Individualism, Intent & Plurality

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India is the cradle of individualism, not the west. Individualism (primality of self & centrality of feeling of an individual), socio-philosophically prospered & developed highly complex forms in India along with liberalism (freedom of centrality of individual feelings). To understand the centrality of individual’s feelings to the modern concept of liberalism I highly recommend a thought-provoking talk by Yuval Harari.

Intense individualism, propelling the west currently, was the engine of Indic existence for 3+ millenia. And deep thinking on experiential, individuality & intentionality had been a commonplace, leading to the germination of major non-community (individual & experiential) theologies in India including, various schools of Hinduism (including, but not limited to the Advaitya school of thought), Buddhism, Jainism etc. Making India an immensely plural nation.

Once a society starts giving high importance to what one feels (the basis of individualism), the purged borderline segregating ‘one’ from the ‘milieu’ demands clarity. Thus, “what/where is self?” becomes a subject matter of study & concern, invoking the need to comprehend intentionality (the kernel of self) which cantilevers from inside oneself into his/her milieu. Milieu is a sum product (grossly impacts) of the internal worlds of all the intent-wielding, cumulatively. For example the like/dislike of a population for vegetarianism decides the availability of animal stock in proximity leading to a whole chain of other causal events that determine the environs.

There is also a social need of studying intent. Since milieu is an extension of inner self, control of milieu requires the need to govern — ‘the internal, the ungovernable’. The only was this can be done is by deepening the comprehension of ‘intent’. Thus, discovery of intent, self-discovery & meditation — something the west is experiencing currently, primed in India around the time of Buddha (the founder of Buddhism) & Mahavira Jain and maintained its centrality for the next 2 millenia.

Individualism and intent are crucial for understanding why the experiential became important because intent, self discovery, self observation & meditation are all the foundational constituents of the experiential sciences.

It is not without reason, that Indian philosophical thought always had ‘self’ in focus, while the Abrahamic cultures endeared the neighbour (Christanity instructs, “love thy neighbour as you love thyself) and community (Islam created and talked of the Ummah — brotherhood of all Muslims). Thus, whether Hinduism or Buddhism or Jainism are all about salvation of the ‘self’ through one’s own trials, tribulations and victories over oneself. The Western religions on the contrary drew the focus away from self to community, bringing in the concepts of Shahadat (Martyrs) — those who give make the supreme sacrifice for community. When something is assessed & evaluated by by/for community, it demands objectivity in description, assessment and use.

Indian on the contrary was always self primal and hence, subjective, ‘experiential’, self-observing, self-improving, self-preserving. Community was a mere aggregation of selves not an entity in itself.

This individualism & intent are the zones of Indic existence, which for the west it was an unnatural goal to be achieved. This I believe is a major advantage of India vis-a-vis all others in forthcoming future. India & Plurality are immensely comfortable with each other. And plurality & abundance of information is for the next 100 years the greatest challenge mankind faces. India is culturally excellently positioned to take most advantage of this future, which is culturally unsettling most among big nations, but Indian.

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