India’s Role in Emerging Paradigm: A talk with Ma. P. Parameshwaranji, President of Vivekananda Kendra
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Man. P. Parameshwaranji

Salient excerpts of the speech by Ma. P. Parameshwaranji, President of Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari at Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi on 25th October 2010.

Paradigm is among those alien idioms which enter our discourse carrying certain baggages with them and limit and condition our thinking. They force us to restructure our thinking, mind set and traditional and inborn character. Being in regular contact with other cultures and nations, this is inevitable. Moreover, unlike in the past now changes are cataclysmic.

This is not the first time such an idiom challenges our nation and culture. With the advent of the British, we faced a quantum of deep stirrings and challenges. But mighty souls of this land had taken up the challenge. Five sacred rivers from the mighty Himalaya of Sanatana Dharma - Vivekananda, Shri Aurobindo, Tagore, Gandhiji and Guruji – they have given the nation right direction to shape the future and to work on a paradigm. But, after independence, we rejected them outright and took the Western ways including socialism, communism etc.

Many of the alien ways which we tried to imitate in the name of globalisation have failed. Concepts like liberalism, neo-liberalism etc. which considered markets as temples and wealth as gods were among them. Since the current paradigm, which is basically Western, is crumbling from within due to the weakness of its foundation and not sustainable, the world is desperately in quest of a different paradigm which is both sustainable and fair to all. We have to learn lessons from this and realise that if we have followed the five prophets, we would have been true to our national tradition of genius.

During the fourth quarter of the previous century there were discussions about a ‘Third Alternative’. Shri Datopanth Thengdiji, a profound thinker, wrote a book “The Third Way” at a time when there were two major paradigms, claiming leadership of the world - Capitalism and Communism. Both were Western in origin though based on conflicting ideologies. But, the Communist paradigm collapsed in its own citadels, leaving capitalism triumphant, and USA, its citadel claimed monopoly for reshaping a new world order showcasing itself as the only successful paradigm for the whole of humanity. But, the celebration did not last long. The recent collapse of American economy, bursting like a balloon played havoc, not only within America but also among the countries of the world which had integrated with the American economy in different degrees. Fidel Castro, the architect of a distinct paradigm of development, has now candidly admitted that the Cuban model is a total failure. Countries of Europe – the erstwhile imperial masters, colonizing large parts of Asia and Africa, have miserably fallen behind.

World is in need of a new paradigm considering the chaotic conditions engulfing the globe. What we need is not an alternative paradigm, but a ‘True paradigm’ based on a globally relevant paradigm of view and vision of life. Any paradigm presupposes a vision of Reality which inspires to reconstruct a world order. Vision depends upon the level of consciousness in which the visionary functions. The present chaotic, conflicting, exploitative, threatening scenario is a true reflection of the level of consciousness at which the leadership of the world operates. They cannot do better. All the machineries, all the economic and political apparatus, and all the cultural and civilizational structures they have erected are the products of this consciousness. To have an alternative paradigm it is of utmost importance that the level of consciousness at which their conceptual framework functions must undergo corresponding changes.

The western conceptual framework, whether capitalist or communist, is basically materialistic. The changes they want to bring about are at the material level by re-arranging the resources, both human and natural, in such a way that an ‘ideal’ paradigm could be shaped. The concept of development and the concept of human welfare in all aspects are measured in terms of material parameters. Needs, comforts and luxuries all indicate varying degrees of material possessions. Man for whose sake all development programmes are aimed at is also according to them a material being with the body as the main substructure. This is a highly partial and parochial view of Man. Enjoyment and a materially satisfying supply of goods and services is what they aim at. In the whole process what is totally ignored is that man is much more than an advanced animal.

It is widely accepted that the coming century belongs to Asia. The contenders for the prize are India and China, two of the world`s most populous countries, making rapid strides in economic, military and political fields. This is an undeniable fact. But the basic question that stares us on the face is whether these factors alone can settle the score in their favour. What is really happening is that both China and India are fast losing their identity and becoming part of globalization, blindly imitating the lone super power America and its camp followers. Due to various factors India or China may win the race, relegating, over a period of time, America to the third position. But, as Christ put it “What is the use of your gaining the whole world, but losing your own soul?” India, the ancient most civilization and immortal culture will lose the relevance if this happens to her in the current race for mindless consumerism. It is to be hoped that this will not happen and the mighty soul of India will reassert itself and create a new paradigm, distinct and different from the Western.

There is a very interesting phenomenon taking place in the midst of all these developments. A small country situated amidst the Himalayan ranges, with a relatively tiny population, is trying to chalk out a new paradigm of development which is unique and which is gradually attracting the attention of the world, including many Western nations. That country is Bhutan. Its vision of development is original, independent and combines tradition and modernity, with parameters which are worthy of emulation. While other countries have adopted the criteria of GNP to measure development, Bhutan has adopted the GNH (Gross National Happiness) as its goal. Of course, it may have its own weakness but what we should appreciate is its strong points. Bhutan does not blindly imitate the glamorous global paradigm. If a small country can dare to initiate a new paradigm, how much more a great country like India can do the same? It is in this context that our search for an alternate paradigm based on Sanatana Dharma, as enunciated by the prophets of modern age, like Swami Vivekananda and Shri. Aurobindo and attempted by Shri Guruji and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, takes a leap in this direction. It is in this context that we have to plan the various projects and programmes for Swamiji`s 150th Birth anniversary.

Major consideration regarding the alternative paradigm should be as follows:

  1. It must have its origin in India which has the longest tradition of sustainable development and which is capable of accommodating diverse cultural patterns.
  2. The current Western paradigm taking its cue from the Christian theology of exploitation of nature has failed. An Islamic alternative, if ever there can be one, will not be acceptable to the world at large in the immediate future because of the negative image Islam has acquired.
  3. Indian alternative will have spirituality as its core value but it will inspire and strengthen a holistic vision which will include reasonable amount of economic prosperity for all along with the spiritual enlightenment. The four “Purusharthas” will be its broad framework. It will aim at an egalitarian socio-economic order.
  4. Social justice along with guaranteed opportunities for acquisition of wealth will be possible only in a largely decentralized set up. Development indices will be qualitatively different from the current Western paradigm. It will include social and cultural factors like the ones in Bhutan with necessary modifications to suit national ethos and resource endowments.
  5. The alternative paradigm will ensure a harmonious balance between the forest cover, the rural population, the small and mid-towns, and also mega cities.
  6. It will encourage and take advantage of modern science and technology without prejudicing any relevant cultural traditions, human values, and ecological balance. Its motto will be “technology with human face” and “small is beautiful”.
  7. It will encourage an international order in which every nation, big or small, will have membership and equal status. Economic or military superiority will not be allowed to dominate over the democratic principles.
  8. All religions and forms of worship will have freedom to profess and practice without interference but conversion by force or fraud will be considered immoral unacceptable.
  9. A democratically constituted world assembly of nations, whatever its structure may be, will strictly preserve the cultural identities - heritage, language and dialects, dress and food habits, and preserve the colorful diversities which have grown over centuries and all are part of one human civilizations. Globalization will only mean harmonious cooperation of existing and time-honored diversities and not the imposition of one over the others.
  10. Biodiversity is as important as diversity in culture and religion and has to be preserved. No species should be forced to become extinct.
  11. Threats like global warming, carbonization, environmental degradation and pollution will be strictly eliminated. The economic prosperity of some countries will not be allowed to endanger these basic factors in other countries - big or small. Similarly depriving the future generation of their legitimate cultural and natural resources by the greedy and exploitative sections of the present generations will be treated as a crime against nature and man.

We tirelessly proclaim Swamiji’s exhortation that India’s destiny is to become the “Jagad Guru”. What do these statements mean in real and concrete terms? Are they just empty rhetoric or do they carry a message for India to contribute substantially and in concrete terms for shaping the future of mankind?

The answer to this is that we should start real and lasting work at various levels to reshape India in the light of Swamiji`s teachings, so that a new India deeply rooted in the past, strictly adhering to her eternal values, but paying due attention to the demands and requirements of the modern times, wisely choosing with discretion what is essential and acceptable to our country`s genius, from the market place of global community, and also rejecting what is harmful and unacceptable. This requires profound wisdom, great vision and strict pragmatism - the basic qualities of our great Rishis. On the basis of this, India must become a model, an attractive paradigm, which will inspire the rest of the world to emulate the same in a manner suitable to their genius. That alone will be true and faithful celebration of Swamiji’s 150th Birth anniversary.

Event Date 
October 25, 2010
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