A WAY TO ETHICAL AND NOBLE LIVING
FRONT COVER OF THE JOURNAL THE ARYAN PATH
(JANUARY 1944 ISSUE)
The Journal THE ARYAN PATH was started by Bahman Pestonji Wadia or better known as BP Wadia (1881-1958) in 1930. He was first a member of the Theosophical Society (TS) Adyar, and later of the United Lodge of Theosophists. In 1903 he joined the TS in Mumbai and moved to Adyar in Madras in 1908. He worked for the journal THE THEOSOPHIST. He became President of the Madras Textile Workers' Union and fought for worker's rights in Madras Presidency. His wife Sophia Wadia (1911-1986) whom he married in 1928 was the Editor of THE ARYAN PATH.
The Aryan Path was an Anglo-Indian theosophical journal published in Bombay, India from 1930. Its purpose was to form "a nucleus of universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color; to study ancient and modern religions, philosophies, and sciences, and to demonstrate the importance of such study".
The journal contained a variety of articles on Hindu and Buddhist spiritual traditions, as well as essays on English literature, Ruskinian socialism, aesthetics and science.
Recently I came across the January 1944 Issue of The Aryan Path. In this Issue I read a brilliant article on Hinduism by Dr. Radhakumud Mookerji. Dr. Radhakumud Mookerji has rendered yeoman service to Hindu religious culture. His numerous books have shown the depth of spiritual thought and the splendour of material life of ancient Aryavarta. In this article he gives the reader a glimpse of a way of life which even today is not only possible but desirable not only for India but for the whole hatred-torn and violence ridden world today.
The wisdom of inspired Seers is recorded in Samhitas, Sutras, Smritis and other fragments. The Corpus of all these is Sanatana Dharma, Eternal order or DHARMA. Right from the dawn of history through millennia, Hindu Society was moulded by it. Though necessarily Bharathiya (I detest the use of the Occidental/Anglican term ‘Indian’) in garb, its principles have a timeless relevance to any society, anywhere, anytime.
It is indeed striking and inspiring to note that the first ever serious attempt at drawing from the vast, nebulous, scattered sources the principles of SANATANA DHARMA and codifying them was left to ANNE BESANT (1847-1933) , foreign by birth, more truly Indian than any Bharathiya could be.
Anne Besant founded the Central Hindu College in Varanasi in 1898. The need was felt for proper textbooks to impart systematic instruction in those principles of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) common to all its many sects. A Committee of Learned Scholars supplied the Sanskrit Texts, English Translations and other material. Dr.Anne Besant drafted the running text in English. A graduated series was prepared and published in 1902, namely, (1) An Advanced Textbook of Sanatana Dharma for College Students, (2) An Elementary Textbook of Sanatana Dharma, for Middle Level Classes, and (3) Sanatana Dharma Catechism for small children. By 1906, in less than 4 years of its first publication, more than 1,30,000 copies of the above 3 textbooks had been sold out.
In May 2000, The Theosophical Publishing House in Adyar, Chennai republished a revised edition of the book An Advanced Textbook of Hindu religion and Ethics compiled by Dr.Anne Besant and Bhagawan Das and titled “SANATANA DHARMA” and published in 1914-15. I am presenting below the front cover of this book published in May 2000.
In their brilliant and eloquent introduction to the above book, Anne Besant and Bhagawan Das offered their salutations to the glory and grandeur of SANATANA DHARMA in the following words: “The Religion based on the Vedas, Sanatana Dharma or Vaidika Dharma, is the oldest of living religions, and stands unrivalled in the depth and splendour of its philosophy, while it yields to none in the purity of its ethical teachings and in the flexibility and varied adaptations of its rites and ceremonies. It is like a river, which has shallows that a child may play in, and depths which the strongest diver cannot fathom. It is thus adapted to every human need, and there is nothing which any religion can add to its rounded perfection. The more it is studied, the more does it illuminate the intellect and satisfy the heart. THE YOUTH WHO LEARNS SOMETHING OF IT IS LAYING UP FOR HIMSELF A SURE INFLUX OF HAPPINESS, A SURE CONSOLATION IN TROUBLE, FOR THE REST OF HIS OR HER LIFE. ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE THINGS IN THE SANATANA RELIGION IS THE WAY IT HAS LAID DOWN A COMPLEX SCIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE, AND HAS THEN CROWNED IT WITH A PHILOSOPHY COMPOSED OF SIX(6) FACES, BUT GOVERNED BY ONE IDEA AND LEADING TO ONE GOAL. NO SUCH COMPREHENSIVE AND OEDERLY VIEW OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE IS ELSEWHERE TO BE FOUND”.
The same view was expressed in a comprehensive way by Dr.Radhakumud Mukherji in his article on HINDUISM in the January 1944 issue of THE ARYAN PATH. I am presenting below the full text of Dr.Mukherji’s article for the benefit of my readers:
DR.RADHAKUMUD MUKHERJI’S ARTICLE ON HINDUISM (Source: January 1944 issue of The Aryan Path)
Hinduism is a particular religion in the sense that it originated in a particular country, "the Land of the Sindhu," which the Achaemenian Emperor, Darius II, in his Bahistun inscription, spelt and pronounced as Hi(n)du, whence India became known as the land of the Hindus, or Hindusthan. But the religion of the Hindus is not to be understood as the religion of a particular people. It is a body of doctrines and practices which apply and should be acceptable to all human beings. It is a universal religion, establishing on a scientific basis the principles and practices which should govern man's struggle for salvation and emancipation. It is a system of Release from the ills to which the flesh is heir.
Hinduism starts with the assumption that life on this "petty spot in the universe which men call earth” is subject to suffering, to certain fundamental ills and limitations which seem to make life, as it is not worth living. The sight of suffering has turned many thoughtful man away from life, and made him lose interest in it. A sensitive soul like Gautama, for instance, who was born a prince and surrounded by all the pleasures of the palace, was rudely awakened to the realities of life, which made him realise how every human being is "subject to birth, to growth and decay, to disease, to death, to sorrow and to stain," and filled him with misgivings regarding the very purpose of life. And then his pent-up feeling expressed itself in the following words of resolve: "What then am I doing? Myself subject to birth, growth and decay, sickness, death , pain, impurity, and seeking also what is subject to these—how if I seek the birthless, the ageless, the diseaseless, the deathless, the stainless ?" Buddhist thought has admirably summed up the meaning and the mission of life in the Four Noble Truths (Arya-Satyas) concerning (1) Duhkkha (suffering) (2) Duhkha Samudaya (origin of suffering); (3) Duhkha nirodha (the cessation of suffering) and (4) Duhkha-nirodha-gamim-pratipad (the path to the end of suffering).
Hinduism thus believes that the central fact of life is the Fact of Death, that life is a biological process of inevitable growth, decay, decline and death. The question is --On what principles should life be lived so as to reconcile it with its inevitable destiny of Death? How should the Fact of Death affect the scheme of Life? Should Man accept death as his doom? Or should Man the mortal consider the attainment of Immortality as his Supreme Mission? Does not Siva call himself Mrityunjaya, the conqueror of death? This appropriate designation gives the pointer to the mission of man. It is his achievement of amrittatva or Immortality.
Hinduism has no concern with those who do not take this view of the limitations of life or feel the need of emancipation from its inevitable suffering.
Thus the problem of attaining the Immortal in mortal existence becomes the all-absorbing problem. If life is to be dedicated to the pursuit of what is true, what is lasting, and not of what is untrue and for the moment, one has to live for the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth, and to give up the pursuit of phantoms, falsehoods, fallacies, half-truths, subsidiary truths and intermediate truths. Religious life must be a total pursuit of the Real and renunciation of the Unreal.
One must grasp the principle of death, as well as the principle of life or immortality. It is the personal that dies. The Whole does not die. Man must join himself to the Whole to escape from the clutches and the jaws of Death. This "joining" is called "yoga" by which the individual soul is merged in the universal soul. By Yoga, the Jivatma is united to the Paramatma, the primary source from which it has sprung. The individual is a spark from the Flame of the Divine. Death lies in Viyoga, in disjunction of the Individual from the Universal. Their conjunction conquers Death. Such a process of conjunction or Yoga depends upon the disjunction (Viyoga) of desires from their objects, of the Mind from Matter.
Thus the central practice of religion must mean the practice of detachment of the mind from the world of objects. The supreme duty of the individual is to be less and less an individual and to become more and more universal in his outlook and his sympathies. Religion thus reduces itself to a process of self-expansion on the basis of a progressive broadening and purification of the heart. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." The purification of the heart depends upon the cultivation of certain attitudes and virtues. Patanjali's Yoga-Sutras indicate some of these. One must cultivate and be full of Maitri, which means that one must have a sincere desire for the happiness of others as if it were his own, and also must be able to enjoy the happiness of others as if it were his own. Sarve sukhinah bhavantu: "May all be happy" should be our prayer.
This feeling of universal fellowship shuts out the taint of that common human foible known as Irsha or Para-sri Katarata (Envy). Maitri is an antidote to that sin. Similarly, one must be full of Karuna, a natural sympathy for the suffering. Karuna or compassion means that one must feel for another's suffering as for his own, and must exert himself to remove it, as he does to relieve his own suffering.
Besides these positive virtues by which chittasuddhi or purification of heart may be achieved, there are also prescribed certain negative virtues or abstentions. The first is Ahimsa, "abstinence from malice or violence towards all living creatures in every way (sarvatha) and at all times (sarvada)." The Yogi-Yajna-valkyam defines Ahimsa (non-violence) as abstinence from causing pain (Klesa-Jananam) by body, mind or speech. The next Yama or abstention is Satya, "truth of speech and thought corresponding to what is seen, inferred or heard." Truth of speech means that the hearer is not deceived by it and does not mistake its meaning and its implications, and that it is not purposeless. Truthfulness is also to be limited by a higher consideration for the good of all beings and should not cause injury (sarvabhutopakarartham na Bhutopaghataya). Therefore one should speak the truth which is consistent with the universal good (Tasmat Parikshya Sarvabhutahitam).
All this purification of the heart or expansion of the self depend ultimately upon the discipline of the mind. The central point of the Hindu system is the training of the mind as an instrument of self-fullfilment and the increase of its potency. All human beings must agree there is no other way to improve the mind and to magnify its powers than to follow the very first injunction laid down in the Yoga Sutras viz., Chitta-vritti-nirodha. The mind is recognised in the Yoga System as remaining in the five states called Chitta-bhumi. In the first state, Kshipta, the mind is restless, distracted, wandering (Bhramati) from one object to another. In the second state, Mudha, the mind is more steady but is absorbed in Vishaya, or pleasures, and is also prone to passions like anger.
In the third state, Vikshipta there are lucid interventions of concentration, a state in which the mind generally cultivates the pleasant and avoids what is unpleasant. Next, in the Ekagra state the mind is able to concentrate on the thought of one object. The highest state of the mind is Niruddha, marked by “concentration and inhibition of conflicting functions so that the mind is left with the sub-stratum of its innate dispositions as its only content” (Niruddha-sakala-vrittikam-Sanskara-avasesham).
The aim of Yoga is thus to lead the mind away from the first three conditions, which are not congenial to concentration, and to fix it on he last two states which constitute the Yoga-bhumi, the mental plane favourable to the practice of Yoga or concentration.
There can be no doubt that the only way by which man can achieve self-expansion is by the instrumentality possessed of infinite potentialities, and that the only way by which the innate potency of the mind can be indefinitely magnified by the mental process called Chitta-vritti-nirodha or the detachment of the mind from matter. The first step of religion is thus to stop the functioning of the mind as the avenue or vehicle of objective knowledge, the inhibition of individuation. Individuation is the process by which the mind is linked through the senses with external objects, and begins to enjoy and to run after them, becoming absorbed more and more in the pursuit of pleasures which are fleeting. It is the pursuit of what is not real. The Real is what is changeless, everlasting. To cultivate individual objects is to cultivate the perishable, to tread the path towards death. Thus the principle of individuation is the principle of death.
The progress towards the deathless, the whole, the absolute, is to be achieved by the contrary process, by which individuation must cease and the Individual must approximate more and more to the Universal. Therefore the mind must be radically transformed. It must be purged of all impurities which it has gathered by its contact with matter. These impurities are the impressions or Sanskaras which are left imprinted on the mind by its perception and enjoyment of individual facts and objects. When the mind gets out of the fetters of individual experiences and their reactions, and rests in itself free and self-contained, there dawns upon it automatically the knowledge of things in the mass, the knowledge of the whole, Omniscience. Thus the religious process is the process of Chitta-vritti-nirodha.
Individualism may be described as going along the Pravritti-marga, a process of "Outgoing" as contrasted with the process of nivritti or "Ingoing." The outgoing tendency is part of the creative process of which the universe is the outcome. The Rigveda tells of the cosmic principle of creation and the scheme of the universe. The cosmic law of universal being fixes the law of every being in the universe. The universe is the outcome of the impulse by which the One was stirred to manifest Himself in the Many. Sa Akamayata bahusyam Prajayeya (He is the One desired that He should grow into the many). The One desired (Asisha) that He should have the enjoyment of creation (dravianum Ichchhamanah) but there could not be any creation unless He inhibited this primary self ( Prathama Chehhat). Then alone could He externalise Himself in objects into which He had also to penetrate (avaran avivesa). The Supreme Being, bent upon creation, was at pains to find the material out of which the world could be constructed and the foundation upon which it could rest. He had to find both in Himself, for nothing is besides Brahma. The Creator as Virat Purusha had to offer up His Virat-deha as sacrifice for His projected creation. Nay, more; He has also to sustain His creation by constantly breathing life into every particle of this Universe thus created. The Creator cannot go to sleep over His creation even for a moment. If He does so and retires into the subjectivity of His primary self as Hiranya Garbha, it will mean the dissolution of the creation into the original source out of which it arose. Therefore, God cannot have any respite from His labours for His creation. He is Gudakesa, the Conqueror of sleep. He is organically connected with his creation, as the mother with her child in embryo. One vitalises the other. Thus Hindu thought arrives at the fundamental position that God is in every creature by His outgoing process of objectivity, of which the creation is the outcome, and that, further, every creature has as its ultimate destiny relapse into Him in the irresistible ingoing process.
The Supreme Being offers up his creation as a sacrifice to Himself. Creation includes a process of evolution and its dissolution by a process of involution into the source from which it originated.
Every human being is the creator of his little system to which he must be related as God is to His creation. Dharma is the relationship which binds the Creator to His system, which holds and sustains the system. The Virat-Purusha is the exemplar of Dharma. The law by which God creates and sustains His Creation, must be the law for every individual creature. Man is made after God’s image. The part takes after the whole. God creates and sustains the Universe by His infinite self-sacrifice. Man also must sustain his own system by his own self-sacrifice. He is not capable of the complete, self-immolation of which the Almighty is capable, but he should undergo the self-sacrifice of which he, a finite being, is capable. The religious texts prescribe a programme of daily sacrifices for each individual by which his self is expanded and heart purified and widened. These Pancha-Mahayajnas are modelled upon the primordial Purusha-Yajna, the cosmic self-sacrifice of the Virat Purusha. Thus religion is another name for self-sacrifice by which the narrow self of the individual is more and more merged in the universal.
The first sacrifice is the offer of worship to the Devas (Deva Yajna), the Gods or the Ishtadevata, to whom the individual owes his first loyalty. The second sacrifice is that offered to the pitris, the ancestors, to whom the individual owes so much. One must be proud of his pedigree and pay all honour to it. The third sacrifice is the worship of the Rishis, the fathers of learning and culture to whom mankind owes its intellectual and spiritual heritage. By the fourth sacrifice man is trained to a catholic and cosmopolitan outlook by the worship he has daily to offer to humanity as a whole, symbolised in the guest to whom he is not at all related (Nirayajna). Athithi devo Bhava is the injunction of the Upanishads. The guest is to be worshipped as a God. Lastly, there is the widest possible expansion of the heart achieved by the daily worship of all created beings (Bhuta-Yajna) so that the individual may feel his kinship with the entire creation and be able to live in the One, the Brahman.
Thus Hinduism in its essence and fundamentals is not a body of doctrine and practices to be followed by a particular community. It lays down the principles of self-culture, the way of life for all seekers after salvation (Mumukshu). It views religion as a code of conduct by which its principles are to be realised and applied to life. Supreme Knowledge, the Knowledge of the Atman or the Brahma as the sole Reality, is the fruit of Karma, a life of discipline and Brahamacharya.
Religion is a process of self-expansion or self-fulfilment. It means the progressive approach of the Individual towards the Universal by his steady cultivation of the cosmopolitan outlook and of the widest sympathies as indicated in the virtues of Maitri, Karuna, Ahimsa and Satya, which must be assimilated as part of his nature. This widening or purification of the heart can only be achieved by the co-operation of both head and heart. The mind must aid in the purification of the heart. It must cease to think in terms of individual objects to which it must not be attached by the senses. The contact of mind with matter contaminates and materialises the mind and tends to destroy its inner essence. A MATERIALISED MIND MANIFESTS ITSELF IN MATERIALISM. THE ONLY ESCAPE FROM THIS DEBASEMENT IS TO FREE THE MIND FROM THE CLUTCHES OF MATTER BY TRAINING IT TO DETACHMENT FROM OBJECTS, AS EXPLAINED ABOVE. SUCH DETACHMENT CAN BE ACHIEVED ONLY BY THE PRACTICE OF YOGA AND ITS VARIOUS REGULATIONS, PHYSICAL, MORAL AND MENTAL.” (Radhakumud Mookerji)
My explanatory comments on Dr.Radhakumud Mukherji’s article
From the dawn of her history, our beloved Bharat Varsha has adored and idealized, not soldiers and statesman, not men of science and leaders of industry, not even poets and philosophers who leave a lasting impress on the world by their deeds or by their words, but those rarer and more chastened spirits whose greatness lies in what they are and not in what they do; men who have stamped INFINITY on the thought and life of the country, men who have added to the invisible forces of goodness in the world. I am referring to the unbroken chain of great Saints, Sages and Seers produced byIndia from time to time, age to age, from times immemorial. To the modern world of Globalization and Information Technology Revolution, given over to the mercenary pursuit of power and pleasure, wealth and glory, THEY DECLARE THE REALITY OF THE UNSEEN WORLD AT THE CALL OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE. Their self-possession and self-command, their strange deep wisdom, their exquisite courtesy, their humility and gentleness of soul, their abounding humanity, proclaim that the Destiny of Man IS TO KNOW HIMSELF AND THEREBY FURTHER THE UNIVERSAL LIFE OF WHICH HE IS AN INTEGRATED ELEMENT. THIS IDEAL HAS DOMINATED THE RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPE OF BHARAT VARSHA FOR MORE THAN 70 CENTURIES.
The Hindu attitude to religion is interesting. While fixed intellectual beliefs mark off one religion from another like Christianity or Islam or Judaism, HINDUISM sets itself no such limits. In HINDUISM intellect is subordinate to intuition, dogma to experience, and outer expression to inward realization. I cannot express this better than in the inimitable and timeless words of Dr.S.Radhakrishnan: “Religion is not the acceptance of academic abstractions or the celebration of ceremonies, but a kind of life or experience. It is insight into the nature of reality (anubhava). This experience is not an emotional thrill or a subjective fancy, but is the response of the whole personality, the INTEGRATED SELF TO THE CENTRAL REALITY. Religion is a specific attitude of the self, itself and no other, though it is mixed up generally with intellectual views, aesthetic forms and moral valuations.” In Hinduism the man of action finds his GOD in FIRE, the man of FEELING in the HEART and the SIMPLE-MINDED in the IDOL, but the STRONG in SPIRIT find GOD EVERYWHERE. THE SEERS SEE THE SUPREME IN THE SELF AND NOT IN IMAGES.
What is religion? It is very difficult to define it clearly, convincingly and comprehensively. There is behind the world pf material phenomena, a MYSTERY, which calls for awe and reverence, as distinct from inquiry. MAN’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS THIS MYSTERY IS CALLED RELIGION.
Even as I am writing these lines, I am reminded of a great essay titled “A FREE MAN’S WORSHIP” by Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). I would like to conclude this presentation by quoting the words from that essay: “In the spectacle of Death, in the endurance of intolerable pain, and in the irrevocableness of a vanished past, there is a sacredness, an overpowering awe, a feeling of the vastness, the depth, the inexhaustible mystery of existence, in which, as by some strange marriage of pain, the sufferer is bound to the world by bonds of sorrow. In these moments of insight, we lose all eagerness of temporary desire, all struggling and striving for petty ends, all care for the little trivial things that, to a superficial view, make up the common life of day-by-day; we see, surrounding the narrow raft illumined by the flickering light of human comradeship, the dark ocean on whose rolling waves we toss for a brief hour; from the great night without, a chill blast breaks in upon our refuge; all the loneliness of humanity amid hostile forces is concentrated upon the individual soul, which must struggle alone, with what of courage it can command, against the whole weight of a Universe that cares nothing for its hopes and fears. Victory, in this struggle with the powers of darkness, is the true baptism into the glorious company of heroes, the true initiation into the overmastering beauty of human existence……To take into the inmost shrine of the soul the irresistible forces whose puppets we seem to be---Death and Change, the irrevocableness of the Past, and the powerlessness of Man before the blind hurry of the Universe from vanity to vanity---to feel these things and know them is to conquer them…..the Life of Man, viewed outwardly, is but a small thing in comparison with the forces of Nature. The Slave is doomed to worship Time and Faith and Death, because they are greater than anything he finds in himself, and because all his thoughts are of things which they devour. But, great as they are, to think of them greatly, to feel their passionless splendour, is greater still. And such thought makes us FREE MEN; we no longer bow before the inevitable in Oriental Subjection, but we absorb it, and make it a part of ourselves. To abandon the struggle for private happiness, to expel all eagerness of temporary desire, to burn with passion for eternal things---this is Emancipation, and this is THE FREE MAN’S WORSHIP”.
All the great Hindu Saints and Sages of Ancient India, and all the Rishis who came after them from the days of Adi-Shankara to the days of Ramana Maharishi and Sri Aurobindo in the 20th century were all absolutely FREE MEN in the sense in which Bertrand Russell wrote about THE FREE MAN’S WORSHIP.