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A Sociological-Historical Reading of the Prout, Ananda Marga and Renaissance Movements

Dr Sohail Inayatullah


Traditional accounts of the Prout, Ananda Marga and Renaissance movements take a number of positions. Most of these accounts are ahistorical seeing these movements as only reflective of the genius of the founder, of his prophetic words and visions. The future of these movements is destined - the task ahead is to operationalize them: at the material level through socio-economic revolution; at the intellectual level through the writing of treatises that show Prout's natural superiority as compared to other theories, largely Marxist and capitalist; and, at the spiritual level through meditation practices.

While to some extent this is a fruitful endeavor, what is missing is a sociological approach which compares the characteristics of Prout and its membership to other similar and dissimilar movements and a historical approach in which Prout is seen in the context of the contributions of sages and revolutionary movements of the past. In this article, I attempt such an approach, arguing that the richness of Prout can be better gleaned by locating it in sociological and historical discourses.

How different?

While Prout is certainly different, the question is how is it different? Clearly the founder, Shrii P.R. Sarkar, irrespective of his unique role in human history, is still a historical figure, that is, even while he sought to create a new discourse, a new way of seeing the world, indeed a new world itself, he still existed and lived within other contexts, in real material and historical conditions. For example, we know that from Islam he borrowed ideas of fraternity, of the idea of an ummah, a universal community; from Gandhism, ideas of localism, of empowerment at the village community; from Marxism, a committment to distributive justice; from Hinduism, varna (but now transformed as cyclical social history); from Confucianism, the importance of discipline and the family; from Christianity, the centrality of love in spiritual life; and, from capitalism, the necessity of growth, of an increasing purchasing capacity for the world's population.

Moreover, the deeper metaphors behind Prout and Ananda Marga, that of a family traveling in a caravan together, are similar to the ideas of ohana in Hawaii, of the extended family that includes the animate and the inanimate, gods and angels - and within this family, each one cares for the other, and ensures that all move forward.

While one can argue that Sarkar has not borrowed but in fact his ideas are entirely original, certainly they are original, but the originality is in the organic and civilizational integration, the reinterpration of them, and their realizability through his social movements. One cannot divorce Sarkar's ideas from human history, all ideas grow up in certain epistemes - the boundaries of knowledge that define what is knowable and what is not - even as they, as in the case of Sarkar, transform these epistemes.

This said, we can move to a more archetypical level of analysis and ask what are the guiding stories of humanity, here concerned with deep metaphors and not particularly with religions or ideological social and political movements. These stories, in our case, will serve to highlight both Prout's singularity as well as its similarity to other grand stories of what it means to be human and what the future can and should be like.

Contesting Stories

The first story is the cylical story. The underlying metaphors are derived from nature - the seasons, the tree of life or the river. There is a time for everything, a time for life, a time to rejoice and a time for death. There are clear boundaries in this story. Civilizations that tresspass these boundaries either through technologies that disrupt the natural (genetics or nuclear) or through size (violating the natural carrying capacity of the planet or by extending their imperial reach) are bound to decline. Indeed, history is but the rise and fall of civilizations, with the fall often occuring through a loss of morality (tresspassing inner or outer rules) and through the natural dialectical dynamics of the rise. Prout has a cyclical dimension, most precisely in its theory of history, wherein each varna declines once it limits the possibilities of other varnas, that is as it expands its own potentials, it limits others. Massive exploitation results and there is a revolution leading to the new varna's reign.

In Sarkar's model - here taking a structural approach to his macrohistory - this is the order of shudra (controlled by the environment), ksattriya (dominates environment trough military and technological might), vipra (controls others and environment through a strategic intellect) and vaeshya (dominates others by extracting value from them and accumulates capital in this process). Each varna goes beyond its natural social limits and eventually the new one comes in.

However, Sarkar, unlike the Green movement and most religious perspectives, believes that there is a factor that can overcome many of these natural borders. This is humanity's creativity, which is often inspired by the Supreme consciousness. There is, for Sarkar, an attraction to the great, to a greater mind, a desire for a better society, that allows for the metaphor of progress in human history - not all processes are cyclical.

At the same time, Sarkar does use environmental metaphors. He imagines future civilization like that of a garden with each particular culture creating a cultural ecology wherein all benefit from the other, a true global conversations of ideas and their implementation. And Sarkar is very clear that while technology can and will do marvelous things, there are certain cyclical processes that cannot be breached. For example, humans will not be able to live forever, the brain can only manage up to 120 or so years. There are limits. Each person's own life is limited and death is a certainty - death, unlike in technological stories of reality, is not something to be beaten back, to be feared; rather, death is the bringer of wisdom, the point of spiritual transformation. The death of death can only occur through spiritual realization, through an ontological identification with the Supreme consciousness.

However, even as Sarkar posits limits he does not reify traditional concepts of what is the natural; for example, he fully believes that in the future, babies will be created without male-female sexual intercourse and that we will travel to other planets.

Thus while Prout has some similarities to the linear story of history, it also has cyclical componenents. In addition, in Prout there is a dramatically different approach to the theory of progress. Sarkar contests the linear Social Darwinian and Enlightenment view, which asserts that the pattern of history is from barbarism to civilization, from magic to science, from the aborigines to Europeans and from women to men - that is, classical imperalistic modernist European readings of history and future. History to Sarkar has been a tragic, wherein cultures have lost their confidence when conquered by the dominant. Women, in particular, have suffered at the hands of warring ksattriyas, cunning vipras and rapacious vaeshyas, as have peasants/workers and the natural environment itself. The purpose of the the Prout movement is create conditions in which women, labor, nature and others marginalized gain their spaces back. Ananda Marga is a social and spiritual organization linking the individual spiritual dimensions of life with the social service needs of the larger society. Renaissance movement intends to create the intellectual conditions wherein an ideological struggle can occur. In this article we see these movements along a continuum, all equally necessary for global transformation.

Shrii Sarkar in society

Taking a sociological approach towards Sarkar himself, we should not be surprised at his convictions. Sitting from Calcutta, having experienced the brutality of the British Raj, we should not be surprised at his alternative reading of history. As an Indian, with India's ancient history, the rise and fall of empires, from the Guptas to the Mugals, we should also not be surprised that Sarkar has cyclical elements in his social history. Living as well in a land where death is everpresent, not hidden as in the West, again we should not be suprised at his acceptance of death in life.

However, and this is crucial, Sarkar does have a linear element, wherein human beings can move toward a better and more fair society. However, progress is ultimately spiritual, and to some degree, psycho-spiritual and not physical or intellectual. That is to say, whereas in the linear story, technology, more complex organization, and human ingenuity leads to progress at material and intellectuals levels, Sarkar is quick to point out that for every forward movement there are accompanying problems, increased neurosis, for example, as human's increase their intellectual complexity. There is no free lunch at material and intellectual levels.

But perhaps the biggest difference with Sarkar's Prout and other stories is that for Sarkar, perfection is only possible at the spiritual and the individual level. An individual through spiritual practices can attain moksa or salvation but a society cannot nor can a civilization. Within the cyclical story, nature itself is perfect, the dream is to return to this perfect state, when humans existed in community with each other. Within the linear story, perfection of society is possible, either through science, technology and through the correct organization-ideology (nazism, fascism, socialism and capitalism have been some not so successful experiments, to put it mildly).

But for Sarkar, the "state of nature" is problematic, humans have always struggled with nature and our memories of community often avoid the violent social stratification that traditional and feudal societies exhibited. History has always been unkind to the weaker. Finally social perfection is impossible since humans are different. Moves to perfection necessarily mean the elimination of difference and thus are authoritarian and totalitarian in nature.

Whereas God is perfect, Sarkar's idea of the supreme consciousness does not exist in history as with the Hegelian weltergeist - rather God serves to inspire humans to be more then their limited ego/family/nation/race conceptions - and there is no endusztand in human history, the cycles will continue. However, through Proutistic intervention, Sarkar hopes to create a new form of spiritual-holistic leadership that can minimize the exploitive dimensions of the cycle and create a spiral in human history, thus effectively combining the cyclical and linear story.

There is a however a third story. This is the story of chaos, most recently returning to currency through the Postmodern fracture. In this story, all stories are considered more than fictions but dangerous lies. What is needed is not another story, like Prout, but rather a focus on local knowledge and not on attempts to universalize from particular experiences. Thus, in the postmodern, while Sarkar might certainly be sensible in his own historical and cultural context (Tantra and Bengal), his works should not be generalized to other systems. Indeed, the future, more and more, is difference and not unity. It is through difference that individual humans rights and local economies can flourish and not through claims of globalism or universal spiritualism.

For Sarkar, the story of chaos is the predictable type of story one gets at the end of one yuga, one era. Difference and chaos are especially important at this juncture to destroy the old and create the new. But neither skepticism and cynicism nor localism can create a future society. They cannot create, only destory. Localism, again while a worthy oppositional strategy to break the hegemony of capitalism, is unable to create a world civilization that guarantees rights for all nor can it deal with the fluidity of global capital flows or global culture. Localism easily succumbs to racism and other narrow tendencies. The challenge is, of course, the mix of the global and local, which Prout claims it has right.

But like postmodernists, Sarkar does contest traditional definitions of rationality. But while postmodernists see the rational as dependent on particular discourses, Sarkar priviledges the spiritual. He redefines rationality, seeing it in spiritual and social justice terms. He places the subtleness of inner love at the centre of his cosmology. But while love was the base, he does not neglect the harsh realities of the world system.

Certain recent thinkers have argued for a new story to end all historical stories, a New Age. What is needed is a new myth, a story of stories, it is believed. However, for Sarkar - here a critical traditionalist - stories are not merely imaginations created by intellectuals in libraries (or through channelling) but are hard fought struggles of meaning and vision, of life and death. Stories come through trauma - as we struggle against power - and transcendence, as we touch the face of the divine. They cannot be simply invented. Thus, now returning to our earlier point, even as Sarkar creates a new discourse, he does so in the context of the indigenous tradition of Tantra. He, borrowing from other traditions, revitalizes Tantra civilization but does so not in a simplistic mythified manner (in which the past is seen as lost paradise, as satya yuga), rather, he does so in a critical manner in which the past spirals into the future. Thus, while certainly a new story is needed, its generation must be historical, grounded in the stories of the past and be part of a real living tradition - Shiva's Tantra for Sarkar - and not merely in the fantasy of intellectuals, who imagine virtual worlds with no real life correspondance.

Who will provide the story?

While it is easy to state the Prout itself is the old/new story, this is too myopic a reading. Sarkar himself, has argued that Prout, Ananda Marga and Renaissance cadres, must unite the various moral forces. By moral forces, what exactly was Sarkar hinting at we can ask? Certainly this was not a facile claim to search out those who are personally following ethical lifestyles, rather it is more a call to search for those who are challenging the deep codes of the current capitalist (and previously communist system as well) system as well as challenging those religous systems which cease to be consistent with basic human, community and environmental rights.

One way to come to terms with this issue is to borrow the analysis of the Tunisian 14th century philosopher, Ibn Khaldun. For him the key factor in human history is asabiya or the sinews that bind. A people rise in power through struggle with the environment. This is similar to Toynbee's challenge/response hypothesis, in which a creative minority succeeds by meeting various enviornmental, political, economic or cultural challenges. For Khaldun, those that had the most unity, here speaking of the 14th century, were the bedouins. They lived outside of official power, official descriptions of knowledge and had not been seduced by the sedantary lifestyle of the city - they had retained their moral and physical strength.

In more recent times, for Ashis Nandy it is the shaman, outside of official knowledge and outside of official dissent, that can provide the impetus for new social Imaginations. But for Sarkar, it is the shaman-in-society, living in a mystical world and yet active in society that can create a better society. A shaman, while avoiding the virus of cynicism, is also materially inactive and thus unable to understand the vaeshyan and ksattriyan impetuses. But a shaman-in-society in her or himself both challenges current discourses and aids in creating new ones.

The question for this period in human history is who are the bedouins, where are the shamans-in-society? Uniting the moralists means uniting these Bedouin- shamanistic forces that exist outside of contemporary power. If rereading Sarkar, we see the world as situated in four types of power - warrior (national militaries and police), intellectual (universities and their religious counterparts, the mosque, temples and churches), merchant (the market place, the transnational corporations) and the underclass (women, nature, children, the aged, the disabled) all existing in the context of an interstate system of nations, the future than at one level will come from those outside of the official vision of the future. If currently power, while largely merchant, is corporatist in its orientation, with the intelligentsia and warriors providing legitimation and coercive support, certainly we should not expect alternative futures to come from these groups. Thus it is from the underclass, women, nature, children, and others we can expect alternative visions of the real and the future to come forth. But this is too simplistic a reading. World power works by seducing the poor and weak into believing that they all benefit from the system, that they will one day make it, either through hard work (the Protestant Christian formulation), by following their dharma (the Hindu formulation where they will make it in the next life) or by following their husband, or brother or father (the patriarchal formulation). Given the naturalness of the capitalist system, it would be rare to gain a unified vision at these lower levels of the world system, certainly rare to find one that can destablize the entire system. Labor movements certainly to some disagree have asabiya but only in the context of nation-states - transnational labor movements do not exit, workers of the world have not united, nor have women or children or the disabled. The women's movement certainly challenges patriarchy throughout the world, however, since it begins with an essential sovereign view of gender, it has been unable to unite other movements equally committed to system transformation. Third World unity has also fallen apart. East Asian have quickly followed the path of capitalism and having succeeded, barely see themselves as part of the non-aligned movement. Moreover, other Third World nations are either too poor or too concerned with dissent in their home to be concerned with a global movement - they have not yet achieved national sovereinty, it would be too much to expect them to jetson national sovereignty for some idea of world culture or planetary progressive civilization. The world socialist movement is in shatters, with the talk of the second world or the third way been thrown out with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Still some hope might come from the social movements. They are a diverse range of, often, voluntary transnational movements. Some of the problems they address are environmental (the ozone, protection of endangered species, and animal liberation groups); others are gender-based (against wife abuse, wife burning, female circumcision and for equal pay and equal rights for women), others are culture-based

against the gross forms of foreign culture as in dolls that reflect only Western culture or movies that deride non-Western cultures, that create homogeneity where there is authentic difference); some of these concerned about future generations (against short termism in governmental decisionmaking and providing a voice and forum for future generations not yet born); some are federalists (arguing for a world government, or a strengthened United Nations); some are human rights-based (hoping to eliminate the worse of human rights abuses); others are concerned with minorities (suppressed by each nation); some are focused on governmental corruption (hoping to increase transparency throughout the world); and, others are economic (joining together producers and consumers in cooperatives, ethical finance). While the list is almost endless, all hope to reduce injustice and enlarge inclusiveness towards others, be it nature, the future, women, children, and minorities. They are historically unique in that they are non-governmental, arguing for a global third force focused neither on the prince nor the merchant but on the citizen - a citizen that has rights and responsibilities and is culturally diverse. They take a range of forms from preserving or enhancing the local (as economy, evironment or culture) and as national, international and transnational pressure groups fighting for major causes of justice.

Most of these social movements (currently of the 18,000 non-governmental organizations 1800 are recognized by the UN) are Western, highly participatory, goal oriented, short term and single issue based. They are certainly bedouin in that they are not part of government or state nor of church or academy and they also fulfill our criteria in that they reject conventional difinitions of knowledge - they desire to create a new discourse. All would agree that a new moral discourse is needed to save the planet and create a new bright future. However, while Prout fits into this mode, it is somewhat different.

Sarkar's movements are unique in that they are:

1) Third World oriented, hoping to be the carriers of oppressed yet also seeing the oppressors in neo-humanist terms (differentiating, for example, the capitalist system and the capitalist, between structure and individual);

2) Tantric, focused on reinvigorating mystical culture and not necessarily on immediate efficiency (and thus movement members spend a great deal of time in meditation both for their own spiritual growth but also to change the vibrational level of the planet);

3) Civilizational, meaning based on a historical culture and not intellectually fabricated, that is, fetishizing the modern or the new;

4) Comprehensive, working on many issues (and not just on the issue of the day) from students' rights, farmers' rights, womens' rights and workers' rights to the prevention of cruelty to animals and plants (and thus unlike the shaman, movement members are socially active directly concerned with human suffering) and thus synthetic, visioning and creating an alternative future that is not merely anthetical, arising out of an oppositional dialectical need;

5) Very very long term oriented, hundreds of years, that is, structures and processes that cannot fulfil their goals for generations ahead (and thus many of Sarkar's categories often make little sense to the present, his vision was temporally broad and deep);

6) Committed to leadership creation and not just organisational development, thus avoiding the bureaucratic tendency (and thus, the focus on creating leaders that have deep humanistic qualities and not just on the expansion of the movement);

7) Trans-state oriented, not solely concerned with nation-states and ego-power but acknowledging that there are four conventional types of power - worker, warrior, intellectual, economic - with the challenge to develop processes that create a fifth that can balance these forces.

8) Morality based, not solely doing the expedient but a willingness to, for example, live in the same conditions as the poor, willing to sacrifice their own needs for those of others, and

9) Family/Monastic, having a place for both the family and the monk, seeing both as essentially transformative spiritual paths.

While certainly social movements have dimensions of the above, they do not possess all these factors (and realistically in terms of the day to day, neither do Sarkar's movements, these are process goals and hopes, which humans strive for). Moroever, many social movements are coopted by the State or by liberal campaigns of shallow inclusiveness. Prout, on the other hand, has been attacked through the jailings of its workers and its founder. Through struggle, sometimes apparently violent, it is shown that it cannot be so easily coopted


Now what type of individuals might be attracted to Sarkar's movements. From the West, one would expect those disenchanted with the material/industrial/bourgois way of life. However, many from this category opt not for social/spiritual movements but prefer becoming involved in chemical ways of life or are concerned only with spiritual pursuits - new age types, for example, focused on personal emotional healing or on Alien contact. Those potentially interested in Sarkar's movements would be those who were tired with the material way of life and not attracted to the chemical way of life and had seen some suffering in the world, either through travel or insight that there is social/structural injustice, ie inequity in the world system. Individuals from the West coming from highly educated and priviledged families (that could afford to travel, that gave the children a feeling of material security) would fit into the category of potential Prout and Ananda Marga membership. But these individuals would be rare as most would prefer single issue movements instead of the all- encompassing (in terms of time and commitment required) nature of Sarkar's movements.

One might also expect as potential recruits individuals who had become disenchanted with socialist or activist paths, who saw the follys of the communist option, or who in their activism or social service saw the need for internal transformation. In the West these would be individuals who had worked in the labor movement or in Peace Corps-type activities and were searching for a spiritual path that was committed to social justice.

In the East, however, these assumptions might not necessarily be appropriate. With spirituality as more of a given - especially in India - it would be individuals who were drawn to the mix of activism and spirituality but outside of a strict religious framework. In India, these would be transformed hindus who had coexisted with Muslims or Christians, had traveled and seen the limitations of a particular tradition and thus became inspired by Sarkar's eclecticism (without giving into to liberalism).

Certainly, there is not a huge batch of individuals to draw from. While the Green party - with its emphasis on ecology, gender cooperation, spirituality and deep democracy - would draw from the same group, Sarkar's pool would be less inclined towards anarchy and in that sense more conservative than Green potentials. However, while the pool is small, one does not require millions for social transformation. Leadership creation, afterall, and not bureaucracy is Sarkar's mission.

For Sarkar, part of the transformation of individuals is the creation of a new language. Returning to our early point on metaphors, underneath these processes has been Sarkar's effort of creating and using a new language (with some guiding categories such as samaj, prama, microvita, samadhi, sadhana) and new metaphors

Shiva dancing between life and death) to help be the vehicles of the good society he envisions. Much of the failure of current politics is that neo-realistic thinking (whrein only states are real, only markets can provide good and services and we are all autonomous individuals) colonizes our imagination. Sarkar desired to create a new language which could both deconstruct current orderings of knowledge but also provide new avenues of expresssion in which, for example, the spiritual was not antagonistic to the material; in which reality was seen as having layers; and, wherein the idea of humanity could be expressed in the context of other forms of life.

As a movement Ananda Marga (and to a lesser extent Prout) must also be seen in is cultural context. Its Indian, non-Western and spiritual origination cannot be avoided, indeed, it is its strength. It would be quite impossible for Ananda Marga to succeed if it did not have a historical context, if it could not at some level be civilizationally "remembered." Ananda Marga must show some similarities to other movements/religions/ways of life, there must be a gateway to entry, some recognizable social and spiritual categories. At the same time, Sarkar's ingenuity is that within his movments are dynamics which allow them to transcend their own cultural limitations. For example, Indian movement workers must cast off the caste system and many work in non-Indian nations thus learning about the other

workers/monks from other nations are similarly sent to a nation different than their own). Moreover marriages are encouraged between different ethnicities, again challenging any purity of race or tradition nations. It is a universal society that Sarkar imagined not India or any particular nation writ large.

However, as might be expected humans are not universal. We are racist, sexist and capitalist and certainly Sarkar's Prout and other movements exhibit these categories as well. However, meditation and and institutional culture which looks aghast at such practices provides a dynamic where over the longer term - fifty years perhaps - these contradictions can increasingly be worked out. To not expect these contraditions would be quite unusual since humans live in a social and political context. The process of struggle with these dynamics - our inner demons - is not outside of Prout or Ananda Marga, but part of its very essence. This struggle is both meditational (an internal battle), organizational (who gets what authority and recognition) and social (how others are treated). While the goal is the path, at the same time only concern with internal organizational dynamics avoids individual responsibility and the need to show concrete alternatives, to do something for "the suffering humanity," to use Sarkar's language.


Lastly, it is important to situate Prout in a historical sense. Glossing human history, we argue that even while there ar cyclical dimensions to history (the rise and fall of varna and of nation), there has been a linear movement towards more rights, towards laying bare power.

While this argument is somewhat universalizable, in this discussion we focus on the European social formation. It can be characterized as having five structures: The clergy (Sarkar's vipras), the aristocrats (Sarkar's ksattriyas), the bourgoisie (Sarkar's vaeshyas) and the peasants (Sarkar's shudras). Underneath this structure are the underclass: women, gypsies and Nature.

While one could focus on the rise and fall of dynasties staying within our structural typology, we can see European history as a sucession of revolutions. To name a few critical ones:

1) The revolt of the peasants against feudalism (the late middle ages, the 14th century).

2) The revolt of aristocrats against clergy (church/state) - wherein church power was contested (modernity).

3) The revolt of aristocrats against the king, a constitutional revolution as in the English Glorious Revolution of the 17th century, a process started much earlier with the Magna Carta in the 13th century.

3) The revolt of bourgois against the aristocrats and clergy. This was the French revolution and created the Enligtenment.

4) More recently the revolt of the proleteriat against the bourgoisie. This was the Russian socialist revolution of 1917. In Nordic nations this was more of a gradual evolution of labor power, of the welfare state.

5) Elsewhere, there was the revolt of the peasants against the city. This was Mao Zedeng's formula (the argument that the two opposing camps are the city and the rural). Pol Pot took this view to its tragic consequence.

6) More recently (and of course, part of a long term trend) has been the revolt of women against men, against patriarchy in all its forms.

7) The revolt of nature against industrialism. This has been the Green position calling for a limits of technocracy.

8) The revolt of the Third World against Europe, with calls for Third World solidarity. This decolonization process - The 18th American Revolution being a much earlier example of this - has eventually led to

9) The revolt of the indigenous against all foreign social formations, calling for the creation of special status for them as guardians of the planet

10) Finally is the revolt against the nation-state worldview, wherein social movements are finding space to express themselves against the interstate system.

Our question then is how does Prout fit into this sucessive revolution of increased rights? Sarkar's Prout can be seen as expanding and fulfilling these revolutionary movements, not focused on any particular revolution but attempting to balance and move forward all of them.

1) Sarkar expands humanism to neo-humanism which struggles against the Enlightenment's human centrism and argues for increased rights of plants and animals - towards global vegetarianism and for an global ecological regime. Like the humanists of the European 14th century, who helped bring about a renaissance, Sarkar hopes to bring about a new renaissance, but a universal one, that includes all living beings wherein identity is layered situated in self, other and cosmic consciousness.

2) Sarkar intends to expand the concept of the magna carta (against the power of the king) into a neo-magna carta and develop a world government with basic human rights; rights of language, right of religion and right to purchasing power.

3) Sarkar's economic system is committed to the idea of a maxi-mini wage structure wherein minimum rights are guaranteed and thus he can be seen as fundamentally anti-bourgois. Land, in particular, is seen as a common resource, owned by God. While small scale ownership is allowed there are clear limitations on the accumulation of wealth in all its forms.

4) But while Prout is a type of progressive socialism, it also argues against socialist egalitarianism as Sarkar believes that incentives must be given to those who can create new wealth, ideas and technologies.

5) Sarkar is more of a womanist than a strict Western feminist as he believes there are bio-psychological differences between men and women (that, however, can be transcended, and will most likely dramatically decrease in generations ahead) and he sees the need for women's rights as contextual, as part of the broader struggle against imperialism, nationalism and capitalism and not just as a struggle against men per se. He argues for coordinated cooperation between the genders, with women having their own space in some areas and sharing space with men in other areas. Working together is the common regime with neither gender having the upper hand.

6) The overall goal of Sarkar is the realization of cosmic consciousness and thus he is against materialism as well as philosophical dualism. He also argues that humanity's dharma or path is essentially spiritual and thus in the long run dismisses the sovereignty of identity outside the cosmic.

Sarkar's Prout thus continues these historical social revolutions but sees the revolutions of varna (labor, warrior, intellectual and merchant) as cyclical based, each one revolts against the other when it exploits. The worse is the exploitation by the merchants, which leads to a massive revolution wherein power then concentrates again.

The purpose of Prout is to create a new leadership which keeps society moving and eliminates the particular nasty expressions of each varna. At the same time, Prout has a linear dimension with the future one of increased rights for women and nature (and thus for men as well as they will be less subjected to the trauma of extreme capitalism, male religion and totalitarian communism), for safeguards for the following of one's religion, for the protection of one's language and for protection against the misery of poverty.

Sarkar's goal, however, is not to create a global civil society (which often excludes the spiritual) but a gaia of civilizations, a planetary civilizations wherein each culture can express itself in the context of a world governance system. For him, the citizen must be a world citizen whose identity is universal, seeing and acting as part of the cosmos. Sarkar expands the idea of the civil from its oppositional definition to state to include other dimensions of reality.

Within the Indian context, Sarkar as well advances various Indian revolutions. He expands Buddha's ancient eightfold path to his own sixteen points; he acknowledges the role of the bhakti movements, making devotion to God the centre piece of his ideology; and, he attempts to honor both Tantric and Vedic paths by focusing equalling on Shiva and Krishna as guiding myths. He challenges caste seeing it as cruel and violent but uses varna in his macrohistory. He manages to accede neither to Nehru's industrial revolution nor Gandhi's localism, instead seeking a cooperative people's economy. Finally, while acknowledging the role of ahimsa at the personal level, he does not accede to extreme Jain positions, rather he argues that force in realpolitik is an appropriate response once all forms of negotiation have been exhausted. Clearly in the Indian context he is an iconoclast. With no space for him, Sarkar has sought to engulf and transform the Indian way of life and thinking.

Finally it is important to note that the plan is the process. For example, Sarkar hopes to create a

1) Planetary civilization through the encouragement of marriage accross culture and civilization.

2) A new spiritual culture through his 16 points of spiritual practices as propagated by the Ananda Marga movement. These points include meditation, yoga, personal morality, service to humanity, plants and animals.

3) A new culture through, for example, transforming day to day greetings to the Indian namascar (I salute the divinity within you) from the more secular, hi.

4) A non-statist and peaceful culture through the celebration of holidays such as children's day and other such festivals that are not tied to the birth of nations and victories of conquerers.

With all these processes in shape, what then of the future? While the first phase of globalism is certainly the globalisation of capital and the globalisation of American culture, Sarkar is hopeful that it is the spiritual and the moral that will be next wave. The efforts of the various social movements in creating a new global governance system, a stronger civil society is certainly part of this future.

Ultimately Sarkar reminds us that we are not because we shop (market based selves) or because we hate others (nationalism) but because we love and care for others, because we yearn for the divine. History is created by structural and personal forces, but also by the attraction towards the Great, the divine. It is this force that will create a new planetary civilization. Sarkar lived such a vision and his movements are undergoing the arduous task of creating such a vision. Will they be successful? Hard work, collective action and transcendental grace will be needed as well as faith. As Sarkar once said: "Justice is delayed but never denied."


Sohail Inayatullah is senior research fellow at the Communication Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Box 2434, Brisbane, Q, 4001, Australia


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