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She truly became my lifestyle coach. She taught me healthy habits to approach the stress, anxiety and negativity associated with my job. Next, we consider the response of this plural mind to modern science and its actual working in practice. It is, of course, a matter of the mind as to how thought processes, and cognitive and creative intuitions, are formed and shaped.
Finally, we would also like to indicate the positive role plurality can play for peace and harmony in the world, and would therefore strongly advocate for a paradigm shift, from modernity to enlightened plurality. It is important that modernity and its grand narrative of freedom, liberty, equality and fraternity should conform to the plural framework. The necessary condition for plurality is the existence of a multitude of communities that differ in their beliefs, language and cultural and social norms, as well as in their geographical locations, covering hills, mountains and river valleys on the one hand, and sandy deserts to seas on the other.
The comprehension and conceptualisation of this rich diversity and heterogeneity in an engaging manner is what constitutes the plural mind as I conceive and mean here. That is, it is not simply a juxtaposition of heterogeneity but an interactive coexistence with mutual respect, and a celebration of difference and dissent.
Ideally, all the different autonomous units should be woven together to form a cultural and social fabric. It is this engaging and interactive interlocking that characterises and defines plurality.
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India is, of course, abundantly diverse in all senses. It has several faiths and religions, many languages and racial groups, different geographical and climatic regions, etc. It, therefore, satisfies the necessary condition of multifarious heterogeneity for plurality. This heterogeneity has arisen on several counts. One, it has a vast land expanse of continental proportions, which makes it impossible to be singular and uniform. Two, as a society, it is very ancient and that equips it with an adaptability that can accommodate and absorb the difference and heterogeneity in its fold.
In the process, it enlarges its cultural and social canvas. Three, it had very strong interaction with the rest of the world through flourishing trade and business on the one hand, and invasions and campaigns on the other. The former facilitated absorption of heterogeneity through a process of osmosis and tolerance dictated by economic interests, while in the case of the latter it was rather forced. Either way, there was propagation of heterogeneity and adaptation of difference. Over a long period of time, it all gets assimilated and becomes a part of the mainstream norm and behaviour.
Despite the differences, there assimilated a common and equally shared world view over centuries that presents itself as one cultural and social identity, at the same time plural in character. Plurality is by no means superficial, euphoric or surrealistic; it is sublime, yet solid and concrete. It is one wholesome cultural and social entity with definitive content.
This is the identity of inclusivity and plurality, and that is what forms the kernel of India as a cultural, social and intellectual being. India is, therefore, quintessence plural and inclusive. Since at its very conception it has to accommodate various different conceptions and formulations of belief, language and behaviour, it has to have sufficient flexibility and elasticity in its thought structure for accepting and appreciating this profound heterogeneity.
There is no one single perception of god and no prescribed unique way to reach god. Above all, there is also room for the non-believer, which is a great strength as it co-opts its own opposite. It is, therefore, almost impossible to defy it. If one is born a Hindu, one is condemned to die as one because there is no well-defined code the defiance of which could lead to exclusion. It is loosely accommodative of almost anything.
By a plural mind, I shall mean one that has a thought conception that is not rigid and definitive, but a continuum — fluid and flexible — and its natural state is necessarily greyish, neither black nor white. This is what brings out more in it the affinity to accepting new ideas, and different thought formulations and perspectives. Plurality is anchored on the profound philosophical belief that there cannot be a definitive statement of truth in absolute terms: this alone is right and the rest is wrong. For one to be right, it is not necessary for all else to be wrong. The truth canvas is wide and deep enough to happily accommodate various conceptions simultaneously.
And they need all be neither in conflict nor in resonance. Plurality, therefore, defies uniqueness and exclusivity of truth realisation. This is the fundamental principle — that there could be more than one equally true and valid realisations of what is true and right. Thus, plurality recognises equality of all different realisations on the same footing. This is what is required even for an honest conception of Hinduism, not to mention of all other religions and all other diversities of language and culture that exist in India.
The plural mind is by instinct and intent a liberal mind that is open to new thought and diverse conceptions. It would, therefore, resonate with thoughts and beliefs that have equal respect for other formulations and conceptions. It is inherently of secular disposition. On the other hand, it would naturally resist definitive conceptions. Ashoka, the emperor, was perhaps the first to recognise the strength and power of plurality in extending his empire from the north-west frontier, to Karnataka deep down in the south, and Odisha in the east.
In his governance and conception, he knit India into a whole with different ethnicities, religions, languages, and diverse cultural and social norms of behaviour and functions. In modern times, Nehru, who was strongly influenced by Ashoka, appreciated and grasped the spirit of the plural mind of India. To him, the Indian mind was by nature liberal and secular in an enlightened sense, that it had respect for diversity and heterogeneity.
He tried to imbibe its spirit in framing the Constitution of free India by bringing in a secular spirit and ethos to the centre-stage. It is not to say that it is all very rosy and sweet between different communities and religious groups. There are certainly tensions on account of the economic, political, social, educational and developmental aspirations of different communities.
As we see them presently in good measure and quite open, yet there can be no alternative prescription but a plural and inclusive one. Indians have to brave these tensions with patience and some degree of sagacity that we have inherited over 5, years. And we have done so all along. What plurality ensures is perhaps the non-occurrence of a singular phenomenon of absoluteness, like Hitler, grotesque and the most evil realisation of inhumanity. This does not mean that there had never been aberrations in India, but certainly not on the Hitlerian scale and proportion. Of course, in recent history, we did experience the Emergency, when all freedom and civil rights of citizens were suspended and all dissent was thwarted under the onerous rule.
But, it lasted only two and a half years. Aberrations could and do occur, but they are quite confined in scale as well as in space and time. How could Hitler happen in Europe?
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Was it perhaps because the European mind was not plural enough? It has a definitive character with a very clear-cut conception of right and wrong in the binary mode. The religion has one god, one messenger and one book spelling out a very rigid code of belief and conduct. There is also the strong desire and religious fervour to spread it far and wide all over the globe. So is also the case with Islam and Judaism. It is understandably so because all these religions are relatively very young and, therefore, are very rigid and firm in their norms and mindset.
They are not yet old enough to accommodate diversity of thought and conception.
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It is the age that makes a religion more tolerant and accommodative of other religions and beliefs. On the other hand, Hinduism is old enough to be inherently diverse and plural. The Indian mind is plural but at the same time it is very individualistic.