"The past not only contains, in its depths, the unrealized future, but in part the realized future itself" - Tagore.
The spark that led to the discovery of fire also ignited man's thirst for knowledge - a quest that also marked the beginning of man's passion for tinkering with nature and all things heretofore covered by a "veil of ignorance". This passion for moving into the realm of the uncertain and unknown was the force that gave us the ability to comprehend ourselves and our surroundings with insight, developing new axioms and newer truths. This insight helped humanity to progress from the simple tool-making stage to a complex, specialized stage where technological superiority aided by science plays a dominant role. However, all stages left their indelible imprints in the vast reservoir of human knowledge and each stage was symbiotically linked to the other, in the sense that each left valuable resources for the next.
The introductory stages in the progress of human knowledge were marked by the presence of a knowledge system that was uniting and all encompassing in nature. However along with the progress of civilization and the changes in the material conditions of social existence, knowledge systems also underwent a shift whereby "more and more was sought about less and less", consequently leading to the erosion of the uniting focus of knowledge. The loss of the uniting and all encompassing focus of knowledge conducted the caesarian separation in the spontaneous and instinctive relations between man and the natural environment.
The material transformation of our knowledge systems ushered the realization that knowledge is power and the " sublime shades of the forests" were merely to provide utility to man. This transformation emphasized the 'purposefulness' of knowledge and initiated the 'discriminatory' character of modern knowledge, thereby introducing the separate worlds of man and nature.
Ironically we seem to have arrived at a stage today where probably man's quest for knowledge has come a full circle. The insight/knowledge that was garnered after the 'first spark' has paradoxically brought us to a state where the determinate nature of knowledge systems vindicates the 'uncertain and relative' nature of the manifested reality. In contemporary times we confront a reality that is uncertain, relative and consequently paled by an ontological and epistemological crisis, not only regarding knowledge systems but also about 'our' very being. This ontological and epistemological crisis confronts contemporary society in a manner that may be unprecedented in human history. Especially the purveyors of knowledge and knowledge systems are the ones who are caught up in this philosophical and sociological crisis that has sterilized the growth of new truths and new ideas that are instrumental in producing alternative 'visions of existence'.
An increasingly technological society with little faith in the fellow strugglers, bereft of compassion, empathy and 'depth of sentiment', where even the sacred and the high divine ground is institutionalized in a manner that implies merely a mechanical performance of rituals without the feeling of a conscious divine bliss, we await the first dawn of a new millennium.
The prime ideal of knowledge is the freedom that it is supposed to bestow upon the receiver. This "freedom of power in our language, freedom of imagination in our literature, freedom of soul in our religious creeds and freedom of mind in our social environment", is said to be the chief inspiration of human civilization. But if we consider the contemporary conditions prevailing in the land, which saw the unique integrated contribution of several races in the enhancement of its cultural life, we can discern the 'rigid rule of the dead', that still binds our social and cultural moorings.
The social and cultural life of India is still bonded by the fetters that were placed upon it because of the so-called, 'civilizational necessity.' Even after fifty years of the transmission of knowledge we have failed to 'free' society from such civilizational necessities, rather we have strengthened these fetters with the initiation of a 'pedagogical laboratory' that accentuates the "irrational habits bred by an inert racial mind".
Seemingly, as we near the third millennium we feel more and more defeated about our social and cultural destiny. Knowledge and its transmission is a "universal activity, requiring universal co-operation", which shall fail if we deliberately define a destiny that constricts the expansive participation of the human spirit.