Yearly Archives: 2018

How to Counter the Mindset of Bribery

Bribery has become a part of popular and official culture in India, which has created a mindset among the public that without giving bribes, you cannot get things done. How to counter this mindset? This article examines this question in a deeper perspective.

The Dubious Mindset

Before coming to the remedy, let us examine briefly the causative factors behind the mindset of bribery. The primary factors include inefficiency, incompetence, red-tapism and a lack of accountability in the government machinery. The second factor is greed on the part of the officials. The third factor is the lack of will on the part of the public to counter it. The fourth factor is an attitude of tolerance for corruption. The first factor is a matter of outer administration and management. The other factors are more psychological. What are the antidotes and solutions? How to counter it?

The Remedial Mindset

As we have mentioned earlier, the remedy for the first factor lies in better management and administration, which is quick, responsive, efficient and accountable. Anti-graft institutions such as lokpal and vigilance departments act as deterrents. But none of these outer remedies can lead to any lasting solution. Most of the current thinking on corruption tends towards this kind of external remedies, which are necessary but not sufficient. For a more long-term solution we have to tackle the deeper psychological factors. Let us now examine the remedies for the other three factors behind bribery and how to counter them.

The first factor is greed. There is no short-term solution to greed. It requires a change of mindset which wants more and more pleasure, comfort and acquisition from outside to a quest for inner richness and fulfillment, which can be achieved only through education. The second factor of lack of will on the part of the public has to be countered by highlighting the examples of the opposite character – individuals and groups who display a firm and persistent will not to succumb to the corrupt trend. Instead of taking the quick and easy solution through bribes, if individuals and groups take a firm stand against it (with a readiness to bear the hardship involved and persist in the struggle for the sake of truth), it contributes immensely for the progress of truth in the world. Here are some illustrative examples.

A building contractor, persuaded by his spiritually inclined wife and his Guru, decided not to give bribes and conduct his business with an entire honesty. The initial impact of the decision was negative. His business began to collapse. His financial condition deteriorated. But still he persisted in his resolution to be honest. His reputation for honesty spread in business and government circles. Again he started getting contracts; business flourished and became better than what it was when he was doing it without any scruples.

Another example is from the housing division of a Chennai-based firm well known for its value-based policies. The company was not able to hand over the flats to the customer at the promised date because of prolonged delays in getting sanction for electrical works from the electricity board. The company was determined not to take the easy and customary path of paying off the government officials. The company wrote letters to the authorities of the electricity board and also explained their principled position to the customer. A small group of understanding and sympathetic customers wrote letters to the highest political and government authorities, demanding immediate action. And finally the moral force behind the company’s decision triumphed. The company got the sanction for the electrical works without compromising on its principles.

In this task, collective bodies such as the associations of citizens, consumers and companies can play an important role because a collective action like the one in the second example is more effective than that of an individual. But this is from an external point of view. From a deeper perspective, every individual and collective effort against corruption has a subtle positive impact on the inner psychological atmosphere. When an individual or a collectivity battles against corruption and gains a victory, it sends a vibration which awakens a similar positive will in other human centers; it creates a new capacity in the mental atmosphere which makes possible similar victories and strengthens those who are engaged in this battle.

The third factor of tolerance for corruption exists not only among the public but also in big corporates. A young IT graduate joined as a trainee in a big corporate group respected for its values. He was shocked when a senior executive of the group proclaimed in a lecture that in the current competitive environment it is difficult to get business without a certain amount of bribing and everyone has to accept the fact. No amount of outer remedies can counteract this kind of corruption. It requires a radical change in culture, values and consciousness. Such a change can come only through a system of education which awakens the young mind in school to the importance of truth, honesty and transparency, not by preaching, but through stories, images and examples. The young minds have to be awakened to the long-term benefits of truth and honesty; the need to bear, persist and endure and fight in order to uphold truth; and how his individual victory has positive consequences for the entire humanity .

At the outer level, on the part of the government or governmental system, there has to be a conscious and concerted attempt to create an outer environment which encourages truth, honesty and transparency in every activity and transactions and zero-tolerance to corruption. The government should initiate and promote a massive research effort to collect examples of truth, honesty and transparency in every activity of national life – recognize and reward them – and highlight these examples through the mass media. In fact modern media can do this work much better than the government. Every media organization must have an anti-corruption wing where people can report cases of corruption and help and guidance to fight corruption.

Towards a Culture of Values

No virtue or value stands alone in its isolation. All basic values such as truth, beauty, goodness, harmony and so on are interrelated. A culture of beauty, goodness and harmony facilitates and sweetens the practice of truth. We have to build a system of education and inner awakening which helps individuals to first internalize these values in their consciousness and flow out spontaneously in behavior and action. And there is a divine element in the individual where these values are intrinsic to the very substance of consciousness. A culture of values attains its highest perfection when human beings can discover this divinity within them and express its verities spontaneously in their thought, feelings and actions.

M. S. Srinivasan

O. P. Dani

[Published in Chartered Secretary, a journal of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India]

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16Apr/18

Centralization and Decentralization: The Role of Government

The business of the State is to provide all possible facilities for co–operative action.

—Sri Aurobindo

The present trend of thinking in the progressive mind of our age is towards autonomy, decentralization and self-government. This thinking is in the right direction because in the future world, the creative progress lies not in more and more external government but in greater self-government. This brings us to the question what then is the role of central government? This article examines this question in the light of an integral vision.

Central Authority and Local Autonomy

How much can the central government decentralize? In trying to find the right answer to this question we must avoid the tendency of the average mind to float enthusiastically with the new fad and swing dogmatically towards massive decentralization and autonomy. There is a need and truth behind centralization. The purpose of centralization or central government is to enforce unity, order, stability and continuity of administration. But there are two ways of achieving this proposal: The first method is to create a psychological and cultural solidarity which unites the consciousness of the people through shared vision, values, ideals and a common purpose, and allows each subgroup within the nation or state to organize their life according to their unique economic, social and cultural characteristics. The main advantage of this method is that it promotes a free and rich diversity which is conducive to a creative flowering of the collective life. The main drawback of this method is that if the political consciousness of the community is not sufficiently mature and developed, the psychological and cultural solidarity of the community remains only a vague and weak sentiment without much power to weld the community into strong and enduring external unity which can safeguard it against external aggression or internal strife.

The other method is to create a strong economic, social and political unity through a centralized administrative organization and patriotic sentiment. The main advantage here is that it ensures peace, stability and security of the outer collective life. But the main drawback of this method is that it tends towards uniformity and mechanization of life and the concentration of power in the ruling elite and the upper classes and prevents the flowering of a free, rich and creative diversity of communal life diffused throughout the collective life. Now the problem is how to find the optimum balance which will minimize the disadvantages and maximize the advantages of both these methods.

The Balancing Act

The emerging new breed of political, social and organizational thinkers, with their ardent enthusiasm for autonomy, empowerment and decentralized functioning, tend to ignore the need to retain the capacity for centralized function. In fact there is no real dichotomy between a strong centre and autonomous states, if by strong we mean the capacity to impose unity and order over the nation—sometimes even by force if necessary—and ensure the sovereignty and solidarity of the nation under external aggression or internal conflict. As long as the spiritual and cultural unity of the nation or the state has not become a concretely conscious feeling in the consciousness of her people and remains only a vague subconscious sentiment, the outer unity of the nation cannot be entirely sound and secure. This is all the more true for a country such as India with its wide variety of ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups. Centrifugal and divisive tendencies can any moment gain the upper hand and jeopardize the unity of the nation. In such situations of internal or external emergency, a strong centre with sufficient power and capacity for centralized decision-making and action may be crucial for keeping the integrity of the nation. Instances of gross misuse of such emergency powers in modern India have provoked much controversy regarding whether such emergency provision is necessary in the Indian Constitution. We believe that an emergency provision should be there in the constitution, but with sufficient safeguards against the misuse of such powers. A day may come when humanity as a whole will rise to a higher level of consciousness beyond mind where it feels its unity and solidarity as a concrete fact of experience, and human life no more needs any external controls like constitutions and laws and government. Until that diamond moment of fulfilment arrives for humanity, some form of external organisation and controls for maintaining unity and order may be necessary.

So the problem here is not centralization as opposed to decentralization as an ‘either–or’ issue. The problem is how the advantages of both can be combined in an optimum proportion which is appropriate to the present and future evolutionary needs of humanity. The studies of futurist thinkers like Alvin Toffler indicate that modern society is moving towards an increasing complexity and diversity. And the past experiences of the political history of India and humanity as a whole indicate that a free diversity is essential for the power, richness and creative vitality of the collective life. So the decentralization and local autonomy will be the dominant trends of the future. This means the political power and initiative will pass more and more from the central government, administration and the bureaucracy to the state and the local people. We have to examine what are the minimum powers which the centre has to retain, and the principles which must govern the relations between the central and the local authority.

What are the minimum powers which the central government should retain? In the political field, foreign relation and national security—internal and external—can and should be under the central government. In economics some amount of central taxation which helps in funding the government is acceptable. In all other activities, the central government should assume the role of the coordinator, facilitator and promoter. The functions of the central government would be coordination, promotion and monitoring the progress of the states and the nation as a whole; minimizing conflict and maximizing cooperation between states; generating synergy by linking the unique strength and competence and genius of all states in a mutually complementing harmony; evolving a national consensus and vision on the long-term policy, goals, values, purpose and mission of the nation as a whole and in every department of national life. Finally keeping an overall eye on the material, social, and moral and spiritual well-being and progress of the nation as a whole with enough powers, resources and the capacity—under sufficient safeguards against misuse—to ensure unity, order and stability of the nation and a balanced development of all the organs the society.

In short, as the nation’s polity matures, the central government will become less and less a controlling and regulating authority and more of a coordinating and facilitating organ. All the rest of the nation’s life will come under the jurisdiction of the states, management of private enterprise and the self-government of the local people. Let us now examine how these tasks can be accomplished in the new and emerging world, where values such as democracy, diversity and autonomy are gaining increasing acceptance.

National Integration

Let us now examine briefly some of the important functions of government which need to be centralized. First is the task of national integration. Integrating the diverse steams of national life into a coordinated whole is an important function of central government. The first task here is to make each subgroup of the nation—the state, city, district and village—and each department of national life conscious of itself as part of a larger whole and an interdependent and interrelated organ of the organic unity of the nation. In the socialistic countries this was done by enforcing a uniform, mechanized and standardized pattern of life based on a single dogmatic ideology on the whole of the nation through centralized organization and a brain-washing propaganda. But such methods are now becoming out-of-date in the new and emerging social order which is moving towards a predominantly democratic, decentralized and highly diversified society. In such a free and diversified society the only durable path towards national integration is through education—not propaganda—which educes a free inner growth towards a conscious realization of the inner brotherhood and solidarity of the people or in other words to the realization of the psychological and spiritual solidarity which unites the heart and mind of the people. This fact is beginning to be recognized by the educated intelligentsia in India and all over the world. For example, the National Integration Conference report of 1961 mentioned that “national integration is a psychological and educational process involving the development of a feeling of unity, solidarity and cohesion in the hearts of the people.”

But this inner solidarity cannot be achieved by mere intellectual education or by sermons and lectures or by group-singing. This does not mean as some excessively “spiritual” people say that these things are “useless.” Man is at present essentially a mental being and any inner change has to begin with the change in the “thought process.” So anything which can give the true and the right idea and set the intellectual being in man thinking in the right direction is good and helpful for the inner change. But changing the “thought process” is not enough. What we need is a new system of education which can make the idea inwardly concrete, real and living to the consciousness of the people and galvanize the thinking, feeling and active faculties of the consciousness towards a harmonious and spontaneous realization of the idea in their inner as well as the outer life. An intellectual environment permeated with the right thought and idea, powerful technological instruments for the communication and diffusion of the idea, and an appropriate outer environment, organizations and institutions favorable to this task—all these are very helpful aids in this challenging task. But none of these can bring any lasting and permanent change without a system of education which leads to a psychological transmutation in the consciousness of the people. Such a psychological transformation can be achieved only through a system of education based on the principles of Indian Yoga.

Evolving a National Vision

The other function of government which requires to be centralized is building a national vision and purpose, which means to evolve a long-term national vision which can instill in the national consciousness a sense of direction, mission and purpose. This national vision should be based on a deep understanding of the history of our culture and civilisation, the inherent genius of the mind and soul of our nation and her evolutionary destiny; it should provide to the nation a moral and spiritual cause which can at once transcend and reconcile the economic, social, political, religious and ethnic interests of the various groups within the nation. But this national vision should not be narrowly nationalistic and chauvinistic, concentrated exclusively on national self-realization. There has to be a much-greater emphasis than that given by the ancients on the special contribution of India to the progress and solidarity of the international community and humanity as a whole.

Such a unifying national vision requires a long process of dialogue, discussion and debate to evolve and establish itself in the consciousness of the nation. In a democratic and “secular” society which permits freedom of thought and expression and with a bewildering diversity, this process of evolving a national consensus will be a long, slow and difficult process. But the time taken and the difficulties on the way do not matter. For once such a unifying vision becomes a conscious and integral part of our national mind, then it will create an enduring spiritual and cultural unity on the foundations of which any amount of free local diversity can be permitted to flourish.

Fortunately for us in India, we already have such a regenerating and unifying vision in the ancient ideal of Sanatana Dharma, in the all-embracing spiritual vision of our ancient Vedic sages, expanded and reinterpreted to suit the present conditions by our modern Rishis such as Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda. We have to explore further how to translate this spiritual vision into the economic, social and political life.

M. S. Srinivasan

Om Prakash Dani

[Published in Chartered Secretary Journal of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India]

 

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12Mar/18

Beyond the Uncharted Landscape – Book Review Jayachandran

This book has been written keeping in mind college students and young professionals who are in the early stage of their career. The author has consciously used very simple language and used real life examples so that every student who reads this book can understand and relate himself or herself to the situations mentioned in it. This book itself is the outcome of a number of interactions and many questions that the author has asked during his sessions and interactions with the students and colleagues.

This book starts with the question ‘why are you here?’; after reading this book, the reader will be able to find his/her answer to this question or at least will start searching for the answer.

Beyond the Uncharted Landscape concludes with the chapter ‘Our planet & our environment’ by M S Srinivasan. Here he discusses about the evolutionary journey of nature, the scientific conception and spiritual conception of evolution and he also speaks about overcoming inner maladies in our consciousness to solve all the problems faced by humanity today including the environmental ones.

The beautiful part of this book is that it touches the spiritual aspect of career growth. The word ‘spirituality’ not used very often yet the foundation of this book lies in spirituality and every chapter ends with the quote from the Mother.

As I have mentioned in the beginning, everyone who reads this book will relate themselves with it as if it has been written especially for him/her as it deals with real life dilemmas and problems faced by young professionals who have either just entered or aspire to enter the corporate world. Readers can find solutions for problems that they could possibly face during the early stage of their career.

Though Beyond the Uncharted Landscape uses the word ‘B-school’ very often, the book is not only useful for B-school students and management professionals but for every student studying in college and for everyone else who is in their early career years.

As stated by the author ‘this book is a guide to the land beyond the horizons. Read it as often you want. Whenever you are happy. Whenever you are sad. Whenever you feel lost. This book might be the compass you were looking for’.

 

About the Authors

Achal Rangaswamy is one of the most successful and accomplished sales and marketing professional in India. He often visits various business schools in India and offers advice to students there on what corporates expect from B-School products in their early years at work. He is also a very successful trainer in the area of selling skills, time management and leadership. Achal Rangaswamy is a recipient of the ‘AMA-Zydus Cadila Marketing Man of the Year Award’, conferred by the Ahmedabad Management Association.

M.S. Srinivasan is a Senior Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry. He is pursuing studies and research in various fields of knowledge as a part of the spiritual discipline for inner development. He has authored many books and published many articles in the field of management, Psychology, Social Sciences and Indian Culture in many reputed national and international journals.

Jayachandran F

Research Associate

Sri Aurobindo Institute of research in Social Sciences (SAIRSS)

 

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12Mar/18

Types of Thinking and Thought Leadership – Integral Perspectives

[Published in CHARTERED SECRETARY, Journal of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India]

Abstract

In an integral perspective, and also in the corporate context, thought leadership requires innovation and creativity in conception as well as in execution. Innovations which bring new ideas and creativity in implementation and lead to a successful realization or materialization of the idea in the outer life are the two aspects of total thought leadership. To realize this ideal we have to go back to the fundamentals and examine the types of thinking, identify those types which can lead to thought leadership in the future and cultivate them systematically in education, training and development and in the Individual, organization and the nation as a whole. This article examines thought leadership in this broader, holistic and long-term perspective.

Flavours of Thought

A human mind is in its essence a thinker. Thinking is the primary function of our mind. But there are many kinds or types of thinking, depending on where or from which part of the mind we think. Let us examine these streams of thought.

Informational: This is the lowest form of thinking, based on the report of our senses or collection of facts. This kind of thinking comes from what Indian psychology calls manas, the ‘sense mind’; it is based primarily on outer observation of the world perceived by our senses or what we get from hearing from others or read in books without any further reflection or very minimum reflection. It may be accompanied by feelings and emotions induced by the sensations or accumulation of undigested concepts in the mind, but without much of reflection from the thinking mind. A considerable part of traditional education (and therefore contemporary thinking), especially in India, is informational. Obviously this kind of thinking can never lead to thought leadership.

Pragmatic: Informational thinking stops at observation or receiving concepts. Pragmatic thinking goes further and asks: What is the use of this information or knowledge I have in my mind? Utility, problem solving, application, execution, action and innovation are the predominant orientation or inclination of the pragmatic thinking. Even the animal mind, especially the more advanced animals, can do this kind of thinking. For example, a chimpanzee puts his hands into an ant hole for food but gets badly bitten by the fierce ants. The next time our ancestral brother devices a straw to suck-off the ants without putting his hands into the hole! This is, at the primitive level, the essence of pragmatic instinct or thinking. Human pragmatism of various kinds is only a vast extension of this instinctive pragmatism of the animal minds becoming more and more conscious and complex – from the simple and early innovation of the wheel, bullock cart and the cycle to the stream engine, aeroplane and the endless array of technological innovations we enjoy at present, like TV and the mobile.

However technical and utilitarian kind of thinking is only one form of pragmatism. There can be other or higher forms of pragmatic thinking. The essence of pragmatism is the ability to convert an abstract idea into a concrete inner or outer realization. For example, modern management is a comprehensive science of pragmatic thinking for organizing economic, commercial, social and mental ideas – such as profit, productivity, quality, customer service, innovation, employee development or well-being – for material realization of the idea in the market place or the workplace. Similarly, the ancient Indian yoga is a pragmatic science for a concrete inner realization of moral and spiritual ideals in our consciousness.

Analytical: In the informational thinking, all that enters into the mind remains undigested, chaotic and more or less subconscious. Analytical thinking tries to bring a conscious order to these inputs to the mind through a process of analysis such as comparison, classification, critical assessment, evaluation, discrimination or judgment. Most of the commentaries we find in newspapers on economic, financial or political events belong to this kind of thinking.

Scientific: The traditional scientific method combines the informational and the analytical but both elevated to a higher intellectual level and reinforced with two more elements. Observation, classification, comparison, analysis, hypothesis and experimentation, all based on the solid grounds of facts, are the main limbs of the traditional scientific method. The observations of the informational thinking can be coloured by personal, subjective and emotional factors. But in scientific thinking, a conscious attempt is made to keep the observation as much impersonal and objective as possible, by eliminating or minimizing the subjective, personal and emotional colouring. Similarly, analytical thinking can be coloured by preconceived notions, beliefs or assumption or a subconscious emotional or mental preference for a particular idea, which drives our logic and reason towards a conclusion favourable to the idea. The scientific thinking aims at eliminating these faults in informational and analytical thinking by the following features:

  • Founding all enquiry, reasoning and logic on bare facts of Nature or Life acquired through objective, impersonal, unbiased observation.
  • Critical questioning of all established, preconceived or unproved notions, beliefs, assumptions or conclusions, however sacrosanct they may be.
  • Analysis not for its own sake but aiming towards arriving at an insight into hidden patterns or laws behind facts or observed phenomena, formulated into a hypothesis.
  • Testing the hypothesis through experiments.

Philosophical: This form of thinking aims at arriving at fundamental or universal principles of life or existence through abstract thinking. It can also be based on facts or the discoveries of science but not bound by facts or need not accept the conclusions of science.

Idealistic: All the higher aspirations and values of humanity are born from this kind of thinking which tends towards truth, beauty, goodness, harmony, unity, perfection, wholeness and the inner source of all these values, the Divine. We may include here in this category the visionary or the utopian thinking which dreams of an ideal or perfect future.

The philosophical thinking has a natural bent towards the idealistic but not always. For example, Socrates and Plato are idealistic philosophers but the Indian Sankhya philosophy is not idealistic but centered on cosmic principles.

Imaginative: Thinking in terms of images, symbols, poetry, stories and unmanifest possibilities. The essence of higher imagination is the last one – the ability to perceive the unmanifest or unrealized possibilities lying in the womb of the future. Most of the great literary creations of the world come from this kind of thinking. All great visions and path-breaking innovations have a large streak of imaginative thinking.

Intuitive: We tend to associate thinking with logic and reason. But as we have stated earlier, thinking can be imaginative and also intuitive. Oxford dictionary defines intuition as ‘the ability to understand or know something immediately without conscious reasoning’. In fact, creative thinking of a genius in most of the categories we have discussed so far comes from such an intuition. It is now recognized that many great scientific discoveries are not entirely the result of rigorous scientific reasoning, but comes from an original or initial intuition and later justified or amplified by scientific reasoning. As the eminent mathematician Henry Poincare wrote: ‘It is by logic we prove, it is by intuition we invent. Logic, therefore, remains barren unless fertilized by intuition.’

There is an intuition at every level of our being – physical, vital, emotional, and mental – and at the spiritual level it becomes more or less fully conscious. In a spiritual perspective, we call this higher faculty or knowledge beyond the rational mind as intuition. Most of the thinking of mystics, seers, sages and saints, who have risen to this higher consciousness, comes from such a conscious supra-rational intuition. Indian spiritual philosophy is a classic example of such an intuitive thinking. Every major school of Indian philosophy is an intellectual formulation of a higher spiritual intuition, expressed through analytical or philosophical thinking. All great geniuses in every field – secular, scientific or spiritual – have an element of intuition and imagination in their creative works.

A Holistic Synthesis

As we have indicated earlier, each category of thinking which we have discussed so far comes from a specific cluster of faculties within our consciousness. Informational thinking comes from the sense mind which observes and receives. Analytical, scientific, philosophical thinking comes from different aspects of the rational mind. Idealistic thinking comes from a deeper and higher part of the rational mind working along with the ethical and aesthetic faculties. Pragmatic thinking comes from the faculties of will and action, application and execution. Imaginative and intuitive thought processes arise from the respective faculties. For a holistic development of the mind in education or training, we have to awaken all these faculties in an integrative manner through appropriate educational inputs that induce corresponding thinking.

The ‘sense mind’ which observes and receives has to be encouraged and trained to observe with a scientific objectivity. Instead of mugging up or receiving passively, the learner has to be encouraged to arrive at concepts through disciplined thinking, with a scientific, analytical vigour and through inductive or deductive reasoning. He must be awakened to the importance of great ideas such as truth, beauty and goodness for kindling a higher aspiration in his mind and heart and the uplift of human life as a whole. He must be motivated to explore fundamental questions regarding life and universe and God through philosophical enquiry. He must be awakened to a broader vision of pragmatism beyond narrow utilitarianism, as a creative power of action, application and realization. He must learn to project his imaginative faculties into the invisible, unknown, unmanifest and the unrealized and keep the images positive, constructive, transformative, sublime and beautiful. And finally he must be made aware that all these activities can only help in developing his mental faculties but will not lead to any true answers or lasting solutions or deep truth of things, which can be found only in a consciousness beyond mind. This deeper truth can be found only through a supra-rational intuition.

This brings us to the question how to arrive at the synthesis of all these types of thinking which may appear contradictory? For example, how to reconcile soaring idealism or imagination with scientific objectivity or down-to-earth pragmatism? Here comes another kind of thinking which is not very much recognized. We may call it as ‘Evolutionary Thinking’. There are three aspects to this thinking: The first step is to have a clear, objective and scientific understanding of the present condition. The second is to have an equally clear perception of the ideal we want to realize. The third step is to figure out how to consciously progress from the present condition to the ideal through various stages and intermediary ideals.

However, for thought leadership in the future, the faculties of intuition, imagination and the idealistic mind centred on universal values must lead the way with scientific mind providing the factual, objective and experimental outlook and the pragmatic faculties providing the executive function.

There is one more category of thinking which is essential for thought leadership in the future. It is what Sri Aurobindo calls as the ‘truth-seeking thought’ (1). Here comes the importance of the cultural genius of India.

The Cultural Dimension: What India Has to Do?

This brings us to the cultural dimensions of the problem at the national level. India of yesteryears was a thought leader in religion, spirituality and philosophy, which are the part of her cultural genius. India has to rediscover this inner genius and apply it to every activity of her national life. But how does she do it? The natural instinct of a culture-sensitive and orthodox Indian mind is towards revivalism; instead of grasping the universal essence of the Indian spirit and applying it to the present problems of life with a forward-looking vision, it tends to revive old worn-out ideas and forms of a bygone era.

In any quest for truth, in whatever field it may be, success depends on asking the right question. If we are not asking the right questions, we are likely to be led away into wrong channels. What is the central quest which led to those momentous spiritual discoveries of Vedas and Upanishads? Is it not what is the deepest, highest, universal and eternal truth of man, life and nature? This is the central quest of the great founders of our Indian civilization and culture. And this is perhaps the true Indian approach.

So if we are seeking for the highest truth of life, the first question we have to ask is what the Indian seers asked: What is the deepest, highest and the universal truth and law of each human activity. As we have indicated earlier, the habitual tendency of the orthodox Indian mind is not towards this quest for the universal truth, but to go back to ancient Indian values, ideals or systems of thought and practices. Such an approach is valid only if it helps us in our central Indian quest for the highest truth. For ancient Indian insights can shed light on this quest. But when it is pursued with the sole aim of reviving the ancient Indian values without any higher quest for truth, we may end up with formations which are irrelevant to the present or the future.

How to find the universal truth? The first step is a scientific and dispassionate observation of the facts of the past and present. The second step is to penetrate behind the outer facts to their inner psychological, evolutionary, cosmic and spiritual causes. For example, if I am a student of economics and seeking for the truth of economics, what are the first questions I have to ask, the central questions which will lead me to the highest truth and the most creative vision in economics? They are first what is the deepest, highest and universal truth of economics? Second, what are the purpose, function and mission of economics in fulfilling the highest evolutionary destiny of humanity and our planet? Third, what will be the nature, needs and values of the future economic system? But to do this with a true creative force or effectiveness requires a penetrating spiritual intuition beyond reason. The ordinary surface intellectual reason doesn’t have this penetrating insight and vision.

If we don’t have this spiritual intuition, we have to rely on the thoughts and insights of those who have this higher knowledge. But this method, through the intellect working upon the intuitions of others, may not be as effective when we ourselves have the intuition. However, each capable Indian mind can contribute something with whatever faculties available to him or her — reason, faith, emotion or intuition.

In this task, as we have already said, ancient Indian concepts and insights can be of great help because India had the tradition of such a deep quest and seeking established by a long line of spiritually illumined sages and seers. And among Indian seers, Sri Aurobindo provides the most comprehensive and integral vision and insight into the Indian tradition and culture.

M. S. Srinivasan and O. P. Dani

References:

1. Sri Aurobindo, ‘The Renaissance in India’, Collected Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol. 20, p. 89.

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