The ides of march have heightened the performative anxiety in ‘culture wars’. A relentless demand for agit prop, an incessant need to signal virtues that are accepted as ‘progressive’ and an increasing dissonance in our collective self between the political and cultural, mark our times.
The confluence of crises we face today cannot be resolved without culture guiding the issues at the intersection of economy, ecology, technology and psychology.
At the Indic Academy-Rashtram Centre for Cultural Leadership (CCL), we are seized of both the magnitude and the urgency of this challenge. Our mission is to produce authentic leadership that can take this existential issue head-on to sustain humanity and the planet.
Guided by the 6-dimensional framework that holistically links individual transformation with the protection, preservation and an assertive promotion of our essential relevance as a living tradition to the global collective, we are launching our efforts to stir the creative potential of our leaders. Leaders who can synthesize, sense-make, collaborate and transform.
This vision also requires us to work in creating the background context for the cultural leaders to perform. This is the world of ideas, contestations and mechanisms that generate aspirations.
The Centre envisages to make a telling contribution to both the shaping of the macro context and in embodying the vision and competencies in leaders.
A few key updates on how we are thinking about it follow.
Thinking about ‘Culture’ – The Nature-Culture Continuum
What is culture in our context? The word for culture is ‘samskriti’ while the word for Nature is ‘prakruti’. Samskriti is the refinement and elevation of Prakruti. Culture is an elevation of Nature. In the Prophetic Monotheistic paradigm, Nature is pitted against Culture in an eternal struggle. In Bharatvarsha, Culture goes in harmony with Nature and even improves on it, not by destroying it, but by observing its physical rules while spiritually transcending it. Dharma, the carrier of Samskriti, oversees the balance of Culture and Nature and keeps them in harmony and not conflict.
It is not in the priority of our modern ‘Nation-State’ to give the instruction of dharma to our youth. This void needs to be filled through innovation and enterprise by the dharmic
We have resolved to focus on 3 pillars – Leadership Development, Discourse Building and Empirical Research (project specific)
- Leadership Development : The first concern of the Centre is the intellectual and academic challenge to identify a set of core competencies that make-up authentic ‘Cultural Leaders’. This exploration will inform the curriculum design and learning interventions to develop such competencies. An effort like this must draw from a multi-disciplinary global fount, while being rooted in the classical and cultural context of our land.
- Discourse Building : A major thrust of CCL is to drive the narrative around defining culture according to Indic Knowledge Tradition and Dharmic values and foreground it as an imperative for the survival of the global civilization. Our goal is to further the debate on what is culture and how it is defined by various peoples and civilizations. The Indic idea of culture is very different from how culture is currently seen in the West today. The series of conversations which we envisage as a dialogue on ‘Dharmic Futures’, as an alternative to the prevailing dominant paradigm of Enlightenment metaphysics and ‘sino-futures’ as the main contender – We will interrogate the rival value systems of ethics all over the world and how Dharmic futures is the superior alternative to address the global grand challenges. As the first step, we’ve authored an introductory paper on the two meta-paradigms that currently operate in the world today. One is the paradigm of Nature-Culture Continuum. Dharmic societies like India have followed this paradigm until it was interrupted by monotheistic ideas and institutions. Another paradigm is the paradigm of Nature-Culture Conflict which is the primary paradigm from which the Secular West, informed by Prophetic Monotheism, still operates. This paper attempts to differentiate between the two and try to propose alternatives to what is understood as ‘universal’ in modern context.
- Empirical Research (Specific projects) : Our 3rd area of focus is to engage in empirical research through specific projects, using contemporary methodologies to build a knowledge corpus that can help thwart attempts to impose ‘guilt and shame’ on the Hindu mind. Our first exploration in this is to examine the question of ‘Hindu Charity’
A dominant missionary narrative claims that Hindus don’t do charity and that is why many Hindu individuals and communities abandon Hinduism. Hindus instinctively know that this is not the truth. But where is the data to prove it? In Hindu society we believe that to give something in ‘daana’ and then to talk about it is ‘mahapaap’, a great sin. But we see today that this virtue of our civilization is used against us. Our reluctance to talk about the charity done by our society is taken as a proof of its non-existence and is propagated as such. In these times of emergency, ‘aapadkaal’ we need to start talking about the Hindu charity and the great contribution that it makes to society in general.
At CCL we propose to do a longitudinal survey of the temples of the city of Sonepat, in order to calculate how much charity our temples, our communities and our cities do in a year. Calculate this will hopefully demonstrate how the cultural ethic of ‘daana’ is an inherent part of Hindu society and how temples act as the nodal centres for all of our spiritual, cultural, social and economic aspirations.
The Centre for Cultural Leadership exists to produce Dharmic cultural discourse for the global audience and the leadership required to embody it with authenticity, flair and impact.
We are organizing ourselves to produce the following outcomes over the next year.
- Curriculum and learning design for Cultural Leadership
- Short term interventions to generate ‘cultural fluency’ for aspiring entrepreneurs
- A series of stories that humanize the worldview of the global indigenous traditions
- Discourse building to launch the idea of ‘Dharmic Futures’ as an alternative to the global narratives that currently oscillate between enlightenment metaphysics and sino-centricism
- Empirical research to address some key questions that a Dharmic society must take head-on.