Vol: 34 No: 01
01 August 1987
As we study the evolution of Indian culture we see how a certain primary humanistic impulse, which was native to it receives strength from external sources till today. Let me indicate briefly the primary native stream and the three external currents that have enriched it in the course of the centuries.
The original Indian base which has facilitated the healthy assimilation of later humanistic ideas is the sense of the moral responsibility of the individual which is one of the cardinal tenets of Hinduism.
There is no minimising the tremendous insistence which Hinduism has placed on the idea of each man bearing the consequences of his action; that “as he soweth so he shall reap,” and that consequently personal moral effort is of capital importance. There is, no doubt, that this notion of personal retribution, this strain of irreducible individualism has served as an admirable prologue to the ever-widening recognition of human dignity and the grandeur of human personality.
The first notable strain of European humanism which came to India was in the form of artistic humanism. It came from sculpture and gave a new orientation to Indian sculpture. It gave to the depiction of the human form that loving attention to exact detail, that appreciation of physical beauty, that sense of proportion in outline and form which are the glories of Greek Art. I am referring, of course, to the achievements of the Gandhara School which has given us some of the most enduring monuments of Indian art. This is one of the supreme examples of the impact of cultures in the history of the world.
The second stream may be called the stream of religious humanism illustrated by the development of the Bhakti cult which became a very powerful element in Indian religion with the growth of the Vaishnava movement. Leaving aside for the moment the simpler polytheistic cults of the masses we may say that before the Vaishnava movement, the predominant type of Indian spirituality was the discipline of meditation
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