-Mr. M.S. Srinivasan, Senior Research Associate, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, India.
The need of the hour for India today is not a nostalgic dreaming of our past greatness but to think, dream and work for building a new and greater India of the future. But the future cannot be created in a vacuum; it has to be built out of the essence of the past. The power to shape the future has to be drawn from the roots of our national vitality and the spiritual and psychological resources of our nation.
In the ultimate analysis, the long-term viability and progress or the “sustainable development” of a nation depend not so much on its material, ecological or technological resources but primarily on its spiritual and psychological resources. And the greatest of the spiritual and psychological resources of a nation are its people. In the Indian view Man is primarily a spiritual and mental being, or in other words a soul and a mind, and only instrumentally a vital and physical being or a life and a body. In a similar way the essential and enduring part of a collective being like a nation is not its economics, politics or ecology which form its outer body but its Culture, which is the expression of its Mind and Soul. So the other important source of the spiritual and psychological resources of a nation is its cultural heritage.
But what exactly are the essential cultural resources of a nation? They are, basically, the unique temperament and genius of its mind and soul. They are not the outer forms of music, art, literature or architecture and so on, but the inner spirit, vision, insight and the spiritual, mental and moral attitude, ideal, temperament and the distinctive genius behind these forms that are the enduring and essential cultural resources of a nation. It is this inner spirit behind the outer forms of culture which every nation has to preserve from its past heritage and make it a foundation for its future evolution and progress. This does not mean that the exterior forms of culture have no value or significance. But a mere token preservation of the outer forms, without making any attempt to cultivate in the consciousness of the people a living understanding of the inner spirit of culture, does not have any creative value for the higher cultural life of the nation-—whatever may be its economic utility as “tourist attraction” or its entertainment value in catering to the superficial tastes of the masses. Even in tourism, if it has to become an instrument of culture and not, as it is now, a tool of commerce to fill the nation’s coffers with foreign exchange. The primary aim of cultural tourism has to be to awaken the tourist to the inner spirit of a culture and make the person aware of the fact that the exterior form has value only as an expression of this deeper spirit.
So just as the outer material and economic progress and well-being of a nation depend on a scientific preservation and harnessing of the material and biological resources of its ecological heritage, the internal evolution and progress of a nation depend on the enlightened preservation and harnessing of the spiritual and psychological resources of its human and cultural heritage.