Values, secularism and spirituality
At the outset, it seems necessary to deal with the concept of secularism, since we may observe that this concept is ridden with ambiguities in our Indian situation; and it is thus left to every one to interpret it in any way one thinks best. There is a view of secularism, which consists of equality before law irrespective of caste, religion or race. But this view often tends to become tainted in actual situations where there are unreasonable demands coming from religious groups, which insist on special provisions which tend to mitigate the idea of equality before law. There is also the idea of secularism which advocates that the state funds should not be utilised for the promotion of any religion. In practice, very often, this rule is employed even where there is a question of the promotion, not of any religion, but of ethical and spiritual values. There is a tolerant view of secularism, which aims at equal respect for all religions. Here, again, it has become difficult to create an ethos where equal respect for all religions could be practised, and no significant efforts have been made to create a climate where secularism understood in this sense can flourish. There is also a synthetic view of secularism, which aims at bringing about unity of religions on the basis of the unity of moral and spiritual values. This is an excellent idea, but here, again, no significant effort has been made to actualise this view in practice. A very powerful interpretation of secularism is the materialistic view which denies any justification for religion as such. This view tends to get an upper hand, since it can be more convincingly made out that materialism is incontrovertibly secular. The net effect is that our
country has tended to promote confused thought on this vital subject, and people are afraid to think on this subject with clarity and boldness. There is also a tendency to shut the doors even of those tendencies in religions and in spiritual planes which lie above religions, which, if consciously acknowledged and promoted, would heal the divisions of religions, bring about greater understanding among them, and, eventually enable us to cultivate the scientific body of spiritual knowledge. What we need today is a positive recognition of spirituality as distinct from religion; we need also to recognise that there exists a scientific body of spiritual knowledge, and that this needs to be promoted by the state. We may also note that this becomes all the more necessary when we find that the true truths that lie behind democracy and social ism which are underlined in the Indian Constitution can be integrated and expressed effectively only when the ultimate spiritual aims are recognised and promoted.
In sum, the urgent need of India is to evolve a clear concept on the basis of a recognised body of spiritual knowledge which embraces all domains of human life, physical, emotional, vital, dynamic, intellectual, ethical and aesthetic.
Having said this, let us observe that secularism, if it is to sub serve the higher aims of spirituality, as distinguished from those of religion, should be conceived to connote several clear and distinguished values. This is not entirely impossible for it can be agreed that it stands for life, that it affirms ideals of growth, and that it aims at the maximum possible perfection of life; that, again, it stands for liberty, that it affirms the individuality of individuals, and that it aims at ever-growing being and becoming; indeed, it questions dogmatism, ignorance and superstition, it affirms the ideal of truth, science and scientific temper, and it aims at progressive and comprehensive knowledge; finally, it combats authority and privileges of the select few, it affirms the right of the weak and the oppressed, it aims at universal emancipation.
Secularism, it may be agreed, is wedded to the conception of the right of all individuals as members of the society to the full life and the full development of which they are individually capable. The master potency of this conception is so great that it is no
longer possible to accept the theory that the many must necessarily remain for ever on the lower ranges of life and only a few climb into the free air and light. It is impossible for it to accept as an ideal any arrangement by which certain classes of society should arrogate development and full social fruition to them selves, while assigning a bare and barren function of service alone to others. Full development of all should be the recognised mark of secularism.
The second master idea that secularism should affirm is that the individual is not merely a social unit, but he is a soul, a being, who has to fulfil his or her own individual truth and law as well as his or her natural or his or her assigned part in the truth and law of the collective existence. It is for this reason that secularism should insist on individual freedom, on individual initiative, individual thought, individual will, individual consciousness.
In the course of the rationalistic age of modern times, momentous experiments have been conducted in democracy, socialism and democratic socialism. These experiments have not been entirely successful. It has been found that when liberty is assured, equality has suffered, and when equality is sought to be assured, liberty gets strangulated. In fact, democracy puts forward a trinity of values, liberty, equality and fraternity, and it appears now that the key to the fulfilment of the democratic ideal will depend upon the extent to which the value of fraternity will be applied to the disbalancements which are created in experiments of liberty and equality. A serious issue for secularism is to fathom deep into the (heart of fraternity and to create conditions for the realisation of :he spirit and practice of universal brotherhood.
Individualism, Science and Values
The concept of individualism, which secularism often affirms, needs to be analysed and examined, particularly in the context of the development of science. At an early stage of the development of individualism, it was realised that the unrestrained use of individual judgement without an objective criterion of truth would
mean a perilous experiment. A search was, therefore, instituted to discover a general standard of truth and also for some principle of social order. This search resulted in an answer provided by the discovery of physical science. This answer was two-fold: (1) Physics demonstrated a truth of things which depended upon no doubtful scripture or fallible authority, since that truth was written on the open book of nature which everybody can read, provided he had the patience to observe and intellectual honesty to judge; (2) Science provided a norm of knowledge and principles of verification to which all can freely and must rationally subscribe. This answer was the culminating point of the 19th century in Europe, which was preceded by two centuries of preparation. During these two centuries, the method of scientific induction was evolved, and a new scientific outlook on the world was developed. What we call to day scientific temper is the result of this great endeavour. Since then, there is a widespread acceptance of the attitude which maintains that statements of facts should be based on observation, and not on unsupported authority.
It must however be observed that the victory of the physical science was largely due to its application, its technique and technology. Beginning with the discovery of gun powder and mariner's compass to the discoveries of electricity and telegraphy, and atomic power, we have a long story of mixed colours of good and evil, and we have today increasing number of sensitive and refined thinkers who have even come to equate science and technology with domination and violence. Some of them have fixed their attention on the way in which development is projected in India and elsewhere, and they have brought quite vividly the peril of plunder, propaganda and violence to which masses of people are being subjected in the name of science and development. Promises of science have come to be questioned and there are increasing trends of thought which advocate limits to growth and the use of technology to control technology. The idea of the "small is beautiful" has achieved a wide appeal. There is a growing awareness that all is not well with science and technology, that things cannot be allowed unchecked and unchallenged, and that fundamental issues of humanity's future need to be considered without any dogmatism, even if it implies questioning science itself.
We need, however, to draw up a more balanced evaluation of the contribution of science, particularly when scientific progress has a great role to play in determining the directions of value education. Let us, first, underline that science has affirmed the virtues of impartiality, of ever-widening quest of knowledge. It has fought against ignorance and superstition, and it has enhanced the cause of education. Science has enlarged for good the intellectual horizons of the human race, and raised, sharpened and intensified powerfully the general intellectual capacity of mankind. In its dispassionate movement, science pursues truth for the sake of truth and knowledge for the sake of knowledge. This is the highest right of the intellectual faculty of humanity, and in this dispassionate functioning, there is perfect purity and satisfaction.
On the other hand, when science tries to apply its discoveries and functions to life, it becomes the plaything of forces over which it has little control. This is the reason why the balance sheet of science if a mixed one. While, on the one hand, science has made discoveries which have promoted practical humanitarianism, it has, on the other hand, supplied monstrous weapons to egoism and mutual destruction; while, on the one hand, it has made a gigantic efficiency of organisation utilisable for economic and social amelioration of nations, it has, on the other hand, placed the same efficiency of organisation in the hands of national rivalries for mutual aggression, ruin and slaughter; while, on the one hand, it has given rise to a large rationalistic altruism, it has, on the other hand, justified monstrous egoism, vitalism, vulgar will to power and success; while on the one hand, it has drawn mankind together and given it a new hope, it has, on the other hand, crushed it with the burden of commercialism.
Science does not have within itself any inherent leverage by which it can prevent its exploitation by human impulses and passions, and since it can produce great results, its exploitation for evil can also be great. The modern civilisation, which is science-based, has to deal with an extremely difficult issue that it has created, namely, that of the emergence of dominant economic barbarism. This barbarism impels humanity to sink in the mud of desire and hunger on a massive scale. It makes satisfaction of wants and
desires and accumulation of possessions its standard and aim. L. has conceived of the ideal individual in the image not of the cultured or noble or thoughtful or moral, or spiritual person, but of the successful person. It puts forward the opulent plutocrat and the successful mammoth capitalist as images of achievement and fulfilment. It is this barbarism which assigns to them the actual power to rule the society. It prescribes pursuit of vital success comfort, enjoyment for their own sake. It subordinates all other pursuits; it looks upon beauty as nuisance, art and poetry as a frivolity or means of advertisement. Social respectability is its idea of morality; it uses politics as a door for markets and exploitation.
It is now increasingly recognised that the development of science should be supplemented by enormous development of human goodness. Bertrand Russell has pointed out that there are two ancient evils that science, unwisely used, may intensify: they are tyranny and war. In an important study of the theme of science and values, Bertrand Russell declared:
There are certain things that our age needs, and certain things that it should avoid. It needs compassion and a wish that mankind should he happy; it needs the desire for knowledge and the determination to eschew pleasant myths; it needs above all courageous hope and the impulse to creativeness. The things that it must avoid, and that have brought it to the brink of catastrophe, are cruelty, envy, greed, competitiveness, search for irrational subjective certainty, and what Freudians call the death wish.... The root of the matter is very simple and old fashioned thing ... the thing I mean —please forgive me for mentioning it — is love, Christian love, or compassion. If you feel this, you have a motive for existence, a guide in action, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual honesty.
We thus see that the central issue of our age is the growth of love, of compassion, of fraternity. This is the conclusion that is reinforced when we consider the issues of human unity and those of development. Global unity is necessitated by a number of factors, — the growth of science which is universal in character,
powerful means of communication and transport which have tended to shrink the world, and prospects of enormous economies if regions and continents can unite. But even when there are increasing reductions of armaments, there is a fear in mankind; for there are still enough nuclear warheads which can destroy the world several times over. Hence, there is a continuing need to build the defences of peace in the minds and hearts of men. Again, at a time when the world is shrinking, the gulf between the rich and the poor is widening. The sharp disparities of development and asymmetrical relations among nations are impelling disadvantaged countries to seek unattainable goals. The resulting vicious circle of dilemmas and predicaments can be broken, it seems, only if it is realised that development like peace is indivisible and that not by competition and exploitation, but by mutual help and cooperation can the goals of development be realised. Development of peace and development of cooperation seem to be indispensable for the modern society's future growth and advancement.
It is clear that if science is to be utilised for stabilising society, if world unity is to be achieved, and if development of all nations is to be secured, we have to work vigorously on human beings. It is evident that present structures of society and human nature as they are today are incapable of taking us to the road to fulfilment. And it seems obvious that the systems and structures cannot be changed if human nature cannot be changed. And when we speak of the change of human nature, we speak of radical operations of the maladies of human nature. We need to create human beings who will feel spontaneous brotherhood with all; we need human beings who will effortlessly extend cooperation in tasks of development; we need human beings who will have peace within them selves so that they will radiate peace in their environment.
This goal that we need to seek is to be viewed in the context in which we find an irresistible drive towards totality and all-comprehensiveness. The wheels of the world are spinning so fast today that we are all obliged to overpass our limitations continuously and interminably. We are proceeding towards the future where a peculiar combination of wide comprehensiveness and effective specialisation will become imperative; they will have to be fused together.
This is further reinforced by the human crisis created by the need of the development of new faculties of consciousness.
All this explains why we need value education and why we integral education. In recent trends of thought, we have been presented with the ideal of learning to be and learning to become. It is only when there is a right balance of the development of all our faculties that we can reach and attain the state of self-possession and self-mastery. We can then experience our true being and discover the secret of our perpetual being. We need to emphasise therefore, the education of all our parts of being, physical, vital rational, aesthetic, moral and spiritual. And the development of faculties and capacities of these parts of the being closely connected with the question of the values that they seek. Values are the ultimate ends that personality seeks to embody express and fulfil. Corresponding to each capacity, there are; specific values. Our physical being seeks the value of health and strength; our vital being seeks the value of harmony and heroism; our rational Acuity seeks the value of truth and universality; our moral will seeks the good and the right; our aesthetic sensitivity seeks the value of beauty and joy; and our spiritual faculties seek experiences and realisations of inalienable fraternity, unity and oneness Integral education, therefore, is the same as integral value education.
This, we may say, is the broad framework of the theme of value education, and we stand in the need of clarifying and discussing implications of this framework. Much work has been done during the last four decades and more. But the issues are difficult. They involve questions of goals of education, contents of education, methods of education. They relate to the goals of society also, and therefore, the climate of life at home, life in institutions, and life in general. There are also issues connected with parents and teachers, question as to how we look upon the child, how the entire society gets involved in the process of learning and teaching. There is also the issue of developing a learning Society. It is for this reason that we need to think more and more rigorously? and to be engaged in the process of value education.