Ethical Tendencies In Modern Hindu Thought
( Originally Published 1922 )
THE ethical thought which we have been considering throughout the course of this study has been conducted, in the greatest part of it at least, in view of a social order of a fixed and stable character. It is chiefly on this account that the more fundamental problems of ethics obtruded themselves with but little insistence on the minds of thinkers. There is no need to probe into the foundations of an order which is believed to be divine. But in modern times thoughtful men have been compelled to face problems that lie very near the foundations of the moral and social life. They have been driven to this by the compelling force of circumstances.
Western thought and practice have inevitably exercised a profound influence on the thought and practice of the people of India. It is possible to exaggerate in writing on such a subject, but it is no exaggeration to say that contact with the West, particularly in the forms which this contact has taken during the past century, has had the effect of giving a new direction to the interests and aspirations of large numbers who belong to the educated classes in India. The Hindus throughout their long history have been brought into contact with more than one alien civilization, and this contact has not been without its results. But the results have not usually taken the form of a profound modification of social or moral ideals. Hinduism has always been more than Catholic, and it has shown a wonderful capacity for assimilating ideas and practices of diverse and seemingly incompatible kinds. It has been likened to an old rambling building to the original fabric of which additions have constantly been made, and to which further additions may be made indefinitely. But amid all changes the main structure has stood, and none of the influences brought to bear on it in ancient times was powerful to shake its foundations. At one time it seemed that Buddhism would do so, but that influence led to no fundamental reconstruction. Even Mahommedanism, which has been so long and so firmly established in India, has exercised comparatively little influence on Hinduism itself. It has drawn converts in large numbers from Hinduism, but it has not led to any pro-found modification of the fabric of Hindu thought and practice.
It may be said that it is too early to speak with any confidence of the effects of modern European influence. India has bowed low before many another blast, and it may reasonably be held that the Western influences which have touched it during the past century have done so only superficially. Such a contention cannot be dogmatically rejected, but on the other hand it may be pointed out that in modern times the whole world has become so unified that it seems likely to be difficult for any people to withdraw itself from the operation of influences which are at work in the wider world. We are therefore justified in assuming that the modifications which have taken place in the outlook of so many Hindus in modern times are not the expression of merely passing modes of thought, but that they are the effect of the operation of influences which are bound to continue to operate, whatever changes may take place in the political relation of India to the nations of the West. For India can never withdraw herself from the cultural influences which are at work throughout the world.
The influence of the West has been making itself felt in various ways. There is first of all that influence which has come from the side of religion. The religion which the Westerner has brought with him is a universal religion, while that of the Hindu is national. Mahommedanism also is a universal religion, and its impact on Hinduism has been no less strong than that of Christianity, or, to put it more accurately it has been no less potent as an influence in detaching Hindus from their allegiance to their ancient faith. Indeed in this respect it has been incomparably more powerful. But Christianity has influenced the minds of many who have not been brought within its fold in a way that Mahommedanism has never done. There have been certain great religious figures, the most notable of whom was Kabir, in whom we see the blending of elements taken from the Hindu and Mahommedan religions, but the meeting of the adherents of the two religions has not usually led to such results. The fact is that Mahommedanism came to India as an alien force, inseparably associated with the hostile peoples who professed it. It might be said that the circumstances under which Christianity was brought to India were not: essentially different. As a matter of fact there were few points of similarity, except that both were the religions professed by conquering peoples. And there are elements in the Christian message which have made an appeal to the intelligences and consciences of the people of India which Mahommedanism could not make. In particular much of the ethical teaching of the Gospels has found warm appreciation. And it has been possible for Hindus to appeal from the practice of professing Christians to their principles, as it has not been possible to do with Mahommedans, at any rate so effectively. We have found reason to believe that there is a profound difference between the standpoints of the Christian and the Hindu ethic ; yet many Hindus have found much in Christian teaching by which they have sought to enrich and reinforce their own ethic.
Another powerful set of influences has come along the lines .of science, literature, and what, for want of a better term, we may call culture. The social institutions of the West, its active philanthropy and the organizations which have been set up for giving effect to it, have deeply impressed the minds of many of the most earnest and intelligent Hindus. Arid, in spite of much that is unworthy in the ideals of life presented in European literature, they have found revealed in it ways of Life in many ways freer and more satisfying than orthodox Hinduism has provided. Take all this in conjunction with the discoveries and inventions which we owe to modern science, the fruits of which have been made available to the people of India, and some idea may be formed of the extent of the revolution which is being wrought through the contact of the East with the West. Even holy men have appreciated inventions which have made it possible for them to travel in the course of a few days from one end of India to the other, and temple courts have rejoiced in the clear light furnished by electricity. Caste and caste, race and race have been thrown together to an extent that in ancient times would have been impossible. Ancient Hindu explanations of the phenomena of nature have had to give way before the explanations of modern science, and the scientific study of history, economics, and politics has wrought great changes on the outlook of the educated classes, while the new science of sociology has served to shed new light on their ancient social institutions.
These are but a few of the ways in which the life and thought of the West have been leaving their mark on India. There are some who stigmatize these influences as materialistic, to whom even the work of social amelioration seems to be wrongly directed. Again there are many whose devotion to the forms of Hinduism has remained unimpaired but who have forsaken its spirit; who have gladly taken from the West what it has to offer in the way of means to the attainment of material prosperity but have rejected its higher ideals. But there are others, as has already been indicated, who have been impressed by the characteristic ethic of the West, especially as they have seen it expressed in the lives of devoted men and women. The treasures of Western thought and invention may attract men for no higher reason than that they furnish the means for the acquisition of many things good for the body. But the appreciation which certain forms of conduct and certain virtues more characteristic of the West than of the East have found in India is an appreciation of something that is believed to be good simply because it is good. To such the influence of the West has not been materializing but spiritualizing, opening the way to a higher spirituality than Hinduism could provide, furnishing the spiritual life with a richer content ; for they have come to see that the service of God finds at least part of its expression in the service of man, and that the resources of modern discovery and invention may be used in this service.
It will not be difficult for those who have studied the various phases of Hindu ethical thought set forth in the foregoing chapters to realize the extent of the revolution which this implies—that among a people dominated by ideals which hardly leave any room for belief in the possibility of turning the present world to account, there should come to be appreciated and practised forms of activity, the object of which is the betterment of conditions in this world ; that among people who have thought of the highest life as that of the ascetic who has disowned all social ties there should be developed respect and admiration for those who, claiming all men as their brothers, give themselves in self-sacrificing service to the lowest and most degraded.
So far, however, we have been dealing only in a general way with the manifestations of the new spirit in India—with the way in which it is manifesting itself practically. Another question has more importance from the point of view of the present study : What are thoughtful men saying and writing regarding the theory of morality ? It may be said at the out-set that modern India has not so far produced any great philosophical thinker who has sought to re-interpret the great problems of being, knowing, and doing in the light of the new conditions. It is perhaps too early for such an attempt to be made. There are. however, many who are deeply versed in the philosophy of the West, and who are prepared to discuss the problems of philosophy and ethics with Western thinkers on equal terms. But even among these there are not many who have made any thorough effort to relate Hindu and Western thought. It is easier for the average Hindu than for most to conduct his thinking on any given range of questions within a closed compartment. And so we often find men who in their practice have not broken with Hinduism, but who in their ethical thinking follow lines laid down by philosophers of the West. We cannot, of course, lay this as a charge against all the most scholarly minds of India, or even against a large proportion of them. There are many who have sought to make consistent their thinking about the deepest problems of experience, and who have the courage to conform their practice to their theory. There are some who, without breaking completely with their Hindu social organization, have been prepared fearlessly to follow the truth wherever it might lead them, and who have refused to be deflected from their course by the threatenings of orthodoxy. There are others who have broken with Hindu society and have found a home in the society of the Christian Church or of one of the reformed religious bodies which in the past century have sprung up in India. But still there are many among the rank and file of the educated classes who are prepared to expound and defend theories of morals which are at variance with the principles on which they act. And thoughtful Hindus confess to us at times that they feel that the Hindu and the Western thinker look at these problems from points of view that are poles apart, that they can place themselves at one or the other at will, but that they are unable to find any higher standpoint from which they can survey the situation of which they have had views in many ways so inconsistent. This is a fact, however, the main interest of which is psychological. It represents a passing phase, for people will not continue indefinitely to work with inconsistent conceptions.
Before we pass on to consider some of the ways in which Hindus have been trying to formulate a clearer and more consistent philosophy of life, it may be of interest to mention briefly a phase of thought to which expression is frequently given by popular writers and speakers. It is frequently stated that the main lines of Hindu social and ethical practice are sound, but that it is necessary at the same time for the people of India to emulate the progressiveness of the West. This is sometimes put in extreme forms. For example, we have heard addresses in which the Vedanta of Sankaracharya was extolled as the greatest and truest of all philosophies, the spirit of militarism commended, and the duty of social service, particularly in the work of raising the depressed classes, inculcated. It would be unfair to take as illustrations of serious tendencies of Hindu thought statements at which all clear-thinking Hindus would scoff. They are mentioned here only because we believe we can see in them evidence of a strong tendency among the educated classes to maintain the ancient thought and customs of Hinduism inviolate, but to add to them something, they know not what, which shall help to bring India into line with the more progressive nations of the West.
Efforts of a more systematic kind have been made by individuals and societies to bring Hindu thought into line with the ideals that have inspired the best life of the modern world. The impulse has usually come from the side of religion, and the most common form which it has taken has been the endeavour to re-interpret ancient Hindu thought as expressed in the Scriptures.
One of the most notable movements in modern times has been that represented by the Brahma Samaj, which originated in Bengal but which has branches in many parts of India, and by the Prarthana Samaj, which stands for similar principles in Bombay. The Brăhma Samaj was in its inception an eclectic movement, and its original founder, Raja Rammohan Roy (1772-1833), acknowledged his deep indebtedness to the Christian Scriptures. He declared that he found the doctrine of Christ more conducive to moral principles, and better adapted for the use of rational beings, than any other which had come to his knowledge. And it is significant of his breach with traditional Hinduism that he departed entirely from the doctrines of karma and transmigration. But from the time of Debendranath Tagore (1817–1905) there have been some who have followed an ethical theism which lays claim to a purely Hindu origin. It has been maintained that the speculative basis of Hinduism has been much misunderstood ; that its pantheistic character and non-moral implications have been greatly exaggerated; that it does not support the anti-social and predominantly passive ideals which it has been so generally supposed to justify. It is not maintained that it furnishes no ground for the ideals that have found so wide acceptance in India, but what is urged is that there are other elements in it that have been too little regarded. Debendranath and his associates before the middle of last century discovered a new rule of life, based on the ancient writings, which they declined however to accept as infallible guides, placing Reason and Conscience in the position of supreme authority. Debendranath set forth his religious and ethical teaching in a work entitled the Brahma Dharma Grantha, a manual intended for the members of the Brahma Samaj. The first part of the book is devotional, and it is a compilation from the Upanishads. The second part contains his moral teaching, and it is compiled from Manu, Yajnavalkya, the Mahabharata, and other Hindu Scriptures. He rejected the monistic interpretation of the Upanishads given by Sankaracharya, and offered a theistic interpretation, which he held to express the true spirit of ancient Hinduism. So, in the Brahma Dharma Grantha he teaches that the One Supreme is ` the God of truth, infinite wisdom, goodness and power, Eternal and All-pervading, the One without a second . In this we are a long way from the neti, neti, of the Upanishads. It is in His worship that salvation lies, and this worship consists in ` loving Him and doing that which He loveth. In his writings and sermons Debendranath laid great emphasis on moral duties, and there are passages which might almost have come from the practical part of one of the Pauline epistles. Take, for example, two paragraphs from his ` Farewell Offering :
Let only that be done which promoteth well-being. Do no evil to an evil-doer. If any should work unrighteousness, it should not be requited by unrighteousness. Always be righteous. Evil should be overcome by good, and unrighteousness by righteousness.
Contend with no one. Restrain anger ; and, imbued with love and charity, behave justly to all. Let love be your rule of conduct with regard to others.
It has to be remembered that Debendranaths interest in the great questions of religion and life was the outcome of an impulse not primarily speculative but practical. He did not profess himself a philosopher, and he did not address himself to philosophic minds. But, believing profoundly that the heart of the ancient Hindu religion was sound, he desired that his fellow-countrymen should share in what was best in its life. It would therefore be unfair to criticize his teaching as if it formed a philosophical system. It is sufficient if we here emphasize the fact, which has had so important practical implications, that Debendranath believed that he had been able to find in the Hindu sacred writings the principles of an ethical theism, so that he could teach that God is holy, that the universe is morally constituted, and that His worship finds part of its expression in ethical activity within society.
The traditions of the Adi Brahma Samăj, Debendranaths branch of the Samaj, have been maintained by Dr. Rabindranath Tagore, who shares his fathers deep devotion to the Hindu sacred writings. His mind from childhood has been steeped in what is best in the ancient thought of India, and at the same time he is versed in the literature of the West, and fully appreciates the culture which it represents. He does not profess himself an adherent of any of the philosophical schools, but the influence of Vedantist thought is more marked in him than in his father. But he shares his fathers strong ethical sense, and he joins with him in commending an active morality in which the directing principle is love, a love towards God, which includes in its embrace not only the world of men but nature.
Dr. Rabindranaths philosophy of life finds expression in all his numerous works, but it is in his Sadhana that he gives most definite and systematic form to his religious and ethical views. These views have been so widely studied that it is desirable that we should give some brief space to a consideration of those of them which have an immediate bearing on the ethical problem.
There is, first of all, his conception of the relationship of the soul with God. In the ancient Scriptures there are two main ways in which this relationship is conceived. They may be thought of as distinct, but it may be possible for a relation of union between them to be established. On the other hand, they may be thought of as already one, and the realization of this unity on the part of the soul may be possible. There is a world of difference between these two conceptions of the relationship of the soul with God. Now Dr. Rabindranath clearly teaches that the goal for man is the realization or attainment of unity with God.
Though the West has accepted as its teacher Him who boldly proclaimed His oneness with His Father, and who exhorted His followers to be perfect as God, it has never been reconciled to this idea of our unity with the infinite being. It condemns as a piece of blasphemy any implication of mans becoming God. . . . Yes, we must become Brahma. We must not shrink from avowing this. Our existence is meaningless if we never can expect to realize the highest perfection that there is.
The doctrine that is here set forth can really be made consistent with what he teaches regarding love towards God only through ambiguities of language. The crown of love is ` atone-ness, not `one-ness, with the beloved. Dr. Rabindranath speaks as if the two terms were interchangeable, while they are really different and have very different implications, as may be found from a study of Hindu thought. Realization of oneness would mark, not the consummation, but the annihilation of love, for love can exist only between two beings. It may be remarked in passing that it is here that so much of Hindu mysticism differs tot( caelo from distinctively Christian mysticism. The one aims at realization of unity, the other at attainment of union.
The same confusion is latent in the ethical teaching which is connected with this doctrine. He condemns the spirit of the West that sets out to subdue Nature as if it were something foreign, saying that India has put all her emphasis on the harmony that exists between the individual and the universal. The appearance of disharmony is alleged to be the outcome of avidya, of ignorance. This is undoubtedly true as a statement of the most widely accepted Hindu belief. And we have as a matter of fact in India the spectacle of countless individuals seeking to overcome this avidya through meditation, aided by various forms of ascetic practice. It is not quite easy to ascertain what the attitude of Dr. Rabindranath to this subject is. He seems in places to approve the ideal of the sannyasi, and he certainly commends the spirit of renunciation.
We see everywhere in the history of man that the spirit of renunciation is the deepest reality of the human soul.
And he finds this spirit manifested by the saints of Buddhism and of Hinduism. But at the same time he maintains that attainment is through love, and from the use of this term further confusion arises. Love is a term having more than one connotation, and much trouble has arisen from the ambiguities that it covers. When it is said, for example, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, it is not a mere emotional experience that is enjoined. It is primarily the seeking for others of those goods that we seek for ourselves. In the annals of Hindu saints it would be difficult to find evidence of much active effort, steadily sustained, for the good of others. Dr. Rabindranath himself commends the Bengali ascetic, who in answer to his question why he did not preach his doctrine to all the people of the world, said : ` Whoever feels thirsty will of himself come to the river .1 If there be love here, it is certainly not a love which leads to a social ethic.
But he goes beyond this and proclaims the doctrine of realization through action.
The more man acts and makes actual what was latent in him, the nearer does he bring the distant Yet-to-be.
But our difficulty is as to the content of what is latent in him. There is much both good and bad latent in us, and the teaching which we are considering derives much of its plausibility in the Western world from the fact that there are moral distinctions already formed to which appeal can be made. Dr. Rabindranath himself supplies us with no principle by reference to which these distinctions may be discovered. Nor does orthodox Hindu thought. It is not sufficient to speak of realizing the harmony of the self with the Universe in feeling and action. It might reasonably be claimed that the American settler who sets out to ` subdue nature is realizing this harmony in as real a sense as any other agent, for the phrase `subduing nature is a popular and misleading one, nature being in truth unsubduable. Nor is our difficulty met by anything that is said of the need of freeing ourselves from the bonds of personal desires. For that only raises the question: What are personal desires ? Here again no principle is given by which we may be helped to an answer, and we are not carried much farther on by language regarding the need of being saved from the grasp of the self that imprisons us, or the foolishness of the man who considers the separateness of self as his most sacred possession. The thorough-going Vedantist is more logical, when, renouncing action, he turns in contemplation within the self, seeking the self within the heart. It may be remarked in conclusion that the work of Dr. Rabindranath Tagore, presented as it is in such exquisite literary form, and manifesting a spirit so noble and devout, yet serves to show how impossible is the task of attempting the presentation of an ethic resting even on what is best in Hindu thought until the foundations have been more thoroughly examined and tested.
The activities of some of the foremost leaders of modern thought in India have been connected with the Brahma Samaj in its different branches. We pass these by, for in so far as they have dealt with ethical questions, their teaching has generally rested on an eclectic foundation. They profess not to represent the true Hindu tradition, but to accept truth from all scriptures and from the teaching of all persons without distinction of creed or country. In practice they follow a morality which is largely Christian, and some of their members in their writings even go beyond many Christians in their insistence on Christian ethical principle.
There have been in modern times other movements which are full of interest for the student of Hindu ethics. One of the most remarkable is the Arya Samaj, a movement essentially conservative in its character, in connexion with which there has been provided a re-interpretation of the fundamentals of Hindu thought, the object of which has been the modification of practical life in such a way that the people of India may be fitted to stand alongside the more progressive nations of the West. Dayananda Sarasvati (1824-1883), the founder of the Samăj, received no English education, and the knowledge which he came to possess of Western thought and culture he acquired indirectly. From his earliest days he was a bold and adventurous spirit, dissatisfied with many things in the life of his own people. His biographer, Lala Lajpat Rai, has well described this dissatisfaction :
He saw that the best of the Hindus had cultivated a morbid and ridiculous desire for peace ; that instead of fighting the passions and lower instincts and leading the way by their successes, they were flying from them out of sheer cowardice. He was for conquest, and he wished a guide, a friend and a teacher who would by practice as well as precept show him the way.... He wished to imitate nature, which was ever active, ever vigilant, ever conquering, even amid scenes that impressed the superficial observer with the peace of death and the calm of inactivity.
In particular he revolted against what he believed to be the falsehoods of the Puranic faith.
We need not follow him through the stages by which he was led to the conclusions that were to become the foundation principles of the Arya Samăj. It will be sufficient if we here indicate those principles which were most closely implicated in his ethical teaching. Dayananda professed to take his stand on the Vedas, but he declared that their teaching had been misrepresented in the traditional interpretations. He maintained that the religion of the Vedas and Upanishads was a simple, spiritual monotheism, not `an affair of temples and material sacrifices, of shows and processions, of festivals spread over the whole year in honour of innumerable deities . He denounced the institution of caste as resting simply on birth, maintaining that caste distinctions rested properly on character :
Aryas are men of exalted principle, and Dasyus those who lead a life of wickedness and sin.
He traced the corruption of Hindu religion to the priestly pretensions of men who were Brahmans merely by descent and not in the more real spiritual sense. Assuming the rôle of a Protestant Reformer, he inveighed against sacerdotalism and the restrictions which it had put on the privilege of Vedic study, declaring that the Vedas, the infallible Word of God, are an open book which all may study. He supplied, however, his own principles of interpretation, which it would be difficult for most unbiased scholars to accept, and he himself made a translation of the Vedas which has been characterized by his biographer as the best and most scholarly translation so far given to the public, but which has not impressed most European scholars in this way.
In the Sattyarth Prakash he gives a summary of his beliefs. He prefaces this with a statement that his conception of God and all other objects in the Universe is founded on the teachings of the Veda and other true Săstras, and is in conformity with the beliefs of all the sages from Brahma down to Jaimini, and at the close of the preface he sets forth the character of the ideal man
He alone is entitled to be called a man who possesses a thoughtful nature and feels for others in the same way as he does for his own self, does not fear the unjust, however powerful, but fears the truly virtuous, however weak. Moreover, he should always exert himself to his utmost to protect the righteous, and advance their good, and conduct himself worthily towards them, even though they be extremely poor and weak and destitute of material resources. On the other hand; he should constantly strive to destroy, humble and oppose the wicked, sovereign rulers of the whole earth and men of great influence and power though they be. In other words, a man should, as far as lies in his power, constantly endeavour to undermine the power of the unjust and to strengthen that of the just. He may have to bear any amount of terrible suffering, he may have even to quaff the bitter cup of death in the performance of this duty, which devolves on him on account of being a man, but he should not shirk it .
This passage will give some impression of the virility of the Hindu character as conceived by Dayananda, and it will also help the reader to understand how the political aims of the Samaj have been suspect in certain quarters, justly or un-justly.
Fundamental in the teaching of Dayananda as it is set forth in the Sattyarth Prakash is his conception of God, ` the Spirit who permeates the whole universe, His nature, attributes, and characteristics are holy. He is omniscient, formless, all-pervading, unborn, infinite, almighty, just, and merciful. To Him alone worship is due. God and the soul are distinct entities, but they are related to each other as the pervader and the pervaded, as father and son. He gathers up the duty of man under the term dharma, which he defines as that which inculcates justice and equity, which teaches truthfulness of thought, speech and deed—in a word, that which is in conformity with the Will of God, as embodied in the Vedas. The last phrase leaves open a very wide door by which the non-ethical elements in dharma might find admission, were it not that Dayananda throughout all his teaching gives such definite emphasis to the primacy of the ethical. Adharma, on the other hand, is that which is in antagonism to the will of God. He ` awards all souls the fruits of. their deeds in strict accordance with the requirements of absolute justice. Gods creative energy must have play, and the souls must reap the fruits of their karma. The possibility of the forgiveness of sins is denied. Yet it is stated that the soul is dependent on Gods grace for the enjoyment of the fruit of its actions. God is free as well as just. The cause of the earthly bondage of the soul, and the source of sin, is ignorance. It leads man to worship things other than the Creator, and obscures his intellectual faculties, with the consequence that he is involved in pain and suffering. But it is not simply through intellectual enlightenment that the salvation of the soul is achieved—its deliverance from suffering and pain and its attainment of freedom. A rather unsystematic list of the means of salvation is given— the worship of God or the contemplation of His nature and attributes with concentrated attention, the practice of virtue, the acquisition of true know-ledge by the practice of Brahmacharya, the company of the wise and learned, the love of true knowledge, purity of thought, active benevolence, and so on. Throughout his statement of beliefs it is noteworthy that the main emphasis is laid on their ethical and social side, and active moral effort directed to the social good of others is enjoined, as it is in the works of few other Hindus even of modern times.
An energetic and active life is preferable to passive acquiescence in the decrees of fate, inasmuch as destiny is the consequence of acts. A life of virtuous activity will secure the soul a good destiny, as a life of wickedness will produce the opposite result. Hence, acts being the makers of destiny, virtuous activity is superior to passive resignation.
It will doubtless be asked how all this is made consistent with the teaching of the ancient scriptures, which are still regarded as authoritative. Dayananda overcomes this difficulty by rationalizing and ethicizing the old religious terminology, sometimes in most arbitrary ways. For example, he takes the term Tďrtha, repudiates its application to rivers and other so-called holy places, and defines it as ` that by means of which the sea of pain is crossed, consisting in certain moral actions.
To the philosopher much of the teaching of the arya Samaj may seem puerile, and the mere statement of it may seem to be as effective as any refutation. But we are dealing in this work not merely with the profoundest expressions of Hindu thought, but with other expressions of it which have contributed to the shaping of the actual development of Hindu life. The principles of the Arya Samaj have found wide acceptance, providing as they do a way of life which is in professed accordance with the ancient ideals of Hinduism, and at the same time makes possible the satisfaction of those active aspirations, which, through contact with a wider world, have been born in the hearts of so many of the people of India. We do not propose to subject those principles to any thorough criticism. Many others have pointed out the absurdity of the claim that is made for the infallibility of the Vedas, and the obvious unsoundness of the principles which Dayananda has used in their interpretation. It has also been shown by others that many of his fundamental theological assumptions, precarious in themselves, have no justification in orthodox thought. For example, he posits the existence of three eternal beings—God, the Soul, and Prakriti, a position which, in the form in which he presents it, is in keeping with the teaching of none of the philosophical schools, though evidently suggested by the Samkhya and the Visishtadvaita. For the active and even violent practical principles that he lays down he provides no new foundation. The goal that he presents is ` the emancipation of the soul from pain and suffering of every description, and a subsequent career of freedom in the all-pervading God and His immense creation , to be obtained after successive re-births, directed by the principle of karma. Neither reason nor authority makes clear the relation of end to means.
We may here draw attention to an educational movement inspired by ideals of a national kind in some ways similar to those of the Arya Samaj, the impulse in this case coming from the side of Theosophy. Some years ago the Board of Trustees of the Central Hindu College, Benares, issued a series of Text-books of Hindu Religion and Ethics for use in the institutions under its control. The purpose of the series is definitely stated :
The object of the Central Hindu College being to combine Hindu religious and ethical training with the western education suited to the needs of the time, it is necessary that this religious and ethical training shall be of a wide, liberal and unsectarian character, while at the same time it shall be definitely and distinctively Hindu.
The principles of this educational propaganda are stated under three heads:
1. The Religious and Ethical instruction must be such as all Hindus can accept.
2. It must include the special teachings which mark out Hinduism from other religions.
3. It must not include the distinctive views of any special school or sect.
The task that is here essayed might well appear to be a hopeless one, for it really amounts to the presentation of the highest common factor in Hindu religious and moral teaching as a philosophy of life. It is significant that the Six Systems of Philosophy are represented as not in any way contradictory to each other, but as `parts of a whole .1 The instruction offered is not of a scholarly character. Sanskrit texts are largely used but the meaning which is put into them is frequently very different from that which their context justifies. Hindu ritual is explained away or interpreted ethically in a sense far remote from that which it had in the minds of those who in ancient times developed it and followed it. The attempt is made to relate the ethical part of the teaching to ethical theories advanced in the West, but it cannot be said that this is done with full intelligence. It is maintained that the arising of independent ethical schools in India, such as have arisen in the West, has been prevented by the harmony which exists between the commands of the sruti (revelation as given in the Vedic writings) and the dictates of reason, the Hindu system of morality being founded on the ` recognition of the Unity of the Self. The outcome of all this is a curious amalgam of ancient Hindu ideas, including karma and transmigration, with a social morality of a some-what weakly sentimental character. The whole movement is significant only as showing the direction which the minds of many who are being educated in the colleges of modern India is taking ; for this teaching has found much acceptance, particularly among the student class.
There have been many individuals in modern times who have in similar ways tried to combine ancient Hindu and modern Western ideals. They have often been sentimentalists rather than profound thinkers. A typical representative of this class was Swami Ram Tirtha (1873-1906), a Panjăbi Brahman, who was first a student and later a lecturer on Mathematics in a Christian College. He assumed the yellow robe, and visited America, lecturing on Hindu religion and ethics. He professed to be an exponent of the Vedanta, and yet he believed that one of the chief needs of India was more active effort particularly along the lines of the development of her industrial and economic resources. He preached accordingly an `asceticism which should take the form not of withdrawal from the world, but of self-sacrificing labour for the amelioration of Indias material conditions, and the practice of universal love and brotherhood. His works are a curious mixture of highly diluted Vedantism and Christian thought, set forth in very emotional language. From the intellectual point of view they merit little consideration, for there is little originality or consistency in their teaching. For example, many of his verse effusions are very obvious parodies of Christian hymns. We have chosen him for mention only because he manifests in another way the tendency so common in India at the present time to seek a place for the ideals of material progress, which have had such far-reaching consequences in the activity of the West, within a system of thought essentially Hindu.
More thoroughgoing in his Vedantism was Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1834-1886), a Bengăli Brahman, born of a priestly family. He was a man of strongly religious instinct, who found refuge in the Vedănta philosophy of Sankaracharya at the end of a spiritual pilgrimage extending over several years. His Vedantism was considerably modified, particularly on its practical side, by influences coming from other directions. His temperament was strongly emotional, and he was much influenced by Vaishnava teaching regarding love towards God. The more tender side of the character of Jesus also made a strong appeal to him, and even Mahommedanism, into the devotional spirit of which he was initiated by a Mahommedan saint, contributed to the shaping of his character. But it was chiefly on the emotional side that the Christian and Mahommedan religions influenced him. They contributed but little to his intellectual position, which, in spite of his seeming electicism, remained essentially Vedantist. God he held to be in his essence unknowable, yet manifested in every-one and in everything. In everything that happens God is expressed, in all conduct good and evil alike.
God tells the thief to go and steal, and at the same time warns the householder against the thief.
His principles led him in actual practice to bow in worship before the most degraded of moral outcastes as manifestations of God, and this practice he defends :
When I look upon chaste women of respectable families, I see in them the Mother Divine arrayed in the garb of a chaste lady ; and again, when I look upon the public women of the city, sitting in their open verandas, arrayed in the garb of immorality and shamelessness. I see in them also the Mother Divine, sporting in a different way.
We are told also that his speech was at times abominably filthy. Max Muller seeks to explain this partly on the ground of a conventional attitude to sexual subjects different from ours in the West, but not necessarily immoral, but it is difficult for us to take this view of a habit which undoubtedly shows the influence in his mind of the erotic side of Vaishnavism in combination with Vedăntism.
It must not be supposed, however, that Ramakrishna re-solved all moral distinctions. From one point of view moral distinctions have no validity, but from the point of view of the individual seeking to realize his unity with God there are hindrances to the realization of this unity.
This is a distinction familiar to the student of the Vedanta, and it opens up again all the practical questions arising out of that system of thought.
This line of thought was continued and defended by Ramakrishnas disciple, known to the world as Swami Vivekănanda (1862-19o2). Starting from the position, held also by his master, that all religions are true, he developed an apologia for Hindu religion and Hindu civilization, the spiritual ideals of which he contrasted with the materialism of the West.
Yet, with curious inconsistency, not uncommon in modern India, he advocated the adoption of Western methods with a view to bringing India into line with the more progressive nations of the West. His addresses made a great impression in America, but as an intellectual force he was much inferior to Ramakrishna. His presentation of the practical side of Vedanta teaching took even more startling forms. A passage in an address given by him at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 has been often quoted :
Ye are the children of God, the sharers of immortal bliss, holy and perfect beings. Ye, divinities on earth, sinners ? It is a sin to call a man so. It is a standing libel on human nature.
Come up, O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep.
And another saying is to the same effect : You are not to be perfect, you are that already.
Enough has perhaps been said to show that the ethics of the Vedanta still have their exponents and defenders in modern India, who believe them capable of being adapted and applied to the conditions of modern life. Vivekanandas influence still lives in India. Curiously enough, he is officially represented by the inhabitants of certain monasteries which he founded as centres of work for the advancement of India. But his spirit works less powerfully through these than it does, through his published lectures, in the minds of many young men of the educated classes, who have found in them comfort-able instruction.
These are but some of the ways in which the minds of thinking people in modern India are working. We have con-fined ourselves to movements which are being carried on in some sense within Hinduism, and have refrained from going into detail regarding movements which have carried men away from Hinduism. It is still too early to say what the fate of these, or of other similar movements which may arise, will be. But it is certain that any ethical philosophy which is to satisfy the needs of India, however it be related to religion, must be conceived in a wider spirit than the purely national. And it will be found as India comes more and more into the current of the life of the modern world that she needs something more to guide her than her ancient system of dharma, however interpreted ; and, if her ancient systems of philosophy are to furnish the basis for new ethical structure, they will be able to do so only if reinterpreted in a far more thorough way than has been done by thinkers up to the present.