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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

INFLUENCE OF TRADITION IN FORMING AND REFORMING A NATION

Tradition has been so deep rooted in the Indian psyche that any reform it has undergone is seldom uninfluenced by tradition and myths. Of course, religion and religious texts represent tradition to a larger extent. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata have a considerably profound influence in our psyche that the very character of the Indians is rooted in the morals these texts have left behind. Every incident or issue, the solution to be sought for an issue etc. is referred back to these texts. What would have been the history of this nation if the course of events in the epics would have been different is a food for thought. Rama and Krishna are not characters for the Indians but people of immaculate character and perfection who form their role model and ideal and this gives these characters the stature of god. Though spiritual masters have tried to create awareness about the need to worship or comprehend the formless, they have not been able to do it but with a reference to religion or these gods. Take any book of a spiritual master, or the questions asked to such masters, you would be surprised to see that all of them centre on the discussion of religion and morality based on the epics. No attempt has been made successfully to break the pattern directly. Swami Vivekananda while talking about idol worship doesn’t say it is to be given up straightaway but puts it more cleverly without disturbing the pattern saying, “Start from the temple, but don’t end/die there”. Raja Rammohan Roy is credited with the abolition of Sati and widow burning but is said to have done it under a religious-compromising garb. He is reported to have said that Sati can be abolished as it is not mentioned to be mandatory in the Puranas. When Puranas do not recommend it as mandatory one can easily give it up! As a result, it invited less protest against him.

Jiddu Krishnamurthy and U.G.Krishnamurthy have been the only spiritual reformers who have tried to tread a fresh path but their influence, without surprise, remains confined to a negligible minority.

They blatantly condemn any attempt to generate a discussion on religion and the epics and bravely (it is a brave attempt as the Indian psyche won’t tolerate such insults to their beliefs) said that their belief system is their enemy.

Though Osho tried to speak the same thing, he made it more ornamental with religious pedantry and wise anecdotes making it more of an entertainment. Even he ran into trouble when he said that sex is one of the doors to God. It explains the limited perimeters of the belief system. You can’t come back alive if you make it to a rural religious festival in India commenting on the futility and the non-existence of God.

Literature of a nation is the psychological history of the nation, the thoughts it houses, the way it reacts to the external and the way it is trying to evolve. Here too the picture is not so different. The so-called modern or avant-garde writings have been speaking about the plight of modern man, his existentialistic quests and disillusionment from the framework of tradition. There have been umpteen writings on redefining epics and mythical characters in the modern context. But the base is tradition and it does the same thing what spiritual and social reformers have tried to do. The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor is another such attempt to depict the Indian independence movement on the basis of the characters and plot of the Mahabharata. The same trend has been widely seen in the regional literatures of the country. Innovation or revolution in literature has often been such bold (as it questions the credibility of the morals and stature of the characters in the epics/religion) rewriting or redefining of the so-called evil characters in the epics. Indian psyche has hardly undergone such ground-shaking changes like the West as reflected in Western literature. This explains why novel as a medium has hardly advanced in India and existentialism and absurd theatre do not make any significant impact on the Indian psyche. Indian psyche, it appears, has moved from solutions to problems and that diluted the intensity of problems. The Indian psyche always draws solutions galore from tradition and therefore no problem appears new. The spiritual and religious philosophy of the country has from time immemorial stressed the immortal significance of eternal truths and shrugged off worldly issues as too small to be taken seriously. It has been a reverse journey compared to the West. Tradition stands like an inexhaustible reservoir of life values offering constant solutions, being the eternal source of reference and thus unfortunately it curbs the scope of path-breaking reforms.
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By
Santhosh Kumar Kana

1 comment:

HARITHA said...

Respected sir,
The enduring nature of the influence of the epics, religious teachings and the literature of our country has been, no doubt a reality. But the winds of change has started blowing and change appears to be inevitable. Think of the generations that are going to come. Raised by parents of different beliefs and cultural and religious background and exposed to different influences right from childhood, this generations will seek the 'best practices' even in shaping their lives. They do not carry any baggage of the past. They are the knowledge people, armed with almost every kind of knowledge and technology and willing to face the challenges of survival. These pragmatic people will be less and less prone to any kind of dogma or prejudices. Just to give an example, imagine an Indian youngster competing with a Chinese or Briton for a lucrative project in silicon valley.It will undoubtedly, condition his thoughts. To put it in simple terms they will think globally and act locally.
HARITHA HARIPRASAD
XI B