Religion and Dharma
RELIGION AND DHARMA
BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
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FROM an early stage of her life in India Sister Nivedita
was closely in touch with the student community,
especially in Bengal where her work lay. She was
at the call of almost any group, so long as she was
satisfied that there were sincere seekers among them,
and her influence spread widely and rapidly, alike
through her public addresses, which were eagerly
welcomed, and through the exercise of her personal
sympathy and counsel. When " The Web of Indian
Life" was published, in 1904, the enthusiasm of the
national movement was rising in Young India. Sister
Nivedita was among the most forceful and devoted of
its spiritual leaders, and the services of her voice and
pen were in demand from every side. So far as the
exacting claims of other work permitted, she yielded
to requests for newspaper and magazine articles, and
produced a good deal of occasional writing, besides
more laborious studies which first appeared in the
magazines. She gave cordial encouragement to such
ventures of educational journalism as the Modern
Review of Calcutta, then as now directed by Mr.
Ramananda Chatterjee. To the pages of this admir-
able monthly she contributed the greater part of the
papers afterwards collected in " Studies from an
Eastern Home " and practically the whole of those
in the " Footfalls of Indian History." At the same
time she was writing, month by month, in the editorial
columns of the Modern Review a series of notes
and brief articles suggested chiefly by the ethical and
religious aspects of the advancing national movement.
It is from those pieces that the present volume has
, None saw more clearly than Sister Nivedita, from the
beginning, the possibilities and the perils of Indian na-
i tionalism as then understood and preached. There were
many, both Indian and European, to insist upon the
difficulties, or the futility, of the nationalist conception
and aim ; to argue that it was but one more expression
of the chaos wrought by the working of the West upon
the East. The confusion was not to be denied ; but
Sister Nivedita had no doubt as to the capacity of the
Indian mind and character to emerge. To her, the
striking characteristic of the Transition was the speed
with which, in the nineteenth century, the ancient
social order of India had adjusted itself to the demands
of a modern alien civilization. The later steps should
be not more, but less, difficult since they would be
conscious and controlled. They must, in Sister
Nivedita's view, be taken by India itself. There could,
she held, be no question as to the power of the Indian
consciousness to absorb the contribution of the West
and to transmute it ; and the way to that she saw
through an exchange of organic ideals between East
and West For India it would mean a renascence
of Dharma : in other words, a re-interpretation in
modern terms of the faith and practice of the past ; a
fresh relation of the contemplative to the active life ;
a new conception of worship and of sacrifice to the
ideal ; the monastic ideal expressed in social service ;
the recovery of the civic sense, and its re-establishment
in a fuller understanding of the Indian social order ; the
exaltation of work, of positive character, and of know-
ledge, in which alone could He the mastery of the future.
Such is the theme of these papers. In fairness to
the memory of the author, and for their right under-
standing, they should be read with a recollection of
the circumstances amidst which they were thrown off
with great rapidity in the midst of a crowded and
arduous life of service in India. The reader will not
fail to remark, as an illustration of the completeness
with which Sister Nivedita identified herself with India
and its spirit, her constant use of " we" and "ours".
Some readers may wonder at the implied antithesis
in the title between an English and a Sanskrit word
which are frequently taken to be practically identical
in meaning. Dharma, however, is a word that to the
Hindu has a larger and more complex significance than
that of Religion as commonly used among us. It in-
cludes the whole social conception of law and conduct
and worship. Dharma is the force or principle that
binds together ; the union of traditional thought and
faith, of common custom, loyalty, and understanding,
that makes of society an organic or religious unity.
" This patience, this steadfastness, this sincerity/'
Sister Nivedita wrote, " is Dharma the substance, the
self-ness, of things and of men." l She preferred to
translate the word as the National Righteousness,
and on the whole perhaps that is as close to an
equivalent term in English as we may hope to achieve.
Viscount Haldane, in the address delivered before
the American Bar Association in IQI3, 2 has some
remarks on the principle of Higher Nationality which
bear upon the matter. Law, in the greater sense, he
said, imports something more than the code of rules
laid down by the State ; it has a relation to the ob-
ligations of conscience and the General Will of Society.
The field of individual conduct is covered, in the case
of the citizen, only to a small extent by legality on the
one hand and the dictates of the individual conscience
on the other. " There is a more extensive system of
guidance which regulates conduct and which differs
from both in its character and sanction." Lord
Haldane continues :
In the English language we have no name for it, and this is
unfortunate, for the lack of a distinctive name has occasioned
1 P. 51. 2 " Higher Nationality," London : John Murray, 1913.
confusion both of thought and of expression. German writers
have, however, marked out the system to which I refer and have
given it the name of Sittlichkeit. . . . Sittlichkeit is the system
of habitual customary conduct, ethical rather than legal, which
embraces all those obligations of the citizen which it is " bad
form " or " not the thing " to disregard.
Sitte is the German for custom, and Sittlichkeit implies
custom and a habit of mind and action ; let us say,
the blend of social morality and social sanction em-
bodying the ideal of the conduct of people towards
each other and towards the community to which they
Without such conduct and the restraints which it imposes
there could be no tolerable social life, and real freedom from in-
terference would not be enjoyed. It is the instinctive sense of
what to do and what not to do in daily life and behaviour that is
the source of liberty and ease. And it is this instinctive sense
of obligation that is the chief foundation of society. Its reality
takes objective shape and displays itself in family life and in our
other civic and social institutions. It is not limited to any one
form, and it is capable of manifesting itself in new forms and of
developing and changing old forms. Indeed the civic community
is more than a political fabric. It includes all the social institu-
tions in and by which the individual life is influenced such as
are the family, the school, the church, the legislature, and the
executive. None of these can subsist in isolation from the rest ;
together they and other institutions of the kind form a single
organic whole, the whole which is known as the Nation. 1
Sister Nivedita would have accepted every word
of this exposition as covering a great part of the life
of citizenship. And she would have added, with
truth, that Dharma is a finer and more satisfying word
for the living principle of conduct and society finer
and more satisfying in the measure of the infinitely
more rich and profound conception which the Indian
has of religion than the conception reached by the
people from whom Lord Haldane borrowed his word.
S. K. R.
LONDON, August, 1915.
1 " Higher Nationality," p. 23.
PREFACE (by S. K. Ratcliffe) v
RELIGION AND DHARMA i
MUKTI : FREEDOM 5
THE GREATER RITUAL 9
THE CROWN OF HINDUISM 12
HINDUISM AND ORGANIZATION 16
THE SAMAJ 29
THE PAST AND THE FUTURE 34
RELIGION AND NATIONAL SUCCESS 37
THE SPIRIT OF RENUNCIATION 40
THE SACRED AND THE SECULAR 45
QUIT YE LIKE MEN ! 48
FACING DEATH 53
LUXURY AND MANHOOD 56
TRUE AMBITION 61
THE TEACHER . 73
THE GURU AND HIS DISCIPLE ....... 77
REALIZATION THROUGH WORK 95
THE POWER OF FAITH 98
THE BEE AND THE LOTUS ........ 102
THE LIFE OF IDEAS 106
THE SHAPING OF LIFE 108
NATIONAL RIGHTEOUSNESS in
THE FLOWER OF WORSHIP 115
THE WORLD-SENSE IN ETHICS 127
CHARACTER is SPIRITUALITY 133
THE TASK BEFORE Us 139
THE IDEAL. . 150
RELIGION AND DHARMA.
EVERY religion centres round some particular idea :
Ancient Egypt round death ; Persia round the mystery
of Good and Evil ; Christianity round the redeeming
love of a divine Incarnation. Only Hinduism aims at
the heights of Vairagyam and Mukti, and at nothing
secular. This is indeed the weak point of Hinduism.
The quality by which Hinduism has it in her power
to make up for this defect of her greatness, is her ca-
pacity for synthetizing every religious idea with which
she comes in contact. The absorptive power of Hindu-
ism as a religion, coupled with its resistant power as a
civilization, furnishes one of the most startling para-
doxes in the history of man. Derived originally from
a veritable network of religions, in which the co-or-
dinating element was the philosophy now known as
Vedarita, it has thrown out reforming sects in the
Mohammedan period, and thrown out reforming sects
in the Christian period, each of these being in fact the
expression of its admiration for the new ideal of which
it has caught a glimpse.
To-day, however, Hindus see that the greatest call
upon the religious instincts of the country lies in the
need of assimilating whole new areas of life. We
must make possible the " short views " of the Chris-
tians. There must be some religious teaching and
2 RELIGION AND DHARMA
encouragement for those who only want heaven, not
Mukti. There must be a recognition of righteousness,
as well as of holiness. Righteousness lies in duty
done : holiness requires renunciation. A thousand
good citizens are necessary, as the background of one
great sannyasin. There must then be a philosophy of
citizenship, as well as of Sannyas.
And in truth the exaltation of one thing does not
demand the decrying of its fellow. The ideal is always
infinite, always divine. A highly moralized society
produces the greatest saints. The purity of fathers
and mothers makes possible the birth of Avatars.
Where marriage is faithfully kept, there sincere San-
nyas is possible, not amongst profligates and riotous
livers. Similarly, the presence of honourable citizens
is necessary to the maintenance of a grand religious
ideal, and the citizen is as necessary to its manifesta-
tion as the monk.
But if this is so, we have to search our ancient
scriptures with a new aim. We must seek for all that
can support and encourage us in doing manfully the
work of this present world. Renunciation can be
achieved through duty quite as well as by the abandon-
ment of duty. We have thousands of texts to tell us
so, but the prevailing preconception in favour of San-
nyas has led to our ignoring all that favours Dharma.
, The weak point of European society lies in the ab-
: sence of the monastic ideal. True. But equally sure
is it that the weak point of Hinduism is the want of
\emphasis on the ideal of the householder and the
citizen. The reason lies largely in the fact that
when our texts were formulated our society was as
RELIGION AND DHARMA 3
rich in virtue as in material resources. When the last
of these deserts us, it is difficult to prevent the decay
of the former ; and what is wanted to-day is a de-
liberate recapture of both.
For this, we must exalt work. We must look upon
the world as a school, in which it is worth while to
strive for promotion from class to class. We must set
our shoulder to the wheel and struggle unceasingly to
attain the end we have set before ourselves. Our
philosophy tells us that absolute progress is impossible
in the things of this life. But relative progress is fully
possible ; and while we move on this plane of relativ-
ity, we must work as if perfection would reward the
very next step.
Let us set before ourselves the master-ideals, even in
things relative. " I do not make good screws, sir, I
make the best that can be made," said an indignant
workman in reply to too casual an inquiry. This
ought to be our attitude. We must make the best
screws that can possibly be made. In every direction
it must be the same. The best not too good, the
highest not too difficult, for us to attain. Nothing less
than the utmost. Nothing easy. Nothing cheap.
The same energy that might have made an ascetic
will also make a workman, if that will better serve the
And let our ideals be higher for our friends also.
Let no man consort with mean company. Monk or
citizen, let a man be noble. Whether Brahman or
pariah, let him practise self-respect, and demand the
like from others. We help no one by being so pas-
sive as to convert him into a brute !
4 RELIGION AND DHARMA
In the school, the lessons are graduated, but all
alike are EDUCATION. All are equally the concern of
the school-authorities. Even so with our civilization.
The integrity of the man of business is to the full as
acceptable an offering as the renunciation of the monk,
for unless there be honest men of the world, the religi-
ous orders must come to an end.
Thus Hinduism, fully recognizing the need of the
practical and secular life, and drawing from within
herself the stores that are necessary for its develop-
ment and growth, synthetizes once more ideals that
seemed opposite. The super-social life is seen in its
true relation to society. The goal is preached as at-
tainable, not only by the sadhu in the forest, but also
by the butcher in the town and the wife in the home.
OF all the questions that a wakeful and fresh intellect
will constantly ask, there is none, perhaps, more sure
to recur than, What is Freedom ? Many of us are
born struggling for actual freedom, for our own free-
dom. All of us are born to struggle for something.
Nothing more terrible could be imagined than a human
being put into circumstances so artificial that all mo-
tive for struggle was eliminated, and he was deprived
of the natural human right of something to desire and
strive for. We can imagine a man in prison for life
realizing such hopelessness, though, if so, it must be
because his whole conception of activity is social or
muscular, and therefore can be thwarted. Or a cage
made of riches, or rank, such a cage as that of royal
birth, for instance, might produce this effect on a
nature too good to lose itself in fleshly delights, and
too stupid to find paths of self-development. But if
so, the man who never struggled would grow up an
idiot. That at least is certain. All our vivacity, all
our intelligence, is developed by struggle. Only
shapeless incapacity could result from its lack.
It has been said that the great may be distinguished
from the little by whether or not they are struggling
for freedom. This may be true. For there is no
doubt that we may struggle for, and even realize, a
thing which we could not possibly define intellectually.
6 RELIGION AND DHARMA
Most of us win our own freedom in this thing and that
thing, and thus gradually build up a more or less per-
fect freedom. Many struggle for freedom under the
name of the Right. " God and my Right " Dieu et
mon droit is a formula that refers to some such con-
test of the soul. It is only Hinduism that has been
subtle enough to recognize that beyond the thing it-
self which seems to be the object of our strife, the real
thirst of the soul is for freedom and that this freedom
is the essential condition of self-development. The
man who is free, says Dharma, is the only man who is
himself. The man who is really and fully himself is
free free in all directions, free of all bonds.
One essential characteristic of freedom is that it
has always to be realized in opposition to something.
The struggle of every individuality whether a simple
or a compound is to define itself, by attaining self-
direction, by repudiating the control of its fellow-or-
ganisms. Freedom from the pressure of his social
surroundings is an absolute necessity of manly men.
The manly man may choose to act precisely as his
society would desire, but he must believe that he does
this because he himself chooses, and not because society
compels. And yet any great anxiety on this point is
crude enough, since manly men are too accustomed to
their own freedom, and their own power of defending
their freedom, to be uneasy about it, or suspicious of
invasions upon it. It is only a child, who has never
yet felt himself grown-up, who finds it necessary to re-
fuse whatever is asked of him, in order that he may
hug to himself his own liberty of refusal. And here
we note the vanity, the selfishness, the pre-occupation
MUKTI: FREEDOM 7
with self, and indifference to the needs of others, that
make such natures, at such a stage, unfit for high and
arduous forms of co-operation. The really great
are born with such assurance of their own freedom to
withhold, that they are full of eagerness to give, and
welcome every opportunity of serving as a privilege.
Such natures we see every day. Unselfishness is not
rare amongst human beings. On the contrary, it is the
mortar that joins the bricks of the whole edifice.
Society, then, is one of the forces against which the
individual has to realize his own freedom one of the
powers from which he has to wrest it. But the question
again occurs, what is that freedom for which the indi-
vidual is struggling? And here arises one of the supreme
fallacies. Some take it that freedom is identified with
slavery to their own impulses. This is the freedom
that makes drunkards, gluttons, and libertines.
At first, all our activity, all our development of
faculty, depends upon desire : afterwards, desire is seen
as a form of disease, of which we must be cured ! Is
this the truth ? The momentum of desire, that impels
us to yield inevitably to our own caprices, is not
freedom. It is the last and subtlest form of bondage,
the more dangerous and deadly for the fact that we
are liable to mistake its nature. Liberty to realize
what is our own will may be an essential condition of
freedom, but until we are as free from that will, and
the desires suggested by that body and mind, as from
those of all the other hundreds of millions of human
beings, we do not know what real freedom is.
How large, how calm, how full of exquisite joy and
graciousness, never dimmed, is the heritage of life that
8 RELIGION AND DHARMA
awaits the individual in those elysian fields of the soul,
where this freedom has been won ! It may be mani-
fested in any way, by any means. For only the free
can apprehend what freedom is. Only the free can de-
termine how freedom shall be shown. Only the actions
of the free are potent, unhampered by feebleness of their
own or aggression of others free ! free ! Freedom is
indeed the supreme good of the soul. So far from being
"a night in which all cows are black," it is, as every
Hindu knows, the perfect access of daylight, neither too
much nor too little, into every nook and cranny of our
universe. But even so, when we seek to define it, we
are met by an eternal impossibility, and can only
ejaculate " Neti ! neti ! Not this ! Not this ! "
The soldier has to learn that obedience is his form
of prayer. To be doing ja^am when one ought to be
resting, and consequently to be sleepy when one ought
to be at work, is not a meritorious condition. No
punya that way ! The sunny-heartedness of the child,
on the other hand, ready to forget all about its mother,
if its mother tells it to run away and play, is true
bhakti^ and better than many prandms.
Manliness may often prove to be the whole of piety !
Some races have practised such virtue out of sheer in-
stinct, but never before was a survey of life so com-
prehensive, so far-reaching, added to the treasury
of authoritative pronouncements on religious truth.
This manliness-which-is-righteousness involves, it will
be noticed, a kind of Mukti y for the manly man has no
time to be conscious of his own manliness. Heroism
in great moments is the natural blossom of a life that
in its little moments is fine and fearless.
THE GREATER RITUAL.
So far from remaining unchanged, a religion that is
alive must be always growing. Only the dead can be
petrified in rigid forms. The living must be con-
stantly assimilating new forces, new materials, respond-
ing in fresh ways to unprecedented stimuli, tending
in some degree to remake the very environment that
is re-moulding itself.
Even of the Sanathan Dharma this is true. Hin-
duism would not be eternal, were it not constantly
growing and spreading, and taking in new areas of ex-
perience. Precisely because it has this power of self-
addition and re-adaptation, in greater degree than any
other religion that the world has ever seen, we be-
lieve it to be the one immortal faith, the great tree-
stem, bearing on itself, as outlying branches, all the
more fugitive creeds of the world.
It is necessary, however, to know in what direction
to look for changes, if we would be intelligent about re-
cognizing these when they come. Like Roman Cathol-
icism, Hinduism has gone on for the last twelve hundred
years developing more and more into a religion of
segregation, the culture of the soul, a secret between
the worshipper and the priest, or the soul and God.
Undoubtedly it has been true, in this respect, to the
ultimate message of all religions. The emancipation
io RELIGION AND DHARMA
of the soul Spiritual Individualism, as the Swami
Vivekananda called it is the main business of or-
ganized creeds. A few social benedictions are a mere
But religion has also a communistic side. It lifts
the soul to God, but it also binds together man and
man. If we are the children of the Mother, we must
for that very reason be brothers of one another. A
specialization in one direction requires to be corrected
by a compensating development in the other. More
souls will now be emancipated by attention paid to
the democratic or communistic side of worship.
For this, there will have to be common prayer.
And common prayer itself must be organized. That
is to say, there must be services in which responses
are required from several worshippers at once, and
these responses should be in the vernacular. When
slokas are recited by a great number all together, it
will be found desirable to divide these into two sections,
and let them repeat the texts in antiphon.
The religious uses of the procession must be restored.
We cannot doubt when we study Buddhism, which
was, of course, only a version of an older Hinduism,
that the procession, with banners, shanks, drums, in-
cense, and holy water, was a great feature in old
Indian worship. A few of its most beautiful uses still
remain, as when seven women carry torches round the
bridegroom, or the sons encircle the dead father with
There ought now to be an anxious scrutinizing of
these old ritual observances, and of the whole subject
of ritual in general. Many of our own most lovely
THE GREATER RITUAL 11
rites are still practised in Europe, though lost to us.
We must restore the greater meanings of our Hindu
ceremonies. Worship is in the future to have a place
for the people, as well as for the priest. There is to
be co-operation and self-organization, even in the
praising of God.
THE CROWN OF HINDUISM.
WE have heard much, lately, more or less sincere,
about the Crown of Hinduism. But how many Hindus
have themselves any idea of what is in fact the crown
of their faith ? If it really deserves all the good things
said of it, it will not succumb, we may be sure, to the
attacks of a foreign religion. The fact that such a
fate can be foretold for it, with smiles, ought to be an
indication to us of how much is meant by an empty
compliment. The fact is, foreigners with all their
perspicacity, cannot easily or actually distinguish be-
tween our religion and our social system, bound up as
that is with a network of semi-religious sanctions. But
our whole social system might conceivably disappear
without in any degree affecting the most distinctive and
important of our religious ideas. They are indeed as
applicable to the West as to the East. Perhaps the
real crown of Hinduism lies in the fact that it, almost
alone amongst formulated faiths, has a section devoted
to absolute and universal truths, and has no fear what-
ever of discriminating between these and such ac-
cidental expressions as might be confounded by the
superficial with their belief itself.
In spite of its seemingly vast mythology, the actual
content of Hinduism is infinitely less dependent on
mythological ideas than any other religion whatsoever.
He who is driven to abandon the historicity of Western
THE CROWN OF HINDUISM 13
beliefs has but sorry ground henceforth to stand upon.
Not so the Hindu. There is no shade of the search
after truth that is not looked upon here as religious
heroism. We are in no danger of persecuting a man
for no better reason than that he can see farther and
deeper than we ! Giordano Bruno would never have
been burnt, Galileo would never have been put to the
torture, if India had been their home and birthplace.
The Sanathan Dharma sanctions and endorses every
form of honest striving after knowledge. It is jealous
and suspicious of no form of truth. Perhaps in this
lies the true crown of Hinduism.
Ours is the religion of a people who have never re-
lapsed into barbarism, and have never had any quarrel
with education. We do not distinguish between the
sacredness of different forms of truth. Truth is truth.
We are not really so seriously incommoded by our
mythology as those are who call us idolatrous by
theirs. We must be true to what we believe. All
knowledge is sacred. In the trust that has been
snatched from the abyss, it is not for us to say what
is more and what less binding. Mathematics is also
God's. Men of science are also rishis.
We can afford to laugh at our foreign friends, in the
fashions that sweep across their religious horizon.
God really exists, the Westerns are inclined to believe,
because a leading scientific man says so. This is mere
childishness. Do they expect others to accept a reli-
gion whose own sons do it so little justice as this ? To
the Hindu, religion is experience or nothing. If science
is also experience, he does not feel it incumbent upon
him to deny either of two things, both of which he
14 RELIGION AND DHARMA
knows to be true. Is God in his keeping? Does the
universe depend upon his immediate understanding of
it ? If he were a criminal judge he might have to ex-
ercise more humility and patience than this !
Hinduism never tends to make men contented to
read or to believe. To have a right to talk, a man
must first realize. No counterfeit coin will be accepted
for this. We know the difference at sound between
the spurious and the real. We can tell who speaks
with authority and who as the scribes. Our faith rests
from first to last on a basis of experience, of realiza-
tion, of personal appropriation. Without this, a mere
lip-adhesion is of no consequence in our eyes. Let it
come, let it go. It does not count. Were the whole
of our system of scaffolding to be swept away to-
morrow, we should be able to reconstruct it all again :
nay, we should be compelled to do so, out of the very
wants of the human heart.
Let those who are disposed to wail by the river-
side, shedding false tears over our approaching ex-
tinction, take heed lest it be not their own superstitions
that are at the point of death instead of ours ! Hin-
duism is not going to die because her sons have learnt
to drink a cup of morning tea, forsooth ! Caste, and
occupation, and mode of living, and forms of culture
might all disappear, and Hinduism remain intact as
ever. In fact, is not something of the kind to be
expected in the speedy spread of Hinduistic ideas to
Christian lands ? Our religion is fully compatible
with any of the higher forms of civilization. But it
will never die out of the land of its birth. If anything
were needed to make this more certain, it would be
THE CROWN OF HINDUISM 15
just such ill-considered and premature exultation as
that to which we have been alluding. Do we not
know that with the passing of characteristic faiths
comes the death of nations ? Are we fools, that we
should not know the meaning of the tale of con-
temporary civilizations in Ancient Egypt, and in
Babylon, dead beyond power to revive, because they
parted with their ancestral trust of thought ? India
shall not do this ! Rather shall she go out into all
the world, and see the inadequacy of more childish
faiths met out of her own brimming store. Rather
shall she become the Guru and instructor of all others,
and learn to measure the greatness of her own thinkers
by the littleness and shallowness of those who oppose
them. Rather shall her pride and confidence in this her
own treasure wax greater day by day. Smiling serenely,
she will pass over her flatterers, her hypocritical sympa-
thisers and her well-intentioned but foolish children
easily elated by meaningless words, and let her own
glance rest, in calm and content, on a future not far
distant when the positions shall be reversed.
That such a time is coming, nay, that it is close at
hand, we should be strangely disloyal to our Mother-
Church to doubt. We should be strangely incompe-
tent readers of her past triumphs, if we could not see.
Not the churches of the world alone, but the very
universities of Europe, will yet do homage before the
names of Indian thinkers, who, living in the shelter of
forest-trees, and clad in birch-bark or in loin-cloths,
have formulated truths more penetrating and more
comprehensive than any of which Europe herself
childishly bent on material comfort ever dreamed.
HINDUISM AND ORGANIZATION.
HINDUISM is one of the finest and most coherent
growths in the world. Its disadvantages arise out of
the fact that it is a growth, not an organization ; a
tree, not a machine. In an age in which the whole
world worships the machine, for its exactness, its
calculableness, and its dirigibility, this fact, while
it makes for a greater permanence, also involves
a certain number of desiderata. The fruits of the
tree of Hinduism are of an excellence unparalleled ;
but it is not easy to reach by its means those benefits
that do not occur spontaneously, ends that have to be
foreseen and deliberately planned and arranged for.
For instance, alone amongst the world's faiths perhaps,
ours has no quarrel of any sort with truth. Under
its sway, the scientific mind is absolutely free to
pursue to the uttermost its researches into the Infinite
Nescience of things, the philosopher is encouraged to
elucidate his conclusions, and simple piety does not
dream of passing judgment on things admittedly too
high for it. All this is true of Hinduism. At the
same time, what has it done to grasp the highest
scientific education for its children, or to impel its
people forward upon the pursuit of mastery in learn-
ing or in ministering to social service ?
There is nothing in Hinduism to forbid an attempt
HINDUISM AND ORGANIZATION 17
on our part to compass these things, and the only
thing that could drive us to make the effort, namely
a vigilant and energetic sense of affairs, a public spirit
that took account of things as a whole, was un-
doubtedly indicated by the Swami Vivekananda, as
part of what he meant by Aggressive Hinduism.
We ought to make our faith aggressive, not only
internationally, by sending out missionaries, but also
socially, by self-improvement ; not only doctrinally,
by accepting converts, but also spiritually, by intensify-
ing its activity. What we need is to supplement
religion by public spirit, an enlightened self-sense in
which every member of the community has a part.
Class-preference is obsolete in matters of education.
The career of the intellect is now for him who has the
talent. By us, this principle has to be boldly and
enthusiastically accepted. Even as the school is open
to all, so must every form of social ministration be
made. The college, the orphanage, the hospital, the
women's refuge, these must be opened by such as have
the devotion and energy for the task, and nothing
must be said of the birth of the servant of humanity.
By virtue of his consecration, he becomes a saint, even
as, by his jnanam, the philosopher makes himself a
Activity is eased and heightened if it is socialized :
that is to say, if it is the work of a body, espousing a
common conviction, and not of a solitary individual,
wandering the world, and divided between his idea
itself and the question of its support. This common
conviction, driving into work, is the reason why small
religious sects are so often the source of vast move-
1 8 RELIGION AND DHARMA
ments of human amelioration. Many of these out-
standing problems of Hinduism have been attacked,
for instance, by the Brahmo Samaj, with considerable
success. The little church forms a background and
home for the worker. It sends him out to his task,
rejoices over his success, and welcomes him back with
laurels, or with ministration, when he turns home
to die. Without some such city of the heart, it is
difficult to see how the worker is to keep up his
energy and courage. The praise and pleasure of our
own little group of beloved ones is very sweet to all of
us, and quite properly spurs us on to surmount many
an obstacle that we should not otherwise attempt.
Let the soul grow, by saying " not this ! not this ! " to
what height it will ; but let it have the occasion for
practising this discrimination.
We must take up our problems, then, as social
groups. Let no man enter on the apostolate that
is to shake the world, alone. Everything done, every
discovery made, even every poem written, and every
dream dreamed, is a social achievement. Society has
contributed to it, and will receive its benefits. Let
the missionary, then, on whom the effort seems to rest,
not reckon himself to be the chief actor. There must
be some two or three, knit together by some well-
wrought bond, in every undertaking that is to benefit
humanity. Perhaps they were comrades at school and
college. Perhaps they are disciples of a single master.
Possibly they belong to the same village. Maybe
they are fellow-workmen in some common employment.
Whatever be the shaping force, there must be as-
sociation of aim and co-operation of effort, if there is
HINDUISM AND ORGANIZATION 19
to be success, and there must be a strong bond of love
amongst those few ardent souls who form the central
Voluntary association, the desire of a body to take
on corporate individuality, is thus the point of de-
parture within Hinduism for civic activity. But we
must not forget how much every activity owes to the
general movement of society around it. Work must
be done by the few as the servants, not as the enemies,
of the many. Every single movement needs other
counter-movements to supplement it, if it is to main-
tain itself in vigour. Thus, the difficulty about technical
education in India is not want of funds, which have
been poured in in abundance ; but want of general
industrial development, in the society around. There
is a fixed ratio between education and development
which cannot be passed, hence only by definite and
alternating increments to the one and to the other
can progress take place. Again, there is a fixed pro-
portion between the total of these and the community's
need of the highest scientific research, which cannot
be contravened. And all these alike must find them-
selves inhering in an inclusive social energy, which
takes account of its own needs, its own problems and
its own organs. The vivifying of this general social
sense is the first of all our problems. We have to
awaken it, to refresh it, and to keep it constantly
informed. What this social sense has now first and
foremost to realize, is our want of education, the need
of a real ploughing of the mind. For this, high and
low, we ought to be content to starve and slave and
bear the utmost pinch of poverty. And not for our
20 RELIGION AND DHARMA
own sons alone. This is a matter in which the interest
of all should be the interest of each one, the necessity
of one the interest of all. We have to energize our
culture. We have to learn to think of things in their
wholeness, and to see them from new points of view.
We have to possess ourselves of all that is known
by humanity, not to continue in contentment with a
mere corner of its knowledge, well fenced off. Are
we mentally capable of science, of sanity, of com-
prehensiveness? If so, we have now to prove our
And where shall we find the starting-point for this
new assault on the citadel of our own ignorance 1 ? Let
us find it boldly amongst religious forces. In Buddhist
countries, the monastery is the centre round which are
grouped schools, libraries, museums, and efforts at
technical education. Why should we not, in our South-
ern cities expect the temple, similarly, to take the lead,
in the fostering of the new and higher education ?
Why should we dread the Brahman's tendency to ex-
clusiveness and reaction ? If it be really true that we
are capable of sanity, is the Brahman to remain an ex-
ception to that sanity? Let us expect of our own
country and of our own people, the highest and noblest
and most progressive outlook that any people in the
world might take. And in doing this, let us look to
become Hindus, in a true sense, for the first time. For
it is a question whether so grand a word ought to be
borne by us unless we have first earned and approved
our right to it. Ought not the name of our country
and our faith to be to us as a sort of order of merit, a
guerdon of loyal love, the token of accepted toil ?
BOTH Hindus and Mohammedans have great need
amongst themselves of such work as has been done
amongstiChristians, during the past century, by mutual
association. No one would suggest that such forms of
association should be deliberately imitated by Orientals
amongst themselves. But a very different matter is
the apprehension of the idea that is represented by the
institution, and its re-expression in some other form.
The impact of Western life and thought has shattered
many of our own most precious methods of self-or-
ganization. The old village-community, with its co-
herence, its moral order, its sense of purpose, and its
openness to the highest thought and sacrifice, has
gone, and in its place we have the heap of disconnected
fragments that goes in modern times by the name of a
Even the city, of the mediaeval poch, had its own
way of fulfilling the purposes of modern voluntary as-
sociations. The newcomer to Benares or Allahabad
found himself immediately in his own quarter, sur-
rounded by men from his own part of India, directly
or indirectly connected with himself. In the outer ap-
partments of their homes he met with friends, received
assistance and advice, and was able to avail himself of
local culture. This para of his own countrymen was
22 RELIGION AND DHARMA
to all intents and purposes his club, his home, his
hospital. And it served all these ends far better than
any modern society of the cities can possibly do. It
was here that there grew up the organized communal
opinion that resulted sooner or later in the extension
of scope in required directions. For the communal or-
ganization in all provinces was generous, and free, and
debonair, full of comradeship, rising in its richer
members into princely liberality. It is the continuity
of our social environment, moreover, that keeps us all
on our own highest level in character and conduct.
And this continuity was admirably provided for in the
old city paras. The youth who came from the south
in those days, was not open to the same temptations as
now, from the dissipations of the city. And this for
the good reason that the elders about him were men of
his own district. The news of any lapses from decorum
would assuredly travel back to the old people at home,
and in the village of his birth his family would hang
their heads for shame of him. It is not easy to esti-
mate the moral restraint imposed by this series of
While we remember this, however, we cannot fail to
consider the contrast presented by modern develop-
ments. Let us think, for instance, of the crowds of
poor Mohammedans who find their way into a city like
Calcutta, chiefly perhaps from Patna and Behar, to
act as syces and coachmen. The temptations of this
particular life are notorious in all countries. Liquor-
shops are banefully on the increase. The custom of
congregating in one's own quarter is on the wane.
Can it be wondered at that the life of the city proves
utterly destructive to the happiness of many a simple
And yet, though all this is but too true, we must
not speak as if any people in the world could compare
with our own people even here. Very often the poor
man whose hold on life is so sadly impaired by the
foreignness of his environment, is nevertheless strug-
gling to live on one meal a day and send half of his
tiny wages to his home. No one will ever know the
whole history of the self-sacrifice of Indian servants
in these days. The commonest of our countrymen are
able to practise a control of hunger that in any other
land would canonize them as martyrs.
We, and especially the student classes, who live in
cities, would do well to consider the social problems
that surround us. What can we do for the People?
How can we strengthen the People to recover them-
selves ? We are not called upon to create new forces
of restitution. These, in abundance, are our heritage
from our forefathers. But we are called upon to con-
serve, to use, to develop, and re-adjust to modern needs,
the treasure of moral impulses and moralizing and co-
ordinating institutions that is ours.
Let each of us ask himself, Where are the Sudras who
have come from his father's village ? Does one not
know ? Then how sadly one has failed in the duty of
solidarity ! Could one do anything to help them ?
Anything to share with them one's own privileges ?
One never knows, till one has tried, how many and how
great those privileges are. What a revolution would
be effected, and how quickly, in Indian ideas, if every
student in the land took a vow each year to give twelve
24 RELIGION AND DHARMA
lessons to some person or group of persons who had
no other means of education ! Twelve lessons would
not be a great tax on any one, yet how immensely help-
ful to the taught ! The lessons might take the form
of anything the teacher had to offer. Physical exercise
would do, if that were all one could give. Reading and
writing, or counting, would be good. But better than
any of these would be talks about geography and his-
tory, or the interchange of simple scientific conceptions,
or a training in the observation of the everyday facts
Have we thought how the acquisition of a few ideas
helps living, how an intellectual speculation, left to
germinate in the mind, raises and deepens the days it
colours ? Knowledge is truly the bread of life. Let
us hasten, with the best that is in us, to offer knowledge
to all about us !
A GREAT deal is commonly said of the evil done by
the existence of sects. It may be, however, that such
statements take somewhat too much for granted ; that
they are made thoughtlessly ; and that the whole ques-
tion of the use and abuse of sects is worthy of careful
Undoubtedly the temper that splits hairs continually
over minute differences of doctrine, that welcomes dis-
pute, and divides societies on the slightest pretext, is
mischievous and reprehensible. If sectarianism of this
description be the necessary characteristic of sects, then
the less we see of them the better. All sects must be
regarded as an evil, and hardly anything could be an
excuse for their creation. But is it necessary that the
schismatic temper should be the one inevitable product
of a sect ?
It is not the desire to separate from others, but the
desire of men to unite themselves together, round the
banner of a common truth or ideal, that brings the sect
into being. The sect is a church, and a church, to quote
a time-honoured definition, is neither more nor less
than " a company of faithful people." In this sense, we
might almost call any body of persons associating them-
selves voluntarily for the purposes of some scholarly
study, or learned idea, a sect, or church. In a sense, a
26 RELIGION AND DHARMA
gathering of the fellows of a medical society, or an
Asiatic society, is a congregation. In a sense, since
these bodies are made up of persons " faithful " to a
certain idea, they are churches. And as soon as we say
this, we realize that the sect is really an assertion of
unity, not of difference ; an association, not a separa-
tion ; a brotherhood, not a schism.
But let us look at the religious body, the church
gathered round some central idea of faith or conduct,
the ecclesiastical church. Do sects of this kind play no
large and generous purpose in the world, from which
we may learn ? Undoubtedly they do. In the first
place, they form a confraternity, even, in a certain sense,
a home. The struggling, poverty-stricken member has
those about him who will aid, those whose communal
interest lies in his well-being, those who will defend him
from the sneers and oppression of the world without.
This aspect of the sect may be seen in the Jewish, the
Jain, and the Parsi communities.
The sect is also a school. The children of its
members have a heritage in the idea, and their church
is responsible for their education in it. They are born
to a place in an army, and the ideals and discipline, as
well as the solidarity, of soldiers, are theirs from the first
moment of life.
The sect is an arena. Each member's life is plunged
in the open, with the moral enthusiasm of all about him
to be his guide and stay. The honour of the church
demands the highest possible achievement of each one
of its sons. She gives her hero parting salutation, and
welcome on return. She treasures up every significant
act of his life, and makes it available to those who live
in his shadow. She provides a home and friends in the
distant cities for the youth who fares forth to seek
fortune and adventure. She is mother and friend and
guardian, guru and generalissimo and banner, all in one.
Is a sect altogether an evil ?
Yet the final use of the sect is the transcending of
sects. Its greatest sin is to deny the truth to those
without. Every moment of our lives is Judgment-
Day. Even at their culmination, when the part has
been played with honour in the sight of all men, there
is the question as to the spirit in which the whole shall
be summed up. Shall we end by claiming the sole in-
fallibility for ourselves? Or shall our final message be
" Lo, this is the light that lighteth every man that
cometh into the world"?
In India the land from which the words just quoted
surely emanated there can be no doubt as to which of
these is the true attitude. No one church has a mon-
opoly of truth. No single shepherd is alone infallible.
There is no final sect except Humanity, and that
Humanity must include, as Buddha thought, all that
lives and enshrines a soul.
The day may perhaps have gone by for the forming
of sects, but not for taking their spirit and inspiring
our own lives with it. As the church is a school, a
home, a brotherhood, so let every village be, amongst
us. As the sect is a great over-arching Motherhood,
so be to us our country and our fellows. The religious
band gathered round a common truth. But we are
called together by the sacredness of our place. The
ancient Aryan planted his altar, and lighted the sacred
fire when he came to the spot that seemed to him most
28 RELIGION AND DHARMA
sacred. And so to us, every common hearth-place is
the Vedic altar. The household, the village, the city,
and the country, are they not so many different forth-
shinings to the heart, of One Immensity of Mother-
hood ? As Her children, born in the light of these Her
shrines, are we not all one brotherhood - in the closest
of bonds ?
A VISIT to a Christian church impresses one very
powerfully with the organizing and co-operating instinct
of the European races. Their religious thought, like
that of the Jewish people from whom they derive it,
often seems to us, in comparison with the rich back-
ground of Hinduism, poor, or even childish ; but as to
the beauty and impressiveness of their ceremonial and
liturgical expression, there can be no dispute.
Nor do we class all Christian forms as equal in this
respect. The old Latin Church, while much more
historic, and much closer to Asiatic ritual, does not
seem to us to compare, in the simple grandeur of its
services, with the modern church of Anglican Protes-
tantism. In the Roman Church, a great deal of the
service is performed by a priest, on behalf of a silent
kneeling congregation. This is parallel with the part
played by the Brahman in our own services. The great
stroke of genius, in which the European mind reaches
its most distinctive manifestation, appears to have
been the invention of Common Prayer. It was per-
haps the Mohammedans who first thought of it, 1 and
Europe had been saturated with the idea of Moham-
1 Sister Nivedita, quoting Swami Vivekananda, was accustomed to
attribute the institution of common prayer to Islam. This view over-
looks its establishment in Jewish worship many centuries earlier.
30 RELIGION AND DHARMA
medan institutions, doubtless, throughout the whole
period of the Crusades. Then again, one of the most
powerful contributory causes of the Reformation itself
had lain in the capture of Constantinople, in 1453 A.D.,
by the Ottoman Turks. This was an event which
must, in the nature of things, have revived and deepened
the European tradition of the Saracen and his ways.
And who shall say what impression falls deepest into
the mind of nation or individual, to germinate most
Mean it what it may, it is certain that Christianity
began by being an Asiatic idea, but ends, attaining its
most distinctive characteristics, as European Protes-
tantism ; that common prayer meaning the united
prayer of the congregation, taking a definite part in the
drama of worship began with Islam, but ends in such
places as the Anglican Church.
Hinduism possesses congregational worship in rudi-
ment only. Hitherto, it has not greatly recognized
anything beyond the priest and the single worshipping
soul. Its view of the act of prayer is so much more
intense than the European, that it would seem to it a
confusion in terms to talk of such conceptions as de-
mocratic worship ! And yet, for this worship by the
individual soul, it offers the beaten paths of liturgy and
ritual, written prayer and pre-determined act. In this,
again, it provides us with the exact antithesis of Europe,
where those sects who exalt the individual experience
in matters spiritual become nonconformist, and discard
all pre-determined expression and form.
Christianity produces very few rishis and great
saints. Only at long intervals do we meet, in Europe,
THE SAMAJ 31
with a Francis, a Teresa, or a Joan. And we meet with
them almost exclusively in the church of images and
Tapasyd, of Sddhand and Bhajana. In spite of a
Frances Ridley Havergal, and the American Shakers, in
spite of Swedenborg amongst the riskis, and the Wes-
leys and Catherine Booth amongst the saints, Protestan-
tism can hardly be said to have made up the full tale
of numbers due from her as yet. The strength of
Christianity, the strength of Europe, does not, in fact,
lie in the exceptions it produces. Its strength lies tin
its average. It may be defective in greatness ; it is
remarkably well represented when it comes to a fair
working level, of a somewhat crude type perhaps,
aggressive, very cocksure, extremely limited in ideas ;
but a success, when we consider how well it is held by
the majority, how little, comparatively speaking, is the
lapse below it. For this, Christianity has lopped off
the heads of her tallest growths, that there might be
none, either, hopelessly dwarfed. For this she makes
her worship into a sort of literary and musical exercise,
knowing well that we cannot constantly lend ourselves
to the articulation of given ideas, without eventually
becoming approximated to them in our own nature.
For this, she has confined herself to the narrow ground
of a scheme of salvation nineteen hundred years old.
For this, she exalts service above Jndnam, and social
utility above Bhakti that she might create a strong,
mutually-coherent, self-respecting average, and raise
her multitudes to its level.
In matters of religion, a Hindu peasant seems like a
cultivated man of the world beside what is often the
childishness of a European man of letters. In matters
32 RELIGION AND DHARMA
of civic right, the humblest European will often regard
as obvious and inevitable what is hidden from the Hindu
leader and statesman.
But we are come to the age of the Interchange of
Ideals. Humanity does not repeat her lessons. What
is learnt in one province of her great kingdom she
expects another to take and use. Undoubtedly the
thought of the East is about to effect the conquest of
the West. And the ideals of the West, in turn, are
to play their part in the evolution of the East. This
point of view has little in common with that of the
missionary, for it means that neither will displace the
other. Each will act as complementary only.
Hinduism will undoubtedly in the future develop a
larger democratic element. She will begin to recognize
the value of liturgical prayer. A new consideration will
be felt amongst us for the education and training of
the average man. Notions of service, ideals of action,
will come in, to re-enforce our too exclusive admiration
for the higher forms of realization. It is to be hoped
that we shall never lose our regard for the segregation
of the soul, as the path to God. But without losing
this, we could well afford to emphasize the potentialities
of the crowd. To a certain extent, these tendencies
have already found exemplification in the Arya, Brahmo,
and Prarthana Samajes. In Bengal, the Adi Brahmo
Samaj, of the Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, repre-
sents to us much that the Lutheran and Anglican
Churches represent in Christianity. It is Protestant, so
to speak, yet liturgical ; full of tradition, yet congrega-
tional. The Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, on the other
hand, corresponds to the nonconforming sects in Eng-
THE SAMAJ 33
land. There is still in it, perhaps, a greater regard for
inherited prayers and formulae than amongst the icono-
clasts of Europe. But this is not to be wondered at,
in a religion so much more venerable than theirs as
What we still want, nevertheless, is the taking up of
these new features into modern orthodox Hinduism.
If Hinduism is to become aggressive, taking back
its own perverted children, and holding its arms open
to foreign converts, it must also develop, so to speak,
a democratic wing. The People must find a place and
a united voice in its services. The procession must be
made articulate in hymns and responses. There will
be stated times of assembly, and the temple steps may
even become the pulpit, the place of exposition, and
exhortation. All these changes will not displace the in-
dividual/^. None of us need fear the loss of religious
treasures whose true value we are only now able to
But these are the days of a great new outpouring of
God upon our people, and the Mother-Church, ever
responsive, will feel this and give it utterance, even as
in the past she has reflected each phase of our national
history. We shall abandon nothing, but add all things.
For the sake of the many we shall learn to exalt action,
to idealize work. But Hinduism will not, for all that,
cease to be the school of the few, leading them to
Jnanam> to Bhakti, to renunciation, and to Mukti.
Religion is not passive and static. It is dynamic, ever
growing. This truth remains for us to prove.
THE PAST AND THE FUTURE.
SOME people strive to be truly Indian by looking
back, and some aim at the same goal by looking for-
ward. It is quite evident that we need both, yet
that of the two the second is still the more impor-
tant. We need the two, because the future must be
created out of the strength of the past. None of us
can be educated by rebuke alone. The teacher who
really forms us, is he who sees better than we did our-
selves what we really longed and strove for, how far
our effort was right, and in what points we might make
it still finer and better. He who interprets us to our-
selves, and at the same time gives us hope, is the true
In the same way a nation cannot be aided by con-
tempt or abuse. The future cannot be founded on a
past admitted to be a failure. He who attempts to do
this will never understand his own defeat. Before we
can teach, we must first worship the Divine that ex-
presses itself through the taught. Service is really
worship. Charity is worship. And even education is
worship. Because I see in you the infinite Atman
pure, free, irresistible and eternal, I may help you to
remove some of the barriers to Its free expression. If
the whole of humanity were not in you, what would be
the use of our efforts ? They could bring forth no fruit.
THE PAST AND THE FUTURE 35
It follows that the advance of communities, like
that of individuals, depends in the first place upon a
clear conception of the goal before them, and a reverent
appreciation of the work they have done in the past
towards that end. Hence there must be a certain ele-
ment of conservatism in all great social upheavals.
But it would be better to be confined to the future
than to be confined to the past ! After all, whether
we know it or not, we cannot help carrying a certain
amount of our inherited strength with us. And we
must be hewing out the path for the advance of others.
It is this tendency to limitation, to refuse full freedom
to others, that is apt to make the young so impatient
of what they take to be blind reaction. But the fault
is not in conservatism itself, as our youth themselves
will one day come to see, but rather in its denial of
freedom to advance. All religions are true, as Sri
Ramakrishna taught us, and practically everything in
them is true, save and except those points in which
they declare other faiths to be false. Similarly, our
conservatives are right enough, except when they say
that the youngsters are wrong, and the youngsters are
true, except when they fret against the back-looking
Each has need to love and pray for the success of
the other. Do we want to see India turned into a pale
copy of America ? God forbid ! How precious, as a
bulwark against our own impatience then, are these
staunch old believers who hold the national treasure,
and guard the national colour, against all innovation !
But do we want to see India with her wings clipped,
chained to the roosting-perch, unable to do or to be or
36 RELIGION AND.DHARMA
to soar where she will ? If not, let our love and bene-
diction go everywhere with our wayward children, in
their sublime assault upon the future. On, on, strong
souls, with your experiments in progress, your fiery
hopes, and your fearless forward march ! We know
the love that burns in your hearts for the village home,
and the father and grandfather. Better, we hold,
could the land do without us than without you ! The
time will yet come when you will return to the old
home, tired of wandering, weary of the fight, and leav-
ing your own children to man the breach you leave, will
turn your hearts to the ancient wisdom, and seek the
final release. How grateful will you then be to the
grey heads that preserved the national home ! No
other refuge could have seemed so cool as this old
house. No music could have been so sweet as these
temple bells. It is for the future that the past lives
on. The past has no bhakta to compare with that
RELIGION AND NATIONAL SUCCESS.
WE cannot too strongly condemn the reckless non-
sense that is sometimes talked amongst our country-
men to the effect that countries are rendered effete by
their religion, that by reason of her religion India has
fallen upon a period of decline, and that because she
has no religion Japan is a success.
The difficulty in dealing with this tangle of untruths
is to know where to begin. Shall we first attack our
friends' notion of what is religion ? Or would it be
wiser first to notice their idea of what constitutes the
decline and success of countries ? Some of us would
indignantly reject the assumption that Japan is a suc-
cess, preferring to maintain that precisely because she
has no religion, in half a century she will be outstripped
Again, some of us would decline to admit that India
is in a state of decay, being prepared to hold against
all-comers the contrary opinion that she stands on the
threshold of a great future, and feels coursing within
her veins the blood of youth.
But these are matters in which our personal tem-
perament and experience will largely determine our
view. Hence, argument is more or less useless about
them. The only demonstration that can be really
successful will be that of the new heaven and the new
38 RELIGION AND DHARMA
earth, rising up about us, and the evidence of our
senses themselves as to the truth. That argument
will not be created by those who despair and talk of
senile exhaustion !
The main point to be considered is what our friends
are pleased to mean by religion. Perhaps, when this
is well defined, we shall see that if India is not dead
to-day, she owes her survival to the fact of her religion.
Religion in this sense is not superstition, it is not fear,
or mythology, or the practice of penances. It is living
thought and belief, with their reaction in character.
Hinduism is not in this sense an idolatry of the
fugitive. Success is as fleeting in the lives of nations
as is defeat. Hinduism is no gospel of success. It
does not even profess to hold out any short cut there.
To do this is the domain of magic. Our religion is
something better than a series of magical formulae.
If Hinduism were the gospel of success, it would be-
long only to one-half of experience.
When we are true to the faith that is in us, we be-
come the witness, looking on at the spectacle of victory
and of defeat. Seeking for triumph to the utmost of
our power, we are not therefore enslaved by it.
Striving with all our might to reverse our defeat, we
are nevertheless not bowed down by it. In conquer-
ing as in being conquered, we stand serene, in the
power of religion, conscious of a sovereign self-re-
straint within that yields to none of the circumstances
of life, whether these be good or ill. Are we indeed
jealous of those whose whole good is in the world about
them ? Do we not know that in the pairs of opposites
there is oscillation, that good is followed by ill, fame
RELIGION AND NATIONAL SUCCESS 39
by ignominy, brilliant success by blackness of dis-
Religion is the permanent element, the accumula-
tion of human thought and character in the midst of
the ebb and flow of circumstance. This building up
of the corporate personality is closely associated with
the maintenance of native religious ideas. Who shall
restore ancient Egypt, or Mesopotamia, Chaldaea or
Assyria ? None, for the things that made them indi-
viduals have disappeared for ever. Even a language
can only persist round some central expression of a
people's genius. We must not be misled by the bril-
liance of a moment. Where is Rome ? Where is
Portugal ? Where is Spain ? A few centuries are to
the spirit of history only as an hour in the life of an
ordinary man. Nations are not made or unmade
by the flight of time, but by the steadiness and pati-
ence with which they hold, or do not hold, to the trust
that it is theirs to carry through the ages. A moment
of brilliant commercial exploitation does not constitute
historic success, unless there are forces at work to main-
tain intact the personality of the victor. Nor can that
commercial success itself endure, apart from character
and integrity in those who have achieved it. Our re-
ligion teaches us that this world is not real. It is im-
possible for one who sincerely holds this, to barter the
life of mind and conscience for external ease and com-
fort. Yet this preference of conscience above the in-
terest of the moment is the master-quality in attaining
the inheritance even of the earth itself.
THE SPIRIT OF RENUNCIATION.
AMONGST fallacies which are characteristic of special
states of society there is in modern times none which
is more common than the question, " Does it pay ? "
The remark ought always to be answered by a counter-
question. " Pay whom ? " And until this is clearly
and fully replied to, no further answer should be given.
It will generally be found that the reference is to
the individual. Is a given course of conduct likely to
benefit that individual who engages in it, within a cer-
tain relatively short period ? If so, that conduct is ad-
visable, but if otherwise, then not.
Now this would be all very well, if a sufficiently
large meaning could be given to the idea of the indi-
vidual, or to the notion of what his benefit involved.
Unfortunately, however, the class of mind to which the
argument appeals strongly and clearly is not one which
is capable of giving a larger significance to anything.
If we are contemplating a course of vice it is a fair
argument to ask " Does it pay ? " because vice or sin
of any kind is always in the long run detrimental to
the best interests not only of the individual but also
of the society.
Every advance in human knowledge, every inven-
tion, every achievement, almost without exception,
throughout the history of Humanity, has been gained
THE SPIRIT OF RENUNCIATION 41
by those who had abandoned the idea of profit for
themselves, and who were contented to labour for the
profit of mankind. We are too apt, in India, to re-
gard this as an ideal proper to the sannyasin only.
We have to learn to-day that there must be no society
without its sannyasins, and that many social applica-
tions have yet to be found for Sannyas.
As a matter of fact, curiously few undertakings are
capable in all their stages of paying the individual.
There is nothing which is more necessary socially than
education. Yet is it not notorious that only in ex-
ceptional states of society can the educator be ade-
quately paid ? Why do the religious orders of the
Roman Catholic Church carry so much of the educa-
tional burden in countries that are not Roman Catho-
lic ? Only because the individual worker contributes
his service, as far as his community is concerned, free
of charge. And thus his community triumphs. The
training of the men whom it attracts ensures its prestige,
their unselfishness its victory. This is the case with
education to-day. But the same happened in Central
Europe in earlier ages, with regard to other equally
important activities. Thus J. R. Green says of the
Begging Friars, or sannyasins, who came to England
in the year 1224 A.D. :
" The work of the Friars was physical as well as
moral. The rapid progress of population within the
boroughs had outstripped the sanitary regulations of the
middle ages, and fever or plague or the more terrible
scourge of leprosy festered in the wretched hovels of
the suburbs. It was to haunts such as these that
Francis had pointed his disciples, and the Grey
42 RELIGION AND DHARMA
Brethren at once fixed themselves in the meanest and
poorest quarters of each town. Their first work lay
in the noisome lazar-houses, it was amongst the lepers
that they commonly chose the site of their homes. At
London they settled in the shambles of Newgate ; at
Oxford they made their way to the swampy ground
between its walls and the streams of Thames. Huts
of mud and timber, as mean as the huts around them,
rose within the rough fence and ditch that bounded the
All this was in the thirteenth century. But at the
end of the eleventh, there had already arisen in Europe
an austere order of monks, known as the Cistercians,
who spread themselves over the moors and forests of
France and the Rhine-countries ; built abbeys and cath-
edrals ; began agriculture on a large scale ; drained
the swamps, and cleared the common-lands. It was
these Cistercians who afterwards sent out from their
English mother-houses daughter-communities to settle
in Norway, and these it was who alone in that country
were able to practise building in stone, and who taught
Roman letters, and enabled the people to write down
their national epics.
Thus even the West notwithstanding her present
loud assertions of self-interest and quick profit as valid
motives of action even the West is built up on unpaid
labour, on labour whose hire the labourers remitted
and allowed to accumulate in the interests of the
commonwealth. In fact it is only after an activity
has been thoroughly institutionalized, and made com-
mon and standard, that it can expect to command a
market rate of wages, so to speak. But before it can
THE SPIRIT OF RENUNCIATION 43
be institutionalized, it has to be explored and experi-
mented on by some one or many of the more heroic
pioneer-souls, in the cause of the community or of the
Even the English in India, with all their corporate
selfishness, trace back their rights, as we remember, to
a certain physician who would accept from a Mogul
sovereign no personal reward but a factory-concession
for the merchants, his fellow-countrymen. There is
no need to fear a movement that has no Sannyas at its
command. We shall find, however, that the counter-
part of such Sannyas is always a strong and ever-pre-
sent conception of the community. It was because
Dr. Hamilton was so well aware of the needs of the
company of merchants, and because he felt himself so
strongly to be one of them, that he was able to be un-
selfish on their behalf. And therefore the true birth
of an era takes place with a rise of a new idea of social
There is no question as to what will eventually be
done in India in the name of Nationality. Let only
the thought of the nation be vivid enough, and it will
carry all the necessary sacrifice in its train. And such
sacrifice, for the nation, for the city, for the common-
weal, is the school for that loftier, more remote sacri-
fice, which Hinduism knows as Vairagyam. He who
has practised the civic Sannyas is best prepared for the
national service. And he who has been chastened and
purified in the national unselfishness is the most ready
for that last and highest renunciation which reacts in
life as Jndnam, or Bhaktz, or Karma- Yoga.
But through what a strange series of Sddhands is
44 RELIGION AND DHARMA
this emancipation to be brought about ! Children
will need to renounce personal ambition, and parents
to make the deeper renunciation of ambition for their
children. And yet these tyagis of the new time will
wear no gerrua. Seated in an office or ruling over a
factory ; enrolling his fellows in unions, or studying
with every nerve and muscle the organization of labour
on a large scale; giving himself to education, or even,
it may be, ruling faithfully and devotedly over a house-
hold of his own, not in the name of its limited interests,
but against its interests, on behalf of the Indian people,
such will be the gerrua-c\ad of the new order.
" He who knows neither fear nor desire," says the
Gita, " is the true monk." Not the sannyasz'n-clad, but
the sannyasm-hG&rted. He who has neither fear for
himself nor hope for himself. He who could see his
own family starve, if need were, in the communal cause.
He who is contented to fail, if only out of his failure
others may sometime in the future succeed. He who
has no home outside his work, no possession save a
selfless motive, no hope save that which his own blood
shall enable his fellows to realize. These are the men
who are to be found in every class of students to-day.
And we dare to say to them, and to their neighbours
and parents : Trust these high hopes that surge up
within you ! Risk all on your great hopes ! Believe
in yourselves, and in those who shall succeed you ! So
forward. Do what you see, and trust Mother for the
next step. For verily it is of your hearts and your
minds, of your life and your work that the New India
which is to come shall yet be made. And blessed are
ye who have not seen and yet can believe !
THE SACRED AND THE SECULAR.
INDIA alone, amongst all the countries of the earth,
has had the boldness that could abolish the mental
barriers between sacred and secular, high and low.
India alone, having thought out the great philosophy
of Advaita, has had the imagination to command Man
to become the Witness, to declare life to be only play.
It is a lofty task, to be worthy of the deeds and the
dreams of our ancestors. Yet if we walk not their
road, how shall we call others there ?
" And the Lord said, ' Simon, Simon, Satan hath de-
sired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat ! ' '
These sombre words are recorded in the Christian
Gospel of St. Luke, as spoken by Christ, only an hour
or two before He was betrayed to His enemies. Such
is the strength of the Avatar, that when the whole
world has conspired to put Him on His trial, to hyp-
notize Him into a belief in His own weakness and
forlornness, He is only conscious the while of putting
the world on its trial, and sifting it as wheat. He is
the one steady point in the great matrix of humanity,
quivering, sifting, and oscillating in all directions. He
is the point of inversion of all the feebleness and weak-
ness of the common mind.
And from this point of view, the occurrence of the
46 RELIGION AND DHARMA
Divine Man is a logical necessity. Without Him, as
the spiritual pole, the tendency to co-ordinate our
wandering impulses in the fixed outlines of character
would be impossible. Even the meanest and poorest
of us, inasmuch as we are man at all, are witnesses to
Him, since all our efforts culminate in Him. Even
the least of our strivings relates us to His vast achieve-
ment, and to that alone. Seen in this light, how true
it is that we should pray for more strength, and not
for lighter burdens ! It is strength we want, not calm.
Calm is only a result. It can be cultivated by practice.
But if we have strength as the root, then calm and peace
and steadfastness cannot fail to be its flower.
The ego that is identified with the body has its gaze
entirely on one set of phenomena. It sees itself at-
tacked, condemned, suffering, and scorned. The ego
that identifies itself with Brahman is directly aware of
none of these things. Afar off, it may be the witness
of them. But its gaze is fixed on the opposite whorl
of movement, that of spiritual intensity, and to it, it
appears that the world is being put to the test. He
who knows Himself to be One with the whole universe,
how should He think of loneliness, how dream of pas-
sivity ? He knows Himself as the persecutor, as well
as the persecuted, and both alike as "the Mother's
Play." Unbroken Sachchid&nanda is His conscious-
ness, unflawed bliss is in His bearing. And in Him
meet the hopes and longings of us all.
There is one form of realization which can be de-
veloped in the thakur-ghar, and quite another in the
rough-and-tumble of the world. Both, let us remem-
ber, are realization. Both are paths hewn through the
THE SACRED AND THE SECULAR 47
mind to the knowledge of Brahman. Only the science
of the Avatar can help us, even in the life of street
and market-place. In Sachchidananda culminate all
joys and all knowledge, even the knowledge and the
joy of earth.
QUIT YE LIKE MEN !
ALL is in the mind. Nothing outside us has any
power save what we give it. However imposing the
external world may seem, it is in reality only the toy
of mind. It is but a feeble expression of what has
first been thought. " All that we are is the result of
what we have thought" says Buddha ; " it is founded on
our thoughts ; it is made up of our thoughts."
It is for this reason that education is so much the
most important concern of life. The mind must be
kept in a condition to work. It must be held at the
command of the will, from its lowest up to the highest
possible activity. It must be made competent to en-
visage any problem, and answer it in a fashion not in-
adequate. A people can afford to eat poorer food,
and less of it, than was their custom. They cannot
afford to let the mind grow dim. They cannot afford
to part with education.
In this, the question is not of the particular subject
through which we receive education. The question is
of the mind itself, of the education behind the subject.
Whatever the form of the drill, we must keep up our
intellectual potentiality. There are two factors in this
question, one is that of the particular tool or weapon,
the other that of the mental muscle, the training of the
limb that gives the grip. It is well, doubtless, to be
QUIT YE LIKE MEN ! 49
familiar with the sword : it is better far to have power
of arm. Whether by Sanskrit or by technology, by
mathematics or by poetry, by English or by classic,
does not matter. These are but the toys through
which the power is won. What we want is the power
itself, power of concentration, power of thought.
India has been strangely fortunate in the production
of this power. This is what the practice of concentra-
tion means. This is what samadhi, if we could reach
it, would mean. This is what prayers and pujas and
japams all aim at, the power of controlling the mind,
carried to its highest point. A people must ultimately
measure itself against others, not in terms offeree, but
in terms of mind. Their superiority may be invisible,
may be held in solution, as it were, waiting for the
favourable moment to form the dense precipitate. But
let them only practise. Let them only never relax.
And the potentiality of self- recovery will not pass away.
Yet we should not allow our superiority to be in-
visible, or held in suspension. We should be fully
equal to its assertion. It will be remembered how
little Sri Ramakrishna admired the cobra who aban-
doned not only biting, but also even hissing. A whole
community that knew how to hiss, would mean a
community that never required to bite. " Peace on
earth" is only, really, to be attained by this means!
How keen and clear was the intellect that saw this,
and laid it down as a great human ideal ! How
masterly was that other mind that penetrated all our
controversies and summed up all our perplexities in
the one pronouncement, " Quit ye like men ! "
And how are we to quit us like men ? By never
50 RELIGION AND DHARMA
sitting down short of the goal. By aspiring to the
front on the field of battle, and the back in the durbar.
By struggle, struggle, struggle, within and without.
Above all, by every form of self-mastery and self-direc-
tion. There is no tool that we must not try to wield, no
weapon that we can be content to leave to others. In
every field we must enter into the world-struggle. And
we must aim at defeating every competitor. The New
Learning is ours, no less than other men's. The search
for truth is ours, and we are as well equipped for it as
any. Civic integrity is ours. We have only to de-
monstrate it. Honour is ours. We may have to carry
it into places new and strange. The communal con-
sciousness, the corporate individuality, all are ours,
though we have to express them in unknown ways.
Public spirit and self-sacrifice, we are capable of these.
But to realize the ideal that these words call up be-
fore us, we must struggle for education of all kinds, as
captives for air, as the famine-stricken for food. We
must capture for ourselves the means of a fair struggle,
and then, turn on us all the whiteness of your search-
lights, oh ye tests of modern progress ! Ye shall not
find the children of India shrink from the fierceness of
your glow !
LET us, in our own lives, and in the training of our
children, try to get back to the fundamental virtues.
None can ask us for success. Any may demand of
us truth, simplicity, purity, courage. All these are
only so many different faces, as it were, of one central
perseverance in virtue, one nuclear sincerity, which
makes the whole life of a man into a patient following
of a thread, an idea, which he sees within his mind.
This patience, this steadfastness, this sincerity, is
Dharma the substance, the self-ness, of things and of
men. Dharma makes us the toys of the great world-
forces. Do we desire to be other? It makes us as
dead leaves borne onwards by the furious tempests of
the conscience. Is there a higher lot ? Instruments of
ideas, used, not using ; slaves of the gods, scourged
along all the thorny roads of life ; resting not, fearing
not, embracing ecstasy at the heart of despair.
Sincerity is what we want. Sincerity is the key and
foundation of all realizations. Sincerity is the simplest
of all the great qualities, and of them all, it goes the
farthest. Sincerity and the heart fixed steadfastly on
the Unseen it is the whole of victory. Truth, purity,
courage, can their opposites exist in him who is
sincere ? Are they not all forms of that one clear-
sightedness ? The man who step by step proceeds to-
52 RELIGION AND DHARMA
wards his own soul's quest, conscious of that and that
alone, is there any lie, cowardice, or grossness that can
The opposite of sincerity is ostentation, hypocrisy,
love of show. To seek constantly for advertisement,
to talk big, to ask for results instead of methods, this
is to undermine sincerity, to build up stuff of failure
instead of triumph. It is this, of which we must seek
to root out even the incipient impulse. It is this over
which we must strive to help our children. It is this
that we must learn to avoid with passionate horror.
By reserve, by modesty, by labour to make the deed
greater than the word, we must deny and punish that
thing in us that cries out for self-assertion, for cheap
praise, and easy notoriety.
Everything in the modern world tends to foster the
habit of loud talk. We have travelled far away from
the quiet dignity and simple pride of our forefathers.
Their freedom from self-consciousness is what we want.
But it is to be got in one way, and one alone. We
must do as they did, take ideals and thoughts that are
greater than ourselves and set them before us, till our
life's end, as the goals of the soul. Only when we
are merged in the flood-tide that is God, can we in
very truth forget the reflection in the mirror that is
called the Ego. And the flood-tide of God takes many
names, some amongst them being strangely familiar in
their spelling. Let us live for anything, so only it be
great enough to teach us forgetfulness of self ! Forget-
fulness of self is in itself the finding of God.
THE worshipper of God as a Providence does un-
doubtedly gain something from his worship in courage ;
since every man believes instinctively that God is with
him, whomsoever He might be against. Yet nothing
can wipe out from Providence-worships the stain of
using God, of subordinating Him to the petty interests
The belief in Destiny has its dangers, also. For we
sink so easily into the assumption that Destiny alone
is active, while we regard ourselves as passive. Yet
the truth in fact is that we are active and dominant,
and Destiny at the most is passive. " Kismet ! " cries
the Arab soldier, as he speeds forward in the charge,
or rushes madly into the breach. No soldier, for
an immediate victory, like this. But " Kismet ! " he
mutters again, solemnly, as the return fire forces his
first rush backwards, and that very belief in Destiny
that made him a moment ago the fiercest soldier in the
world, makes him now the most difficult to rally.
Different from either of these is the courage born of
Mother-worship in Hinduism. Here, the embrace is
death, the reward is pain, the courage is rapture All,
not the good alone, is Her touch on the brow All,
not simply the beneficent, is Her will for Her child.
" Where shall I look," he cries, " that Thou art not ?
54 RELIGION AND DHARMA
If I take the wings of the morning and fly unto the
uttermost parts of the sea, lo, Thou art there ! If I
go down into Hell, Thou art there also ! "
The worship of the Mother is in truth the Vedanta
of the hero. She is the whole, the Primal Force, the
Infinite Power, the Adi-Sakti. To become one-d with
That Power is to reach samddhi. It is by blotting out
self, by annihilating personality, that we may enter
that vision. "When desire is gone, and all the cords
of the heart are broken, then" says the Veda, " a man
attains to immortality."
We do not naturally love that whose strength is too
great for us. One who had been left alone for a few
minutes in a cavern beside Niagara, told of a passion
of hatred that overwhelmed her as she looked. It was
the active form of physical fear. We should feel the
same hatred, perhaps, for the midnight universe that
looks now to us so brilliantly beautiful, were we free to
move along the paths of the stars, and come face to face
with foreign suns. Our emotions are, for the most part,
the result of an immediate and subconscious measure-
ment of ourselves and our relations to that by which we
are confronted. To few indeed has it been given to
know " the joy of the witness." To fewer still, the
last and highest rapture of the union, once for all, with
Those who would reach this must worship Death.
Drinking the cup of suffering to the dregs, again and
again they will hold it out, empty, for more. To the
strong, no going back ; to the resolute, no disillusion-
ment. The disillusionments of which we read in poetry
are not signs of strength. They are sudden reactions
FACING DEATH 55
of self-consciousness and egoism, at unexpected move-
ments. The hero, with his irresistible energy, and his
unflinching gaiety, does not know whether that which
meets him is pleasant or sad. He goes through it, and
demands more. He treads on a sword as it were on
air. He has passed beyond self.
" Sri Ramakrishna," said the Swami Vivekananda,
" never thought of being humble. But he had long ago
forgotten that Ramakrishna ever existed." This is the
energy, and this the courage, of the Mother-worshipper.
He who has realized the Infinite, of what shall he be
afraid? Death is contained within him. How then
shall he fear death ? In what shall he think pain differ-
ent from pleasure ? He has broken the great illusion.
How shall it be of avail against him ? Says George
" Strong souls live like fire-hearted suns,
To spend their strength in farthest action.
Breathe more free in mighty anguish
Than in trivial ease."
And the words ring true. For such is strength.
And such are the heroes who are born of Mother.
LUXURY AND MANHOOD.
NOTHING is a greater test of education than the noble
employment of leisure and means. It is not nearly so
much by our performance of duties, as by our selection
of interests, that our character is revealed. This is why
an age of luxury is apt to act so disastrously on the
richer classes. The man who would have been a gentle-
man and a man of honour, under steady toil, becomes
a mere animal, and sometimes not even a sane or
healthy animal, when his whole life is turned into play.
When the standards of luxury, however, by which we
are invaded, are imported and extraneous to our civil-
ization, their danger to the conscience is increased a
hundred-fold. The moral sense of Europe itself can
hardly stand against the intensification of waste which
has come in with the motor car. How then were Indian
princes to resist the sudden incursion of alcohol, sport,
and the acquaintance with Western methods of gam-
bling, all these being bestowed upon them, moreover,
by individuals who remained more or less unaffected
themselves by any of the deeper ethical idealisms of
their own world ?
Yet it is precisely by the types of freedom which it
develops that a system is to be judged. There are
many different ways of arriving at a given end. A man
may arrive at personal cleanliness, refinement, and
LUXURY AND MANHOOD 57
honour, by methods Hindu, Mohammedan, or Euro-
pean. But whatever be the road he takes, he must, in
the end, prove himself a gentleman, or the method of
his training stands condemned. Betting, smoke-sod-
denness, and intoxication, are not the marks of a man
of good breeding in Europe, any more than in the East.
And even when they do occur, in their native habitat,
they usually tend to be somewhat corrected, in their
manifestation, by the social habits of their proper en-
vironment. A certain alertness of manner must be
maintained in Western circles, if a man is not to be
set down by his associates as an effeminate fool. Per-
sonal diffidence and an instinctive courtesy to, and re-
sponsibility for the protection of, women and the weak,
are demanded of every one. Spareness of form and
hardness of muscles, together with the readiness to
shoulder physical hardships with enjoyment, are ab-
solute essentials of the gentleman. Thus the caste-ideal
tends in some measure to correct caste-vice. But the
adhesion of the individual to the ideal is often automatic
and only half-conscious. The things that are apt to
pass on energetically to a royal Indian pupil are the
vices, instead of the virtues, of his class.
Corresponding truths hold, in various degrees, of all
the ranks affected by Western habits. We are only too
likely to catch the contagion of luxury instead of that
of ideals. The Englishman's society allows him to
drink tea in the morning, but requires that when he
travels away from railways, he shall either walk or ride.
Our danger is, lest we indulge in the tea but continue
to have ourselves wheeled in rickshaws, or carried in
chairs and dandies. The Englishman eats well, but he
58 RELIGION AND DHARMA
also works well ; he never refers to his health in public ;
he masters the use of a weapon, and goes through life
(if he be true to his ideals) at the price of his own power
to defend himself, " like a man." It is much easier for
the foreigner to catch his habit of eating chicken than
his strenuous suppression of the letter " I " and arduous
avoidance of degrading ease. It is much easier to em-
ulate his privileges than his manliness and notions of
Forewarned, however, is forearmed. Few of us re-
alize the power, in saving us from moral danger, of
clear thought. Our own ideals are our best armour.
Let us keep our minds clear as to what constitutes
glory of manhood, and glory of womanhood. Doing
this, each increment of ease and wealth becomes fresh
material for sacrifice to some noble object.
RENUNCIATION is always of the lower, for the sake of
the higher. It is never of the higher, in order to pos-
sess the lower. Renunciation is of the easy, in favour
of the difficult, of the superficial, to reach the pro-
found. It proposes new duties : it never bestows ease.
Sri Ramakrishna's wonderful story of the penitent
cobra contains in a sentence the whole doctrine of per-
sonal dignity and power. " Raise the hood, but don't
bite ! " how many occasions are there in life, when
this gives us the key of the situation ! With how many
persons do we maintain excellent relations merely be-
cause they know that at a moment's notice, on the
slightest infringement of our relative positions, our
sweetness would leave us, and we should become
threatening in attitude, menacing, hostile ! The cobra
would, in other words, have lifted his hood.
But we must not make the mistake of supposing that
every act of fretfulness or irritation is such a lifting of
the hood. In the cobra we find a developed power of
anger, a trained power to use the most formidable
weapons of offence in the world, an instant perception
of the moment's need, and, above all, every one of these
held in conscious restraint. It is the power behind him
that makes the serpent so formidable. It is no use for
fools or cowards to talk of lifting the hood ! It follows
that there were years of growth behind the penitence
60 RELIGION AND DHARMA
of our hero, during which his sole duty was to become
the cobra. Having gained his power , true strength was
shown by controlling it. It is the duty of every man
to be the cobra. Ours is no gospel of weaklings ! We
ought so to live that in our presence can be wrought
no wrong. Even biting may be needful, when the
power of the cobra is not understood, but the hurt dealt
should always be by way of warning, never an act of
vengeance. Relatively to our consciousness of strength,
it must only be the lifting of the hood.
All these truths are easily seen in the punishment of
a child. What should we think of the parent whose
whole soul went into the chastisement of his son ? It
is evident here that there must be a certain detach-
ment, a certain aloofness from our own action, if the
punishment is ever to be effective. Punishment given
in anger rouses nothing but the contempt of a culprit.
Punishment gravely and sorrowfully dealt out, by one
who is conscious the while of the ideal that has been
outraged, converts while it pains.
Force is only well used by the man who has an idea
beyond force. Force is meant to be used, not to carry us
away on its flood. It represents the horses, well-reined-
in by the successful driver. Restraint is the highest ex-
pression of strength. But strength must first be present,
to be restrained. No one respects the man without
courage : and no one respects the blind human brute,
whose actions are at the mercy of his own impulses of
rage. Ours is the religion of strength. To be strong
is, to our thinking, the first duty of man. So to live that
our mere presence enforces righteousness, and protects
weakness, is no mean form of personal achievement.
EVERY man's estimate of himself is a focussing-point for
his estimate of the society to which he belongs. Is there
anything that makes proud like the consciousness of
family ? Is there anything that makes sensitive like
pride of race ? That man who gives high respect to
others is the same who demands the finest courtesy for
himself. By the freedom we constantly assert, we ap-
praise the freedom of our blood in the eyes of the
The pride of birth has been cultivated in India, for
thousands of years, as a social and national safeguard.
Like other forms of pride, it is a virtue when it is posi-
tive, and a vice only when it denies the right of equal
pride to others. The vanity that cuts us off from the
community, telling us that we are better than they, is
petty and vulgar, and while it humiliates those whom
we would insult, it only makes a laughing-stock of
ourselves in the eyes of all who are competent to judge.
However celebrated our family, it is hardly possible to
be of such exalted birth that there is not anyone else
in any single respect still more exalted. Our joy
therefore can at best be but relative, till it may dawn
upon us that the greatest distinction lies in simplicity,
and that privilege or monopoly is, after all, conter-
minous with meanness.
62 RELIGION AND DHARMA
Pride of birth, in fact, like other forms of Karma,
should be regarded as an opportunity, a responsibility,
a trust. The higher my position, the more difficult
and arduous my duty. The purer my inheritance, the
greater my powers of endurance. If we could but see
truly, we should know that to be a man is to be nobly
born, and our merit remains for us to prove. All
things are possible to all men, for equally are the ex-
pressions of the Infinite, the Pure, the All-knowing, the
Free. Man may make distinctions between man and
man. But God makes none. He opens to each one
of us the franchise of struggle, and leaves it to us to
make our own place.
Oh for lofty ambitions ! What shall we do with
our lives ? Let us swear to eliminate self. Walking
any path, doing any task, let us pursue the ideal for its
own sake, the ideal to the utmost, the ideal to the
end. Whatever we do, let us do it with our might.
Spurning ease, forsaking gain, renouncing self, let us
snatch the highest achievement that offers itself, at any
cost, and cease not from struggle till it is in our hands.
This is what was meant by the ancient reformers, when
they said " he who attains to God is the true Brahman."
Birth was but a preliminary condition, and that not
essential ; it could never be substituted for the end itself.
Every study has its own problems. The Modern
Learning carries its own questions. The Brahman of
to-day ought to enter into these. He ought to share
the modern curiosity. The whole of education is com-
plete if we once waken in a child a thirst for knowledge.
Can we not waken a like thirst in ourselves ? Are
flying-machines and motors to receive no elaboration
TRUE AMBITION 63
from the Indian mind ? Is that mind not equal to such
tasks? Then is it inferior to the European? If we
claim equality, on us lies the responsibility of proving
the claim. Let us do away with trumpery ambitions !
Let us learn in order to teach the world, in order to win
truth for Humanity, not in order to strut in borrowed
plumes before a village crowd. Let us be severe with
ourselves. Let us know, on the subject we take up,
all that there is to be known. Let us read great books.
Let us make perfect collections. No difficulty should
daunt us. Fate offers obstacles that man may overcome.
Thus he becomes the nursling of the gods, gifted with
divine strength, and seats himself amidst the immortals.
In great struggles all men are equal. Anyone may
enter these lists. The prize is to the winner, high or low,
man or woman. But no man can rise alone. Collective
effort is essential. He who mounts far must have
twenty behind him, close upon his heels. Our learn-
ing is not all our own. We gain it through others, as
well as by our own effort. Alone, we could not cover
the necessary ground. Our society sets us a high
standard, and shining there, we succeed before the
world. Thus each one is aided by the victory of any
other, and the glory of one is the glory of all.
Thought, thought, we want clear thought ! And for
clear thought, labour is necessary, knowledge is neces-
sary, struggle is necessary. Clear thought and rightly-
placed affection are essential conditions of victory in
any field. The nation that is true to itself and its age
will give birth to millions of great men, for the inflow-
ing of the Divine Spirit is without limit, and the great-
ness of one is the greatness of all.
CHARACTER is latency. A man's very being is the
record of his whole past. This is the secret of the
profound significance of history. The future cannot
be different from the past, any more than a man's body
can be inherited from the ancestors of another.
But the future is not born of some portion only of
the past. It is born and created and conditioned by
the whole. This is what is really meant by the
doctrine of Karma. The East, with its belief in re-
incarnation, has a wonderful instrument for the under-
standing and discrimination of life. It catches shades
and tints of personality that others could not dis-
tinguish. In what the man is, it can read what he
aspired to. In what he unconsciously does, it can
see the past. The throne may often fall to the lot of
one who was used to be a slave. But we may be
sure that for deeply penetrating sight the monarch's
robes cannot conceal the lash-marks on his back. The
serf may many times have been an emperor. The
keen observer will not fail to note the ring of
command in his voice, the eye of decision in a crisis,
the flush of pride rising hot under insult.
The whole of a man is in his every act, however
difficult to the world be the reading of the script.
Noble longing is never vain. Lofty resolve is never
wasted. As the act is expression of the man, so is the
life the expression of the character. And so is the
character the key to the life. The only sequences that
never fail are the spiritual truths. " All that we are is
the result of what we have thought." Water rises to
its own level, say the engineers, and what is true of
water is as true of the mind of man. One step gained
in mastery finds a million applications. As high as we
have climbed on this mountain, so high shall we at-
tain, without rest or hindrance, on every height
whereon our feet shall be set. The man ruling an
empire may be doing nothing more in reality than re-
acting the part he played in the games of his child-
hood. A Wellington, in his babyhood, rights all the
battles of the future with his wooden soldiers. Even
so one who has once found the secret of unity will
never rest, in any birth, till he has reached once more,
through the material he finds about him there, as
deep a view.
How marvellous are the potentialities of humanity !
There is no man so mean or servile but hides within
himself the possibility of the Infinite. The ultimate
fact in the world is man, not power: the ultimate
fact in man is God. Therefore let all men believe in
themselves. To all men let us say Be strong. Quit
ye like men. Work out that which worketh in you.
Believe in yourselves. For he that asketh, receiveth ;
he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it
shall be opened. The whole past is in every man of
us. At any moment may the Supreme Light shine
through me. At any moment may my personal be-
come the hand, the lips, of That Impersonal. Why
66 RELIGION AND DHARMA
then should I be weak, either in taking or in losing ?
Am I not the Infinite Itself? Of whom and of what
should I be afraid ? Henceforth do I cast aside plead-
ing and prayer. Henceforth do I throw away all
hope, all fear, all desire, all shame. Contented am I
to be a man, and that alone. For I know that if I be
not that, verily even the jewels of the king and robes
of state shall not hide my shame, nor the rags of the
beggar detract from the glory of my manhood, if I
THERE is a vast difference between the human being
who lives his life like a mouse or a mole from
moment to moment, and sensation to sensation, and
the man who lives for an idea. Even a mistaken idea
is infinitely higher than the life of the senses. Even
the poorest of those who strive to walk in the footsteps
of the saints is higher than the man, however grandiose
his expression, however demonic his energy, whose
life is limited to self, with its interests and pleasures.
We must never allow mere size to impose upon us.
Discrimination is the glow of spirituality upon each
of the virtues. Without discrimination, man is no
better than an animal, whatever the form that his
animal comforts may take.
Youth admires careless and lavish giving. It thinks
the man who sometimes refuses a gift, for a reason he
will not tell, neither so great nor so generous as he
who empties his pockets at the first chance call. The
Gita, on the contrary, tells us that ideal charity is
rightly timed and placed, and offered only to the
proper person. It is evident that the gift, given with
discrimination, is higher than the mere largesse, which
never looks at the recipient, or foresees any one of its
In the same way, it is the level of our general dis-
68 RELIGION AND DHARMA
crimination, between mind and flesh, idea and sense,
that determines, on the large scale, our rank as human
beings. The Bible tells how a certain king made a
golden image of himself and set it up for all the world
to worship. And that same monarch, a little later,
under the spell of mania, went out into the fields to
eat grass with the cattle ! The dazzling idealism of
self covered the grossest animality. It was the same
man who one day propounded a new religion, and the
next crawled on all-fours ! The poorest and lowest
who is sincerely striving for unselfishness, for self-
control, and to give love, is greater than this. That
is why the real helpers of mankind have been unable
to preach anything less than this ultimate truth. The
difference between man and man lies, not in pos-
sessions, or in the positions they have achieved, or in
the power they wield, but in the degree of their self-
control, and in that alone.
" By any means catching hold of things" said Sri
Ramakrishna, " make your way out of the world."
Let us not forget this " catching hold." No religious
man ought to think his behaviour in the world a
matter of no consequence. Religion is not confined
to Sddhands. Tapasya is not a matter of the thakur-
ghar alone. Every great idea that presents itself in
the secular sphere is a form of God calling for our
worship. Shall we range ourselves with it, or against
it? The answer makes no difference to God, no
difference to the truth, but it constitutes a judgment
day of the soul. It makes all the difference in the
world to us. Every day, every act, every question
that arises, is a judgment day. Life is one long test.
To each little act we bring the whole weight of our
character. Each act leaves us either stronger or
weaker. It adds to or takes from our ultimate worth.
Spirituality does not arise by accident. Only in a
temple long and carefully builded of well-hewn blocks,
can the image of universal and eternal truth be placed.
Only where truth has been sought in all things, can
the lamp of Truth be lighted in the soul. Discrimina-
tion in every act of life makes for that last dis-
crimination that is eternal bliss.
THE Eternal Faith holds up as the Ideal that there
shall be fitness in every thought and action, over and
above the goodness that it expresses. In this way,
amongst others, the Mother Church labours to impress
upon us the necessity of thought, of knowledge, of in-
tellectual maturity. Learning is as necessary to the
Hindu faith as prayer the only religious doctrine in
the world that has no quarrel with truth, wherever it
may be found, or wherever it may be. Think of it !
Other religions may tolerate science, or persons within
their fold may see that they owe a duty to themselves
or to knowledge; but Hinduism requires it. Like the
clear welling-forth of water from a deep spring should
be the thought of great Hindu thinkers.
Alas, the very absence of resistance is apt to take
away the force of activity! Europe is full of great
scholars. How many have we ? Yet look at the dif-
ference ! In Europe the whole world, and especially
the priesthood, barked and yelped at the heels of
Charles Darwin for twenty years. Even to-day, one
will hear a sneer from the pulpit levelled against Buckle
or Lecky. Every priest feels secretly that there is an
antagonism between his cause and that of the unfet-
tered historian or critic : in India, such fears are re-
ferred to as " sectarianism." But the very attack on
truth is a war-cry calling the young to rally to its de-
fence. We all know the story of the captain sent with
his thirty-three men, to deliver terms of surrender to
Hasan and Hussain, who, his message done, ranged
himself and his followers under their banner, though
for them the result could be nothing but death. In
all ages it is the same. Truth is its own propaganda.
Humanity is ever accessible to the Absolute. The
thing which we conceive to be true, we cannot but
embrace, though disaster, suffering and death be our
portion with it. Therefore attack is better than for-
getfulness ; contumely is better than silence ; persecu-
tion is better than worship ; if only with all these the
idea be kept constantly before the mind.
"When our country is unfortunate," said a European
the other day, " the>duty of the individual is to renounce
his own career, and work for her only." What the
speaker meant, was the personal career, the work that
brings happiness, wealth, and position. Devotion to
the impersonal idea often creates a career, but it is one
for which we pay heavily in poverty, hard work, and
sometimes final catastrophe and failure. Only the ap-
prehension of some infinite good to be attained by this,
for ourselves or for others, could nerve us to such a
choice. For this, we have to wake in ourselves the
great appetites. The sannyasin thirsts for renunciation.
Let us so thirst for knowledge, for truth, for justice or
for strength. Let us long to help and to save, even as
children in the dark cry out for help. Realizing that
only by the laborious climb towards the highest we per-
ceive, can we be wholly helpful, let us work, work, work,
to reach the Absolute Good in whatever path we seek
72 RELIGION AND DHARMA
to make our own. And above all, let us pray ever the
ancient prayer of the Hebrew Scriptures " Show Thy
servants Thy work, O Lord, and their children Thy
glory ! "
But while the appetite grows strong in us, let us not
be content with the first satisfaction that comes to our
hand. Headstrong activity makes bitterness of failure.
How often do we meet the man who wails and wrings
his hands, because his efforts for the good of the world
are not immediately rewarded ! This is not true charity.
This is but impulse, full of tamas. Long work, long
thought, long growth of wisdom, are necessary, ere that
man can strike the blows that count. And for such
wisdom, we must have experience, and for such expe-
rience, again, work.
" Sharp as the blade of a razor, long and distant,
And the way so hard to find !
Such the sages have declared it.
Yet do not despair ! Awake ! Arise !
Struggle on ! and stop not till the goal is reached ! "
THE true teacher knows that no one can really aid an-
other. No one can rightly do for another what that other
ought to do for himself. All that we can do is to stim-
ulate him to help himself, and remove from his path the
real obstacles to his doing so.
The taught, moreover, must develop along his own
path. He must advance towards his own end No
one can develop along another's road, in order to reach
that other's goal. The first need of the teacher, there-
fore, is to enter into the consciousness of the taught, to
understand where he is and towards what he is pro-
gressing. Without this, there can be no lesson.
The act of education must always be initiated by the
taught, not by the teacher. Some spontaneous action
of the mind or body of the learner gives the signal, and
the wise teacher takes advantage of this, in accordance
with known laws of mind, in order to develop the power
of action further. If however there is no initial activity
of the pupil, the lesson might as well be given to wood
or brick. Education or evolution must always begin
with some spontaneous self-activity.
The laws of thought are definite. Mental action is
not erratic or incalculable, a gust here, a whirlwind
there. No : thought is always the outcome of concrete
experience. A given sequence and intensity of action
finding form and application on subtler and finer planes
74 RELIGION AND DHARMA
of reality, is thought. And just as water rises to its
own level, so all our past determines the height to which
our unresting thought shall wing its way. Inevitable
is its rise so far, but at what infinite cost of toil and
faith is won the next few feet of ascent in the clear
atmosphere of knowledge !
To those who are accustomed to think in this way,
the doctrine of reincarnation becomes a necessity. It
is impossible to extinguish a mind, impossible to ar-
rest the cycles of thought. The same force, the same
knowledge will go on eternally finding new expressions.
Or it will deepen and intensify. It cannot be destroyed.
But it can be lost. It can be forgotten. Man is ever
divine, ever the embodied Atman of the Universe. But
he can lose sight of his high heritage, and though its
potentiality may remain with him ever, as a possibility
of recovery, yet in tilling the fields or scouring the
cooking-pots its actuality may have vanished.
Spirituality comes to one soul at a time. Intellectual
labour prepares the soil of millions for the whispers of
truth. Intellect is the open door to the socializing of
great realization. Therefore is mental toil a duty.
Right belief is a duty. The highest achievements of
the mind are a Sddhana. We must be true to Truth.
We must be greedy of wide views. Education to the
utmost of which we are capable is the first of human
rights. It was not the form of his knowledge but its
selflessness, that made man a rishi. That man who
has followed any kind of knowledge to its highest point
is a rishi. If he had cared for money or pleasure, he
could not have spent himself on labour that might have
ended in nothing. If he had wanted name or fame, he
THE TEACHER 75
would have gone far enough to tell what the world
wanted to hear, and there he would have stopped. But
he went to the utmost. This was because he wanted
truth. The man who sees truth directly is a jndni.
This truth may take the form of geography. Elisee
Reclus, writing his Universal Geography, and trying to
give his highest results to the working-men of Brussels,
was zjndni, as truly as any saint who ever lived. His
knowledge was for the sake of knowledge : his enjoy-
ment of his knowledge was selfless : and when he died
the modern world lost a saint. The truth may take the
form of history or science, or the study of society.
Would any one who has read the " Origin of Species,"
deny to Charles Darwin the place of a great sage ?
Kropotkin, living in a workman's cottage in England,
and working breathlessly to help men to new forms of
mutual aid, is he not one of the apostles ?
It is in India, aided by the doctrine of Advaita, that
we ought to know better than in any other land the
value of all this. Here alone does our religion itself
teach us that not only that which is called God IS Good.
It is the vision of Unity that is the goal, and any path
by which man may reach to this is a religion. Thus
the elements of mathematics are to the full as sacred
as the stanzas of the Mahabharata. A knowledge of
physics is as holy as a knowledge of the Shastras.
The truths of historical science are as desirable as the
beliefs of tradition.
In order to manifest this great ideal of the Sanathan
Dharma, we must try to set alight once more amongst
us the fires of lofty intellectual ambitions. The great
cannot be destroyed, but it can be obscured by the
76 RELIGION AND DHARMA
little. We must fight against this. We must remem-
ber the passion of those who seek truth for its own sake.
They cannot stop short in learning. Did any ever stop
short in the struggle for spirituality, saying now he had
enough ? Such a man was never a seeker of spirituality.
The same is true of all intellectual pursuits. The man
who has ever experienced the thirst for knowledge, can
never stop short. If one step has been taken purely,
he can never again rest till he has attained.
We cannot be satisfied, therefore, till our society has
produced great minds in every branch of human activ-
ity. Advaita can be expressed in mechanics, in en-
gineering, in art, in letters as well as in philosophy
and meditation. But it can never be expressed in
half-measures. The true Advaitin is the master of the
world. He does not know a good deal of his chosen sub-
ject : he knows all there is to be known. He does not
perform his particular task fairly well : he does it as well
as it is possible to do it. In the little he sees the great.
In the pupil whom he teaches, he sees the nation and
Humanity. In the act he sees the principle. In the
new thought he finds himself nearer truth itself.
We are men, not animals. We are minds, not
bodies. Our life is thought and realization, not food
and sleep. All the ages of man those of the Vedas
and the heroes, as well as our own small lives are in
the moment called now. All this do I claim as mine.
On this infinite power do I take my stand. I desire
knowledge for its own sake, therefore I want all know-
ledge. I would serve Humanity for the sake of serving.
Therefore must I cast out all selfishness. Am I not a
son of the Indian sages ? Am I not an Advaitin ?
THE GURU AND HIS DISCIPLE.
WHEN the doctrines of Hinduism can be formulated
with sufficient breadth and clearness, it will doubtless
be found that they furnish a key to the laws of thought
in all directions. For the emancipation of man by his
induction into constantly widening ideas is the real
motive of Hindu speculation, and is the unspoken
effort in every scheme of learning the world over.
The source of Buddhism in Hinduism is nowhere better
illustrated than in the opening words of the Dham-
mapada : " All that we are is the result of what we
have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is
made up of our thoughts." In all the world, only an
Indian thinker would have dreamed of basing a re-
ligious system on this solitary truth.
In the great body of observations which have be-
come current in India as religious doctrines, none is
more interesting or more difficult to unravel than that
which deals with Guru-bhakti. That in order to reach
a given idea, one must hold the mind passive to the
teacher of that idea, at the same time that one offers
him personal service, is a truth which has only to be
tested to be believed. But we shall make a mistake
if we think that it applies only to religious teaching, just
as we shall make an equal mistake if we call a man
78 RELIGION AND DHARMA
our guru for the simple reason that he teaches us a
series of facts which have a religious colour.
We must turn a receptive attitude to all truth. We
must be respectful to all from whom we learn. Age,
rank, and relationship ought all to constitute claims on
our deference, but nothing should win from us the deep
passivity that we yield to character and learning.
Amongst all who teach us there will be one whose
own personality is his greatest lesson. He, and he
alone, is the Guru. He alone represents that particu-
lar path along which our own experience is to lead us.
But in everything that we make our own, even the
most secular knowledge, we must constantly remem-
ber the source from which we received it. Every one
that we meet must appear before us as a possible giver
of knowledge. We should be on the watch for the
realizations that each man has been able to reach.
Thus a habit of attentiveness, respect for the knowledge
and opinions of others, and an expectation of new
truth, are all marks of one who is accustomed to mix
in cultivated society. Nor can there possibly be a
greater mark of vulgarity and want of fine associations
than self-opinionatedness and forgetfulness of seniority
Temptations to such errors meet young men at every
step in a generation that takes up a new idea. The
fact that they have departed from the paths of their
fathers blinds them to the other fact that outside the
special point of departure their fathers are apt to have
greater wisdom than they ; that even in the new idea
itself they have their own elders and betters ; that in
any case, the idea is not worth much if it cannot deepen
THE GURU AND HIS DISCIPLE 79
their appreciation of social cohesion and of the older
culture they have left. Yet by such heedlessness and
loss of delicacy a youth only succeeds in shutting the
doors of fine society against himself. He is tried
once, and allowed thenceforward to associate with his
inferiors. His superiors find him intolerable. A
young man with a hearty belief in his own leadership,
is a social nuisance. The great impulses are calling
for disciples, for martyrs, for trembling self-devoted
service in which eagerness and humility bear equal
parts. Those who are ready to offer themselves as
leaders can be hired behind any counter or in any
barrack. True leaders, we may understand once for
all, are made, not born. They are made out of faith-
ful followers. By much service, by deep and humble
apprehension, let us hasten to their making.
The Guru puts us in touch with all that Humanity
has yet reached in a given line. Through him, we
enter into life spiritual and intellectual, as through our
parents we received the human body. He represents
to us all that, up to his time, could be known. It
follows that the first of his qualifications was an un-
usual power of learning.
The real object of universities is to train the student
to learn. The fine intellectual leader is he who learns
most from a given circumstance. The power of pas-
sivity is the highest mark of education. This passivity,
however, is not stupid or inert. It was not Arjuna
alone who listened to Sri Krishna. His touch was felt
and his words were heard by the delighted horses also.
Nor must we forget that the sound-waves which make
the Gita impinged upon the chariot itself. Chariot,
8o RELIGION AND DHARMA
horses, and man, all heard, but was there no difference
between their three forms of passivity? Nay, two men
will themselves hear differently. Nothing is more
crude than an ill-timed activity. But the passivity that
marks our advance is intensive, not idle, and contains
within itself the fruit of all our struggles in the past.
It is the power of the Guru that is the force behind
our realization. Whatever be the line of our effort, it
would amount to very little if we had to go out into
the wilderness and begin all over again, as isolated
hints, the discoveries of man. Any significance that
we have comes from our place at the end of the ages,
our place at the dawning of to-morrow. This place is
given us by our solidarity with the Guru, and by no-
thing else. The more we know, the more infinitesimal
will our own contributions to human knowledge appear
to us. The more we know, the more will history speak
to us in trumpet-tones, the more full of meaning will
the acts of great men become to us, the more shall we
see ourselves to be striving with difficulty to see as our
leader saw, to be making only a new attempt on his
On the other hand, the Guru makes no demands.
The gift of discipleship is free. The Guru indicates
the ideal. There is a vast difference between this
and the attempt to enslave. Nay, there is none
who so strives to give the freedom in which ideals grow
and ripen as does the Guru. The disciple's devotion
is for ever out-stripping anything that could be asked
of it. In his own time the Guru ends personal service
and proclaims the impersonal mission. But this is of
his doing and not of his pupil's seeking.
THE GURU AND HIS DISCIPLE 81
The Guru's achievement is the disciple's strength,
and this though it be the common ideal that is followed
by both. Better to be no man's son than an original
genius without root or ancestry in the world of the
spirit. Quickly, how quickly, shall such wither away !
They wither, and the men who set limits to their own
offering never strike root. Which of these two is the
deeper condemnation ?
OF all forms of ignorance, few are at once so mean
and so easy to fall into as that of self-idealism. How
often, instead of aspiring upwards, we are merely
worshipping our own past ! Almost all good people
are conscious of a great intensity of power and devo-
tion in early youth. They are very apt to look back,
for ever after, on the outside form which their life took
at that period, and try all their lives to force that par-
ticular form on others. True freedom is a thing of
which very few of us have ever caught a glimpse.
Self-idealism is a very special danger at the present
time. This is a period of the recapture of ideals.
We are always diving into the past in order to recover
the thread of our own development. We exalt the
name we bear. We praise our own ancestors. We
seem to laud ourselves up to the skies. All this, how-
ever, is meant for encouragement, not for conceit.
" Children of the rishis!" exclaims a great orator to
the crowd before him ; but if some common man de-
rives from this the idea that he is a riski, he shows his
own tamas, and nothing more. This was not the re-
action intended by the orator.
Similarly, when we say that Christ represents in
Europe the Asiatic man, we mean the ideal of Asia,
not any chance individual on the pavement. We must
be careful to think clearly in this matter. Many
persons propose for three hundred millions of people
that they should practise the methods of Jesus, of
Chaitanya, of Tukaram, and nothing, they say, could
Nothing could resist them ! Of course not, if each
one of us were a Chaitanya, or a Jesus ! " As a sheep
before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His
mouth," said the prophet of the Christ. But is our
silence so eloquent as this ? Only tamas makes this
mistake ! The methods of Christ will not bring the
victory of Christ to the man who is not Christ ! In him
the dumbness of the sheep is mere sheepishness, not
Again says the tdmasic : ' ' Let me wait for the victory,
then, till I am like Him ! " Very good, if self-engross-
ment were the way to become so. But unfortunately
for you, it is not ! Only the man who forgets himself,
for the victory, can ever reach Christhood. Buddha
died for smaller ends five hundred times, before it was
possible for Him to become the Buddha ! Each time
He forgot Himself, forgot life, forgot death, became
merged in the struggle, without a thought beyond.
In the end He had earned the empire of the world, and
had to renounce the certainty of that in order to mount
the step beyond that made Him the vessel of com-
passion to the soul.
Each man has his own stepping-stones across the
river of Maya. From stone to stone, one step at a
time, we go. Our whole soul must be in the next step.
Not for most of us to reach the Absolute now : for
most of us only the immediate end, whatever it be,
84 RELIGION AND DHARMA
and for that, to forget self! Only through action
can we rise to that which is beyond action. The world
is full of causes for which a man may give his all.
Ladders of rope by which we may draw ourselves up
to the Mukti at present out of sight. Many souls,
many planes ; not for all souls a single gospel. Only
through all runs the great law : by renunciation alone,
by forgetfulhess of self, does man rise to the Supreme
If we really forget self, any good-not-our-own will
appeal to us. The good of others as an end in itself
will become an appetite in us. We shall spend no time
arguing as to theories and ideals, methods and plans.
We shall live for the good of others ; we shall merge
ourselves in the struggle. The battle, the soldier, and
the enemy will become one. Ours only the right to
action, ours never the fruit of action !
But not as having already attained ! Ages of strenu-
ous activity are the opportunity of many to reach God-
consciousness. We pant for the ordeal, we thirst for
active service not that we are already fit, but that by
facing the cannon's mouth we may become fit. " By
pouring himself like an oblation on the fire of battle,
by remaining unterrified in moments of great terror,
has Duryodhana attained to this felicity!" How
knightly is the commendation ! How heroic the path !
" Things are not bettered, but we are bettered, by
making changes in them," said the Swami Viveka-
So the world is a school, a gymnasium for the soul.
Humanity is not a great hall of mirrors, in which a
single figure is reflected again and again, here well, and
badly there. God yearns to achieve Himself supremely,
and differently, in each one of us. All that we may
take from the pattern-lives is the law that guided them,
the aim for which they toiled. Renunciation ! Re-
nunciation ! Renunciation ! In the panoply of renun-
ciation plunge thou into the ocean of the unknown.
Accept the exigencies of thy time, the needs of thy
place, as the material out of which the soul is to build
its own boat for the great journey. Think not that it
can copy exactly any that has gone before. To them,
look only for the promise that where they have suc-
ceeded thou shalt not utterly fail. Then build, and
launch. Set out to find Thyself ! And let thy going-
forth be as a blaze of encouragement to those who have
yet to depart !
THE time has come when the Great Lives that have
been lived in our midst are beginning to be recorded
and written down for transmission to posterity. We
can form some idea at this moment of the treasure
that has been granted to the present generation, for
which many in ages to come will long to have been
here, or even to have looked upon the faces of those
who possess such memories as ours. As we read, we
belong at once to those who have seen, and to those
who merely hear. We can share the feelings of both,
at one and the same time.
In reading the Life of Sri Ramakrishna, one is first
struck with his reverence for his own realization. Re-
alization is the end and object of his life. Then he
takes pains to protect and keep it. Yet he has so
much ! And we, who have so little, what do we do, to
cherish that little ?
It is told how he was one morning gathering flowers
for the temple-worship, when it suddenly flashed upon
his mind that the whole earth was a vast altar, and the
flowers blossoming on the plants were already offered
in worship at the feet of God. Sri Ramakrishna never
again gathered puja-flowers.
What sacrifices do we make for the glimpses of
thought and revelation that come to us ? Every pilgrim
after making a tirtha practises some abstinence in
memory of the great journey. What memorials do
we set up of the journeys of the soul ? When the
abstinence comes to notice once more, in the daily
round, the pilgrim is reminded of the interior experi-
ence. He is wafted for a moment into the Divine
Presence. So Sri Ramakrishna, looking at the flowers
he would not pluck, was kept ever in the mood of that
most vivid realization, renewing and deepening it from
day to day. With us, the hurry and pressure of the
little things of life soon crushes out of sight the great
moments of the soul's life. It is the little things that
matter to us, not the great ! Why should the higher
realizations be granted to us, seeing that we have so
little room for them ? Only at the end of long long
struggle do we gain the least flash of knowledge. And
when gained, what value do we place upon it ? How
long are we true to it ? Verily, the lives of most of us
are very like the footsteps of a man who climbs in slid-
ing sand ! What we gain we lose immediately, and,
caught by new interests, are not even conscious that any-
thing has happened !
No man can altogether escape the life of the soul.
This is not the dominant, it is actually the only reality
that surrounds us. The veil of the senses cannot fail
to wear thin at times. We have but to set open the
door and God streams in on every side. It is our ab-
sorption in the broken and contorted sun-rays of the
body that hides from our eyes the Undifferentiated
Light ! When we become passive to it, when we al-
low it to shine upon us, when we are willing to make
room for the One behind manifoldness, then we may
find that the soul's life shapes all things. Life or death,
88 RELIGION AND DHARMA
happiness or sorrow, and the far greater destiny of
knowledge or ignorance, are all determined by the
spiritual energy. To this alone all else is plastic. By
it all else is to be measured and interpreted. But there
arises not only the question " What has one learnt?"
but also that other, " What sacrifice has been made to
keep this knowledge?"
" LOVE as principle, Order as basis, and Progress as
end." In these words a great modern teacher Au-
guste Comte sums up his aspirations for human
society. By him, with his view limited to the condi-
tions of a single hemisphere, the idea of progress is
postulated instinctively. The doubt of the East, that
there could be any such thing in the end as progress,
has>not occurred to Comte. " Progress as end," appears
to him an absolute truth. This is one of the more
spiritual temptations of materialism, and of materialistic
civilizations. When men have craved to place the end
in happiness, or pleasure, or desire, then they are apt
to declare that opportunity, that education, that ameli-
oration of things themselves is the end. " Work for
Humanity" sounds very grand as a declaration of one's
object in life.
Here the pitiless analysis of the East comes in. Is
Humanity, then, to be eternally in want of service ?
Is my beatitude to demand, as its essential condition,
another's necessity? Is civilization capable, in any
case, of expressing the infinite capacity, satisfying the
infinite love, of the soul ? Obviously, the service of
man. apprehended as a motive in itself, is nevertheless
90 RELIGION AND DHARMA
only a means to an end, and that end is to be measured
by the individual consciousness, not by anything outside.
In other words, there is not ultimately such a thing as
"social progress." This is an absolute truth. Let
this never blind us, however, to the fact that, rela-
tively to our own place in it, " social progress " is a very
very real fact indeed.
For those in the life of the world, the aspiration
after progress is a true and right aspiration. The world
is a school for the soul. It is true there is a life be-
yond school, but this is best lived by him who has been
faithful, heart and soul, in the life of the school, its work,
its play, and its characteristic illusions. The Grihas-
thdshrama is the school of Sannyas. It is not the
loose-living citizen who will make the noble sadhu.
Quite the reverse.
Again, there is no absolute progress, perhaps, regis-
tered by Humanity as a whole. In the West, the
progress of material luxury in one class is accompanied
by the progress of poverty and degradation in another.
The rise of Europe goes hand in hand with the decay
of Asia. Apparent good is balanced by manifest evil,
gain shadowed by a corresponding loss. Yes, but this
very fact is in itself a battle-cry. There is no final
progress, but there is oscillation of appearances. The
rise of Europe cannot go on for ever, and neither can
the decay of Asia. It is by contrast with its opposite
that each gains momentum. If fall were not changed
into ascent, by the energy of those falling, where would
the power come from, for the counter-rise, later, of the
opposite hemisphere ?
Humanity is one, and each part of it is necessary to
all. The constructive ability of the Roman has as
much meaning for the Hindu as the power and insight
of the Upanishads have to-day for the Teuton. Rela-
tively to space and time, Progress is a truth ; and our
most imperative duty is to live for it.
ALL the Incarnations have talked of Work. What
else did they come for, but to serve mankind ? It had
been far easier for them to have remained in the utter-
most Bliss. By their eyes was seen at all times the
vision of One-ness. Why should they plunge into
manifoldness, and renounce the great joy, save by
momentary flashes ? It was all for man. It was all
that others might reach their side. It was all that
many might be made rich, even though the method
should be by making themselves poor. Oh beautiful
lives of the Avatars and Prophets ! Wondrous mercy of
the saints and teachers ! How are we to make our-
selves worthy of our union with you ?
There is but one answer, it is by Work. By strip-
ping ourselves of ease, of privilege, of leisure. By
emptying ourselves of self. By working for others, for
ideas, and ideals. " As the ignorant fight, from selfish
motives, so must we fight unselfishly." Our struggle
must be as intense as that of the meanest miser. We
must labour for the good of others as the drowning
man clutches at a straw. There must be as much
energy thrown into our renunciation as into most men's
How true is the monk to his vow ! How he dreads
the possibility of a fall ! How unlimited are the sacri-
fices he dreams of, if only he may be found faithful at
the last ! Equally must we tremble and shrink from
cowardice, from compromise, from failure in the task
that has been laid upon us. Well has it been told us,
by those who know life, that the world has no hell
like that of having betrayed a trust that was laid
Do we desire above all things to fulfil our own ideal
of integrity? Then what room is there for com-
promise ? A compromise represents a mean found
between opposite desires. If we have but one desire,
what motive is there for compromise ? Let each of us
swear to himself that he will have nothing to do with
any half-following, with lip-service, with weak-kneed-
ness, and facing-both-ways. Let us throw our lives
away, freely, gladly, as a very little thing. We would
give fifty, if we had them, with the same royal glee.
Let us be true to our work. Our task is our swa-
dharma. " Better for each man is his swadharma, how-
ever faulty his performance, than the task of another,
though he could do it easily." That thing which faces
me and frightens me ; that very thing that seems the
one most difficult ; that beyond which I dare not look
, there let me embrace Death !
"Right for ever on the scaffold?" asks Russell
Lowell, "wrong for ever on the throne?" And then
he bursts into his own answer :
" But that scaffold sways the future ! and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth GOD within the shadow, keeping watch above His Own ! "
It is a grand gospel this doctrine of fearlessness, of
courage, of self-conquest. Arise, thou Great Divinity
that liest hidden within us ! In Thy name, all things
94 RELIGION AND DHARMA
are possible to us ! Making victory and defeat the
same, plunge we into battle !
But how are we to fight ? Most of us, by work.
The world's work is the great Sddhand, wherein we
accumulate character, by which, when the time comes,
we can rise even into the Nirvikalpa Samddhi itself.
Character is self-restraint. Self-restraint is self-direc-
tion. Self-direction is concentration. Concentration
when perfect is Samddhi. From perfect work to per-
fect Mukti. This is the swing of the soul. Let us then
be perfect in work !
REALIZATION THROUGH WORK.
THROUGHOUT history we may meet with instances of
the poisonous effect on the human mind of ideas with-
out work. The struggle with material conditions is
eternally necessary to the upward growth of the spirit.
When Karma has been exhausted, and the moment of
enlightenment is at hand, this condition also must be
held to have been transcended. But as things are,
there are very very few of the human race on the earth
at any one time for whom it is not essential that the
whole strength should be thrown into concrete effort,
into concentrated struggle, with the world about them.
Only by this can there be progress in the idea itself.
Only through this can there be growth of apprehension.
Work then is as necessary to the growth of the soul
as is the Vedanta : perhaps more so. And work is at all
times within our own power. The bhakta practises the
ceremonies of worship. Work is the puja which a man
offers to that Great Power which is manifested as
The idea, thought of as mere words, leads irretriev-
ably to scholasticism and verbiage. Most serious of
intellectual vices is a hair-splitting metaphysic. This
may indicate the potentiality, but it can never be an
actual manifestation of the power, of a mind. Left to
run its own course, it proves the beginning of mental
96 RELIGION AND DHARMA
and moral disintegration. It has to be corrected and
restrained, step by step, by the conscientious endeavour
for the practical realization of ideas and ideals.
The world has known many great ages of faith.
They have not, for the most part, been ages of inaction.
The thirteenth' century in Europe tended too much, it
is true, to argument ; but it was also the century of the
building of splendid churches. Most of the finest of
the cathedrals took their birth then. Similarly in India
we are apt to overlook these truly great ages because
they are not marked by the flames of war or the crash
of falling dynasties. But the ages of faith are in truth
the constructive ages, the ages of growth, of arts and
industries, of the spread of education and the crafts.
Great faith is above all things the concomitant and
support of mighty action.
Again the trumpet-blast of truth has been sounded
in our midst. Once more is our country waking up
to that renewed apprehension of her religious wealth
which has been the forerunner of every great impulse
known to our history. The time may seem to us slow
in coming, but it will assuredly arrive, when the influx
of Indian thought upon the modern consciousness will
seem to historians and critics the great event of these
Meanwhile, what of us ? Are we to give the rich
stores of our past, are we to enrich the world, and re-
main ourselves poverty-stricken and bare? If not,
how shall we escape ? If not, what must our course
be? Our course must be REALIZATION THROUGH
WORK. To the metaphysics of our theology has already
succeeded the race-course of modern science. We have
REALIZATION THROUGH WORK 97
to throw ourselves upon this, and win our guerdon there.
This is the task of our race in the world, to prove the
authenticity and grandeur of the ancient Indian wisdom,
by proving the soundness and genuineness of the Indian
mind itself, in that sphere of inquiry which the Time-
Spirit has now opened up to all nations alike.
Amongst ourselves, however, there is another, and
equally arduous duty. We have to share our knowledge
as we gain it. This is the Sadhana that will make our
reading real. This is the practice that will turn it from
mere words into actual knowledge. This is the struggle,
sanative, concentrated, all-absorbing, that will give us
new spiritual muscle, and add wings to our feet.
THE POWER OF FAITH.
ALL large systems of culture, of thought, of polity,
need " beacon-lives," as they have been called, in
which for a moment the innermost ideals of the com-
munal aspiration are made real and visible to every
man's understanding. And where the heart of a
people is true and sincere in its striving, the great
souls come. It was a critical moment in American
history when the man Abraham Lincoln stood at the
helm and embodied the national ideals. America
may not always remain true to those ideals. She
may seem to betray them in strangely complex ways.
Yet nevertheless, freedom and democracy are her
ideals, and no disaster that could befall her would be
comparable in extent to loss of faith in her own sin-
cerity in desiring to realize them.
The man who has thus lost faith in his own or his
people's sincerity is known as a cynic. He stands
aside and sneers at all effort, because it is bound to
involve mistakes. He laughs at all feeling, because
to his wisdom it appears childish. He makes light of
prayer and hope, because he deems them to be hy-
pocrisy. The cynic is the canker-worm of the cor-
porate life. He openly avows his preference of selfish
to unselfish ends and believes himself the greater for
it. In ages of division and mutual antagonism cynics
THE POWER OF FAITH 99
abound. In ages of great and united enthusiasm
they cease to be. This is why large civic movements
are necessary to the health of nations, whatever be
the ends proposed by the movements in question. In
the rush and flow of the mighty current, the emotionally
poor, the morally barren, those who would, without
it, have been cynics are swept up and carried on to
ports that alone they could never have attempted to
reach. Humanity is not yet wholly individuated.
The crowd does not act as many : it acts as one, with
a common heart and common mind. Nothing is
more important than the power to form a single part
of the great instrument, beating true at each step to
its central impulse, apprehending what is to the
interest of the whole, recoiling as by instinct from
its insult or its hurt.
But this is a power which belongs wholly to the
heart. The man who has it is like a little child, and
because he is so, enters into his kingdom of heaven.
He has never questioned the fact that there are in the
world about him greater ends than his own good.
He strives for more ends. Let the wise and prudent
say what they will. He knows himself for a single
brick in the great wall that is to be built, a single
stone in the cairn to be heaped up. And where there
is one man thus selfless, thousands more will come.
The same causes that brought him into being will
create his brethren.
The same unity holds good, as between guru and
disciples, between leader and followers. The great
gurus reach the vision of unity : their disciples struggle
to attain it, by the conquest of manifoldness. But all
ioo RELIGION AND DHARMA
these are one. The lowest of the saved is as much a
part of the church as the highest of the saviours. In
Vivekananda, for instance, Hinduism attains the real-
ization of Mukti. And in the meanest task-man who
follows him sincerely in the daily routine, she merely
passes to the other extreme of the swing of the
pendulum. The two are one. Their vision is one.
Sincerity is the thread of their union, the sincerity
and childlike whole-hearted ness of both.
Thus we are all one. To each man his own deed
should be as sacred and as pure as to the yogi the
meditation at nightfall. Is it English or Persian, is
it chemistry or manufacture, that we would study ?
Whatever it be, it is holy. All work is holy. All
deeds are revelations. All knowledge is Veda. There
is no difference between secular and sacred. The
modern history of India is as much a part of religion
as the ancient. What ! Shall Bharata be a figure in
the Shdstras, and the kings and leaders of public
opinion to-day move outside? Not so. We are one.
The highest and lowest of us, one. The oldest and
most modern, one. Time is one. God is one. There
was never a moment holier than the present. There
was never a deed more worthy than that which I am
set to do, be it weaving, or sweeping, or the keeping
of accounts, or the study of the Vedas, or the struggle
of meditation, ay, or the blow to be struck with the
bared fist. Let my own life express the utmost that
is known to me. However hard be the attempt let
me essay the thing I think right. However bold be
the effort required, let no great thing call to me in
vain. I shall fail. Ah yes ! My failure is the one
THE POWER OF FAiJtf- : .: :' '-ib
thing certain. But let me reverence my own failure !
I have the right to fail. Only by failure upon failure
can I win success.
The world about us is sacred. It becomes unreal
only when we have found a greater reality beyond it.
Till then, it is of infinite moment that we should deal
with it in manly fashion. Not succumbing to self-
interest ; not bribed by vanity or comfort ; not en-
slaved by the mean ideals ; so let us push on to the
greatest that we know. And falling by the way, as
most of us will fall, let us know that the attempt was
well worth while. It was God whom we worshipped
thus in Humanity. It was worship that we called by
the name of work. The Calcutta lad who perished in
a city-drain, in the vain attempt to save two workmen
the other day, was as truly saint and martyr as if he
had died at the stake for his opinions, or thrown him-
self down from the mountain- top in sacrifice.
THE BEE AND THE LOTUS.
IN the India of the Transition there is no word that
seems to us more important or more a propos than the
great saying of Sri Ramakrishna : " Bring your own
lotus to blossom ; the bees will come of themselves."
All over the country are workers at forlorn hopes.
Here it is a magazine, there a business. Somewhere
else a man is working at science or invention. Again,
he is doing what he can to organize some branch of in-
dustry or labour. Every one is confronted by per-
plexities that seem hopeless, by difficulties that appal
him. Almost every one has to struggle against want
of co-operation. All are striving to achieve success,
without the tools or material of success.
To all in this position we would say, " Be not afraid !
You can see, through the mists, only one step ? Take
that step. Plant your foot firm. You have done
all you could, and to-morrow morning sees you fail ?
Expect that failure, if you will, but, for to-night, act
as if you would succeed. Stand to the guns. Be true."
There is not one who can command means. Rarely is
a Napoleon born, to find all he needs for his task at
his hand. And even he has been made through millen-
niums of exertion. All that we have at our own dis-
posal is our own effort. " Bring your own lotus to
blossom." Be faithful to yourself.
But there is another side to this picture. The bees
THE BEE AND THE LOTUS 103
do come. The lotus feels no difference between to-day
and yesterday. She knows not that at dawn her petals
opened wide for the first time. She knows it only by
the coming of the bees. The young athlete feels in
himself no difference, of sterner control and finer ad-
justment, between the act of to-day and that of yester-
day. But to-day's stroke went home. We do not know
when success may come to us. Even now, it may be
but an hour before we meet it. In any case, we work,
we put in our full strength. When victory comes, be
it late or early, it will find us on the field.
" Making gain and loss the same." This is not
counsel for religious practices alone. In every under-
taking it is the golden rule. Only he who can do this
can ever succeed. But he who does, succeeds. No
sooner does the mind steady itself on its true fulcrum-
point of self-control than results pour in. It was our
own confusion of motive, our own blindness of aim,
that baffled us so long. Aim true. The arrow hits
the mark. When his hour strikes, the bow Gandiva
returns to the hand of Arjuna.
But we have to determine what is the effort to which
we have a right. The will is like a great serpent.
Not on its outmost coil is its striking-point. Nor on
the next, nor the next. At the very centre of the
spiral we find the deadly arrow. Rearing the head
high, the cobra sees its mark, and strikes. We have
to place ourselves aright, to poise ourselves on our own
centre of equilibrium, to attain mental clearness. The
schoolmaster would fain deliver his country, but he sees
none on the benches before him who were made of the
stuff of heroes, Let the schoolmaster teach as though
104 RELIGION AND DHARMA
he saw heroes. Let him arrive at clear thought and
conviction. Let him educate with all his might, mak-
ing defeat and success the same. The man who can
do this will create heroes. He brings his own lotus
to blossom. The bees come of themselves.
The potter yearns to deliver his people. Let him
make good pots. The energy of his passion will make
deliverers of the very men who stoke his fires. He
thought to mould pots and vases. He was moulding
men the while, out of the clay of the human will.
How strange that the lotus has to hear from the
bees the news of its own blooming ! So silent are the
great spiritual happenings. Yet they are all-mastering.
Events follow them. They do not lead. Means
come to the man who can use means ; always, without
exception. Is victory , or defeat my task ? Fool !
STRUGGLE is your task.
The higher and more responsible the duty before us,
the longer shall we be in reaching it. And we must
fight every inch of the way. In the end the deed it-
self may seem to be trivial. It lasts, maybe, only an
instant. Many a soldier has paid with his life for the
turning of a key, or a single flash from the gun. Yet
to be in his place at that supreme moment had required
all his past. A Gladstone, a Darwin, shows no ex-
traordinary power save that of steady work at school
or college. Maybe, the soul of him knows that the
daily routine is for it, the army-drill of higher battles.
Maybe, such have some instinctive consciousness of
greatness. Maybe ; maybe not. Neither he nor we
can command our destiny. But we can all work.
We want higher ideals of struggle, The diver
THE BEE AND THE LOTUS 105
struggles to find treasure. The miser struggles to win
gold. The lover struggles for the smile of the beloved.
The whole mind is set on the goal proposed. One of
Sri Ramakrishna's great sayings, again, refers to the
chdshd (cultivator) whose crop has failed. The gentle-
man-farmer abandons farming when he has experienced
one or two bad seasons. But the chdshA sows at sow-
ing time, whatever was his lot at harvest. However
humble our task, this should be its spirit. Over and
over and over again, the unwearied effort should be re-
peated. We should struggle to the death. Like the
swimmer shipwrecked within sight of land ; like the
mountaineer scarcely reaching the ice-peak ; so we
should labour to be perfect in every little task.
Out of the shrewdness of small shopkeepers in Scot-
land have been born the Scottish merchants whose
palaces and warehouses confront us on every side the
whole world over. Out of the same experience was
written Adam Smith's " Wealth of Nations." Even so
the small and humble task is ever the class-room of
the high and exalted. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth
to do, do it with thy whole might."
THE LIFE OF IDEAS.
GREAT is the life of ideas. Men die that an idea may
live. Generation after generation may pass away,
while the idea on which they were threaded grows
only the stronger for their decay. Let none, then, feel
that in his own defeat lies any disaster to truth. A
life given ? What of that ? Thought may be enriched
by the death of thinkers ! What is any one of us, un-
less the Infinite Light is seen behind and through him ?
And for the Light to be seen, may it not sometimes
be needful that the vessel should be broken?
How often it happens that everything a man has
believed is summed up and asserted in the moment of
his death ! Death consecrates. Death renders im-
personal. It suddenly withdraws from the sight of
others all the petty nervous irritations that have veiled
the man's real intention, and he stands revealed in his
greatness, instead of his littleness, before his contem-
It sometimes happens that the greatest service a
man can render is to retire. Great men must always
take care to withdraw when the message is uttered.
Only alone, and in freedom, can the child or the student
or the disciple work out the idea that has reached him.
The seed is buried while it germinates. The obscure
processes of development would only suffer check from
THE LIFE OF IDEAS 107
the attempt to watch and regulate. We seek ever to
give birth to the greater-than-ourselves. But for this,
it is essential that we seek not to see results. To give
and die ; to speak and leave free ; to act, looking for
no fruit ; this is the great mood, that paves the way for
How many could throw themselves from the palm-
tree's height? Those who are able to do this, having
faith in truth, are the fathers of the future, the masters
of the world, because only through them can the Im-
personal flow in its fulness. Says a Christian hymn :
" Oh to be nothing, nothing !
Only to lie at His feet,
A broken and empty vessel,
For the Master's use made meet !
Empty that He may fill me,
As forth to His service I go !
Broken that so more freely,
His life through mine may flow ! "
THE SHAPING OF LIFE.
IT will often seem as if life hammered the poor man,
working him to that form which will exactly fill its
place in the social setting, while the rich man, in the
nature of things, is privileged, and allowed apparently
to escape opposition. In fact, however, this hammer-
ing is experience, and is one of those the most im-
portant regards in which the buying power of poverty
is greater than that of wealth.
Service, poverty, helplessness, are for strong natures
great schools. It is only the man who is in a position
at some time in his life to feel the full consequences of
each word and act on the hearts of others, it is only
that man who is able fully to explore the social con-
sciousness. Only he whose single self-respect can ex-
actly balance the respect that is due to others. For
the manner and bearing of the subject should be dif-
ferent in form but wholly equal in dignity to those of
the king himself. We ought so to serve that we might
at any moment assume authority. This is the service
that the great desire to have. He who longs to thwart
and mortify the pride of the server invites defeat from
his own subordinate.
The only bond that can knit together master and
servant, sovereign and subject, officer and private
soldier, is not their personal relation, but the con-
stant subconscious recognition in every word and
THE SHAPING OF LIFE 109
deed of an ideal of perfect conduct which both alike
are co-operating to carry out. The man who sees the
army, with his mind's eye, will not forget the deference
due to his commander. And he in turn, being con-
scious that only as part of a great whole does he wield
power, will be gentle and generous and winning in its
use. When the moment comes for wrath, for condemn-
ing the disobedient man to sudden death, it will be
this long' habit of delicacy, and the fact that even now
the claim is impersonal, is made in the name of an
ideal, that will give power to the order, so that others
will hasten to put it into effect.
For such maintenance of authority how much self-
control is necessary ! How complex an experience !
In the brain-cells of the dispenser of law how long a
memory must be stored up ! Only such authority can
be deep or enduring. It is a fact which anyone may
put to the test, that only that man can maintain order
who controls himself. Children, servants, and subjects
are all alike contemptuous of the man whose own
temper is not under his own command. And again,
in order to learn the power of discipling others, it is
first needful that we practise discipline within. Thus,
authority and obedience are but obverse and reverse of
a single power. The higher our education, the greater
our ability to obey instructions. He who rules to-day
obeyed yesterday. Let us so hold ourselves in obedi-
ence that to-morrow we may command. These are a
few of the secrets of strong human combinations.
A man goes to a university, not that he may become
a teacher, but that he may be trained to learn. He is
best educated to whom all that he sees and hears con-
i io RELIGION AND DHARMA
veys its lesson. He whose senses are open, whose
brain is alert, he who is not deaf or blind nor the man
who has seen and heard most, is truly educated. To
the uneducated, the movements of the plant carry no
tale. They pass all unobserved beneath his very eyes.
To the uneducated, custom is an arbitrary and mean-
ingless yoke. And the best educated man is not ne-
cessarily he who knows most already, but he who is
most prepared to take advantage of what experience
is bringing him. Thus every mental act prepares us for
others. Every thought adds to our capacity for thought.
Every moment of true concentration increases our
ability to command the mind, and therefore the world.
How vast, then, is the moral difference between the
man who applies himself to learning in order that he
may lead the life of a scholar, and him who goes through
the same course in order that he may enjoy advance-
ment, or may earn money to spend on pleasure or
luxury ! The one is the son and beloved child of Sar-
aswati Herself, the other is at best but Her hired
servant. This is the distinction that is conveyed in
those injunctions of which our Sh&stras are so full, to
practise love for its own sake, the pursuit of wisdom
for its own sake, righteousness for its own sake. The
stainless motive, that rises beyond self, ready to de-
stroy the dreamer himself before the altar of the dream,
this is the only possible condition of true achieve-
ment. And this is why it is better to be born of
generations of saints than of a race of conquerors. The
conqueror is paid for his sacrifice. He spends what
he has won. The saint adds his strength to that of his
fore-goers, storing it up for them that shall come after.
INDIA is evolving a new civilization. New ideals and
new methods have already made their appearance.
Already she is projecting herself upon new develop-
ments in many different directions. The great danger
of such an era is the loss of moral stability which it is
apt to involve. For the aim and effort of civilization
is always to maintain the supremacy of the moral
faculty. And in periods of violent transition, the ten-
dency is, by the breaking of old bonds and associations,
to make the moral scum and wreckage of society come
to the surface, and take the lead. The word " civiliza-
tion " is a Western equivalent for our word Dharma
or " national righteousness," and a nation may be re-
garded as having proved the value of its past, only when
character has always been reckoned by it as the first
of political and social assets, when the hypocrite has
always been rated by it at his true value, and when the
will of the people has spontaneously known to pursue
good and avoid evil, all the days of its life.
No people can boast that they have shown these
characteristics to perfection. This is obviously a race
in which success is only of relative measurement. Yet
the fact remains that if there could be an absolute
standard for the appraisement of national and social
ii2 RELIGION AND DHARMA
systems it would be in terms of morality, not in those
of wealth or industry or even of happiness, that that
perfection must be expressed.
Morality is not to be understood here as the
morality of social habit merely. The keeping of a
time-worn law may depend upon our weakness quite
as much as on our strength. True morality is a fire of
will, of purity, of character, of sacrifice. It is here, and
not to the expression, that we must look, to make the
valuation of a nation's attainment. Yet some things
are clear. When countries that have long preached a
religion of renunciation, a religion of the poor and
lowly, of self-denial, of common property, of brotherly
love, when such countries are found suddenly to have
abandoned themselves to the practice of exploitation
political, commercial, financial, or all three at once,
then we see a discrepancy between theory and practice,
on which we can and ought to pass a judgment.
It is clear that a sound and true doctrine is not
weapon enough for the will of man in the hour of a
great temptation. Besides that of the truth or un-
truth of the doctrine held, there is also the deeper
question to be considered of how far the nature of the
man has been saturated with it, how far he has bent to
it, how far he has assimilated it. Unless a nation be
literally sodden with its religion, it is bound, when the
opportunity comes, to throw it away in favour of self-
interest. And this is the defeat of civilization. This is
the true bar-sinister on the scutcheon of history.
At this point, however, comes in the question of the
intellectual limitations of different faiths. Clearly, a
code of religion and ethics which commands the un-
NATIONAL RIGHTEOUSNESS 113
grudging assent of our whole intellect will restrain and
impel us more effectually than one that we are driven
to regard as more or less an old wives' tale. Here we
see the importance of a religion that is not discredited.
And here also we find the secret of the failure of Chris-
tianity in the nineteenth century. Science, by dint of
her mechanical inventions, has created a new world for
Christian peoples to dwell in. Alas, that same science
has also led to the scorning of the very Christianity
which had been the great guiding and ennobling force
in the world as they already knew it, and a Christian
without his Christianity is apt to be an armed dacoit.
Christianity was not strong enough to include science.
Is Hinduism strong enough to include the modern civ-
ilization ? We answer yes ! For towering behind the
habits and practices of Hinduism lies that great gener-
alized philosophy of the Vedanta, to which any religious
ritual, any social scheme would serve equally well as
area of illustration and experimental school. And
from amidst the Vedanta itself, again, rises the Advaita
of Sankaracharya as the peak of Gouri-Shankar crowns
the long range of the Himalayas.
We are about to throw ourselves forward upon a
great secularity. As a new development of Hinduism,
in future, is to stand the Indian Nation. Instead of
the Samaj and orthodoxy, the civic life. Instead of
new worships and triumphant religious austerities, we
are buckling on our armour to-day for the battlefield
of learning, of co-operation, of self-organization. But
what of that ? Can the foundations of the Sanathan
Dharma be shaken thereby ? No, for have we not
long ago been told, Ekam Sat Viprd BahudhA Vadanti?
114 RELIGION AND DHARMA
" All that exists is ONE. Learned men but call it by
Does it matter that instead of ringing the temple-
bells at evening we are to turn now to revive a dying
industry? Does it matter that instead of altars we
are to build factories and universities ? Does it matter
that instead of" slaves of the Brahmans " we are in future
to write ourselves down as " slaves of the Motherland " ?
Does it matter that instead of offering worship, we are
to turn henceforth with gifts of patient service, of food,
of training, of knowledge, to those who are in sore
need ? If " All that exists is One," then all paths alike
are paths to that Oneness. Fighting is worship as
good as praying. Labour is offering as acceptable as
Ganges water. Study is austerity more costly and
more precious than a fast. Mutual aid is better than
any puja. For concentration is the only means of
vision The One, the only goal.
O man, whosoever thou art who goest forth to work,
in this hour of the nation's need, clasp to thy heart the
weapon of thy service. Let mind and body be one in
the act of labour, every muscle hard-knit, every sinew
tense. Let all thy faculties converge on embracing
the task. Let thy thought, day and night, be on that
which thou hast taken in hand to do. Let character
be thy supreme guide, perfection of service thy one
dream. So shall there come an hour of knowledge.
And the new age shall have added to the children of
the Motherland the race of the saints of the market-
place and the field, the heroes of the civic and the
THE FLOWER OF WORSHIP.
THERE was a mood, to which we sometimes obtain a
moment's entrance, when we hold in our hands an old
book, an old picture, an old jewel, or even things as
simple as a padlock, a piece of brass-work, or a fragment
of embroidery. It was a mood of leisure and sim-
plicity, to which the work in hand at the moment was
the whole aim of life. The craftsman was concentrated
upon his labour. The whole of Dharma lay in the
beauty he was bringing forth. His craft was for the
moment or for that moment in the existence of hu-
manity that we call a man's life his religion.
Great things are always created thus. There is
nothing worth having that has not cost a human life.
Men have given themselves thus, for things that may
seem, to the careless eye, to have been not worth the
price. A single vind or violin one out of the many
required in the course of a year may have cost all
this to make. Patient search of materials, careful
seasoning and mellowing, earnest study of conditions,
infinite lavishing of work, all these are necessary to the
instrument that will be perfect. But having them,
there have been some that were as individual as human
beings, some whose voices live in history. It has
happened, often enough, that a man would give years of
labour to the carving of a cameo, or the illuminating of
ii6 RELIGION AND DHARMA
a manuscript. Such things we think of as the posses-
sions of kings, and we speak of them as mediaeval. That
is to say, they are the product of ages like those of the
European Middle Ages. But in India the Middle Ages
lasted till the other day. Even yet we may see them
persisting in humble streets, and bazaars, and in
villages that lie off the line of railway. India is, as
a whole, a mediaeval country. The theses of the
Transition belong to her passage from one age into
another, out of the Mediaeval into the Modern.
What, then, were the characteristics of the Mediaeval
Age, that enabled it to produce its miracles of beauty
and skill ? It may be worth while to examine for a
moment into this subject. In the first place, it had a
great simplicity. A man lived, ate, and slept, in the
room in which he worked. He was not surrounded by
the multitudinous objects of his desire. His desire
was only one. It was concentrated in his work. At
the utmost, by way of ornament, he had about him a
picture of some god, and a few specimens of his own
achievements. Thus, his thirst after perfection fed
upon itself. We do not often realize how much a great
workman may owe to bareness and perfect simplicity
of surroundings. To a certain extent, we may see this
simplicity, any day, in the bazaar. The shopkeeper
lives and receives his friends amongst his wares.
Study, laboratory, living-room, all these are one, to the
Another point lay in the fact that partly owing to
the fewness of his wants, and partly to the abundance
of food then in the country, the mediaeval workman
was in no hurry to be rich. He could afford, there-
THE FLOWER OF WORSHIP 117
fore, to be lavish of time. The thing he made was, to
a great extent, his only reward. Nor could he expect
that to anyone else it would afford the enjoyment that
he could derive from it. None else knew, as did he,
the precise reasons why this curve or that colour had
been chosen, rather than something else. None else
could realize the feeling of rest, or gratification, or the
sense of successful expression that rose in his mind
when he looked upon it. He himself derived from his
own work a pleasure that he never dreamed of de-
scribing to anyone, a joy that he could not hope to
communicate. The work was done for the work's
Nothing tells so strongly and clearly in a piece of
work as its motive. The desire for fame or money
leads to qualities that destroy all true greatness in art.
The genuine worker never asks for advertisement.
He is contented to do well. Like the farmer of whom
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa spoke, he returns to the
task itself again and again, whatever be the discour-
agements that meet him in it. He strives with all his
might, to bring his own lotus to blossom. What con-
cern of his are the bees ?
He works for sheer joy of self-expression, and his
work is a joy to all he loves. Even the greatest things
in the world have been made out of the happiness of
such simple souls, who were contented to work as a
child to play with toys. Cathedrals and temples,
pictures and images, cities and kingdoms, have all been
toys to the fashioners of them, working out of their
own sense of things, even as a bird sings in the sun-
light. The modern organization has upset many
n8 RELIGION AND DHARMA
things which the ancient organization laboured to com-
pass. Amongst others, it has made life complex. It
has increased our needs. It has confronted us with
many temptations, of which, in our old-time isolation,
we knew little. The aimless desire for an accumulation
of useless objects has seized upon us, and we do not
realize that for this we have bartered what is infinitely
more precious, the power of steady and absorbed work.
For pictures on our walls, for sofas and chairs and
round tables, for an air of luxury, and an infinite
weariness of household drudgery, we have sold our
birthright of dignified simplicity and a concentrated
mind and heart.
Back to simplicity, and the lofty uses of simplicity !
Back to the bareness that was beauty, and the depth
of thought that meant culture ! Back to the mat on
the bare floor, and the thoughts that were so lofty !
Let us ordain ourselves free of the means of living :
let us give our whole mind to the developing of life it-
self. Not in the age of scrambling for appointments,
and struggling for a livelihood, was Sankaracharya
born, was Buddha born. Let the thatched hut at the
foot of the palm be wealth sufficient : woe the day
when Indian mothers cease to bring forth, and Indian
homes cease to nurture, the lions of intellect and
What the sannyasin is to life, that the craftsman
must be to his craft, that each one of us to the task in
hand. We must have a single eye to the thing itself,
not to any of the fruits that come of it. We must keep
ourselves simple, dependent upon no external aid,
listening more and more as life goes on for that inner
THE FLOWER OF WORSHIP 119
voice which is the guide to self-expression. In each
line we must seek for that peculiar and partial form of
mukti which is its goal. When mukti has been piled
upon mukti y God knows if the Absolute shall be ours.
Five hundred times died Buddha ere he attained the
infinite compassion. Shall we grudge a life, with its
hour of toil, that we may feast our eyes upon some
symbol of perfection ? Shall we measure the devotion
that, given without stint, is to make of us the puja-
flowers laid before the feet of God ? In a world of
infinite variety the vision of Reality ends every road.
Let us then push on with brave hearts, not fainting
by the way. Whatever we have taken in hand to do,
let us make the means our end. Let us pursue after
the ideal for the ideal's own sake, and cease not, stop
not, till we are called by the voice that cannot go un-
heeded to put away childish things and enter the city
of the soul.
THE growth of modern cities in India shows that
we are leaving behind us the organization of the undi-
vided family, which once formed our largest conceivable
social unit, and entering into still larger and much freer
social combination. The city is one of the widest
groups that can be formed. Nations are made up of
citizens, and conversely, cities are the schools of na-
tionality. A city is the most complex type of mole-
cule, so to speak, in the national organism.
In a given molecule all the atoms contained are essen-
tial. Each atom, each sub-atom, and the relation of each
to the rest, is integral to the whole. Can we say this
of our cities of to-day ? Knot, they are not organized on
^permanent basis. In mediaeval Benares, in mediaeval
Lucknow, each atom and each series of atoms was es-
sential to the city. In Conjeeveram and in many of our
rural market-towns of the South the same is true to-
day. Is it true of our modern cities, of Calcutta, Ma-
dras, Bombay ? If not, the inessential elements will
yet prove to be but temporary. They will eventually
be cast out.
There is a difference between mechanical complexity
and organic complexity. Those factors which do not
belong organically to the civic com plexus are the factors
that cannot endure. And what is the test of the or-
ganic necessity of any given atom ? The test that our
ancestors would have accepted was dharma. Those who
uphold the national righteousness belong to the city,
belong to the nation ; those who destroy and deterior-
ate it will have to go. The test of our cohesion, then,
is a moral test, a test of character, of conduct, of up-
rightness. It is that particular kind of character,
moreover, which makes large social combinations pos-
A study of such traits of character would then be
valuable. Each of us, if we set ourselves to observe
what these are, will notice different things. One will
lay stress on good manners. There is no doubt that
these are necessary, and that the standard will be much
more precise and severe when we move in a circle
drawn from all parts of India than when we lived only
amongst our own relatives. Courtesy is a great lubri-
cant to public life, and the delicate social emotions that
make courtesy sincere and natural are one of the most
precious gifts of humanity. Courtesy, too, may well
be practised in the home. It is no excuse for a brutal
manner that so-and-so is my mother or wife or brother.
What then ? Am I to be impertinent to my nearest
and dearest, and reserve my best self for those whom
I scarcely know ?
Another will notice the need of punctuality, of order,
of regular habits. All these are absolutely imperative
in the civic circle. And all these are Dharma, for all
mean self-control for the good of others.
We have to learn to be reliable, or what is called
" dependable," in our dealings with others. Respon-
sibility is God's test of man. We must be equal to our
122 RELIGION AND DHARMA
task. It is worse than useless, it is positively ruinous,
like the uncompleted sacrifice, to undertake a duty that
we do not carry through to its last syllable. The
performance of duty, the social duty, the civic duty, is
not to be allowed to vary with our own feelings, with
our impulses, our tempers, even (up to certain neces-
sary limits) with our health. " I am responsible " is a
word that, uttered by oneself to oneself, should spur
us to the highest effort, to the sternest sacrifice.
There is no reason for charity, for tenderness, for for-
bearance, no reason that can be urged, which is so
strong as the need of him to whom kindness or gentle-
ness is shown. And similarly, the most intense of all
social, motives is not ambition or self-interest, or love of
fame or power, intense as any of these may be. The
most intense of all motives lies in the thought "I am
trusted : this duty or this need depends upon me." Here
is the thought that makes the sentinel die at his post,
that calls the fireman to the hottest point of danger,
that rouses the slumbering spirit and puts spurs into
the flagging will. And this is Dharma.
For examples of what is to be won by energy of
social experiment, we are agreed that we must turn
to the West. Even in the pursuit of ideas, while the
idea is often better realized in India, its reflection in the
social organization is better accomplished in Europe.
These things are to be studied and contemplated.
There is no solvent of error in conduct like true thought
and right knowledge. We are of those who urge neither
conservatism nor reform in social questions. We ask
only for right understanding. And we hold that the
temper of mind that will rush hurriedly upon either one
act or the other is not conducive to true understanding,
which needs above all things disinterestedness and calm.
Let us then compare the European solution of vari-
ous problems with our own, and see, if possible,
whether we have not much to gain from such con-
Even in religion, we find Indian worship a one-priest
matter, while European ritual is a vast co-operation of
singers, servers, ministrants, and others. In monasti-
cism, the ideal monk of the East is a wanderer who goes
free, from place to place, working out the personal ideal
derived from his guru. He is often the embodiment of
great and sometimes of supreme individual illumina-
tion. But he never has the discipline of the member
of a close-knit organization, in which obedience is
practised as a mortification, and punctuality, order, and
business habits are rigorously imposed. Yet so com-
pletely has the monastic formation been assimilated by
the West as a social institution, that such words as
abbot, prior, novice, refectory, cloister, bands, vespers, and
others, are now part of the common language, each
with its precise meaning expressed and understood by
all members of society alike. It was the organization
of the great religious orders, moreover, the Cistercians
practising agriculture, the Dominicans and Jesuits
giving education, the Franciscans acting as moral and
religious missioners, a sort of mediaeval Salvation
Army, that made the modern organization of hos-
pitals, red-cross sisterhoods, and relief associations in
general, a possibility. It was their work in education
that laid the foundations of all the universities and
common schools in Europe.
I2 4 RELIGION AND DHARMA
But we have monasteries In India also. What is the
distinguishing characteristic of the European ? The
distinguishing characteristic of European monasticism
is its system, its organization, its clear and well-defined
division of responsibilities. One man is the head.
Under him may be the prior and even a sub-prior.
One man trains novices ; another attends to guests.
However many persons live under one roof, there is
no overlapping of functions, no repetition of offices.
There is not one hour of the day that has not its ap-
pointed duty. The body monastic is close-knit, co-
herent, organic, and a degree of obedience to superiors
is required of every member which is not surpassed by
that of an army occupying hostile territory.
Developments like these, taking many centuries to
perfect, have furnished that thought material, those con-
ceptions of character and conduct, out of which the
great commercial and industrial organizations of the
present age have been constructed. Society is really
one, and the experiments made by each part become
the knowledge of the whole.
Behind every mental realization, however, whether
of individuals or of societies, always stands some
concrete experience. What was the concrete experi-
ence that so worked itself into the very nerves and
blood of European races that their idea of a working-
unity became so definite 'and differentiated ? It is said
by sociologists that this concrete experience was the
conquest of the ocean. European peoples are coast-
line-dwellers. Their conception of organization is
furnished by the crew of a ship, and their temptation
incidentally, not only their temptation, but also their
characteristic vice is piracy. In the crew of the ship,
the family with the father as captain, eldest son first
mate, second son as second mate, younger sons and
nephews as working sailors, and so on becomes trans-
formed into the complex human working-unit, the
social instrument, whose unity and discipline are tested
for life or for death in every gale that the fishing-smack
In India and the East generally, it is supposed, in
similar fashion, that the great concrete experience on
which the national character is built, and by which its
potency for co-operation is largely determined, is the rice-
field. Here, it is said, whole families co-operate, under
one man's direction, on an equal footing. They sow
seed, they transplant seedlings, they harvest crops,
without, say the sociologists, anything happening to
call forth a great preponderance of ability in any one
above the others. No special reward waits on in-
genuity or inventive ability in the transplanting of rice.
Every man's labour is more or less like the rest and of
equal amount. Hence the firm hold obtained by the es-
sentially democratic institutions of village, caste, guild,
and family, in India. India is essentially a democratic
country. Her monarchies and aristocracies are quite
extraneous to her social system, and it is this which she
has to thank for her stability and solidarity under ex-
periences that would have shattered the unity of any
less coherent organization. The only point in which
India fails to stand comparison with the West is in the
complexity of her social organization.
Benares is asbeautiful as any mediaeval city in Europe.
Indeed Europe has not more than one or two jewels to
126 RELIGION AND DHARMA
compare with it. Yet anyone who has seen a European
cathedral will know what is meant by complex unity.
The Western cathedral is not a mere building. It is
like a Southern Indian temple a treasure-house of
carvings in stone and wood ; of paintings on walls, on
glass, and on canvas ; of musical instruments ; old
metalwork ; embroideries ; libraries ; and fifty other
things. It represents, as many writers have pointed
out, a synthesis of occupations, all held together by a
single aim, governed by one head, united in the realiza-
tion of a common design. And European cathedrals
were the fruit of the sudden realization by the people
of their own unity and their own freedom. For they
sprang up in the great age of the passing away of the
Feudal System and the birth of the great Free Cities of
the Middle Ages.
If the complex unity of the ship's crew enable the
European peoples to build cathedrals, the building of
cathedrals, in like manner, has helped towards the
modern complexity and success of industrial and com-
mercial co-operation. For those who undertake great
tasks and hold faithfully to their part in them, become
possessed of great powers, and apply them uncon-
sciously in every other function.
Let us also, then, undertake great tasks. Let us be
faithful even in little things. A single wheel or screw
may be small, even minute, yet a whole machine may
turn on it. Let us be responsible, trustworthy. Let
our word be our bond. The hand we have taken in
ours, let it never fail for want of one to hold it. So
shall every deed be the seed-plot of new powers. So
shall every gain become the stronghold of a nation.
THE WORLD-SENSE IN ETHICS.
THE relation between the individual and the com-
munity, the extent to which no one of us is an indi-
vidual at all, but merely constitutes an instrument
carrying hands and feet and senses for the great social
organism behind us, this is a subject on which we
think too little and too seldom. Yet few questions
are at the present time more important. A distin-
guished European sociologist has said that man in his
earliest development thinks as "we," and only later
as "I." The statement is not so paradoxical as
it sounds. Most educated persons are aware that if
a frog's brain be removed, and a drop of acid then
placed on the hind foot of the frog, the foot will be
rapidly withdrawn and the leg folded convulsively
against the body. This is called "reflex action," be-
cause it is carried out without the necessary interven-
tion of consciousness. Similarly, much of our social
conduct, perhaps all that is a part of our characters, is
Imagine for instance, a slight put upon our family
honour. Can we not feel the impulse of retaliation
that is demanded of each and every member of the
family alike, in the men as acts, in the women as
malediction ? Is such retaliation planned or instinc-
tive ? Can we not see from this something of what the
European scholar meant ? Is it not true that in family-
128 RELIGION AND DHARMA
matters we think even now rather as " we " than as
"I"? And can we not see, casting our glance back
over the evolution of humanity, that this must be
more and more so, the earlier the period under re-
view ? In an age when individual scope was small,
each man would be more true to the type of the
family or the tribe, or the race, than in a later epoch,
when, even physically, there is greater divergence of
the individual from his kindred and brothers. Every
state of society, then, and every social institution,
carries with it its own reflex consciousness, its own
code, its own ideals. Polygamy has its ethics, quite
as much as monogamy. The European woman has
her poets, as truly as the Oriental. Joan of Arc is
also a saint, though so different in type from Sita.
Taking the whole of this reflex consciousness, these
codes, these ideals, and putting together the principles
of conduct which we can deduce from them, we
call the result morality. Morality is fundamentally
the expression of Humanity as a whole, through the
individual. It follows that morality is not the same
in all ages. It becomes finer and more complex, with
the growth of intellectual knowledge and social ex-
perience. There was a time when the morality of
family and tribe was all-sufficient ; when it seemed
right to a people to extirpate, in the name of this
morality, not only the people pf other tribes, but also
their gods ! Indeed as we look about us to-day, we
may perhaps be pardoned if we think that that time,
even now, has not altogether gone by.
It is the proud distinction of the Indian culture
that Hindus have never, within historic times, been
THE WORLD-SENSE IN ETHICS 129
contented with the tribal morality, or the tribal ideal.
This fact it is which forms the granite foundation of
that destiny, in right of which India, as we believe, is
yet again to lead the world. Even a philosophy like
the Vedanta, even an ideal like that of Advaita, is
organically related to the social experience, or it could
never have been formulated. The day will yet dawn
in this country, when young men shall set themselves
to conquer all the most difficult knowledge of the
world, with the sole object of being able to trace out
these connexions between the communal organization
and the national achievement. It may be that the
caste-system, with its suggestion of a synthesis of
races, ideals, and customs, was the concrete basis of
that intellectual comprehensiveness which is yet to be
the gift of India to the world. Or the secret may be
found elsewhere. In any case, if we of to-day would
prove ourselves the worthy children of our ancestors,
we, like them, must refuse to be contented with a
tribal morality. India may seem now to be but a
trifling factor in the development of man, but it will
not be always so, and great or small, none can
measure the power of true thought, for the world is
governed by mind, and not by matter.
Our rishis and yogis tell us of a stage of meditation
in which we develop a cosmic sense, and feel ourselves
to be present in the moon, the sun, and the stars.
Far below this meditative experience, however, we
must train ourselves and our children to another,
which will assuredly help to fit us for it, a world- \
sense. Through this consciousness, we must develop
the power to suffer with the pain, and hope with the
130 RELIGION AND DHARMA
hope, of all men. All human sorrows are our sorrows,
personally and collectively. Let us educate ourselves
to feel them so, and then, in the moment of power it
may be, we shall give birth to a morality which shall
include them all.
In some such way has every advance in morality
been made. First the trained sympathy, secondly the
cultivated intellect, and third and last, the moral
impulse, ending in a new institution, that cuts a step
higher than humanity had heretofore reached, in the
icy face of the mountain peaks. That is to say, all
new social developments must arise out of new sym-
pathies, new emotional experiences, giving birth to
new and loftier ideals, and through these to a renewal
or reform of institutions. Not by a mere substitution
of one custom for another can a society be mended.
Such thoughts occur to us in connexion with the
much-disputed question of woman's education. All
that Indian women can do for themselves they would
seem to have done. Forty years ago, we are told,
they had still, for the most part, to learn to read and
write in their vernaculars. All over India, spon-
taneously as it seemed, the effort began. The simple
magazines which are so essential to first steps in such
a culture-process found their way, by the cheap postal
system, from the city-presses to the eagerly-waiting
subscribers in the country. The vernacular education
of Indian women was organized by the women them-
selves, and some very few well-wishers outside.
To-day, to a great extent, this vernacular education
has been assimilated. In Bengal, Maharashtra, Madras,
and the Punjab, every little girl expects to have to
THE WORLD-SENSE IN ETHICS 131
learn, not only to read her mother-tongue, but also to
write it. This amount of wisdom is often attainable
in the zenana itself, which thus becomes for the
moment almost a schoolroom. In Bengal at least,
such historical narratives as those of Romesh Ch.
Dutt, and some of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, have
been read by all orthodox ladies, and there are maga-
zines, and even illustrated magazines, in abundance.
But to-day we stand before the question of a new
step to be taken in the education of woman, and it is
meet that there should here be a certain searching of
heart. Education is the highest and most moral of all
social functions, and unless it is rightly directed, it
may easily be made pernicious. Its direction, more-
over, is more than anything else an affair of its motive.
What is our motive in desiring education for our
sisters and daughters? Is it that they may be decked
out in the faded finery of European accomplishments,
and so take a better place in the matrimonial market ?
If so, the education that we are likely to give them is
little calculated to help them over life's rough places.
It is in fact, merely an extension of privilege, it is no
enfranchisement, and perhaps those who receive it
were better without it. Or do we desire to educate
the women we are ourselves to wed, in the hope that
their knowledge may save us trouble in the future ?
It is undoubtedly convenient to have a wife who can,
unaided, take the baby's temperature when he has
fever. If we go further than this, and feel that we
should like to spend our lives with our intellectual
equal, instead of with a prisoner, bound to the tread-
mill of daily routine, and capable of few speculations
132 RELIGION AND DHARMA
beyond, in the darkness of the mental jail, we are,
even then, only men of taste, crying out for a more
appetizing morsel than the common. We are not yet
true advocates and champions of the education of
The only ground on which woman can claim, or
man assist her to obtain, anything worthy of the name
of education, is that of the common humanity in both,
which makes the one fit to be trusted and reverenced
as the other, makes the one worthy of honour and
responsibility as the other, and finally, makes the
whole question of sex a subordinate consideration,
like that of a blue or a green garment. For Hu-
manity is primarily soul and mind, and only in a very
secondary sense body. " Whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are
beautiful, whatsoever things are true, think on these
things," is a text that has even more often cried for
fulfilment by woman than by man. But how shall it
be fulfilled, except in knowledge ?
If woman is really as much a human being as man,
then she has the same right to her fullest possible de-
velopment as he has. If we should hesitate to em-
phasize the sex of man, then we ought also to hesitate
at emphasizing that of woman. If we seek by every
available means to ennoble the one, then we must surely
seek equally to ennoble the other. The development
of woman must be regarded as an end, and a sacred
end. And this for the sake of woman herself, and not
in any way as a mere accessory to the happiness or
well-being of man.
CHARACTER IS SPIRITUALITY.
ONE of the most valuable generalizations of the modern
era is that which was first arrived at, just about the
time of the French Revolution, that the individual, in
his development, follows the race. Each man and woman,
that is to say, when perfectly educated, becomes an
epitome of the history either of his or her own race, or
of Humanity as a whole. This great perception made
itself felt as a definite element in a new scheme of
education, through Pestalozzi, the saint and guru of
teachers in the twentieth-century West. Pestalozzi
saw that, if there were ever to be hope for the people,
it must be through an education at once modern, that
is liberal, psychological, that is founded on a know-
ledge of mental laws, and in accordance with the his-
toric development of man.
The problem which the young student Pestalozzi,
son and lover of the people, had to face at the end of
the French Revolution, in Switzerland, was of trifling
magnitude compared with that which confronts the
son and lover of India to-day. And yet, in their inner-
most nature, the two are identical. For this, like
that, consists in the difficulty of opening up the human
field to a new thought-harvest, while at the same time
avoiding the evils of mere surface-culture. The soil
that has brought forth the mango and the palm ought
134 RELIGION AND DHARMA
not to be degraded to producing only gourds and
vetches. And similarly, the land of the Vedas and of
Jn&na- Yoga has no right to sink into the r61e of mere
critic or imitator of European letters.
Yet this is the present condition of Indian culture,
and it appears likely to remain so, unless the Indian
mind can deliberately discipline itself to the historic
point of view. To do this is like adjusting oneself to
a new dimension. Things which were hitherto merged
in each other all at once become distinct. That which
till now was instinctive is suddenly seen to have a goal,
which is capable, in its turn, of clear definition. The
social and the religious idea, under Hinduism as under
Islam, were in the past indistinguishable. Philo-
sophically, of course, every tyro could detach one from
the other; in practice, however, they were one, and
could not be separated. For religious reasons, as was
supposed, we must eat in a certain way, wear specified
clothing, and fulfil a definite scheme of purification.
Suddenly, through the modern catastrophe, the sun-
light of comparison, contrast, and relativity is poured
over the whole area, and we discover that by living up
to custom, we have been not accumulating pious
merit, but merely approximating to that ideal of ab-
solute refinement, cleanliness, and purity, which is the
dream of all fine human life, and which may as well,
or better, be achieved by some other canon as by our
own. Seeing the goal thus clearly, we become able to
analyse and compare various methods ; to add to our
own conduct the virtues of others, and to eliminate
from it the defects of all. Above all, we find out how
to distinguish effectively between the social idea and
CHARACTER IS SPIRITUALITY 135
religion. It is thus that it becomes possible to talk
of " aggressive Hinduism."
Aggression is to be the dominant characteristic of
the India that is to-day in school and class-room,
aggression, and the thought and ideals of aggression.
Instead of passivity, activity ; for the standard of weak-
ness, the standard of strength ; in place of a steadily
yielding defence, the ringing cheer of the invading host.
Merely to change the attitude of the mind in this way
is already to accomplish a revolution. And the incep-
tion of some such change will have become evident to
us all within a dozen years.
But before the first step can be taken there must be
clear thought about essentials. The object of all re-
ligious systems is the formation of character. Theo-
cratic systems aim at the construction of character
through the discipline of personal habit. But at bottom
it is character and not habit that they desire to create.
No one will dispute that her ideals are a still prouder
fruit of Hinduism than her widespread refinement. It
is true that India is the only country in the world where
a penniless wanderer may surpass a king in social pres-
tige. But still grander is the fact that the king may
be a Janaka, and the beggar a Suke Deva.
Let us, then, touch on the comparative study of the
value of habit as a factor in the evolution of character.
We find in India that society watches a man all the
years of his life, ready to criticize him for the hour at
which he bathes and eats and prays, the mode of his
travel, the fashion in which, perhaps, he wears his hair.
To attempt a serious innovation on social custom in
such directions as marriage or education seems to hor-
136 RELIGION AND DHARMA
rifled public opinion not merely selfish, but also sacri-
legious. And this kind of criticism becomes more
and more powerful over the individual as the villages
empty themselves into the cities. For the man who
might have had the courage to make his mark in the
smaller community would think it presumptuous to
go his own way in the larger. Hence the aggregation
of men tends to become the multiplication of their
weaknesses and defects. It is the mean and warped
judgment that gains fastest in weight.
But let us look at a community in which active ends
and ideals are energetically pursued. Here a certain
standard of personal refinement is exacted of the in-
dividual, as rigidly as in India itself. But public
opinion, being strong enough to kill, does not stoop to
discuss such points. The learning of the method is
relegated to the nursery, where it is imparted by
women. Having passed through this stage of his
education, it is not expected that the hero will fall
short in future of its standards ; but if he did so, society
would know how to punish him, by ignoring his exist-
ence. Both he and society, meanwhile, are too busy
with other efforts to be able to waste force on what
is better left to his own pride. For a whole new range
of ideals has now come in sight. From the time that
a Western child steps out of the nursery, it is not
quietness, docility, resignation, and obedience, that his
teachers and guardians strive to foster in him, so much
as strength, initiative, sense of responsibility, and
power of rebellion. Temper and self-will are regarded
by Western educators as a very precious power, which
must by no means be crushed or destroyed, though
CHARACTER IS SPIRITUALITY 137
they must undoubtedly be disciplined and subordinated
to impersonal ends. It is for this reason that fighting
is encouraged in the playgrounds, the only stipulation
being for fairplay. To forbid a boy to undergo the
physical ordeal, means, as we think, undermining his
sincerity, as well as his courage. But for him to strike
one who is weaker than himself is to stand disgraced
amongst his equals.
That is to say, a social evolution which in Asia has
occupied many centuries is in the West relegated to, at
most, the first ten years of a child's upbringing, and
he then passes into the period of chivalry. Indeed if,
as some suppose, the ten Avatars of Vishnu are but
the symbol of a single perfect life, India herself has
not failed to point this lesson. For after the stages of
fish, tortoise, boar, and man-lion, are all safely and
happily passed, and the child has become " a little
man," it still remains for him to be twice a Kshatriya
before he is able to become a Buddha. What is this
but the modern generalization that the individual in
his development follows the race ? And in the last
sublime myth of Kalki, may it not be that we have the
prophecy of a great further evolution, in which Buddha-
hood itself shall plunge once more into a sovereign act
of redeeming love and pity, and initiate, for every indi-
vidual of us, the triumph of active and aggressive ideals ?
Let us suppose, then, that we see Hinduism no
longer as the preserver of Hindu custom, but as the
creator of Hindu character. It is surprising to think
how radical a change is entailed in many directions by
this conception. We are no longer oppressed with
jealousy or fear, when we contemplate encroachments
138 RELIGION AND DHARMA
on our social and religious consciousness. Indeed, the
idea of encroachment has ceased, because our work is
not now to protect ourselves but to convert others.
Point by point, we are determined, not merely to keep
what we had, but to win what we never had before.
The question is no longer of other people's attitude to
us, but, rather, of what we think of them. It is not,
how much have we kept ? but, how much have we an-
nexed ? We cannot afford, now, to lose, because we
are sworn to carry the battle far beyond our remotest
frontiers. We no longer dream of submission, because
struggle itself has become only the first step towards
a distant victory to be won.
No other religion in the world is so capable of this
dynamic transformation as Hinduism. To Nagarjuna
and Buddhaghosha, the Many was real and the Ego un-
real. To Sankaracharya, the One was real and the
Many unreal. To Ramakrishna arid Vivekananda, the
Many and the One were the same Reality, perceived
differently and at different times by the human con-
sciousness. Do we realize what this means ? It
means that CHARACTER IS SPIRITUALITY. It means
that laziness and defeat are not renunciation. It
means that to protect another is infinitely greater than
to attain salvation. It means that Mukti lies in over-
coming the thirst for Mukti. It means that conquest
may be the highest form of Sannyas. It means, in
short, that Hinduism is become aggressive, that the
trumpet of Kalki is sounded already in our midst, and
that it calls all that is noble, all that is lovely, all that
is strenuous and heroic amongst us, to a battlefield on
which the bugles of retreat shall never more be heard.
THE TASK BEFORE US.
IT is small wonder if, in the act of transition from old
forms to new, from a mode of thought some centuries
venerable, to one untried, and at best but modern,
it is small wonder if in the throes of so great a crisis,
India should have passed through a generation or two
of intellectual confusion. The astonishing phenome-
non is rather the speed and ease of her re-adjustment.
Within fifty years to have assimilated a new language,
and that of an unforeseen type, and to have made
changes at almost every rung in the ladder of ideal
culture, is this a little thing ? Is it a fact that could
be duplicated anywhere ? To speak, in reply, of Japan,
is mere foolishness. The problem of Japan, when
midway through the nineteenth century, could hardly
be compared with that of India. A small and com-
pact people, of single origin, inhabiting islands and
strong in their sense of insularity, could naturally mobi-
lize themselves in any direction they pleased.
The trouble hitherto has been that the people were
as passive to modern culture as to ancient. In a land
where the segregation of the soul has been the aim of
the highest thought and life, for thousands of years, it
has not been easy to turn every energy suddenly in the
direction of activity and mutual co-operation. At
bottom, however, there is strength enough in India,
and in spite of the demoralization of hunger and baf-
140 RELIGION AND DHARMA
fled hope, her people are about to set foot on the
threshold of a new era. The ebb of the tide has al-
ready reached its utmost. The reaction of fortune is
about to begin. That this is so, is due to the fact
that at the beginning of the twentieth century the Indian
people can take a bird's-eye view of their past history,
and are able to understand clearly their true position.
There is a saying in India that to see through Maya
is to destroy her. But few realize how literally this
is true. The disaster or difficulty that has ceased to
confuse and bewilder us, is about to be defeated. The
evil about which we can think and express ourselves
clearly, has already lost its power. To measure our
defeat accurately is to reverse it. When a people,
as a people, from the highest to the lowest, are united
in straight and steady understanding of their circum-
stances, without doubt and without illusion, then events
are about to precipitate themselves. Discrimination is
the mark of the highest spirituality. Spirituality is the
only irresistible force. Like the fire that wraps a
forest in flame, is the power of the mind of a whole
From the year 1858 onwards, there has been no
possible goal for the Indian people but a complete as-
similation of the modern consciousness. At that point
the mediaeval order was at an end. Prithvi Rai and
Shah Jehan, Asoka and Akbar were mingled in a
common oblivion. Only the soil they had loved, only
the people they had led, remained, to address them-
selves to a new task, to stand or fall by their power to
cope with a new condition. Sharp as the contrast be-
tween the Gunga and the Jumna was the difference be-
THE TASK BEFORE US 141
tween the mediaeval and the modern. Invincible as
the resistless current of the Bhagirathi is that new
India that is to be born of both.
Up to the present, however, in the exhaustion of
the transition, it has not been possible for the national
mind to envisage the problem, so as to see or state its
terms clearly. To-day this first stage is over. The
Indian mind is no longer in blind collapse. It is
awaking to fresh strength, and about to survey both
past and present, that by their means it may determine
and forecast its future.
What are the differentia, what is the precise problem
of this modern age ? Definitions are proverbially rash,
but it is not difficult to state some facts and considera-
tions bearing on this subject, with great precision.
The outstanding fact about the modern period has been,
undoubtedly, the geographical discovery of the world
as a whole. The one characteristic of the modern
mind, that makes it unlike the mind of any other age,
is the completeness with which it is able to survey and
define the surface of the planet Earth. The discovery
of steam, with the consequent invention of railways
and steamboats, has undoubtedly been the efficient
cause of this exploration, and out of the consequent
clash of faiths and cultures, has come the power to
make the personal or mythological equation ; to cancel,
more or less to one's own satisfaction, all the elements
of local prejudice in a given problem ; and from this
again has been born the ideal of modern science, of
modern culture generally, the attempt to extract the
root-fact from all the diversity of phenomena in which
it clothes itself.
142 RELIGION AND DHARMA
In this way, the intellectual and spiritual discovery
of the world has followed hard on the physical or
geographical. In culture, a new era has been pro-
claimed. It is no longer enough to know one thing
well. It is also incumbent upon us to understand its
place amongst other things, and its relation to the
scheme of knowledge as a whole.
The pioneers of modernism, meanwhile, have been
dominated by the ideal of the machine, to which they
have owed so much of their success. To this fact we
may trace our present-day standards of order and
efficiency. A large house of business, with its staff, is
simply a human machine of an intricate kind. It has
been said that the Oriental regards his servants as
personal attendants, the Western as so many hidden
machines. Nothing could be more true. The Oriental
is in every case an agriculturist, accustomed to the
picturesque disorder of seed-time and harvest, cowshed
and barn, and far from irritated by it. Every thought
and habit of the Western, on the other hand, is domin-
ated by the notion of mechanical accuracy and effici-
ency, and by the effort of the mechanician to achieve
a given end by the most economical possible means.
In a society in which the highest knowledge fulfils
the twofold test of order and synthesis, the great sin
is provincialism. And here the new world differs from
the old, in which the tastes of aristocrats were supreme,
and mortal crime lay in vulgarity.
But while the great intellectual and social failure of
to-day lies in provincialism, no serious mind assumes
that the world-idea is to be arrived at easily. Only
the tree that is firm-rooted in its own soil can offer us
THE TASK BEFORE US 143
a perfect crown of leaf and blossom. And similarly,
only the heart that responds perfectly to the claims of
its immediate environment, only the character that
fulfils to the utmost its stint of civic duty, only this
heart and mind is capable of taking its place in the
ranks of the truly cosmopolitan. Only the fully na-
tional can possibly contribute to the cosmo-national.
And this is understood to-day by cultured persons,
all the world over. The cheap superciliousness of the
young man who, on leaving his village in Kamschatka
or Uganda, has been initiated into the habits and
manners of the European democracy, and takes himself
for this reason as an exalted and competent critic of
his own people, only evokes a smile. No one desires
his acquaintance, for he has nothing to add to the
thought-world of those with whom he is so proud to
have been associated. Every act, every movement,
writes large across his forehead the word "snob."
On the other hand, to take one's stand persistently
on the local prejudices of the village in Kamschatka or
Uganda, is, though infinitely more manly and self-re-
specting, almost as futile. It is better to be provincial
than to be vulgar, for our horror of vulgarity is the
longer-grown. But both miss the effective achievement.
What the time demands of us is that in us our whole
past shall be made a part of the world's life. This is
what is called the realization of the national idea. But
it must be realized everywhere, in the world idea. In
order to attain a larger power of giving, we may break
through any barrier of custom. But it is written inex-
orably in the very nature of things that, if we sacrifice
custom merely for some mean or selfish motive, fine
144 RELIGION AND DHARMA
men and women everywhere will refuse to admit us to
Cosmo-nationality of thought and conduct, then, is
not easy for any man to reach. Only through a per-
fect realization of his own nationality can anyone, any-
where, win to it. And cosmo-nationality consists in
holding the local idea in the world idea. It is well known
that culture is a matter of sympathy, rather than of
information. It would follow that the cultivation of
the sense of humanity as a whole, is the essential fea-
ture of a modern education. But this cannot be
achieved by mere geographical knowledge. The uni-
fication of the world -has emancipated the human mind
to some extent, and we now understand that a man's
character is the sum of his assimilated experiences ; in
other words, that his history is written in his face. And
what is true of persons we see also to be true of
countries. The very landscape is a key to the hopes
and dreams of men. Their hopes and dreams explain
to us the heritage they have left. History, then, is as
essential to the modern consciousness as geography.
It is the second dimension, as it were, of Truth, as we
now seek it, naked and dynamic.
Our changed attitude changes all our conceptions.
We make a new survey of our knowledge, and are no
longer content to view dog as dog and cow as cow,
but must needs learn all the links and developments
between them. Their very differences are now re-
garded by us as a guarantee of their fundamental com-
munity of origin. We break open the rocks and scour
the waste places of the earth, that we may find forms
which will explain to us the divergence of horse-
THE TASK BEFORE US 145
hoof from cow-hoof, reptile from fish, and bird from
Or we turn to the study of art and letters. Here
again, our scrutiny has entered on the comparative
stage. If we investigate the records of Baghdad, we
must understand also those of Moorish Spain. It is
not enough to follow the course of chivalry in France,
unless we also assist at its birth in the German forests.
Our idea of unity has become organic, evolutionary,
and some picture of the movement and clash of the
world as a whole is an overmastering need.
Yet even the finest mind is limited by its own
ignorance. What a painful blank in modern culture
whenever we come upon the word " China " ! How little
has it been possible to say about India to which any
cultivated Indian can give more than a pitying smile !
And how utterly misunderstood is the Mohammedan
world ! The world of culture, be it remembered, is not
tainted by political corruption. Race-prejudice has
no place in the ideal aspiration after knowledge. Why
then should a silence, almost political, pervade the
spaces that ought to be filled with Oriental interpre-
tation, in modern thought ?
The reason, as regards India, is easy enough to find.
The Indian mind has not reached out to conquer and
possess its own land as its own inalienable share and
trust, in the world as a whole. It has been content,
even in things modern, to take obediently whatever
was given to it. And the newness and strangeness
of the thing given, has dazed it. The Indian people
as a whole for the last two generations have been as
men walking in a dream, without manhood, without
146 RELIGION AND DHARMA
power to react freely against conditions, without even
But to-day, in the deliberate adoption of an aggres-
sive policy, we have put all this behind us. Realizing
that life is struggle, we are now determined that our
wrestling with the powers that are against us, shall
enable us to contribute to the world's sum of culture,
not merely to make adaptations from it. Our part
henceforth is active, and not passive. The Indianizing
of India, the organizing of our national thought, the
laying out of our line of march, all this is to be done by
us, not by others on our behalf. We accept no more
programmes. Henceforth are we become the makers
of programmes. We obey no more policies. Hence-
forth do we create policies. We refuse longer to call
by the name of " education " the apprenticeship neces-
sary for a ten-rupee clerkship. We put such things in
their true place. We ordain ourselves intellectually
free. What then is the task before us ?
Our task is to translate ancient knowledge into
modern equivalents. We have to clothe the old
strength in a new form. The new form without that
old strength is nothing but a mockery : almost equally
foolish is the savage anachronism of an old-time power
without fit expression. Spiritually, intellectually, there
is no undertaking but we must attempt it.
Great realms of the ideal open for our exploration.
New conceptions of life and duty and freedom ; new
ideas of citizenship ; untried expressions of love and
friendship into all these we must throw ourselves with
burning energy, and make them our own.
We must create a history of India in living terms.
THE TASK BEFORE US 147
Up to the present that history, as written in English,
practically begins with Warren Hastings, and crams
in certain unavoidable preliminaries, which cover a few
thousands of years, and, troublesome as they are, cannot
be altogether omitted ! All this is merely childish
and has to be brought to the block. The history of
India has yet to be written for the first time. It has
to be humanized, emotionalized, made the trumpet-
voice and evangel of the races that inhabit India.
And to do this, it must be re-connected with place.
Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, are the present view-
points. Surely the heroes that sleep on ancient battle-
fields, the forefathers that made for themselves the
wide-walled cities, the scholars ithat left behind them
precious thought and script, have laughed sometimes
when they have not wept to see from high heaven
the grotesque docility of their descendants ! The
history of India consists in truth of the strata of at
least three thousand years. Ocean-bed and river-
sands, forest and marsh, and ocean-floor again, lie
piled one upon the other and in each period some new
point is centre. Ayodhya, and Hastinapura, In-
draprastha and Pataliputra, Ujjain and Delhi, Conjeeve-
ram and Amaravati, what of the vanished worlds of
which all these were born ? There is no evangel without
worship. Throw yourselves, children of India, into the
worship of these and your whole past. Strive passion-
ately for knowledge. Yours are the spades and mattocks
of this excavation. For with you and not with the
foreigner are the thought and language that will make
it easy to unearth the old significance. India's whole
hope lies in a deeper research, a more rigid investiga-
148 RELIGION AND DHARMA
tion of facts. With her, encouragement, and not des-
pair, is on the side of truth !
Great literatures have to be created in each of the
vernaculars. These literatures must voice the past,
translate the present, forecast the future. The science
and the imagination of Europe have to be brought,
through the vernacular, to every door. India cannot
afford to imitate foreign institutions. Neither can she
afford to remain ignorant of foreign ideals. The his-
tory of the past has to be re-written in simple terms.
True hope for the time to come must fill all hearts,
like a nation's Common Prayer. On the creation of
such vernacular literatures depends the effective edu-
cation of women.
Art must be reborn. Not the miserable travesty of
would-be Europeanism that we at present know.
There is no voice like that of art to reach the people.
A song, a picture, may be the fiery cross l that reaches
all the tribes, and makes them one. And art will be
reborn, for she has found a new subject, India herself.
Ah, to be a thinker in bronze and give to the world
the beauty of the Southern flariak, as he swings, scarce
clad, along the Beach-Road at Madras ! Ah to be a
Millet, and paint the woman worshipping at dawn be-
side the sea ! Oh for a pencil that would interpret
the beauty of the Indian sari ; the gentle life of village
and temple ; the coming and going at the Ganges' side ;
the play of the children ; the faces, and the labours,
of the cows !
1 A rough cross of charred wood used to be passed from clan to clan
in the Scottish Highlands, as the call to war. We all know the folded
chapati of the Indian villages.
THE TASK BEFORE US 149
But far more, on behalf of India herself, do we need
artists, half poets and half draughtsmen, who can wake
in us the great new senses. We want men of the
Indian blood who can portray for us the men of old,
Bhishma and Yudhisthira, Akbar and Sher Shah,
Pratap Singh and Chand Bibi, in such fashion as to
stir the blood. We want through these to feel out, as
a people, towards the new duties of the time to be.
Not only to utter India to the world, but also to voice
India to herself, this is the mission of art, divine
mother of the ideal, when it descends to clothe itself
in forms of realism.
At each step, then, the conquest must be twofold.
On this side something to be added to the world's
knowledge, and on that an utterance to be given for
the first time for India to herself. This is the battle
that opens before the present generation. On our
fighting a good fight, the very existence, it may be, of
the next depends. Our national life is become per-
force a national assault. As yet the very outworks
of the besieged city are almost unstormed. Herewith
then let us sound the charge. Sons of the Indian past,
do ye fear to sleep at nightfall on your shields ? On,
on, in the name of a new spirituality, to command the
treasures of the modern world ! On, on, soldiers of
the Indian Motherland, seize ye the battlements and
penetrate to the citadel ! Place garrison and watch
within the hard-won towers, or fall, that others may
climb on your dead bodies to the height ye strove to
THE adoption of the active or aggressive attitude of
mind changes for us all our theories. We sight now
nothing but the goal. Means have become ends, ends
means. The power to count the cost and hesitate is
gone for ever. We seek great objects and create them,
scorning small hopes. The India about us has become
Maha BMrata, Heroic India. The future offers
wider chances of sacrifice than the past. We look to
make our descendants greater than our ancestors.
Words have changed their meanings. Karma is no
longer a destiny but an opportunity. Do I behold
injustice? Mine the right to prohibit oppression, and
I do it. Before the honest indignation of one fearless
man, the whole of Maya trembles and departs. Des-
tiny is passive before me. I triumph over it. Strength
is the power to take our own life, at its most perfect,
and break it if need be across the knee. This strength
is now ours, and with it we conquer the earth. No
one is so invincible as the man who has not dreamed
of defeat, because he has a world beyond victory to
Our desires have grown immeasurable. But they
are desires to give, not to receive. We would fain win,
that we may abandon to those behind us, and pass on.
For that which is dearer to us than self, we long
THE IDEAL 151
greatly to throw away our life, and this defeated sacri-
fice transforms all our work with energy. The whole
of life becomes the quest of death. Those that are
close to us become associated with ourselves in our
risks and defiances. We learn to realize that in this
fact lies their beatitude. Buddha did not sacrifice
Yasodhara when he left her. He conferred on her the
glory of renouncing with him.
Or is it Brahmacharya ? This is not only for the
monk. Nor is it wholly of the body. " Abstinence,"
says one, " without a great purpose, is nothing. It is
only the loss of another power." But even Brahma-
charya has to be made aggressive. Celibacy, here, is
only the passive side of a life that sees human beings
actively as minds and souls. Marriage itself ought to
be, in the first place, a friendship of the mind. Ex-
change of thought and communion of struggle is far
beyond the offering of comfort, and the one need not
exclude the other. The brahmacharya of the hero
makes marriage noble, for it seeks the good of another
as an end in itself. In true Brahmacharya is involved
the education of women, for a radiant purity comes to
its perfect fruition in thought and knowledge and as-
similation of experience, and there is a brahmacharya
of the wife as well as of the nun.
In the life of Tapasya is constant renewal of energy
and light. Every task becomes easy to the worshipper
of Sarasvati. He spurns ease. Daily and hourly
does the impersonal triumph in him over the personal.
His ideal aspires upward like a living flame. Each
circle reveals fresh heights to be gained. The wife
shares in the ideals of her husband. She protects them,
152 RELIGION AND DHARMA
as if they were her children, even against himself. She
urges him on towards them, when alone he might
have flagged. She measures their common glory by
the degree of this realization. Her womanhood is grave
and tender like some sacrament of the eternal. " Not
this, not this, " is the cry ever in the ears of both.
Counting happiness for self a little thing, each gives
it to the other in seeking to bestow it on the world
Sannyasin, again, is a word charged with new signifi-
cance. It is not his gerrua cloth, but his selflessness,
that makes a monk. There may be monks of science
and learning, monks of art and industry, monks of the
public life and service, and monks for the defence of
the defenceless. Great is the impulse of renunciation :
greater is the sustained self-sacrifice of a heroic life. In
the soul of the maha-purusha it is difficult, sometimes,
to tell whether soldier or sannyasin is predominant.
He combines the daring of the one with the freedom
of the other. Years leave no mark on the aggressive
life. It is as ready to cast itself down from the palm-
tree's height, in old age, as it was in youth. Or more.
For the spiritual will has grown stronger with time.
Nothing is measured by personal hope or fear. All is
tested by the supreme purpose, as making an end in
itself. Self ceases to be a possible motive. The hand
once put to the plough, it grows there, and the man
would not know how to turn back. The sannyasin
cannot be touched by misery. For him defeat is merely
a passing phase. Ultimate victory is inevitable. He
is light-hearted in failure, as in success.
Obedience to the guru becomes eager fulfilment of
THE IDEAL 153
an idea, and a seeking out of new ways in which to bring
about fulfilment. Every act of attainment is now un-
derstood to be a spiritual achievement, and there is no
rest without the handing on of each realization, as to
disciples. At the same time, the standard of disciple-
ship has grown inexorable. There is no passing of
the spurious coin as genuine. The aspirant must serve,
because without much service there is no germination
of truth. He must worship, because without loyalty
there is no manhood. But one stain of insincerity,
one blemish of self-interest, and the guru must recog-
nize though to do so be like going maimed for life,
that this is not that chela for whom all gurus seek.
Love and hatred are now immense powers. Love,
when no longer personal, when all strength, becomes
rousing, invigorating, life-giving. Hatred is the refusal
to compromise. It cuts off meanness and falsehood
root and branch. Love, now, finds unity of intention
behind everything that is sincere. Pride is too proud
to found itself on a lie. The man is silent until he
has first acted. Nor dare he boast himself of the
deeds of his ancestors or the achievements of his
fellows. A fierce humility mingles with all his am-
bition and tells him that praise from unworthy lips is
And finally the life's purpose has become a consuming
fire. The object is desired for its own sake. Like Shivi-
Rana, whose whole soul was set on sacrifice, the left
side weeps that to the right alone it is given to suffer.
Like Myer the German chemist, who had an eye and
an arm torn off in the discovery of nitrogen compounds,
the soul kneels in the midst of agony, to give thanks
154 RELIGION AND DHARMA
in an ecstasy that enough is still left to continue the
search for knowledge. The vibration of the word
Work when uttered by such workmen, carries the
thrill offndna to other hearts.
Strong as the thunder-bolt, austere as Brahmacharya,
great-hearted and selfless, such should be that sannya-
sin who has taken the service of others as his Sannyas,
and not less than this should be the son of a militant
THE papers contained in this volume were written for an
almost exclusively Indian audience. A brief glossary, how-
ever, is appended for the assistance of the European reader
who may be unfamiliar with the Sanskrit words in the text.
Sister Nivedita, in her occasional writing, adopted conveni-
ent spellings. Some of the words require, of course, a much
Literally, " One without a second." Absolute monism ;
one of the four principal schools of Vedanta philoso-
One who has attained through devotion or love.
Realization of the Divinity through love or devotion.
Pupilage in divine knowledge during celibacy.
The one Existence, the Absolute.
The orange-coloured garment of the ascetic.
The stage of worldly and family life being one of the
four stages into which a Hindu's life is traditionally
Teacher, spiritual preceptor.
Devotion towards the Guru.
Prayer, with the telling of beads.
Birth, life, incarnation.
Realization through knowledge.
One who has attained through knowledge.
Work ; also the results of work. The law of cause and
effect in the moral world.
Realization by a life of action or work.
The Great Soul.
RELIGION AND DHARMA
Maya. The conception of the universe in its phenomenal (illu-
sory) aspect, or as relative existence.
Mukti. Deliverence ; complete realization.
Nirvikalpa Super-consciousness, in which the consciousness of
Samcldhi. knowledge, subject, and object disappears.
Para. Quarter (of a city).
Pranam. Bowing, salutation.
Punya. Religious merit.
Rishi. Sage ; master of divine wisdom.
Sachchid- The three attributes of the Absolute : Sa* (Being), Chit
dnanda. (Knowledge), Anand (Bliss).
Sadhan&. Originally, the propitiation of the elemental powers for
achieving a desired object or result ; spiritual en-
deavour towards attainment ; the life of realization.
Sadhu. Saint, religious mendicant.
Samadhi. Super-consciousness, trance.
Dharma. Eternal religion.
Sannyas. Renunciation of worldly life.
Sannyasin. One who has renounced worldly life ; a religious ascetic.
Sari. The garment of the Indian woman.
Sloka. A Sanskrit verse, a couplet.
Swadharma. One's own duty varying with the different capacities
in which a man stands in relation to God, the world,
country, state, family, etc.
Tamas. Darkness, inertia.
Tamasic. Relating to Tamas.
Tapasya. Life regulated on the practice of Tapas.
Tapas. Fasting and other ways of controlling the body.
Thakur-ghar. The household oratory; usually a small structure of
wood or metal, in which the images are kept and the
worship is performed.
Tirtha. Pilgrimage, also a place of pilgrimage.
Ty^gi. One who has renounced the world.
Vedanta. The system of transcendental philosophy so named
because founded upon the latter part of the Vedas :
conceived as embodying the ultimate aim of the
Vedas. " The oldest name of the oldest philosophy
in India " (Max Miiller).
Yoga. Literally, joining ; the union of the lower self with the
Yogi. One who practises yoga.
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