Has India Contributed to Human Welfare?
First published in the 'Athenaeum,' London, 1915.
"Unselfishness is God. One may live on a throne, in a palace, and be perfectly unselfish; and then he is in God. Another may live in a hut and wear rags, and have nothing in the world; yet if he is selfish, he is intensely merged in the world." - Swami Vivekananda
RACE contributes something essential to the world's civilization
in the course of its own self-expression and self-realization.
The character built up in solving its own problems, in the
experience of its own misfortunes, is itself a gift which
each offers to the world. The essential contribution of India,
then, is simply her Indianness; her great humiliation would
be to substitute or to have substituted for this own character
(svabhava) a cosmopolitan veneer, for then indeed she
must come before the world empty-handed.
now we ask what is most distinctive in this essential contribution,
we must first make it clear that there cannot be anything
absolutely unique in the experience of any race. Its peculiarities
will be chiefly a matter of selection and emphasis, certainly
not a difference in specific humanity. If we regard the world
as a family of nations, then we shall best understand the
position of India which has passed through many experiences
and solved many problems which younger races have hardly yet
recognized. The heart and essence of the Indian experience
is to be found in a constant intuition of the unity of all
life, and the instinctive and ineradicable conviction that
the recognition of this unity is the highest good and the
uttermost freedom. All that India can offer to the world proceeds
from her philosophy. This philosophy is not, indeed, unknown
to others - it is equally the gospel of Jesus and of Blake,
Lao Tze, and Rumi - but nowhere else has it been made the
essential basis of sociology and education.
race must solve its own problems, and those of its own day.
I do not suggest that the ancient Indian solution of the special
Indian problems, though its lessons may be many and valuable,
can be directly applied to modern conditions. What I do suggest
is that the Hindus grasped more firmly than others the fundamental
meaning and purpose of life, and more deliberately than others
organized society with a view to the attainment of the fruit
of life; and this organization was designed, not for the advantage
of a single class, but, to use a modern formula, to take from
each according to his capacity, and to give to each according
to his needs. How far the rishis succeeded in this
aim may be a matter of opinion. We must not judge of Indian
society, especially Indian society in its present moment of
decay, as if it actually realized the Brahmanical social ideas;
yet even with all its imperfections Hindu society as it survives
will appear to many to be superior to any form of social organization
attained on a large scale anywhere else, and infinitely superior
to the social order which we know as "modern civilization."
But even if it were impossible to maintain this view - and
a majority of Europeans and of English-educated Indians certainly
believe to the contrary - what nevertheless remains as the
most conspicuous special character of the Indian culture,
and its greatest significance for the modern world, is the
evidence of a constant effort to understand the meaning and
the ultimate purpose of life, and a purposive organization
of society in harmony with that order, and with a view to
the attainment of the purpose. (1) The Brahmanical idea is
an Indian "City of the gods" - as devanagari,
the name of the Sanskrit script, suggests. The building of
that city anew is the constant task of civilization; and though
the details of our plans may change, and the contours of our
building, we may learn from India to build on the foundations
of the religion of Eternity.
the Indian mind differs most from the average mind of modern
Europe is in its view of the value of philosophy. In Europe
and America the study of philosophy is regarded as an end
in itself, and as such it seems of but little importance to
the ordinary man. In India, on the contrary, philosophy is
not regarded primarily as a mental gymnastic, but rather,
and with deep religious conviction, as our salvation (moksha)
from the ignorance (avidya) which for ever hides from
our eyes the vision of reality. Philosophy is the key to the
map of life, by which are set forth the meaning of life and
the means of attaining its goal. It is no wonder, then, that
the Indians have pursued the study of philosophy with enthusiasm,
for these are matters that concern all.
is a fundamental difference between the Brahman and the modern
view of politics. The modern politician considers that idealism
in politics is unpractical; time enough, he thinks, to deal
with social misfortunes when they arise. The same outlook
may be recognized in the fact that modern medicine lays greater
stress on cure than on prevention, i. e, endeavours to protect
against unnatural conditions rather than to change the social
environment. The Western sociologist is apt to say: "The
teachings of religion and philosophy may or may not be true,
but in any case they have no significance for the practical
reformer." The Brahmans, on the contrary, considered
all activity not directed in accordance with a consistent
theory of the meaning and purpose of life as supremely unpractical.
one condition permits us to excuse the indifference of the
European individual to philosophy; it is that the struggle
to exist leaves him no time for reflection. Philosophy can
only be known to those who are alike disinterested and free
from care; and Europeans are not thus free, whatever their
political status. Where modern Industrialism prevails, the
Brahman, Kshattriya, and Shudra alike are exploited by the
Vaishya (2), and where in this way commerce settles on every
tree there must be felt continual anxiety about a bare subsistence;
the victim of Industry must confine his thoughts to the subject
of to-morrow's food for himself and his family; the mere Will
to Life takes precedence of the Will to Power. If at the same
time it is decided that every man's voice is to count equally
in the councils of the nation, it follows naturally that the
voice of those who think must be drowned by that of those
who do not think and have no leisure. This position leaves
all classes alike at the mercy of unscrupulous individual
exploitation, for all political effort lacking a philosophical
basis becomes merely opportunist. The problem of modern Europe
is to discover her own aristocracy and to learn to obey its
is just this problem which India long since solved for herself
in her own way. Indian philosophy is essentially the creation
of the two upper classes of society, the Brahmans and the
Kshattriyas. To the latter are due most of its forward movements;
to the former its elaboration, systematization, mythical representation,
and application. The Brahmans possessed, not merely the genius
for organization, but also the power to enforce their will;
for, whatever may be the failings of individuals, the Brahmans
as a class are men whom other Hindus have always agreed to
reverence, and still regard with the highest respect and affection.
The secret of their power is manifold; but it is above all
in the nature of their appointed dharma, of study,
teaching, and renunciation.
Buddhism I shall not speak at great length, but rather in
parenthesis: for the Buddhists never directly attempted to
organize human society, thinking that, rather than concern
himself with polity, the wise man should leave the dark state
of life in the world to follow the bright state of the mendicant.
(3) Buddhist doctrine is a medicine solely directed to save
the individual from burning, not in a future hell, but in
the present fire of his own thirst. It assumes that to escape
from the eternal recurrence is not merely the summum bonum,
but the whole purpose of life; he is the wisest who devotes
himself immediately to this end; he the most loving who devotes
himself to the enlightenment of others.
has nevertheless deep and lasting effects on Indian state-craft.
For just as the Brahman philosopher advised and guided his
royal patrons, so did the Buddhist ascetics. The sentiment
of friendliness (metteya), through its effect upon
individual character, reacted upon social theory.
is difficult to separate what is Buddhist from what is Indian
generally; but we may fairly take the statesmanship of the
great Buddhist Ernperor Ashoka as an example of the effect
of Buddhist teaching upon character and policy. His famous
edicts very well illustrate the little accepted truth that
"in the Orient, from ancient times, national government
has been based on benevolence, and directed to securing the
welfare and happiness of the people," (4) One of the
most significant of the edicts deals with "True Conquest."
Previous to his acceptance of the Buddhist dharma Ashoka
had conquered the neighbouring kingdom of the Kalingas, and
added their territory to his own; but now, says the edict,
His Majesty feels "remorse for having conquered the Kalingas,
because the conquest of a country previously unconquered involves
the slaughter, death, and carrying away captive of the people.
That is a matter of profound sorrow and regret to His Sacred
Majesty . . . His Sacred Majesty desires that all animate
beings should have security, self-control, peace of mind,
and joyousness. . . . My sons and grandsons, who may be, should
not regard it as their duty to conquer a new conquest. If
perchance they become engaged in a conquest by arms, they
should take pleasure in patience and gentleness, and regard
as (the only true) conquest won by piety. That avails both
for this world and the next."
another edict "His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King
does reverence to men of all sects, whether ascetics or householders."
Elsewhere he announces the establishment of hospitals, and
the appointment of officials "to consider the case where
a man has a large family, has been smitten by calamity, or
is advanced in years"; he orders that animals should
not be killed for his table; he commands that shade and fruit
trees should be planted by the high roads: and he exhorts
all men to "strive hard." He quotes the Buddhist
saying, "All men are my children." The annals of
India, and especially of Ceylon, can show us other Buddhist
kings of the same temper. But it will be seen that such effects
of Buddhist teachings have their further consequences mainly
through benevolent despotism, and the moral order established
by one wise king may be destroyed by his successors. Buddhism,
so far as I know, never attempted to formulate a constitution
or to determine the social order. Just this, however, the
Brahmans attempted in many ways, and to a great extent achieved,
and it is mainly their application of religious philosophy
to the problems of sociology which forms the subject of the
Kshattriya-Brahman solution of the ultimate problems of life
is given in the early Upanishads. (5) It is a form of absolute
(according to Shankaracharya) or modified (according to Ramanuja)
Monism. Filled with enthusiasm for this doctrine of the Unity
or Interdependence of all life, the Brahman-Utopists set themselves
to found a social order upon the basis provided. In the great
epics (6) they represented the desired social order as having
actually existed in a golden past, and they put into the mouths
of the epic heroes not only their actual philosophy, but the
theory of its practical application - this, above all, in
the long discourses of the dying Bhishma. The heroes themselves
they made ideal types of character for the guidance of all
subsequent generations; for the education of India has been
accomplished deliberately through hero-worship. In the 'Dharmashastra'
of Manu (7) and the 'Arthashastra' (8) of Chanakya - perhaps
the most remarkable sociological documents the world possesses
- they set forth the picture of the ideal society, defined
from the standpoint of law. By these and other means they
accomplished what has not yet been effected in any other country
in making religious philosophy the essential and intelligible
basis of popular culture and national polity.
then, is the Brahman view of life? To answer this at length,
to expound the Science of the Self (Adhyatmavidya),
which is the religion and philosophy of India, would require
considerable space. We have already indicated that this science
recognizes the unity of all life - one source, one essence,
and one goal - and regards the realization of this unity as
the highest good, bliss, salvation, freedom, the final purpose
of life. This is for Hindu thinkers eternal life; not an eternity
in time, but the recognition here and now of All Things in
the Self and the Self in All. "More than all else,"
says Kabir, who may be said to speak for India, "do I
cherish at heart that love which makes me to live a limitless,
life in this world." This inseparable unity of
the material and spiritual world is made the foundation of
the Indian culture, and determines the whole character of
her social ideals.
then, could the Brahmans tolerate the practical diversity
of life, how provide for the fact that a majority of individuals
are guided by selfish aims, how could they deal with the problem
of evil? They had found the Religion of Eternity (Nirguna
Vidya); what of the Religion of Time (Saguna Vidya)?
is the critical point of religious sociology, when it remains
to be seen whether the older idealist (it is old souls that
are idealistic, the young are short-sighted) can remember
his youth, and can make provision for the interest and activities
of spiritual immaturity. To fail here is to divide the church
from the everyday life, and to create the misleading distinction
of sacred and profane; to succeed is to illuminate daily life
with the light of heaven.
life or lives of man may be regarded as constituting a curve
- an arc of time - experience subtended by the duration of
the individual Will to Life. The outward movement on this
curve - Evolution, the Path of Pursuit - the Pravritti
Marga - is characterized by self-assertion. The inward
movement - Involution, the Path of Return - the Nivritti
Marga - is characterized by increasing Self-realization.
(9) The religion of men on the outward path is the Religion
of Time; the religion of those who return is the Religion
of Eternity. If we consider life as one whole, certainly Self-realization
must be regarded as its essential purpose from the beginning;
all our forgetting is but that we may remember the more vividly.
But though it is true that in most men the two phases of experience
interpenetrate, we shall best understand the soul of man -
drawn as it is in the two opposite, or seeming opposite, directions
of Affirmation and Denial, Will and Will-surrender - by separate
consideration of the outward and the inward tendencies. Brahmans
avoid the theological use of the terms "good" and
"evil," and prefer to speak of "knowledge"
and "ignorance" (vidya and avidya),
and of the three qualities of sattva, rajas,
and tamas. As knowledge increases, so much the more
will a man of his own motion, and not from any sense of duty,
tend tо return, and his character and actions will be more
purely sattvic. But we need not on that account condemn
the self-assertion of the ignorant as sin; for could Self-realization
be where self-assertion had never been? It is not sin, but
youth, and to forbid the satisfaction of the thirst of youth
is not a cure; rather, as we realize more clearly every day
desires suppressed breed pestilence. The Brahmans therefore,
notwithstanding the austere rule appointed for themselves,
held that an ideal human society must provide for the enjoyment
of all pleasures by those who wish for them; they would say,
perhaps, that those who have risen above the mere gratification
of the senses, and beyond a life of mere pleasure, however
refined, are just those who have already tasted pleasure to
reasons of this kind it was held that the acquisition of wealth
(artha) and the enjoyment of sense-pleasure (kama),
subject to such law (dharma) (10) as may protect the
weak against the strong, are the legitimate preoccupations
- of those on the outward path. This is the stage attained
by modern Western society, of which the norm is competition
regulated by ethical restraint. Beyond this stage no society
can progress unless it is subjected to the creative will of
those who have passed beyond the stage of most extreme egoism,
whether we call them heroes, guardians, Brahmans, Samurai,
or simply men of genius.
consists in a desire to impose the natural asceticism of age
upon the young, and this position is largely founded on the
untenable theories of an absolute ethic and an only true theology.
The opposite extreme is illustrated in industrial society,
which accepts the principles of competition and self-assertion
as at matter of course, while it denies the value of philosophy
and discipline, Brahman sociology, just because of its philosophical
basis, avoided both errors in adopting the theory of sva-dharma,
the "own-morality" appropriate to the individual
according to his social and spiritual status, and the doctrine
of the many forms of Ishvara, which is so clumsily interpreted
by the missionaries as polytheistic. However much the Brahmans
held Self-realization to be the end of life, the summum
bonum, they saw very clearly that it would be illogical
to impose this aim immediately upon those members of the community
who are not yet weary of self-assertion. It is most conspicuously
in this understanding tolerance that Brahman sociology surpasses
this point we must digress to speak briefly of the doctrine
of reincarnation, which is involved in the theory of eternal
recurrence. This doctrine is assumed and built upon by Brahman
sociologists, and on this account we must clearly understand
its practical applications. We must not assume that reincarnation
is a superstition which, if it could be definitely refuted
(and that is a considerable "if"), would have as
a theory no practical value. It is a fafon de parler,
valid only for so long as we attribute a real being to, the
Ego that "is not my Self"; in truth, as Sankara
says, "the Lord is the only transmigrant," - and
That art thou, not "what thou callest 'I' or 'myself.'
" Even atoms and electrons are but symbols, and do not
represent tangible objects like marbles, which we could see
if we had large enough microscopes; the practical value
of a theory does not depend on its representative character,
but on its efficacy in resuming past observation and forecasting
future events. The doctrine of reincarnation corresponds
to a fact which everyone must have remarked; the varying age
of the souls of men, irrespective of the age of the body counted
in years. "A man is not an elder because his head is
grey" (Dhammapada, 260). Sometimes we see an old
head on young shoulders. Some men remain irresponsible, self-assertive,
uncontrolled, unapt to their last day; others from their youth
are serious, self-controlled, talented, and friendly. We must
understand the doctrine of reincarnation at any rate as an
artistic or mythical representation of these facts. To these
facts the Brahmans rightly attached great importance, for
it is this variation of temperament or inheritance which constitutes
the natural inequality of men, an inequality that is too often
ignored in the theories of Western democracy.
can now examine the Brahmanical theory a little more closely.
An essential factor is to be recognized in the dogma of the
rhythmic character of the world-process. This rhythm is determined
by the great antithesis of Subject and Object, Self and not-Self,
Will and Matter, Unity and Diversity, Love and Hate, and all
other "Pairs." The interplay of these opposites
constitutes the whole of sensational and registrateable existence,
the Eternal Becoming (samsara), which is characterized
by birth and death, evolution and involution, descent and
ascent, srishti and samhara. Every individual
life-mineral, vegetable, animal, human, or personal god -
has a beginning and an end, and this creation and destruction,
appearance and disappearance, are of the essence of the world-process
and equally originate in the past, the present, and the future.
According to this view, then, every individual ego (jivatman),
or separate expression of the general Will to Life (ichchha,
trishna), must be regarded as having reached a certain
stage of its own cycle (gati). The same is true of
the collective life of a nation, a planet, or a cosmic system.
It is further considered that the turning point of this curve
is reached in man, and hence the immeasurable value which
Hindus (and Buddhists) attach to birth in human form. Before
the turning point is reached - to use the language of Christian
theology - the natural man prevails; after it is passed, regenerate
man. The turning point is not to be regarded as sudden, for
the two conditions interpenetrate, and the change of psychological
centre of gravity may occupy a succession of lives; or if
the turning seems to be a sudden event, it is only in the
sense that the fall of a ripe fruit appears sudden.
to their position on the great curve, that is to say, according
to their spiritual age, we can recognize three prominent types
of men. There is first the mob, of those who are preoccupied
with the thought of I and Mine, whose objective is self-assertion,
but are restrained on the one hand by fear of retaliation
and of legal or after-death punishment, and on the other by
the beginnings of love of family and love of country. These,
in the main, are the "Devourers" of Blake, the "Slaves"
of Nietzsche. Next there is a smaller, but still larger number
of thoughtful and good men whose behaviour is largely determined
by a sense of duty, but whose inner life is still the field
of conflict between the old Adam and the new man. Men of this
type are actuated on the one hand by the love of power and
fame, and ambition more or less noble, and on the other by
the disinterested love of mankind. But this type is rarely
pan-human, and its outlook is often simultaneously unselfish
and narrow. In times of great stress, the men of this type
reveal their true nature, showing to what extent they have
advanced more or less than has appeared. But all these, who
have but begun to taste of freedom, must still be guided by
rules. Finally, there is the much smaller number of great
men-heroes, saviours, saints, and avatars - who have definitely
passed the period of greatest stress and have attained peace,
or at least have attained to occasional and unmistakable vision
of life as a whole. These are the "Prolific" of
Blake, the "Masters" of Nietzsche, the true Brahmans
in their own right, and partake of the nature of the Superman
and the Bodhisattva. Their activity is determined by their
love and wisdom, and not by rules. In the world, but not of
it, they are the flower of humanity, our leaders and teachers.
classes constitute the natural hierarchy of human society.
The Brahman sociologists were firmly convinced that in an
ideal society, i.e., a society designed deliberately
by man for the fulfilment of his own purpose (purushartha),
(11) not only must opportunity be allowed to every one for
such experience as his spiritual status requires, but also
that the best and wisest must rule. It seemed to them impossible
that an ideal society should have any other than an aristocratic
basis, the aristocracy being at once intellectual and spiritual.
Being firm believers in heredity, both of blood and culture,
they conceived that it might be possible to constitute an
ideal society upon the already existing basis of occupational
caste. "If," thought they, "we can determine
natural classes, then let us assign to each its appropriate
duties (svadharma, own norm) and appropriate honour;
this will at once facilitate a convenient division of necessary
labour, ensure the handing down of hereditary skill in pupillary
succession, avoid all possibility of social ambition, and
will allow to every individual the experience and activity
which he needs and owes." They assumed that by a natural
law, the individual ego is always, or nearly always, born
into its own befitting environment. If they were wrong
on this point, then it remains for others to discover some
better way of achieving the same ends. I do not say that this
is impossible; but it can hardly be denied that the Brahmanical
caste system is the nearest approach that has yet been made
towards a society where there shall be no attempt to realise
a competitive quality, but where all interests are regarded
as identical. To those who admit the variety of age in human
souls, this must appear to be the only true communism.
describe the caste system as an idea or in actual practice
would require a whole volume. But we may notice a few of its
characteristics. The nature of the difference between a Brahman
and a Shudra is indicated in the view that a Shudra can do
no wrong, (12) a view that must make an immense demand upon
the patience of the higher castes, and is the absolute converse
of the Western doctrine that the King can do no wrong. These
facts are well illustrated in the doctrine of legal punishment,
that that of the Vaishya should be twice as heavy as that
of the Shudra, that that of the Kshattriya twice as heavy
again, that of the Brahman twice or even four times as heavy
again in respect of the same offence; for responsibility rises
with intelligence and status. The Shudra is also free of innumerable
forms of self-denial imposed upon the Brahman; he may, for
example, indulge in coarse food, the widow may re-marry. It
may be observed that it was strongly held that the Shudra
should not by any means outnumber the other castes; if the
Shudras are too many, as befell in ancient Greece, where the
slaves outnumbered the freemen, the voice of the least wise
may prevail by mere weight of numbers.
craftsmen interested in the regulation of machinery will be
struck by the fact that the establishment and working of large
machines and factories by individuals was reckoned a grievous
sin; large organizations are only to be carried on in the
public interest. (13)
the natural classes, one of the good elements of what is now
regarded as democracy was provided by making the castes self-governing;
thus it was secured that a man should be tried by his peers
(whereas, under Industrial Democracy, an artist may be tried
by a jury of tradesmen, or a poacher by a bench of squires).
Within the caste there existed equality of opportunity for
all, and the caste as a body had collective privileges and
responsibilities. Society thus organized has much the-appearance
of what would now be called Guild Socialism.
a just and healthy society, function should depend upon capacity;
and in the normal individual, capacity and inclination are
inseparable (this is the 'instinct of workmanship'). We are
able accordingly to recognize, in the theory of the Syndicalists,
as well as in the caste organization of India, a very nearly
ideal combination of duty and pleasure, compulsion and freedom;
and the words vocation or dharma imply this very identity.
Individualism and socialism are united in the concept of function.
Brahmanical theory has also a far-reaching bearing on the
problems of education. "Reading," says the Garuda
Purana, "to a man devoid of wisdom, is like a mirror
to the blind." The Brahmans attached no value to uncoordinated
knowledge or to unearned opinions, but rather regarded these
as dangerous tools in the hands of unskilled craftsmen. The
greatest stress is laid on the development of character. Proficiency
in hereditary aptitudes is assured by pupillary succession
within the caste. But it is in respect of what we generally
understand by higher education that the Brahman method differs
most from modern ideals; for it is not even contemplated as
desirable that all knowledge should be made accessible to
all. The key to education is to be found in personality. There
should be no teacher for whom teaching is less than a vocation
(none may "sell the Vedas"), and no teacher should
impart his knowledge to a pupil until he finds the pupil ready
to receive it, and the proof of this is to be found in the
asking of the right questions. "As the man who digs with
a spade obtains water, even so an obedient pupil obtains the
knowledge which is in his teacher." (14)
relative position of man and woman is also very noteworthy.
Perhaps the woman is in general a younger soul, as Paracelsus
puts it, "nearer to the world than man." But there
is no war of words as to which is the superior, which inferior;
for the question of competitive equality is not considered.
The Hindu marriage contemplates identity, and not equality.
(15) The primary motif of marriage is not merely individual
satisfaction, but the achievement of Purushartha, the
purposes of life, and the wife is spoken of as sahadharmacharini,
"she who cooperates in the fulfillment of social and
religious duties." In the same way for the community
at large, the system of caste is designed rather to unite
than to divide. Men of different castes have more in common
than men of different classes. It is in an Industrial Democracy,
and where a system of secular education prevails, that groups
of men are effectually separated; a Western professor and
a navvy do not understand each other half so well as a Brahman
and a Shudra. It has been justly remarked that "the lowest
pariah hanging to the skirts of Hindu society is in a sense
as much the disciple of the Brahman ideal as any priest himself."
remains to apply what has been said to immediate problems.
I have suggested that India has nothing of more value to
offer to the world than her religious philosophy, and her
faith in the application of philosophy to social problems.
A few words may be added on the present crisisie and the relationship
of East and West. Let us understand first that what we see
in India is a co-operative society is a state of decline.
Western society has never been so highly organized, but in
so far as it was organized, its disintegration has proceeded
much further than is yet the case in India. And we may expect
that Europe, having sunk into industrial competition first,
will be the first to emerge. The seeds of a future co-operation
have long been sown, and we can clearly recognize a conscious,
and perhaps also an unconscious, effort towards reconstruction.
the meantime the decay of Asia proceeds, partly of internal
necessity, because at the present moment the social change
from co-operation to competition is spoken of as progress,
and because it seems to promise the ultimate recovery of political
power, and partly as the result of destructive exploitation
by the Industrialists. Even those European thinkers who may
be called the prophets of the new age are content to think
of a development taking place in Europe alone. But let it
be clearly realized that the modern world is not the ancient
world of slow communications; what is done in India or Japan
today has immediate spiritual and economic results in Europe
and America. To say that East is East, and West is West is
simply to hide one's head in the sand. (17) It will be quite
impossible to establish any higher social order in the West
so long as the East remains infatuated with the, to her, entirely
novel and fascinating theory of laissez-faire.
rapid degradation of Asia is thus an evil portent for the
future of humanity and for the future of that Western social
idealism of which the beginnings are already recognizable.
If, either in ignorance or in contempt of Asia, constructive
European thought omits to seek the co-operation of Eastern
philosophers, there will come a time when Europe will not
be able to fight Industrialism, because this enemy will be
entrenched in Asia. It is not sufficient for the English colonies
and America to protect themselves by immigration laws against
cheap Asiatic labour; that is a merely temporary device, and
likely to do more harm than good, even apart from its injustice.
Nor will it be possible for the European nationalist ideal
that every nation should choose its own form of government,
and lead its own life, (18) to be realized, so long as the
European nations have, or desire to have, possessions in Asia.
What has to be secured is the conscious cooperation of East
and West for common ends, not the subjection of either to
the other, nor their lasting estrangement. For if Asia be
not with Europe, she will be against her, and there may arise
a terrible conflict, economic, or even armed, between an idealistic
Europe and a materialized Asia.
put the matter in another way, we do not fully realize the
debt that Europe already owes to Asiatic thought, for the
discovery of Asia has hardly begun. And, on the other hand,
Europe has inflicted terrible injuries upon Asia in modern
times. (19) I do not mean to say that the virus of "civilization"
would not have spread through Asia quite apart from any direct
European attempts to effect such a result - quite on the contrary;
but it can not be denied that those who have been the unconscious
instruments of the degradation of Asiatic society from the
basis of dharma to the basis of contract have incurred
"clear air" of Asia is not merely a dream of the
past. There is idealism, and there are idealists in modern
India, even amongst those who have been corrupted by half
a century of squalid education. We are not all deceived by
the illusion of progress, but, like some of our European colleagues,
desire "the coming of better conditions of life, when
the whole world will again learn that the object of human
life is not to waste it in a feverish anxiety and race after
physical objects and comforts, but to use it in developing
the mental, moral, and spiritual powers, latent in man."
(20) The debt, then, of Europe, can best be paid - and with
infinite advantage to herself - by seeking the cooperation
of modern Asia in every adventure of the spirit which Europe
would essay. It is true that this involves the hard surrender
of the old idea that it is the mission of the West to civilize
the East; but that somewhat Teutonic and Imperial view of
Kultur is already discredited. What is needed for the
common civilization of the world is the recognition of common
problems, and to co-operate in their solution. If it be
asked what inner riches India brings to aid in the
realization of a civilization of the world, then, from the
Indian standpoint, the answer must be found in her religions
and her philosophy, and her constant application of abstract
theory to practical life.
Lest I should seem to exaggerate the importance which Hindus
attach to Adhyatma-vidya, the Science of the Self,
I quote from the 'Bhagavad Gita' ix. 2: "It is
the kingly science, the royal secret, sacred surpassingly.
It supplies the only sanction and support to righteousness,
and its benefits may be seen even with the eyes of the flesh
as bringing peace and permanence of happiness to men";
and from Manu, xii. 100: "Only he who knows the Vedashastra,
only he deserves to be the Leader of Armies, the Wielder of
the Rod of Law, the King of Men, the Suzerain and Overlord
reader who desires to follow up the subject of this essay
is strongly recommended to the work of Bhagavan Das, 'The
Science of Social Organization,' London and Benares, 1910.
Brahman, Kshattriya, Vaishya, Shudra - the four primary types
of Brahmanical sociology, viz., philosopher and educator,
administrator and soldier, tradesman and herdsman, craftsman
Dhammapada, 87; also the Jatakamala of Arya
Shura, xix, 27.
Viscount Torio in The Japan Daily Mail, November 19th-20th,
1890. The whole essay, of which a good part is quoted in Lafcadio
Hearn's 'Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan,' is a searching
criticism of Western polity, regarded from the standpoint
of a modern Buddhist.
Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads, translated
by A. S. Geden, London, 1906.
The 'Mahabharata1 and 'The Ramayana,' translated by R. C.
Dutt, Everymans Library.
This most important document is best expounded by Bhagavan
Das, The Science of Social Organization, London and
Benares, 1910; also translated in full in the "Sacred
Books of the East," vol. xxv. "Herein," says
Manu (i. 107, 118), "are declared the good and evil results
of various deeds, and herein are expounded the eternal principles
of all the four types of human beings, of many lands, nations,
tribes, and families, and also the ways of evil men."
N. N. Law, Studies in Ancient Hindu Polity, London,
1914. The following precept may serve as an example of the
text: that the king who has acquired new territory "should
follow the people in their faith, with which they celebrate
their national, religious, and congregational festivals and
It is a common convention of Indianists to print the word
"self" in lower case when the ego (jivatman)
is intended, and with a capital when the higher self, the
divine nature (paramatman), is referred to. Spiritual
freedom - the true goal - is the release of the self from
the ego concept.
Dharma is that morality by which a given social order
is protected. "It is by Dharma that civilization
is maintained" (Matsya Purana, cxlv. 27). Dharma
may also be translated as social norm, moral law, order, duty,
righteousness, or as religion, mainly in its exoteric aspects.
Purushartha. This is the Brahmanical formula of utility,
forming the standard of social ethics. A given activity is
useful, and therefore right, if it conduces to the attainment
of dharma, artha, kama and moksha
(function, prosperity, pleasure, and spiritual freedom), or
any one or more of these without detriment to any other. Brahmanical
utility takes into account the whole man. Industrial sociologists
entertain a much narrower view of utility: "It is with
utilities that have a price that political economy is mainly
concerned" (Nicholson, Principles of Political Economy,
ed. 2, p. 28).
Manu, x. 126.
Manu, xi. 63, 64, 66. 'A truly progressive society is only
possible where there is unity of purpose. How rapidly the
social habit can then be changed is well illustrated by the
action of many of the Allied Governments in taking control
of several departments of industrial production. It is only
sad to reflect that it needed a great disaster to compel so
simple an act as the limitation of profits. In the same way
vast sums are now spent on caring for the welfare of an army
of soldiers who would be, and will again be, left to the tender
mercies of the labour market in times of peace. If the nation
were as united in peace by a determination to make the best
of life how much could not be accomplished at a fraction of
the cost of war? If a nation can co-operate for self-defence,
why not also for self-development?'
Manu, ii. 218.
Manu, ix. 45. "The man is not the man alone; he is the
man, the woman, and the progeny. The Sages have declared that
the husband is the same as the wife."
I do not only refer to the two world wars, as such, but civilization
at the parting of the ways.
I should like to point out here that Mr. Lowes Dickinson's
return to this position ('An Essay on India, China, and
Japan' and 'Appearances' both 1914), is very unfortunate.
He says the religion of India is the Religion of Eternity,
the religion of Europe the Religion of Time, and chooses the
latter. These phrases, by the way, are excellent renderings
of Pravritti dharma and Nivritti dharma. So
far as Mr. Dickinson's distinction is true, in so far that
is as India suffers from premature vairagya, and Europe
from excessive activity, so far each exhibits an excess which
each should best be able to correct. But an antithesis of
this sort is only conceptually possible, and no race or nation
has ever followed either of the religions exclusively. All
true civilization is the due adjustment of the two points
of view. And just because this balance has been so conspicuously
attained in India, one who knows far more of India than Mr.
Dickinson remarks that she "may yet be destined to prepare
the way for the reconciliation of Christianity with the world,
and through the practical identification of the spiritual
with the temporal life, to hasten the period of that third
forward in the moral development of humanity, when there will
be no divisions of race, creed, or class, or nationality between
men, by whatsoever name they may be called, for they will
all be one in the acknowledgment of their common Brotherhood"
(Sir George Birdwood, Sva, p. 355).
The ideal of self-determination (sva-raj) for which
the Allies claimed to be fighting in both world wars.
For example - and without the least ill-will - the English
in India who unconsciously created social confusion simply
because they could not understand what they saw, and endeavoured
to fit a co-operative structure into the categories of modern
S. C. Basu, The Daily Practice of the Hindus, 2nd ed.,