Dialogue Among Civilizations

Dialogue as a method of cultural discourse has a hoary antiquity. It was a most favored method of philosophical disquisition with the Vedic and Upanishidic seers who employed it for advancement of knowledge, enrichment of culture and refinement of philosophical reflections. It was a means of discovering the ultimate reality and of knowing the essence of things. Dialogue admitted of confronting this-worldly and other-worldly questions that agitated the human mind. Indian seers developed their systems of philosophy through dialogue and continuous interaction with their peers and pupils.

Dialogue (Shastararth or Sanwad) which means engaging in dialogic discourse on perennial questions of philosophy and metaphysics with emphasis on exegetical exposition was their distinctive contribution towards the enrichment of knowledge, culture and civilization. They were the earliest exponents of the dialogic approach and encouraged a million flowers to bloom and a thousand schools to contend. This was an ennobling celebration of divergence, dissent, freedom and democracy in the realm of ideas.

In Indian philosophical tradition Shravan (listening) and Mannan (contemplation) were the pre-requisites of a cultivated and trained mind which is perpetually engaged in passionate ratiocination with a view to attaining an intuitive perception of the inmost meaning and essence of things. Dialogue was hailed the master key to unravel the mystery and considered stairway to a higher level of ideality. For the self to be able to speak unto one's own Self it is imperative to listen with rapt attention the waves of mentations surging within one's own being and voices coming from the beyond--the realm of the other.

Dialogue connotes an endless journey ' the embarking on an endless adventure of ideas. The search would land a seeker in no absolute ground of being or Truth but unfold certain suggestive sign- posts on the road stretching unto infinity. There is always a possibility of greener pastures and valleys of flowers that he may come across as he marches on and on, higher and higher. Hence Na Itee , Na Itee (usfr & usfr). It is a state of consciousness that negates finality and continues to assert 'this is not', 'this is not'. Humility is considered the hallmark of a man of knowledge and wisdom. He realizes that the ultimate truth is like the loadstar ever unreachable but beckoning still the seeker on his unending quest. Any experience of self discovery or certitude is not of the Ultimate Reality but a gleam of the Light Divine blazing his path. There always remain still more vulture peaks to scale through confronting new challenges and odds coming on the way. The ultimate goal is seen ever receding into the unknown.

Dialogue is thus an ongoing process of renewal and resurrection. It involves coping with the living present as it has grown out of the past with a view to paving the way to a better future. Cutting one's self from the advances of civilization and culture as a result of the application of science and technology and fixing one self nostalgically on some imagined golden period of ancient history cannot be accepted the right approach for a growing organism. For the world around us is always in a state of flux and so is the mind of man which neither tires nor retires.

Dialogue is thus a potent means of obviating the prospect of clash of civilizations and the surest means of progress and peace in the world. Dialogue, in order to be progressive and dynamic, has to combine the perennial and innovative characteristics of a civilization. This is what will help resolve the dichotomy between the old and the new, tradition and modernity, continuity and change. Culture', 'civilization' and 'man' have to be interpreted in a framework that does not clash with the essence of the dialogue which would be very much facilitated by focusing on the collective aspect of man's existence and drawing on the vast and infinite range of human civilizations.

No major culture or civilization has evolved in isolation. Only through continuous dialogue they are enriched and become living and thriving entities. The power of communication entailing both 'speaking' and 'listening' have the capacity of contributing to their survival and growth.


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More by :  Dr. Madan G. Gandhi

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