Tuesday, July 31, 2007

India’s mission in the modern world is to complete and fulfil the work begun by the French revolution

Untold Potentialities:India and the World in the Third Millennium Richard Hartz
The Greek sought political liberty. The Hindu has always sought spiritual liberty. Both are one‑sided.... To care only for spiritual liberty and not for social liberty is a defect, but the opposite is a still greater defect. Liberty of both soul and body is to be striven for.7
This contrast between the Greek and the Hindu is a simplification, no doubt, but suggests the main trends in the West and the East. The distinction between political and spiritual liberty may be compared with the distinction between “negative” and “positive” liberty made by certain Western thinkers. For Isaiah Berlin, negative liberty means “not being interfered with by others”. Positive liberty, on the other hand, is the freedom of self‑mastery or “rational self‑direction”. It includes “the traditional self‑emancipation of ascetics and quietists, of stoics or Buddhist sages”. It is to the first ideal, that of freedom from external compulsion, that Berlin gave his unconditional approval. He was uncomfortable with positive liberty, as he defined it, because he saw in it an affinity with despotism:
The reason within me, if it is to triumph, must eliminate and suppress my ‘lower’ instincts, my passions and desires, which render me a slave; similarly (the fatal transition from individual to social concepts is almost imperceptible) the higher elements in society... may exercise compulsion to rationalise the irrational section of society.8
But Vivekananda’s conception of spiritual liberty is not open to this objection. He explicitly rejects the error of justifying any kind of compulsion—what Berlin would see as the abrogation of negative liberty in the name of positive liberty:
India has always had this magnificent idea of religious freedom, and you must remember that freedom is the first condition of growth. What you do not make free, will never grow. The idea that you can make others grow and help their growth, that you can direct and guide them, always retaining for yourself the freedom of the teacher, is nonsense, a dangerous lie which has retarded the growth of millions and millions of human beings in this world. Let men have the light of liberty. That is the only condition of growth.9 [7. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol. 6, p. 86. 8. Isaiah Berlin, Liberty, ed. Henry Hardy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 170, 191, 182, 196. 9. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol. 2, p. 115.] by Rich on Sun 29 Jul 2007 08:26 AM PDT Permanent Link Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

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