The Relevance of Integral Humanism Today

Many of the problems we face with the decline of Nutrients in our food, is reflected in most areas of our lives. The impulsive consumption that had invaded every aspect of our lives is endangering us as individuals, as a society and also the world we live in.

Our early ancestors strove to balance their lives with Nature. Due to a lack of easy mobility, most societies existed within local environment and consumed what they produced. Goods and produce from great distances were exotic and expensive –pepper from South India and silk from China. Imports and exports formed a tiny part of the economy and were luxuries available only to a select few.

This changed with the Industrial Revolution that started in Britain from the mid 18th Century to the mid 19th century, and spread throughout the world. It triggered a sea change in the social and political map of the world.

The story of the Industrial Revolution was one of unparalleled innovation, expansion, exploitation, and wealth creation. It affected every avenue of life. It changed the way people lived, worked, and ate. Education, easy transport and travel through road, railway and steamships made the world a smaller place, and this allowed the exchange of ideas in a manner that was unprecedented. Import and export became a major part of many economies. Exotic goods became commonplace, and eating habits changed dramatically. We no longer ate what our ancestors did. Many consumed foods that their bodies were new and unsuitable to their geography and climate.

The changes in the economic condition of the working class caused a population explosion. The affluence of these industrialists, and an expanding, educated, and aspirational middle class created a shift of power from feudal lords to these new tycoons. There was also a geographical shift in the population to urban centres to man and operate the factories.

This transformation of the economic landscape caused upheavals in the political and social scenario across the world. The appalling working conditions in the factories when they first started, and the indiscriminate use of child labour, caused the rise of many social reformers who were in a position to influence the political discourse.

There have been differences in society since its inception. Rich and poor. Haves and havenots. Healthy and unhealthy. Inequalities have existed in every aspect of human society. The 20th Century became a laboratory for every political and social reform idea to address the multitude of issues and problems that stemmed from the industrial revolution as well as the problems that existed earlier.

There were experimentations in democracy and autocracy. In war and peace. The communists on the extreme left; the fascists on the extreme right; the socialists and the liberals in the centre. They all vied to present a solution to the problems faced by mankind and to address the many issues that were causing people to protest, sometimes violently.

The universal vote; the women’s rights movements; social equality; social justice. The right to life, the right to health; the right to liberty; the right to equality. The list is endless.

It is telling, that at the end of all this experimentation, at the dawn of the 21st century, in September 2000, all 191 member states of the United Nations signed ‘The United Nations Millennium Declaration’ committing them to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were derived from this Declaration, and all had specific targets and indicators.

The Eight MDGs were:

  • To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
  • to achieve universal primary education;
  • to promote gender equality and empower women;
  • to reduce child mortality;
  • to improve maternal health;
  • to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
  • to ensure environmental sustainability; and
  • to develop a global partnership for development.

These goals were to be achieved by 2015. In 2015, acknowledging the failure of member nations in achieving these goals, the United Nations issued a new set of Sustainable Development Goals that is to be achieved by 2030.

The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world are:


GOAL 1: No Poverty

GOAL 2: Zero Hunger

GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being

GOAL 4: Quality Education

GOAL 5: Gender Equality

GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality

GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

GOAL 13: Climate Action

GOAL 14: Life Below Water

GOAL 15: Life on Land

GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

After 150 years of experimentation in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, if these basic needs remain the focus of the 21st century goals, we must accept that the experiments conducted thus far have failed.

Among the many thinkers, philosophers and social reformists that lived in the 20th Century, the most relevant in the context of the failure of mainstream political and social reforms, is the thoughts of Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya, as expressed in his philosophy of ‘Integral Humanism”. His writings and the core of Integral Humanism captures the essence of the SDGs. Coincidently, the day the SDGs were announced was his 99th birth centenary – 25th September 2015.

Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya was born on September 25, 1916 in the village of Nagla Chandraban in Mathura District of Uttar Pradesh. He joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a volunteer social organisation in 1937. Pandit Deendayalji’s organizing skills were unmatched, and in 1968, this utterly unassuming leader of the party was raised to the high position of President of the Jana Sangh. Apart from his organising skills, Pandit Deendayalji was an astute political thinker. He rejected the prevalent political systems of Capitalism, Communism, and Socialism for a concept that he named, Integral Humanism. Deendayalji outlined this concept in a series of 4 speeches that he delivered in Mumbai from April 22nd to 25th April 1965.

Deendayalji defined his thinking as follows, “There have been a number of schools that have propounded humanism. But their thinking has been rooted in Western philosophies and so it is essentially materialistic. These thinkers have not been able to offer any philosophical explanation for the ethical nature or behaviour of man. If you deny spiritualism, then human relations and behaviour and the relationship between man and the Universe cannot be explained.”

In its essence, “Integral Humanism is the name we have given to the sum total of various features of Bharatiya Sanskriti, abiding, dynamic, synthesising and sublime. This is the ideal that determines our direction. But our idealism does not mean any doctrinal obtuseness. An ideal has to be translated into practice. Our program, therefore, has to be grounded in realism. Indeed realism is the forte of our program, the measure of our achievements and the touchstone of our ideal.”

On February 11, 1968, Deendayal Upadhyaya was murdured, and a great thinker was prematurely lost to the world.

Deendayalji’s Integral Humanism is a re-interpretation of the essence of ancient Indian thought that is encompassed in the concept of Vasudeva Kutumbam – The world is one family. This concept, makes society responsible for the welfare of each other, recognises that each member is an intrinsic part of the whole – and necessary for the survival of all. Deendayalji called this interdependence – complementarity. The farmer needs the tailor to stitch his clothes and the carpenter to make his furniture. To survive he needs them. They in turn need him to provide them food. They all need each other to prosper themselves. This was the basis of the Panchayati Raj, where the village was an independent  self-reliant unit that looked after its own. It necessarily includes the ‘Antem Viakthi’ – The last man.

To create a market for the products produced by the Industrial Revolution, the British destroyed the self-reliant villages of India. It was the aim of both Mahatma Gandhi and Deendayalji to empower our villages to become self-reliant. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “India lives in its villages.”

For the purposes of this discourse on the relevance of Integral Humanism today, I would like to focus on SDGs 1 and 2 – No poverty and Zero hunger as also Goal 12, as the first 2 cannot be achieved without Responsible Consumption and Production.

Deendayalji believed that, and I quote, “We must have such an economic system that helps in the development of our humane qualities or civilisation, and enables us to attain a still higher level of all-round perfection. We should have a system which does not overwhelm our humane quality, which does not make us slaves of its own grinding wheels. According to our concept, man attains God-like perfection as a result of development.” Poverty cannot be eradicated unless there is a humane element in our economic policies. As Nanaji Deshmukh, the founder of Deendayal Research Institute added, “The true indicator of progress is not an increase in the wealth of rich but availability of basic amenities and comforts to the poor.”

While addressing the issue of hunger Deendayal ji said. “Our slogan should be that the one who earns will feed, and every person will have enough to eat. The right to food is a birthright. The ability to earn is a result of education and training. In a society, even those who do not earn must have food. The children and the old, the diseased and the invalids, all must be cared for by society. Every society generally fulfills this responsibility. The social and cultural progress of mankind lies in its readiness to fulfill this responsibility.”

This is the defining statement to eradicate hunger – those who earn, will feed.

Neither the eradication of poverty or hunger is possible without addressing the issues raised by SDG 12 – Sustainable Consumption and Production. Unless production is controlled, there will be exploitation of resources. When there is exploitation of resources – and labour is included in resources – there will be poverty, and with it hunger.

I would like to share Deendayal ji thoughts on this with separate quotes:

  1. “An economic system must achieve the production of all the basic things essential for the maintenance and development of the people, as well as the protection and development of the Nation.”

In other words, it must be self-sufficient.

2. “Having satisfied the basic minimum requirements, the question naturally arises whether there should be more production for greater prosperity and happiness. Western societies consider it most essential, and even desirable, to go on continuously and systematically increasing the desires and needs of man. There is no upper limit in this context. Normally, desire precedes the effort to produce the things desired. But now the position is reverse. People are induced to desire and use the things that have been or are being produced. Instead of producing to meet the demand, the search is on for markets for the goods already produced. If the demand does not exist, systematic efforts are made to create demand.”

This can be seen with the sudden marketing of festivals whether religious or secular. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, to create a market where none existed.

  1. “Now this economic structure is not merely consumption-oriented, but is clearly leading to destruction. Throw away the old one, and buy a new one! Rather than satisfying the need and demand of the people, to create fresh demand has become the aim of modern economics. Supposing that we need not worry about the limited supply of natural resources, there is yet the question of balance in nature.

“It is essential, therefore, to use up that portion of the available natural resources which nature itself will be able to recoup easily. When the fruits are taken, the fruit tree is not injured; it may even be helpful to the tree.

“The industrialist provides for a depreciation fund to replace machines when they are worn out. Then how can we neglect the depreciation fund for nature? From this point of view, it must be realised that the object of our economic system should not be to make extravagant use but a well-regulated use of available resources. The physical objects necessary for a purposeful, happy and progressive life must be obtained.

Engine needs coal for its proper working, but it has not been produced merely to consume coal. On the contrary, it is only proper, always, to see that with the minimum coal consumption, maximum energy is produced. This is the economic viewpoint. Keeping in view the aim of human life, we must endeavour to see how, with the minimum of fuel, man proceeds to his goal with the maximum speed. Such a system alone can be called civilisation. This system will not think of merely a single aspect of human life, but of all its aspects, including the ultimate aim. This system will be constructive rather than destructive. This system will not thrive on the exploitation of nature, but will sustain nature, and will in turn itself be nourished. Milking, rather than exploitation, should be our aim. The system should be such that overflow from nature is used to sustain our lives.”

  1. The use of manpower and the employment question will have to be thought of in the context of the human being as a whole, as an integral being.

The failure of the experiments of the of the 20th Century, and I hope, the brief glimpse I have given you into Integral Humanism, should highlight the need to explore this philosophy for the future development of our country.

Deendayal Research Institute has developed a model for sustainable development of Self Reliance villages in the Chitrakoot area. The model aimed to validate the principles outlined in Integral Humanism. The Chitrakoot Model, which continues to be worked upon, was appreciated by our then President APJ Abdul Kalam, who acted as a brand ambassador for the model.

The ethos of Integral Humanism is captured in this universal prayer that has been the basis of our culture since the beginning of time and whose relevance is timeless:

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah (May all be prosperous and happy)

Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah (May all be free from illness)

Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu (May all see what is spiritually uplifting)

Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet (May no one suffer)

Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih

– Vasant

Those of you who would like to read Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s Integral Humanism can email me and I will send you the e-book.




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