THE PRESENT NEEDS OF INDIA
Shasta Spring, California, U. S
Fairy flakes of virgin snow are falling heavily, yet most gracefully outside the window of Rama’s cottage; and the whole mountain is literally Shasta, i.e., according to the French signification of the word, chaste, pure. Rama – has just laid aside one of the latest works on Evolution.
The desire to be original and popular or conspicuous often enough keeps people away from the path of Truth. Waiving that kind of desire and keeping the head level – neither crest-fallen in gloom nor flying in the clouds of self-flattery – if we face the problem of the Present Needs of India, we are confronted with the sore phenomenon in the country of practically utter disregard of any relationship or bond founded on the living together in the same holy land, which means a deplorable absence of neighbourly love. Religious sectarianism has clouded manhood in the people and eclipsed the sense of common nationality.
In America also there are as many, if not more, sects and cults as in India, but except in the case of a few shallow fanatics – chiefly those whose living depends on their creed – the thought of Catholicism, Methodism, Presbyterianism, etc. never replaces or subordinates the feeling of unity and nationality. To be just and true it must be acknowledged that the so – called religious feeling does not cast into the shade the intrinsic humanity in America as it does in India. In India Mahomedans have been living for generations and generations along with the Hindus on the same soil, but their sympathy is bound, more to the Turks in Southern Europe than to their next door neighbours in Hindustan. A child turned Christian, although the very flesh and blood of a Hindu father, becomes more a stranger than the street dog. What will not an orthodox, dualistic Vaishnava in Muttra do to advance the interests of a fellow Vaishnava in the Deccan and to bring disgrace to a Monastic Vedantin in his own town? Who is to blame for it? The prejudices and shallow knowledge of all sects are alike.
“Enemies living together” is an expression not far wrong to describe the present state of affairs. The very idea of common nationality has become a meaningless whim. And what is the cause of it? Evidently the cause is blind identification with the dead forms of the dead past and abject slavery to the fantastic superstitions preached in the holy name of religion; in other words, spiritual suicide glazed under the plausible name of obedience to authority – Praman, hawala.
These parasitic ideas cannot be got rid of except by the purifying process of liberal education, sane knowledge, experimental investigation, or a systematic study of scientific thought. No sect or religion that has not come to an understanding with the healthy humanising results of present – day scientific research has the least right to prey upon its foolish votaries.) Most of the different sets of religious dogmas and practices of the past according to Rama were no more than dictates of the known Science of the times. But as the fates would have it, these were received at first with bitter opposition, then with over – enthusiasm, so much so that the mother (Independent Thought and Meditation) which gave birth to them was ignored and killed in handling the child. The teachings were gradually taken on trust, a boy found himself a Christian, Mahomedan, or Hindu before he was aware of being a man. Stagnation on the religious field was the natural consequence when, owing to the inertia or laziness of the followers, these dogmas and practices began to be accepted on the authority of personalities and volumes of paper with little recognition or acceptance of original research, diligence and concentration, with which the so – called prophets had studied physical or spiritual nature and her laws. By and by the teachings of practical adherence to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount or to Vedic Yajnas were in most cases discarded to all intents and purposes; but their place was filled with strong allegiance to empty names. The spirit was actually driven out to worship the dead carcase. Thus were honest workers like Christ, Mohammad, Vyas or Shankar nicknamed Prophets, that is to say, thieves or stealers of sacred fire from Heaven, and their books were disgraced by being pitched against the original book of Nature of which they were faint, feeble, partial interpretations.
Rama does not mean to say that these forms of creed had no use at all in the economy of the world. Certainly they had. They were like the husk which is essential up to a certain period for the life and growth of the seedling it covers, but after a certain stage of development the same husk becomes a choking prison if not cast aside by the out – growing grain which is by far of higher value than the husk.
To dispense with the static second – hand readings of nature, to shake off the choking husks, let everybody feel that the Prophet’s power is only his own birth – right and nothing supernatural.
There are some who can never understand the design or plan of a house unless they have seen the house erected before them, and so there are some who can never see or imagine a step in advance of the present or past order of things. The number of such is rapidly falling in India, it is hoped. To place people above wavering oscillation, to make them realize their natural dignity, unity and fellowship with all they see; to secure abiding natural integration by procuring natural, helpful differentiation is the object of Dynamic Vedanta as understood by Rama. Where is not this Vedanta needed? But India needs it the most and worst of all.
To meet the requirements of the day in India, with the object of spreading love and light, it is proposed by Rama to start an Institution called Life Institution.
1. Religious philosophy
This Institution will at first chiefly embrace a study of Comparative Religions and Philosophy.
The candidates will be helped to make the ancient and modern contending systems of Religion and Philosophy a subject of study most dispassionately, soberly, in the spirit of an unbiased, serene judge (or calm Sakshi). Each student will have to study by himself (of course aided by the Professor when necessary) the religious or philosophical works just suited to his capacity and will have in the evening before the common assembly to give an account of what he read or had suggested to himself while reading during the day. After hearing such brief reports there will be every night a sifting but respectful conversation under the moderatorship of Rama to harmonise the subjects dwelt upon by the different members of the Institution. Thus will mutual harmony, understanding and love be advanced while each shares the fruits of the mental labour of all trying in return to lay before all the earnings of his own brain work.
This intellectual, social co – operation just suited to the needs of the time must multiply the efficiency of mental work and impart true culture.
After giving the newly arrived students a taste of this Co – operative Method of Education
through religion and philosophy – for which the demand is more direct in India – different branches of Science – Botany, Zoology, Electricity, Geology, Chemistry, Astronomy, etc., – will be introduced in the scheme of study. A library, laboratory, observatory, and the like must certainly develop along with the introduction of different Science courses.
The attempt to popularize Science by the Institution aims at abolishing some of the glaring religious misunderstandings and at employing the energies of people in a more rational and useful direction. Moreover, the learning of Science in this Institution is to be in the most religious spirit. Science, art, and other work (apparently secular) are to be pursued here to learn the application of Vedantic spirit to business or for the acquisition of Practical (or Applied) Vedanta. Of Agassiz, a great naturalist, it is said that the laboratory was not less holy to him than the Church, and a physical fact not less sacred than a moral principle. To trace the homologies in different species in nature was to him “to think again the thoughts of God.”
The functions of the Institution will be extended in due time to a third department, that of Industrial Arts, as to the said want of which in India nothing need be said now.
Some of the greatest Universities in America and Europe (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, for instance) are entirely private concerns. It is a pity that the people of India still look up to the Government models to educate them and do not see their own needs.
In the Life Institute proposed by Rama, heretical as well as orthodox writings will be welcomed with scientific equanimity. The watchword of the Institute (Mutt) is to be “Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth.”
Om! Om!! Om!!!