Freedom, equal opportunities for all, and a feeling of universal brotherhood are the most cherished ideals of the modern world. While these ideas have existed for a long time, in various forms, across many civilizations, the latest phrasing of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” is attributed to the French revolution. To most of us in the current generation, it is very obvious that these are the goals any modern society should aspire for, and we believe that the world will be a happier place once everyone adopts them. After all, what else can be missing in a world where everyone has the freedom and a level playing ground to do whatever he or she wants, while the whole world, as one happy family, cheers them on?
In this article, I argue that the ideals we have chosen for the modern world are incomplete by themselves, and we need to complement them with ideas from Indian tradition and philosophy, in order to get ourselves closer to the vision described above. In my arguments below, I have taken generous help from the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most clear and concise articulations of Indian philosophy that I have come across through my limited reading. Nothing of what I’m about to say is new; many have already said similar things in the past, in probably much better ways. However, I wish to share a summary of my thought process in the hope that it may help some of you build a world view in which our traditional values and modernity do not contradict, but rather complement each other.
Let us begin with liberty or freedom. While the Eastern religions define freedom or liberation as a freedom from desire, craving, rebirth and other such things, the Western world defines freedom as the power to act and live life on one’s own terms. What does this mean? To a child, it may mean eating chocolates any time of the day and every day. To a young adult, it may mean staying up all night partying with friends, and sleeping until midday the next morning. To a political activist, it may mean the freedom to criticize one’s political opponents without any fear of reprisal. To a nation, it may mean the ability to govern itself for the well-being of its citizens, without any external interference. We all intuitively understand what liberty means.
Of course, we all also know that unbridled freedom is not good, and exercising one’s liberty should not impinge upon the liberty of others or have any other unintended consequences. It is sometimes obvious for us to see when our liberty is impinging on someone else’s liberty, and not so obvious in other cases. Similarly, while some liberties are naturally self-limiting, some do not have a natural stopping point. For example, while a kid who suffers from toothache after eating too many chocolates may naturally refrain from misusing the liberty of eating chocolates, it is much more difficult to realize when to stop on the question of buying shoes produced via environmentally unsustainable practices. Which is why, with all freedoms, there are also checks and balances put in place by entities whom we trust, to ensure that the said freedom is not misused, advertently or inadvertently. These restrictions can come in the form of parental controls, traditions inculcated by a culture, or laws of the government and global peacekeeping bodies.
All in all, the world seems to have figured out a way to let everyone have their liberty cake and eat it too. Or, has it? As we are reading this now, the world is heading towards a global disaster of a scale that the modern human race has never seen, mostly caused by unrestricted consumption and predation of natural resources. And this over-consumption is a natural consequence of the world in which everyone has the personal liberty to buy as many clothes as one wishes, travel as much as one desires, and live as extravagant a lifestyle as one’s means allow. Indigenous traditions that respect nature and force moderation are either lost or scoffed at. Environmentally conscious citizens are too few and far between to make any impact. Government regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions are too slow to arrive, and too ineffective in their implementations, mostly due to the reluctance of citizens to give up their lifestyles. Sure, we can still hope that we get our act together in time to avert the destruction of humankind in a climate change apocalypse. But, isn’t something fundamentally wrong with the idea of liberty if its widespread adoption around the world can result in a global catastrophe within a few centuries?
You may wonder – isn’t global warming a function of the economic system, not of personal liberty? Couldn’t we move to a better economic model or a better set of regulations that will make this problem go away? Couldn’t we come up with better technologies that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases? Sure, we could do all of these, and we are trying to. Many optimistic environmentalists are betting on the fact that we will invent new technologies that will magically fix the global warming problem without us having to compromise on our lavish lifestyles one bit. However, I believe that as long as we indiscriminately exercise our liberty to consume as much as we want, we are bound to run into the same problem sooner or later. We can kick the can down the road, but the problem remains – our desires are never-ending, we have given ourselves the freedom to satisfy them all, and resources are but only finite. As more and more people in developing nations chase economic progress and aspire to become ‘developed’, this problem will only get worse. The ‘developed’ world has managed to survive so far on the largesse of nature and of erstwhile colonies, but I do not think this party of unrestricted consumption while riding on the back of the ideals of personal liberty can last forever.
A fundamental problem with the idea of liberty is that there is no intrinsic self-limiting behavior, or a requirement for moderation, built into its commonly understood definition. We are free to do whatever we want to, as long as we don’t directly see our actions impacting anyone else negatively. But we are never required to ask ourselves if a particular freedom is worth exercising or not, and we are not required to think about when to stop, or how much is too much. In our world today, the opposite of liberty is oppression, with nothing in between. In other words, if I can do something to bring myself happiness and I don’t see it harming anyone, the conditioning of the modern world tells me that I must go ahead and gratify myself. There is no logical reason to stop unless there are explicit restrictions on my freedom put in place by someone else. However, in the real world, damage caused by the misuse of liberties is not always immediately apparent. So it is not always possible to set restrictions effectively to police human behavior, and the restrictions may not arrive in time to prevent harm. As parents of naughty kids know all too well, depending solely on carrots and sticks to enforce good behavior can only take you so far, unless some responsibility comes from within the child as well.
What we need to counter excessive consumerism is a middle ground between complete liberty and externally enforced restrictions, roughly around the ideas of self-discipline, moderation, temperance, balance, and renunciation. All religions, Eastern religions in particular, preach the idea of renunciation in one form or the other, where one is told to derive happiness and strength from one’s inner self, and disassociates oneself from one’s external material possessions. The ego, which causes us to feel good about how much money or material possessions we have, must be subdued with practice, in order to limit our desires. This idea is articulated in its most accessible form in perhaps the Bhagavad Gita, where a person living the life of a householder can still internally renounce all association with worldly things, without having to become a full-blown ascetic, by cultivating a certain mental detachment with the external world. That is, one can still live in the world normally, and yet not be touched by its worldliness, like a lotus leaf on water, it is said. Such a person is called a yogi‘, literally, one who has achieved yoga (union) with the divine. A yogi sees the divine in himself and in the world around him, and does not identify himself with anything but his true self. It is fairly obvious that a true yogi will exercise liberty in a responsible way naturally, even when external restrictions are not in place. He will no longer acquire material possessions simply to show off to others or out of a fear of missing out. He will no longer plunder nature beyond his bare necessities, and will treat it with respect and reverence. He will experience the true freedom that comes from acting and consuming exactly the way he really wants to (or rather, needs to), free from external influences. A yogi no longer perceives a contradiction between the idea of personal liberty and the goal of sustainable economic progress.
I would like to clarify several things here. I do not claim that religion is the only panacea to the problems of global warming and over-consumption. But I would like to claim that by constantly exhorting us to think about dharma and moksha, in addition to just artha and kama, our culture makes it more likely that those inclined towards a more minimalistic lifestyle by nature do eventually espouse it. Of course, it is perfectly possible for us to realize moderation through other paths as well, say, by watching cartoons like Spiderman in which we are told that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. However, the fact that most people still consume unsustainably and irresponsibly even after watching Spiderman for decades tells us that catchy slogans have little impact on fundamental human nature. It is also possible for us to tweak our economic systems, regulations, and incentive structure to rein in over-consumption. But in spite of many noted economists (like E. F. Schumacher in his popular book ‘Small is Beautiful’) making the case for reducing consumption for the past many decades now, the fact remains that we simply haven’t found a way to limit consumption in a democratic society that guarantees personal liberty. The goal of sustainable development has largely stayed on paper.
As we wait for the various policies and technological interventions to the problem of climate change to bear fruit, we must also supplement these efforts with lessons from our civilization, through inner renunciation to control excessive consumption. I admit that the path of renunciation, even in the supposedly accessible form as presented in the Gita, is not an easy one to take for everyone, and involves a lot of introspection and practice. However, it would be stupid of us, especially as descendants of this ancient culture, to at least not aspire for it, even if we do not fully get there. We have this great moral compass at our disposal, that can guide our actions better, that can give us the wisdom to exercise our liberty responsibly. And we must strive to put it to use more effectively, especially in today’s world that is on the brink of ecological collapse. Developing a frame of mind where we see our true self as distinct from our material possessions, and where we see the same life-force in everyone and everything in nature around us, will automatically ensure that we consume in a sustainable manner, even in the absence of externally imposed restrictions. The Gita has inspired many people, from Henry David Thoreau to Mahatma Gandhi and his followers, to follow a lifestyle harmonized with nature. There is no reason why it cannot do the same to many more of us if we try.
We all understand equality to mean that all human beings get equal opportunities in the various endeavours of their lives, without any form of discrimination. While we all aim for this very noble ideal, let us first note the fact that the world is fundamentally unfair. We are all created with different capabilities, and we all face circumstances which are random and unpredictable. Apparently, Lady Luck smiles down upon us in very different ways. Let me give you an example. Everytime I go to buy vegetables from the hawker down the road, I am amazed at how the lady manages to simultaneously serve several customers, keep track of what each has purchased, compute the payable amount in her head for everyone, remember which supplies are getting exhausted, all while making small talk with all of us. And she keeps at this for almost the entire day, all days of the week, in scorching heat and incessant rain. I do not find any fundamental difference in the quality or quantity of work being done by her as compared to the work done by most white collared salaried employees in many desk jobs. A typical white collared employee, say an engineer, probably works as many hours, and uses as much of his brain as the vegetable lady. However, the amount of money he gets paid, the stature in the society that he enjoys, or the quality of life he leads, couldn’t be more different. Life is simply unfair. We can give fancy explanations to rationalize this discrepancy in our heads, about how the engineer does fundamentally more useful things for the society than selling vegetables, or how he has studied very hard for his job. But, in the end, we cannot fully be sure that the vegetable lady wouldn’t have been able to do the same things had she been given the same opportunities as well, opportunities which were denied to her due to economic or social factors, or even perhaps due to her gender. Or maybe she was given the same opportunities as the engineer, but didn’t have the intellectual capacity in her genes to grab them fully; one can never be sure. Whatever the reason for their differences, whether circumstances or genes, it must be very clear to all of us that randomness reigns supreme in this world, and decides our destinies. We may attribute this randomness to several things, from sins in the past birth to just plain bad luck. But however we choose to rationalize it, any honest person must accept the obvious fact that our place in our life is not the result of our effort alone.
So, we should be very happy that modern governments fully espouse the principle of equal opportunities to all, at least on paper. In today’s world, it is conceivable that the vegetable lady’s daughter will get an education that is comparable to the engineer’s son, and who knows, maybe this daughter will become a well-salaried engineer one day too. The ideal of equality warms our hearts with hope, doesn’t it? But wait, are we fully sure the story will end well for everyone here? We are giving everyone equal opportunities (or at least, we will get there one day), but are we really ensuring equality? By giving everyone equal opportunities, we are only reducing the randomness in the initial conditions. But we are by no means eliminating the randomness that will crop up along the paths that people take in their lives. That is, we are only ensuring equal opportunities, and not equal outcomes. While the vegetable vendor’s daughter may become a high-flying engineer, the engineer’s son may fail to clear his engineering entrance test, face a mental health crisis due to the expectations from his father, and end up doing some ‘menial’ jobs in his life. And one day, he will look up to his more successful peers and wonder at the unfairness of life. What now? Do we really have equality? You may say that we have ensured equal opportunities to people, and how they use these opportunities is not our problem. Fair enough. But now, what if I were to tell you that the engineer’s son had a fever on the day of his engineering entrance test? What if I told you that his genes made him more vulnerable to mental health issues later in life? Did he really have equal opportunities as compared to those who had better physical health on the day of the entrance exam, or better mental health after the exam?
The point I am trying to make is that one can never really eliminate the impact of randomness in life. As I said earlier, Lady Luck treats each of us differently, and there is nothing we can do to convince her to treat us all the same. Yes, providing equal opportunities to all is a very important first step, and modern societies have made a great leap in that direction, but are we done? In the past, our civilization followed the path of attributing randomness of birth to past sins, giving people both a way to make peace with their current situation, and an incentive to live a righteous life going forward. However, the general consensus is that these old ways were too inhuman and oppressive, and so, we are rightly moving towards a society with more social and economic mobility. But I do not think the story ends here.
While we pat ourselves on the back for moving towards equal opportunities for all, let us not forget that we have still not eliminated randomness from our lives. Therefore, we still need to equip ourselves to deal with this randomness, and the resulting unequal outcomes. Even as we work towards dismantling hierarchies of the past, newer ones will continue to arise, as people sort themselves into different buckets as a result of randomness and unequal outcomes. And now, with an excessive focus on equality, and very little acknowledgement of the role of randomness, both ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ may end up attributing their successes and losses solely to their own strengths or weaknesses. (Note that I use the words ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ only in the context of how society views them; I am not passing any judgement myself, as I do not believe in such judgements.) This results in hubris and arrogance for the ‘winners’, and despair and dejection for the ‘losers’. All of us are engaged in a constant rat race to beat each other to be successful, without realizing that only a part of that success is really in our control. I admit that too much focus on randomness can be counterproductive as well. We are taught that we must learn to focus only on the things within our control, and push ourselves to do better, without worrying about the impact of luck. However, by deluding ourselves that we are completely eliminating randomness with equal opportunities, we are ending up with attributing all our successes and failures to ourselves alone, and we are piling more stress on ourselves than we should.
So, how can we make peace with randomness? Most efforts focus on counselling those who have had their share of bad luck. We explain to students who are dejected at their poor performance in exams that it was not their day, that they should take it in their stride and move on. We tell an employee who has been overlooked for a promotion that it is not his fault, but it was office politics that is to be blamed. However, somewhat hypocritically, we also celebrate ‘winners’ to a disproportionate amount in our society, and attribute all their success to their efforts alone. How is a ‘loser’ supposed to make peace with the fact that his loss is not his fault alone, when someone else’s win is portrayed as being entirely their achievement? Isn’t there a fundamental inconsistency in our way of dealing with good and bad luck? This is probably one of the reasons why the ‘losers’ continue to stay dejected and doubt themselves – the blaming of their loss on bad luck never quite appears genuine. And we still have the situation of newer hierarchies cropping in society, which are based on merit and not on birth (a good first step), but which have the same problem of making a certain section of the society feel excluded.
At a fundamental level, equality is not just about granting equal opportunities. It is also about having a certain amount of equanimity towards (i.e., seeing with equal detachment) both wins or losses and successes or failures. That is the only way to truly counter the randomness that life throws at us. Once again, I cannot think of a better or more accessible description of equanimity than what is found in the Bhagavad Gita. Gita defines the state of yoga, or union with the inner self, as one of equanimity (samatvam yoga uchyate). In a verse which I personally count among my favourites, Krishna tells Arjuna that all activities we do are primarily done under the influence of our nature (prakriti and its gunas), but man, deluded by his ego, thinks that he is the doer. Such philosophies, when pondered upon and assimilated, bring a certain amount of humility to the ‘winners’ and a certain amount of solace to the ‘losers’. It can make one a sthitapragnya, one with a calm, steady and stable mind that is equally unmoved by success or failure. It is no surprise that our culture has produced personalities like Srinivasa Ramanujan, who attributed his mathematical genius solely to his family deity.
If one applies the teachings of the Gita to one’s own life, and introspects upon the reasons for whatever ‘success’ we have had in life, we will surely find the role played by our genes, the environment we were raised in, and the circumstances we faced in our life. Of course, we can give credit to ourselves that we have all worked hard to be where we are today, but we must remember that the capacity to work hard is wired in our genes too. Once we have enough humility to realize that our success is not ours alone, we will naturally be more composed in our failures as well. We will then truly achieve equality, not just with respect to equal opportunities at the beginning of the path, but also with respect to equal treatment of the final outcomes at the end of the path. Once we master equanimity, we will treat the vegetable vendor and the high-salaried engineer with the same respect. We will no longer label or judge our fellow humans as winners or losers. A society where all human beings are treated the same irrespective of how they fare in their journey of life will automatically become less hierarchical and more equal.
Please note that I am not saying we shouldn’t strive for success or progress in our lives, but simply that we should view both success and failure with more detachment than we do today. One may wonder – if we stop recognizing people for their success, will it discourage people from working hard? Wasn’t the introduction of patenting one of the driving forces behind the prolific technological output during the industrial revolution? I do not deny the role played by rewards and recognition in motivating people to work hard. Of course, we need to reward good behavior in a dog to teach it tricks, and we need to praise kids when they behave well. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool to encourage good behavior. However, I do not think it is the only way, or that it is indispensable for everyone, as we are led to believe today. I believe that we as adults can (and do) evolve to depend more on intrinsic motivation, and less on the ego gratification we get from external rewards, to do our job well. The Gita assures us that once we realize our inner true self, we will not stop working. Instead, we will work better, because we are no longer distracted by the notions of success and failure. Of course, this type of work and the progress achieved will be of a fundamentally different character than when motivated by money, fame or other extrinsic factors. I am not saying one is necessarily better or worse than the other, just that they are different. In this path of intrinsically motivated work, we work more efficiently in some sense, because we will pick jobs that are more suited to our nature, and because we will derive a joy from work that is more constant and rewarding than the ego gratification we get from external rewards. Indeed, the Gita calls yoga the excellence in work itself (yoga karmasu kaushalam). When we learn to work with a sense of purpose derived from within, when we cultivate equanimity towards both success and failure, when we stop thinking of people as winners and losers, the world will naturally become more equal, no matter what tricks Lady Luck plays on us.
Finally, we come to the concept of fraternity, that feeling of universal brotherhood that appears so elusive in our modern society, with its polarized debates and vitriolic arguments. Modern communication technologies have shrunk the world to an unimaginable degree. But has all this communication brought us any closer? Do we understand each other better? Is there more fraternity? It doesn’t appear to be the case, but why? We have our echo chambers on social media where people with aligned points of view scratch each other’s backs. But we seem to be moving farther away from people who do not agree with us.
To understand why this is happening, let us first accept that we humans are fundamentally wired to view things from only a limited point of view. We are like the blind men in the popular story of many blind men trying to describe an elephant. We cannot understand the fact that we can be right, and so can someone else who is saying a very different thing. We are also very judgemental by nature, and tend to compare everything with everything else and with ourselves. In this process, we assign labels from pairs of opposites – this view of the world is good while that one is bad, this person is better than me while someone else is worse off, and so on. Moreover, the fear of being wrong or worse off in a comparison biases many of our thoughts and actions. However, the world itself is a more continuous multi-dimensional spectrum of views and qualities, which are hard to bucket into such easy binary classes. One blind man calls the elephant a tree and the other calls it a tuft of hair. Neither is right or wrong, but each feels the desire to label oneself as the better one and the other as wrong. I am not passing a judgement on this aspect of our nature per se, but I am just pointing out that this is how we are. This is simply man’s way of making sense of the complexity of the world. And this binary view of the world naturally makes it difficult to realize fraternity.
Now, while we may be incapable of seeing the full truth, we should at least be capable of acknowledging the fact that we are incapable of seeing the full truth. As long as we see an argument as a tug of war in which we need to pull harder and win, we will not progress in our understanding of the truth. We will always end up viewing the world as ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. But once we accept the fact that the truth is somewhere in the middle, our judgement of both ourselves and the world will not be as harsh. Once we stop judging ourselves, we will get over the compulsive need to compare ourselves with everyone else and to make ourselves somehow look better. We will then listen to opposing viewpoints with more open minds, and hopefully get closer to the truth. Just like how a complete picture of the elephant may emerge from the blind men accepting their limitations and welcoming all points of view. Even if we do not understand or agree with the opposite point of view, just accepting the fact that there could be some truth on the other side too will engender a certain amount of respect for the person on the other side. And with that is born a feeling of fraternity – not just respect and solidarity with people who share your point of view, but for everyone.
This aspect of respecting multiple conflicting points of view, accepting them without judgement, and even harmonizing them into a coherent whole, is something our ancient civilization was eminently good at. Coming back to the Bhagavad Gita once again, it lays down several very different but equally valid paths (commonly referred to as jnana, bhakti, and karma yogas) towards achieving self-realization. The multiple paths are contradictory at times, but are described with the same amount of respect, and without any derision or judgement for any of them. This apparent contradiction can appear quite baffling to the novice reader. However, as you see different people take different paths in their practice, and interpret the philosophy in different ways, you will realize the genius of the Gita. You will understand that this harmonization of multiple, apparently contradictory, paths could have only come about from a deep-rooted belief that all these different paths are indeed valid paths to the Truth for different people. This same principle of accepting different paths to the Truth can be seen all through our Hindu culture.
How does this nirdvandva (literally, not composed of pairs of opposites) view of the world come about? The Gita says that it comes from the simple realization that all beings in this world are a part of the same cosmic life-force. The differences we perceive are only because of the illusion created by prakriti and gunas, and our inability to see through it. It is a different matter that this concept is easier said than practiced, as evidenced by the fact that we ourselves didn’t follow this principle as well as we should’ve in the past, resulting in the blot of social injustice on our civilization. However, the difficulty of putting it to practice does not take anything away from the fact that the concept itself is quite beautiful and profound. If we were to take it to its logical conclusion, we would see that any binary classification of the universe into good and bad is fundamentally meaningless because everyone is just a unique part of the bigger whole. The differences we perceive and the judgments we make are simply a result of our ignorance to see the real truth, that deep down, we are all the same.
To put this in another way, if we really try to look deeply at the person on the other side of the table in an argument, we will see that he is someone just like us, who has traversed his life with a different nature, different set of genes, and a different set of circumstances, all of which cause him to see the world differently. He is neither better nor worse than us. He is simply what he is and what life has made him to be. If you were in his shoes, you would be the same too, so what is there to judge or compare? You may not see the elephant the same way as he does, given that you both are standing at different places in the room. But you can at least accept the fact that he is also describing the elephant as he sees it, is it not? Note that you may still argue to make your point, because you may feel that describing the elephant as a tree is probably more accurate than describing it as a tuft of hair – a nirdvandva view does not necessarily mean that you stop seeing the world in binary immediately or completely. But, even as you argue to make your point, even as you engage with the world through your lens of a binary view, the realization that you are all blind men describing an elephant will tone down the polarization in your arguments, and make your judgments softer. You will be more effective, balanced, and well-rounded in your arguments. You will be more generous in conceding to the other side when it makes sense, without feeling inferior. You will be more confident in defending yourself when you need to, without feeling superior. In the end, with a gradual disappearance of the impulse to judge and compare, you will no longer label people around you as ‘us’ vs. ‘them’, but will see them as parts of a whole that all have their own space. This is what is called fraternity, is it not? The ideal of fraternity is fundamentally incomplete and unrealizable without this ability to go beyond a binary view of the world and respect all sides of the truth, which in turn can come from an understanding and practice of our philosophy that sees the whole universe as one with the divine.
In this article, I have tried to make the argument that the western ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity are not enough by themselves to build a better world. We need to complement these ideals of the modern world with moral values and ideals that are part of our civilizational ethos, in order to truly make them complete. While I have primarily cited examples from the Bhagavad Gita, it is not by any means the only source of these ideas. From the Upanishads to Itihasas, from the various nitishatakams to pauranic stories, across rituals and folklore that vary by region and community, across seemingly different paths that work differently for different people, we have imbibed these values over the ages, consciously or subconsciously, through our roots grounded in culture and tradition. The pull of modernity is tugging hard at these roots though, and every successive generation is growing increasingly superficial roots. In this article, I have tried to make an argument about why this is not necessarily a good sign, even for those of us who consider ourselves ‘modern’.
Ultimately, liberty without inner renunciation, equality without equanimity, and fraternity without respect for opposite points of view, are all incomplete ideals for the real world. I do not claim that inner renunciation, equanimity, or the ability to see all sides of the truth are traits that come easily to anyone. They are difficult to realize, and even more difficult to put in practice, as is evident from how our civilization itself has sometimes fallen from the values it has professed so eloquently. They are also not realizations you acquire once and forget about. All of these are inherently difficult ways of thinking that go against the natural impulses of humans, and you need to work constantly to stay on the path all your life. These are not things that governments can legislate for at the level of society, but simply personal values that we must inculcate on our own, if we wish peace upon ourselves and the world. So how do we inculcate these values in ourselves and our kids? Simply reading the Bhagavad Gita, or the complete works of Swami Vivekananda like one would read a novel will not get you there, just like how reading the code of a programming language will not teach you how to program. What one needs is the equivalent of practical programming assignments, where you develop the code yourself. I do not claim to know how to design these, but I believe there are wiser souls out there that do, and have done so for ages, perhaps in the form of rituals and traditions. In the end, practice is more important than just theoretical knowledge, whether for learning programming or for imbibing the values of a culture. The philosophy of a civilization can only be understood by living it in our day-to-day lives, not by reading about it in books.
In summary, as we embark on our journey towards modernity, let us not forget the values taught by our culture and philosophy. Perhaps not everything in our ancient culture will appear relevant to the new generation today. Colonialism, and the ensuing bias that has crept into our minds, has muddled our views on what is worth retaining from our past, and what is not. However, let us not be arrogant enough to think that civilizations that have thrived for millennia have nothing more left to teach us. As one of the last surviving ancient civilizations of the world, it would be sub-optimal for us to completely throw away the broth that we have been brewing for millennia, and start afresh with an empty pot like everyone else. Instead, let us try to add newer ingredients to the existing pot, infusing the wisdom of the old with the energy of the new to create a complete whole. I do not claim to know what this fusion will look like, and it is up to all of us to discover it. To that end, just as we look outwards to learn the best practices from the rest of the world, we must also make an effort to look inwards and reconnect with our roots.
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