Can we say with reasonable confidence that the modern man’s intellectual ability is sufficiently developed? Can he differentiate between the right and the wrong, unless he purposefully decides not to do so for any reasons whatsoever? Has the modern man developed doubts about his affinity for what is right, that is, his righteousness? Have the errors committed by him in his past made him to hold a negative perspective about life? Does he brand himself, rather casually, as a selfish, timid and violent being? Has he become immune to many a pain in his life?
Is the modern man in some kind of depressed state? Not a great purpose will be served if I answer any or a few of the questions I raised above. Therefore, instead of discussing the questions raised above, I will prefer to discuss about the concept of “Swadeshi”.
The concept of “Swadeshi”, which M. K. Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi, tried to put forward before the people of India for its reconstruction after attaining independence from the British rule, has hardly any takers even in my own country. Many think that idea is not only retrograde, but also somewhat selfish. By picking up an example from my own country, I believe, I would be talking something highly relevant to 75% of the world’s population.
The concept of “Swadeshi” is based on the thought and conduct of self dependence and self reliance. The man depends on the nature as well as himself for his survival. However, he soon realizes that his physical abilities are limited. He finds that even his much talked about intellectual abilities are also limited in many ways. For example, in modern times, he cannot solve all his emotional and spiritual problems by applying technological solutions and he cannot solve his technological problems by applying spiritual solutions, unless he learns to strike a naturally amalgamated (perfectly diffused) balance between the two. If the man tries to do it, he comes to know that nothing is more appropriate than finding local solutions for his survival as well as spiritual growth. That is the concept of ‘Swadeshi”. The popularly known element of the concept of “Swadeshi” is that one should consume or make use of only such things that he can produce himself, of course, with mutual cooperation of his neighbours, that is, the people from his immediate surroundings. Two neighbours with abilities and needs almost matching with each others’ can cooperate. If one has far superior abilities than that of his neighbour’s and also has much bigger needs, no mutual cooperation between the two can be possible. In such a case, one would give and the other would receive. When one is giver and the other is a receiver, it can’t be mutual cooperation; it can only be an awkward mutual dependence between the two neighbours.
“Swadeshi” has normally been viewed very superficially. We think “Swadeshi” primarily means not consuming things that are not produced in one’s country; whereas “Swadeshi” actually assigns to the man the responsibility of dutifully and selflessly working for arranging things for the physical needs of the people belonging to his immediate surroundings. Here, natural resources to be used should also be carefully procured locally without harming the natural surroundings. Obviously, this necessitates hard physical work and intellect that is caring and concerned for not only fellow human beings, but also other living beings and the nature. If we consider the efforts needed by us for our survival as drudgery instead of our sacred duty, if our efforts are selfish or if we do not make necessary efforts that we are capable of making; there can’t be anything “Swadeshi” about our conduct.
“Swadeshi” does not prevent one from making use of his intellect to reduce the physical labour of the man. But, if by doing so, people living in a close surroundings produce things in excess of their needs and deliver the excess to the remote surroundings and in exchange thereof, try to make their own lives more comfortable than the people of the remote surroundings; it would amount to snatching away the natural and legitimate right of “Swadeshi” that the people of the remote surroundings also have. In that case the principle of “Swadeshi” would be jeopardized.
The one who depends on others for his survival is dangerously placed because if the one on whom he depends backtracks the dependent suffers. The one who makes others dependent on him, he does it to satisfy a few or many of his needs. In such a case, if the dependent decides to become self-dependent, the one who has made the fomer dependent on him, also suffers. Dependence on others harms both; the dependent as well as those on whom one depends. Needless to say that the one who makes others dependent on him for selfish reasons tries his best to ensure that the people who depend on him do not become self-dependent. It is neither compassion nor nonviolence; all would agree.
“Swadeshi” is a Yajna; a superior kind of Yajna (Satvik Yajna). It is a sacred duty of the man of arranging material resources for the happy and healthy survival of all who perform and participate in the Yajna. The Yajna is also for a fair, equitable and righteous distribution of the fruits of the efforts of all those who can put in efforts, to all those for whose benefit the Yajna is performed. It is not a Yajna of inferior type where strength is gained by a few for making efforts for their welfare or for satisfying the ever increasing materialistic desires of the greedy and powerful.
Yajnarthat karmanah anyatra lokoyam karmabandhanah,
Tadartham karma Kaunteya muktasangah samachar.
(Geeta: Chapter 3; Shloka 9)
[Meaning: The one who does not act conforming to the duties assigned to him (Yajna) according to his nature, ability, capacity and training to serve others, who live with him; and gets involved in serving his own interests, lives in captivity of his actions forever. Therefore, O Kaunteya (Arjun), act selflessly and without attachment for that Yajna, which shares its outcome and fruits equitably to all, as only such Yajna is the source of freedom and happiness.]
Aivam pravartitam chakram nanuvartayatih yah,
Aghayurindriyaramo mogham parth sa jeevati.
(Geeta: Chapter; Shloka 16)
[Meaning: The one who does not conduct himself, according to the traditional ways of the natural life cycle and gets much involved in deriving sensory pleasure in life, lives a sinful life and wastes his precious life. Needless to say that the one who lives a sinful life causes much harm to others.]
The thought of “Swadeshi” necessitates physical, intellectual and spiritually consistent efforts by all, according the natural cycles of life. It is the man’s duty to conduct according to the principles of “Swadeshi”. If everyone is duty bound to conduct according to the principles of “Swadeshi”, everyone has equal and full rights to one’s physical, intellectual and spiritual growth. If some people create extra opportunities of intellectual or physical growth for them that may help them in inventing methods for fulfilling human needs with lesser physical efforts, and, use such methods for ensuring more physical comforts for themselves than the others, they go against the cycles of the nature. If, they (the intellectually and physically privileged) deprive others of intellectual and physical advancement so that they (the others) are easily and cheaply available for putting in their physical efforts for their own survival and for the comfort of intellectually and physically privileged people; this becomes violence that curtails freedom of many. If physical or intellectual supremacy is used for one’s personal benefit, and, if the benefits thus gained are used to further enhance physical and the intellectual prowess with intentions to derive more benefit the natural life cycle would be completely broken and the end of ‘life’ would become imminent. Such Yajna is of the most inferior kind; it is Tamasi Yajna. Tamsi Yajna leads to spiritual suicide, not only by those who perform such Yajna, but also those who willingly or unwillingly participate in it.
When one gains in physical and intellectual strength more than the others, he thinks that he can deal with the entire world and create a new order that had never been known earlier. That is nothing but “the devil’s arrogance”. The “devil’s arrogance” is just opposite of the “Swadeshi”.
Unbridled growth of machines to reduce the cost of human labour (with none or marginal intentions of partial elimination of drudgery, of physical labour), blind technological growth with a apace increasing in geometric progression, the fictitious and ill-conceived thought that physical comfort can reduce the major part of human sufferings , malicious efforts made by a few to solve others’ problems by making others depended on them, and the timid hopes of many that they can solve their problems by depending on others, etc. have amply established that the man is fast losing his ability to think about his own benefit, independently and in an unbiased manner. He is becoming more and more depressed day by day.
“Swadeshi”, in fact, is a thought process that ensures freedom for the man. It is freedom to earn one’s own bread through physical (bodily) efforts; it is freedom to think independently and the freedom to make advancements on the spiritual path. The thought of “Swadeshi” promotes and ensures the ability in the man to think independent of oneself. One thinks selflessly, he thinks about the benefit of the collectivity of all living beings, the entire human race, and he thinks about the freedom of everybody. He thinks no one should depend on anybody. No doubt, human limitations cannot make the man absolutely independent, perhaps only the God has complete freedom. Therefore, the man can choose to be dependent according to the natural law, that is, being dependent on one’s neighbourhood; but that becomes mutual cooperation, where all involved are almost equally dependent on or independent of each other.
The thought of “Swadeshi” is a spiritually consistent thought. There is no hopelessness or helplessness. There no irritability, no anger or enmity, no violence or timidity, no inferiority complex and no loss of interest or loss of energy in performing daily activities for one’s survival. One lives for others and others live for him, just as it happens in a family where mutual trust prevails. Where is the scope for depression if thought and conduct of “Swadeshi” is adopted and experimented with? The thought of “Swadeshi” is the right thought. “Swadeshi” is not a ‘Utopia”, it is an ideal that can be achieved by taking small steps without moving backwards.
The modern man with his matured intellect can differentiate between wishful thinking and the ideal. The question is, why the modern man considers ‘the ideal’ as his step brother and keeps running with his eyes wide open on a path which does not lead to even a reasonable satisfaction, what to say of lasting happiness.
I am not hoping that many of the readers would revise their opinion about “Swadeshi”. But, I do hope that at least a few would think about the contents of this article as individuals, separating them from social context. I think that is perfectly fine, because we all react to the external world individually first before reviewing our thought. We all value our freedom and our growth.
PROMOD KUMAR SHARMA
[The writer of this blog is also the author of “Mahatma A Scientist of the Intuitively Obvious” and “In Search of Our Wonderful Words”.]