Mahatma Gandhi, an uncompromising believer in and advocate of the fundamental universalistic human values, not favouring the isolation and exclusion of a singular culture, acknowledged the possibility of synthetic or assimilative approach towards the alien cultural influences. Once he said: ‘I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.
I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.
Many of us are striving to produce a blend of all the cultures that seem today to be in clash with one another. No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive What does interest me is the fact that remote ancestors blended with one another with the utmost freedom and we of the present generation are a result of that blend.
‘8 Sometimes one could find out that several cases of multiculturism and interculturism are the outcome of modernization. Gandhi also appears to have speculated the birth of a new synthetic and assimilative form of Swadeshi culture when he says: “It stands for synthesis of different cultures that have come to stay in India, that have influenced Indian life, and that, in their turn, have themselves been influenced by the spirit of the soil. This synthesis will naturally be of the Swadeshi type, where each culture is assured of its legitimate place…”
Gandhi was extremely modern in his thinking and action.
As regards many cardinal virtues and values of universal appeal, he uses to propound that they are already present in our tradition; we are expected simply to apply them in current perspectives.
For instance, of the secularism, which is an important factor in the process of modernization, he has exemplified his unique version. Without being a-religious, he was non-communal and advocate of religious tolerance. Actually, he has preached and exemplified the way how one could be modern without leaving essence of his great cultural heritage aside. Gandhi was also against a mechanical imitation of the Western culture and advised a justified assimilation: ‘European civilization is no doubt suited for the Europeans, but it will mean ruin for India if we endeavour to copy it.
This is not to say that we may not adopt and assimilate whatever may be good and capable of assimilation by us, as it does not also mean that even the Europeans will not have to part with whatever evil might have crept into it. ‘Sri Aurobindo, an enlightened thinker and sadhak of spiritual and oriental values, has written much about the Indian culture. He views the impact of modernity in terms of survival, domination and confrontation. Nevertheless he explores and advocates an assimilative insight:
Confronted with the huge rush of modern life and thought, invaded by another dominant civilization almost her opposite or inspired at least with a very different spirit to her own, India can only survive by confronting this raw, new, aggressive, powerful world with fresh diviner creations of her own spirit, cast in the mould of her own spiritual ideals. 11 Even according to the minds imbibed with spirituality, the complete rejection of alien cultural values is not considered justified. The process of assimilation, Sri Aurobindo appears to discuss, is neither mechanical nor sheer imitation.
He refers to the phenomenon of justified assimilation as ‘atmasatkarana’. It is an assimilative appropriation, a making the thing settle into oneself and turn into characteristic form of our self-being. The issue of external influence and new creation from within is considerably important for him. Assimilation may thus presuppose a creative value-perception from within. An appropriate readiness of the mind to acknowledge the elements of rationality and to adopt open attitude is a pre-requirement or pre-condition of modernity.
Indeed, Indians at that period were at the urgent need of a creative involvement of their intuitively sublimated spirits in the process of modernization in socio-political fields of interpersonal and international perspectives. What Sri Aurobindo meant by assimilation is that one should not take it grossly in the European forms, but must reach whatsoever corresponds to it, illumines its sense and justifies its purport in one’s own spiritual conception of life.
Analyzing the needs and social role of modern Indian philosophy, several philosophers hinted at the incompetence of the typical Indian mentality engaged in the process of confronting the overshadowing effects of Western civilization. Whether a person was suffering from the complex of inferiority or there was another who is a victim of the superiority complex with reference to the attractive features of modernism, both of them were at loss. Professor D M Datta explicitly remarks:
A nation that is alive possesses, like a living organism, the power of assimilating from outside what is beneficial to it and also of rejecting what is harmful. Long foreign domination crushed our self-confidence. Cultural confidence is a mark of a living nation. When we lost it, we blindly imitated the West -particularly Great Britain. We lost faith in our unique inheritages, including even the best achievements of Indian philosophy. An unassimilated load of foreign ideas and customs came to ride on a deep undercurrent of indigenous ones.
There arose the morbid psychological phenomenon of a split personality. A reaction, equally blind, has now set in among a section of our people. They would have nothing from the West. It is a dangerous symptom of self-sufficiency that would not only impoverish our culture, but also hamper international understanding without which no nation can prosper at the present age. The cultural ingredients are so deep rooted in our existence as such that any unsuitable or unwanted domination over them may cause the psychologically worsen cases of identity-crisis in the form of split personalities or even suicide.
Most philosophers of this era of religious orientation appear to be of the firm belief that the Indian culture is essentially spiritualistic. W. C. Smith remarks, ‘the effective history of India even today is its religious history.’ Human being has a mind and beyond or even higher than that. Actually, that beyond something is the eternal source of creative and visionary aspect of culture (Sanatana Sanskrti). The intuitive (pratibh) creative visions come from there only. Technically it is also called the ideational stage of consciousness (pasyanti).
Immediately before the intuitive form is expressed either in the linguistic symbolization or the pictorial one, consciousness has it inside itself in the state of an idea only. It is not essential that such inspiring visions presuppose a sadhana or sublimation of the soul through some esoteric practices. There have been several visionary persons in the history of Indian culture and civilization who were instrumental in bringing forth the revolutionary changes in social, religious and cultural dimensions of human life without being involved in so-called esoteric practices.
These forms and visions of higher inspirational origin also constitute the foundation of Indian culture. One of the most important reasons why the Indian civilization, which is the oldest of the existing civilizations, is still alive and vibrant is perhaps that these essential elements have continued to exist in the minds, finest as well as general, of Indian people as something basic and vulnerable. Other non- essential or temporal aspect of this very culture has been modified or even removed to keep in tune with the changing times and environment.
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