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Solitude, Spiritual Beings and Social Responsibility

Ancient Indian tradition extols solitariness. It considers solitariness as a necessary precondition for a spiritual well-being and enlightenment. Every aspirant should pass through the two stages of solitary life vanaprastha and saṃnyāsa in one’s spiritual journey. Spiritual aspirants of the distant and recent past have imbibed the virtues of solitary life. The society even today regards them with the greatest respect and veneration. But what is the role of spiritual solitary beings to society? Do they have any responsibility to the society? Or being in solitude is an end-in-itself for them? It is a matter of discussion as whether the solitary being after liberation, should come back to society to help liberate the masses as well. This issue was discussed in early philosophical literature and by some recent spiritualists as well. I will try to explore this issue with inputs from traditional discussions and works of spiritualists like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi and others. I will try to address this issue by taking note of current happenings in Indian society.

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