Defining Indian Identity-The Doctrine of Individualism

Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.
Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

ManO bhudhyahamkaara Chittaani na aHam,

Na Karnam, na Jihvaa, na cha Ghraana Netram,

Na cha Vyoma Bhumir na Tejo na VaayuH,

Chidaananda RuupaH  ShivO aHam, ShivO aHam.


The word individual is derived from Latin, ‘Individualis’-that which is not divided-an individual. Individualism can be defined as follows:1. a belief that stresses the primary importance and worth of each person and in the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence, 2. the principle or practice of maintaining individuality or independence of the individual, 3. the principle or habit of or belief in independent thought or action, 4. the conception that all values, rights and duties originate in individuals, 5. a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount, and 6. the pursuit of individual rather than common or collective interests. The doctrine of Individualism may support a view that the interests of the individual should take precedence over the interests of the State or Social Group.

Indian Culture views human existence in absolute individualistic terms and the legacy of Indian Culture could be described as ‘INDIVIDUALISM’.


Bhagavad Gita - Individualism
Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.
Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter II, Sankhya Yoga, verse 39, claims that the analytical knowledge derived from Samkhya philosophy gives the description of the nature of individual and individuality.

Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

Chapter II, of the Bhagavad Gita explains this philosophy in several verses.Verse 11 claims that those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.

Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

In verse 12, Lord Krishna states that there was never a time when He did not exist, nor Arjuna, nor all others in the battle field, and in the future there will never be a time when any of them cease to exist. Lord Krishna (The Supreme Individual Person) and also all other individuals are eternal persons.They existed as individuals in the past and they will continue to exist as individuals in the future.Their individuality existed in the past and their individuality will continue in the future without interruption. Lord Krishna clearly states that the individuality of all others will continue eternally. Hence, Indians do not accept the bodily conception of the living entities. Living entity is an individual soul and even though the body changes every moment, the soul does not undergo any change.

Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

Verse 13, claims that the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth, and then to old age; similarly, the soul also passes into another body at death. By nature the human body is ever changing, and the soul is eternal.

Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

Verse 24 states that this individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble. He is everlasting, unchangeable, immovable, and eternally the same.

Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

Finally, verse 27 establishes the foundation for ‘Individualism’ by stressing that ” For one who has taken his birth,death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain.”


Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

The primary importance of the individual is established by the Vedic statement “AHAM BRAHMASMI” which describes the True Identity of the Individual as that of Ultimate Reality known as Brahman. The following verse supports the idea that the Individual is a Whole entity as the Whole is derived from the Whole, perfect, Supreme Being:

Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

Om, purna mada, purna midam, purnaat purna mudachyate

Purnasya purna maadaya, purna meva vasishtyate.

“That” (is an indefinite term to designate the Invisible Absolute) is Whole (Perfect Substance with Perfect Nature and Quality); “This” (the visible, the phenomenal embodied Soul) is Whole, from the (invisible) Whole comes forth the (visible) Whole. Though the visible Whole is derived or deducted from that invisible Whole, yet the Whole remains unaltered and both retain their Perfect Condition called Whole. The human entity is virtually trapped in a repeated cycle of birth, death and rebirth.The ultimate purpose of human existence is to achieve ‘MOKSHA’ (LIBERATION) or MUKTI (RELEASE) from this Cycle that is referred to as ‘SAMSARA’.


Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

Individualism is built upon the value attached to knowing oneself. We are encouraged to look inwards and to reflect upon the nature of ‘SELF’. Self-Knowledge is considered to be more valuable than gaining knowledge of the material world.The following prayer which is known as ‘GAYATRI MANTRA’ is one such example of motivating Individuals to look inwards. Similarly, Socrates suggests, “Know thyself, and you will know the universe and the gods.”

 Om Bhur Bhuva Suvah, Om tatsa vitur vareynyam

Bhargo Devasya dhee mahi dheeyo yo nah prachodayaat.

The Individual while firmly establishing his Individuality also takes complete responsibility for his actions.The Individual bears the burden for his own actions.


Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

The Individual strives for self-reliance, learns to minimize the importance of all external relationships and concentrates upon developing an intimate relationship with his personal God.The following prayer is one such example of an Individual’s journey on the path of devotion (BHAKTI).

Tva meva maata cha pitaa tva meva, Tva meva bandhu cha sakha tva meva,

Tva meva vidya, dravinam tva meva, Tva meva sarvam mama Deva Deva.

Devotion to God practically takes over, replaces and consumes the need for any other kind of external relationship such as man’s relationship to his mother, father, relatives, friends, and educational and material status.


Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

For the individual to win the battle of ‘SAMSARA’, to gain freedom from the cycle of birth and death, to declare victory over death and to finally reach the shore and complete the long and tiresome swim across the uncharted ocean, he is required to disentangle himself from the cobweb of relationships and set himself free. The following prayer known as ‘MAHA MRITYUN JAYA MANTRAM’ illustrates the point:

Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

 Om,Triyambakam,Yajamahe sugandhim pushti vardhanam,

Urvaaru kamiva bhandha naat mrutyor muksheeya amrutaat.

Such liberated Individual who had freed himself from all external relationships would be able to proclaim his True Identity and the following verse written by Shri Shankaracharya is an example of an Individual who had reached the Goal Of Absolute Individualism:

Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

Na Mrityur, na Shankaa, na me Jaati bheydaH,

Pitaa naiva, me naiva Maataa, na Janma,

Na Bandhur,na Mitram, Gurur naiva  SishyaH,

Chidaananda RupaH  ShivO aHam, ShivO aHam.

Thus Indian Identity is none other than the identity of “SHIVA” whose Individualistic Identity is described as Sat+Chit+Ananda.

Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism.

In the Epic Poem of Ramayana, the concept of Individualism is vividly portrayed. Rama alone was required to live in the forest. He could have just refused to do so. No force upon earth could have moved Him but He made His own choice. Lakshmana made His own choice and accompanied His brother for a life in the forest. Rama made no decision about Seeta. He did not want her to accompany Him into the forest. Seeta made Her own decision. All of them express their own personal independence in unique manners.

Defining Indian Identity. The Doctrine of Individualism. The Man has no choice other than that of existing as an Individual with Individuality. His genome is unique and one of its own kind.


    “Vishno pade parama” ituudita prasamsau  

    Yo “madhva utsa” iti bhogyatayaapyu paatau  

    Bhuyasta dheyti tava paanitala pradhistau  

    Sree Venkatesa Charanau Saranam Prapadey.  


    The land of India is a very unique place on this planet where people are culturally endowed with an ardent desire to worship feet.No other society or social community has openly exhibited this behavioral trait and feet worship could be described as the hall-mark of Indian Identity.This tradition and literal practice of feet worship was well established by the time the epic poem of Ramayana was composed.In AYODHYA KANDA,we read the very moving account of Rama touching the feet of His father Dasaratha and queen mother Kaikeyi after having received the orders for his banishment to live in the forest for fourteen years.Later in ARANYA KANDA,we read about the younger brother Bharata who literally clung to the feet of Rama seeking His refuge.Eventually,Bharata carried Rama’s sandals keeping them on his head and installs them on the throne( PADUKA PATTABHISHEKAM ) and served them with great devotion for fourteen long years during Rama’s exile.  

    Lord Rama and the Tradidtion of 'Feet Worship'
    Ramayana gives detailed accounts of the Tradition of Feet Worship.Rama had worshipped the feet of His father, mother, stepmothers and His Gurus. Bharata, the younger brother of Rama had installed the sandals(Padukas) worn by Rama upon the throne and had worshipped them for fourteen years.

    India is the land where you witness people touching the feet of living persons as an act of worship.This is a fairly common event and sometimes the remembrance of such worship lingers in your mind.I would like to narrate one such event that I had witnessed in the past and my act of remembrance may add-on to the blessings these feet worshipers may be receiving even today.  

    I was traveling by train from Rajahmundry to Lucknow City to serve in the Indian Army Medical Corps. I was motivated by a desire to see the land of India with my own eyes and know its people.For the first time, I was traveling in a first class compartment and was the sole occupant. Later in the night, a lady entered the compartment and was apparently traveling alone. She was elegantly attired, looked modest and the picture of an upper middle class house wife. Early morning, when the train had halted at a station, I did not realize that she had reached her destination. She was quietly seated, was not gathering her belongings and was not even looking outside to check if some one had arrived to receive her. After a little while, I had noticed three young men, well- dressed and well-groomed, all of them little older than me, checking the list of passenger names on the door of the train compartment and entered the compartment. They did not pay any attention to my presence. One after the other, they went forward to bend and touch her feet and paid their respects. The behavior of the young men that I was keenly observing was natural, spontaneous and unpretentious. That early morning hour, they were not putting up an act in a public place to impress any one. They acted in a deliberate, purposeful and reverential manner and I am very sure that they grew up in that manner and clearly they were not inhibited in displaying their respect in front of strangers. I was a silent spectator of this scene wherein an unassuming woman suddenly got transformed into a living deity. I can assure you that you would witness such a scene only in the Land of India. Hence, I would claim that the desire to worship the feet of a living person would define Indian Identity.  

    Every deity that Indians seek to worship are better pleased when we worship their feet. PRAHLADA had described ” PADA SEVANAM ” as one of the nine ways to worship VISHNU. Indians worship feet not only as a sign of humility but also as a mark of submission, total surrender to the will of God. They touch feet as a plea for protection. This is not a mere religious rite or ritual and it actually shapes the attitudes and behavior of people. The final resting place for the individual souls(‘ JEEVATMA ‘)has been described as the Lotus Feet of the Lord. This is described as ‘CHARANAM'( Feet of the Lord ) ‘SARANAM’ ( Ultimate Refuge ).  

    Please also view a related blog post titled ‘Defining Indian identity – The Land of Karma’ 

    Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,  

    Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,  

    M.B.B.S.,  Class of  April,  1970.  



    Ullanghya sindho salilam saleelam
    Yaha shoka wanheen Janakaatma jaayaaha
    Aadaaya tenaiwa dadaaha Lankaa
    Namaami tam praanjali raanjaneyam

    Defining Indian Identity-The Fear of Samsara.

    In one great leap of faith, Lord Hanuman jumps over the sea with utmost ease, whereas crossing the sea evokes only a sense of fear in my heart. I derive some hope from the legend about the land bridge (SETU) built by the army of monkeys.The Sea God promised them that the rocks and boulders used for the construction of the bridge will be held in place and stay afloat. He did that to please Lord Rama. During my perilous journey across the ocean of SAMSARA, I use the name “RAMA” and remain afloat.

    In the fearful journey described as ‘SAMSARA’, I would use Lord Rama’s name as a ‘Life Jacket’ and also the name serves like a Beacon of Hope and provides a sense of direction while journeying across an uncharted, treacherous sea.

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom” says the Holy Bible, The Book of Proverbs, Chapter1, verse 7. For the religious traditions that originated outside of India such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the fear of the Lord could be a primary motivating factor to seek the worship of the Lord. On the contrary, the religious traditions that originated in the Land of India, do not encourage their adherents to entertain any such fear of the Lord. In the Indian traditions, the Lord or the Deity that Indians choose to worship would receive them with a sign that proclaims ” BE FEARLESS.” The Lord reassures them with a sign that is popularly described as ABHAYA HASTA or ABHAYA MUDRA. In Indian literature, countless number of images, idols, paintings and drawings, there are invariable references to a consistent message of ABHAYA and naturally Indians are less concerned with ” The Fear of the Lord.”  

    The cultural traditions that originated in India motivate people to seek refuge or shelter at the Feet of the Lord by evoking a sense of fear and this fear is described as the fear of ” SAMSARA “.Samsara or Bhava describes the viewpoint about the human condition and deals with the problems of human existence.It contributes to a sense of apprehension and anxiety and the attitude it generates is one of intense fear and helplessness.Samsara portrays the picture of life’s journey as a tedious,difficult and challenging swim across an unknown,uncharted and treacherous ocean.Samsara is also depicted as a serious disease entity afflicting a person’s health and is referred to as ” BHAVA ROGA “.Others view Samsara as existence in a bottomless deep pit(“AGHADA”)or that of being trapped in a deep well from where an escape would not be easy.The fear of Samsara/Bhava,the human condition,has nothing to do with physical courage.The powerful idea of Samsara inspires a sense of fear in the hearts of even the most courageous of all people.Cultural traditions that have their roots in the other parts of this planet may not be aware of this kind of fear and hence the fear of Samsara could be viewed as a feature that defines and molds the Indian Identity.Indians chant the Lord’s name as a medicine to cure this terrible disease and they seek Lord’s protection to reach the shore and complete the journey across the ocean.There are numerous references in Indian literature and some verses could be quoted to illustrate the point.  


    Human existence faces challenges from several directions. The concept of Samsara is an additional and significant challenge experienced by the people of Land of India. Lord Rama during His life’s journey had faced several challenges and His name gives the comfort and protection that I seek while my journey is rough and tough.

     Samsara sagara bahaya paha viswa mantram  

    Saksham Mumukshu jana sevita siddhi mantram  

    Saranga hasta mukha hasta nivasa mantram  

    Kaivalya mantra manesam bhaja Rama mantram.  

    This verse would banish the fear generated by the ocean like Samsara.  



    “VANDE VISHNUM, BHAVA BHAYA HARAM” – Salutations to Lord Vishnu, the Destroyer of the Fear of Samsara.

    शान्ताकारं भुजगशयनं पद्मनाभं सुरेशं
    विश्वाधारं गगनसदृशं मेघवर्ण शुभाङ्गम् ।
    लक्ष्मीकान्तं कमलनयनं योगिभिर्ध्यानगम्यम्
    वन्दे विष्णुं भवभयहरं सर्वलोकैकनाथम् ॥

    Shaanta-Aakaaram Bhujaga-Shayanam Padmanabham Suresham
    Vishva-Aadhaaram Gagana-Sadrusham Megha-Varnna Shubha-Anggam|
    Lakshmi-Kantam Kamala-Nayanam Yogibhir-Dhyaana-Gamyam

    Vande Vishnum Bhava-Bhaya-Haram Sarva-Loka-Eka-Naatham ||

    The prayer would destroy the fear of bhava/Samsara.  



    Samsara koopa mati ghoramaghadha mulam,  

    Samprapya dukha sata sarpa samaa kulasya  

    Deenasya Deva krupayaa saranaagatasya  

    Lakshmi Nrusimha mama dehi  karavalambam.  

    The verse pleads the Lord to extend His hand and physically lift the worshiper from the horrible bottomless well of Samsara.  



    Praatarnamaami girisam girijaardha deham  

    Sarga sthiti pralaya kaarana maadi Devam  

    Visweswaram vijita viswa manobhiraamam  

    Samsara roga hara oushadha madviteeyam.  

    The verse describes Lord Shiva as the root cause of creation,sustenance and eventual destruction and the Lord’s name is the matchless medicine to wipe out the disease of Samsara.  


    Guru Adi Shankaracharya describes the fear of Samsara and its resolution by seeking protection from chanting the name of GOVINDA.

    Punarapi jananam punarapi maranam  

    Punarapi jananee jatare sayanam  

    Eha samsaare bahu dustaare  

    Krupaya paare pahi Murare.  

    Defining Indian Identity-The Fear of Samsara.

    This verse seeks the compassion of Vishnu to reach the shore and to get over the problem of this difficult existence which involves repeated cycles of birth, death and rebirth.  


    SHODASA NAAMA MANTRAM. The Sound Energy of these 16 names would destroy all the polluting effects of our present times.

    Hare Rama Hare Rama-Rama Rama Hare Hare  

    Hare Krishna Hare Krishna-Krishna Krishna Hare Hare.  

    This Mantra is composed with sixteen words and hence is also known as Shodasa Nama Maha Mantram. Amongst all Vedas, there is no better device than this Mantra to seek   deliverance from the trappings of Samsara.The following verse from Kali Samtaranopanishad  proves the efficacy of this Mantra.  


    Eti Shodasha Naamnam, Kali kalmasha nasanam;   NaaTha parataropayaH, Sarva Vedeshu drusyatey.  

    Human existence is beset with countless uncertainties and difficulties which may arrive without any prior warning from different directions in an unpredictable manner. It is rational to approach life with a sense of apprehension and seek the help of the Lord who graciously held His right hand in a show of compassion and receives with a greeting of “ABHAYA” and is willing to banish the fear of Samsara. 

    Defining Indian Identity-The Fear of Samsara. The LORD is Male and Female at one and the same time. The right hand is held in the pose of Abhaya Mudra.

    A Prayer to Lord Ganesha for Success with Humility

    A Prayer to Lord Ganesha for Success with Humility.

    Lord Ganesha is unique among all deities. He has a human form with the head of an Asian elephant. Like the elephant which can grasp objects with its trunk, the entire realm of knowledge is in His grasp. In brilliance, He outshines Sun (Surya) and His radiant appearance can illuminate the entire universe. His body is so huge, it can accommodate the entire creation.

    A Prayer to Lord Ganesha for Success with Humility.

    Lord Ganesha is worshiped to remove obstacles. He removes obstacles when we contemplate actions that promote our well-being and brings us the goodwill of others and the actions should have no evil design or purpose. Lord Ganesha removes obstacles and paves the way for accomplishment and success in human endeavors. The notion that success is the result of divine sanction rather than being entirely due to personal effort, would let us reach our goals with a sense of modesty and humility.


    The primary goals for man have been described as Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. Dharma (right conduct)is not only a goal but also is the way. The other three goals should only be reached following the way of Dharma. To prepare for the journey on the path of Dharma, the traveler finds direction from a sense of humility. The radiant and immense personality of Ganesha endows us with humility. Having reached the goals of Artha (personal wealth, social status and position), and Kama (fulfillment of desires, progeny, and family), we inevitably encounter with the consequences of the powerful effects of time. The following verse from ‘ Bhaja Govindam’ sets us on a mission to seek the fourth goal of human existence.

    A Prayer to Lord Ganesha for Success with Humility.

    The fear that time would dissolve everything we possess would help us to overcome arrogance that may be associated with acquiring wealth, family and being youthful in age.

    Sooner or later, we set our sights for the fourth goal and it will not be very easy to visualize the final destination. To achieve Moksha or Mukti, to reach the shore of liberation and conclude the journey across the ocean of Samsara, a person endowed with humility would be able to say the following prayer and get the needed help.

    A prayer to Lord Ganesha for Success with Humility. The flow of Time remains a Mystery. Man is conditioned to experience the aging process as if Time flows in a Straight Line like an Arrow.

    Human existence is permanently bound to the illusion that shapes the sensory experience of Sunrise and Sunset. Sun shines with all His radiance all the time. The living entities exist in an illusion state which helps them to mark their existence by the alternating periods of light and darkness. We do not have the biological ability to detect the spin of the Earth and we have synchronized our existence with Sunrise and Sunset and this biological rhythm, known as Solar Rhythm, Circadian Rhythm, or Diurnal Rhythm, manages several of our biological functions.

    The Grandfather Clock – The division of the day into hours, minutes, and seconds helps us to recognize the passage of time. We have no sensory perception of Earth’s spin that gives us alternate periods of light and darkness.

    It is not easy to comprehend the Ultimate Reality when the existence is synchronized with an illusion. Time’s Power of Dissolution would eventually compel us to investigate and to explore the concept of Absolute and Unchanging Reality. A prayer to Lord Ganesha would endow us with humility that we need to achieve the four primary goals and gives us success in life.

    MENTORSHIP: Bammera Potana, the well-known Telugu poet while translating the epic poem of Bhagavatam from the Sanskrit language into Telugu stated that he would narrate the story of Bhagavatam using imagination and inspiration entirely provided by Lord Rama: 

    A Prayer to Lord Ganesha for Success with Humility under the mentorship of poet Bammera Potana.
    A Prayer to Lord Ganesha for Success with Humility under the mentorship of poet Bammera Potana.

    I would like to narrate my story, describe my ideas, and share my thoughts drawing inspiration from Lord Rama. My endeavor is to destroy the state of conditioned existence called ‘Bhava’, and get over the fear of ‘Samsara’, a journey of the embodied soul across uncharted sea which constantly evokes a sense of fear of the unknown.

    A Prayer to Lord Ganesha for Success with Humility under the mentorship of Poet Bammera Potana.

    Maharishi Valmiki, Adikavi, Prime Poet, had no formal education. He was totally inspired to narrate the Story of Lord Rama called RAMAYANA. Telugu Poet Bammera Potana who also had no formal education translated the epic poem known as Bhagavatam from Sanskrit into Telugu and displayed his immense powers of creativity. He not only dedicated his work to Lord Rama but also acknowledged that every word that he used was inspired by Lord Rama. For my humble endeavor, I seek the same inspiration.

    Anyatha sharanam nasti, tvameva sharanam mamah

    Tasmat karunya bhavena, kshamasva Parameshvara. 

    I have no other refuge, Thou art my sole refuge,
    Out of a sense of compassion, protect me, O Supreme Lord! 

    A prayer to Lord Ganesha for Success with Humility.

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