This monograph considers a holistic conception of collective human development in the light of the system of ancient Indian philosophical wisdom known as Vedanta, along the lines suggested by Swami Vivekananda. After examining various proposed and current ideas on human development, it sets up the central truth of Vedanta as a postulate and formulates the idea of human development in terms of the postulate. It then utilizes the formulation to derive by standard statistical techniques new indices of human development for different countries on the basis of available secondary data. The presentation in the main body of the monograph is directed towards general readers. The more technical details are given separately in appendices.
Shoutir Kishore Chatterjee, former Professor of Statistics at Calcutta University, has been a National Lecturer of University Grants Commission, President of Statistics Section of Indian Science Congress, Emeritus Scientist of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Eminent Teacher awardee of Calcutta University, and President of Calcutta Statistical Association. He is the author of the book Statistical Thought: A Perspective and History, published by Oxford University Press, UK. He has been for a long time an avid student of Ramakrishna - Vivekananda -Vedanta literature.
Globalization and the staggering advances in Science and technology have thrown up unprecedented challenges in recent times. One such is the stupendous challenge to the ancient question of ethics and values vis-a-vis human development. Dharma, the Sanskrit word for ethics and values, literally means 'holding together'. W.B. Yeats' poignant verse The Second Coming (1920) laments that
If 'holding together' is Dharma, then non-holding by the 'centre' should be non-Dharma (adharma in Sanskrit), leading to what Yeats laments about anarchy being released and the ceremony of innocence being drowned. With the decline of Dharma, the dark clouds of disintegration (' things fall apart') and anarchy looming large on the horizon of modern development are agitating the collective human conscience. The very question of what really constitutes human development has resurfaced in this rudely shaken and profoundly agitated collective. conscience, clamouring for an urgent revisit and revaluation. In this difficult exercise, there is a deep feeling that the ancient Indian wisdom, particularly the Vedanta, as reinterpreted, rejuvenated and rendered practical in everyday life by Swami Vivekananda, one of the greatest proponents of Vedanta in the modern time, has a significant contribution to make.
Vedanta with its antiquity of origin is nonetheless fresh and new in its approach to the solution of the problems of the modern world. It is scientific and free from the shackles of theology and dogma, being based on one's own true nature as the ever-pure, ever- awakened, ever-free (nitya-shuddha, nitya-buddha, nitya-mukta) Self (Arman). Vedanta boldly proclaims that the direct and immediate (sakshat, aparokshat) realization of the Atman, the Pure Inner Essence in all, is the birth-right of every human being irrespective of religion, nationality, creed or dogma. Now that the scientifically and technologically highly I developed' globalized world is crying nevertheless in deep anguish and agony for peace and harmony, it is time that the human heart, hopelessly panic-stricken, strife-torn, conflict-ridden and dissension-prone, listened to the Music of the Spheres that is perpetually arising from the depths of the Cosmos singing in lofty Vedantic strains the joy and glory of realizing our true nature as the Infinite Cosmic Consciousness. Albert Einstein's inspiring words that appear to be an epitome of the Vedantic wisdom are worth recalling (Ideas and Opinions, p.11):
"The most profound and the most sublime experience that one can have is the sensation of the mystical. It is truly the sower of all science. A person who is stranger to this emotion, who can no longer marvel and wonder in rapt awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is Impenetrable really exists, manifesting Itself as the highest Wisdom and the most radiant Beauty, that our dull faculties can comprehend only in the most primitive forms - it is this knowledge, this realization that constitutes true spirituality. This cosmic mystical consciousness is the noblest mainspring of all scientific research."
It is against this background and in this context that the present book by Professor Shoutir Kishore Chatterjee, formerly Professor of Statistics, Calcutta University, assumes enormous significance. Professor Chatterjee writes that he has been "keenly conscious of the ad hoc nature of the current approaches to the quantification of human development" and that as a serious student of Swami Vivekananda for several years, he was struck by the richness of the valuable thoughts of Swamiji on human development. Through several years of deep thought and reverential contemplation on Swamiji's powerful ideas, coupled with the precision of mathematical analysis, Professor Chatterjee has found it possible to organize Swamiji's ideas "to develop a holistic approach based on Vedanta to the problem of understanding and quantifying human development." Positioning the contemporary and hotly debated concept of human development in the context of the ancient Vedantic wisdom evolved over thousands of years by the Indian sages and seers, philosophers and thinkers, scanning it in the light of the penetrating thoughts of Swami Vivekananda, and finally couching the product of such a profound intellectual exercise in a language that is easy, straightforward and yet analytical, is a task only those would understand who have attempted anything remotely similar. Professor Chatterjee's brilliant and painstaking attempt embodied in the present book is sure to open the doors for several such serious attempts from several other angles of vision. May this book trigger off a flurry of such activity and may the global intellectual horizon be filled with serious thoughts of true human development, at the collective and individual levels, is our earnest prayer.
While giving a course on 'Statistics for Development' at Calcutta University in the 1990's I had been keenly conscious of the ad hoc nature of the current approaches to quantification of human development. As a student of the writings of Swami Vivekananda for many years, I had been aware of the many hints on human development scattered throughout his complete works and had wondered whether these could be organized to develop a holistic approach based on Vedanta to the problem of understanding and quantifying human development. This book is the outcome of efforts made in that direction extended over the last several years. Naturally, the solution of the quantification problem necessitated the import of certain assumptions and I must confess that I was not sure about the outcome until almost the last output from the computer came out. How far the approach developed is acceptable is for others to judge. But I hope that I have at least been able to expand the scope of the problem to a certain extent.
The book is primarily directed towards social scientists and philosophers interested in human development. Although a little acquaintance with elementary statistical techniques will be of help to the reader of the last two chapters, I have tried to keep technicalities to the minimum in the main body of the text. The more advanced technical matters have been given in the form of appendices at the end of Chapter 5.
A large number of persons have helped me in writing this book. Particular mention must be made of the help received from a number of monks of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Among them Swami Prabhananda, present General Secretary and Swami Bhajanananda, an Assistant Secretary of the Math and Mission and Swami Sarvapriyananda went through the earlier chapters of the book and helped to clarify my conception of Vedanta and Swami Vivekananda's ideas through discussions and critical comments and also directed me to various references. Swami Bhajanananda, especially made some of his own articles and unpublished write-ups available to me. Besides the above, Swami Shivamayananda, Swami Atmapriyananda, Vice Chancellor, Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University, and Swami Suparnananda and Swami Tyagarupananda, Principals respectively of Ramakrishna Mission Residential College, Narendrapur and Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira, Belur, helped by showing interest in the work and giving comments and general encouragement. Special thanks are due to Swami Atmapriyananda for arranging the publication of the book under the aegis of Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University.
My dose friend Professor Mainak Mazumdar, formerly of University of Pittsburgh, USA and my youngest brother Dr. Kaulir K. Chatterjee, formerly Chief Mineral Economist, Government of India went through and provided detailed comments on Chapters 2-4 and Professor Sugata Sen Roy did the same on Chapter 2. Their critical appraisals and queries helped to clarify the presentation at various points, even when I was unable to accept all their suggestions. Professor Mazumdar's critical examination of the material of Chapters 5-6 also led to the rectification of certain errors and oversights.
Especial thanks are due to Professor Asis Chatterjee of Calcutta University, who patiently worked out the large volume of Principal Component and Regression Analysis on the MINITAB programme. Since the final choices of variables for these analyses were arrived at after considerable trial, the actual volume of computation was several times that finally reported. I do not know whether I would have been able to finish the book in time without Asis' invaluable help.
Thanks are due to Brahmachari Suman Maharaj who painstakingly prepared the press copy of the book.
Indirect help in various forms was received from a number of other persons.
Contribution at the home front of my wife Manju Chatterjee should better remain unspoken of.
The technical portions in Chapters 5-6 are consolidated in the form of an invited paper (Chatterjee (2008)) which appears in the statistical journal Sankhya vol. 70, Series B, Part 2, 2008. I am indebted to Professor P. K. Sen, the Chief Editor of the journal, for the interest he has taken and the co- operation he has extended in course of this work.
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