2. The New Renaissance Movement
2.1. What do We Mean by Renaissance:
“An all round progress of the Indian people, such as will bring them abreast with other peoples of the modern civilized world, requires a social revolution, and the social revolution, in its turn, requires a philosophical revolution; in other words, a change in the traditional mentality of India. That change is known in history as a Renaissance. The object of the Renaissance Movement in India is to bring about that change and to carry that message of the revolt of man far and wide, so that a sufficiently large number of men and women see that established notions, old beliefs, traditional authorities, venerable dogmas, are setting limits to the possibility of development of the Indian people. It is no longer a question of changing one political government for another: the mentality of the Indian people must change before it can go forward in its march towards real freedom and progress and thus come abreast with the rest of modern mankind” M.N. Roy. Though primarily addressing his comrades in the Indian sub-continent, its importance in the post communist century cannot be ignored, the least by the under developed and developing countries. Roy’s insistence on the need, philosophy and methods of creating a Renaissance Movement needs careful study and detailed discussion. No serious minded humanist can ignore his lectures collected under the title ‘Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage’.
2.2. The Necessary Steps for Social Change:
“One need not be frightened by the term revolution. It does not mean anything more drastic than a radical readjustment of social relations which have become antiquated: in other words, a thorough overhaul of the established social order. A social organization, with its economic relations and political institutions, is not static. It continually grows and evolves. In course of time, the limits under which a system has progressed and developed become too restricted for further growth. Within those limits, the unbounded potentialities of human creativeness can no longer be unfolded. Therefore, it becomes necessary to reorganize the established social order with the purpose of widening the horizons of freedom, giving greater latitude to the creativeness of man.
“From these few words of explanation, it is quite clear that, when we say India must experience a social revolution, we are simply saying that certain things must be done if the Indian people are to come out of the long period of intellectual stagnation, social and economic backwardness and cultural comma. But we shall not be able to tackle this problem of social reconstruction with the proper spirit and the confidence of attaining success, unless we can learn from history a lesson which is often forgotten, or simply ignored by the more impetuous romantic prophets of revolution. History teaches us that no great change in political institutions, in legal systems and economic organizations is possible before the community requiring such a social revolution undergoes what can be called a philosophical revolution. An impending revolution is heralded by the more forward-looking spirits, who realize the necessity of a change and also have the courage to challenge the moral sanction of the established social order. In other words, a change in the mental outlook of a sufficiently large number of members of a community is the precondition for a successful and constructive change in the material conditions of life.”
(Pages 9 to 10, M.N.Roy : ‘Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage’, Renaissance Publishers Private Limited, 15, Bankim Chatterjee Street, 2nd Floor, Coffee House, Calcutta 700 073.)
2.3. Renaissance, Not Revivalism:
“The term Renaissance is foreign: it is not even English; originally French, it was taken over in English literature. Being so very foreign, the term naturally lends itself to misunderstanding and wrong interpretations. Etymologically, it means rebirth. That seems to fit in with our own hoary ideas. Indians also believe in rebirth: Man dies, and is reborn, again and again. But India has not died; so how can she be reborn? The misunderstanding may not go to such a ridiculous extent. It does, however, confuse Renaissance with revivalism. The Renaissance movement must guard itself against this confusion. Renaissance is not revival, for the simple reason that the past can never be revived. The past is dead, and the dead must be buried………………………………
“There are instances of intellectual and aesthetic values created in the past being forgotten. Attempts should be made to revive them. If we want to cherish the memory of our past, if we want to draw inspiration from our past so that we can travel on the right road in to the unknown future, we shall have to distinguish between what is dead and what is immortal in the past. Renaissance may be equated with revivalism to the extent that it distinguishes the immortal human values created in the past from the concrete material past which is dead, and endeavours to rescue those values, if forgotten, out of the ruins of the past which is dead. Because certain things in the past have been forgotten, we shall have to revive them, if we discover them to be still valid. But the sense in which revivalism is preached generally in our country is not only not Renaissance, but counter-formation. There are people in our country who talk about Renaissance, and yet propose revival of Ramraj, return to the Vedic culture and idealise the Vikram era, so on and so forth. Assuming that there ever was a golden Age in India and that in that legendary past India had attained a level of culture and civilization, not yet reached by other nations of the world, it is simply not possible to go back to that age. But if there was really a Golden Age, and at that time Indian genius created values such as do not die with the bodies of their creators, then they have been simply forgotten. Traces of them may be still lying buried under the debris of traditional junk heaped up through the ages. Having discovered those traces of old glory, we may be able to reconstruct in imagination. In case of intellectual values, such as philosophical systems or scientific thought, the process of reconstruction will be logical. But to rescue the forgotten or neglected heritage, we must dig deep in to the debris of the dead past, clear away the thick cob-webs of legends, myths and mythology, which are cherished as India’s cultural tradition.
“That exactly happened in Europe during the period which is known as the Renaissance.” (Pp. 11 to 13, ‘Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage’ ibid)
2.4. Let Us Educate the Educators:
“But the philosophical revolution which will prepare the ground for the social revolution cannot be brought about by people engrossed in the present politics. It is the task of men who refuse to participate in the vulgar scramble for power, and would try to raise political practice on a moral level. Their efforts will create the renaissance movement, a humanist movement, which will think in terms of the rise, progress and welfare of man. The main function of the movement will be to awaken in man, in as many men as possible, the urge for freedom. That is a work of education of enlightenment. At present, we are still in the stage of educating the educators. To create a sufficiently large number of them, we shall have the help of modern science. Our old culture and scriptures won’t help us in that task. It is only in the light of modern science that we can show that man has unlimited potentialities of development. It is in that light that God is revealed as a creation of man. It is in the power of the creator to destroy his creation or recreate it. Only this belief, this confidence, can awaken in man the urge for freedom and the zeal to work for his freedom. And this confidence is created by modern scientific knowledge.” (Pp 20 to21, ibid.)
2.5. The Humanist Mission
“Humanism is an old philosophy. Humanists have always approached all problems of life from the assumption of the sovereignty of man. But man remained unexplained, veiled in mystery. Now we know approximately what makes man a man, what is the source of his sovereignty, his creativeness. It is his capacity of knowing, as distinct from the common biological property of being aware; and knowledge endows him with power - not to rule over others, but to create for the benefit of the race, and pursue the ideal of freedom further and further. As the content of knowledge is truth, the enlightened man finds in himself the sanction of the moral values cherished by him. The humanist mission, therefore, is the pursuit of knowledge and dissemination of knowledge already acquired.”
(Pp. 12, 13; M N Roy: Politics Power And Parties, 1981, Ajanta Publishers, Jawahar Nagar, Delhi – 11 00 07)