February 18, 1894
ITS RECENT EXPRESSION BY VIVE KANANDA.
There has seldom been such a sensation in cultured circles in Detroit, as that created by the advent of Swami Vive Kananda, the learned Hindu monk, whose exceptional command of our own language has enabled us to receive impressions concerning ourselves from an oriental standpoint and to acquire knowledge of a people of whose peculiar civilization and philosophy we have heard so much.
Both in public and private the Hindu brother has talked freely and frankly. He acknowledges that the masses in India are very poor, very ignorant and are divided into a diversity of sects, with forms of worship varying from downright idolatry to the broadest and most liberal form of divine conception based on the brotherhood of man and the oneness of God. His mission, he says, is not to proselyte us — to try and make us think as he does — but to get means to start a college in India for the education of teachers who are to go among the common people and work a reform of existing evils, of which there are many. He states that India is priest-ridden to a harrowing degree. It is priest-craft that distorts truth and perpetuates ignorance. It is priest-craft that substitutes its own crude and narrow interpretations for truth, which perverts the people and prevents their moral progression. The Swami regards all sects and creeds from a broad basis. He even sees good in idolatry. It is an ideal, he thinks, for the ignorant whose mental capacity is insufficient to grasp abstract ideas, and who require a direct personification in some material form. He frankly states that we of the occident are also retarded in our progression by too much priest-craft, and that we are not free from idolatrous practices, in that some of our sects worship shrines, figures and pictures and even the sanctity with which the rostrum and pulpit of a modern church is regarded is an ideal idolatry.
Two Remarkable Things in This Country
[The writer goes on to say that the Swami's Indian background makes it difficult for him to understand that Western competitiveness is not undesirable but a primal law of nature itself — the survival of the fittest — and that inasmuch as "the dreamy and sentimental philosophy of the Hindoos" accounts for their poverty, degradation, and domination by a "mere handful of Englishmen," the Swami would do well neither to ignore nor to despise the materialism of the West. Having thus editorialized, he continues:]
His Criticism of Missionaries
The mission of Kananda is, however, one that should commend it[self] to every lover of humanity. He hopes to see the best of our material philosophy and progress infused into Hindoo civilization, and that, also, we may take lessons from them, until we shall all become, as we once were in ages past, brother Aryans, possessing a common civilization — the exalted philosophy of non-self, being alike without sect or creed in oneness with God.
FRED H. SEYMOUR
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.