Is liberty is primarily a western notion?
No, says mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik, as he reminds us of the deeply libertarian nature of the shramanic parampara or the hermit tradition in Indian philosophy, from which Buddhism and Jainism also originate.
But unlike the western notion of absolute liberty, the Indian notion of liberty is counterbalanced by the shravaka or the householder traditions, which emphasise the importance of duties and responsibilities. However, the duty that binds individuals in the Indian tradition is not fixed or monolithic, but varies with context.
In this episode of the Myth and Culture podcast, Pattanaik and Jerry Johnson speak about how Indian philosophy has been seeped with liberalism because of the metaphysics of polytheism that has been present in the subcontinent for millennia. This is evident in the fact that each village, clan or individual has had the freedom to have their own gods and follow their rituals and traditions.
At the same time, in Indian thought, liberty is not seen as the answer to life as it is in the West.