The Fundamental Principles of PROUT

The Progressive Utilization Theory, as previously discussed, incorporates a unique understanding of human potential, history and class dynamics, as well as a broad social, political and economic perspective. Despite its expansive scope, however, the essence of PROUT can be reduced to a number of basic principles. Shrii Sarkar, the author of the theory, summarized it in sixteen principles. These five are regarded as the most fundamental. They embody the multi-dimensional approach of PROUT, addressing the physical, mental and spiritual needs of individuals and society at large.
1) No individual should be allowed to accumulate any physical wealth without the clear permission or approval of the collective body.
Several points are embodied in this statement. The most important point is that ownership lies with the collectivity, while the individual has a right to usage only. Society shall have the right to determine to what extent private ownership will be accepted. The over accumulation of wealth by an individual may easily deprive others. Similarly, the misuse of wealth and resources by an individual may also bring harm to the collectivity, or at least hinder its general affluence. Therefore, the right to accumulate wealth cannot be accepted as final. Individual liberty, in the economic sphere, must be in balance with the collective well-being. This refutes the basic notion of capitalism, which allows virtually unlimited liberty for individual accumulation. This also refutes communist theory that prescribes uniform salaries to all, regardless of labor and merit. In the Proutist philosophy, absolute uniformity of wealth is viewed as idealistic and unpsychological, while unchecked accumulation is also to be avoided.
This principle also implies that the very notion of ownership may vary considerably according to the collective psychology. Obviously different notions have existed in this regard. A comparison between modern Western concepts of private ownership with those of various tribal societies of the past and present illustrates a difference in viewpoint. This first principle of PROUT essentially assures that the extent of private ownership will be in adjustment to the well-being of the collective. Note that no particular mechanism for determining ownership is specified, for such methods are also not absolute – it is only the general principle which is unchanging.
This principle is the basis for PROUT embracing economic democracy (as defined in Chapter Three) insofar as the notion of collective ownership implies a democratic approach to the utilization of resources.
2) There should be maximum utilization and rational distribution of all mundane, supramundane, and spiritual potentialities of the universe.
This statement supposes the existence of material as well as more subtle resources, which should be fully utilized and distributed in a rational manner. For the maximum utilization of physical resources, constant scientific endeavor must be made to understand the latent potentials of the physical world. No one would have imagined the latent potentials of the atom a few decades before its energetic potential was harnessed, regardless of how one may feel about the uses made of the discovery. Newer and better ways must be found to get maximum benefits from minimal resources, reducing environmental impact and increasing efficiency. Constant endeavor to find uses for different resources (such as the medicinal use of plants) will increase the potential standard of living.
However, depending upon the distribution of wealth, a high standard of living for the general population may or may not be guaranteed. Hence rational distribution of wealth is necessary. Though different opinions may exist upon what is considered rational distribution, clearly a need-based, rather than profit driven economy will lead to a more rational (and more equitable) distribution of wealth. This principle of PROUT contains the philosophical basis for the guarantee of the basic needs. This is achieved by providing employment opportunities in those industries that produce products and services to meet these needs and by ensuring that the jobs created provide adequate purchasing power to secure the essential products and services.
Rational distribution, as opposed to equal distribution, may also include the recognition of special needs and reward for special abilities. The idea of maximum amenities for all is derived from this principle. Indeed, many of the basic principles of the PROUT economic system are based upon the ideal of maximum utilization and rational distribution – including cooperatives, decentralization, etc. PROUT’s ideas on agriculture are also related.
The inclusion of supramundane and spiritual resources within the scope of maximum utilization and rational distribution acknowledges subtle layers of existence. Utilizing the arts for development of the subtle mental faculties may be an example of supramundane utilization. Higher supramundane and spiritual potentialities should also be developed (one can refer to Shrii Sarkar’s books on Microvita, Yoga Psychology and other topics for his views on these potentialities). Though perhaps not obvious now, Sarkar envisions a time when these potentialities can also be utilized for the collective benefit, and hence the same approach should be followed as with physical resources. The utilization of the subtlest resources will require systematic research into the nature of consciousness itself.
3) There should be maximum utilization of the physical, metaphysical, and spiritual potentialities of the unit and collective bodies of human society.
The second principle refers to utilizing the objective world, crude and subtle, while this principle refers to the utilization of human potential in the physical, metaphysical and spiritual spheres. Development of the collective and individual potentialities are equally important, and the two are inexorably linked. The physical, intellectual and spiritual potentialities of individuals must be used in a constructive way, and maximum effort must be made for their all-round development. In a similar way the collective strengths of different groups should be utilized according to their circumstances. Those with outstanding abilities should be given maximum scope for utilizing their skills and creativity, while additional effort is to be made for the development of the innate potential of all.
In order to develop the potentialities of all, existential fear must be removed by the guarantee of the minimum requirements of life. Only then can people at large have the mental ease needed for psychic and spiritual growth. Free and ample educational opportunities must be made available to all. There should also be opportunities in the workplace for the development of new skills and expertise, which should then be creatively utilized. The development of the collective mind has, of course, the development of the individual mind as a base. Special effort should be made to include factors in the educational system that will help ensure the development of the collective mind, such as socio- economic consciousness, ethical conduct, service mindedness, social awareness, and spirituality. Most of the socio-cultural Proutist ideas pertaining to education, language and the arts are elaborations upon this fundamental principle.
4) There should be a proper adjustment amongst these physical, metaphysical, mundane, supramundane and spiritual utilizations.
This principle asserts that the previous two principles must be applied in a balanced and integrated way. Neither should physicality and the material world, nor metaphysical, supramundane and spiritual potentialities be developed to the exclusion of the others, or society will exist in a state of imbalance and meet with degeneration. People must be encouraged and challenged on various levels, otherwise widespread idleness or lethargy and apathy may develop. For example, increasing purchasing power is the best method of meeting people’s needs on the physical level rather than handouts which would be both impractical and destructive to initiative.
“Proper adjustment” in this context also means that people’s role in society should be determined in a balanced way. As a general rule, employment should be guaranteed which is both agreeable and suitable to people, drawing upon their inherent talents and interests. It is generally recognized that intellectual and artistic skills are comparatively rare as opposed to physical skills, while spiritual wisdom is even more rare. Society should require comparatively less mundane service from those utilizing their higher mental and spiritual faculties for the benefit of society, following a balanced policy. Shrii Sarkar feels that it is imperative for the leaders of society to be developed intellectually and spiritually and to be physically fit as well, which certainly requires a degree of all-round development.
The concept of the six factors of bhati is somewhat akin to the spirit of this principle (see Chapter One). The concepts of the “master unit” and samaj are also related to the application of this principle (see Chapter Seven), as they require the integration of many aspects of human life in a balanced way.
5) The method of utilization should vary in accordance with the changes in time, place, and person, and the utilization should be of a progressive nature.
This fifth principle holds that new and better methods of utilization should be continually developed in accordance with scientific and human development, considering changes in human psychology, the physical environment, etc. For instance, in accordance with maximum utilization, better ways should be found to harness the energy of manual labor, increasing efficiency. But of course, this should lead to increased productivity and decreased work hours, not a loss of jobs. Economic, social and political policies must be adjusted to human needs, and there should be efforts for their continual improvement in a progressive, humanitarian way.
Scientific research must be guided by progressive ideals as well. An anti-technological attitude is certainly antithetical to human development. Some may argue that the environmental impact of technology is such that it will eventually destroy our ecological balance. It may be more reasonable to conclude that this state of affairs is the result of the regressive utilization or misutilization of science. Progressive utilization of science necessitates continual effort to assess and mitigate the environmental impact of new technologies.
The progressive utilization of mental potentialities may include increased computer assistance, new developments in art and philosophy, improved educational methods and the like for general progress. Progressive utilization in the higher sphere of life may include the development of new intuitional techniques for self-realization, and the harnessing of the spiritual inspiration and transformative power of self-realized individuals in a better way. Shrii Sarkar surmises, “Through struggle, society will have to move forward towards victory along the path of all-round fulfillment in life.” (Ananda Sutram).
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