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1. Civilization and Culture गायन्ति दे वााः किल गीतिाकि धन्यास्तु ते (ये) भारतभूकि भागे । स्वगाा पवगाा स्पद िागाभूते भवन्ति भूयाः पुरुषााः सुरत्वात् ॥ श्री कवष्णुपुराण
We learn from the pages of World history, that man developed his physical, psychological and spiritual feelings depending on the place of his birth, the period in which he lived and the circumstances which prevailed around him. These experiences helped man to come to a conclusion that animal instincts such as hunger, sleep, fear and sexual urge must be overcome inorder for him to evolve into a better human being. He rationalized that the ultimate goal of life is to achieve a realization of one’s own soul (Atma gnana). So the most important thing about culture is it is man-centric and spiritual. The cultural differences emerge in a particular society because of the time period, its geographical location and the economic factors guiding the lifestyle of a group of people. We can say these factors ultimately contribute to the evolution of a civilization. Culture has proved to be a living entity in the progress of mankind. The strong will of man and his thirst for knowledge and the creative urge (artistic endeavours) to grow has been a motivating factor in the history of mankind. These factors share a special bonding in culture. When civilization reaches its acme, a gradual stagnation sets in leading to its decline and annihilation. The righteous way of life (Dharma) with its stress on truth and honesty becomes dearer with the passage of time. In the opinion of Spengler1, the extensions of culture, like the creative urge and production of goods of excellence reaches a plateau finally reaching inertia and ending in dissolution. The various stages of civilization maybe compared to four seasons in nature and winter symbolizing decline and death. The ancient and archaic (Avarcheena) civilizations such as Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese and the contemporary European cultures share similar features and qualities. _______________________ Footnotes 1. Oswald Spengler: The Decline of the West, Vol I
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The word “culture” (Samskriti) is derived from the root word “Agriculture” (Sanskrit: Vevasaya) and the word “civilization” denotes urban culture. Civilization depends on culture and not vice-versa. Civilization rests on the complex social system prevailing at the time and culture embodies spiritual development of that society. The main purpose of civilization is to regulate the rat-race of mankind to acquire more natural resources such as food and his desire for more wealth and comfort. The ultimate goal of every society is to guarantee individual liberty through achieving economic, social and political stability, which is so essential for the wellbeing of mankind. Liberty is an essential prerequisite for the development of culture and civilization. That’s why thinkers like Croce1 have stated the history of the world means the history of achievement of liberty of mankind. The liberty of an individual cannot be fully realized in the physical world. But the absolute liberty can be achieved in the spiritual realm by freeing the soul from all fetters. This is an essential requisite and an achievable goal. Here culture becomes a convenient tool for achieving harmony and balance in society. In every great civilization, the social reformation is achieved through four important factors. They are by improving the economic status of its citizens and by creating a benign functional political system to guarantee justice, ensuring religious freedom to all its citizens through it’s constitution and by giving an impetus to the quest for scientific knowledge and information. But nature has imposed both conducive atmosphere and also malevolent restrictions for the attainment of individual liberty. The renowned historian Will Durant states that different climatic conditions, physical features, Flora and Fauna and the mineral deposits of a region determine the flowering of a great civilization2. Most of the important civilizations of the world had their origin in the region of temperate climate and on the banks of such great rivers such as Ganga, Sindu, Eupharates, Tigris, Nile, Yangtze Kiang, Huang ho and other important rivers. The conducive physical environment contributed towards development of agriculture, business, commerce, industry and production of food for the burgeoning population. The creation of wealth led to the wellbeing of the population.
______________________ Footnotes 1. “History as the story of liberty” by Croce 2. Will Durant, History of Civilization, Vol. I.
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The selfishness of man and greed led to the preservation of wealth through the creation of institutions like family, caste system, village council, city-state and political systems like monarchy, Democracy, Oligarchy and dictatorship, etc. Gradually man created country, state, nation, kingdom and empire. At present rampant spread of nationalism has created the vision or ideal of “Weltanschauung”1. A new international judicial system was developed to further this political concept. Life was comprehended according to their genius. The primordial animal instinct of man, which promoted selfishness began to wane with the passage of time. It was because of the role played by religion in underlining the importance of righteousness and justice. Though various religions which took birth in different geographical locations and at different periods of time and had differing perceptions with regard to faith in Almighty God, with regard to the relationship to the external world and the unfathomable mystery of nature, but still they all observed certain common parameters in day to day behaviour like self-control of mind and outright rejection of selfishness as an undesirable trait and kindness & compassion towards all creatures as a necessary prerequisite to lead a peaceful life. Some religions did not aid in the growth of individual liberty, but instead created economic inequality, the abominable class divisions in society and in the political domain an absolute dictatorship, which was antithesis to the progress of mankind and society. The fourth factor of progress in society happens to be a thirst for ultimate salvation of the soul. It also made man to develop a sense of aesthetics in fine arts, such as painting and sculpture. The growth of knowledge denotes a sign of culture and progress of science is a signifier of civilization. The outcome of civilizing forces manifests itself in human relations and the contact with foreign countries enhances business opportunities for a society and ultimately it contributes to the recognition of talented and gifted individuals, who are harbingers of wealth. The pros and cons of this process can only be evaluated based on inherited traditions. ______________________ Footnotes 1. Weltanschauung (German): World view, an ideology and philosophy of life
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Therefore civilizational factors are not dependant on caste and class. All over the world different types of civilizations have emerged depending on the genius of a group or race of people. One group of people may borrow various aspects of a foreign civilization, but it cannot imbibe its culture. There may be similarities in different civilizations in outward physical aspects, but in the cultural sphere each one differs from the other in its essence. For e.g. the Chinese culture laid stress on morality, the Indian culture on spiritual development by disciplining the mind, The Mesopotamian culture on commerce and industry, the Egyptian culture on imperialism, Greek culture on Arts and Individual liberty, the Roman culture on law and order, the Arab culture on religious pride, the European culture in the middle ages stressed on social and moral institutions. The modern European culture gives precedence to economic goals. In the case of each civilization mentioned above the cultural evolution depends on its geographical location, particular time zone, peculiar historical circumstances and finally the intrinsic nature of the soul of the populace. An overview of world’s civilizations helps us to draw a conclusion that each and every civilization has richly contributed to development of mankind through the ages. Egypt and middle Eastern civilizations have contributed to the development of agriculture, irrigation system, industry, roads and various means of transport. The urban centres witnessed widespread construction activity, because of brick manufacturing, potter’s wheel, invention of glass, wool, cotton, gunpowder, coins and mariner’s compass. The political system promoted family, aristocratic lineage, Gotra (claiming lineage from one among the seven ancient sages), Varna (The four divisions of Hindu society, Kshatriya, Brahman, Vyasya and Sudra), the creation of village councils and in towns, where judicial system resolved disputes, a postal system was developed and finally taking of census originated in Egypt and in eastern civilizations. The right conduct and morality, a code of marriage customs, compassion towards all forms of life, promotion of charity as a noble virtue and the feeling of universal brotherhood appeared for the first time in Asia. In the spiritual realm such ideas as faith in one God, devotion, need for proper conduct and behaviour and a belief in rebirth also originated in Asia. In the field of science, observation and conclusions based on verifiable evidence became a hallmark of scientific thinking. New discoveries in Mathematics, Algebra, Medicine, Astronomy and Astrology also emerged in Asia. The Eastern civilizations honed such things as © www.srikanta-sastri.org
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love of aesthetics, the thirst for truth and happiness, the karma theory, liberty, logic, such philosophical concepts as a preoccupation with what is temporal and what is permanent and an attempt was made to understand the human psychology. The other equally important aspects of civilization like evolution of language, Education, writing script, poetry and Dramatic arts, History, printing, Grammar, Lexicography, Universities, research in archaeology, storytelling through verses (Ramayana and Mahabharata) and writing of novels first appeared in Asia. In fine arts and architecture, the concept of beauty and utility in designing of a building, construction of an arch and dome, the design and use of decorative motifs, the construction of a spire, the carving of trellis and a composition of music based on harmonic scale and invention of musical instruments, all of them had their origins in Asia. Asiatic culture travelled via Crete to Greece and then spread to Roman Empire. The modern European culture evolved by borrowing extensively from Greece and Rome. The unique feature of Indian Culture: Indian culture is a monolith, like the Indian sub-continent. It is eternal and endless. It is prevalent all over India from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Vishweshwara to Rameshwara, from Bindumadhava to Setumadhava, it is limitless. Similarly, the spiritual tradition stretches from the Ancient Rishis (sages) to modern day saints like Sri. Ramakrishna, Sri. Ramana and Mahatma Gandhi. Though certain foreign religions impacted certain regions over a period of time, these new religions soon got assimilated into Indian culture and eventually became Indianized. This is a clue to the all powerful Indian spiritual outlook of life. This is not mere tolerance of foreign religious ideas. Mere tolerance can become a condescending attitude. It requires all round co-operation for a foreign religion to survive, because it enjoys a minority status in a foreign land. This co-operation does not begin with giving and taking. Indians evaluated foreign religions on its merits and demerits, subjected it to critical analysis and an all-round understanding of its core philosophy. This is the hallmark of Indian culture. The discrimination between what is meaningful and what is meaningless in foreign schools of religious philosophy, became a matter of prime concern. This critical evaluation went beyond mere sensory perception and it relied on wisdom derived from Vedas and Upanishads. Though some indigenous religions like Buddhism, Jainism and other non-vedic religions are considered to be outside the pale of Hindu religious
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fold, still they are representative religions in Indian culture. These non-vedic religions also endorse such philosophical concepts as Karma, Jnana, devotion (Bhakti), birth and rebirth, which are derivatives of vedic religion. Indian culture ensures and enshrines individual liberty. In Indian philosophical schools there are differing opinions with regard to man’s relationship with physical world and God. But every Individual enjoys absolute liberty depending on his intrinsic nature and psychological needs. His freedom is protected from autocratic and arbitrary rules in society. Every citizen is allowed to enjoy the four purusharthas, that is Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. These are the four pillars of Indian society (Righteous living, acquisition of wealth, fulfilment of one’s desires and finding ultimate salvation). The rewards of this endeavour are such as power and wealth acquired by an individual through the good deeds done in this life, the good noble qualities exhibited in public life (Gunas) and the accumulated fruits of one’s action (Punyapalas) entitles an individual either to perform the prescribed Karmas laid down in Dharmasastras or not perform at all. This choice given to an individual is the liberty encapsulated and ingrained in Hinduism. This the secret code of Karma and rebirth theory. The Indian culture has given utmost importance to philosophical dialogues. But it does not frown upon an individual pursuing his worldy goals such as desire for good life, performing mundane duties, acquisition of wealth and going after worldly pleasures which are inescapable factors of life. This refutes the popular myth that Indians are a set of otherworldly people. India is home for thousands of treatises on philosophy and similarly it is also home to thousands of books on worldly preoccupations such as Arthasastra, Kamasastra, Vastusastra and Pakasastra etc (64 kalas). Indian culture is wholesome, complete and propagates harmony in society. In other ancient cultures, the stress was on one particular aspects of life, thereby ignoring the other aspects. This caused imbalance in society leading to its destruction. It also stunted the growth of civilization. At present Indian culture has spread to the four corners of the Earth, because it posses a Vedantic vision. The Indian art of living, viz. food, commerce, philosophical discourse, pursuit of truth and beauty, fine arts and of noble qualities in daily conduct (practice) have one continuous tradition shaping the ethos of Indian people through the ages. © www.srikanta-sastri.org
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The most important quality of Indian culture is its obsessive zeal with the general and the particular aspects, but it has also assimilated the general qualities of the other religions of the world and evolved in due course through its own unique special philosophical ideas. Indians believe in human soul as being indestructible and eternal, without a beginning and an end. This aphorism also applies to Indian culture. The extraordinary feature of Indian culture is its adherence to the philosophical concept of non-dualism or monoism (Advaita Vedanta). The creation of distinctions in society promotes fear in people. It produces a slavish mentality, feelings of inequality and inferiority complex in a large segment of people. The average person comes to conclusion that the innate differences in religion and culture is everlasting and intrinsic to its core philosophy. It is propagated that existing situation cannot be changed by human effort. Men lack liberty and freedom to bring out revolutionary changes in society. Hence, the ideology of socialism cannot bring about any political, economic or social changes. The obvious conclusion is inequality in society is a permanent feature. So any kind of social reform is only an illusion and an impossible dream. There will never be a just and equitable society based on socialistic principles. Hence the citizens are advised to be contented with the prevailing order in society. Some seminal thinkers thought that these moribund ideas as an obstacle to human progress. Philosophy of Denials The social thinkers treated the whole problem as an economic problem arising out of class conflict and considered socialism as a panacea for all problems in society. The class struggle resulted in violent revolutions. It led to endless wars and famine. Socialists viewed religion and culture as an opiate of masses. The ordinary person caught in this conflict between reactionaries and revolutionaries could not solve the formidable problem as long as inequality and discrimination persisted in society. In this scientific age of reason, no philosophy or ideology based on division and discrimination cannot bring about peace and happiness to mankind. Some selected religions preached fatherhood of God and brotherhood of mankind as a solution for peaceful living. The blanket assurance was only its adherents could go to heaven, as their souls were cleansed of all sins. The rest of the population was classified as infidels and sinners. They are ineligible to attain salvation or liberation. A few ritualistic religions, which deny the existence of human soul cannot spread peace and harmony in the world. A divided society is created by spreading fear, Only Advaita Vedanta (Non-dualism) ÂŠ www.srikanta-sastri.org
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offers lasting solution to mankind. This belief is based on human logic, experience and vindicated by the holy texts such as Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagvad Gita, The greatest contribution and everlasting gift of Indian culture is to open the eyes of the ordinary human beings through Jnana (the right kind of knowledge) which helps them to perceive and absorb this Advaita Vedanta (Monism) which prompts every human soul towards achieving liberation (Moksha).
Dr S. Srikanta Sastri's Famous Kannada Work on Indian Culture & Tradition titled "Bharathiya Samskruthi" was first published in 1953 and has...
Published on Nov 12, 2019
Dr S. Srikanta Sastri's Famous Kannada Work on Indian Culture & Tradition titled "Bharathiya Samskruthi" was first published in 1953 and has...