Hinduism

Vedanta and Modernity

In various intellectuals groups the concept of modernity has not found proper definition and explanation as a single accepted theory. We try to reduce the subject of universal dimension to a partial regional narrowness, as in trying to relate modernity to a particular national context. It can't be reduced to as 'Indian or American, or European Modernity'. Per force modernity acquires global dimension, in so far as it is a higher evolved concept of regionalism and sectarianism. 

In one of the leading national dailies of India the learned author concludes his article on Modernity as:

" ...Rather it (the concept of modernity) hinges on a re-evaluation of attitudes, values, belief systems, and institutional arrangements by individual, groups or societies, in the light of development of knowledge." 

One may pose a question here as to what is the source of such 'attitudes, values, belief systems', and how to re-evaluate knowledge? 

Modern evolutionary biologists say: 

"The human genes are basically selfish. Universal love and welfare of whole human species are the concepts that simply do not make evolutionary sense, if we depend only on genetic structure. Morality based on evolutionary progress is a myth. Human culture based on gene's law of universal ruthless selfishness builds a nasty society to live in. The genetic machine goes on producing such a biological human race where social structure of co-operation, generosity and selflessness is a dream." 

Is there then no hope for the future of mankind?

The breakthrough is possible. It is possible because, unwittingly, the genes can be tempted to shed their selfishness by conscious and deliberate efforts to develop or foster a value-system in ourselves. We may then understand what our selfish genes are up to and may have at least a chance to upset their designs. No species, other than human beings, has ever aspired to such a thing to the genes! 

The power to defy the selfish tendencies, to find the deliberate and conscious way to cultivate and nurture pure disinterested altruism, comes from the innermost depth dimension of our own self, which the Vedanta calls as Atman. Genes, biology, nature, money-name-fame, literacy, and modern science are not the source of these values. Without reference to the concept of spirituality - universality of soul - as expounded in various Upanishads, the talk on modernity cannot be conclusive.

Spiritual practice - Sadhana - helps us to understand the depth dimension of our mind. It is the method to explore the capability of immense human possibilities. Sadhana - spiritual discipline - also brings about the necessary changes in our body and mind required to sustain the newly acquired spiritual values and altered state of consciousness. Similarly, changes in the mind allow us to grasp the limitations of sense perceptions as the source of knowledge. And we may reach the higher realm of spiritual perception which, in essence, should be taken as the essence of modernity. 

Everyone is capable of organizing his/her life so as to get at least a glimpse of this truth. One may not realize it fully in one's lifetime, but even a partial realization makes one's faith and conviction firmer. One becomes free from the fear. One then can influence others with newly acquired confidence to believe in and make an attempt to undertake practice for realization of spiritual truths. 

In this process values are born. The generating factory of value-system is the experimental attempt in one's life to obtain spiritual knowledge of "divinity and universality of each soul". The broadening of vision by altruism, compassion, concern for others, and selflessness culminates in universal love and total freedom. These are the milestones on the path of spiritual progress. 

Be and make, this is the key to spread the message and make the world a better place to live in for us and for generations to come. Deliberate cultivation of values in one's own life first and then attempting "re-evaluation of attitudes, values, belief systems in the light of the development of (this) knowledge" will bring the needed uniformity and universality to the meaning of modernity.

29-Jan-2000

More by :  Dr. C.S. Shah

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