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European Humanism in Indian Culture
Rev. Fr. Jerome D’Souza
(Published in 1987 Annual Number)
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. What do we mean by humanism when we employ the word in relation to culture? Culture itself has been defined as the intellectual and artistic expression of a civilization. Civilization is the attempt by a people or a group of peoples to outgrow primitive instincts and reach out to some higher kind of life, more refined on the material plane, and more lofty in its spiritual aspirations.
Now it is clear that any attempt to live a higher life such as indicated in this definition of civilization must include a philosophy of life, a well-defined attitude to the world, to the nature of the Universe, and to man’s relations with the Universe.
In other words, civilization involves a particular concept of view of human destiny.
This philosophy will necessarily be reflected in the culture, namely, the intellectual and artistic expression, of that civilization. Now the prevailing attitude of the Indian mind in regard to the Universe has been its “other worldliness”. The Indian imagination has been impressed most powerfully by the transience and impermanence of the phenomenal world and Indian intelligence has been dominated by the conviction that real existence must be absolute and self-subsistent and that contingent existence is illusory in the profoundest sense of the term. There was, therefore, a certain indifference to the world as an objective, autonomous entity worth studying for its own sake and capable of giving us a scientific knowledge as objective and truthful as metaphysical knowledge.
On the other hand, an attitude towards the universe which gladly recognises not only its objectivity but also its essential goodness and worth may be described as a humanistic attitude.
This is particularly true with reference to man. Humanism emphasises the worth and beauty of his personality, his fundamental liberty and therefore his inalienable rights and obligations whatever be the nature of the Absolute which has brought him into being.


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