Three Paradigms of Human Development

In the future world, the most vital resource that will determine the success and greatness of a group will not be land or capital, not even technology or knowledge, but the quality of the ‘human capital’ and how effectively the leadership of a group is able to tap and release the innate potential in the individual and the community. This, in turn, depends on our conception of human being and its potentialities and development, or in other words our paradigm of human development. When we examine the history of humanity from the ancient to the modern age, we can clearly distinguish three major paradigms of human development. In this article, these three paradigms are discussed not in their historical order but in an evolutionary perspective.

First is the ‘professional development’ paradigm of the modern managerial mind. This approach to human development views the human being as a set of useful professional knowledge and skills; it aims at creating a ‘human resource development’ culture which helps individuals to constantly update and hone their professional knowledge and skills through continuous education, training and work opportunities and contribute to the bottom-line growth of the organization measured in terms of efficiency, productivity, profit and other corporate goals.

The second is the ‘Hellenic’ paradigm, which is the ideal of the ancient Greek culture. The Hellenic culture viewed the human being as an embodied mental being with rational, emotional, ethical and aesthetic faculties. The ideal of the Hellenic culture may be expressed in the formula of a sound Mind in a sound Body in a sound Community. A sound Mind in a sound Body means full and integral development of all the powers and faculties of the Mind and Body, living in perfect harmony with an emphasis on the rational and aesthetic faculties and a predominant stress on values like truth, beauty and goodness. A sound community is the result of a full and harmonious self-expression of all the faculties of a well-developed body and mind in all the dimensions of the communal life—economic, social, political and cultural. A sound community is not only prosperous, efficient and productive but also sensitive and open to the higher values, such as truth, beauty and goodness, and expresses these values in every activity of the communal life.

The third possibility is the integral spiritual paradigm or the ‘Vedic ideal of the Indian culture’. The Vedic vision accepts the Hellenic ideal but adds the spiritual dimension to it. The Vedic seers viewed Man as a fourfold being with a body, life, mind and soul. He is in essence a soul or spiritual being evolving towards self-realization in the divine consciousness. The body, life and mind are the instruments of the soul for self-expression and self-development. The Vedic ideal was expressed in the bold and robust language of a Vedic seer as ‘I enjoy both earth and heaven as a man enjoys his two wives’. The Vedic ideal has three aspects: first is the awakening and realization of the soul or spiritual being; second, a full and harmonious development of all the powers and faculties of all the fourfold being of man; third is to shape the fourfold being of man into perfect instruments for the progressive manifestation of the Divine Consciousness and its divine powers in the earthly life turning the earthly life into a chariot of the heavenly powers.

The Hellenic and the Vedic ideal may appear very high-pitched or utopian for the present condition of humanity, especially for a business organization. But they are the ideals of inner development, and we believe that they are the ‘ideals’ of the future evolution of humanity. To prepare for the future, or to use the modern management lingo, to be ‘proactive’, every community, organization or nation will have to make some beginning, take some tentative steps in the present towards this future ideal. We also believe that these ideals are not as utopian as they appear to be. They exist as potentialities, with all the inherent power for realization, in the collective consciousness of the civilizations which gave birth to them—the Hellenic ideal in the West and the Vedic in the Indian. They represent the cultural genius of India and the West. In the past they were more or less fully realized in a few exceptional individuals, for example, a Socrates in the West or a Vedic rishi in India. They are partially and very inadequately realized in the communal life, probably because the communal life of that past age was too primitive to realize the ideal. The present humanity is perhaps better poised and equipped to realize the ideal. But to do this, both India and the West or the leading nations of the world have to recover their essential cultural genius expressed in the Hellenic and Vedic ideals, add to them the new gains and ideals of modern evolution, reformulate them to suit the needs of the modern age and apply them to every activity of human life.

M. S. Srinivasan

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