Third Way, The Hindu Way

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The Third Way, The Hindu Way is a socioeconomic philosophy propounded by Shri Dattopant Thengadi, a veteran trade union leader and the founder of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.

It was called the ‘Third Way’, as it was considered an alternative to both capitalism and communism.[1]

His thoughts have been explained in his book “The Third Way”.

He believed that the workers, by contributing their labor to the business, should be entitled to become shareholders and thereby should be given participation in the ownership of the industries.[1]

Ecology is given a lot of importance in his writings. He believed that Nature should be “milked” but not “exploited” or “killed”. The ‘Third way’ believes that education, ecology, economics and ethics—all four must be taken into consideration in an integrated manner for any economic activity.[1]

As has been believed by Gandhians, here too it is believed that material wealth is to be acquired with the object of serving the society.[1]

Consumerism is challenged as not the ultimate goal of life. Thengadi believed that consumerism was not compatible with the spirit of the Hindu culture.[1]


There are two dominant systems of development today. They are capitalism and communism. Both of them are of western origin. Therefore, they advocate the western world view. Capitalism strongly believes in a free market economy. It argues that people should be totally free to follow any economic activity. Individual economic freedom should be maximum and state intervention should be minimum. Capitalism strongly advocates private property. According to the advocates of capitalism, a free enterprise and a free market economy, always ensures rapid economic development of the country and maximum welfare. Communism on the contrary advocates total state control over all productive resources. It is strongly against private property and private enterprise. It advocates maximum state control over economic activities and minimum freedom to the individuals. Thus capitalism and communism appear to be diametrically opposed to one another. However, on a closer scrutiny capitalism and communism are one and the same. Both of them consider man only as a bundle of desires. Nothing more than that. Both of them are materialist in the sense that satisfaction of physical needs is considered to be the only objective of human life. Artha and kama are the only two Purusharthas, according to them. Dharma and moksha – the spiritual aspects of human life are totally ignored by them. Both of them lay emphasis upon material wealth. The difference between them is restricted only to the question as to who should be the owner of wealth, the individual or the state. If your answer is individual, you are a capitalist and if your answer is the state, you are a communist. Hence communism is dubbed as state capitalism. Further both of them are `Homocentric’. They believe strongly that man is the centre of creations. Everything in Nature animate or inanimate is created for the enjoyment of Man. Thus capitalism and communism are the two faces of the same coin. Capitalism has a history of about 200 years and communism of about 80 years. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Mecca of communism – communism as a model of development has totally collapsed. Even China has bid good bye to communism. It is only namesake communist country. The Global Financial and Economic crisis started in the U.S., the Mecca of Free Market Capitalism – in 2007, and spread like a swine flu to cover the whole world. Today even western economists have started arguing that the global economic crisis is a crisis of the system, rather than the crisis in the system. Thus today, communism is dead and capitalism is dying. Today the whole world is facing the question, - Which is the third way? What is better alternative System of development? The world is at cross roads. It is in this background of the global crisis, we have to understand and discuss Sree Dattopanth Thengadiji’s classic work – `Third way’.

Major convictions[edit]

At the outset, Thengadi puts forward certain conditions, which he calls his major convictions.

1) We do not think that modernization is westernization: Due to over a century of brain washing through Macaulay system of English education, majority of Indians are habituated to believe that anything west is always best. To be modern our lifestyle and thought style should necessarily be western. However this is only a mental blockade. We must come out of it at the earliest and be prepared to think free of western biases. We must accept that modernization is not westernization and westernization is not modernization.

2) We also do not think that anything western should be rejected simply because it is western. We are therefore in favour of assimilating knowledge from all peoples. Of course, we must scrutinize it in the light of our past traditions and present requirements and then decide, how much is to be adopted, and how much is to be rejected. Blind imitation of the west would only indicate bankruptcy of our native genius or acute inferiority complex.

3) Socio economic conditions obtaining in the third world countries, including India are not similar to those obtaining in the western countries. Therefore, these countries will have to find out their own respective paths to prosperity in the light of their respective traditions, conditions and requirements. In this connection he quotes Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore who said, “God has distributed different question papers to different countries.” So copying is of no use. One size does not fit all.


Thengadiji summarizes the differences between the Western and the Hindu approach to development as follows.The WESTERN and the HINDU:- These are the two entirely different paradigms with their entirely different value–systems, institutional arrangements and parameters.

Comparison of Western and Third Way model of development

Western [edit]

Third Way[edit]

Compartmentalised thinking Integrated thinking
Man -- a mere material being Man -- a physical-mental-intellectual-spiritual being
Subservience to Artha-Kama Drive towards Purushartha Chatushtaya
Society, a club of self-centered individuals
Society, a body with all individuals therein as its limbs.
Happiness for oneself
Happiness for all
Acquisitiveness `Aparigraha’ (non-possession)
Profit motive
Service motive
Restrain consumption
Exploitation `antyodaya’
Rights-oriented consciousness of others' duty Duty-oriented consciousness of others' duty
Contrived scarcities Abundance of production
Economy of rising prices Economy of declining prices
Monopoly capitalism through various devices Free competition without manipulated markets
Economic theories centered round wage-employment Economic theories centered round self- employment
An ever-increasing army of the proletariat The ever-growing sector of Vishwakarma (Universal Self-employment)
Ever-widening disparities Movement towards equitability and equality
The rape of Nature
The milking of Mother Nature
 Constant conflicts between the individual, the society and Nature Complete harmony between the individual, the society and Nature


The Indian approach to development[edit]

The Bharatiya tradition has prescribed four objectives to be achieved by human beings. They are,

  1. Dharma
  2. Artha
  3. Kama
  4. Moksha

The arrangement of purusharthas is also highly meaningful. `Dharma’ being the first of the four purusharthas, happens to be the foundation of human life. `Moksha’ is the ultimate goal of attaining freedom from all worldly desires. Dharma and Moksha form the spiritual aspect of life. Sandwiched between dharma and moksha are Artha and Kama, which form the material aspect of life. Artha and Kama however essential to human life are corrosive in nature. Unless they are subjected to control and regulation by Dharma, they will demoralize man and ultimately destroy him. Therefore, Artha and Kama are placed in between Dharma as the foundation and Moksha as the ultimate goal. Thengadiji warns that the term Dharma should not be mistaken for religion. He quotes Justice Rama Jois who opines, “Therefore that which ensures welfare (of beings) is surely Dharma. The learned rishis have declared that, that which sustains is Dharma.” Differentiating between Religion and Dharma, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar says, “Religion is strictly personal affair, Dharma, a social one.” Bharatiya view is that human life is complete only when the material aspect is well integrated with the spiritual aspect. It neither neglects the material life, nor gives exclusive importance to it. Hence the Bharatiya approach to life is called integrated or Wholistic approach. The Hindu sages do not consider Artha as an independent purushartha. Such an integrated approach is the speciality of Hindu thinking. Hindus had always felt that Education, Ecology, Economics, and Ethics must be taken into consideration in an integrated manner. The western mind, however considers Economics as a separate branch of knowledge. This is the compartmentalised thinking of the west. Moreover, the western economists argue that economics has nothing to do with Ethics or Dharma. `Greed is good’, happens to be their slogan. The Bharatiya view, on the contrary is that Dharma or Ethics is superior to Artha. Economic activities should be conducted only according to the codes of Dharma. Hindu philosophy further says that Artha and Kama which are against Dharma should be given up. The gross economic inequality found today among the developed and developing countries, exploitation of the third world countries, terrorism and development of weapons of mass destruction, critical environmental degradation and global economic crisis – are all due to the western practice of economics, free of Ethics. Therefore, what the world needs today so badly is the Bharatiya Wholistic, Dharma based approach to development.


Capitalism gives the greatest priority to consumption. It in fact considers consumption as the driving force of economic development. Ever increasing consumption or consumerism is accorded the topmost priority. This unrestricted consumption of resources advocated by the western economists, has resulted in serious degradation of the Earth’s environment. Deforestation, extinction of wild life, air and water pollution, ocean pollution, global warming, and so on are the different manifestations of environmental pollution, which is threatening the very survival of life on Earth. Bharatiya view on consumption is in total contrast to the western view. Our scriptures have always advocated restraint on consumption. In fact Ishavasya upanishat clearly states,
“Ishavasyam idam sarvam yathkincha jagathyaam jagath|
Thena thyakthena bhunjeetha, maagridah kasyasvith dhanam ||”
It advises people to consume (resources) moderately, leaving something to the future generations. Ishavasya warns that consuming wealth which belongs to the others amounts to stealing. It is only such moderation of consumption, which is called today, sustainable consumption. So, sustainable consumption, advocated by Bharatiya scriptures, only can save the world from environmental disaster. Bharatiya view looks at all elements of Nature such as the soil, the mountains, the rivers and seas, the air, the plants and animals, as sacred and to be preserved and protected. Human beings are only a part of the Nature and not its master. This responsible attitude towards Nature is badly required by the world which is devastated by the western attitude to subjugate Nature. Western view is to exploit Nature, where as Bharatiya view is to milk the Nature.

Blueprint of development based on the Indian model[edit]

Thengadiji in his work, gives a blue print of Development as enunciated by Sri Guruji at Thane Meet 1972.

  1. The basic needs of life must be available to every citizen.
  2. Material wealth is to be acquired, with the object of serving society which is but a manifestation of God, in the best possible ethical manner, and out of all that wealth, only the minimum should be used for our own purposes. Allow yourself only that much which is necessary to keep you in a condition to do service. To claim or to make a personal use of more than that is verily the act of theft against the society.
  3. Thus we are only the trustees of the society. It is only when we become true trustees that we can serve the society best.
  4. Consequently, there must be some ceiling on the individual accumulation, and no person has a right to exploit someone else’s labor for personal profit.
  5. Vulgar, ostentatious and wasteful expenditure is a sin when millions are starving. There must be reasonable restrictions on all consumptions. Consumerism’ is not compatible with the spirit of the Hindu culture.
  6. `Maximum production and equitable distribution’ should be our motto; national self-reliance our immediate goal.
  7. The problem of unemployment and under-employment must be tackled on a war footing.
  8. While industrialization is a must, it need not be the blind imitation of the west. Nature is to be milked but not killed. Ecological factors, balance of Nature and the requirements of the future generations should never be lost sight of. There should be an integrated thinking on education, ecology, economics and ethics.
  9. Greater stress should be laid on the labour-intensive rather than capital-intensive industries.
  10. Our technologists should be required to introduce for the benefit of the artisans reasonably adaptable changes in the traditional techniques of production, without incurring the risk of increase in unemployment of workers, wastage of the available managerial and technical skills, and decapitalization of the existing means of production, and to evolve our own indigenous technology with emphasis on decentralization of the processes of production with the help of power, making home, instead of factory, the center of production.
  11. It is necessary to reconcile efficiency with employment expansion.
  12. Labour is also one form of capital in every industry. The labour of every worker should be evaluated in terms of share, and workers raised to the status of shareholders contributing labour as their share.
  13. Consumers’ interest is the nearest economic equivalent of national interest. Society is the third and more important party to all industrial relations. The current western concept of `collective bargaining’ is not consistent with this view. It should be replaced by some other terms, such as, `National commitment’, i.e. the commitment of both, the employers and the employees, to the Nation.
  14. The surplus value of labour belongs to the Nation.
  15. There need not be any rigidity about the pattern of industrial ownership. There are various patterns, such as, private enterprise, state ownership, co-operatives, municipal ownership self-employment, joint ownership (state and private), democratization etc. For each industry the pattern of ownership should be determined in the light of its peculiar characteristics and the total requirements of the national economy.
  16. We are free to evolve any variety of socio-economic order, provided it is in keeping with the basic tenets of Dharma.
  17. But changes in the superstructure of the society will be of no use if the mind of every individual citizen is not moulded properly. Indeed, the system works ill or well according to the men who work it.
  18. Our view of relation between individual and society has always been, not one of conflict, but of harmony and co-operation, born out of consciousness of a single reality running through all individuals. The individual is a living limb of the corporate social personality.
  19. The samskaras of identification with the entire Nation constitute the real infra-structure of any socio-economic order.


The world today is ridden with two types of crises.

  1. Economic crisis and
  2. Environmental crisis

They are closely related with one another. Bad economics practiced for over 200 years has resulted in Bad Environment threatening the very survival of Life on Earth. So the time is ripe for a serious discussion and public debate on the Indian model of Development which is Wholistic and Ethical, as described by Thengadiji in his great work `Third way’.

Digital Copy[edit]

[1] Its digital copy was released by Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Jodhpur on Dattopant Thengadi's official website,

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Thengadi, Dattopant: Third Way. Delhi: Janaki Prakashan, 1995