BUNCH OF THOUGHTS
Revival, not reaction- Culture, indefinable yet all-absorbing- Nation as God- True spirit of service- Not rights but duty- Unity in diversity- To raise the average- Present perversions- Watering roots of immortality
Our concept of Hindu Nation is not a mere bundle of political and economic rights. It is essentially cultural. Our ancient and sublime cultural values of life form its life-breath. And it is only an intense rejuvenation of the spirit of our culture that can give us the true vision of our national life, and a fruitful direction to all our efforts in solving the innumerable problems confronting our nation today.
But these days, rejuvenation of culture is often dubbed as revivalism and reactionary. Revival of old prejudices, superstitions or anti-social customs may be called reactionary, as that would result in fossilisation of society. But rejuvenation of eternal and ennobling values of life can never be reactionary. To dub it as reactionary merely because it is old only betrays intellectual bankruptcy and nothing else. By the term "rejuvenation of our culture" we mean the reanimating in our lives of those eternal life-ideals that have nourished and immortalised our national life all these millennia.
Too Fine to be Defined
People sometimes ask, "How do you define Hindu culture". Well, we feel it, though we cannot define it. There are some who deny it altogether merely because they cannot define it. They say, "What is the use of a thing which we cannot define?" But will this argument stand to reason? For example, the entire course of medical science is evolved in order to protect life. But even the most modern scientists have not been able to define what life is. But that has not come in the way of the utility of medical science. The outward manifestation of life and its impact on man is sufficient to convince us of its actuality.
So also, our sentiments, ideals and aspirations have a reality of their own and have a very vital role in our life even though they cannot be expressed in terms of definitions and mathematical equations. In fact, it is such subtle factors that form the real human personality rather than such gross things as can be measured and defined.
Truth Defies Denials
Our culture too, though defying definition, has left its indelible stamp on all walks of our life. We can recognise the element of culture in all such manifestations. There is an example in the life of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He used to view the problems of life mainly from the materialist standpoint. Things like God, religion, soul, transmigration of soul etc., had no meaning for him. Then a time came when unfortunately his wife, who was taken abroad for medical treatment, died. According to our custom her body was cremated-not buried, but cremated. It was reduced to a small handful of ashes. What was to be done with it? An agnostic must say, "This is merely ash and its only profitable use is to put it in the field as manure". According to materialism there is no point in showing any consideration to mere ash". Dust thou art and to dust thou returnest" is all that it can say.
There was an intense tussle in Pandit Nehrus mind-between the agnostic in him calling upon him to throw away the ashes in that foreign land and return, and the call of his ancient Hindu blood urging him to bring those sacred relics of his beloved wife and offer them in the bosom of Gangamata. Finally the ancient samskars won. The ashes were brought to our land and immersed at the holy confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati at Prayag. As Pandit Nehru himself said later, his intellect, his modern education and training were all in revolt but something in him, something inexplicable, forced him to immerse the ashes in the Triveni-sangam. This is samskar, the imprint of culture.
What then are the manifestations of that culture in our national life?
The Living God
The first and the most fundamental aspect is the urge for realisation of the Supreme Reality permeating the entire Universe-whatever the name given to it. Or in simple words, it is to realise God. But where is God? How can we know Him? How does He look? What are His appearances, His attributes, that we may meditate upon Him and realise Him? The description that He is nirakar (without form), nirguna (without attributes) and all that leads us nowhere. Various ways of worship are also evolved. People go to temples and try to concentrate on the idols taking them to be emblems of the Almighty. But all this does not satisfy us who are full of activity. We want a living God. What is the use of a God who only hears but does not respond? These emblems neither weep nor smile nor show any reaction, unless of course of the persons are devotees of any reaction, unless of course the persons are devotees of extraordinary high merit. But for all ordinary persons they are non-feeling emblems of the Almighty. Therefore we want a living God which will engross us in activity and invoke all the powers that reside in our being.
Our forefathers therefore said, "Our People are our God". Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, one of the greatest teachers of mankind, said, Serve man. His great disciple Swami Vivekananda also stated the same emphatically. But man, in the sense of the whole of humanity, is a very wide concept and as such, cannot be grasped easily as a single solid entity for us to see and feel. Therefore it is that so many who took up the idea of serving humanity ended in inanity and inaction. Hence our forefathers, understanding the limitations of the human mind and intellect, said, "Humanity and all that is all right, but before one can rise to that stage, one should take a view of the Almighty with certain limitations as it were, which one can understand, feel and serve". The Hindu People, they said, is the Virat Purusha, the Almighty manifesting Himself. Though they did not use the Hindu, it is clear from the following description of the Almighty in Purusha Sukta wherein is stated that the sun and moon are His eyes, the stars and the skies are created from His nabhi (navel) and
czkgk.kks·L; eq[keklhn~ ckgw jktU;%
(Brahmin is the head, King the hands, Vaishya the thighs and Shudra the feet) This means that the people who have this fourfold arrangement, i.e, the Hindu People, is our God.
True Spirit of Service
This supreme vision of Godhead in society is the very core of our concept of nation and has permeated our thinking and given rise to various unique concepts of our cultural heritage.
That vision inspires us to look upon every individual of our society as a part of that Divine Whole. All individuals are therefore equally sacred and worthy of our service. Therefore any sense of discrimination amongst them is reprehensible. Thus, in our culture, the spirit of social service has been sublimated into worship of God.
There are millions of human beings all around us who live in hunger and destitution, deprived of even the barest necessities of life, and whose stories of misery will move the stoniest of hearts. It is verily God who has taken those forms of the poor, the destitute and the suffering. What for? Does He want anything? He is the very embodiment of all power, all knowledge, and is the Master of all. Then what is it that He wants? He comes in those forms to give us an opportunity to serve Him. Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa called them Daridra Narayana (destitute God)
Once our life becomes soaked with this true spirit of service, we will feel that all our individual and family possessions, however abundant they may be, do not really belong to us. There are only the means to worship God in the form of society. Our whole life will then be an offering in the service of society. The Upanishads say :
bZ'kkokL;fena loZa ;fRaadap txR;ka txr~A
(God permeates all Creation. Whatever is left over by Him, after offering Him, enjoy only that much. Do not rob what belongs to others)
Let us therefore acquire maximum of material wealth so that we can serve God in the form of society in the best possible manner. And out of all that wealth, only that minimum should be used for our sake the denial of which will hamper our capacity for service. To claim or to make a personal use of more than that, is verily an act of theft against society.
In Bhagavata Narada says :
;kon~ fHkz;sr tBja rkor~ LoRoa fg
(Take whatever is essential for bodily sustenance. To take more is an act of theft and deserves to be punished)
Thus we are only the trustees of society. It is only when we become trustees in the true sense that we can serve society best. Such a pure attitude of service will leave no scope for ego or self-adulation.
Duty in Place of Right
Today we hear everywhere the clamour for rights. All our political parties too are rousing the ego in our people by constantly speaking of their rights. Nowhere is there any stress on duties and the spirit of selfless service. The spirit of co-operation which is the soul of society can hardly survive in a climate of assertion of egocentric rights. That is why we are finding conflicts among the various component parts in our national life today, between the teacher and the taught, the labourer and the industrialist, and so on. It is only by an assimilation of our cultural vision that the true spirit of co-operation and consciousness of duty can be revived in our national life.
Our Cultural Prism
One more peak of the Himalayan vision of our culture, which none else in the world has so far aspired to climb, is the spirit of ,da lr~ foçk cgq/kk onfUr (Truth is one, sages call it variously). There is no equivalent expression in English to convey this beautiful sentiment. The word tolerance, which is often used to express this idea is very meek, it is just another word for sufferance. It implies an element of ego, which just tolerates other viewpoints without any love or respect for them. But our training has been one of respecting and even accepting other faiths and viewpoints as so many paths to reach the same truth.
It is like the various descriptions of a hill by persons who have gone by different routes to the top. One man says that it appears like a single colossal rock, another says it is all forest and no rock, the third says it is full of shrubs and so on Everyone is correct, though imperfect. The sum total of all such imperfect descriptions give us a complete and perfect description of the hill. One by two or one by three is a fraction. But by adding up all such fractions it is possible to get a whole number, an integer.
In the same manner, individuals, though imperfect, when merged into a corporate whole, can give rise to a perfect society. And therefore, the superficial difference born out of the imperfections of the individuals are only indicative of the diverse manifestations of the one great and perfect and mighty reality-the society. This appreciation of the inherent spark of Truth, of Divinity in every individual, has penetrated into our various components and spheres of life-religious, social, political and economic-and fashioned them for a harmonious pattern of mutual goodwill and respect. This catholicity of spirit is an altogether unique contribution of our culture to the world thought.
Raising the Average
It is only when we revive these sublime features of our culture that our people in general will be inspired by the true vision of our national life so as to break their present shell of personal and family and other parochial considerations and rise high in character, service and sacrifice. A nation cannot rise on an average of dwarfs with only a few extraordinary personalities standing as giants amidst them. To be endowed with extraordinary qualities is the good fortune of a few. We bow down to such souls, and having bowed down to them, still we, the average men, ask the questions of ourselves, "What about us?" Such exceptional lives may give us courage. But sometimes they also depress us with the thought that we are all on the ground unable to rise to such glorious heights. What is the way out?
A comparative study-even by the foreign historians and travellers of those days-tells us that the average man of this country was at one time incomparably superior to the average man of the other lands. The obvious reason was that sustaining and strenuous efforts had been kept up by the leaders of our society to inculcate cultural samskars in all strata of society. That is why we find great saints and heroes coming up from all sections of our people right from those given to learning and knowledge down to peasants, weavers, cobblers, scavengers and so on, whose thoughts and deeds, songs and sayings have inspired the whole of our people, crossing all superficial barriers.
Today, the utter absence of this correct cultural perspective has landed our people in an endless scourge of problems-all stemming from the common source of the low level of the average man. We often hear that there has been a great awakening, a growing political consciousness among our people. Awakening is knowledge and knowledge is the capacity to realise unity in diversity, to find harmony in place of conflict, and to worship society in the place of self. The tendencies of fission should therefore disappear giving rise to urge for unity. If, on the other hand, we do not work for the unity of our people but exploit the various problems to create more factions, then we are not progressing from ignorance to knowledge but only sinking into greater depths of ignorance.
But then, what is the meaning of so much of activity, so many movements and agitations going on all around us? Well, living beings even though struck unconscious still exhibit activity. For instance, we can see through a microscope the blood flowing in the capillaries of a frog even when deprived of external consciousness. Is it progressing? No! On the other hand it is dying. Similarly, even at the peak of ignorance, activities do take place. A casual look at the motives that inspires most of our present-day activities is sufficient to convince us that they are not born out of real awakening, i.e., knowledge, but out of darkness and ignorance.
Purge Present Perversions
When we speak of our sublime cultural values, persons steeped in the modern Western civilisation think that it is something mysterious, something otherworldly. That only shows the present depths of our mental slavery, which has deprived us of even the capacity to grasp those principles, which were once the glory of our national life. Once a friend of mine had borrowed a book from me. On the day he was to return it a monkey took it away. It sat on a tree-top, held it this way and that (probably it had observed my friend doing that!), opened and closed it several times and finally came back and, to my friends amazement, kept it back on the table and went away, probably thinking that the doings of human beings were all mysterious and secret! Something similar is our condition today regarding the teachings of our culture.
The other extreme that we witness today is to identify singing and dancing, cinemas and dramas with culture. We find such cultural programmes going on everywhere in our country. Culture has verily become another name for cheap entertainment. This has gone to such a ludicrous and humiliating extent, that notorious filmstars wallowing in depths of moral depravity are included in our cultural delegations to foreign countries! Such persons going about as the cultural representatives of a land that has produced a Rama and a Sita, and has sent as its cultural ambassadors great seers and philosophers in the past and a Vivekananda and a Ramatirtha in the modern times, who commanded the spontaneous love and adoration of the whole world, is a lurid reflection on our present degradation.
We also see many of our leading cultural men associating themselves as judges in the Miss India beauty contests. It seems, in their concept of our culture, of the ideal of our womanhood, a Sita or a Savitri, a Padmini or a Nivedita has no place. In that contest, indeed we miss the real beauty of India!
Silent or Secret?
We have to rid ourselves of these present-day perversions and assimilate the eternal and life-giving essence of our culture. Obviously this is a work of imparting cultural samskars, which has to take place in an atmosphere free from public fanfare and propaganda and go on silently and steadily day after day and year after year. But today, in the absence of the real perspective of our culture, silence is often mistaken for secrecy. Our culture does not advocate exhibitionism.
For instance, the Hindu husband and wife do not display their love openly. The Hindu wife does not express her love through tears, embraces or screams. The Westerners, on the other hand, show their love through dramatic embraces and kisses. This is mostly an outward show-as there is the danger of their divorce the very next day! Our men do not indulge in exhibition but their face will be aglow with love. And that love continues forever without the fear of any break. Our culture has always taught us that restraint of emotions is more potent and charming than extravagant demonstration. If our way of expressing love is considered as dignified, then the silent method of working is also dignified.
Watering the Immortal Roots
The work of rejuvenating these ancient and life-giving features of our culture has assumed a new urgency and paramountcy not only in our present national context but in the international context as well. Our cultural vision which furnishes the true basis for love and harmony between man and man and embodies a complete philosophy of life needs to be effectively presented to the present-day war-torn world. If we have to succeed in this great world mission, we have to first set our own standards. We should shake ourselves free from the mental shackles of foreign isms and foreign ways and fleeting fashions of modern life. There can be no greater national humiliation than to be a mere carbon copy of others. Let us remember that blind imitation is not progress. It only leads us to spiritual subjection.
However, we believe that the present perversions and misconceptions are only a passing phase. Our cultural roots are too firm and too deeply struck into the spring of immortality to be easily dried up. They are bound to assert their age-old vigour and vitality and throw out the parasitic growth of the past few centuries and sprout forth once again in all their pristine purity and grandeur.