Indic Approach to the Nature of Human Behaviour

The article aims to compile the salient features of human nature relevant to economics that emerged as a product of exploration by various Indian saints.

By Manan Gandhi, Research Associate at Rashtram

The Basis: The Notability of Understanding Oneself in Indian Thought

“Your self-realization is the greatest service you can render the world”, said Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. Even Sri Krishna said- “योगस्थ: कुरु कर्माणि which means one should first establish oneself in yoga and then act. Here, establishing oneself in yoga is realizing your nature of being in union with everything. Swami Vivekananda expressed the same principle differently. He said, “If I know one lump of clay perfectly, I know all the clay there is… When you know yourself you know all.” Thus, Indian ethos gives supreme importance to knowing oneself and, in fact, proclaims it to be the very purpose of life. Moreover, having this culture of inquiry and exploration led to expressing the knowledge of this fundamental truth in different varieties by distinct sages at separate times. This article aims to compile the salient features of human nature relevant to economics that emerged as a product of exploration by various Indian saints.

The subtle aspects of human existence are deemed to be of high importance. They are declared to be the seeds of what happens in the grosser elements. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev says, “The mind is a powerful instrument. Every thought, every emotion that you create changes the very chemistry of your body”. Even Gautam Buddha said- “The mind is everything. What you think you become”. That is why various Indian rishis have thoroughly studied the mind and considered disciplining the mind the most critical and challenging task. Disciplining the mind has been considered the most complex job since it is difficult to be objective towards what happens in one’s mind. J Krishnamurthy describes that the ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence. Moreover, everybody is considered capable of touching at least some dimension of these states of being.  

Alligning with the Cosmic Force and working for लोकसंग्रह

This blissful state of being is described using different words. Some have called this love, whereas some others have called it silence. However, the essence of the description remains the same. There is a recognition of a higher force acting through all living beings in the Indian tradition. This higher force is responsible for the sustenance of the cosmos. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev says, “Whether you call it a stone, a beast, a tree, a Human, a demon or the divine- everything is the same energy, manifesting itself in a million different ways”. He further says, “You cannot exist without the universe. You are not a separate existence.” Therefore, this higher force binds us all together in an interconnected web. We are not isolated but are in constant relation to everything in the universe. For example, we can see that even though psychologically we might feel ourselves to be different from the trees, the air we breathe is a result of a transaction with the trees.

The state of bliss or love or silence or union requires us to be in tune with this higher force. Only when we are in tune with this higher force, there is no conflict in mind. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev says, “Cosmic will is like the gravitational force. It just is there always. It only acts that way because the very framework of life is based on the cosmic will…. You can use the cosmic force to make your will into a reality”. Therefore, to be in tune with this higher force, the sense of individualization needs to dissolve since the higher force does not act to preserve individuals but the collective whole. Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi said, “When one has realized, a universal life current takes possession of him and uses him henceforth.” Therefore, when the mind is free of duality or distinction between ‘me’ and ‘not me’, there is an objective outlook to life, and this objective outlook is described as love. This phenomenon is described as love since the actions generated from such mind will be free of distortions caused due to individual desires but will be for लोकसंग्रह

Imaginary Wall: The root of Self Centered Activity

 J Krishnamurthy describes this beautifully. He says, “As long as there is a division between the ‘observer’ and the ‘observe’, there is conflict.” He goes on to say, “You look at your neighbour, at your wife, at your husband or your boyfriend or girlfriend, whoever it be, but can you look without the imagery of thought, without the previous memory? For when you look with an image, there is no relationship; there is merely the indirect relationship between the two groups of images, of the woman or the man, about each other; there is a conceptual relationship, not an actual relationship.” 

J Krishnamurthy describes this image as a wall that we build around ourselves. He says, “Each one of us has a wall around himself: a wall of resistance, fear and anxiety. The “me” built around myself, thus making the wall; this “me” in the family, each member of which is also surrounded by his own wall. Then the whole family with a wall around itself and similarly, with the community and the society. Now is one aware of this? Do we not feel that living in this world, it is necessary, otherwise the “me” will be destroyed and so will the family? So we maintain the wall as the most sacred thing.”

He states that this wall that we have built is the cause of our self-centred activities. He says, “Here we have this self-centred activity which creates these divisions: the self-centred activity round a principle, an ideology, a country, a belief, round the family, and so on. This self-centred activity is separative and therefore causes conflict.” However, he adds that there is something beyond this wall too, describing it as love.  He says, “When we remove the division between the “me” and the “you”, the “we” and the “they”, what happens? Only then and not before, can one perhaps use the word “love”. And love is that most extraordinary thing that takes place when there is no “me” with its circle or wall.”

The Change of Perspectives in the Indian Knowledge Systems

Therefore, just as a tree can be described as inhaling to preserve itself, it can also be described as breathing to sustain the world. Similarly, any activity happening in the cosmos can be seen as an act of self-preservation or action to uphold the world. When humans do activities to sustain the world, they are in tune with nature and thus are acting with love. The possibility of having such people is not dismissed, and the world has produced enough examples of such people throughout its history. Activities stemming from such free minds are not self-centred and thus, are a blessing. Moreover, we all are already in tune with a part of this universal force, and thus not all our activities are self-centric in a limited sense. Having frameworks that can accommodate such activities is essential.  It is not just necessary because it is more inclusive, but also the existence and real-world use of such frameworks will help people gain a more inclusive understanding of life. 

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