Liberal Thinking

Pankaj Gupta
6 min readJul 11, 2021


Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

I have set myself to write about a subject which is known and to an extent practiced also by some of us but not understood as a concept as we do about other such concepts as Honesty, Punctuality or Truthfulness etc. It is an idea about which, I feel, people have some vague notions in their minds and generally it is not discussed in the common parlance. It would be a misnomer to think that it is a western world idea (the medium of this article itself suggesting so). In fact Indian history from ancient times to medieval to modern times is replete with examples where you can see the process of liberal thinking coming into play starkly. The Concept of Parmarth is a typical Indian concept and is to some extent has liberal thinking process in play, though, of course Parmarth` is a much larger and higher plain thinking process.

I would like to give an illustration which many of you may be aware but perhaps not seen in this light. Way back in sixties, Late Shri Jugal Kishore Birla, who was doyen of Birla family was given to charity in a big way. Every year he would give lakhs in charity from the common business fund of the business house. This was looked askance by the other members and once, in a year, when the charities were particularly high the account people brought this to the notice of other members of the family and it was decided to broach the subject with the Senior Birla. It was planned properly and a subtle approach was decided by saying that the profits this year might have been higher, had the above charities not been of such order. The senior Birla, though perturbed did not show much feelings and said,

“Charity has been my lifelong commitment and cannot be forsaken but since you people find your profits, one way or the other getting affected, I will be contributing these (Charities) from my personal funds over the next year. Pray, next time the year round, tell me the profits earned in the year.”

The stunned members lined out and the life and business took over and the year started rolling. Nearing the end of the year the accounts were checked and lo and behold! The profits were down quite substantially. Every of the members of the family were at loss to explain this but were aware of the request of the doyen to tell him the profits of the year. The line-up was formed again and the lower profits were reported. The Sr. Birla smiled and said,

“Now it must be obvious to you all that the amount given in the charities does not affect the profits!”

The family members trooped out in poor grace not knowing where to look and what to say.

The obvious question would be that how liberal thinking is connected in this event? Here lies the crux as I see it. In a business family, steeped in the tradition of profits, where Shubh-Labh is the ruling motto, where Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped, Sr. Birla was wise enough to see beyond the rigid goal of profits. And that meant a liberal approach to things where you recognize that there may be other areas to be looked beyond your immediate goal, that others also exist in the society from which you earned the profits and after earning profits or along with it, others also need to be looked after.

Liberal thinking helps to shift the focus from ‘I, Me and Myself’ to ‘Others’, the need to break the shackles of rigid principles and the need, howsoever small, to sacrifice your personal interest. It allows you to take a bit of view of the panorama spread outside the four walls of your home and office, to have a broader perspective of the things as they are. What do you think did the Lord Budhha do, all his life seeking deliverance from pain when he saw an ill, an old person and the dead body? What His Enlightenment actually meant and how it resulted in spreading a benign Catholicity all over the world and how peace reigned-in amongst the warring states? He would have been an ordinary mortal, had he found some safe solution of his problems by cocooning himself as a Prince that He was and not getting affected by the pains of others or after Enlightenment, had he not propagated his solution by travelling far and wide. Liberal thinking is an antidote to the rigidity attained by the practice of certain principles over a period of time when changes in time renders them, almost redundant

Another illustration is due. In an organization there were amongst others, 3 officers, A, B and C. A committee was set-up to review and launch certain system of entry passes and being the senior most, A was appointed its Head. B was the expert member of the committee and C besides being the junior most was the important Secretary. During the meeting, A agreed to the suggestion of delegating the powers of issuance of passes to another Organization. B was furious. He was about to oppose the Head in the meeting itself when C restrained him by catching his hand softly. B relented but after the meeting asked C as to how such an established a norm could be flouted? C said that he, being the junior most has “no powers or authority to say anything more than this that contradicting the Head in the meeting would make the Organization a laughing stock, that everyone knew that a mistake was made and being their senior, B and also C, should be sagacious enough to respect their senior’s word to carry the day”. C also said that “if seen carefully what big difference this delegation is going to make and via-media can always be found to plug the Security breach”. Surely the via-media was that this delegation would be subject to condition that the issuance of passes would be in the presence and approval of a representative of the Organization. The arrangement was a success and maximum benefit of this liberal approach went to B only. Here the liberal approach of C was crucial in winning the day for the Organization. In the above illustration, like Jatak tales, A was the un-named senior, C was Jasbir Singh and B of course was ‘yours sincerely’. Jasbir Singh is now DGP in a state in India.

However, there has to be a word of caution. Being liberal does not mean practice of no rule or tradition and does not mean a Bohemian style of life. It is, working within the broad parameters, finding solution to current problem perhaps with a more open approach. It is not some wild approach or lifestyle without any framework. In the name of being liberal, we cannot adopt anything which may lead to absurdity.

It is important that the next generation have the advantage of this liberal education where they are able to handle opposition, where they are able to understand others view point, where the fiat or ruling of one person is not a veto, where we do not say that, ‘How can you even think like it?’ and where content becomes more important than the form. In India or in northern India it is more a prevalent a culture to have your way unmindful of others thinking or requirement and one-up-man ship is a favorite past time and change is difficult due to set conditions. May be this brings light to many a people suffering in the tutelage of established norms on this Day of Lights i.e. Deepawali.

Wishing all a Very Happy Deepawali

So be it

As Lord Buddha


03.11.2013 Yours sincerely

E-231,Windsor Park

Ghaziabad Pankaj Gupta



Pankaj Gupta

A retired Police officer, he enjoys creative writing based on his experience of interacting with people. Why Dedicated to his three kids (tk)