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Indian depictions of human-beings focus on their inherent “goodness” deriving from the divine essence at the core of each person. The history of the sub-continent reveals how during different periods, people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, managed to live together in harmony. This is not to deny that conflicts are not common place – in this regard India has had its share of war and violence – but what is unique is the way differences between groups have been minimized and often transcended. A cursory glance at the history of social movements on the sub-continent reveal that over the centuries, some of the most prominent movements have had a spiritual foundation – one that emphasizes the oneness of all humanity and which paves the way for lowering barriers along ethnic, religious, caste, as well as gender lines.

Further, by way of a “case study”, the paper/presentation underscores the contribution of the Bhakti saint Sant Kabir Das. Kabir defied the boundaries between various religious and caste groups, and sharply criticized sectarianism. Kabir shows us how the fissures in our own mind, the violence (gross or subtle) and the dishonesties that we are capable of when we construct and defend our ego. He shows us how we subtly “other” multiple categories of people in order to consolidate our identity and how this “othering” keeps us locked in dualistic ways of perceiving ourselves and the world – ways that are ultimately violent and divisive. Kabir escapes the narrow categories of “Hindu”, “Muslim”, “Christian”, “Jew”, “Buddhist” etc.; and no doubt, his message of love has great relevance for all societies and nations, and goes a long way in healing the [psychically] wounded. Kabir helps us in traversing hearts and minds, crossing bridges of understanding, despite difference, and maps a way forward toward transforming self and society.


Suneet Varma, Ph.D., is Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, University of Delhi, India. His early work was in the area of theoretical psychology / philosophy of psychology. Suneet is a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, and derives his inspiration—academically as well as personally—from their writings. His more recent work is in the area of Indian Psychology, in an attempt to build bridges between Vedanta, Yoga Psychology, Gita, Buddhist Psychology; and Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga. Currently, Suneet is extensively engaged in unravelling the interface between spirituality and healing.