Integral Humanism Revisited

Integral humanism is not a quick-fix solution for electoral success nor is it a convenient strategy for capturing power. It is not even a political philosophy devised to promote and support any political party. It is a comprehensive world-view which originated in India as a result of the profound insight of generations of wise men who are known as the ‘Rishis’. It covers every spectrum of human life and its foundations are eternally sound and always relevant. It is from that rich philosophy that the great Indian culture evolved. Any truly nationalist movement can benefit from this all embracing philosophy. It is inclusive of spiritual as well as material progress of mankind.

P. Parameswaran

Continue from 01-15 July, 2019 Issue…

The so called progressive elements which are enamored of the idea of globalization and have become aggressive advocates of global markets say that the concept of specific national and cultural identities are fast becoming obsolete in the emerging world scenario. According to them there is no room for separate national identities or different and specific cultures. Everything will be steam rolled into one global entity. This is a dangerous idea though fascinating at the beginning particularly for Indians who, because of the shallowness of their understanding, confuse between the ‘global family’ and ‘global market’.

It must be clearly remembered that from the Hindu point of view nations are vibrant , living organic entities which are not only relevant but also absolutely necessary for the new world order. Each nation is the expression of a Divine power and has a mission to accomplish. So longer that mission is preserved and promoted the nation has a vital role to play not only for its own sake but for the sake of the well being of the entire humanity. Therefore nothing should be done in international relationships that will compromise the national identity and its specific cultural ethos. It is the harmonious cooperation of all living and flourishing nations’ faithful to their own self that can make humanity richer, colourful, and lead it towards the glorious goal for which it is destined. Diversity cannot and should not be annihilated for the sake of uniformity. What is required is unity and not uniformity. This is a serious and profound issue which must be scrupulously kept in mind while considering and giving shape to our future amidst the complexities of international relationships involving technological and other exchanges.

The other day Dr. Amarthya Sen while addressing the International Tagore Conference, organized by the Netaji Research Bureau and Kolkatta Museum of Modern Arts, said that poet Rabindranath Tagore considered the love for humanity more important than patriotism. In a sense what he meant was that internationalism is more important than nationalism. What is important in this statement is that Dr. Amarthya Sen believes these two concepts to be not only contradictory but also conflictual. This is an unwarranted assumption. It is true that Gurudev Tagore had his own reservation about nationalism. As a poet and a Rishi born in the Hindu tradition naturally looks upon the whole humanity as one family. Swami Vivekananda addressed the Cosmopolitan Assembly at the Chicago Parliament of Religion as “sisters and brothers”. But it should be remembered that he was one of the most ardent and aggressive advocate of nationalism. In this context, it is important to clearly understand the root cause of Tagore’s suspicion about nationalism. It was the period when nationalism had become quite militant and aggressive in the European continent where each nation not only jealously guarded its own self interest but looked upon other nations with a hostile attitude and a conquering mentality. This had led to national chauvinism and also to bloody wars.

It was this kind of negative nationalism that was in the mind of Tagore when he criticized nationalism. Nationalism in Europe was based on, political and economic, conflict and competition. The truth of Indian nationalism is totally different. It is true that India as a ‘nation state’ is of recent origin. It came under one constitution only after independence. Prior to that, though geographically and culturally looked upon as one entity; India was not governed by one constitutional authority. But India was one nation right from the earliest times. What united her was the cultural unity and not political or administrative machinery. Indian nationalism had been essentially cultural which unified it in a powerful bond of identity based on spirituality which in its outward manifestation had taken various forms and names. It was a tolerant, inclusive, courteous, friendly and generous culture which not only believed in peaceful co-existence, but also welcomed even alien cultures with due respect and generosity. That is why in the long history of India, we never find Indian Kings and Emperors, Conquerors or Adventures, stepping out of India and conquering and enslaving alien territories. Indian nationalism is qualitatively different from the recently emerged European and other nationalisms. Tagore was well aware and extremely proud of the culture of Bharat. He was never a critic of India’s cultural nationalism. Therefore Amarthya Sen’s implied criticism of nationalism which he attributed to Tagore has really no legs to stand upon.


Integral Humanism (Ekatma Manava Darshan) is a term coined by the late Deendayal Upadhyaya to define India‘s ‘Yuga Dharma’ in the context of the present national and international situation. It was an attempt to provide a philosophical frame work for the national reconstruction of post Independent India in the light of her own indigenous culture and tradition. As the term indicates, it is a humanistic philosophy with ‘Man’ at the centre. Any philosophy, for that matter, is meant for ‘Man’. Difference between the various philosophies is basically because of the differences in their concept about ‘Man’. Integral Humanism is about the Indian concept of ‘Man’ which is essentially different from the Western concept.

The Western civilization, primarily rooted in the biblical tradition and accepted by the Abrahamic religions believes that man is born in sin and that only faith in certain religious dogmas can save him from going to hell. According to Bharatheeya Philosophy man is essentially divine. The ancient Rishis addressed him as “Child of Immortality” (Amrtasya Putraha).As Swami Vivekananda told the Chicago Audience “it is a sin to call man sinner”. The divinity in man is covered over by ignorance and illusion. So the Hindu Philosophy believes that the veil of ignorance should be removed so that the inner divinity will manifest itself. Religion and Education are the means for this. It is pertinent to remember that Swami Vivekananda has defined religion as “the manifestation of the divinity already in Man”. He has defined education as “the manifestation of the perfection already in man”. Shri Guruji prefers the term “Poorna Manav”- a perfect and fully blossomed man. In short Integral Humanism has kept as its goal a fully developed human being. Man is the product of a long evolutionary process. But the present man is not the ultimate goal of this process. Shri Aurobindo has made a profound study of man`s future and has categorically stated that the present man has to evolve into a “Superman”.

Whichever way we may put it, Man’s destiny is to evolve until he becomes the embodiment of divinity, which is concealed within him. Integral Humanism as explained by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya envisages for the immediate future for man a fully integrated personality which includes the fullest development of the various dimensions of his being. Man is a multidimensional entity with the soul (Atma) as the core. Atma is an abstract entity which is encased within five different sheaths (Koshas). In the Hindu terminology they are Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijnanamaya and Anandamaya (the physical, vital, mental, intellectual and blissful). Though termed differently and though each has its own specific characteristics, they are not entirely disconnected, but are so intimately interrelated that all these together constitute one integral whole. It is this integrated individual that is called “Poorna Manav”. Integral Humanism primarily looks at this “Man” as the centre of its philosophy. It is the total ‘Man’ in all his various dimensions, has to be treated as one single entity. While considering the well being of the man Integral Humanism takes an integrated view. Each constituent dimension as stated earlier, has its own characteristics, needs and demands. Only when these are met in an integrated manner, the man can grow to his full stature. Though it is the soul that is the core of his being, its fulfillment depends upon the integrated development of his physical, vital, mental and intellectual needs and demands.
To be continued…

(Page no-393-94, the foundation of
Indian Culture, Shri Aurobindo)