
Saksena points out that it is one of the characteristics of Indian philosophical thought that corresponding to every law that binds man it discovers a lass, that liberates him. In the realm of action, if our deeds bind us through their fruits, we can so act as to free ourselves from that chain of causal action and reaction by acting in disregard of that chain. We can act and yet not be attached to any thought of our act's consequences. In niskama-karma, action having been started unilaterally and with no thought of its consequences, the fangs, as it were, of the law of action and reaction to touch or hurt us are removed. The non-attached man, who performs actions only because he considers it his duty and not because he has bargained for results, has liberated himself from the chain of action and consequences to himself.
It may be interesting to recall here that the same psychology applies to the practice of non-violence, in which it is the violence of the other party which is to be disregarded. The idea is coming to be gradually appreciated in the west, especially through its psychological and sociological studies of the types of personality and leadership, if not in strictly philosophical fields. It is not merely a moral ideal but a philosophical theory arrived at by deep reflection on the psychology of desiring or striving and its effect on the reasoning purity of the knowing mind. The theory of niskama-karma is the counterpart in the sphere of action to the theory of the non-attached mind (niskama-citta) in the realm of knowledge. A kamya (end-seeking or purposeful) mind, a mind that is infected and tarnished by low personal desires and aspirations, can with difficulty see the truth as it is. (1)
Saksena points out that the niskama-karma can flow only from a niskama mind, which appears to be a necessary qualification of an ideal philosopher, whose task is to perceive the truth about reality with undefective and clean instruments of reason and heart. While, for all practical purposes, the analogous moral theory of Kant's conscientious living and action is only of historical interest in the west, the theory of niskama-karma is still significant in India because it is a philosophy of action which lays down an ethical determinant to the epistemological validity of knowledge as well. As referred to above, a philosopher who is not otherwise ideal or perfect, i.e., in his practical outlook and action, is, by the very nature of his psychological situation, not entitled to true knowledge or to any reliability of his cognitive theories.
Saksena observes that just as Kant deduces his theory from the principle of the pure reason in man, the theory of non-attachment in India is the outcome, not only of a philosophical theory of the true nature of the pure or non-attached purusa or atman (person or self), but also of a theory of the relationship of knowledge to personality. And, though in the Buddhist theory of anatma-vada there is no corresponding non-attached purusa or atman, it is philosophically interesting to note that this absence makes little difference to the mechanism and the framework of the possibility of the attainment of philosophical enlightenment as the outcome of freedom from attachment in both Buddhism and Hinduism. The non-attached yogin or sannyasin (samnyasin), in whom the ideal of niskama-karma is exemplified, is not only a perfect or ideal man but is also more truly a philosopher, having attained true philosophical knowledge (prajna), because in his life is typified the completest identity of philosophical knowledge and practice.
Saksena's foregoing review has shown how Indian philosophical theories of suffering, ultimate freedom, non-attachment, the unreality of the apparent, and of moral requirements for intellectual attainments have produced convictions and beliefs which have not only altered the outlook of their believers, but have also given a different turn to their style of living. This could be attained because these philosophic theories not only originated by reflection on the practical affairs of life but were also founded on the direct experience of the whole of the being of man and were not based on any single sensory, rational, or intuitive part of his being. Through sages and saints these philosophical systems of belief came to be so crystallized into the common heritage of India that today it does not require a philosopher in India to proclaim that the world is but another name for the unceasing changes of creation and dissolution, the rise and fall of civilizations and cultures, or of birth and death, health and disease, richness and poverty - which is believed to be the very nature of the world and is picturesquely characterized as the wheel of life and death (samsara-cakra), in which man is caught.
Further, observes Saksena, it takes ages of tireless effort for the individual to emerge unsearred, as it were, by the ravages of the wheel. The fact that these beliefs came to Indians through their sages and saints, not only does not make them less philosophic, but is actually the reason for their being believed, showing once more, the integral and unitary character of knowledge and action. Even today, when these traditional philosophical beliefs have dimmed in the stress and strife of modern life, it is difficult to say that an Indian goes through his daily life of birth, marriage, and death unimpressed and unaffected by these beliefs, the truth of which he seems to feel in his very bones.
How is it that these philosophical truths in India have permeated the entire population irrespective of the mental caliber or intellectual status of its people, while elsewhere philosophical truths are supposed to be the mental furnishings only of the intellectually gifted and informed minds? The answer is that these, truths not only had their roots in the total experience of man but have, at the same time, served as the foundation of their religious beliefs as well. Ultimately, philosophical truths and religious institutions are arrived at by the same integral, direct, ethical, and psychological process. These are the same truths arrived at philosophically by the learned which have filtered down to the unlettered masses through their religious beliefs. That is perhaps the only way we know in which philosophical knowledge and beliefs can influence and guide the practical affairs of men, i.e., by being philosophic and religious at the same time (1).
Saksena is of the opinion that many a scholar interested in Indian and comparative philosophies has complained of the dimness of the borderline between Indian philosophical truths and Indian religious beliefs. They have been puzzled to find that there is very little distinction between the two, and have wished it were not so. This is symptomatic of the modern analytical trends of breaking up the unity of man into separate and autonomous compartments of reason and faith. The chief merit of Indian philosophical thought lies in its unitary vision of man and life, in its intimate relation to religious beliefs, which gives it its practical character. Philosophy and religion are aspects of the same human activity. Philosophy is the theory of religion, as religion is the realization of that theory in practice. A philosophy which is not lived is as barren a pastime as a religion that is not founded on valid truths is a meaningless ritual. Where theory is divorced from life, reason from conduct, what expectation may one have that such theories can or will influence the practical affairs of men? (1)
5. Distinction in the Meaning of the 'Practical' in India and the west
Saksena points out that the foregoing remarks about the practicality of Indian philosophy also show that the term 'practical' itself has been understood in India in a sense not quite the same as that which it carries in the west, at least in the modern period. In the west, the term 'practical' has referred to man's relation with his environment and to changes and alterations in it. It has not been so in India, where the term has referred to just the opposite meaning of effecting change and alteration within one's own self, where the entire effort has been concentrated on transforming the empirical ego into the pure self, or egoity itself into non-egoity or mere 'thusness'. In short, the emphasis on the practical in India has been with reference to the inner transformation of man rather than to any socialized transformation in his style of living. The world of objective Nature is to be used only as the material for this inner change. The need to become his true self rather than to conquer outer Nature has been his deepest aspiration. His practicality has consisted in a constant effort toward self-discovery, self-discipline, and self-development.
Saksena draws comfort or encouragement from the fact that one of the great American sociological thinkers, Lewis Mumford, while commenting on the exclusively horizontal socialization of our present civilization, which equates life with property and power, comes to a similar conclusion about the need of richness and depth in the individual's own personality rather than in externals. The progressive exchange of his natural, biological, and psychological self to his truly human self is what man alone can effect and create and he is human only in so far as this has been effected by him in his own person. The more a man becomes externally socialized, the less is his depth within himself. This value attributed to the inward depth of the individual in Indian thought continues up to the present time, as is evident from the response of the people to the philosophies of Tagore, Gandhi, and Aurobindo, in which all practical programs of action in political, social, and economic fields are to conform to the belief that no achievement in any sphere is in itself worth while unless it leads at the same time to a desired transformation in the psychological quality of the inner nature of man, the individual.
By way of conclusion, Saksena points out that though India is free politically, its best minds are occupied in an attempt to catch up with economic targets in national living. Pari passu, there is to be noticed a general revival of the arts, literature, and other cultural activities - about which it is too early to form any opinion as to what it will achieve and in which direction. But indications are not lacking to show that it will be in the direction of a synthesis of the best in the west and the best in the Indian cultural tradition. So far as philosophy is concerned, there is evidence, not only of an increased awareness of the philosophical knowledge of India's own past, but also of contemporary trends in western philosophical thought. From the philosophical writings of Indians today one gains the impression that Indian thinkers are either critical or unenthusiastic about the modern western philosophical trends of logical positivism, existentialism, and the philosophy of mere analysis. Whether this is due to traditional bias or to genuine philosophical insight is hard to determine.
Saksena notes that, in recent times, the only philosophers of fame in India have been Aurobindo Ghosh and Radhakrishnan, whose philosophies are both integral and practical. For the rest, there has been no philosophical reflection or theory which has yet crystallized into being properly called the contemporary Indian philosophical theory. The place of philosophy and philosophical thought in India consists at present of the ideas and ideals which are in general the products of its spiritual and moral leaders, such as Ramakrishna, Tagore, and Gandhi. What India still retains today of its past philosophical tradition, after centuries of inactivity, is not any development or modification of its earlier philosophy or philosophical theories, but perhaps a philosophical attitude and outlook which is more critical than creative.
Finally, Saksena believes that if philosophy is a product of the general climate of ideas (as it certainly is), it seems safe to predict that India's future philosophical activity will be in the direction of a philosophy of the co-existence of the ideas of the west and the East and of the old and the new, and in the discovery of the largest measure of agreement and compatibility between the two. It would be a pity if Indian philosophers, too, adopt the view of an autonomous realm of philosophical pursuit divorced from the practical problems of life. Any approach toward life and the universe which is not integral, synoptic, or unitary, but divides and cuts life and its problems into compartments which tend to be autonomous, is likely to be skeptical. If India can retain an integral attitude, something of value may well result from its re-emergence in the arena of creative thought.
6. Philosophical Underpinnings of Indian Leadership Experience
Lest the foregoing create an impression that the interim leadership research has conveniently overlooked the role and importance of the philosophical and traditional thoughts that Indian society relies on to guide the development and practice of its leadership approach or systems, we feature below a heavily paraphrased summary of points that resonate with the general thrust of the African leadership study. Before we go into the condensed, interpretive summary of what are essentially the fundamentals of the Indian mind, we must highlight several cautionary notes or caveats. In his introductory remarks to the book The Indian Mind: Essentials of 'Indian Philosophy and Culture, the editor - Charles A. Moore (2) presents a comprehensive summary of issues and arguments to be taken into consideration by those interested in understanding how the Indian way of life approaches life's ambiguities, paradoxes and challenges. As with many other older societies - whose knowledge and social systems are driven by complex layers of traditional thoughts, religion and customary laws - it is impossible to understand the Indian leadership mind without first understanding how the basic Indian philosophies affect or influence the everyday life of Indian society.
As has been the case with older traditional systems of thought such as those of Africa and Jewry, India's position and role in the contemporary global community of nations has been grossly undermined by a great deal of historical narration based largely on a mixture of romance and fancy, truths and half-truth. The picture that contemporary Indian society presents to the outside world including the immediate region is one blighted by an unbelievable plight this is characterized by starvation, disease and ignorance, and a plethora of ideas and practices that seem to isolate the country from all other peoples and thought-traditions of the world East and west. (2)
Moore contends that confusion, misunderstanding and misrepresentation, bewilderment, and almost universal neglect especially by western thought-leaders have been much in evidence for centuries with reference to the greatest democratic nation in the Eastern world. Moore points out that the image presented by those who used and misused the country to satisfy their hunger for power and riches is vastly different from the India that is to be found in its own reflections and application of its philosophical traditions and systems of thought. As has been the case with African society, Indian philosophies, religions, and basic cultural patterns have been so deeply ingrained in the minds and lives of Indian people that not even virtual slavery politically and economically could prevail against them. It is these deep-seated ideas and ideals that are the minds of India that we must seek to understand in order to appreciate whatever leadership lessons we may derive from their history and experiences.
Moore observes that the issue of understanding what, at face value, may come across as an entirely foreign, complex and confusing way of looking at the world and life, requires the researcher to shift gears from passing familiarity to genuine and comprehensive understanding which must include a knowledge of all the fundamental aspects of the mind of the people in question. Philosophy is the major medium of understanding, both because it is concerned deliberately and perhaps uniquely with the fundamental ideas, ideals, and attitudes of a people, and also because philosophy alone attempts to see the total picture and thus includes in its purview all the major aspects of the life of a people. As mentioned in this section of the study, the scope, resources and time available do not permit this phase of the African leadership study to arrive at the level of comprehensive understanding advocated by Moore. But as subsequently mentioned by Moore, as total outsiders not informed about India, its people and leadership philosophies, the best we can hope to achieve is to adopt the requisite attitude and willingness to gain a fair understanding of the Indian mind.
Open-mindedness, cordiality to alien ideas and ideals, and actual determination are necessary ingredients of the attempt to understand an alien people, if that attempt is to be successful. One must at least attempt to see other people as those people see themselves. We cannot understand as long as we merely stand outside and look in; we must try to think and feel with. Above all, we cannot understand another people if we look through biased eyes, with the conviction of superiority, or with the assumption that what is different from our own must therefore be worthless. These are difficulties which attend any attempt to understand an 'other' people, but they call for special notice here since they probably apply to India. It is going to be especially difficult to rid our minds of these strong misconceptions. Understanding does not involve approval or acceptance: it may to exactly the opposite. However, we must understand each other in any case and, in this case now at hand - India, the conviction is here expressed that genuine understanding will promote friendship and harmony and a much greater meeting of the minds than ever seemed possible. (2)
In philosophy, India is basically more like the west than is any other Asian tradition. There is, furthermore, inscrutable or non-understandable elements in or about Indian philosophy and its leadership approaches or practices either because of the substance of Indian philosophy and leadership or because of the allegedly "totally different" bias of western philosophy and the western mind. But these points of similarity and the writings in which they can be found are almost completely ignored or very largely overshadowed by excessive attention given to the early, the religious, and to the "different" aspects of the Indian tradition as a whole. This is tragic but true, and it perpetuates clichés, oversimplifications, and actual distortions. And these, in turn, prevent genuine understanding and also prevent the west's and others taking Indian philosophy (and Indian leadership approaches and models) seriously (2).
Addressing himself directly to the study of the Indian mind, Moore states that such an undertaking is not easy because we are dealing here with such a complex mind, civilization, culture, and tradition. There are probably some common denominators of mind and practice which may be said to constitute the essence of the Indian mind in certain respects. But there is such complexity and variety in practically every field even in the languages which are causing so much practical difficulty that we must not even seek simplicity or even attempt to determine fundamental ideas and ideals without realising from the start that these fundamentals express themselves in a great variety of ways and have changed greatly over the long span of some four thousand years of a high level of thought and culture. We must realize, too, that the Indian mind is made up of more varieties of religion, more philosophies, and a greater complex of cultural practices than most other civilizations in the world.
Again, like other older societies and their philosophical traditions, Indian philosophy has witnessed many and fundamental movements going back many centuries. These changes account for the richness and variety of Indian philosophical tradition and thought. The major movements are generally referred to as the Verdic period (2 500 6 000 B.C.) during which the foundations of Indian philosophy were established. The second movement known as the Epic period (approximately 500 or 600 B.C. to A.D. 200) is known in Indian Philosophical circles for not having been strictly about the development of philosophy as it dealt more with descriptions of the social customs and practices of the Hindu people. The third period, the Sutra period, began one to three centuries before the Christian era and brought about the formulation and the systemisation of the great Six Systems of Hindu philosophy. This period was superseded by a period, which endures to this day, known either as the Scholastic period or the period of commentaries or commentators.
Moore's analysis points to the existence of several trends in the history and evolution of both Indian and Jewish philosophical traditions. Although these philosophies originated and underwent many radical changes over centuries, it does not mean, therefore, that they are anachronistic, irrelevant or not capable of handling the needs and challenges of contemporary society. According to Moore, Indian philosophies are alive and dynamic. They still provide the guiding principles of the life of the people and contain very significant ideas and concepts to which the rest of the world may well turn to for new insights and perhaps deeper wisdom. Moore's spirited and protracted defence of the enduring currency of Indian philosophies leads him to argue that it is a mistake to think that the philosophies of India belong to the past and that the "new India" is simply the India of today or a wholly different India moulded by contemporary, chiefly western, influences.
The striking developments and changes that are taking place in contemporary India are not out of accord with the Indian tradition though they are out of accord with some of the distortions and excesses of that tradition which arose primarily under the stress and pressure of unfortunate events and almost unbearable circumstances. The apparent incompatibility of traditional India and contemporary India is basically only that apparent. Long-range, comprehensive, and deep understanding will correct such an impression. There are changes, yes, but changes within the essential context of the many-sided and inclusive tradition that is India.
To illustrate his argument about the currency of traditional Indian philosophies in contemporary Indian society, Moore offers the statement that India's strong contemporary interest in raising the standard of living - and its emphasis on practical activities and practical idealism is as intrinsic to the Indian mind and culture and tradition as it could be to any people on earth. Let it be said too that the deep spirituality which is so dominant in India, both in thought and in life, is not so otherworldly, or escapist, or pessimistic, or negative that it finds violation of the spiritual in the abundant life. There is no incompatibility here. (2)
One of the ironies highlighted by Moore is that Indian philosophies have so much to offer other societies including the western and African worlds but are not being allowed to do so because the west, in particular, has not been willing to receive. In the case of Africa, we surmise that it is because Africa has simply not been in a position to give Indian philosophies more than a cursory glance. Africa's preoccupation with western influences has almost shut its eyes and ears to anything but western. Truth be told, Africa suffers from a mind that is shut by ignorance and racial or cultural prejudice. Unlike the west - which can afford to be culturally chauvinistic, or bloody-minded vis-à-vis receiving ideas and influences from non-western traditional minds Africa cannot afford to ignore whatever India has to offer. The basis of our argument is that there are just too many similarities or areas of potential collaboration between the two worlds. Besides, both societies are facing almost identical socio-economic and political developmental challenges from within and without their respective political economies. There is, therefore, great scope for philosophical and intellectual compatibility between African and Indian societies today.
As Moore puts it, India can assist by partnering African scholars and researchers in their search for knowledge, truth, wisdom and inspiration about issues, including the development of a more intellectually-grounded yet practical leadership model. African researchers owe it to themselves and the future of their leadership and management systems to realize that India offers, not only to Africa but the rest of world community, a potential for philosophical renaissance, if only Africa and the west will search for the new insights, new intuitions, new attitudes, and new methods which might well supplement, replace or correct and enlarge the restricted perspective of the western mind, as Moore argues. We believe this last statement holds true for Africa.
In the foregoing paragraph we briefly touched on Africa's apparent lack of will or open-mindedness to receive or learn from societies other than those of the west. This and must change. Moore states, as in the case of understanding, so is the case of learning from another people. Some remarkable attitudes are indispensable and very difficult to adopt. Perhaps it is even more important in learning from rather than in learning about another people that the 'outsider' must come with the spirit of humility, with open-mindedness and cordiality, and with both a willingness and a determination to learn or learning will be impossible, or superficial, or possibly self-defeating.
Citing problems presented by feelings of superiority over other people; their ideas and ideals, Moore argues that societies should not allow built-in biases to get in the way of learning from those generally considered either superior or inferior depending on one's starting point. Thus, just as India is biased in favour of its own traditions, the west suffers not only from a conviction of the superiority of its own attitudes and methods in the sphere of philosophy and all learning not to mention the influence of certain basic Indian ideas which "make no sense" to the western mind but has the additional disadvantage of being largely ignorant of the tremendous riches of the almost inexhaustible Indian philosophical mind. (2)
Moore further states that what the west knows about India (and China) is largely only one aspect of the very complex total picture. In the case of both India and China, it is a knowledge which is historically, philosophically, and even simply intelligently so one-sided as to make genuine and comprehensive understanding impossible, and also to deny even the existence, let alone the significance, of many of the greatest philosophical concepts the mind of India has discovered. Oversimplification and distortion are the inevitable results of such a partial and historically false and consequently significantly superficial knowledge of the great philosophical panorama of Indian intellect, and the Indian spirit.
Moore's spirited argument regarding open-mindedness and humility in the handling of alien ideas and concepts had a profound influence on the overall attitude and approach adopted by the research team throughout all the stages of the interim research. Among all of Moore's admonitions and encouragement, the one thought that served the most practical purpose was his suggestion that processes similar to the leadership research should and must not be addressed only through analytical methods and tools which are readily found within the researcher's immediate operating environment. In this regard, the research team had to acquire working knowledge of tools of analysis and interpretation that are not readily found in the field of South African leadership research.
In line with the foregoing, our search for insight and inspiration amongst alien or non-African societies has been one of seeking to understand how, for instance, Indian and Jewish scholars relate to Indian or Jewish ideas, ideals and traditional thought patterns or systems in so far as they relate to the topic of leadership within their respective societies. First and foremost, to paraphrase Moore once more, the goal of the leadership research is to establish the total truth about the Indian or Jewish leadership reality as a whole. It is an observation and study of the data presented by all aspects of Indian or Jewish life, experience, and the universe itself. This means that the researcher must have the insights, suggestions, experiences, and the different approaches of other researchers everywhere.
Our brief review of Indian philosophical thoughts, ideas and ideals has revealed several angles to be included in future research vis-à-vis the experiences, thoughts and ideas and practices about leadership within contemporary Indian society. Moore makes the point that the ideas listed below neither exist nor are they recognized as an accurate representation of the full range of Indian philosophies. It is almost impossible for any one to be so presumptuous as to develop a list of ideas, concepts or methods, seeing no single authority exists to determine the accuracy or the applicability of the list. The habit of looking for absolute lists is characteristic of scholars and researchers trained in or accustomed to western approaches to the study of serious concepts, ideas and ideals. In a nutshell, the western mind is conditioned to look for truth which it must proceed to try to understand. The approach of older traditional societies is that truth is to be lived rather than studied or appreciated for its own sake. This approach is also much in evidence among the tradition-bound philosophies of Africa, Asia and Jewry.
7. Philosophical Foundations of Indian Leadership
The view that the door to a fuller understanding of the customs, traditions and traditional thoughts of a people passes hinges on their philosophy is far more applicable to older traditional societies of India, Africa, and the Middle East and the Far East. Indian philosophers maintain that unlike in western societies, Indian leaders are fully and directly immersed in the philosophies and traditional practices which are as old as that society. The spiritual character of Indian leadership must be understood within the context of the deeply spiritual nature of Indian philosophies.
As S. Radhakrishnan (13) concurs, philosophy in India is essentially spiritual. The history of Indian thought illustrates the endless quest of the mind, ever old, ever new. The spiritual motive dominates life in India. Indian philosophy has its interest in the haunts of men, and not in supra-lunar solitude's. It takes its origin in life, and enters back into life after passing through the schools. The great works of Indian philosophy do not have that ex cathedra character which is so prominent a feature of the latter criticisms and commentaries. The Gita and the Upanisads are not remote from popular belief. They are the great literature of the country, and at the same time vehicles of the great systems of thought. The Puranas contain the truth dressed up in myths and stories, to suit the weak understanding of the majority. The hard task of interesting the multitude in metaphysics is achieved in India. The founders of philosophy strive for a socio-spiritual reformation of the country.
Radhakrishnan adds that when the Indian civilization is called a Brahmanical one, it only means that its main character and dominating motives are shaped by its philosophical thinkers and religious minds, though these are not all of Brahmana birth. The idea of Plato that philosophers must be the rulers and directors of society is practised in India. The ultimate truths are truths of spirit, and in the light of them actual life has to be refined.-Religion in India is not dogmatic. It is a rational synthesis which goes on gathering into itself new conceptions as philosophy progresses. It is experimental and provisional in its nature, attempting to keep pace with the progress of thought.-It is the intimate relation between the truth of philosophy and the daily life of people that makes religion always alive and real.
The problems of religion stimulate the philosophic spirit. The Indian mind has been traditionally exercised over the questions of the nature of Godhead, the end of life and the relation of the individual to the universal soul. Though philosophy in India has not as a rule completely freed itself from the fascinations of religious speculation, yet the philosophical discussions have not been hampered by religious forms. The two were not confused. On account of the close connection between theory and practice, doctrine and life, a philosophy which could not stand the test of life, not in the pragmatistic but the larger sense of the term, had no chance of survival. To those who realize the true kinship between life and theory, philosophy becomes a way of life, an approach to spiritual realization. (13)
It is untrue to say that philosophy in India never became self-conscious or critical. Even in its early stages rational reflection tended to correct religious belief. Witness the advance of religion implied in the progress from the hymns of the Veda to the Upanisads. When we come to Buddhism, the philosophic spirit has already become that confident attitude of mind which in intellectual matters bends to no outside authority and recognizes no limit to its enterprise, unless it be as the result of logic, which probes all things, tests all things, and follows fearlessly wherever the argument leads. When we reach the several darsanas or systems of thought, we have mighty and persistent efforts at systematic thinking. How completely free from traditional religion and bias the systems are will be obvious from the fact that the Sankhya is silent about the existence of God, though certain about its theoretical indemonstrability. Vaisesika and Yoga, while they admit a supreme being, do not consider him to be the creator of the universe, and Jaimini refers to God only to deny his providence and moral government of the world. The early Buddhist systems are known to be indifferent to God, and we have also the materialist Carvakas, who deny God, ridicule the priests, revile the Vedas and seek salvation in pleasure. (13)
The supremacy of religion and of social tradition in life does not hamper the free pursuit of philosophy. It is a strange paradox, and yet nothing more than the obvious truth that while the social life of an individual is bound by the rigours of caste, he is free to roam in the matter of opinion. Reason freely questions and criticizes the creeds in which men are born. That is why the heretic, the sceptic, the unbeliever, the rationalist and the freethinker, the materialist and the hedonist all flourish in the soil of India. The Mahabharata says that there is no muni who has not an opinion of his own. All this is evidence of the strong intellectuality of the Indian mind which seeks to know the inner truth and the law of all sides of human activity. (13)
The philosophic attempt to determine the nature of reality may start either with the thinking self or the objects of thought. In India the interest of philosophy is in the self of man. Where the vision is turned outward, the rush of fleeting events engages the mind. In India 'Atmanam viddhi', know the self, sums up the law and the prophets. Indian psychology realized the value of concentration and looked upon it as the means for the perception of the truth. It believed that there were no ranges of life or mind which could not be reached by a methodical training of will and knowledge. It recognized the close connection of mind and body. (13)
Indian thought takes into account the modes of waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep. If we look upon the waking consciousness as the whole, then we get realistic, dualistic and pluralistic conceptions of metaphysics. Dream consciousness when exclusively studied leads us to subjectivist doctrines. The state of dreamless sleep inclines us to abstract and mystical theories. The whole truth must take all the modes of consciousness into account. (13)
Indian thought attempts vast, impersonal views of existence, and makes it easy for the critic to bring the charge of being more idealistic and contemplative, producing dreamy visionaries and strangers in the world, while Western thought is more particularist and pragmatistic. The latter depends on what we call the senses, the former presses the soul sense into the service of speculation.-It is the synthetic vision of India that has made philosophy comprehend several sciences which have become differentiated in modern times.... In ancient Indian scriptures we possess the full content of the philosophic sphere. (13)
If we put the subjective interest of the Indian mind along with its tendency to arrive at a synthetic vision, we shall see how monistic idealism becomes the truth of things. To it the whole growth of Vedic thought points; on it are based the Buddhistic, and the Brahmanical religions; it is the highest truth revealed to India. Even systems which announce themselves as dualistic or pluralistic seem to be permeated by a strong monistic character. If we can abstract from the variety of opinion and observe the general spirit of Indian thought, we shall find that it has a disposition to interpret life and nature in the way of monistic idealism, though this tendency is so plastic, living and manifold that it takes many forms and expresses itself in even mutually hostile teachings. (13)
Addressing himself to the rich diversity of Indian philosophy, Surendranath Dasgupta states that Indian philosophy is like a tropical forest, where almost all types of thought, that have been current in the West since the days of the Greeks, can be found. The writings of the commentators through successive generations abound in logical precision of thought and true philosophical acumen, which are almost unparalleled. The note of ethical purity, religious contentment and inwardness of mind, with which Indian philosophy rings, and the practical harmony between life and philosophy that forms the central theme of almost all systems of Indian philosophy, mark them out from systems of European philosophy, where philosophy is looked upon more as a theoretic science than as a science of practice.
The chief concern of the philosophers of India in the past was not to conceive a philosophical scheme like a toy-machine to play with, but to make it a real chariot on which they could ride. But life here on the earth was sorrowful and was only a life of probation. The real life consisted in the ushering in of a life of emancipation, which would absolutely extinguish this life. Philosophy should be brought into practice for conducting this life to that end. Philosophy was never blended in harmony with the present life as we experience it without subordinating the latter to some other higher forms of existence. In this view, philosophy was the guide for the attainment of a permanent state of being from which there is no fall, no change. (3)
It is, however, remarkable that with the exception of the Carvaka materialists all the other systems agree on some fundamental points of importance. The systems of philosophy in India were not stirred up merely by the speculative demands of the human mind which has a natural inclination for indulging in abstract thought, but by deep craving after the realization of the religious purpose of life. It is surprising to note that the postulates, aims and conditions for such a realization were found to be identical in all the conflicting systems. Whatever may be their differences of opinion in other matters, so far as the general postulates for the realization, of the transcendent state, the summum bonum of life, were concerned, all the systems were practically in thorough agreement. (3)
Following is a lengthy passage, from the works of Dasgupta, (3) which articulates some of the issues under discussion.
First, the theory of karma and rebirth. All the Indian systems agree in believing that whatever action is done by an individual leaves behind it some sort of potency which has the power to ordain for him joy or sorrow in the future according as it is good or bad. When the fruits of the actions are such that they cannot be enjoyed in the present life or in a human life, the individual has to take another birth as a man or any other being in order to suffer them. - The Indian systems agree in believing that this beginningless chain of karma and its fruits, of births and rebirths, this running on from beginningless time has somewhere its end. This end was not to be attained at some distant time or in some distant kingdom, but was to be sought within us. Karma leads us to this endless cycle, and if we could divest ourselves of all such emotions, ideas or desires as lead us to action, we should find within us the actionless self which neither suffers nor enjoys, neither works nor undergoes rebirth.
The Buddhists did not admit the existence of soul, but recognized that the final realization of the process of karma is to be found in the ultimate dissolution called Nirvana.-All the Indian systems except Buddhism admit the existence of a permanent entity variously called atman, purusa or jiva. As to the exact nature of this soul there are indeed divergences of view. Thus while the Nyaya calls it absolutely qualityless and characterless, indeterminate unconscious entity, Sankhya describes it as being of the nature of pure consciousness, the Vedanta says that it is that fundamental point of unity implied in pure consciousness (cit), pure bliss (ananda) and pure being (sat). But all agree in holding that it is pure and unsullied in its nature and that all impurities of action or passion do not form a real part of it. The summum bonum of life is attained when all impurities are removed and the pure nature of the self is thoroughly and permanently apprehended and all other extraneous connections with it are absolutely dissociated.
Though the belief that the world is full of sorrow has not been equally prominently emphasized in all systems, yet it may be considered as being shared by all of them.... All our experiences are essentially sorrowful and ultimately sorrow-begetting. Sorrow is the ultimate truth of this process of the world.... The only way to get rid of it is by the culmination of moral greatness and true knowledge which uproot sorrow once for all. It is our ignorance that the self is intimately connected with the experiences of life or its pleasures, that leads us to action and arouses passion in us for the enjoyment of pleasures and other emotions and activities. Through the highest moral elevation a man may attain absolute dispassion towards world experiences and retire in body, mind, and speech from all worldly concerns. When the mind is so purified, the self shines in its true light, and its true nature is rightly conceived. When this is once done the self can never again be associated with passion or ignorance. It becomes at this stage ultimately dissociated from citta which contains within it the root of all emotions, ideas, and actions. Thus emancipated the self for ever conquers all sorrow. It is important, however, to note in this connection that emancipation is not based on a general aversion to intercourse with the world or on such feelings as a disappointed person may have, but on the appreciation of the state of mukti as the supremely blessed one.... There was never the slightest tendency to shirk the duties of this life, but to rise above them through right performance and right understanding. It is only when a man rises to the highest pinnacle of moral glory that he is fit for aspiring to that realization of selfhood in comparison with which all worldly things or even the joys of heaven would not only shrink into insignificance, but appear in their true character as sorrowful and loathsome . . . The sorrow around us has no fear for us if we remember that we are naturally sorrowless and blessed in ourselves. The pessimistic view loses all terror as it closes in absolute optimistic confidence in one's own self and the ultimate destiny and goal of emancipation. (3)
As might be expected the Indian systems are all agreed upon the general principles of ethical conduct which must be followed for the attainment of salvation. That all passions are to be controlled, no injury to life in any form should be done, and that all desire for pleasures should be checked, are principles which are almost universally acknowledged. When a man attains a very high degree of moral greatness he has to strengthen and prepare his mind for further purifying and steadying it for the attainment of his ideal.... The means to be adopted for purification are almost everywhere essentially the same as those advocated by the Yoga system.... The religious craving has been universal in India and this uniformity of sadhana has therefore secured for India a unity in all her aspirations and strivings. (3)
Indian philosophy, in spite of its magnificent outlook, thoroughness of logical dialectic, its high appreciation of moral and religious values, is closed all round by four walls of unproved dogmas, viz., the dogma of the infallibility of the Vedic wisdom; the dogma of emancipation and bondage; the dogma of the law of karma; and the dogma of rebirth. Of these, the first is the primary dogma which is associated with the corollary that reason is unable to discover the truth-a creed which is almost suicidal to any philosophy in the modern sense of the term.
According to this view, reason is only useful for biological or sociological purposes, but is impotent to give us any glimpse of the nature of truth. Reason must always be a hand-maid to scriptural testimony and must always, therefore be, used for discovering the import of such testimony and for persuading us to believe it. A student of Indian philosophy knows well how reason entered into the Vedic circle like the camel in the fable and ultimately practically dislodged the Vedic dogma professing only a lip-loyalty to it. Different interpreters of the Upanisads have always treated the Vedic texts like noses of wax and twisted them differently to suit the convenience of each specific type of reasoning. If reason is the interpreter, the infallibility of the Vedic wisdom becomes only nominal. (3)
An ineffable super-conscious state is often described in the Upanisads, and in some passages there is a tendency to regard it as an unchangeable condition or state from which there is no fall. This has often been interpreted as the doctrine of emancipation.-Relying on the unrelational ineffable state as the ultimate reality, the relationing factor implied in it is regarded as false. Others, however, such as the followers of the Sankhya, while admitting the existence of the unconditioned as the ineffable super-consciousness (the purusas), could not restrict the concept of reality to it alone, and were obliged to admit another order of reality as an indefinite complex (the prakrti). The assumption of the unconditioned either as the only reality or as a parallel reality made it difficult either to explain change or the return from the change to the changelessness. Had it not been for the dogma of emancipation, the systems would not have been fettered in this way, and a more rational explanation might have been effected. (2)
On the moral side, the assumption of the unconditioned as emancipation led to the view that all our experiential states are states of bondage. Bondage, thus considered, has to be regarded as the natural tendency of some mental states to flow towards other mental states (which in the moral terminology is called 'trsna', or desire), and the actual flow of it and its resultants are called Karma. But as the hypothetical emancipation is never experienced by any one of us and as its reality cannot be denied on account of the scriptural testimony, the only way left was its indefinite postponement. Such a postponement necessitated the postulation of a practically endless series of succeeding lives, through which the relational mental structure persisted. The principal lesson 1 derived from my study of Indian philosophy is that extraneous assumptions of any kind, which do not directly explain experience, . . . are bound to hamper the progress of philosophical speculations and blur the philosophical outlook. Philosophy, if it is to grow, has to be founded on experience. (2)
8. Patterns of Indian Philosophical Thought and Tradition
Against their better judgment, scholars of Moore's ilk have persuaded themselves to develop some kind of list of Indian concepts, ideas and methods that must serve only as aide-to-judgment rather than abbreviated truths about Indian philosophies and traditions. Briefly stated, the concepts and methods include those summarised below.
Preoccupation with Spirituality
Concern with matters of spiritual significance ranks as one of the most important aspects of Indian life and experience. This issue of spirituality or spiritual pursuit occurs at every level of Indian life and is, in every sense of the word and in many ramifications very important to humankind. The concept of spirituality finds expression in and through belief in a soul or self or spiritual principle; belief in the doctrine of karma (the principle of ethical cause and effect or justice) and rebirth; basic concern with ultimates i.e. the metaphysical perspective or the sense of infinite and only secondary concern for the empirical perspective; and Monism and/or Absolutism.
Relationship between Philosophy and Life
Another important characteristic of Indian philosophical thought deals with the placing of emphasis on the close relationship between life and philosophy. It is vital that the individual achieves a fusion between truth and personal life. As Radhakrishnan (2) states, this is in the sense that every doctrine has been turned into a passionate conviction, stirring the hearts of man and quickening his breath and completely transforming his nature and also in the sense that philosophy and its activities are not to be undertaken as an intellectual exercise, or motivated by a desire for truth for its own sake, but must be lived, such that, in common agreement, the truth must not only be known but also realized. As mentioned previously, W. H Sheldon (2) observed that in the west man wants to know the truth, in India they want to be the truth.
This concept refers to the recognition of the validity and necessity of intuition (and also the wisdom of certain authoritative texts) to supplement the rational and intellectual pursuit of truth and the corollary or preliminary conviction that reason is distinctly limited in scope and finality, although it is the basic method of philosophy in India as elsewhere.
Truth and the Whole Person
This principle deals with the view that truth is achieved by the whole man or person and not by his intellect alone. This is in sharp contrast with the western perspective and accepted procedure.
This principle refers to a deep concern with the inner man or person and with the introspective approach to truth as contrasted with other things and values, such that the transformation of the inner self is primary, while concern with changing or controlling the outer world is distinctly secondary, if significant at all. Put another way, to be, not to do, is of supreme importance.
This principle refers to emphasis which is placed on and great achievements in the area of psychology in its broadest and most comprehensive sense to be characterized by the conviction that the mind is transcended by the 'self' and that the ranges of man's psychic capacities are infinitely greater than in any other philosophical tradition both in its highest reaches and in its subtlest potentialities.
Although it may be disputed, there is a consensus amongst Indians that their tradition is characterized by idealism in one sense or another, and certainly in the area of ethics, political thought, and social thought and practices. In fact, the Indian attitude is a synthesis of idealism and realism, of spirituality and cultural, intellectual, and worldly values.
Ethics and Ethical Principles
Although considered of absolute importance in life, ethics is, nevertheless, considered to be subordinate to spiritual realization, as only a means thereto, and to be completely transcended once the ultimate goal of spiritual fulfilment or emancipation has been achieved. There are certain common ethical principles that seem to dominate the life of India, essentially non-hurt or non-violence, restraint and self-control, non-attachment, and charity.
The Values of Social Life
While the values of social life i.e. morality, pleasure, and material welfare, in general, are accepted as significant in the empirical realm, these are also subordinate to and, at most, instrumental towards the ultimate spiritual goal of emancipation or spiritual emancipation.
This principle refers to a common social philosophy including the three empirical values morality, pleasure and material wealth and in its proper sense, some form of classification of members of society in the interest of the welfare of society as a whole and as a means of spiritual progress through the performance of one's social and moral values.
The need for moral purification is as a necessary preliminary to the process of knowledge. In other words, without moral purity, one cannot even enter on the search for spiritual truth. An interesting and related theory is that, once one has entered on the search for knowledge, the process consists of three steps viz., hearing it from a teacher (or reading it in an authoritative text), reasoning about it, and then meditating on the conclusions so reached until those conclusions become, not mere academic knowledge, but the kind of soul-stirring convictions which alone are capable of transforming one's nature in accordance with truth.
Some Indians believe in something called 'initial pessimism' (i.e. life is suffering) and 'ultimate optimism' consisting essentially in the achievability of spiritual emancipation from the suffering and spiritual inadequacies of life.
In one or more of its many forms, yoga is considered essential in the pursuit of spiritual truth and the freedom of the spirit, since it provides the mental concentration necessary for freedom from all distractions which encourage or even produce ignorance and prevent the achievement of spiritual purity, truth, and fulfilment.
To conclude Moore's analysis of the basic traits of Indian philosophical and traditional thoughts, Moore states that while these major principles and attitudes may or may not be characteristic of Indian thought as a whole in any essential or exclusive sense, but as emphases they must be understood if we would understand the Indian people, whose life and thought they guide. Also the principles are unquestionably at least basic tendencies in Indian philosophy and life and, consequently, it is within these areas of emphasis in which India has the expertise to contribute to the total picture which is philosophy. And they may serve as useful guidelines for the study of leadership and leadership institutions within and without Indian society.
9. The Individual and Philosophy in Indian Society
The Position of the Individual in Indian Philosophical Thought
Like all other traditional philosophies or systems of traditional thought, that of the Indian places a great of emphasis on the functionality of the individual. Most of the laws, customs, rituals and religious admonitions are designed to help the individual member of society function as a member of a social system or systems, viz., the family, the group, the community or society. In the paraphrased essays that follow, Surama Dasgupta (3), S. K. Saksena (4), and Abul Kalam Azad (5), respectively, examine the position of the Individual in Indian philosophical thought, ethic and traditional systems.
The review also benefited from material from scholars including Swami Nikhilananda (The Realistic Aspect of Indian Spirituality) (6); C. P. Ramaswami (The Philosophical Basis of Indian Legal and Social Systems (7); Dhirendra Mohan Aiyar (Some Philosophical Aspects of Indian Political, Legal, and Economic Thought (8); Kalidas Bhattacharyyya (The Status of the Individual in Indian Metaphysics (9); and T. R. V. Murti (The World and the Individual in Indian Religious Thought (10). An understanding of the individual's position in these areas is essential for us to understand how old traditional societies and their philosophy approached issues central to leadership. Effective leadership depends on the capacity and competency of individuals who are fully functional, disciplined and principled members of society.
Central to the study of the leadership experiences of traditional versus western philosophy is how both systems approach or deal with the concept of man. The issue has been, in passing, been dealt with in the sections dealing with African and Jewish philosophical thought and traditions. Thought leaders in these societies have consistently pointed to the universal similarities of the human mind regardless of differences imposed by geography or custom. At the same time, they have repeatedly been puzzled by man's capacity to adopt different approaches to common problems or situations. This illustrates the differences which set societies or nations apart are largely dictated by how each community of human responds within its immediate environment, experiences and means to challenges which confront human society everywhere.
Picking up the issue, from an Indian point of view, Abul Kalam Azad (5) points out from the outset that in speaking of the East and the west, we are thinking only of certain special features in the thought of these regions. This cannot and does not mean that there are not large areas of common and agreed ground. Man allover the world has adopted common methods of reasoning and thought. The human reason is one and identical. Human feelings are largely similar. The human will operates in more or less the same manner in similar situations everywhere. It is therefore natural that the human's way of looking at himself and the world is largely common in different parts of the world. His attitudes towards the unknown mysteries of existence are also largely similar. The Greeks who looked with admiration and awe on the peaks of Olympus shared the same feelings as the Indians who meditated in the valleys of the Himalayas and looked on their eternal snows.
Azad maintains that in spite of large areas of agreement, human minds in different regions of the world have adopted a different approach to some of their common problems. Even where the approach has not been different, there has been a tendency to place a different emphasis on the different aspects of common problems and common solutions. No two situations are exactly alike. It was inevitable that people in different regions should pay greater attention to different aspects of common problems. It is on account of such differences in emphasis that we describe a particular mode of thought as characteristic of a particular nation or region. Even where the solutions are similar in pattern and outline, there are differences in shade and colour which justify us in calling some of the solutions Eastern and others western.
Azad maintains that while there are many points in common between the views of philosophers in the East and the west, the emphasis is different in India, Greece and China as strikes us from the very beginning of recorded history. In India, the emphasis of philosophy has, on the whole, been on the inner experience of man. Philosophers here have sought to understand man's inner nature, and in this pursuit have gone beyond the regions of sense, intellect and even reason and sought to assert the identity of man with a deep hidden reality. In Greece, the philosopher has been interested mainly in understanding the nature of the world outside. He has sought to determine the place of man in the outer world. His view has therefore been, on the whole, more extrovert than in India. In China, on the other hand, philosophers have not worried about the inner nature of man or about external nature but have concentrated on the study of man in relation to his fellows.
These differences in orientation have exerted a profound influence on later developments of philosophy in each of these regions. We find therefore that there are striking differences in their respective concepts of man. The Greeks approached the concept of man from an external point of view. Hence we find that from the earliest times, Greek philosophy devotes far greater attention to what man does rather than to what man is. It is true that some of the earlier Greek philosophers thought of man as essentially a spiritual entity, and we find that this is perhaps the prevailing mode of thought till the time of Plato. With the advent of Aristotle, there began, however, a new orientation in which the attention is diverted from the idea of man to man's activities in the world here and now. Under the influence of Aristotle who defined man as a rational animal, philosophy became more positive. In course of time this positive, empirical and scientific attitude became the prevailing climate of thought in the west.
Rationality distinguishes man from other animals, and it is through the exercise of rationality that he has advanced far beyond his early animal origin. Nevertheless, he remains essentially and fundamentally a progressive animal. Rarely has this thought been expressed so beautifully as by the German philosopher, Riehl (5). While he admits that man has descended from the animal, he points out that he has now reached a stage where he must look above and not below. He is the only animal that stands erect and can continue to do so only if his look is upward. God is the goal towards which man must strive if he is to regain his present stature.
It is true that the influence of Christianity and the persistence of the Platonic tradition remained a powerful element in European thought. Thus we find that the scholastics in the medieval ages were at times more theologians than philosophers. Even in the modern period, there is a strong religious idealistic strain in European thought. Since the beginning of the modern age, this strain has, however, steadily yielded place to a philosophical outlook dominated by the concepts of science. The triumphant progress of science began in the seventeenth century and increased man's power over nature. The success of science dazzled the western mind and induced a faith in its unfailing efficacy. The west sought to apply the concepts and methods of science in all fields of human experience and treat man also as an object among other objects. In course of time, a materialistic and scientific temper became the pervasive outlook of the west. We find a culmination of this development in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Darwin sought to establish that his mentality is largely the resultant of his material environment. Freud in the twentieth century went a step further and taught that not only is man descended from animals, but also his mentality retains even today traces of his animal origin. (5)
As opposed to this conception of man as a progressive animal, we find in the East a completely different concept of man. The East has from the very beginning emphasized man's intrinsic spirituality. The contemplation of the inner reality of man gave rise to the philosophy of Vedanta in India and Sufism in Arabia. This spiritual concept of man has deeply influenced the mentality of man throughout the East and is not unknown even in the west. According to this outlook, we cannot understand the essence of man if we regard him as only a material entity. The real nature of man can be understood only if we conceive of him as an emanation of God. There was in Eastern philosophy a strong pantheistic strain. In different schools of Indian philosophy, all things are regarded as expressions of God's being but even then man belongs to a special category. For his is the highest manifestation of God's being.
Similarly we find that according to the Sufis, man is a wave of the boundless sea that is God. He is a ray of the Sun that is God. Man can regard himself as different from the Eternal Being only so long as his vision is clouded by the evil of ignorance. Once there is enlightenment, all these distinctions dissolve and man recognizes himself as a moment in the being of the eternal. The concept of man which the East has framed regards him as not merely an animal superior to all earthly creatures but as essentially different in nature. Man is not first among equals but has a being which is higher than that of any other creature. He is not only a progressive animal, but reveals in his being the lineaments of God Himself. In fact his nature is so high and elevated that nothing higher is conceivable to human reason. In the words of Chhiindogya Upanisad: 'That is Reality. That is Atman (soul). That art thou.' This doctrine has also been beautifully expressed in Arabic as 'he who knows himself knows God. The same principle, when further developed, gives rise to the idea that man is not an isolated individual but contains in himself the entire universe. In the words of the Gita: 'here today, behold the whole universe, moving and unmoving and whatever else thou desirest to see, all unified in my body.'
It will be readily agreed that there can be no higher concept of man. God marks the highest limit of human thought. By identifying man with God, the Eastern concept of man elevates him to godhead. Man has therefore no other goal but to re-establish his identity with God. He thus becomes superior to the entire creation. We have till now discussed the concept of man from the point of view of the philosophies in the East and the west. We now wish to review briefly what religion has to say on the question. If we consider the attitude of Judaism and Christianity, we find a clear statement in Old Testament that God created man in His own image. From this it would follow that man shares in the attributes of God. A strong element of spiritual mysticism has characterized the attitude of Christianity and has acted as a check to the predominance of extreme materialistic tendencies.
In Islam we find traces of the influence of the same outlook. In fact the Koran has gone a step farther in its exaltation of man. The Koran proclaims that not only is man created in the image of God but is His regent on earth. In speaking of the creation of Adam, God says 'I want to create my viceroy on earth.' This idea of the vice-royalty of man profoundly influenced the Arab philosophers. 'Thou thinkest that thou art a small body; thou knowest not that a universe greater than the physical world is contained in thee.'
Two things may be noted in this connection. As regent of God on earth, man has an immediate affinity with Him. This also makes man superior to all creation and makes him master not only of animal life but also of the forces of nature itself. The Koran proclaims again and again that whatever is on the earth or in the heavens has been made subject to man. It is generally recognised that Aristotle deeply influenced most of the Arab philosophers, but even in their interpretation of Aristotle, they show clear indications of the influence of the idea of man's viceroyalty of God. A vicenna (Ibn Sina) and A verroes (Ibn Rushd) are metaphysically Aristotelians but their spiritual orientation in Islam makes them recognize that since man shares in God's attributes, there is no limit to the heights which he can attain in both knowledge and power. Muslim scholastics like Al Ghazzali, ar Razi, ar Raghib Ispahani and other have further elaborated this idea in their various philosophical writings.
Azad maintains that we must, however, admit that while the conception of man in both Vedanta and Sufism gives him a lofty status, neither of these philosophies can escape the charge that if, on the one hand, they set no limit to human capacity, they, on the other hand, imply an element of fatalism that circumscribes man's power. The explanation of this paradox is to be found in their concept of the relation of man to God. Since man is an emanation of divinity, whatever man does is ultimately God's doing: Whatever happens is due to the will of God. From this it is but another step to think of man as a mere toy in the hands of fate.
It has been said that while the concepts of Vedanta and Sufism in their pure form have been responsible for some of the highest spiritual attainments of man, they have to some extent acted as an impediment to human progress on the secular plane. Emphasis on the unity of man with God made society relatively insensitive to human suffering, as such suffering was regarded as mere illusion. We find, therefore, that Eastern societies have often been indifferent to the removal of I the causes of social malaise. This explains why some modern thinkers are seeking for a formulation of the philosophy of Vedanta without its fatalism. There is a similar paradox in the western concept of man.
A philosophy of materialism would, prima facie, seem to indicate a determinist outlook on life. Since the law of causality reigns throughout the material world, the same law would tend to hold in the field of human action. This tendency culminates in the psychological theories of the Behaviourists. The western mind, however, asserted itself against such a deterministic concept and exhibited an energy of spirit which has rarely been equalled and perhaps never surpassed. One of the main tasks now should be to examine how we can combine these two concepts of man] which have so profoundly influenced both philosophy and religious outlook in the East and the west. The Eastern conception of man's status, if combined with the western concept of progress, would open out to man the possibility of infinite advance without the risks implicit in the misuse of science. It may also indicate a way out of the fatalism which otherwise seems to follow from the Eastern conception of man's identity with God. The Eastern conception of man's status is not only consistent with the progress of western science, but in fact offers an intelligible explanation of how scientific progress is possible. If man were merely a developed animal, there would be a limit to his advancement. If, however, he shares in God's infinity, there can be no limit to the progress he can achieve. Science can then march from triumph to triumph and solve many of the riddles which trouble man even to this day.
There is a further reason why a synthesis of the Eastern and the western concepts of man is of the greatest importance to man's future. Science in itself is neutral. Its discoveries can be, used equally to heal and to kill. It depends on the outlook and mentality of the user whether science will be used to create a new heaven on earth or to destroy the world in a common f conflagration. If we think of man as only a progressive animal, there is nothing to prevent his using science for furthering interests based on the passions he shares in common with animals. If, however, we think of him as an emanation of God, he can use science only for furthering God's purposes, that is the achievement of peace on earth and goodwill to all men.
The Position of the Individual in Indian Ethics
From the outset, Dasgupta (3) asserts that the over-all problem here is the status of the individual. One aspect of that problem is the status of the individual in ethical thought and action. For our purposes, this special problem is constituted by two major considerations, first, the individual's right of conscience as opposed to social duties and obligations, and other related problems, and, second, the relation of morality to the ultimate spiritual end that the individual strives to achieve.
In India, all such discussions have been intimately related to the consideration of the nature of man from the philosophical point of view. Since most philosophy in India became religion and had tremendous significance for practical life, ethical problems could not be dissociated from these. Yet, Hindu thinkers were not concerned with the ultimate goal alone, but drew up a practical scheme of social life and its obligations, keeping in view the final end to be achieved. Buddhism and Jainism, being monastic orders of religion, were not concerned with life in society, but, since man lives with his fellow beings, all these systems stressed the moral values of man in every sphere of life. (3)
The Hindu systems, whatever differences there might be about the ultimate nature of the soul or self, all agreed that the knowledge of the self was the highest good, and that a moral life was essential for this spiritual enlightenment. Man has a dual nature: one, his spiritual and immortal essence, the other, his empirical life and character. This led to the twofold idea of the good, that of an individual's life in society, in which there is a conflict of good and evil, and the other as the complete or the wholly good, as represented by the concept of enlightenment about the nature of the self, which meant liberation from wrong perspectives and false values and passions associated with these. The latter was called the highest good (sreyas). (3)
According to Dasgupta, the literature which discuss the legal and social duties is known as the Dharma-sastras. They cover a wide period of Indian history, ranging from the third or fourth century B.C. to the eleventh or twelfth century A.D. - in some cases even later than that. The Mahabharata, the Great Epic, is supposed to be of very ancient origin in spite of later interpolations, and so is the other epic, the Ramayana. In all these texts and even in the Caraka-samhita, a recondite book on medical science, social values in consonance with the highest good were discussed.
The Smrtis (traditional texts) offered a plan of life according to different professions, depending on the caste system and also according to the different stages of life, such as those of the student and the householder, the stage of retirement and study, and the final stage of meditation on philosophical truths. One was considered preparatory for the other, and hence life in society was to be led in consonance with the final goal to be attained. A scholar, a king, a businessman - all had to pass through all these stages, and therefore moral discipline and the observance of respective duties were emphasized. In a general manner, both standards of the good, that of social duties and the other based on the spiritual nature of man, were helpful to a person in his social life. The belief that man is essentially pure and free from all impurities of passions helped him to do his duty well as a good and efficient member of society, and this in its turn contributed to his progress toward his spiritual destiny. (3)
The Mahabharata and the Smrtis took up the practical problems of life in detail and tried to offer solutions, bearing in mind the good of society and the spiritual ideal of the individual. There cannot be any fixed or rigid standard of duties for all times, because life is complex and ever moving. What appears to be good or right in one context may not be so in another; at most, some general maxims and principles can be laid down. The Mahabharata holds a realistic attitude toward life. It gives three standards of moral actions: (1) the advancement of society, maintenance of social order, and preservation of traditions and customs, (2) the realization of the self, which is the highest good, and (3) the standard of conduct to guide people in abnormal times, i.e., in times of war or political upsets or similar unusual situations. (3)
For the good of society, it was held, as it is also in the Gita, that, provided the heart is clean and pure and free from all passions and small self-seeking motives, whatever one does, as one's duty, has moral value. It has been repeatedly asserted in the Gita by Krsna that morality proceeds from the inner spirit of man. If one has achieved equanimity of mind by conquering the evil in him, he will be doing the right in doing his duty. Virtues and duties in a society have to be determined in the proper context of the situation. For instance, truthfulness and non-injury are universally valid principles of moral action, but in specific situations these are modified. For the sake of giving encouragement to a patient the physician is certainly justified in holding out hope of health and normal life. But a true statement which has a correspondence with facts but has been uttered in a spirit of malice to hurt others does not have the dignity of moral value. (3)
A utilitarian view is expressed in the Mahabharata when it says that a man can give up his own interest for the sake of his family, give up that of the family for the sake of the community, and give up that also for the good of the greater number of people; but it adds that he may give up everything for finding out the spiritual truth of the self. In the case of conflict between a general maxim and a particular, man in society should attend to the latter, since maintenance of society depends on that. For instance, it is a universally accepted principle that one should not cause hurt to others; but a king or a government has to do this for the maintenance of law and order. Non-injury to others has been acclaimed in India as a great virtue, but, for the protection of the weak, for the sake of a right cause, or in self-defense, one should fight the aggressor, and in times of war, the enemy. (3)
The case of Arjuna in the Gita has been discussed as an instance of the way in which an individual's right of conscience was denied in a situation of emergency, that is, that of war. Taken out of context, this instance has led to oversimplification of the problem of the individual's right of judgment in conflict with social duties.
Dasgupta cites the story, in the Mahabharata, that on the day before the war was to start Arjuna assured his eldest brother that, though their army was smaller and the enemy had reputed leaders like his great granduncle Bbisma and a teacher like Drona, he was confident that he and his brothers would be victorious because theirs was the cause of righteousness and justice, and he himself and his brothers revere excellent warriors. Then, at the time when the war was about to begin, and Arjuna saw his relatives on the other side, which he knew very well would be the case, his emotions became uppermost, and he declined to fight. He was not a conscientious objector to war, as has been contended sometimes; he had loved his career as a warrior all his life and had shown exceptional talent and ability in this respect, and on the present occasion he was the leader of his army. But at the critical moment he wished to withdraw. It was not a crisis of conscience; it was a conflict of his sense of the right against his emotions such as may have been felt by many a soldier on the battlefield. Nowhere in the world when a country is at war are people in the army allowed to withdraw and desert it. In this context, Krsna reminded Arjuna of the spiritual truth about man and of his duties as a warrior, and Arjuna declared that his confusion was removed and his understanding was clearer.
Dasgupta observes that life is full of complex situations, and, however elastic and wide the rules of guidance may be, the individual is bound occasionally to face a dilemma, a conflict of different social duties, or a conflict of these with his own good sense or conscience, whatever we may call it. In the Manu-samhita and also in the Mahabharata, a warning was repeatedly given to the individual that he should be very clear in his mind as to where his duty lies. The Manu-samhita says there are four sources of morality (dharma): the Vedas (the scriptures), the Smrti literature based on these, the conduct of good and wise persons, and the individual's own judgment. In whatever he does, the individual should have the satisfaction that he is doing the right (atmanastustireva-ca). At all times and in all our duties we have to employ ourselves with enthusiasm and sincerity; otherwise, social life becomes insipid and dull and loses its force. That is why the awakening of intellect (buddhi-samprajanana) has been greatly emphasized. In the 'Gayatri-mantra,' a Vedic hymn recited in daily prayers, one prays that one's intellect may ever be alert and enlivened so that one's understanding may become clearer.
Dasgupta states that in times of crisis and confusion due to an abnormal situation, it is the individual who has to decide his course of action. His own conscience is his sole guide. There is a long section in the Mahabharata where Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandu brothers, repeatedly asks Bhisma, the leader of the family, how one can make a proper decision in a difficult situation. Bhisma answers that doubts and confusions are essential for a man of character - it is through such conflicts and the overcoming of them that he can grow and attain the good. Thus, Visvamitra, a ksatriya (warrior) scholar of great repute, who had become a brahmana, violated the rules of conduct prescribed by society for a brahmana and went to a butcher and begged prohibited food for himself, because he thought this was the right thing to do. Bhisma said that in times of doubt, 0, son of Kunti, one has to decide by using one's own good sense. The Caraka-samhita has mentioned that care should always be taken to avoid errors of personal judgment.
Bhisma himself had given up his claim to the throne in favor of his step-brothers, and, in addition, took the vow of celibacy to ensure the legal rights of their descendants. This was against the social practice at the time; in this action he did not follow any pattern or type of norm laid down by society, but acted according to his own values. Instances like this, in which the individual makes a special contribution of his own over and above the accepted standards followed by average men in society, are not rare. (5)
According to Dasgupta, the theory of karma attributes full responsibility for one's actions to the individual himself. He is also responsible for the actions of others if he induces or forces them to do a particular act. So, in spite of social injunctions, the individual has to be careful about the moral nature of his actions. Society has tried to help the average man by mapping out for him a scheme of life and duties, but it is on the individual himself that his karma depends, and results will accrue to him accordingly. So, from every point of view, the social good or the personal, the final responsibility for actions rests on the individual alone.
The concept of conscience has been discussed in various ways in western thought. It is a faculty of discriminating right from wrong, good from evil. In Sanskrit, (3) there is no one particular word to denote this, though there are expressions which would convey similar notions. Moral values are expressed by words like 'dharma (good) and 'adharma, (bad), and 'punya' (merit) and 'papa' (demerit). The concept of intellect (buddhi) that helps man to distinguish these may be taken as similar to conscience.
The Spiritual Good (Sreyas) is Different from the Social Good.
In social life, man is tied by obligations which may be quite customary, based on traditions or on a broader perspective of human relationships. But there is also the consideration of the individual man himself and the aspirations that he wishes to achieve. This spiritual ideal is inherent in man. We have a similar idea in Bergson (3) when he says that the two moralities are that of pressure, that is, of society and aspiration. They are no longer to be found in a pure state. The first has handed to the second something of its compulsive force; the second has diffused over the other something of its perfume. Immanent in the former is the representation of a society which aims only at self-preservation. The morality of aspiration, on the contrary, implicitly contains the feeling of progress. Similarly, it can be said from the Indian point of view that, in spite of the moral obligations laid down by society, the higher nature of man is considered to be of greater significance.
In all systems of ethics, the possibility of confusing conscience with other inclinations and impulses of man's nature has been discussed, and care has been taken to avoid this perplexity of conscience. In India, the individual has been warned over and over again about this confusion and has been asked to bear in mind this dual perspective of values, so that he can see, through the various entanglements of his social and self-seeking interests, the right course of action. That is why two sets of duties were drawn up to help the average man in society: one, virtues which have universal validity, love, charity, compassion, benevolence, forgiveness, and the like, and the other, the specific duties of man according to his profession and stage in life.
From the above discussion it is now clear that no special preference has been given to ones' loyalty to personal ties like that of family or group or community. The highest loyalty is to one's moral values. Thus, in the story of two brothers, Sankha and Likhita, when the latter committed a theft, the former, the elder one, sent him to the king to confess his guilt and receive punishment, because this was the right course of conduct. We are reminded in this connection of Gandhari, the queen mother of Duryodhana (Arjuna's cousin and opponent), who pleaded with the king, her husband, to banish her own son, who was evil in character and was in the wrong. And when, in spite of her protestations, the war was started and her son came for her blessings, she said only one thing, 'wherever there is righteousness, victory will be there. (3)
Consideration of the individual's rights and duties changed the pattern and social standards in different times. In very early times, men and women were free to choose a career in quest of knowledge, in which case they could remain single and dedicate themselves to study and meditation, or they could marry and follow a normal course of life. But in the Smrtis, marriage (householder stage) and the other stages (asramas) in their due order were emphasized, with occasional exceptions. In later times, those who chose to renounce worldly life for knowledge could do so. Samkara himself is an illustration of this. He revived Hinduism in an atmosphere dominated by Buddhist influence, but he did not accept the householder's life. (3)
The conflict of the individual and society also expressed itself in different forms of marriage and marital rights, which underwent various changes. Though Hindu marriage was considered sacramental and, therefore, indissoluble, divorce was known to take place in the time of Kautilya (fourth century B.C.) and also in the days of some of the later Smrtis. Among other grounds, mutual incompatibility was admitted for the annulment of a marriage. Eight different forms of marriage were accepted for meeting the requirements of various situations. (3)
Caste duties also underwent various phases of change. In very early times, different professions and duties were assigned to people so that social structure could be maintained with efficiency. These were hereditary, and people born in a particular caste were supposed to acquire aptitude and skill for them. But this went against the individual's right of choosing his vocation and reactions against caste set in. Visvamitra, a ksatriya by birth, became a brahmana by undergoing severe penances and struggle. As individuals started choosing their own career, both because of their choice and also for economic reasons, the division of society into four principal castes and sub-castes became useless, and the system began disintegrating. Besides, since intercaste marriage was prevalent from very early times, this had led to an intermixture of castes. In the Mahabharata, Yudhisthira said that a brahmana was no longer known by birth but by the special behavior that the individual displayed. In the Chandogya Upanisad, the story of Satyakama shows that he was accepted as a brahmana because he was so truthful in that he did not hesitate to state the fact that he was born out of wedlock and did not know his father's lineage. We may also mention that the Saiva and Vaisnava sects did not have caste distinctions as a rule, though these are Hindu systems of thought. Re-formative sects of Hinduism, such as the Arya Samaj, the Brahmo Samaj, and others, and Buddhism and Jainism, did not have caste distinctions. (3)
In its history of three thousand years or more, Hindu society passed through various phases of beliefs and practices which, though contrary to one another, were all absorbed, making a vast mosaic structure of the coexistence of different beliefs. Coming to Buddhism, we find that its emphasis has been on solving the problem of human misery, and, since this could be done only by a proper perspective on things and through moral effort and great love and compassion for fellow beings, it became a religion of love. On the one hand, it asserted the impermanence of all things and denied a permanent soul; on the other, it held a very noble and lofty ideal of human character. (3)
Buddhism, being a monastic order (though it had its followers among the householders), did not encounter complicated social problems. But, since man lives in relation with his fellow beings, it had to deal with the moral values of human life. Great emphasis was laid on the building up of one's character. It carried the problem of conflict with one's environment to the conflict within oneself. It therefore stressed the necessity of solving the conflicts within a man himself. The evil proceeds, not from outside, but from within. A man has to conquer the evil impulses of his nature, hatred, animosity, and intolerance, and has to understand others on an analogy with his own self and to extend to them the same kindness and love that he has for himself. He is responsible for building up his own character and also for helping others. (3)
King Asoka (third century B.C.), who is said to have been a Buddhist, erected Rock Edicts giving simple moral instructions to his people. He reiterated the necessity of promoting the essentials of all religions. He said that one should not criticize other sects and praise one's own, but one should try to appreciate the points of view of other religions and realize the defects of his own. The Buddhist texts are never tired of discussing the virtues of universal friendliness and compassion, the equality of all beings, and the ideal of peace for all. The worst enemy of man is man himself; unless he can destroy all passions and evil thoughts, he can never attain peace, nor can he give it to others. Buddhism is a philosophy which, without the assumption of God or soul, has given much to the world by way of lofty ideals and thought. In the Dhammapada and the Visuddhi-magga, as also elsewhere, there are very detailed and inspiring discussions about moral virtues. Details as to how one can control anger and hatred and encourage good will and sympathy for others have been worked out in a well-reasoned manner. (3)
In both Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism, service for the good of others is emphasized. No individual, if he wishes to develop his personality, can ever exclude others. His personality becomes an all-embracing one because he expands in kindness and sympathy and becomes a part of others and makes them a part of himself. The bodhi-sattvas (beings whose essence is perfect wisdom) of the Mahaydna school, who hold emancipation of all beings as the ultimate end, pray that their own emancipation might be postponed until and unless all beings have achieved enlightenment and peace. The bodhi-sattva resolves that he may be able to be of any service that others may ask of him; even for those who have done him a bad turn he wishes that they may all attain enlightenment. (3)
These principles are noble and lofty, but, still, in the task of character-building there are bound to be confusions; and the Buddha emphasized again and again the need of using one's own judgment. He said to Ananda that 'be ye lamps unto yourselves. Be ye a refuge to yourselves. Betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth as a lamp. Hold fast as a refuge to the Truth. Look not for refuge to anyone beside yourselves.' Again, he says, 'and whosoever, Ananda, either now or after I am dead, shall be a lamp unto themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, shall not look for refuge to anyone besides themselves - it is they, Ananda, among my bhikkhus (monks), who shall reach the very upmost height, but they must be anxious to learn.' He says, again, that, of all losses, loss of character and loss of sound opinions are the worst. (3)
It is clear from the discussions brought up so far in this paper that an individual is free to challenge the socially accepted moral schemes of life, and follow his own judgment. This has been true, not only in the case of social reformers like Vidyasagara and Mahatma Gandhi in recent times, but also of many other less well known personalities who have done the same thing. Hinduism and Buddhism-and Jainism, too - all aim at developing man's personality in such a way that his better nature will be able to assert itself in life. A character in which various tendencies and impulses are fully integrated in the light of moral values was thought indispensably necessary for attaining any proper philosophical perspective and ultimate emancipation. (3)
Turning to the question raised at the beginning of the paper about the relation of morality to the ultimate goal of life, which an ethical individual strives to achieve, Dasgupta poses an oft-repeated question: 'Is morality - or the individual moral being - negated in the ultimate goal, since this has been sometimes described as a transcendental state of awareness, beyond good and evil?' In her attempt to answer the question, Dasgupta asserts that it is necessary, first, to explain the concept of immortality, the nature of the spiritual goal, and also how this can be attained through the moral process.
The immortality of the individual man is not mere continuance of existence, but an experience of the spiritual nature of man. It is not taken as a further projection of the life in society with its values and conflicts, a repetitive existence involving moral struggle. Though the karma theory, or the theory of heaven and hell, implies such a continuation of human life, yet, everywhere in Indian thought this repetition of man's struggle in society and in himself as that of good against evil is supposed to end completely with the realization of the spiritual nature of man. Morality implies conflict, in human nature, of good and evil or right and wrong. There is an oscillation between the two aspects of the dual nature of man, the higher and the lower. A moral man is one in whom the right perspective and good emotions dominate and can keep the evil in cheek. In a spiritual man the evil has been overcome completely, and goodness has become spontaneous. This is what is meant by the concept of the saint (sthitadhi) in the Gita and what Kant (3) implies as 'holy will' as distinguished from a moral will. Though moral values and the spiritual nature of man are distinct from each other, they are not necessarily found in their separateness; the latter extends and transforms the former.
Throughout man's psychic history he finds that his appetitive tendency, however valuable it may appear for his self-preservation and however strongly it may be grounded throughout his biological history, subordinates itself to the superior claims of his higher social self. The history of humanity, so far as it is superior to that of beasts, is manifested by the continual assertion of the claims of the higher social self over the original strength of the primary appetitive demands and values. This social value consists in the consideration that is extended to others, but there emerges a still higher sense of values. These are in a sense anti-biological and repudiate the instruction that Nature has been giving throughout her animal history. To love my enemy as myself, to follow the advice that one should turn his left cheek to anyone who may smite on the right, is in flagrant contradiction to the formula of evolution involved in the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest. (3)
Yet, it is by carrying out demands of this type, however imperfectly it may have been done, that the progress of humanity has been possible, and that charity, fellow-feeling, love, and forgiveness have been extended far beyond the expectations of society and have succeeded in welding humanity together as it is today. To distinguish the social ideal from the spiritual we may say that the former may have variations and sometimes be limited in its use and content, but, in the latter, human virtues such as love, compassion, and forgiveness become limitless. To do to others as you would be done by is a social or moral virtue, but to forgive your enemies when you are hurt and to pray that they may attain a correct perspective of values and attain good in the end shows an ideal of love and compassion far beyond the sense of right and wrong or fairness and justice in society. (3)
In the Upanisads there is the concept of the five sheaths of the self, which are unfolded one after another, leading to the ultimate truth as the highest goal. These are: the physical (relating to matter), the biological (relating to life), the mental, the conceptual or intellectual (i.e., the higher level of knowledge), and, last, infinite knowledge and. wisdom, purity and joy. All these sheaths, or different levels of existence, are infinite in themselves, one leading to the other. Though all of these are contained in the self, the highest manifestation is in the infinite joy of self-realization in its purity and fullness emerging from the other levels as their continuation. It has been said that none of these levels should be thought derogatory. Each is vastly important and leads to the unfolding of the other, and in their mutual association they lead to another order of truth until they come to the highest as infinite knowledge and joy. These concepts may be compared to the emergence of different orders of value-sense that operate in each man. It can be imagined that each level will have its own values, which in their interaction make way to the superior one and eventually find their culmination in the highest. (3)
'The Individual in Social Thought and Practice in India
S. K. Saksena (4) states that when an individual is given the same freedom which any other individual may claim for himself he is treated as an individual and is given the rights of individuality. Another way to make the same point is by the use of the concept of ends and means. If an individual is treated as an end in himself-in terms of equality of freedom and status-and never as a means to another individual's purposes, he is then considered a genuine individual.
But this kind of individualism is a purely abstract and atomistic individualism, on which alone no society can be based, and practically all social philosophies recognize this fact, in India as elsewhere. Expressions of pure individuality are always suspect in all societies. All sane societies put a limit to individualism in the interests of social welfare and other values which alone make individualism respectable through the ages. One fact about India stands out prominently. It is this highest regard for such over-individual ends through which alone an individual is supposed to live his life in society and be a significant individual. But this does not mean that the rights of an individual are thereby disregarded. (4)
It has been superficially assumed by some observers that the Indian social set-up itself is anti-individualistic, that in Indian social thought and structure there is too much authoritarianism, that not all men are regarded as individuals having equal rights in themselves, that the right of underprivileged persons to improve their individual social status is denied to them. In spite of the fact that such anti-individualistic practices have existed at times in India, the whole spirit of Indian social thought and structure originating from the most ancient times of the Vedas up to the present time has accorded due regard to individuals as individuals. All efforts of social theorists have been directed in India, not only toward the betterment of the individual, but also toward the opportunity of every individual ultimately and finally to attain his social destination. Society exists for the sake of the individual, and the social heroes in India have always revolted against discriminating practices. India has always tried to accord social equality to all individuals, though with little success during its dark ages. (4)
Indian tradition has always been tied in intellectual and emotional admiration only to individuals who created and molded the society. The heroes in the Indian social mind are all individuals - sages and saints- and not schools- or 'isms' or ideologies. The Indian mind traditionally does not bother about ideologies or 'isms' as such. It allows them all to co-exist and has a genuine tolerance toward all ideological diversities. Rãma, Krsna, the Buddha, hundreds of medieval saints, and such reformers in recent times as Tagore, Gandhi, Ram Mohan Roy, Ramakrishna, Aurobindo Ghosh, and Nehru are all prized as individuals. What is adored in social Hinduism or in any social period is not a historical social process as such, but a particular individual who has brought about social betterment. Not the adoring of the age of Gandhi, but Gandhi himself. It may be worth noting also that the recent linguistic wrangle among the different zones of India and even the traditional style of personal names are other interesting signs of individualism. (4)
The Individual in Early Periods of Indian Society
The history of the early Indian period reads like that of a perfectly modern and individualistic society wherein the standards of equality and of the freedom of the individual as an individual irrespective of any kind of discrimination are firmly established in theory and in practice. No differential treatment existed. Women had the same freedom and equality as men; there was absolutely no seclusion. Women sometimes had more education than men and had a prominent position in religious and social gatherings. Monogamy was the rule of life. Neither prohibition on remarriage of widows nor the evil of sati (the practice in which the wife immolates herself on the funeral pyre of her husband) was known. This was a time in India when, according to J. L. Davies, (3) there was no woman question at Athens because all women were as mere vegetables, and there was no woman question at Sparta because both men and women there were little better than animals. Whereas in India, boys and girls underwent a ceremony of upanayana or initiation into education together.
Even much later we have the names of great women participating with men in religious and philosophical debates. It is well known that women were among the great Upanisadic philosophers. Men and women performed sacrifices together. There is no doubt in the minds of scholars and historians about the extreme liberality of attitudes toward all, including even fallen women and women captured in war. To die in defense of women was regarded as the surest way to heaven. Megasthenes, the great Greek historian, who was in India in about 300 B.C., has left a lifelike picture of the Indian people. The Greek ambassador observed with admiration 'the absence of slavery in India.' (4) This is perhaps an exaggeration, because there was slavery of a kind in India during that period, although it was of an altogether different kind from that prevalent in other parts of the world during the same period.
There is positive evidence of equality among the different races that came to India from the outside in early times. The characteristics of the early Indians to absorb different social elements into a unity has been so predominant as to become one of the chief points of Indian culture. That there were marital relationships between these outsiders and Indians is also well known. All this on the basis of recognition of the equality of all as individuals. (4)
The Indian theory of varna or classification of society into four classes, was in perfect conformity with contemporary ideas of freedom and the status of the individual and social justice, and was and remains democratic with regard to the individual's status and his relation to society. It is supposed to be of divine origin, but this is not to be taken literally. It has purely ideological and functional bases and is universal inasmuch as society must have classes of individuals according to their qualifications, interests, and abilities to engage themselves toward the progress of society and toward their own fulfillment, religious or secular. This does not mean that the classification was static or immobile or that an individual, if he was endowed with ability and knowledge, could not attain to whatever classification he aspired to. (4)
In India they recognized the learned as the highest class, because only the wise can lead or lay down and perpetuate the faith for the people. They were called brãhmanas, who are supposed to give us the ideals and faith to live by. The ksatriya were second - they were the political and military leaders, who were supposed to defend the policies and ends of the social order. Third was the class of the wealth producers and distributors, called vaisyas. The last class was that of the manual workers, craftsmen, and artisans, the sudras. This classification was not based on heredity; birth had nothing to do with it. In their ideological functions there is to be found no fifth class, according to the Mahãbhãrata and the much-maligned Manu also. One's varna is determined completely by one's actions, pursuits, and ideals. By man's own nature he falls into these four types, the varnas. (4)
While the first three classes are said to be twice-born, the fourth is said to be once-born, and therefore inferior. This means only that the members of the fourth class have not had the education and do not have the skill of the other three classes. There are persons who are only biologically born, but not born a second time by the training of education and culture. The qualities which are predominant in each one of the four classes are not exclusive of one another. The Gitã says that the four classes were established on the basis of 'guna,' which means ability, and 'karma,' which means actions or vocations. The most sacred Bhãgavata-purãna, which is well known even by the illiterate, says, 'I consider svapaca (literally, a dog), that is to say, the lowest class, whose mind, speech, activity, purpose, and life are fixed on the lotus feet of Visnu (God), to be better than a learned brãhmana.' A person should be identified by the class whose characteristics he possesses, even though that class is not his own by birth.' We read further that by devotion a sudra may attain the highest status. (4)
It is interesting to note that not only was Suta, the narrator of the Bhãgavata-purãna, himself born of the lowest class, but so were numerous spiritual and moral personalities who are regarded as teachers of the highest truths, such as Nãrada, Prahlãda, etc. They were all men of low-class origin, a fact not very often stressed. Numerous lower-class men and women, such as hunters, and even candãlas (lowest in the social scale), have attained the abode of Visnu. The Bhãgavata which is the most representative of all the Purãnas, does not at all depict the viewpoint of the later-established orthodox social or economic group. According to the Bhãgavata, (4) the devotees of Visnu should be free from all pride in their birth and should recognize no distinction between themselves and others. The main point of the teaching of the Bhãgavata-purãna is the absence of qualifications based, on birth, etc.
The primary objective in the whole of India's extensive devotional literature is to refute the idea that a person's social status or class membership is of any significance at all. It is well known that the gopis, the cowherd girls of the Krsna lilã (play), are the primary examples of true devotion, despite their low-class status. The most singularly condemned in the Bhãgavata-purãna are the twice-born members of the three upper classes. In the Rãmãyana, Rãma, the divine incarnation, ate berries previously tasted by Sabri, a woman of the lowest class (bhilini). What is central is that the Bhãgavata does not acknowledge the superiority of even brãhmanas on the basis of their birth alone. The famous story of Satyakãma Jãbãla in the Chãndogya Upanisad is refreshingly pertinent in this connection. In the Mahãbhãrata, great warriors like Drona and Asvatthãma, etc., were all brãhmanas. In Vedic times, the brãhmanas were all agriculturalists. As a social practice, old persons - men and women - and the blind had precedence over kings and brãhmanas. (4)
Daksa says that one who desires happiness should look on another just as he looks on himself. Devala says that the quintessence of dharma is that one should not do to others what would be disliked by oneself. The same is repeated in the Apastamba-smrti, and in other Smrtis, too. Mitãksara remarks that ahimsã, non-hurting, and other qualities are the dharmas (duties) common to all, even the candalas. The Mahãbhãrata says that for protecting a family one individual may be abandoned; for protecting a town, the family may be abandoned; for protecting the society, the town may be abandoned; and for protecting the true self, even the world may be abandoned. The great empire-builders of India, the Nandas, the Mauryas, and the Guptas, were all low-born. The Gupta emperors married licchavis (lower-classed dynasty). (4)
The refrain of the prayer in the Mahabharata is not for the brahmanas or for any special class of individuals. We read that may all beings be happy, may all attain bliss. This emphasis on 'sarva,' meaning 'all,' without distinction of caste, class, or creed, is typical of the Vedic and the Epic literature or period. The Apastamba declares that there is nothing higher than the soul and the Satapatha-brahmana says that none among souls is, on the whole, greater than any other soul. Numerous quotations from other sacred literature can be adduced in support of similar social sentiments. When Narada, a household name in Hindu society, lists the thirty features of the samanya-dharma (the duties of all the people), he specifically states that these are for all men. That is to say, that are not the dharmas of any particular group or class or caste of people, but are sarva-dharma, i.e., for all men. The Manusmrti, the Santi-parva of the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavatapurana abound in similar sentiments. (4)
Socially, in the Indian spirit all people have been regarded as different and separate individuals living their lives as different entities, responsible for their thoughts and practices, and expected to rely on their own efforts toward their betterment and ultimate liberation from bondage. The Indian doctrine of karma has had trememdous social effects on the Indian mind. Because of this law, an Indian regards himself as completely responsible for all his deeds. In fact, the Law of Karma is the greatest contribution of the Indian mind in having formulated a truly individualistic attitude vis-a-vis society. It is the most powerful social element of individualism in Hinduism and also in Buddhism. Everyone is exclusively and completely responsible for his or her actions and their consequences. No individual is saved or condemned by any force outside himself - in some schools, not even by God. The Law of Karnw is an affirmation, in the strongest terms, of the principle of personal individuality and responsibility. (4)
The Individual in the Medieval Period of Indian Society
Saksena notes that such is the story of the status and dignity of the individual in India in relation to society for about two thousand years of its early history - in the basic and classical texts and in the life of the times. Then came a long period of what is known as India's Medieval Period. India lost its political status and unity. There was no one central authority to legislate for the Indian population as a whole. The country stood divided and separated into hundreds of local or regional kingdoms, all competing and vying with each other to keep their own powers intact. India lost its original spirit of freedom and free enterprise, its earlier outlook; it felt oppressed and driven to mere existence. All efforts centered on preserving its identity, allying all social customs and behavior completely to their religions which remained the only common bond among the Indians.
Then the caste (as distinct from the varna) system of India became rigid. Enslaved Hindus, with no education or freedom of the spirit, found it easier to take up and grow in the profession of their fathers and forefathers. To try to do anything new, or to seek new careers, would have been not only too hazardous but practically impossible. All those professions which continued as hereditary became jatis, castes, and each caste took to social relationships between its own group in inter-dining and inter-marrying, There came to exist some 3,000 castes based on occupation for livelihood. (4)
Along with this, it was natural that ideas of hierarchy were introduced. The brahmanas, being responsible for religious ceremonies and the reciting of the sacred mantras (hymns), and being the only literate men, were still at the top, and at the bottom came the practitioners of the dirty work of cleaning the latrines or dealing with the skins of dead animals, etc. Since personal cleanliness was a surviving heritage, it gave rise to ideas of pollution and untouchability. The learned kept reading and studying ancient texts and copying manuscripts even in this age, but the people at large were practically living animals under their own religious beliefs, devoid of all spirit of dignity and of free inquiry and criticism. (4)
The caste system, all sorts of discrimination, restrictions on widow marriage, forced sati, slavery, early marriage, etc., spread on grounds of sheer survival. These are not the social thoughts and practices of civilized India in its period of glory; they are the survivals of a dead India in itself unfree and slave. (4)
The Individual in Contemporary Indian Society
According to Saksena, the new India wants to eradicate these evils as quickly as possible. They do not represent the living India, which has come to breathe its own air again only recently, though India had always been looking backward to its earlier period, the 'Sat-Yuga,' the period of truth, justice, and freedom. As India became a political unity and free once more after centuries of political slavery, her freedom of spirit revived. The evils of India are not her representative or characteristic theories of the status of the individual in society, but abominations attempted in its own defense at a critical period for its own preservation. They have to be rooted out from Indian society in spite of the place they found in the Hindu Dharmasastras, which give only the record of a time and do not prescribe eternal truths or facts.
Even orthodox smrti writers like Manu recognized that a time may come when their rules might become obsolete, and therefore declared that, if any rules framed by them are found to be not conducive to the welfare of society or against the spirit of the age, they should be unhesitatingly abrogated or modified. As the famous Indian poet Kalidasa says that nothing is good simply because it is ancient, and nothing is faulty merely because it is new. The same sentiment is expressed in the Santiparva of the Mahabharata also. The modern challenge to caste is by no means the first challenge caste has encountered. The evils of caste have dogged India for centuries, to be sure, but they and the entire institution itself have been under repeated challenge and criticism. Over the centuries, long before the arrival of the British, new reform movements within India repeatedly attacked the caste system.
A religion on the defensive has to be reactionary, and consequently the growth of Hindu feeling at the time did not create conditions suitable for a reorganization of social life. The situation is different today. The Hindu feeling which has developed now is primarily secular and not religious. Today, there is no danger to Hinduism, and the urge for reorganization for society and the individual is there. It is an uprising of the lower classes and the unpriviledged groups. The transfer of political power has provided the masses with the power to destroy social institutions based on privilege and on heredity. Social problems are being tackled from the point of view of a reawakened social conscience. The desire of the Indians to take their place with the progressive nations of the world, which is one of the major motivating forces in India today, has an urgency. (4)
It may be asked, says Saksena, if the variety of anti-individual customs which until now constituted the social structure of Hinduism have been destroyed or replaced, what will be left that will be characteristically or traditionally Hindu? The answer is that, except for the varnas and the asramas (stages of life), other social institutions of Hinduism are in no way integrally connected with the inner spirit of Hindu religion. No Hindu would argue that, if the joint family ceases to exist in the very near future or castes cease to operate as an institution, Hindu religious thought would be affected. (Incidentally, only 4 per cent of families in India are of the joint type, and so the view that the joint family greatly lessens or denies the significance of the individual does not apply seriously to India as it apparently does to the Chinese and Japanese traditions and cultures.
For a proper appreciation of Hinduism, with its basic principles of equality of opportunity and for 'loka-samgraha,' the common good, and for the perfection of man, it is necessary that it should not be confused with or infused by the social order of medieval times. The challenge of 'modernism' that Indian society faces today is something which it never had to face before. It is the authority of the national state armed with legislative powers and motivated by a desire to bring Indian institutions in step with new ideas that is new today. Once this movement starts, it cannot stop. During the present transitional period, many Indians seem to live simultaneously in two worlds, the traditional, static, caste-bound, family-centered, and the new, westernized, modernized, rationalistic world of dynamic individualism and social progress. This is probably inevitable, and it is not altogether bad, so long as the quite visible changes toward individualism inherent in industrialism and modernism hasten to destroy all remnants of social injustice. (4)
To some, the economic planning of contemporary India indicates or implies an anti-individualistic program which is often interpreted as socialism. This is not an accurate picture even of contemporary India and surely not true to the Indian tradition in its economic life. Economic freedom in the sense of free and equal opportunity for all has been the essence of the Indian way of life throughout history, except during the Medieval Period. No one has been prevented from making his or her livelihood or seeking economic welfare and even accumulating money - almost in any way one pleases, provided, the books say, this is achieved without violating the rules of morality (dharma). There were no anti-individualistic curbs on the economic activities of the householder except dharma. As a matter of fact, the householder was praised as most important by Manu as being the supporter of society as a whole. True, what did not exist in the earlier centuries - and to a certain extent recently - were the actual opportunities for attainment of financial security and economic accumulation. But the freedom for such opportunities was always recognized. (4)
After the coming of freedom, India introduced a number of agricultural and land reforms for the betterment of the people as a whole. Landlordism in which the great mass of individuals had practically no economic status, was abolished. Also, a new movement for the consolidation of scattered and smallholdings of individual farmers has been established. Also, the Government has aided in providing mechanical tools, irrigation projects, and improved techniques. But little of this is actual socialism - the economic system of India is only partly socialistic - but, rather, development in the direction of social welfare for all the people. The so-called socialistic program of India's economic life does not deny individual opportunity, individual wealth, or individualistic economic justice, and is not in any way connected with any political ideology of an anti-individualistic nature. (4)
The reforms that have been made have been directed against those who were without any sense of social welfare or social responsibility, and do not have any destructive effect whatsoever on the opportunity, the freedom of choice, or the right of economic pursuit by individuals. There has been some socialization or nationalization of industries which are vital to the country as a whole, but this has been indispensable in view of the unscrupulous attitudes and practices of many of the big industrialists and manufacturers and in the interest of social and economic justice for all.
These reforms have been based largely on practical concerns. Neither these economic nor any other alleged social monistic tendencies really find their bases in any alleged philosophical monism, such as the Advaita Vedanta, which is, after all, only one philosophical point of view, the most extreme of all, and not typical even of Indian metaphysics, or any other Indian philosophical schools, as some are inclined to think.
To conclude the review of the position of the individual in the philosophical thought, social ideas and practices of the Indians spreading over a three-age period of about three thousand years, Dasgupta (3) offers three concluding points:
First, India has a glorious tradition of respect, freedom, and dignity of the individual, and the individual in relation to society - as glorious as any country has today. This ancient tradition of India was, of course, never purely individualistic. This was because of the religious and moral teachings of the Hindus and Buddhists that the highest destiny of the individual lies in the perfection of his individuality in a way which inevitably takes him outside his narrow egoism and brings him fulfillment in relation to the society in which he lives. That is one reason why Hindu social structure provided for deep sanctity of social institutions such as the family, the school, the four varnas, and the four stages of life.
Second, in Indian society the main concepts which governed the individual were those of his duties and obligations toward other individuals or something extra-individual. This is the reason they did not give a prominent place to the rights of the individual. Rights are there, but rights always carry obligations, and, if the concept of one's obligation is kept in the forefront of one's mind, society should be deemed (other things being equal) as giving a praiseworthy place to the individual and his relation to society. In terms of Indian thinking, no individual can be completely perfected if the core of his being lies merely in his insistence on his own rights. The rights of an individual are the minimum he should have and should not be deprived of. But no individual should be content with merely the minimum. He should rise above his rights and perfect himself by concentrating on his duties and obligations. The Indian emphasizes his qualifications or abilities rather than his rights. After all, it is one's qualifications (adhikaras) that determine his rights. Without qualifications there are no rights. If an individual fails to perform his duties, he is deprived of his qualifications and rights.
Third, ever since India obtained the authority of legislating for itself as a nation, it has, in keeping with its past tradition, passed legislation against the practice of all obsolete and anti-individualistic practices between individuals and between society and the individual. Thus it has once again shown its ancient tradition of respect, dignity, and equality of all men. There are numerous working factors, such as the spread of education of both sexes, increasing industrial and economic opportunities, equality of the sexes, the example of socially advanced countries, and the urge of individuals and groups which have been discriminated against to catch up with the lapses of centuries - it is these factors that make the Indian people hopeful that medieval undemocratic social practices will become a relic of history much sooner than has been achieved in any country in the past. (3)
There are some modern writers who emphasize the inevitable cultural lag, the distance between the democratic laws enacted in present-day India and the actual social practices, and the fact that in practice India is still tied to its traditional discrimination. Such a cultural lag is probably inevitable, but this feeling only shows our impatience and does not take into account the reality of the situation, the centuries for which the individual has been neglected. In fact, nobody can foresee or foretell how long it will take India to become factually and in social practice completely democratic, giving every individual perfect equality and opportunity to make himself into whatever kind of individual he wants to be under the law. But the writing on the walls of the time can be easily read. The modern Indian democratic ideal in society is no gift obtained from western people alone, whose own ideas of democracy and freedom and universal individuality are quite new. India's contact with the west is certainly one of the main causes of the acceleration of the speed of reform. But the reforms are in the spirit and tradition of Indian society itself. (3)
It is only now, quite late in her long history, that India has come to have an idea of the whole Indian community as such, the nationhood of the Indian people, secular and humanitarian, and, as such, divorced from religion, and has come to think of the status of the individual and the whole community in a secular fashion. Today, even the poor, the illiterate, and the low-caste have all become conscious of their human rights, and duties. And so, now - at long last - the original Indian spirit of the dignity and freedom of the individual shows signs of significant revival. (3)
South African and National Indian Perspectives
1. Assessing the Suitability of the Indian Leadership Model
In considering the suitability or otherwise of the Indian leadership model, the researchers had first to determine whether or not this model should be approached from a South African or Asian angle. Given the conventional political correctness of apartheid-inspired nomenclature, Indian and Coloured ethnic groups continue to be referred to as belonging to the so-called 'broad' black group or community group. This approach has severe limitations seeing that outside matters political, South African Indians seldom consider themselves either 'black' or African. According to information gathered during the interim research on the subject of leadership, relatively large sections of the Indian community do not regard themselves as 'black' i.e. in the sense of being an extension of the indigenous African ethnic group.
However, while they may not consider themselves black or African, many Indians appear strongly opposed to anything that attempts to define them according to colonial or apartheid terms. Nor, for that matter, are they interested in approaches that define them according to terms or terminology that does not accord with the way that Indians see and define themselves. Against the foregoing definitional quandaries, the researchers decided to adopt the conventional approach whereby Indians (and Coloureds) are defined as members of the so-called broad black group. However, in view of their long-standing exposure to and associations with the South African experience, the experiences of Indian people will be treated with the political sensitivity they deserve. Therefore, where Indian experiences are similar to those of their indigenous African counterparts, these will be added to or dealt with from an African or 'black' perspective without, however, insinuating that the Indians are an extension of the latter group.
Yet, the researchers were mindful of the fact that the Indian people, as one of the oldest, the largest and most advanced nations within the Orient, have an immense contribution to make towards the study and promotion of an African leadership model. Their approaches, experiences and knowledge on matters relating to philosophy, religion, family, community, business and trade, science and technology, etc. have a lot to offer to the entire leadership project. From this perspective, the Indian group or community shares many similarities with most of the Semite groups in general and the Jewish ethnic group in particular. Following are some of the issues the researchers considered in determining whether or not the Indian leadership model should be selected to guide the activities of the current project.
2. A Perceived Closed or Introverted Group
Given the closed or introverted life-style of sections of the Indian community, prospects for building strong, open and mutually supportive relationships between this community and the rest of the South African community will remain a source of concern. Like their Jewish counterparts, Indians have yet to spell out where they stand vis-à-vis participation in the open society. Until this issue is resolved, the rest of the South African ethnic groups Africans in particular will continue to approach Indians with both caution and resentment.
The leadership of the Indian community needs to appreciate that it is largely a lack of appropriate or accurate knowledge and understanding of the structure and workings of the Indian community that promotes negative stereotypes and other unsavoury sentiments towards members of the Indian community. The appeal or support enjoyed by Indian leaders, within African communities or institutions, results in large measure from the leaders' willingness to become known quantities within and without their immediate ethnic community. Comments from Indian leaders and managers who participated in the interim research interviews suggest that sections of the Indian leadership class have taken appropriate steps to extend their appeal to supporters and followers beyond their immediate community. The research also reveals that, in the main, Africans are becoming increasingly receptive to the leadership of Indian men and women.
3. Religious Beliefs, Customs and Rituals
Sections of the African community have made known their admiration of aspects of Indian religion especially those associated with the building of individual or inner discipline, capacity and resourcefulness. By the same token, the more informed Africans admire Indian religious bonds that contribute towards the strengthening of family and communal bonds. Yet, the majority of African leaders are partially or totally uninformed about the interplay between Indian religion, the individual, family and community.
It goes without saying that the process of identifying the requisite ingredients for the development of the African leadership model will benefit immensely from aspects of Indian religion and ways of life that enrich the individual, the family and the community. The researchers were not in a position to obtain suitable information for purposes of identifying Indian approaches to leadership, Indian leadership philosophies, Indian traditional thought and Indian morality and ethical codes.
4. Indian Leadership Experience, Philosophy and Ideals
To approach the issue of Indian involvement in the African Leadership development project from an entirely South African vantage point is to miss an important point. Although they may have become citizens of South Africa, many Indians have retained strong and dynamic links with their cultural, philosophical and religious Indian national roots. It is these links or connection to the national or homeland roots we are interested in. Therefore, from this perspective, Indians have a lot more to offer the African leadership project than has hitherto been suggested.
It is not unreasonable to surmise that Indian contributions are likely to prove as invaluable as those obtained from the Jewish community. Just as the review of the Jewish leadership issue was not confined to South African Jewry, we propose that future research on this topic be expanded to cover as broadly as is feasible the various shades of Indian traditional philosophy, religion(s), customs, and ritual practices.
It is safe to state that the Indian homeland culture, customs, religion(s) and ritual practices have eluded our researchers largely due to the unavailability of suitable information within the South African library system. Where such information was available and accessible, problems of literacy in and familiarity with Indian languages, customs or rituals became a serious barrier. Conversely, in the case of Jewish literature and research, the information was readily accessible largely because this community has, more than most, produced many documented accounts of Jewish developments, opinions or achievements and contributions within and without the South African political economy. From this point of view, the Jewish community can be said to be more readily accessible than its Indian counterpart.
Further, we should point out that African respondents' assessment of the extent of Indian leadership impact within the South African political economy has tended to be based more on the lower profile (outside KwaZulu-Natal) of Indian entrepreneurs and communal leadership. By contrast, Jewish leadership is more thinly spread throughout the country's large and small metropolitan centres. And as previously mentioned, Jews were always considered white and, therefore, more visible in terms of their involvement in business, community affairs and charity organizations. Put another way, the antipathetic black South Africans who grumble about the alleged unfair Indian domination or over-representation within black leadership structures seldom direct similar sentiments against Jewish involvement. From this point of view, Jews have seldom been viewed as a tribe apart from the rest of the dominant white group.
5. Membership of the Broad Black South African Group
Given that members of the Indian community had, for decades, been classified as part of the black under-class, the community has had a tough time trying to fight its way out of the so-called non-white label. Their position in the apartheid society was always a source of controversy and deep resentment. Where it suited the management of the apartheid project, Indians would be accorded a status that elevated them a few notches above Coloureds and Africans. When it was not convenient to the custodians of apartheid rule, Indians were considered to be no different from all other black groups.
With few exceptions, the rest of the broad black community seldom treated Indians much differently. They were just as ambivalent as their white counterparts. For their part, Africans have, over the years, battled to come to terms with the habit of treating Indian people as members of the black group i.e. in the sense of them being Africans. Relations between the majority of the Indian and African groups have always been fragile and fluctuating. But for the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle alliance, Indians and Africans had rather little to do with each other. Africans have always complained about the fact that Indians operate from within a closed community which makes it difficult for non-Indians to gain sufficient knowledge and understanding of Indian ways. This has been and remains a source of resentment.
The point should be made, in addition, that the bulk of South African society (black and white) have shared common biblical associations with elements of the Jewish community. However, sight must not be lost of the fact that by virtue of being classified 'non-white', under apartheid rules, Indians were automatically disqualified from playing a role as prominently as did their Jewish counterparts. Therefore, whatever leadership role or influences Indians exerted within apartheid South Africa, such influence was confined largely within the Indian community.
Effectively, apartheid exacerbated inter-ethnic antipathies between segments of the African and Indian communities. It is not surprising that, during the interim research study, segments of the African respondents proclaimed aloud that Indians have very little or nothing to teach Africans by way of leadership. This sentiment underscores the extent of inter-ethnic ignorance and fragile inter-group relations between Indian and African communities.
We should point out in passing that some black respondents believed that sections of the Indian community considered themselves part and parcel of the black majority. These included generations of Indians who have effectively lost all ties with the Indian home- or motherland. As such, they presented a serious intellectual problem to African minds that prefer to define themselves in strict apartheid terms.
6. Partnership in the Struggle for Freedom
From a political point of view, a section of the Indian community joined forces with African people to fight colonial domination and apartheid rule. Sections of the Indian community have had an impeccable track record in co-championing the anti-oppression struggle within South Africa. From this perspective, Indian and African leaders have openly shared their political leadership from Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu to the current class of democratic government leaders. Similarly, Indian men and women have always come forward to serve in strategic leadership positions within organized labour, education, non-governmental institutions and so forth. Their presence has always been welcome.
Yet, a paradoxical point in Indian-African relations has been the fact that while individual Indians stood shoulder to shoulder with Africans (and others) in the various struggles, Africans did not consider this to be the effort of the entire Indian ethnic group. Muted rumblings have always been voiced about the fact that the rest of the Indian community chose to side with or arrogate unto itself similar privileges as were claimed by whites. From this point of view, sections of the Indian community saw themselves as being a cut above their African counterparts. Consequently, they insisted on being treated as or accorded white privileges.
In terms of the foregoing, Indian participation in the search for an African leadership model will always be welcome. To reiterate, black South Africans are familiar with the achievements and contributions of Indians in the leadership arena. For most Africans, the challenge remains one of being allowed to get closer to Indian ways, customs, rituals and so forth. For as along as this aspect remains out of bounds, relationships between the two groups will continue to be patchy.
7. Indian Entrepreneurial Leadership
This is one area where Indian leadership has a lot to pass on to the rest of the African majority population. Indian business leaders have long been recognized as highly effective at running small-to-medium businesses within the retail trade. Like their Jewish counterparts, Indian business leaders and professionals serving in different fields have rendered, over periods of time, valuable service within sections of both the urban and rural African community. This experience has ensured that Indian managers are called on to serve in managerial and administrative positions within both the public and the private sectors of our political economy. Their experiential capital as one of the continent's leading entrepreneurs guarantees them a sure role in the development of the entrepreneurial angle of the new African leadership model.
Findings from the interim study indicate that Indian contributions to African leadership should be viewed and assessed not only within the narrow context of South Africa or South African experience. It is suggested that future leadership studies should approach this issue from the context of Indian involvement across the entire African political economy. From this perspective, Indians have made significant contributions to the development of African leadership. Respondents have also pointed out that due to similar antipathies as have been directed against Jews, Indian leadership has often been used as a scapegoat for African economic and political failures. However, unlike their Jewish counterparts, Indians do not seem to be as well equipped to fight or contain racist or ethnocentric attacks.
8. Involvement in the Black Doughnut Leadership Model
Indian leaders and managers are generally considered part and parcel of the insurgent cadre of the African leadership and managerial class that is fast moving into key positions within the post-apartheid political economy. Given the legacy of apartheid, Indians are an integral part of the Black Doughnut Leadership Model. For instance, within both the public and the private sectors, Indians have and continue to share the positional limelight with their African and Coloured counterparts.
Not everything that has been said about the high and low points of black leaders and managers applies to Indians who serve within the current African-led leadership-management model. According to the interim research, Indians in key leadership and managerial positions generally surround themselves with support personnel or teams drawn largely from within the immediate Indian community. Unlike most African executives, Indian leaders and managers appear to be more adept at picking or surrounding themselves with highly competent people. Therefore, the inclusion of whites tends to be based on prior careful assessment of their strategic or tactical function(s). The research also suggests that Indian leaders and managers are generally considered to possess more organizational savvy than their African counterparts. For this reason, they have always tended to be deployed in positions requiring high sensitivity or circumspection.
Given the close proximity to and associations that Indian leaders and managers have with the Black Doughnut Leadership Model, the researchers decided against adopting this ethnic group as the 'ideal' leadership role model. Another and more important consideration was that more time, knowledge and information are required to obtain a fuller understanding of the Indian leadership model both from a South African and an Indian national perspective. The researchers took note of Indian respondents' comments to the effect that South African-born Indians have very little in common with Indians who live and operate on the Indian continent.
9. Research Insights into Indian Transformational Leadership
Within the limited range of research data, the interim study sought to conduct a cursory analysis of how Indian scholars have, over the years, gone about the task of determining whatever relationship exists or existed between traditional Indian philosophical thought, concepts and ideas on the one hand and on the other, concepts and the application of Indian leadership. There is, within the South African public library network little information on the subject under discussion. The only current and relevant piece of research available was in the form of a small-scale qualitative (Desk) analysis conducted by Kaisaval Nadesan (11), for a Master of Business Administration degree.
Given the context of this study, the researcher attempted to establish which, if any, of the six well-known Indian leaders, who had flourished during a time of great change in that society, possessed most or all of the twenty eight leadership attributes against which they were measured. They had all been in the forefront of the Indian struggle for freedom from colonial rule and the changeover to democracy. (11) Nadesan used the findings of the study to arrive at the conclusion that the leadership dimensions of decision-making, the ability to meet unpleasant situations, willingness to take risks and be achievement-orientated received the highest ranking, thus confirming the reputation of Indian leaders as pioneers and change agents.
As we shall soon see, one or more methodological flaws seriously undermined the effectiveness or usefulness of Nadesan's study. It is highly unlikely that Nadesan's finding and the conclusion arrived at emerge directly from the data provided by a review of some eighteen biographical sources. As illustrated during a review of Lodge's study of the transformational leadership of Nelson Mandela, reliance on the latter's biographies meant the researcher was left to hack through mounds of biographies and allied material armed with a blunt tool and bounding enthusiasm.
To use commonplace but mixed analogies, the rise of effective leadership during periods of great transformation within nations or society, like light to moths, leaves researchers (and the rest of society) transfixed in the glare of the great leader(s)' achievements, reputation and stature. The astonishing effectiveness and impact of such leaders goad researchers to see if they could successfully unravel the secrets of great leadership and which, in turn, could be passed on to those responsible for managing institutions and enterprises. In a similar fashion, Nadesan sets out to identify those leadership traits which helped the Indian nation or society to negotiate its way out of one of the darkest periods of its history. To compound Nadesan's methodological predicament, the researcher chose to measure the effectiveness of the selected Indian leaders through a list of personality and behaviour attributes generally associated with modern management textbooks and practices.
Nadesan's study, however, provides additional proof of subtle differences which exist between leadership, in its conventional sense, and corporate management. This confusion has been promoted, with increasing intensity, mainly by contemporary American management textbooks and thought leaders bored with the much rehearsed art of management. Many of these authors and authorities borrowed the principles of general leadership to give the management development enterprise a much-needed shot in the arm. This antidote does not always produce the desired results: if anything, it sometimes gives managers of mega-size corporations and institutions an oversized sense of power and stature. In a society obsessed with individual excellence and power, it is to be expected that the leaders of large organizations choose to clothe their titles with robes borrowed from the men and women who transformed their nations from mere subsistence to astonishing greatness.
Students of effective leadership often forget that great leaders and mere managers are separated largely by the route they used to achieve universal recognition and adulation. Great leaders and great managers owe their greatness to both nature and nurture. As far as we have been able to establish, the difference lies mainly in the training. As Warren Bennis (12) and other thought leaders inform us, in spite of the sharpness of our scientific knowledge and tools, contemporary society remains poorly informed about that which makes some people great and some mediocre. Conversely, since humankind invented the slide-rule, the business of turning ordinary men and women into excellent managers has ceased to surprise. The explosive growth of schools of business management (aka schools of (business) leadership) bears ample testimony to this assertion.
To return to Nadesan's study, it is safe to say that this exercise failed to live up to its objective, namely, obtaining an understanding of Indian leadership and the impact of Indian culture on Indian leaders. Nadesan appears to have failed to demonstrate or explain in more comprehensive terms the interplay between aspects of Indian culture and Indian leadership. With regard to specific findings of the study, Nadesan's comments tend to discount the influence of some of the most powerful aspects of Indian culture such as concerns with spirituality, truth and intuition to name a few. Given the methodological flaws cited at the beginning of this review, it is not surprising that Nadesan downplays the role or importance played by concepts and principles based on the individual's preoccupation with facets of life as cited in Moore's paraphrased analysis of aspects of Indian philosophy and traditional life.
Given that the Indian leaders chosen for scrutiny were shaped by and thrived on their personal mastery of traditional culture, it is absurd to even suggest that this or that leader displays more or less involvement with such dominant spirituality, self-sacrifice or selflessness. Nadesan's study lacks the requisite methodological capacity to make definite pronouncements about the extent to which each of the six Indian leaders displayed close or remote association with Indian culture and its traditions. The conclusions of Nadesan are reminiscent of the conclusions arrived at by Nelson Mandela's biographers. For instance, many set out but failed to demonstrate the extent to which Xhosa or African traditions and tribal life shaped Mandela's leadership. The best that the biographers have been able to do is to draw colourful inferences and associations that the leader had with his or her traditions. Colourful they may be, but such inferences and associations do little to advance our knowledge and understanding of how the leader benefited or applied the traditions and practices of his or her culture to make decisions that lie behind their astonishing achievements.
To conclude, the point has already been made that the fate and credibility of studies on great leaders and/or their impact on the rest of society is at the mercy of the biographer. The integrity of such undertakings depends almost entirely on the instruments used to gather, evaluate and interpret information extracted from leaders. The very nature of the leader-biographer relationship places tremendous pressure on the accuracy of the truth. Many a great leader's biography has been known to impress by the extent of the dexterity with which the leader explained their way through certain eventful and not so eventful aspects of their life at the helm. Try as they may, great leaders have generally failed to give accurate and convincing accounts of how they were made. Of course, we should excuse them for frequently taking journalistic licence with the truth seeing that they were expected to recite ex-memory all kinds of truths. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of the biographies of great leaders are little more than memorabilia to remember the leader by. The issue of biographies has become, on the part of leaders, a matter of duty and honour rather than the truth.
1.. S. K. Saksena, Philosophical Theories in the Affairs of Men, The Indian Mind: Essential of Indian Philosophy and Culture, (ed.) Charles A. Moore, East-West Center Press, 1967)
2.. Charles A. Moore, Essentials of 'Indian Philosophy and Culture in The Indian Mind, (ed.) C. A. Moore (East-West Centre Press 1967) .
3.. S. Dasgupta, An Experientialist's View of Indian Philosophy in Readings in Indian History, Politics, and Philosophy, edited by K. Satchidananda (George Allen & Unwin Ltd London1967)
4.. S. K. Saksena, The Individual in Social Thought and Practice, in India, The Indian Mind: Essential of Indian Philosophy and Culture, (ed.) Charles A. Moore, East-West Center Press, 1967)
5.. Abul Kalam Azad,
6.. Swami Nikhilananda, The Realistic Aspect of Indian Spirituality, The Indian Mind: Essential of Indian Philosophy and Culture, (ed.) Charles A. Moore, East-West Center Press, 1967)
7.. C. P. Ramaswami, The Philosophical Basis of Indian Legal and Social Systems, The Indian Mind: Essential of Indian Philosophy and Culture, (ed.) Charles A. Moore, East-West Center Press, 1967)
8.. Dhirendra Mohan Aiyar, Some Philosophical Aspects of Indian Political, Legal, and Economic Thought, The Indian Mind: Essential of Indian Philosophy and Culture, (ed.) Charles A. Moore, East-West Center Press, 1967)
9.. Kalidas Bhattacharyyya, The Status of the Individual in Indian Metaphysics, The Indian Mind: Essential of Indian Philosophy and Culture, (ed.) Charles A. Moore, East-West Center Press, 1967)
10.. T. R. V. Murti, The World and the Individual in Indian Religious Thought, The Indian Mind: Essential of Indian Philosophy and Culture, (ed.) Charles A. Moore, East-West Center Press, 1967)
11.. K.Nadesan, Indian Leadership Styles in Change Management (University of the Witwatersrand 1998)
12.. Bennis, W.G., & Nanus, B., (1985) Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge. New York: Harper & Row; Bennis, W.G., (1959). Leadership Theory and Administrative Behaviour: The Problem with Authority (Administrative Science Quarterly)
13.. S. Radhakrishnan, A Philosophy in India: An Idealist's View of Indian Philosophy in Readings in Indian History, Politics, and Philosophy