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Home >> Seeker’s Solace  >> What is culture?
 

What is culture?

Culture is a term of agriculture. To ‘culture’ is to ‘cultivate’—the ground, the kshetra, as the Gita calls it. The soul’s kshetra must be cultivated. How? By disciplining desires and emotions. I link the word ‘Krishna’ with ‘krish’ (to plough), krishi (cultivation). Krishna is to me an incarnation of the soul of culture; and the Gita is one of the world’s greatest text-books of culture. In the second adhyaya of the Gita a pen-picture is given us of the model man of culture. He is the sthita pragna, the man of balance, ‘stable of mind’, ‘steadfast’, loosed from passion, fear and anger’, yet full of love in his heart—the man of self-mastery and sweetness, of light and love. The word “Buddha”, too, I interpret to mean the “man of culture.” And Buddha expresses the philosophy of culture in the following significant words:

“I plough and sow; and from my ploughing and sowing I rear immortal fruit. My field is religion. The weeds I pluck up are passions. My plough is wisdom. My seed is purity.”

Culture represents not what a man has—knowledge or skill or the outer “goods” of life—but what a man is—his mastery over himself, his contribution to the deeper values of life, to conscience, to liberty, to the spiritual heritage of man.


That there is a ‘seed’ of the spirit in every man is a thought emphasised at once by the stoics of Rome and the sages of India. Culture, then, is a thing of the spirit.

May I not say, also, that culture-consciousness is a movement towards the light? I recall the prayer of the Rishi: “Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya”; “From darkness lead me to the light!” with the rishis this aspiration was an energy of daily life. What a difference between Bacon and Yagnavalkya! The one was a scholar, the other a seer. The one had scholarship, the other creative understanding. Bacon’s mind was rich: but his life was poor. The rishis’ mind reflected the light of a rich luminous life. The rishis were flowers of evolution. I them man showed the beauty of a better than he, the glory of a greater than he, the glory of the true “Superman”. The rishis were the saints of culture.

Culture represents not what a man has—knowledge or skill or the outer “goods” of life—but what a man is—his mastery over himself, his contribution to the deeper values of life, to conscience, to liberty, to the spiritual heritage of man.

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