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Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -10



Of late it has become a fashion to condemn all that is traditional. This tendency started with the new independence that India has begun to enjoy. The entire past of India has been historically studied and though much of it was admired it was felt that this ‘discovery of India’ left out significantly any contribution from the past. Of course science in India died long ago and philosophy which survived, survived only as a relic of a great past, but without any promise of life in the future.

Strangely too, it was with the advent of European scholarship that India began to learn that her whole life has been riddled with or stifled with a belief in the inevitableness of human or world destiny. The concept of inevitableness is a scientific law based on the principle of causality. The effect is inevitable or a necessary occurrence if the cause is present. Indian thought is said to breathe this inevitableness of life-events and the helplessness of man in the presence of this chain unbreakable of casual process. The early Vedic theories were said to be optimistic because they reveal that the people thought and acted as if all things are possible, though it was through prayer and magic and co-operation with and by Gods, or natural powers. The whole period of the Brahmanas breathes this optimism of man to conquer and subdue Nature and her gods. The Upanisads are said to turn inwards and speak of the bondage to the causality of karma. The fear of the effects arising from certain kinds of action (karma), ritual or non-ritual, gave rise to the need to solve the problem of the inevitable. Thus philosophy or religion through introspection of the causes of our bondage and analysis of action led to the discovery of the Self or All-Self and Over-self. The problem was verily that relating to the inevitableness of causal continuity and the solution was sought in the field firstly of abolition of all action, then in the detachment of desire from results of action, thirdly in the vision of the whole world being the Activity of One Supreme Spirit and to act in conformity with that knowledge an realization of that Activity is to be free from the experience of bondage and inevitableness and to enjoy Freedom and immortality.

Buddhism which pleaded for the life of freedom itself laid down the basic condition that life as we are living it is a life of inevitableness of sorrow and misery. No one seeks to solve a problem unless he is confronted with it. Thus it was laid down by him that the first or primary condition of entry into the path of the Buddha is the knowledge that all is misery, (sarvam dukham). This is tied up with the knowledge that all our activities propelled by desire (trsna) or hankering produce bondage and despair and sorrow. The life of freedom is freedom from desire. To make desire universal or altruistic is no solution to the problem of sorrow. It raises other issues such as group sorrow or group calamity or collective sorrow. The individual being a member of the group is involved in this sorrow though it may appear that he had but dismissed it from himself. This too is not quite true since when a group breaks up the individual member then begins to get the results both of the collective activities of desire as well as his own.

The problem then becomes more acute than ever and its solution baffles understanding. Buddha preached that the life of man is sorrow and if he lived as he was living then his future was bound to be a vale of sorrow. This is the logic of human living. A different method of living should be adopted and that is to withdraw from all desire for clinging to the perishable things of life. If optimism means that one can go on merrily enjoying and desiring and expanding the areas of enjoyment and desire, and hoping that the world we live in is a glorious world (of lila or dance and laughter and so on), then Buddhism does not think so. The forwarding-looking nature of Buddhism is precisely regarding the men who have abandoned or renounced all desire, individual, familial, social and all. The Sangha of Buddhism is of those who have renounced all attachments and desires for everything and at all levels. A new community of ‘naughted’ ones however emerges and they seek to live the life of ‘naughted beings (sunyata), egoless and desireless, seeking no future as they too are perishable.

Jainism also renounced desire for life as desire. Desire is basically individual and restricting and binding and its effects have the nature of habituating man to a life of bondage to them. Even food and family and friendships have this binding nature and materialization of man. Its deep spiritualism entailed the abandonment of all attachment. Pessimism is writ large in so far as it states the problem of sorrow and bondage and materialism clearly as the content of the life of man, and to get rid of this is desirable.

Both Buddhism and Jainism agree to hold that it is possible and desirable to get rid of this type of living through the path of detachment, reversing the mode of desire and finally abolishing it. Herein lies the optimism and good news that man can give up the life of sorrow and attain a life of beatitude by renunciation of the life of desire. Renunciation of life-values of man is the only means towards the realisation of true beatitude.

Not in this context of life can man realize his freedom and his true undiminishing happiness.

This is equally true of the Vaisesika and Nyaya and Samkhya schools of thought, which hold that the goal of man is freedom from sorrow, and that this sorrow is the result of our bondage to desires for the material world and its several formations or modifications. Knowledge of desire’s processes and goals is necessary to renounce desire itself. To turn desire Godward or towards freedom inevitably leads to abandonment of it in its usual manifestation as the fulfillment of the needs and demands of the body and society.

That there has been an excessive bias towards the life of life-negation is clearly one of the fundamental charges that can be leveled against the Buddhist and Jaina views of life which more than any other for a millennium and more influenced Indian life. The monk-bhiksu-cult of renunciation was glorified; and in Vedanta, thank to the influences of this view, Sannyasa became the most exalted asrama state. Men sought to end up in Sannyasa and it was held up as the ideal of human life. Such an exaltation denied man’s life of its values and made it insignificant as compared to the life beyond man. Religion as the preoccupation with the future life became the sole and increasing concern, depleting all value from the life of man. Even the service of man was for his transcending and going beyond to the life celestial or super-terrestrial.

The pessimism characteristic of this temperament is surely in respect of this world, the world of matter and man. The optimism is in respect of the other-world attainment where the problems of this world are said to be liquidated. The consciousness of men was educated to look forward to another world as the goal of our present endeavours. This surely leaves the field of our religious thinking mainly pessimistic in respect of our present condition. Could not change in the values of life work out a better prospect; man must be changed; his ego has to be modified and subordinated to the Overself or God; his nature itself undergo change in order to be able to see more than his senses see and his desires prompt; a new kind of desire free from ignorance and limitation is the satya-samkalpa or divine will that will be the feature of the greater man. It is not impossible to have such a being on this earth. If this is possible then the pessimism could be counteracted. But men are offering resistances and indeed one of the most optimistic experiments made has been to bring down heaven to earth, to make or transform earth to the status of heaven dreamt of. The Kingdom of God on earth must be a compeer of that of His in Heaven – this dream is undoubtedly of capital importance in the hope of a new world and a new man. A survey of the whole range of Indian philosophical systems reveals that this great aspiration and dream is not held to be capable of being achieved in this earth-consciousness. This is surely pessimism. However the whole question is whether there is the possibility of transformation of the earth consciousness or earth itself into Heaven? We cannot produce milk out of petrol or silver out of silica or cloth out of air; then can we produce heaven out of earth? Can the laws of solids avail with liquids or gases? Is the disparity so great and opposed that one cannot produce the other? This is the question. If we answer in the affirmative there is pessimism, if in the negative, there is optimism.

Thanks to the genius of the Christian thinkers who have sought to make the impossible effort of making this earth safe for the Heaven-born, men like Jesus, it has become one of the major works of modern man to realise the Utopia, whatever its stature and structure and function, in the context of this world. The approach to this transcendental realization on this earth for earth consciousness is undoubtedly the inspiration of much of our modern Indian thinking also. That it is not purely a western Christian concept of ideal is all that they have been at pains to shew. The life-negating philosophies of Buddhism and Jainism and Advaita mayavada Vedanta which have been most influential during the past two millennium have had wonderful success and their ‘optimism’ of lifting people away from the morass of this world had succeeded beyond all expectations. Many wonderful souls have achieved this liberation from this world.

However there have been men like Trisanku, Visvamitra and Rbhus and the great Ciranjivis eternally youthful or immortals in Indian traditional though and history who have sought to live the ideal life hereon this earth. Therefore this was reiterated and made the dominant note in recent Indian philosophy. This is but the recapitulation and remembrance of the Vedic optimism and alchemic promise of transformation of man into his divine nature and the founding of the Universal Sangha of liberated and divinized men whose thought and action and emotion were integrated in an universal purpose of Harmony. The Vedic Prayer of living together, growing together, rejoicing and learning together is in terms of universal love and brotherhood and peace that is indivisible.

Sri Aurobindo’s message of integral Knowledge, a knowledge that rises from identity of thought-action-emotion, is a basic optimism of the Vedic kind and in a sense going beyond that in so far as it now concerns not man’s relation to the Gods but men everywhere. A new vision is a need, a new dynamis is necessary to make our optimism justifiable and not merely a dream. The world has need of that. Have our philosophers found that either in action or in thought?

It may be conceded that Indian Philosophico-spiritual thought has discovered that such a dynamic vision and change are incapable of being engineered by the rationality of the sensory and reflective projections of science. Today obviously many persons think that ‘optimism’ belongs to science which has not only discovered the know-how of things but also the know-why of things. A world view of the old and the traditionalist being pre-scientific it is today clear that a world view of science in all its aspects also can be adequate. Here is science widening the horizons of man, having made man overcome the impediments and limitations to which his powers of the body have confined him. He is today cheered by the prospect of being the master of Nature. His indomitable courage and feeling of superiority over nature have made him the captain of his soul and the promise is that man shall not be creature of natural forces, waiting on nature for everything, neither sun nor moon nor rain nor mountains nor deserts can offer resistance for he can himself bring into being the conditions which those celestial powers create only when the seasons and daytimes and others come about. Man’s independence over this environment is a result of the scientific advance which has helped him to create them and control the according to his whim and fancy or according to the need of his race.

This is the ‘optimism’ of being not a creature of nature but a creator of Nature. Optimism then can be described not merely in terms of a hope but of a realization of ‘creatorship’ and abandoning or discarding the sense of ‘creatureliness’ that has been the chief characteristic of religion.

Religions have always harped on the idea of ‘creatureliness’ of man, and the impossibility of man becoming ever the creator. Indeed at one stage it has transpired that man has been considered to be so much of a creature that it has been said that ‘not even a blade of grass moves but for the will of God’s and man’s helplessness has been taken as the very nature of his existence; call it ‘dasabhutatva’ or slavery to God, call it ‘waiting on God’, akincata (non-anythingness), all these religious attitudes deny man’s capacity to change anything in the Nature.

Science fights against this creatureliness of man. In this science is direct contradiction to the spirit of religion. However whilst this fact has been clearly recognized by Materialism (Russian dialectical materialism in the modern days), it is not faced by the European Countries which yet feel that science can be subordinated to religion, which is another way of saying that religion can be subordinated to science, and we may somehow be both creators in respect of world shaping in respect of our needs and comforts and freedoms, and creatures in respect of transcendental goals, if needed we do relegate all that vast area of existence beyond the grave. Indeed we shall try our level best to postpone that departure from this area by developed science which will help conquest of death.

The ‘optimism’ in this direction has unlimited extension. We have conquered speeds and broken sound-barriers and light-barriers too presently: we have probed into the depths of space and matter: we have been able to understand and demonstrate the infinite possibilities of inter-atomic forces and energies. Indeed we have been able to turn each one of the discoveries into instrument of further probing and conquest of Nature. Nature’s yield up of knowledge has exceeded all our expectations. We have today the assurance of unlimited progress for man and his existence in this world. It is all for man and by man and all the world is in one area of opportunities for infinite exceeding.

No wonder Indian Philosophic thought centered round the ‘creatureliness’ doctrine with its concomitance of fate and karma appears to be an altogether unrealistic and outmoded.

Indian philosophy however in some aspects never completely accepted the creatureliness doctrines of religion and bhakti. That is one of the main reasons why the Advaita Philosophy with its affirmation of the ‘creatorship’ principle of the individual showed attractiveness to minds who have been convinced that creatureliness is only one half of the reality whereas the creatorship is the other half of the reality of the individual. The double nature of the individual has been recognized by the ancient seers. However at one stage, they have insisted that ‘creatorship’ of the individual would be just expression of his imaginative thought that produces delusive creations or inventions which might involve the individual in bondage to them. Love of one’s own creations or inventions could be a bar to progress and might bind one more thoroughly than ever. Creatureliness however has the advantage of not getting into this cocoon of one’s own weaving. Man must achieve a stature which will make his creatorship immune from the bondage which the creations prepare for him. This appears to be one of the possible meanings of the doctrine of bindingsness of all activity (which is creative or inventive). When however he can discover his oneness with the Supreme Creator of the Universe, then his activities become truly creative without reactiveness and bondage. It is the belief of the ancients in Indian thought that this connection with the Supreme which is man’s other aspect of being can be achieved immediately and now and here. Even creatureliness to the Creator and Creator only is helpful to this discovery and realization. This one-pointed dependence or creatureliness to God or the Spirit Universal links up the creature to the creator and helps creativeness that is New and ever expanding. This is the discovery of the optimum possibility of the individual and is that which justifies optimism.

It is when this possibility of Yoga with the Divine or Brahmasayujyam is denied that one is irrevocably a pessimist. The doctrine of jivanmukti shews in its dynamic aspect this realization of the oneness in all one’s parts with the Divine and yet it intimates the other aspect that the life beyond this body is not less creative than the life in this body; indeed one derives the fullness of perfect creativity in God for God and till infinite possibility here and hereafter, on earth as also in heaven.

Thus it is not quite right to affirm that pessimism is the dominant note of Indian Philosophy. A restrained optimism has always been the note of Indian thought and it has never been its claim to affirm an uncritical optimism or an equally uncritical pessimism. It has been realistic enough to recognize that man’s immortal soul and self which is its reality will never be content to be a mere creature of circumstances and environments either of this world or of the other. Its yearning sense is for the Infinite creativity and mastery of self and all and its goal has been Infinite undiminishing bliss here and yonder.

It has known however that not by any other path than that of knowing the Supreme Purusa or Person of God can there be the attainment of creatorship that makes one pass beyond all limitations and grants to him the sense of right living and right doing which will not cast shadows on reality or on oneself or on others. By the sacrifice of oneself to the Divine, by one’s integral offering of oneself to the Divine fully and subordinating and identifying one’s being and imagination and thought sense and ego with the creative Nature of the Divine does one really transcend the frightening prospect to the world doomed otherwise to self-destruction or suicide and worse.

Nanyah pantha ayanaya vidyate