Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, was the first general secretary of the UP branch of Bharatiya Jana Sangh.

After the sad and untimely demise of Shri Syama Prasad Mookerjee in 1953, he became the All India General Secretary of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. And for 15 eventful years he led and built the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya enunciated the guiding philosophy, called Integral Humanism, for the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. This philosophy was articulated in a series of lectures in Bombay in 1965. This philosophy is the guiding philosophy also of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the successor form of the Jana Sangh. And it must be considered among the most significant documents in modern political philosophy.

This philosophy stands in splendid distinction to every other political, social or economic philosophy existing today. There are deep civilizational reasons behind this distinction.

Integral Humanism is by its very conception, universal. Simply because it will not limit either the scope or method in the pursuit of human welfare. It is not as if this is a brand new philosophy invented by recent genius. What is new is the phenomenon of a broad and coherent, popular Hindu civilizational political vision that has been developing over the past century and more. A movement that is still to find its full expression, but has by now a substantial and firm footing across the geography of the ancient Bharata Varsha. Integral Humanism boldly asserts the stark distinction between the complicated sophistry of the various political theories of the modern world and the rather crisp summaries of the human nature enunciated in the ancient legacy of the Hindus.

Integral Humanism accepts and integrates the widest spectrum of human experience in contrast to the rather narrow and fragmented ideologies of western philosophies whether ancient, medieval or modern. We must observe that these fragmented visions spring from the deeply entrenched attitudes produced by thousands of years of civilizational investment into imperialist models of life, politics, economy, monotheist religion and also most tragically “science”.

This philosophy must not be considered as an immutable revelation by a divinely appointed prophet. Not because these ideas are in themselves of uncertain merit. But because the purpose of this philosophy is not one of calling the multitude to subservient obedience. Rather the philosophy is intended to enlighten and inspire the student of the philosophy to become perceptive. In the case of a divine revelation, one is constrained to merely obeying and at best interpreting a divine commandment. Whereas with integral humanism there is not merely the possibility but also the responsibility to shine ever brighter and wiser than the patron philosopher. And the real detail for action is consciously deferred for a more complete articulation by contemporary genius.

One is easily tempted to ask why such simplicity has missed the great minds of thinkers across the world. And why should so simple a theory be trusted to address issues relating to a modern era that is characterized by its every multiplying complexity. The answers are a paradigm shift from the traditional western dominated “intellectual” discourse of our times. Some bitter observations must be made about what passes for modern thought.

The Political Context for Integral Humanism

After independence for two decades India went through an aimless drift in politics, economic  policy, social reform effort, foreign policy and the general atmosphere of governance. No political theory appeared to comprehend let alone fit the national circumstance. And Indian politics became increasingly a shapeless phenomenon with neither any identifiable aims nor established methods. Pandit Deendayal opines that this comes from the singular fact that both the governing party and the opposition of the day had abandoned the principle of national purpose. Coalitions on the ruling side  and also the opposition were formed merely to fight the other side. Infact it was impossible to even distinguish the ruling party from the opposition. Ideologies, parties and individual members crossed boundaries with ease and fluidity for the dominating purpose of gaining power and pelf. These were dark days for a nation that had only a generation ago enough spiritual resolution to defeat, without arms, the greatest empire to dominate the earth.

Integral humanism proposes a basis for the national integration and reconstruction of Bharat, by simply recognizing and using the basis upon which this ancient nation has been constructed. This is a complete and organic understanding of Dharma, the eternal principle of all existence. Integral humanism does not go very much into questions of actual policy that can be implemented as an action plan. Simply because such an action plan would at any rate be relevant only to a specific circumstance and time. Such an action plan could be considered a circumstantial manifesto rather than a long term philosophy.

Integral Humanism – The sources and scope

It is pointless to attempt to separate anything in the Bharata Varsha from what is Hindu. The Hindus are the most ancient Sanskriti on the planet. With the accumulated legacy of a thousand shining centuries. Decisive Hindu influence had reached the remote corners of the earth even in very ancient days. Only in recent centuries have the Hindus been comprehensively subdued by foreign imperialism, and consequently have acquired a deep inferiority complex. An elephant tamed by the steel chain, by force of habit, remains docile even after his restraints have been removed. Hindus today are deeply apologetic and doubtful about their own legacy. On the other hand they also resent the impositions, presumptions and intrusions from other cultures. Both of these phenomenon are only natural under the prevailing circumstances. As a culture it is important that we must resolve this paradox.

Pandit Deendayal distinguishes clearly objective from method. The objective must in all events and circumstances must be clearly understood, resolved upon and pursued without distraction. The method will change periodically as circumstances emerge. The objective is the triumphant revival of Hindu national life. It is a fair to aim to reassert the culture, language, and traditions of the Hindus. But the objective itself must not be confused with the method. The circumstances and constraints of today must be recognized for what they are, whatever be the causes. We must not insist upon returning to a certain point of time in the past before we commence our work.

The central thesis of Integral Humanism is that all theories about politics, economics, society, national organization, foreign relations etc. must derive from a proper understanding of the human being, rather than deriving from a dogma.

The various layers of family custom, social tradition, political philosophy, economic policy, national governance and international relations are each significant in their respective places. But each must be aligned and adjusted to the fundamentals of the human spirit. It is not for the human being to suppress his spirit to fit into a blinkered vision of life. Any summary limited to either the immediate circumstance, or perhaps a certain limited aspect of human life will remain at best a partial view of reality and at worst a debilitating and destructive dogma.

What is Integral Humanism

In the Hindu legacy the welfare of the human being is condensed to the very simple, yet deeply profound, summary of chaturvidha purushartha. Every system of governance, economy, justice, jurisprudence, defense, law, governance etc must be constructed and administered for the securing  of these objectives for every individual member of the nation, ultimately for all existence. This consists of the four principles – Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

Kama is the primal impulse, the point of origin underlying the expressive form of existence and therefore the human being. Artha provides it with body, substance and regulation (since it implies wealth as well as governance); i.e. it provides the means, both to the impulse and to the end. Moksha is the end of human existence, and Dharma negotiates the distance between the three Purusharthas. Dharma is thus the overarching principle.

This is in essence a description of what amounts to human well being. This allows for the widest recognition of personality and individual circumstance. There is nothing in this summary to limit the methods that maybe employed for securing human well being. Awareness of the four aspects is natural and inherent to the human spirit. The human being will of his own nature seek to establish harmony along these principles. Both at the personal and social levels. Disharmony in human society either at the microscopic or the macroscopic level arises from insensitivity to these realities.

The state exists for the securing of these objectives. Every method and doctrine that is available can either be used where it assists this objective; or it can be discarded when it militates against this objective. The practical implications of this view point are deeply significant. For the pursuit of these objectives, no doctrine or institution is either a precondition or a limitation.

Something amounting to this summary is common to much of humanity in the notion of natural justice. However this is not an explicit doctrine in any culture outside India. It remains a vague and undefined feeling. And because a clear idea has never been formulated, the human being is very often altogether easily dismissed. Great superstructures in human affairs are constructed without attention to this foundation. And so these great superstructures produce immense suffering.

An Analysis of Social Superstructures

While having studied the human being we have to recognize that a human being’s relation to his society is very much an integral part of the individual. Western political theories essentially start at such a point. Must of western thought is based upon the notion of a social contract i.e. a group of people coming together by mutual agreement upon individual and collective roles.

In this model therefore there are a number of dilemmas about the authority of the collective to impose order upon the individual. And then there are questions about the durability of this arrangement. If not for the question of utility, then still for the turbulent caprice of both the individual and the collective.

The Hindu legacy by contrast views the society as inherent to life itself, quite as natural as the individual; and not a consequence of a social contract. Central to this analysis is the idea of a collective mind called “Chiti”.

As an illustration, it is easy to see that as an individual one may have preferences that are either disconnected to those of the collective or perhaps even diametrically opposite. But the individual will quite often, easily and willingly align himself with the preferences of a collective mind. While it is true that it takes training and learning for one to develop into an active and visible member of a society, it is also true that the instinct and mind of the collective at various levels is undeniably part
of the individual even without such explicit physical inputs.

It maybe argued that this collective mind could arise from cohabitation. This is disproved by the fact that the Greek and Egyptian nations of the old do not exist any longer inspite of an unbroken continuity in cohabitation. Whereas the Jewish nation exists even without this cohabitation. A nation subdued, broken and dispersed the world over for close to two thousand years yet reasserts its national identity.

Within each individual is simply an expression of the same universal mind. This Chiti functions differently at the individual level, the family level, the community level and the national level. At each level of the collective there is a corresponding characteristic. The unifying principle underlying this universal mind is the Dharma. For so long as the individual and the collective are conscious and vigilant about Dharma, it is possible to develop and fortify both the individual and the collective. When Dharma is neglected, correspondingly the individual and the collective will decline. This is an inevitable truth. The strength, prosperity and glory of both the individual and the collective are natural, direct and inevitable consequences of their awareness and maturity in the practice of Dharma.

Institutions Are Organs Of The Collective

Darwin’s theory of evolution opines that the individual physical body evolves to fit better into the environment. The Hindu viewpoint though similar is distinct. Here it is asserted that the Prana inhabits and constructs the physical body according to it requirements and abilities. Just as the individual jiva constructs and refines a physical body, the collective also constructs and refines institutions. And as such these institutions, though very important within their context, are by no
means more important than the collective.

Just as the human body though has a very significant role to play in human life is not by any means more important that the soul. So also no particular institution of the collective is more important than the collective soul or what maybe called the nation. The politcal state therefore is an instrument of the nation. The problem with western thought is that they have equated the state with the nation. Whereas the Hindus have not made this mistake. Just like the individual soul the collective soul or the nation is also self born. It may take up any number of instruments of expression. So the state and for that matter even an emperor are acknowledge and understood to be merely instruments of national purpose.

The individual has roles to play in a variety of institutions. But he is not therefore identified or limited to any one of these in any lasting manner. So long as the underlying unity of existence is experienced, the individual is capable of assuming and performing these multiple roles in a gentle and easy harmony. Western thought can only view existence from the individual view point. From this view point all achievement is strictly an individual event. And hence there are the propensities to subjugate and exploit the other. Bloody struggles between interests and classes, societies, religions and nations are a natural consequence.

The varna – jati institution in Hindu society is based in the harmonious expression of the univeral soul. Each varna and jati expressing a particular distinct characteristic that is complementary to the rest of the society. And yet each jati and varna holds in the deepest respect and regard all other jatis and varnas. The veda proclaims indeed that each varna is indeed part of the virat purusha. Where then is the scope for conflict between different organs of a single body. The conflict between the varnas and the jatis arises only when this consciousness of the integral unity of the society is broken and the jatis simply become individual warring classes as in the case of western social arrangements.

In the case of India, the political state was not the dominant fact of life. The most dominant social institution was the village panchayat. And this panchayat survived a thousand years of invasion and destructive vandalism. And so also the Hindu society survived a thousand years of tempest. However the corresponding weakness in the first place was that we ignored the national state, whose strength would have easily resisted foreign invasion in the first place.

And so Samartha Ramdas, the guru of Chatrapati Shivaji instructed the king to develop a strong national state expressive of the national Hindu Dharma. As indeed a strong national state is as much a Dharmic requirement as the spiritual teachings of the sanyasi.

Dharma, Constitution, Secularism and Law

Dharma is the first of the chaturvidha purusharthas. And this single principle will in itself summarize and encompass all existence. Because of the broadness of this reality we will not go very long into attempting a description. It is however significant to note the single greatest distortion of this word in current usage. That is the equating of the idea of Dharma to that of religion.

A religion is a narrowly defined set of beliefs, values and codes of conduct and perhaps a sectarian identity. Dharma on the other hand is the principle of sensitivity to reality at every level of life and existence. A religion is contained in a certain number of books and belief systems. Dharma can perhaps be explained in a number of ways including books and so on. But it can never be circumscribed by a doctrine or codes. A religion can choose to be arbitrary because it is the command of an omnipotent god whose command has no alternative. A Dharma can never be arbitrary. It has to ultimately pass the test of personal and collective experience. Dharma may include where appropriate the worship of a deity. But this can never be construed to mean the whole of Dharma.

For all of the history of the Hindus, no scripture, king, constitution or for that matter God have been placed above Dharma. It is a very unkind and deeply destructive distortion to equate the idea of Dharma with that of a religion. A Dharmic state is not a theocracy. A theocracy implies the imposition of a certain religious doctrine upon all subjects. This has been demonstrated to be impossible even in Pakistan where all the non muslims have been expelled. Inspite of the exclusively islamic population, yet there is no significant difference in the administrative structures between India and Pakistan. The customs of the muslims in India and pakistan are identical. The creation of Pakistan has not altered the practice of Islam in any manner.

On the other hand to talk of secularism is not just superfluous but also a serious confusion. Secularism exists only in contrast and opposition to theocracy. Because there has never been a theocracy among the hindus, secularism is an empty word. Declaring India as a “secular” state was an import from the west, as a contrast to Pakistan. Now having declared ourselves secular, we translate this into Hindi as either Nidharma (lacking in dharma, in essence lawless) or as Dharma Nirapeksha (indifferent to dharma, hence defeating the purpose of the state). This comes in the first place from the equation of dharma to religion. And then leading to deep confusion about the very fundamentals of our nation.

There is much talk in India about the “federal” nature of the Indian constitution. This is contrary to the national Dharma. The first line in the Indian constitution states “India that is Bharat is a union of states”. This is gross inaccuracy. Bharat exists eternally. That the national political organization today consists one device of administration or another is merely a matter of detail. It is a gross omission in the constitution to omit any mention about the essential and eternal Dharmic unity of India. The unity of India does not mean blind centralization of power. Decentralization of power and responsible government under the janapadas and the panchayats was a central feature of national organization from very early days of the nation. An idea that as of yet has to be properly understood and absorbed by the current administration.

Dharma governs, the legislature, the judiciary and also the people. Even while current theory proclaims people as the sovereign we must observe that according to the old manner even the sovereign is not above Dharma. The mere fact of having collected a majority opinion does not constitute unlimited right. An illustration is the case of General De Gaulle. Who stood against the majority opinion of French government and refused to accept French submission to German conquest. He left France and continued the war against the Germans. Similarly Lokamanya Tilak proclaimed the freedom of India as a birth right even while there was no method of developing or asserting a majority opinion. Abraham Lincoln stood firmly against majority opinion when he asserted the sanctity of the American Union.

And therefore it stands that even a minority of one individual who upholds Dharma can stand  against the entire collective majority of the nation who violate the Dharma. And so the greatest duty of the state is to uphold and proclaim the Dharma. And endeavour to educate the nation to the realization of a Dharmic state, the Dharma Rajya.


As in the case of any other aspect of national life, economics must also be viewed and evaluated in  the light of Dharma. Ofcourse it is necessary to secure for the nation the basics of food, clothing and shelter. This is a primary role of economics.

But to emphasize economics as a primary purpose beyond this would be to gradually reduce  humanity to an appendage of economics rather than making economics a tool for human welfare. Great disaster will follow from such distortion. The great depression to hit the world in the 1930s derived from such distortion. While it is fair to continue debating in hindsight the causes and mechanisms of global economic disruptions, it is important to identify and design systems that are structurally and fundamentally secured from such disruptions.

This can only follow from the principles of Dharma not from theoretical orthodoxies or the reckless pursuit of profit. The most significant first principal of such design is sustainability. At the micro level it is the simplest of realities. Somehow at national and global scales this simplest principle is given the go by, by both communist and capitalist systems. We must consider sustainability as the fundamental principle at every level and in every facet of economics.

The major objectives in economics can be identified as the following.

  • Food security for all and economic responsibility towards the deprived.
  • Social obligation to support education for all.
  • Medical care

Now the question arises, what can inspire individuals or groups to work when they are in any event well provided for materially. The answer is that when the society has guarantees a minimum level of sustenance for the individual, correspondingly the society can demand a minimum amount of effort  from the individual. At any rate a person without an occupation will rapidly descend into insanity. As such the right to work must be considered one of the fundamentals of a Dharmic economy.

There is much detail in the design of an economic system. But the trivialized view of the dichotomy between capital and labour is destructive to the society as a whole. The purpose of the economy is not about apportioning rewards between the rapacious capitalist and the militant labour. Rather it is to secure for every member of the society the physical basis for higher dharmic pursuits.

Capitalist orthodoxy reduces even human life to simply a means of production of a certain economic worth. And the consumer to a consuming machine expected to consume mass produced commodities. Everything including time, life and death is measured in money. Communism is a reaction to this dehumanized model of production. But the communist solution is even more dehumanizing. Whereas in a capitalist model there is some refuge for the human spirit, in communism there is none. The human being is well and truly converted into a cog on the wheel of industrial production.

In the most sensible view the only means to secure a just, humane and sustainable economy is an intensive decentralization of the economy. Only then can the economy match the cultural, climatic, geographical and political conditions of the nation and its vast and diverse humanity. Promoting and inculcating Swadeshi economic consciousness is the only sensible route to this objective. Swadeshi is therefore not merely a stop gap political slogan but the very center of the economic model.

For too long the institutions, standards and the very objectives of the state and of our national resolve have been imported and assorted in a haphazard manner. Deferring even the definition of our problems to authorities and claimants from other cultures. This is simply continuing the slavery of earlier eras. This status quo mindset must be broken decisively. There is no limit to the methods and techniques that we may employ so long as we properly appreciate Dharma and the basic needs of the human being.