PRESENT DECADENCE - Its Causes
We are to blame: We, as Vedantists, know for certain that there is no power in the universe to injure us unless we first injure ourselves. Let us blame none, let us blame our own karma. No bacilli can attack the human frame until it is degraded and degenerated by vice, bad food, privation, and exposure; the healthy man passes scatheless through masses of poisonous bacilli. The effect is here and the cause is here too. We are to blame. Stand up, be bold, and take the blame on your own shoulders. Do not go about throwing mud at others ; for all the faults you suffer from, you arc the sole and only cause.
Ignoring the past: Nowadays, everybody blames those who constantly look back to then-past. It is said that so much looking back to the past is the cause of all India’s woes. To me, on the contrary, it seems that the opposite is true. So long as they forgot the past, the Hindu nation remained in a state of stupor ; and as soon as they have begun to look into their past, there is on every side a fresh manifestation of life.
Every critical student knows that the social laws of India have always been subject to great periodic changes. At their inception, these laws were the embodiment of a gigantic plan, which was to unfold itself slowly through time. The great seers of ancient India saw so far ahead of their time, that the world has to wait centuries yet to appreciate their wisdom, and it is this very inability, on the part of their own descendants, to appreciate the full scope of this wonderful plan, that is the one and only cause of the degeneration of India.
Narrowing our outlook : We find that one of the causes which led to this degeneration was the narrowing of our view, narrowing the scope of our actions. That we did not go out to compare things with other nations, did not mark the workings that have been all around us, has been the one great cause of this degradation of the Indian mind.
One of the great causes of India's misery and downfall has been that she narrowed herself, went into her shell, as the oyster does, and refused to give her jewels and her treasures to the the other races of mankind, refused to give the life-giving truths to thirsting nations outside the Aryan fold. I am thoroughly convinced that no individual or nation can live by holding iLself apart from the community of others, and whenever such an attempt has been made under false ideas of greatness, policy or holiness — the result has always been disastrous to the secluding one. To my mind, the one great cause of the downfall and the degeneration of India was the building of a wall of custom, whose foundation was hatred of others, round the nation, and the real aim of which in ancient times was to prevent the Hindus from coming in contact with the surrounding Buddhistic nations. Whatever cloak ancient or modern sophistry may try to throw over it? the inevitable result,—the vindication of the moral law, that none can hate others without degenerating himself—is that the race that was foremost amongst the ancient races is now a byword, and a scorn among nations. We are object-lessons of the violation of that law which our ancestors were the first to discover and disseminate.
Perversion of religion: A country, the big leaders of which have for the past two thousand years been only discussing whether to take food with the right hand or the left, whether to take water from the right-hand side or from the left — if such a country does not go to ruin what else will ? Think of the last six hundred or seven hundred years of degeneration, when grown-up men by the hundreds have been discussing for years, whether we should drink a glass of water with the right hand or the left, whether the hand should be washed three times or four times, whether we should gargle five or six times. What can you expect from men who pass their lives in discussing such momentous questions as these, and writing most learned philosophies on them!
There is a danger of our religion getting into the kitchen. We are neither Vedantists, most of us now, nor Pauranics, nor Tantrics. We are just “don’t-touchists”. Our religion is in the kitchen. Our God is the cooking-pot, and our religion is “Don’t touch me, I am holy”. If this goes on for another century, every one of us will be in a lunatic asylum. It is a sure sign of softening of the brain when the mind cannot grasp the higher problems of life ; all originality is lost, the mind has lost all its strength, its activity, and its power of thought, and just tries to go round and round the smallest curve it can find.
Tyranny over the masses : I consider fhat, the great national sin is the neglect of the masses, and that is one of the causes of her downfall. No amount of politics would be of any avail until the masses in India are once more well educated, well fed, and well cared for. They pay for our education, they build our temples, but in return they get kicks. They are practically our slaves. II we want to regenerate India, we must -work lor them.
Neglect of women : “The gods are pleased where the women are held in esteem says the old Mann. We are horrible sinners, and our degradation is due to our calling women ‘despicable worms’, ‘gateways to hell’, and so forth. The Lord has said, ‘‘Thou art the woman, Thou art Lhe man, Thou art the boy and the girl as well’’. And we on our part are crying, “Who has made the bewitching woman ?”
It is very difficult to understand why in this country so much difference is made between men and women, whereas the Vedanta declares thal one and the same conscious Self is present in all beings You always criticise the women, but sa'r, what have you done for their uplift ? Writing down Smritis, etc., and binding them by hard rules, the men have turned the women into mere manufacturing machines ! If you do not raise the women who are the living embodiment of the Divine Mother, don't think that you have any other way to rise.
Its Symptoms and Cure Cultural heresy and fanaticism: In our sight, here in India, there are several dangers. Of these, the two? Scylla and Charybdis, rank materialism and its opposite, arrant superstition, must be avoided.
There is the man to-day who after drinking the cup of Weslern wisdom, thinks that he knows everything. He laughs at the ancient sages. All Hindu thought to Him is arrant trach, philosophy, mere child's prattle, and religion, the superstition of fools.
Imitation is not civilisation. I may deck myself out in a Raja’s dress; hut will that make me a Raja ? An ass in a lion's skin never makes a lion. Imitation, cowardly imitation, never makes for progress. It is verily the sign of awful degradation in a man. Aye, when a man has begun to hate himself, then the last blow has come. When a man has
begun to be ashamed of his ancestors, the end has come. Do not be dragged away out of this Indian life ; do not for a moment think that it will be better for India if all the Indians dressed, ate and behaved like another race.
On the other hand, there is the man educated, but a sort of monomaniac, who runs to the other extreme, and wants to explain the omen of this and that. He has philosophical and metaphysical, and Lord knows what other puerile explanations for every superstition that belongs to this peculiar race, or his peculiar gods, or his peculiar village. Every little village superstition is to him a mandate of the Vedas, and upon the carrying out of it, according to him, depends the national life. You must beware of this.
The fact is that we have many superstitions, many bad spots and sores on our body — these have to be excised, cut off, and destroyed — but these do not destroy our religion, our national life, our spirituality. Every principle of religion is safe, and the sooner these black spots are purged away, the better the principles will shine, the more gloriously. Stick to them.
Physical weakness : In spite of the great ness of the Upanishads, in spite of our boasted ancestry of sages, compared to many other races, I must tell you that we are weak, very weak. First of all, is our physical weakness. That physical weakness is the cause at least of one-third of our miseries.
Our young men must be strong. Religion will come afterwards. Be strong, my young friends; that is my advice to you. You will be nearer to Heaven through football, than through the study of the Gita. You will understand Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger. You will understand the mighty genius and the mighty strength of Krishna better with a little of strong blood in you. You will understand the Upanishads better and the glory of the Atman, when your body stands firm upon your feet, and you feel yourselves as men. What 1 -want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel, inside which dwells a mind of the same material as that of which the thunderbolt is made. Strength, manhood Kshati a-vivya plus Brahma-teja.
Lack of faith in ourselves ' We have lost faith. Would you believe me, we have less faith than the Englishman and woman, a thousand times less faith ! Why is it that we, three hundred and thirty millions of people, have been ruled for the last one thousand years by any and every handful of foreigners who chose to walk over our prostrate bodies ? Because they had faith in themselves and we had not. We want Shraddha, we want faith in our own selves. Strength is life, weakness is death.
Being a conquered race, we have brought ourselves to believe that we are weak and have no independence in anything. So, how can it be but that the Shraddha is lost ? The idea of true Shraddha must be brought back once more to us, the faith in our own selves, must be reawakened, and, then only, all the problems which face our country will gradually be solved by ourselves.
Have faith in yourselves, and stand upon that faith and be strong ; that is what we need. ‘We are the Atman, deathless and free ; pure, pure by nature. Can we ever commit any sin ? Impossible !’ — Such a faith is needed. Such a faith makes men of us, makes gods of us. Have faith that you are all born to do great things ! Each one of us will have to believe that every one else in the world has done his work, and the only work remaining to be done to make the world perfect has to be done by himself. This is the responsibility we have lo take upon ourselves. Give up the awful disease lhat is creeping into our national blood, that idea of ridiculing everything, that loss of seriousness. Give that up. Be strong and have this Shraddha, and everything else is bound to follow.
Lack of self-help : The whole national character is one of childish dependence. They are all ready to enjoy food if it is brought to their mouth, and even some want it pushed down. You do not deserve to live if you cannot help yourselves. You must always remember that every nation must save itself ; so must every man ; do not look to others for help. You must not depend on any foreign help. Nations, like individuals, must help themselves. This is real patriotism. If a nation cannot do that, its time has not yet come. It must wait.
Lack of obedience : Every one wants to command and no one wants to obey ; this is owing to the absence of that wonderful Brahma-charya system of yore. First, learn to obey. The command will come by itself. Always first learn to be a servant, and then you will be fit to be a master. If your superior order you to throw yourself into a river and catch a crocodile, you must first obey and then reason with him. Even if the order be wrong, first obey and then contradict it. Cultivate the virtue of obedience, but you must not sacrifice your own faith. No centralisation is possible unless there is obedience to superiors. No great work can be done without this centralisation of individual forces.
Laziness, selfishness and jealousy : There is too much talk, talk, talk ! We are great, we are great ! Nonsense ! We are imbeciles ; that is what we are ! We speak of many things, parrot-like, but never do them ; speaking and not doing has become a habit with us. This sort of weak brain is not able to do anything ; we must strengthen it.
We are lazy ; we cannot work ; we cannot combine ; we do not love each other ; we are intensely selfish ; not three of us can come together without hating each other, without being jealous of each other. That is the state in which we are, — hopelessly disorganised mobs, immensely selfish, fighting each other for centuries as to whether a certain mark is to be put on our forehead this way or that way ; writing volumes and volumes upon such momentous questions as to whether the look of a man spoils my food or not !
Lack of organizing capacity: The faculty of organisation is entirely absent in our nature, but this has to be infused. The great secret is, — absence of jealousy. Be always ready to concede to the opinions of your brethren, and try always to conciliate. Why is it that organisations are so powerful ? Why is it, to take a case in point, that forty millions of Englishmen rule three hundred millions of people here ? What is the psychological explanation ? These forty millions put their wills together and that means infinite power, and you three hundred millions have a will each separate from the other. Therefore to make a great future of India, the whole secret lies in organisation, accumulation of power, co-ordination of wills. Already before my mind rises one of the marvellous verses of the Atharva Veda Samhita which says, “Be thou all of one mind, be thou all of one thought, for in the days of yore, the gods being of one mind were enabled to receive oblations. That the gods can be worshipped by men is because they are of one mind.” Being of one mind is the secret of society. And the more you go on lighting and quarrelling about all trivialities such as “Dravidian” and “Aryan”, and the question of Brahmanas and non-Brahmanas and all that the further you are off from that accumulation of energy and power which is going to make the future India. For mark you, the future India depends entirely upon that. This is the secret, accumulation of will-power, co-ordination, bringing them all, as it were, into one focus.
Lack of business integrity : The Hindus have a peculiar slovenliness in business matters, not being sufficiently methodical and strict in keeping accounts, etc. All combined efforts in India sink under the weight of one iniquity — we have not yet developed strict business principles. Business is business, in the highest sense, and no friendship — or as the Hindu proverb says “eye-shame” — should be there. One should keep the clearest account of everything in one's charge — and never, never apply the funds intended for one thing to any other use whatsoever — even if one starves the next moment. This is business integrity. Next, energy unfailing. Whatever you do let that be your worship for the time being.
Lack of love : No man, no nation can hate others and live. India’s doom was sealed the very day they invented the word mlechchha and stopped from communion with others. Love never fails; to-day or to-morrow or ages after, truth will conquer. Love shall win the victory. Ho you love your fellow-men ?
Charge to National "Workers"
Where should you go to seek for God, — are not all the poor, the miserable, the weak, gods? Why not worship them first ? Why go to dig a well on the shores of the Ganges ? Believe in the omnipotent power of love. Have you love ?—You are omnipotent. Are you perfectly unselfish ? If so, you are irresistible. It is character that pays everywhere. It is the Lord who protects Ills children in the depths of the sea. Your countn requires heroes : be heroes !
Feel from the heart. What is in the intellect or reason ? It goes a few steps and there it stops. But through the heart comes inspiration. Love opens the most impossible gates ; love is the gate to all the secrets of the universe. Feel, therefore, my would-be reformers, my would-be patriots ! Do you feel ? Do you feel that millions and millions of the descendants of gods and of sages have become next-door neighbours to brutes ? Do you feel that millions are starving to-day, and millions have been starving foi ages ? Do you feel that ignorance has come over the land as a dark cloud ? Does it make you restless ? Does it make you sleepless ? Has it gone into your blood, coursing through your veins, becoming constant with your heart-beats ? Has it made you almost mad ? Are you seized with that one idea of the misery of ruin, and have you forgotten all about your name, your fame, your wives, your children, your property, even your own bodies ? Have you done that ? That is the first step to become a patriot, the very first step.
Come out of your narrow holes and have a look abroad. See how nations are on the march ! Do you love man ? Do you love your country ? Then come, let us struggle for higher and better things ; look not back, no, not even if you see the dearest and nearest cry. Look not back, but forward !
Men, men,—these are wanted : everything else will be ready, but strong, vigorous, believing young^men, sincere to the backbone, are wanted. A hundred such and the world becomes revolutionized.
The essential thing is renunciation—without renunciation none can pour out his whole heart in working for others. The man of renunciation sees all with an equal eye, and devotes himself to the service of all. Nothing will be able to resist truth and love and sincerity. Are you sincere, unselfish even unto death, and loving ? Then fear not, not even death. As you go on your way serving others, you will, on a parallel line, advance in the path of knowledge. Work, work the idea, my brave, noble, good souls,—to the wheel, to the wheel put your shoulders! Stop not to look back for name, or tame, or any suck nonsense. Throw self overboard and work.
Down with all sloth, down with all enjoyments here or hereafter. Plunge into the fire and bring the people towards the Lord. Put yourself to work, and you will find such tremendous power coming to you that you will feel it hard to bear. Even the least work done for others awakens the power within; even thinking the least good of others gradually instils into the heart the strength of a lion. I love you all ever so much, but I would wish you all to die working for others—I should be rather glad to see you do that!
Truth is infinitely more weighty than untruth; so is goodness. If you possess these, they will make their way by sheer gravity. Every work has got to pass through hundreds of difficulties before succeeding. Those that persevere will see the light, sooner or later. Infinite patience, infinite purity, and infinite perseverance are the secret of success in a good cause. Hold on with faith and strength ; be true, be honest, be pure. Do not figure out big plans at first, but begin slowly, feel your ground and proceed, up and up.
Take care of these two things,— love of power and jealousy. Nobody will come to help you, if you put yourself forward as a leader. Kill self first if you want to succeed. Do not try to lead your brethren, but serve them. The brutal mania for leading has sunk many a great ship in the waters of life. Take care specially of that. Never attempt to guide or rule others, or, as the Yankees say, “boss” others. Be the servant of all. Do not try to be a ruler. He is the best ruler who can serve well.
Be patient with everybody. Why should you mix in controversies ? Bear with the various opinions of everybody. Patience, purity, and perseverance will prevail. Please everybody without becoming a hypocrite and without being a coward. Hold on to your own ideas with strength and purity, and whatever obstructions may now be in your way, the world is bound to listen to you in the long run. Be positive ; do not criticise others. Give your message, teach what you have to teach, and there stop. The Lord knows the rest.
Expand your hearts and hopes, as wide as the world. I want the intensity of the fanatic plus the extensity of the materialist. Deep as the ocean, broad as the infinite sky, that is the sort of heart,we want.
We are poor, my brothers, we are nobodies, but such have been always the instruments of the Most High. Do not care for anybody to help you. Is not the Lord infinitely greater than all human help ? Be holy—trust in the Lord, depend on Him always, and you are on the right track ;
nothing can prevail against you. Let us pray “Lead, Kindly Light,”— a beam will come through the dark, and a hand will be stretched forth to lead us. Glory unto the Lord — march on,' the Lord is our General. Do not look back to see who falls — forward — onward ? Thus and thus we shall go on, brethren. One falls, and another takes up the work. Work on, brave hearts, fail not — no saying nay ; work on — the Lord is behind the work. Mahashakti is with you.