Speech on “Tradition is an Obstacle to Progress”

A man who does not respect tradition actually makes a mistake of ignoring the past. It would be myopic to presume that the past is dead. The past is alive and dynamic plays a vital role in shaping the present as well as the future. Of course, we are not talking about being obsessed with the past. We merely intend to assert that one should not learn to forget the right lessons from the past. If our forefathers have put their blood and sweat to evolve an enviable culture with tremendous depth, it would be downright stupid for us to forsake it.

Today, we find the world accepting the power of ayurveda and yoga. There is no gainsaying the fact that ayurveda and yoga are essential parts of the ancient Vedic and Vedanta literature that defined life in Bharat Varsha. The administrative efficiency of Ashoka or Sher Shah is also a part of our culture.

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If we adopt ideas from them, is it going to be a hindrance to progress? The Bhagavad Gita or the ‘divine song’ composed about five thousand years ago is at the core of our identity as Indians. Would the act of conveniently forgetting the Gita as a burden of tradition be an act of wisdom? It is doubtful indeed.

Tradition can never be a hindrance to progress because true tradition is open enough to welcome changes. The traditional masters of the past were wise enough to perceive the necessity and inevitability of change. What tradition will oppose is a blind inversion and perversion of the eternal values of life (that do not change with time)—truth, honour, honesty respect towards elders and so on. If Einstein caused a revolution in the field of science with his theory of relativity, a noble concept, he did not do so by disrespecting the traditional wisdom of scientists through generations. He was wise enough to understand that today’s novelty, if good enough, shall become a part of the tradition tomorrow.