Å: rnL; ;n~ oS';% in~H;ka 'kwnzks vtk;rAA
(Brahmin is the head, King the hands, Faishya 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 :
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 nsfguke~A
vf/kda ;¨·fHkeU;sr l Lrsuks naMegZfrAA
(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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 friend’s 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!
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.
Part One - The Mission
Ordinarily, the glory of a nation is measured in terms of its material affluence. There is no doubt that a nation in glory has necessarily to be in affluence. All the necessities of life must be fully provided to every individual in the nation. But, is that the complete image of our national glory that we conceive of? This is an all-important question which we have to ponder over.
Our Vision of Glory
Each nation has its own key-note in life and marches ahead in tune with that national ethos. Our Hindu Nation has also preserved a unique characteristic since times immemorial. To us, the aspects of material happiness, i.e., artha (the amassing of wealth) and kama (the satisfaction of physical desires) are only a part of man’s life. Our great ancestors declared that there are two more aspects of human endeavour, dharma and moksha. They built up our society on the basis of this fourfold achievement, the chaturvidha purushartha of dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Since hoary times our society has been known not merely for its wealth and affluence but more so for the other two aspects of life. We are therefore called a highly moral, spiritual and philosophical people, who have kept as their ultimate goal nothing short of direct communication with God Himself, i.e. moksha. If this final aim of human existence is left out, then what remains except the feeding of the brute in man? If it is a fact that there is a difference between man and the animal, then the concepts of prosperity and happiness for the two also must differ. If to eat, drink and enjoy abundantly is the only criterion for both, man will have to be equated with a mere beast. Therefore we say that we have also to feed the spirit of man. It is only when we do that, that we can look upon our national existence as being really great and glorious.
So, when we think of the greatness and glory of our nation, we not only think of its wealth and affluence, of all the means of satisfaction of the necessities of the body but also of the mind of the individual which should be made to gradually rise above all these things and place him in a position to which he is entitled as a human being, that is, in
direct relation with divinity. It has been said, /kekZnFkZÜo dkeÜo] that is, first follow dharma, and dharma will also give artha and kama.
When we say that we want to protect and rejuvenate dharma, do we mean the revival of its external form of rituals and formalities? In our country, some people wear the sacred thread – yajnopavita – while some do not. Some keep a tuff of hair, some do not. Some worship idols, some do not. These things have meaning for those who have faith in them. And they are just small external signs of our all-comprehensive dharma. They must not be confused with dharma itself.
Our definition of dharma is twofold. The first is proper rehabilitation of man’s mind; and the second is adjustment of various individuals for a harmonious corporate existence, i.e., a good social order to hold the people together.
Let us take the first aspect. What is meant by the rehabilitation of mind? We know that the personality of man is only a projection of his mind. But the mind is like an animal, which runs after so many things and it is so constituted as to be one with all the desired things. Ordinarily, man’s mind does not stop to consider what is right and what is wrong. It stoops to any level in order to fulfil its desires. With such a mind, man is not likely to rise higher than the level of an ordinary animal. Therefore the mind is to be cultivated in self-restraint and certain other great qualities. Those attributes of good conduct are mentioned in various contexts in the Bhagavad-Gita and our other holy scriptures. They have described five yamas for the body and five niyamas for the mind.
The other is the social aspect. Man’s life has to be attuned to the wider interests of the people as a whole. Both these aspects are complementary to each other. The first aspect is defined as –
which means that the arrangement which enables and encourages man to control his desires and create within himself the competence to realise the Divine Essence or the Eternal Reality even while enjoying a rich material life, is dharma. The second aspect is -
which means that the power which brings individuals together and sustains them as a society is called dharma. A combination of these two definitions shows that the establishment of dharma means the building of an organised social life wherein each individual has realised his oneness with others in society and is imbued with a spirit of sacrifice to make others’ material lie richer and happier, and develops spiritual strength which leads to the realisation of the Ultimate Truth.
There is no more way of looking at this blending of the development of the individual with the integrity and welfare of the society. We have been told by our great thought-givers to discriminate between what is permanent and what is impermanent. Shankaracharya has called it nityanitya-vastu-viveka. Let us, for the time being, keep apart its high philosophical interpretations and apply to our national life. Individuals come and go. Countless generations have come and gone. But the nation has remained. Drops of water come, stay for a while and evaporate; but the flow of the Ganga goes on ceaselessly. So is the eternal flow of our national life. We, the individuals, appear on the surface like bubbles or drops for a moment, and disappear. The `permanent’, therefore, is the national life. The ‘impermanent’ is the individual. The ideal arrangement would therefore be to transform the impermanent-the individual-into a means to attain the permanent – the social good – which would at the same time enable the individual to enrich and bring to blossom his latent divinity. This is dharma in its twofold aspect, which leads mankind to its ultimate goal of Realisation of Godhead-moksha.
The Present Warnings
Unfortunately, the persons at the helm of affairs of our country today have lost this national vision and become infatuated with foreign ‘isms’, which have not risen beyond the materialist view of prosperity and glory. They have given currency to the slogan of ‘raising the standard of life’, which only means increasing man’s desires and trying to fulfil them by increasing physical comforts and conveniences. The luxuries of today become the necessities of tomorrow and thus goes on the endless struggle for more and more satiation of man’s desires of the flesh.
It is a matter of common experience that physical desires can never be satiated. The more one attempts to satisfy them the more intense they grow, even as fire blazes instead of going out when oil is poured into it. Tolstoy has written a very instructive story under the title "How much land does a man need?" A peasant was promised free all land he could run round from sunrise till sunset. In his sheer greed to cover more and more land he ran so far that he never got back to the starting place before sunset, and in utter exhaustion he died. Only a strip of land, seven by two and half feet, was needed to bury him!
It is also well known that a person who has a bundle of unsatisfied desires can never be happy in spite of any amount of multiplication of the means for their satisfaction. In America, for example, in spite of its boundless affluence and prosperity, the incidence of various sorts of heinous crimes and mental diseases in all strata of society is growing at an alarming rate. Millions of Americans drug themselves every night with sleeping pills before going to bed. This only betrays a serious lacuna in their philosophy of life. Having kept the political and economic factors as the sole and supreme consideration in life, they have ignored the roots of spirituality which alone restrain and ennoble the human mind and nurture the human soul to grow and blossom in peace and happiness.
Let us not, therefore, forget that it was the complete life-concept of chaturvidha purushartha that marked out our society and made our name shine bright on the horizon of the world. Our national past bears ample testimony to the fact that this life-concept was not just a Utopia but a living reality for thousands of years of our national life. All the foreign travellers who visited our land have vouchsafed for the supreme quality of man attained here in addition to limitless wealth and affluence. The sublime character of our people was a result of the complete life-concept – the harmonious blending of artha and kama with the higher values of dharma and moksha – that we had worked out on the individual as also on the national plane.
History records countless examples of other countries bowing down to our nation in utmost veneration because of the sterling character of our spiritual giants who strode all over the world to carry the message of divinity in man. Later on, our Buddhist monks and missionaries too who crossed the borders and reached distant lands were revered and their examples and teachings set up as standards in all those countries. A disciple of Buddha had gone to Tibet, China and Japan. His idol was actually worshipped as God in these countries. How did this miracle happen? It was the intense spirit of self-sacrifice and service, the all-embracing love, and the sheer merit of noble character of such missionaries that made them the cultural preceptors of these people and earned the name Vishwa Guru – World Teacher – for our Bharat.
The need for emphasising this aspect in our national life today becomes all the more evident when we find our people going out to other countries whether as ambassadors or professors, as students or businessmen or merry-go-travellers, cutting sorry figures in those countries, wallowing in physical pleasures, behaving no better and many times even worse than those people.
Our real national regeneration should therefore start with the moulding of ‘man’, by instilling in him the strength to overcome human frailties and to stand up as a shining symbol of Hindu manhood embodying within himself our traditional virtues of love, self-restraint, sacrifice, service and character. We should unfailingly keep this vision, this real essence of our glorious nationhood, before our eyes so that we can again rise to our original pedestal of the world preceptor.
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