All of us are very familiar with the words like dependence and independence. We have various layers of meaning for these terms. Dependence could be associated with children who are dependent on the parents, with aged parents depended on the care-takers or children, workers dependent on the employers and so on. Some like child-parent dependence are essential and required. Dependence relation of the different kinds assumes freedom to different levels.The worst form of this type is between the slave and the master, where the freedom of the slave is taken away completely. This exists in many subtle forms even today.

Independence is used as a synonym for freedom; You are at your feet. You have the option to do whatever you like. We speak of countries which are independent; we speak of children able to take independent decisions after a certain age. Capitalist culture projects independence as the supreme virtue and all the strive for it.

When we look at ecological problems, we are consciously being made aware that independence and dependence are the two extremes of the debate, and a middle position that could be adopted is inter-dependence. Many tribal cultures speaks of inter-dependence between the nature and humans. A development without understanding that dynamics has led to all the ecological problems. Even as human beings, we can’t live a completely independent life unless we are in a one-man land(still he is dependent of nature). We are dependent on others and others are dependent on us.

Inter-independence is a term used by famous Indo-Spanish thinker and philosopher, Raimundo Panikkar. Panikkar was an advocate of all sorts of plurality and wrote about the existence of harmony in plurality. He coined a new term inter-independence and used it instead of inter-dependence to stress on two aspects (as I understand). They are

  • Independence of each of the realities (individual identities are preserved; they are not subsumed)
  • Collaboration/dialogue between two such realities.

I could also think that inter-dependence is a collaboration for the sake of survival. We are not extremely happy about it. But inter-independence is a collaboration for growing and flowering. The other is not a threat to me, not under me; both of us strive in our own ways. Each one is growing into his unique identity. One of the most beautiful example of inter-independence is seen in the understanding of Holy Trinity.

Any relation, if it permits the inter-independence to exist, would be amazing. A fruitful relation, which includes independence of all the collaborators and harmony among them is a relation of inter-independence. It could be between husband and wife, or any two human persons; it could also exist between two cultures, two individuals or two religions. Panikkar would call peace as a fruit of this.1

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