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Akhandjyoti » Magazine » 2003 » Jan Feb 2003 » The Meaning and Purpose of Culture

The Meaning and Purpose of Culture

The word "culture" nowadays is used in so many peripheral contexts that its original meaning has been submerged. For example, we have a "popular culture", by which is meant the collective human intellectual achievements. There is a "consumerist culture", which is taken by some as a determinant of the status of a person along with his educational success and/or financial strength. To be an integral part of this culture, one has to have a higher spending power, which yields a greater availability of materialistic pleasures and facilities. We also hear of an "emerging culture", which reflects the attitudes and the behavioral characteristics of a particular social group. An emerging drug or pub culture among the youngsters of today is an example. Modern colleges and universities take pride in their "competitive culture" that helps to bring out the best in students and aid their intellectual development. However, none of these descriptions highlight the essential features of the true meaning of "culture".

The concept of culture:

Intellectuals and thinkers of the world have defined and analysed "culture" in their own way. Prof. Edward Burnett Tylor, a famous 19th century English anthropologist, gave one of the first clear definitions of culture in the West. He defined culture as a complex collection of "knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society".1 According to Matthew Arnold, a poet of the Victorian era, culture means "contact with the best which has been thought and said in the world".2 He considered culture as a "study of perfection". Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, described culture as the outcome and basis of training, establishment and development of physical and mental potentials. Sri Rajgopalacharya, the first Governor General of British India, defined it as the collective expression of the thoughts, speeches and deeds of the learned, talented or creative members of a society or a nation. In the 1950s, A. L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn collected over a hundred definitions of culture.

A modern definition of culture is given by anthropologist William A. Haviland in Cultural Anthropology as follows: "Culture is a set of rules or standards that, when acted upon by the members of a society, produce behaviour that falls within a range of variance the members consider proper and acceptable."3 In other words, culture does not refer to the behaviour that is observed but to values and beliefs which generate behaviour. Some modern definitions of culture tend to be inclusive of the "emerging culture" of society. For instance, in Culture and Modernity, Roop Rekha Verma defines culture as "a system of the patterns and the modes of expectations, expressions, values, institutionalisation and enjoyment habits of people in general."4 Note the inclusion of the term "enjoyment habits"...

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The spiritual acumen and enlightened wisdom of seer-sage Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya had a reach into the deepest depth of human mind and emotional core. He could feel the agony of the masses through heart. He could therefore identify the root cause of the ailing state of the world today as – the crisis of faith....

The Art of Sadhana
From the Editor's Desk
How it All Started
Materialism and Spirituality: Two ways of Living
The Meaning and Purpose of Culture
Yajna - The Foundation of Vedic Culture
The Philosophy of Gayatri: An Introduction
Vedmurti Taponishtha Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya
Scientific Spirituality
Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya (A University Established for the Cultural Renaissance of the World)
Awakening of Supernormal Faculties Through Sadhana
Is Unraveling of the Mystery of Life and Death Possible Through Science?
Humanity: Our Precious Heritage
Spirituality – The Key to the Resolution of the Problems of Our Age
Awakening Divinity in Man
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