What is ralph waldo emerson self reliance about

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what is ralph waldo emerson self reliance about

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson


Shreyaan swadharmo vigunah paradharmaat swanushthitaat; 
Swadharme nidhanam shreyah paradharmo bhayaavahah.

The Bhagavad-Gita, 3.35 (Chapter 3, Verse 35)

[Better is ones own Dharma, though devoid of merit, than the Dharma of another well discharged. Better is even death in ones own Dharma; to attempt the Dharma of another is fraught with danger.]

I felt that Self-Reliance is a book length homage to this verse. Emerson, while talking loftily of originality seems to have not the slightest compunction in drawing heavily from oriental philosophies to achieve the grandeur that is reflected in his thoughts and writings. Of course Emerson was no stranger to the beautiful verses of Gita nor to the Upanishads. Emerson and Thoreau, both, were greatly drawn by the philosophy of The Gita. As Thoreau says, In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial. Emerson has also been vocal in his praise - The Bhagavad-Gita is an empire of thought and in its philosophical teachings Krishna has all the attributes of the full-fledged monotheistic deity and at the same time the attributes of the Upanisadic absolute.

I just wish that the book itself had a reference to The Gita and did not depend on my memory to make the connections. Self-Reliance is a great and inspirational work, but would have been the better for quoting its own inspirations.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson on Self Reliance, Cultivating Your Genius and The Curse Of Society

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In "Self-Reliance," philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson argues that polite society has an adverse effect on one's personal growth. Self-sufficiency, he writes, gives one the freedom to discover one's true self and attain true independence. Five predominant elements of Transcendentalism are nonconformity, self-reliance, free thought, confidence, and the importance of nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the essay and published in as part of his first volume of collected essays. Examples of self-reliance can be as simple as tying your own shoes and as complicated as following your inner voice and not conforming to paths set by society or religion. Emerson advocates his readers to avoid blindly following the paths of others and instead to trust and follow their own instincts and blaze their own path. Conformity, according to Emerson, is death to an individual.

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The artist has to recognize what it is. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost. In a sentiment his soul-brother Henry David Thoreau would come to echo a decade later , Emerson laments the ease with which we accept the judgments and opinions of others as objective truth while dismissing our own a lamentation all the timelier a century and a half later, as the hour media cycle feeds us ready-made opinions under the guise of objective news:. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.

Emerson opens his essay with three epigraphs that preview the theme of self-reliance in the essay. He then begins the essay by reflecting on how often an individual has some great insight, only to dismiss it because it came from their own imagination. According to Emerson, we should prize these flashes of individual insight even more than those of famous writers and philosophers; it is the mature thinker who eventually realizes that originality of thought, rather than imitation of what everyone else believes, is the way to greatness. Emerson then argues that the most important realization any individual can have is that they should trust themselves above all others. Babies, children, and even animals are intuitively aware of this fact, according to Emerson, and so are worthy of imitation.

The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and would disdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliate one, is the healthy attitude of human nature. A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in the playhouse; independent, irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such people and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on their merits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. He cumbers himself never about consequences, about interests: he gives an independent, genuine verdict. You must court him: he does not court you. But the man is, as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness. There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again into his neutrality!

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