The anthology Ethics and Culture: Some Indian Reflections looks into global and local questions pertaining to individual morality and social ethos in the larger domain of amn in relation to man, in relation to various domains of society and also in relation to nature/world/cosmos. A group of philosophers have presented a panorama of pluralistic Indian perspectives that include classical, traditional Vedic, contemporary and tribal viewpoints with the hope to ignite the spirit of better understanding of values. The result is a well-planned text for students of philosophy, sociology, anthropology and politics sociology, anthropology and politics and an analytic and authentic reference for researchers with interest in these areas of thought.
Any forward-looking reader with a wider interest may find this anthology to be quite useful.
Indrani Sanyal is a Professor of Philosophy and the Co-ordinator of Centre for Sri Aurobindo Studies at the Centre of Advanced Study, Jadavpur University, India. Her areas of interest are metaphysics, ethics, especially Indian ethics, philosophy of language and philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.
The contribution each and every individual author of this volume has added to its enrichment. None of the initial obstacles could succeed in deterring the functioning of this Group Research Project. We are happy that we have been able to bring out on time this research publication of the Research Group. We acknowledge our indebtedness to each and everybody who has helped us in one way or another in bringing out this volume. In the preparation of the manuscript we are extremely grateful to Sudipta Samanta, Anamika Halder and Doyel Mukherjee, Project Fellow, Centre for Sri Aurobindo Studies, Department of Philosophy, Jadavpur University. We are thankful to the University Grants Commission for providing us financial support in bringing out this anthology. We are also indebted to Jadavpur University for providing us all sorts of administrative support. Two persons have been included who are not directly members of the value-research group. Their contributions fall very much within the theme of the anthology and add to the debates raised by the members. “The Ideal of Human Relations: Sri Aurobindo’s Global Perspective” included in this anthology, was presented by Aparna Banerjee in the National Seminaron “International Affairs and Morality,” organized by the Department of Philosophy, Jadavpur University during 2007-08. Anirban Ganguly who has contributed a paper titles “Values in Politics: In the Light of Sri Aurobindo’s Early Political Thought” is at present a research scholar in this department. We would also like to thank Manjusri Chowdhury, former Professor of Philosophy, Rabindra Bharati University and Kumar Mitra, Professor of Philosophy, Rabindra Bharati University for their kind advice and suggestions in their capacity as referees of this volume. We must convey our gratitude to Rajendra Agarwal of Decent Books, New Delhi for completing the publication on time. Finally, we convey our heartfelt gratitude to Susheel Kumar Mittal of D.K. Peintworld (P) Ltd., New Delhi for his kind assistance.
The anthology, Ethics and Culture: Some Indian Reflections, is an attempt to explore values that surround man’s existence and his interrelations with others, including men, women and non-humans. No conscious attempt has been made here to define value from disvalues. Values are difficult to subsume under any universal characterization. One common trait may be that values are something we desire or hanker after either for its own sake or as a means to reach some goal. In an endeavour to say something concrete, positive and tangible about values the articles remain confined to the domain of ethics and culture. Mainly from Indian perspective-classical and contemporary, aboriginal and non-aboriginal-the authors have deliberated upon various domains where values are predominant. We are not, however, venturing to provide a detailed explanation of an Indian reflective viewpoint on values. It is needless to point out that it is a Herculean task to make room for all or most of the Indian views on the subject in a single volume like this. Some of the important views, but not all, have been discussed in this anthology. A holistic world-view, contrasted with the fragmented view of the world may be taken to be the common presupposition in most of these articles as one of the major Indian reflective viewpoint. Articles that are included in this anthology follow no our life. As the notion of value appears to be a slippery one, we have tries to avoid hovering around any preconceived notion of value with a certain persist from time immemorial.
The concern for value is nothing unique for Indians, nor do we make any such absurd claim. The Sophists believed that good and bad, right and wrong, reflect subjective opinion and desire. Plato and Socrates believed that good and bad, right and wrong are part of the objective nature of things-of how the world around us is. We deliberately avoided discussions on debates relating to whether the study of values is of paramount importance for all social sciences or whether value-free social scientists are more scientific? Neither die we open a Pandora’s box to answer whether there is a difference between the world of values and the world of facts, between momos and physis, between statements of values and statements of facts. A committed approach towards values, though not exactly definable, and a belief in value-orientation in the social-scientific perspective are, what I observe, the common bonds that bring closer all the authors of the present volume. Some authors are more straightforwardly engaged in the analysis of character traits of personality and through such analysis and description they tacitly enter into the discussion of values. Some articles are more focused in their analysis of values in either the economic realm or the social realm or the political realm by discussing views of distinguished thinkers of India.
We frequently hear about the need for the introduction of value education in our curricula, we hear about the tremendous degeneration of values in every sphere of life, we also hear about the clash of values, but we often appear to be unsure and lacking in confidence about what are values and disvalues and how to sustain values and eliminate disvalues. The Research Group on Values at the Centre of Advance Study in Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Jadavpur University has tried to initiate a move for substantial research on the conceptual understanding of values and on mapping domains for the applicability of values, The present study hopes to regenerate more and more values in our life and in our surroundings.
The first article, “Sri Ramakrishna: Embodiment of Pure Simplicity” by Krishna Roy presupposes simplicity as a value while indentifying it as a character traits. In the dharma literatures, especially in the Mahabharata there are passages mentioning arjavam (simplicity) among others as a dharma, worthy of pursuit. However, no detailed analytic exposition about this quality is available there. Roy focuses upon Sri Ramakrishna as the repository of the values of simplicity and purity. Ramakrishna led a very simple spiritual life that was devoted towards the unification of religion with philosophy. He conveyed a profound philosophy of Vedanta and other classical schools through his advice to, and dialogues with, his disciples. He was influenced by the Tratric trend as well and to him Brahman is not distinct from Kali of Sakti. The antagonism between matter and spirit was not recognized by Ramakrishna. He was always in the habit of communicating difficult philosophical ideas with the help of simple examples. The single reality can be described in different ways. Similarly, there are different ways to reach the ultimate. Ramakrishna instead of emphasizing the role of jnana and yoga laid much importance on the bhakti-marga. He was tolerant towards all religions so Islam and Christianity were respected by him. He attempted a unification of all religions. The author believes that the simplicity of Ramakrishna gave a unique dimension to the concept of religion as such. His aim was not only that of obtaining samadhi for himself. alone; he was also eager in eradicating the poverty of the ,asses. Sri Ramakrishna was very transparent in his thought, speech and action. His aim was to convey subtle messages of Sastra in a layman’s vocabulary. He was able to convey his messages in a simple language and in a simple style. Profound philosophical and mystical experiences were communicated by Sri Ramakrishna in unambiguous and clear languages that would touch the hearts of all men. From Roy’s article it is cleart hat simplicity as a character trait is not very easy to possess. However, in the context of the present-day society on e may grow suspicious about regarding simplicity as a value. Today simplicity is often equated with a dull intellect.
What about posting a value-norms for all men or for all women? Is there any such absolute eternal model for all men of all periods? Are values the same for both men and women? Similar vexing question are no doubt difficult to answer in one or two words. Rubai Saha in her article, “Saradamani Devi: An Eternal Image of Traditional Indian Values,” has vividly sketched the character traits and chores of daily life of Saradamani Devi , originally an ordinary village girl of Bengal, married to Sri Ramakrishna at the age of five and finally was transformed into a Universal Mother and embraced everyone ignoring their class, caste or social status. FROM Saha’s observation about Saradamani Devi, we are able to identify the value-ideal associated with the good character of a person, especially of woman, in the traditional Indian context. Saha draws out the picture of Saradamani as the mother of all, of Swami Vivekananda, the disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and many other disciples, devotees and ordinary people. A hindu or a Muslim anybody could be her son and she felt her open in the same manner for the Muslims as for the Hindus. The Indian ideal of wifehood also finds its actualisation in Saradamani who relentlessly served her husband and fid all the household work. Saha provides a detailed account of the valuable aspects of her character that are cherished in the Indian tradition.
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