Culture and Civilizationby PR Sarkar
Ordinarily, society means a collective body of men and women.
But the innate spirit of the word “society” or “samaja” implies moving together (Samanam ejate).
We come across groups of persons in buses, trams and trains moving together. But this occasional movement is not a society either.
A society is being inspired by a common ideology, when different individuals move towards the common goal and become active for its achievement.
The appropriate English equivalent for samája should not therefore be society.
Social advancement, which is a type of social action, means that the tie of mutual unity among the persons moving together has become strong.
From ancient times, there has been social life but no stable society.
This stability in social life is the gift of:
- the Kśatriya Age (the age of the warriors) and
- the post-Vaeshya age (the post-capitalist age).
The Vaeshya Age leads to Shúdra revolution.
So long as a proper atmosphere for Shúdra revolution is not created, no social consciousness has been created.
How can social consciousness be achieved?
Social consciousness implies the influence of a particular ideology and a new awakening among the people due to this ideology.
This depends on so many factors, the most important of which is the leadership of a great personality.
Shúdra revolution, therefore, needs a strong personality.
As long as this is lacking, a strong society cannot be formed.
To guide the society in the right path, 2 factors are therefore essential:
- A great ideology
- A great personality
Those who talk loud about society and seem horrified at its anticipated destruction, do not know that society in the true spirit of the term is yet to be formed in the world.
So our primary duty now is to form a society.
- The seed of social consciousness is inherent in our “Saḿgacchadhvaḿ saḿvadadhvaḿ” Mantra.
- Where there is no such Mantra there is no ideology
- Where there is no ideology, life is a goalless voyage.
Human expressions are multilateral.
The ways of life are multifarious. Amidst these multifarious activities the picture of human beings that we get is their culture. The sum total of different expressions of human life is called Saḿskrti or culture.
The ways of expression may differ from one group of people to other: some eat with their hands, some use spoons, yet others use sticks, but everyone has to eat.
Human culture is, therefore, one and indivisible. The use of expressions such as Hindu culture, Muslim culture, Indian culture or European culture is absurd. Those who hold these partisan ideas are not well-wishers of humanity.
The expressions of life may increase with intellectual development. There is no place for fine arts, literature and music among the so-called under-developed groups of people, so the expressions of life are less in number in their case.
Where the number of expressions is more it can be said that there has been more cultural development in the material sense. Persons with more varied expressions of life may be called more cultured.
Where the expressions of life are diverted to crude objectivities it is called krśt́i, which is a part of Saḿskrti. Crude manifestations of expressions are called krśt́i. THe sum total of both crude and subtle manifestations of expressions is Saḿskrti. Krśt́i may differ from one group of people to other but the Saḿskrti of human beings is one.
Cultural expressions and civilization are not synonymous. Where there is control and rationality in the different expressions of life, there is civilization. To take a concrete example, eating is a cultural expression of life. Those who ration ally think that over-eating is bad, think restraint from it may be called civilized.
The cultural expressions in people are many. People who cannot control the different expressions may be called culturally advanced but not civilized.
Culturally advanced people may not necessarily be civilized if in their ex pression there is a lack of rationality, reasoning and control. Similarly, a so-called culturally backward people may not necessarily be socially backward. There are many who treat the Adivasis as backward. But a dispassionate consideration will reveal that though they may be culturally backward due to less expressions of life, they have made considerable social progress and are thus more socially advanced. Similar is the case with the Africans.
From ancient times human beings have struggled against their obstacles. Struggle is the essence of life. Those who cry for disarmament are enemies of human beings. They are reluctant to fight even against criminals. Of course, with the spread of civilization human beings will not attack the unarmed and the weak. Unfortunately, there are many persons in this world who think of themselves as civilized but mercilessly crush the helpless and the innocent. The pitiable destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bears witness to the uncivilized action of the so-called civilized nations. Though they are culturally advanced, they are most backward in civilization.
They should sit at the feet of the Indian Adivasis and learn about civilization. Those who possess atom and hydrogen bombs have to be taught the lesson that this universe is for human beings and not for demons. More powerful weapons have to be invented to counteract these uncivilized persons.
Today special care has to be given to society and civilization. With intellectual development there will be cultural progress, but restraint and rationality have to be exercised on the cultural expressions. In life today there is utter lack of these qualities. It is the bounden duty of the leaders of this world to form a strong society of human beings on the basis of a constructive ideology and to spread civilization in them. If this is done, cultural development will automatically occur.
Festivals While moving forward and working in individual life, people sometimes become tired; this happens to everyone. Even the women of the house while working continuously sometimes complain of their daily drudgery. “We can no longer tolerate this monotony.” Those who are employed in factories also say, “We cannot bear this drab and dull existence any longer.” Every day they come and go in the same boring way, and because of this continuous monotony, people lose all interest in life. They become totally dissatisfied with the world, and their minds become assailed with cynicism. At that time some one should say, “Why do you worry? You should not be anxious or dejected – you must not feel sick at heart. You have your physical strength, you have your hands and feet to work and walk, you have your intelligence. If necessary you should take rest for a while. There is no reason to become frustrated in life.” Mere movement is not the only characteristic of life; the second characteristic is buoyancy of spirit. Not only should people move, but they should also move in such a way that shows they are full of vitality, so that the throbbing pulse of their lives will be a source of inspiration to others. This is the true characteristic of life. Human beings always need inspiration from their fellow humans. Thus one should say to others, “Why do you waste your time in idle pursuits? You should throw yourself into a maelstrom of activities. Why do you worry about the success or failure of your work? If you fail, I am there to help you, I am with you. You needn’t worry in the least.” Those sick and disappointed people should be exhorted with these sorts of inspiring words. This dejected situation occurs not only in the lives of individuals but in collective life as well. Perhaps a particular community performed marvellous feats in a particular century, giving ample proof of its vitality and receiving the applause of all. But thereafter followed a century of stagnancy; after a period of extreme over-exertion, the people suddenly became totally silent. When a newborn calf first sees the light of day, it becomes utterly confused and merely runs about aimlessly. Then all at once it becomes motionless and starts to suck its mother’s udder. After a few days it starts eating grass and stops running about altogether. Human life should not be like this; it should be full of dynamism from start to finish. If it fails in this, it will cease to be human life in the true sense of the term. Just as people psychologically do not like to move, similarly they do not want to be cast aside either; no one wants to become a thing of the past. Those who are still employed start thinking before their retirement, “Now I shall be cast aside in the world, as I will be unfit for any worldly activity.” While thinking thus, they feel very unhappy. Males after retirement try to keep themselves engaged in this or that work, but this women often cannot do – they merely remain in the house doing nothing. What a pitiable condition! It is a peculiar situation, and it develops a tragic psychology. If you call a person an old man, he will not react sharply, but if you call a woman an old woman, she will be extremely angry. Thus women always pretend they are younger in age than they actually are, for no one wants to lose the essence of their life.
In collective life as well, a particular community may demonstrate its efficiency for a while, and in that community many great persons may be born. But thereafter, everything comes to a standstill. With the noise of a bustling wind, people reminisce, “Oh, my grandfather accomplished this great feat… my aunt performed that marvellous work… our surname is Roychoudhury. For we were once great landlords…” Thus people always ruminate over their past and gloat over their ancestors, because they have no glorious present at all – everything is an empty void. When a community thus loses its inner wealth, then it tenaciously clings to the skeleton of its past and says, “I was this, I was that.” But they are unable to say, “I am this, I am that.” I hope you realize the significance of this. Now, what is essential in such a circumstance? One must say, “Do not bother about what your ancestors have done. Why can’t you do the same? The same warm blood is flowing through your veins as flowed in theirs.” Amra ghucába má tor kálimá Mánuś ámrá, nahi to meś; Devii ámár, sádhaná ámár, Svarga ámár, ámár desh.
[Oh motherland, we will remove all your stains, for we are human beings, not sheep. You are my goddess, You are my sádhaná, you are my heaven, you are my hallowed land.]
The poet Diijendralal Roy said, “We have done many things in the past, but now we can do nothing. We have lost our glory, we need not be anxious. The stains of our inglorious life of today will certainly be removed, for we are human beings, not sheep.” Thus when any community is caught in a muddy whirlpool, then someone must come and declare in a thundering voice, “Do not be alarmed. There is no reason to think that those who had a glorious past will not have a glorious future as well.”
Uttiśt́hata jágrata prápya barán nibodhata: “Arise, awake awake and learn from a competent teacher, and then start to work.” Just as the guidance of an inspiring person is necessary in individual life, similarly in collective life also there should be someone to give a clarion call to action. When collective life becomes dejected, then a divine personality is necessary to galvanize people into action. Some means must be found for people to cast off their lethargy and start life anew.
People often feel bored with their humdrum lives, with their mechanical routines; thus a fresh start must be created through [[utsava [festivals]. In the Sanskrit language the meaning of the word sava is “to take birth”; the root verb sú plus al suffix equals sava, and su means “to take birth”.]] The substance which [[makes one feel that one’s body has been reborn]] is called ásava [an alcoholic drink thought to have energizing properties]. Similarly ut – sú + al = utsava [which means “festival”]. “Ut” means “above” and “sava” means “[[to take]] birth”; so utsava means “an occasion which gives human beings fresh inspiration to live a new life.”
When people become tired and uninspired, when they can no longer look towards the future with hope, when their colourful dreams are shattered, at that time the sweetness of a festival brings new joy and vigour in life. Thus in individual and collective life, the importance of festivals is tremendous. One should always remember that festivals should be such that all can take part in them without any ostentatious display of wealth, and with an upsurge of their life force. And these festivals should be conducted in such a way that people take part in them from a spontaneous inner urge. I hope that you will make such arrangements so that all are attracted towards your festivals which will be more and more charming – and this will bring about your collective welfare.