Editorial Note:

“The ideals that governed the spirit and body of Indian society were of the highest kind, its social order secured an inexpugnable basic stability, the strong life force that worked in it was creative of an extraordinary energy, richness and interest, and the life organised remarkable in its opulence, variety in unity, beauty, productiveness, movement. All the records of Indian history, art and literature bear evidence to a cultural life of this character and even in decline and dissolution there survives some stamp of it to remind however faintly and distantly of the past greatness. To what then does the charge brought against Indian culture as an agent of the life power amount and what is its justification? In its exaggerated form it is founded upon the characteristics of the decline and dissolution, the features of the decadence read backward into the time of greatness, and it amounts to this that India has always shown an incompetence for any free or sound political organisation and has been constantly a divided and for the most part of her long history a subject nation, that her economic system whatever its bygone merits, if it had any, remained an inelastic and static order that led in modern conditions to poverty and failure and her society an unprogressive hierarchy, caste-ridden, full of semi-barbaric abuses, only fit to be thrown on the scrap-heap among the broken rubbish of the past and replaced by the freedom, soundness and perfection or at least the progressive perfectibility of the European social order. It is necessary to reestablish the real facts and their meaning and afterwards it will be time to pass judgment on the political, the economic and the social aspects of Indian culture.

“The legend of Indian political incompetence has arisen from a false view of the historical development and an insufficient knowledge of the ancient past of the country.”

(Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, pp. 385-386)

In this special lecture organised at Sri Aurobindo Society campus in March 2020, Prof. S. Gurumurthy, the renowned author, journalist, professor and corporate advisor, spoke elaborately on the connections between Indian culture and modern day economics, focusing on how economic growth and spiritual rejuvenation are deeply linked.

We present this lecture in 4 parts, with a brief introduction and video recording.

In this first part Shri Gurumurthy speaks that often the ignorance displayed by many Indians of their national and cultural past is due to the fact that they have primarily internalised only that picture of India which was presented by the colonial powers who ruled India. He reminds the audience that many thinkers such as Karl Marx and Max Weber who have heavily influenced the thought of Indian intelligentsia for a long time never even visited India and yet went on to write strong prejudicial treatises on Indian society and culture. Such viewpoints have been adopted unquestioningly by the global agencies in shaping their advisory statements and policies, which can be deeply detrimental for India.

~ Beloo Mehra

Watch the recording:

In this second part the speaker emphasises that a rights-based paradigm of society led by western individualism and individual enterprise is contradictory to the deep-rooted sense of dharma that has been the basis of Indian socio-cultural fabric. He also highlights that many of the policy advisory documents prepared by United Nations based on Marxian and Weberian models of development and their portrayals of Indian society and culture were deeply influential in shaping Indian policies by bureaucrats and intelligentsia of India. This resulted in a highly skewed understanding of who we are and how we can truly develop as a nation based on our own cultural ethos.

In this part, Prof. Gurumurthy brings several examples from modern India to demonstrate the strong linkages between economic prosperity and a strong localised community-oriented culture. This, he says is quite contradictory to what is generally assumed as the only possible model for economic development which is based on the West-centric individualist enterprise. He highlights that the Indian concepts of purushartha and dharma which continue to deeply ingrained in most traditional communities have been instrumental in creating collective economic prosperity. India traditionally has had a duty-based paradigm instead of the rights-based paradigm for organising collective life, he reminds.

In this concluding part, Prof. Gurumurthy remarks that the western notions of individualism and liberty have led to much destruction of Indian social fabric. In Indian villages we still see collective life being organised around the idea of dharmic values which have long been emphasised by our ancestors. He emphasises that a truly Indian model of economic development has to be shaped in the light of Indian cultural and social ethos, then alone can development be sustainable.   

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