Dharma and Identity Intellectual Kshatriya

Dharma and Identity

Dharma and Identity are related.

Where individualism is important, Identity too becomes important. This is the Western view. This has come to be a political, and often a conflict-ridden view, of self versus authority, self versus society, self versus social norms etc. The idea of trade-off is conspicuous here. Its a zero-sum game. Propagandist politics too has essentially followed the divisive angle.

In the Indian view, identity is about self-expression to reach the highest a person is capable of. This highest is about reaching more and more towards a state of union with everything around us; society/ universe/ God. This union cannot be at the cost of materiality. Materiality and Spirituality not only co-exist much support each other in an evolutionary sense.

Where there is trade-off in the Western view, in the Indic view there is transcendence.

Broadly, in the Western view there are two forms of identities: External and Internal. If the external is emphasized, what one has (as opposed to what one is) becomes important. If the internal is emphasized, being true to own conscience would be the key point. Here what is emphasized is “who one is”. Psychologists talk of external locus of control and internal locus of control. These respectively are related to external and internal expressions of identities respectively. In real life there would be combinations of external and internal identities. Here depending upon the role assigned to the person (as a member of the family, organization or nation etc.) he or she has to balance the roles. What is evident is that for a certain gain, there would evidently be a corresponding loss.

In the Indian sense, personal identity or self-expression is considered, ideally, in terms of the positive impact on self, family and the wider aggregations like sangha, society etc. While there is certainly an element of personal choice in deciding on matters of what one’s duty towards these aggregations are, there is also the element of one’s covenant with one’s higher Self/ God. It is not a trade-off here. It is transcendence. This higher-order mix of “duty” towards these aggregations and “duty” towards own Self/ God is dharma. The process is co-driven by materiality and spirituality. Depending upon the level of spiritual evolution, the person can reach out to higher with higher levels of idealism.

We can see that when dharma is practiced, identity and duty are intermingled in a nuanced and complex manner. Dharma transcends identities or duties as defined in the Western sense. If the above distinction between the West and the Indic hold, dharma practiced in terms of manasa-vaacha-karmana becomes one’s identity itself.

K Sankaran
K Sankaran

Professor Sankaran, currently Director of Justice KS Hegde Institute of Management, Nitte, is a B. Tech Honours (IIT, Kharagpur), PGDM (IIM Bangalore) and PhD (Kent State University, USA). He has several years of academic experience in the India, US, UK, Middle East and East Asia.
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3 thoughts on “<strong>Dharma and Identity</strong>”

  1. Beautiful thought.. Ultimately it boils down to inclusiveness and merging of everything into a Divine Wholesome existence ..

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