A Straight Line From Humanism to Integral Humanism

India has a rich spiritual and material tradition of values regarding human existence. The Vedas and Upanishads are the basic pillars of Indian civilization, providing fundamental insights into human existence and our values. The oldest document, the Rig Veda, declares that all human beings are equal and brothers, while the Atharva Veda describes that all human beings have equal rights over water and food (natural resources). The Upanishads are primordial sources of ‘Dharma’, which is a comprehensive term for all human rights and duties. Observing these is essential for securing peace, well-being, and happiness for individuals and society.

The erosion of humanity in society has led to massive devaluation in the socio-cultural and economic spheres. To address this problem, it is high time that we understand Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s concept of Integral Humanism. Before entering into the comprehensive vision of Integral Humanism, we need to understand the fundamentals of humanism. Although the word humanism entered the scene as a product of the Western Renaissance, the concept existed in Indian culture long before that. While Westerners define humanism according to their culture, in India, the scope and essence of the concept is different. We must understand some basic elements of the concept, such as the concept of humanism in the Indian perspective, why Integral Humanism in India, and why Integral Humanism got more acceptance than M.N. Roy’s Radical Humanism, etc.

Humanism in Indian Perspective:

Referring to the source of fundamental rights incorporated in our constitution, the Supreme Court of India has said this;

“These fundamental rights represent the basic values cherished by the people of this country since the Vedic times, and they are calculated to protect the dignity of the individual and create conditions in which every human being can develop his personality to the fullest extent” (Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India-1978 (1) SCC 248)

From the above statement, we can get some highest values which followed by Indian tradition. If we search about the concept of Humanism in Google, we get;

“Humanism is a philosophy or a way of thinking about the world. It is a set of ethics or ideas about how people should live and act. People who hold this set of ethics are called humanists. The concept of humanism refers primarily to a system of thought, which focuses on the autonomy of the individual. So, Humanism is the product of renaissance and reformation in Europe and found its fullest expression in the American and French revolution”.

The cultural gap between the Western and Indian concepts of humanism is evident from thei above definitions. Western humanism places great emphasis on the individual’s potential for greatness through reason, creativity, and education and is often associated with secularism, human rights, and equality. The term “Humanism” was coined by F.J. Niethammer for educational purposes. On the other hand, Indian humanism cannot be understood in the same sense as Western humanism. The Indian perspective on humanism is based on the principle of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, meaning “the world is one family”, which emphasizes the interconnectedness of all beings and the need for compassion and respect towards all life forms. Indian humanism also emphasizes the concept of “dharma”, which refers to the righteous way of living and performing one’s duties towards society, family, and the environment. It encourages individuals to seek knowledge, cultivate empathy and compassion, and practice non-violence in all aspects of life. Furthermore, Indian humanism places great importance on “seva”, or selfless service to others, using one’s skills and resources to help those in need and promote the well-being of society as a whole. Lastly, Indian humanism recognizes that the ultimate goal of human life is not just material success or individual happiness, but the attainment of spiritual enlightenment and liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Indian humanism offers a holistic and inclusive perspective on human well-being and encourages individuals to live in harmony with themselves, others, and the natural world.

Integral Humanism: Summary of Definition

Integral Humanism, a concept developed by Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, highlights the significance of individuals as the fundamental units of a nation. Similar to cells in a human body that form organs, individuals combine to form different societal systems. The state comprises multiple systems such as family, court, and government that function based on the nation’s self-consciousness or demanding force known as Dharma. Chiti, the self-consciousness created by Dharma, is what sustains India as a nation. Every nation has its chiti that, when combined, creates the self-consciousness of humanity. The collective self-consciousness acts as the self-consciousness of the universe, which embodies the vision of oneness of humanity known as Integral Humanism. Upadhyaya presented this concept as a new vision of development for India, emphasizing cultural and spiritual values, the interdependence of individuals and society, and the need for a decentralized and self-reliant economy promoting social and economic justice. Integral Humanism appealed to those in India who were disillusioned with the Western ideas of industrialization and modernization dominating the development models at the time, offering a unique way of thinking that emphasized human well-being and social justice.

Integral Humanism and Radical Humanism

In India, Radical Humanism is a philosophical and social movement that emerged in the mid-20th century in India. It was founded by M.N. Roy, a prominent Indian political theorist and activist. The basic tenet of Radical Humanism is the primacy of the individual over all institutions, including the state, religion, and society. It emphasizes reason, ethics, and freedom, and rejects dogma and superstition. Radical Humanism advocates for the establishment of a secular and democratic society based on the principles of equality, justice, and human rights.

But, Radical Humanism did not gain as much acceptance as Integral Humanism in India. One reason for this may be that Radical Humanism was seen as too extreme and focused only on individualism, without considering the larger social and cultural context. In contrast, Integral Humanism emphasized the interdependence of the individual and society and the importance of cultural and spiritual values in addition to individual freedom. Integral Humanism also had roots in India’s unique cultural and spiritual heritage, which made it more appealing to many Indians. 

The journey from Indian humanism to Integral Humanism reflects a growing awareness of the need for a more holistic and balanced approach to development that considers a society’s cultural and spiritual values. Integral Humanism represents a unique blend of traditional Indian humanist values with modern political and economic thinking, and it continues to influence Indian political thought and practice today.

– Anusree.S.L Research Associates, Centre for Human Science, Rishihood University,

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