Cultural Empowerment and Dogmatic Traditions

A Perspective 
By Dada Shambhushivananda

Cultural traditions are favorite and trendy. It is considered progressive to legitimize cultural diversities. Rightly so. All humans have their own way to dress, eat, laugh, sing, celebrate etc. Each human being needs the psychic space (freedom!) to express their emotions, feelings and sentiments.

However, traditions generally begin to take over and run our collective lives. Mass media today is also contributing to spreading established traditions. Most of the traditions find their origin in religious beliefs. Some are the product of geography, history or special events of history. If we deviate from traditions, there could be an inter-generational rivalry or we could contribute to furthering distances among people. Respecting others traditions is a very convenient way to begin dialogues and build bridges with />
However, not all traditions are always healthy. Some are just meaningless routines and some, even dogmatic and environmentally unhealthy too. Some cause pain to innocent creatures and some cause divisions in human society unnecessarily. Every part of the world has their share of useless traditions and few of us ever challenge them based on logic and rationality. Dogma creates rigidities in life. No tradition remains the same for ever. However, the key challenge for us today is to bring traditions in harmony with cardinal values and universally accepted spiritual desideratum. Maintaining a balance between tradition and modernity is a difficult and sometimes tortuous exercise for all cultures.

The shift in traditions, however, should come not by force or by a decision of others. It should come with greater self-understanding and free choice guided by enlightenment and wisdom. Let there be a constant review of what we believe to be relevant, important and worthy of being adhered to. In the end, what brings us closer to our spiritual desideratum is the touchstone of real worth of our beliefs and traditions. It is however, not easy to discern or judge the intrinsic value of a tradition and that is why some cultural diversity needs to be preserved irrespective of their natural worth. Traditions may or may not have any relevance for an individual but for the society as a whole, a record of traditions is a useful database in order to trace the evolution of human thought. Their tourist attraction is an added benefit for every society. For these and historical reasons, it is important to document the folklores and folk life of small communities spread all across the globe. Knowledge of the tapestry of subcultures could be an aid in devising meaningful development strategies for neglected communities. Globalization and pseudo-culture is threatening the extinction of languages, customs, life styles, dietary habits, and relational dynamics. We are witnessing a destruction of a host of precious cultural artifacts. Any endeavor to preserve them would be a great service to humanity, a meaningful way to recognize our link with the past and to pay respects to the legacy of our ancestors. If our traditions happen to be close to the Truth, it would be worthwhile to revive them or at least preserve them. In some cases, they may be our savior and a guide to a better future for lost humanity.

…Sentimental legacy includes factors such as language, historical traditions, literature, common usages and cultural expressions. It is the common chord in the collective psychology of a particular group of people which gives them their unique identity and sense of affinity. Human beings are predominantly sentimental by nature. They establish some kind of relationship with the many objects of the world through their day-to-day activities. If the sentiment for a particular favourite object is adjusted with the collective sentiment then that sentiment can be utilized for establishing unity in human society. The human sentiment for many objects may sometimes run counter to the collective sentiment and create great disunity, so those sentiments which are conducive to human unity should be encouraged, and the sentiments which divide human society should be rejected. …
Shrii P.R. Sarkar
A Few Problems Solved Part 9