Sunday, 18 September 2016

Philosophising is fine but action is what matters

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it."

We were introduced to this quote from Karl Marx by a gentleman named Samit Kar who taught us Marxism in Presidency College. We had a paper on Marxism as a part of our Sociology course designed by the Calcutta University in the mid 1990s. I was not into Marxism, which seemed so anachronistic in the post Berlin Wall fall days, and wasn't too keen on these classes.

However there was no forgetting this line of Marx as Professor Kar would keep repeating it. He was so fond of this line that a friend of mine and I wondered if this is what he told his wife the night he had got married!  I must mention that prof Kar had graciously invited all of us from class to his wedding at a place called Shinghi Park and it was a happy evening. Whether his favourite Marxist quote was a part of what was discussed later that night was not something that we ever found out.

From what I remember, and it's been a while, what Marx meant to say was that the socialist philosophy had been expounded before him by folks like Hegel. However, they hadn't said 'what next'. Marx was apparently the one who suggested a social revolution as a way to take this philosophy ahead and "fix things". 

I know that I have been guilty of simplifying things in the paragraph above but this was the crux of the argument I think.

The reason why I remembered this was that we were recently brushing up our concepts for the exams conducted by the Bharat Soka Gakkai, the Buddhist organisation that I am a member of.

The Soka Gakkai International is based on the teachings of a  Japanese monk, Nicherin Daishonin, who lived in the 13th century BC. He is said to have interpreted existing Buddhist scriptures and came up with a practical way to change one's life based on that. 

The Soka Gakkai refers to this as 'revolution' too. Specifically human revolution

The Soka Gakkai site says:

“Human revolution” is the term used by second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda to describe a fundamental process of inner transformation whereby we break through the shackles of our “lesser self,” bound by self-concern and the ego, growing in altruism toward a “greater self” capable of caring and taking action for the sake of others—ultimately all humanity.

I am not getting into the details of this, or what we studied, in this post as that's not the purpose here.

What struck me though was how both the Daishonin and Marx seemed to have said the same thing. If I was to paraphrase it, "it's fine to philosophise but the key is for this to lead to action". 

This is completely my decoding of it of course.

It's funny how Marxism, known for its anti-religion stand, and a religion seem to have a connecting thought. Though, to me, Nicherin Daishonin's Buddhism, as followed by the Soka Gakkai is a practical philosophy on how to lead one's life, rather than a religion.

I then thought of my life as a market researcher. What market research agencies do is take the principles of academic research and apply it for a practical goal. To help client's grow their business. 

What we did. was applied market research and not just theoretical research.

I guess a rainy Sunday evening, when you are stuck at home, is as good a time as any to connect the dots in one's life.

Have a great week ahead.