Saturday, June 15, 2024

Nature vs. Nurture: Unveiled through Vedic Philosophy

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In the grand theater of human philosophical discourses, the spotlight often falls on the age-old debate of nature vs. nurture. This thought-provoking enigma has led many philosophers down the rabbit hole of which element is more important for human society. Some Western philosophers state the nature of a human is superior, while others stand firm in the belief that nurture is the deciding factor in humans. Thus, this never-ending debate should also be viewed through the prism enriched with the profound insights of Vedic philosophy.

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Nature’s Canvas: The Essence Humans Are Born With

Picture human society as a pristine slate that is enriched with nature’s endowments. The Vedic philosophy studies this notion as the concept of “svabhava,” i.e. one’s inherent disposition. Just as a lotus’s delicate beauty unfurls within a muddy pond, inherent traits in a human emerge from the complex matrix of human nature. Similar to the sun that radiates light unbidden, innate nature always defines the color of a human’s existence.

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Consider the example of Arjuna, an archer par excellence from Vedic India. All the Pandavas were taught by the same gurus and the same instruments. There was no partiality or special treatment offered to any Pandav putra. However, Arjun’s arrow-flying prowess was incomparable. His inherent capability with a bow and arrow was akin to nature’s gift.

This example underscores that the essence of nature’s imprint on humans is unbidden and inherent. Similar to the echo of a conch shell in the wind, the nature of a human can neither be suppressed nor denied.

Nurture’s Sculptor: The Hand that Molds All Humans

Beyond nature’s canvas lies the nurture’s sculpture. The hands of circumstances, family, and society nurture each human intricately. Thus, all human beings are a chiseled, unique masterpiece that is nurtured by human society. This concept is understood as ‘samskara’ in Vedic philosophy. It is the impressions that are imprinted by every experience and etched by each lesson learned onto a human being. Vedic India understands the role of samskara similar to the journey of a river. Just as a river meanders through diverse terrains and transforms its path according to the land it travels in, human life is also shaped by the nurturing landscape of experiences it traverses.

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The story of Duryudhana, the young Kuru prince from Vedic India highlights the importance of ‘Nurture’. Duryodhana’s spiteful nature was a consequence of King Dhritarashtra’s disdain for his brother, the late King Pandu. The hatred for King Pandu was extended to his sons, the Pandav Putra, as well. Moreover, the steady verbal poisoning of his Uncle Shakuni, King of Kandhar, nurtured Duryodhana into an egoistic human. Duryodhana slowly turned into a villain that hated everything about the Pandavas. He also lacked any sense of familial duty towards them. Thus, like the chisel shaping a formless stone into a sculpture, the nurturing hand of family members and circumstances defined Duryodhana’s character. Therefore, like Duryodhana was influenced by his circumstances, family, and society; the role of Nurture is undeniable in human behavior. 

A Synthesis Beyond the Divide

Nature PLUS nurture make a (well)being.
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The above examples show that Vedic wisdom doesn’t pit nature against nurture like most Western philosophers. Instead, Vedic philosophy merges samskara and svabhava into a seamless flow. Thus, let’s reconsider the analogy of a river. Although the course of a river is nature’s creation, its fertile contributions to the environment arise from the nurturing earth. The philosophical echoes of “dharma,” our righteous path, confirm that while nature grants inclinations and traits, it’s through nurturing that humans learn to channel them harmoniously.

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The nature vs. nurture debate isn’t about taking sides but embracing the harmony of human existence. While nature gifts, nurture refines; therefore, human existence is a harmonious blend of nature and nurture. Similar to the notes of a raga that create an enchanting melody, nature and nurture woven together craft the symphony of human society.

Vedic India’s examples offer timelessly profound wisdom on understanding the nature vs. nurture conundrum. Vedic philosophy believes that humans are shaped by the interplay of their innate nature and the nurturing they receive. Therefore, as taught by Vedic India, nature vs. nurture is not a battle but a partnership of the two. Moreover, through the examples available from Vedic India, humans must remember to embrace the beautiful balance between nature and nurture.

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