Prout: Part 2 - Introduction

Freedom in Three Spheres:

For Shrii P R Sarkar, human existence is physical, mental and spiritual. He defined progress as an evolution to higher consciousness and ultimately to the state of absolute freedom. Simultaneously, he explained that "spiritual progress can only be attained on a firm physical and mental base. ...[T]his physical and intellectual base has to be progressively adjusted to changing conditions of time and space." The natural human aspiration is to achieve freedom in all three spheres, Physical, mental and spiritual.

In our march towards freedom, we cannot neglect other living beings. We have to develop a social system where all living beings can live securely and where people can move towards emancipation by freeing their minds from superstition and dogma. This universalistic spirit is Neo-Humanism or Spiritual Humanism. Human history thus far is a story of ruling classes trying to enhance their own social and material wealth at the cost of human values. It is why temples, churches, scriptures, laws, constitutions, corporations and international trade agreements have become more important than human beings. To confront this, Sarkar maintains that a fundamental human philosophy is required to cement a new social system and not the changing social values based on self-interest embodied in ruling institutions.

State's Role:

Sarkar wrote "What does the State stand for, what is the use of these regulations, and what is the march of civilisation for, if human beings don't get a chance to build a good physical well-being, to invigorate their intelligence with knowledge, and to broaden their hearts with love and compassion? Instead of leading humanity to the goal of life, if the State stands in the way, then it cannot command loyalty, because humanity is superior to the State."

Society Above Nation-State:

Sarkar described the inner spirit of 'society' as to "move together." The society originated as a family in the early phase and was strengthened subsequently under the guidance of group mothers and group fathers. Later, with growing social complexity, group leaders emerged as queens and kings during the age of empires. Finally, the emergence of classical religion strengthened political power, and under the dominance of the priest class, the Church-State arose.

In modern times, under the rise of the capitalist class, the Nation-State has become the norm. In this process, Society itself has lost its identity and importance, and social laws, norms and values possess little meaning. As a result, all social structures have been politicised both in democratic countries and totalitarian countries. Nevertheless, realistic relations between society and the State could create a congenial atmosphere for security and freedom.

Society's Strength to Balance Political Power:

Sarkar's main goal was to revitalise society, and through his writings and action, he demonstrated that he wanted to establish a 'moral society he termed 'Sadvipra Samaj'. He was not so concerned with the political structure because he concluded that it would continue to evolve and change its character in different phases of history. On the other hand, he felt that neither moral standards nor solid social relations could be realised or maintained without a strong society. He also believed that a strong society would balance the power of the political structure. He considered human society to be one and indivisible; hence, he emphasised forming a social structure from the village to the global level.

Flexible Borders and Global Society:

Given the above, the relation between Society and State can be defined as follows:

 -- Society has a broader scope than the State. As an assemblage of human beings, society should be considered one and indivisible without any boundaries of race, religion or nation. On the other hand, the State is political machinery within society to maintain law and order and other co-related functions delegated by society. 

-- The State refers only to the politically organised portion of society. Society takes priority over the State. A sense of collective living creates society, and society, in turn, makes the State. 

-- The State needs an organised government to enforce its will. The society also needs a structure to regenerate moral and social values and maintain social cohesiveness free from the influence of the State machinery. 

 -- Society is universal and without any boundaries. But the State may have specific boundaries flexible enough to be changed when there is a need.

"The creation of social institutions on the world level with organs on the lower levels can eliminate threats from political and economic oligarchies and religious fanatics. Members of the social institutions should be established in the spirit of universalism."

Dogma-Free World:

It is necessary to define the relation between the two structures in the most unambiguous language to set goals and coordinate between them. Ultimately, however, the success of socially benevolent institutions will depend on the evolution of a proper social culture based on the values of spiritual humanism. The materialistic orientation of life and the marketing character of modern industrial religion has created extreme forms of alienation, isolation and identity crisis in the affluent Western world. Third World countries, besides suffering economic crisis, carry the psychological burdens of passive psychology, inferiority complex, religious dogma and other group sentiments. These narrow and stagnant ideas damage social integration.

The creation of social institutions on the world level with organs on the lower levels can eliminate threats from political and economic oligarchies and religious fanatics. Members of the social institutions should be established in the spirit of universalism. Sarkar explained that to be established in cardinal moral principles is essential for the qualitative transformation of the personality as well as society. He frequently used the term 'sadvipra' in this regard. Value-oriented intellectuals and spiritually free persons, who have moral integrity and are not motivated by self-interest, are the best persons to organise themselves to form the new social structure. Their leadership is vital in creating social unity.

Prout's Political Objectives:

Security for all members of society must be ensured, without depending on the bureaucratic structure. Security includes a guarantee of food, clothes, housing, health care, education, and other minimum requirements of life and security also in the psychological sense.

First and Third World Countries:

In Third World countries, the cause of insecurity is in the economy. Wealthy countries face a sense of psychic insecurity due to the influence of a quantitative, materialistic monoculture. Overemphasis on materialistic values has created an identity crisis. Extremely alienated, an individual standing before the high wall of organised power structures feels helpless. To eradicate this sense of insecurity and alienation, the spiritual awakening of the self is essential. First, human beings must restore unity with their fellow beings, other living beings, nature, society etc. Secondly, the bureaucratic power structure should be replaced by humanistic management.

Physical Mental and Spiritual Freedom:

The basic human urge for freedom is the motivating force behind social evolution and progress. One should consider Freedom in the physico-psycho-spiritual sense. Physical freedom means the guarantee of the minimum requirements of life, and it cannot be unlimited. Intellectual freedom implies an arrangement for the development of intellect that can overcome environmental and pseudo-cultural influences. Freedom of thought is more important than freedom of expression. In every society, education, culture, religious institutions, and the mass media manipulate the collective mind. Human values are distorted, and pseudo-values are imposed. 

To ensure real freedom in the intellectual realm, we should reorient the education system to develop intuitional and creative consciousness. 'Freedom from' hunger, poverty, exploitation, oppression, superstition, dogma, etc., is not enough to guarantee freedom. There must be an idea of 'freedom to'. 
The awakening of this consciousness is the goal of freedom, not the expression of unbridled passion and any demand whatsoever of the limited ego. Therefore, society's responsibility is to create opportunities for every member to pursue their spiritual goal without hindrance.

Consumption Vs Happiness:

The idea that maximum consumption will create happiness has been challenged before. Economist E. F. Schumacher states in his book Small is Beautiful: "Economy as the content of life is a deadly illness, because infinite growth does not fit into a finite world. That economy should not be the content of life, has been told to mankind by all its great teachers; that it cannot be, is evident today. If one wants to describe the deadly illness in more detail, one can say that it is similar to addiction, like alcoholism or drug addiction. It does not matter too much whether this addiction appears in more egotistical, or more altruistic form, whether it seeks its satisfaction only in a crude materialistic way or also in an artistically, culturally or scientifically refined way.  Poison is poison, even if wrapped in a silver paper. ... If the spiritual value of inner man is neglected, then selfishness, like capitalism, fits the orientation better than a system of love for one's fellow beings."

“Economic development is something much wider and deeper than economics, let alone econometrics. Its roots lie outside the economic sphere, in education, organisation, discipline and, beyond that, in political independence and a national consciousness of self-reliance.” 

Prout's Economic Development:

Sarkar asserted that economic development is only a means for survival and the fulfilment of physical needs. The economy must maintain balance with nature and other aspects of social and cultural development. The spirit of all-round collective welfare, not limitless profit, should guide future economic development.

Considering the above, Sarkar's guidelines and goals for economic development are as follows:

  •  Should guarantee the minimum requirements of all. 
  •  Economic power should be decentralised and economic democracy should be introduced.
  •  Production should be designed for meaningful consumption, not profit. 
  •  Should narrow the gap between rich and developing nations. 
  •  Production should serve the real needs of people and not the demands of the economic system. 
  •  Should establish harmonious relations of cooperation with nature. 
  •  A psychology of cooperation must replace the psychology of competition. 
  •  Should accept that economic fulfilment cannot satisfy the infinite desire for happiness.
  •  Supramundane and spiritual potentialities utilised, to balance the finite character of the mundane economy.
  • The Psycho-economy, which aims to neutralise dehumanisation by the economic system and effect the progressive expansion of the individual and collective minds, should develop as a branch of the economy.

New York Writers Group's Note:

This is intended to introduce Sarkar's philosophy of spiritual humanism, which he called Neo-Humanism, and the political-economic theory of PROUT, which addresses the practical application of this value system. We encourage the formation of Study Circles to "study" the requirements of a benevolent society. It cannot be created by merely mouthing philosophy. It requires that we first transform ourselves through personal spiritual practices. We can accomplish it by studying and working together for the greater good and putting meaning into our lives.


(Edited Extract from NewYork Writers Group publication)

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