ESSENTIALS FOR REGENERATION
Training Sincere Workers
The basis of all systems, social or political, rests upon the goodness of men. No nation is great or good because Parliament enacts this or that, but because its men are great and good. Men are more valuable than all the wealth of the world.
All that England can do is to help India to work out her own salvation. All progress at the dictation of another, whose hand is at India's throat, is valueless in my opinion. The highest work can only degenerate when slave-labour produces it. Tell me, whose wants are those — yours or the ruler’s ? If yours, will the ruler supply them for you, or will you have to do that for yourselves ? Never are the wants of a beggar fulfilled, Suppose the Government give you all you need, where are the men who are able to keep up the things demanded ? So make men first.
When you have men who are ready to sacrifice their everything for their country, sincere to the backbone — when such men arise, India will become great in every respect. Then only will India awake, when hundreds of large-hearted men and women giving up all desires of enjoying the luxuries of life, will long and exert themselves to their utmost, for the well-being of the millions of their countrymen who are gradually sinking lower and lower in the vortex of destitution and ignorance.
Work among those young men who can devote heart and soul to this one duty — the duty of raising the masses of India. 'Awake them, unite them, and inspire them with this spirit of renunciation; it depends wholly on the young people of India. A hundred thousand men and women, fired with the zeal of holiness, fortified with eternal faith in the Lord, and nerved to lion’s courage by their sympathy for the poor and the fallen and the down-trodden, will go over the length and breadth of the land, preaching the gospel of salvation, the gospel of help, the gospel of social raising-up — the gospel of equality.
What I now want is a band of fiery missionaries. My plan is to start institutions in India, to train our young men as preachers of the truths of our Scriptures, in India and outside India.
Deluging the Land with Spiritual Ideals
The political systems that we are struggling for in India have been in Europe for ages, have been tried for centuries, and have been found wanting. One after another, the institutions, systems, and everything connected with political government have been condemned as useless, and Europe is restless, does not know where to turn. It is hopeless and perfectly useless to attempt to govern mankind with the sword. You will find that the very centres from which such ideas as government by force sprang up, are the very first centres to degrade and degenerate and crumble to pieces. Europe, the centre of the manifestation of material energy, will crumble into dust within fifty years, if she is not mindful to change her position, to shift her ground and make spirituality the basis of her life.
Everything goes to show that socialism or some form of rule by the people, call it what you will, is coming on the boards. The people will certainly want the satisfaction of their material needs, less work, no oppression, no war, more food. What guarantee have we that this, or any civilisation, will last, unless it is based on religion, on the goodness of man ? Depend on it, religion goes to the root of the matter. If it is right, all is right.
One must admit that law, government, politics are phases not final in any way. There is a goal beyond them where law is not needed Christ saw that the basis is not law, that morality and purity are the only strength. You have the saying that men cannot be made virtuous by an Act of Parliament. And that is why religion is of deeper importance than politics, since it goes to the root, and deals with the essentials of conduct.
I claim that no destruction of religion is necessary to improve the Hindu society, and that this state of society exists not on account of religion but because that religion has not been applied to society as it should have been. This I am ready to prove from our old books, every word of it. This is what I teach, and this is what we must struggle all our lives to carry out. The first work that demands our attention is that the most wonderful truths confined in our Upanishads, in our Scriptures, in our Puranas — must be brought out from the books and scattered broadcast all over the land. Every improvement in India requires first of all an upheaval in religion. Before flooding India with socialistic or political ideas, first deluge the land with spiritual ideas. In this land of charity, let us take up the energy of the first charity, the diffusion of spiritual knowledge. And that diffusion should not be confined within the bounds of India. After preaching spiritual knowledge, along with it will come that secular knowledge and every other knowledge that you want; but if you attempt to get the secular knowledge without religion, I tell you plainly, vain is your attempt in India, it will never have a hold on the people.
The first plank in the making of a future India, the first step that is to be hewn out of that rock of ages, is this unification of religion. All of us have to be taught that we Hindus have certain common ideas behind us, and that the time has come when for the well-being of ourselves, for the well-being of our race, we must give up all our little quarrels and differences. National union in India must be a gathering up of its scattered spiritual forces. A nation in India must be a union of those whose hearts beat to the same spiritual tune.
What our country now wants, are muscles of iron and nerves of steel, gigantic wills which nothing can resist, which can penetrate into the mysteries and the secrets of the universe, and will accomplish their purpose in any fashion, even if it meant going down to the bottom of the ocean and meeting death face to face. That is what we want, and that can only be created, established and strengthened, by understanding and realising the ideal of the Advaita, that ideal of the oneness of all. None can regenerate this land of ours without the practical application and effective operation of this ideal of the oneness of things. The truths of the Upanishads are before you. Take them up, live up to them, and the salvation of India will be at hand.
Let me tell you that we want strength, strength, and every time strength. And the Upanishads are the great mine of strength. Therein lies strength enough to invigorate the whole world; the whole world can be vivified, made strong, energised through them. They will call with trumpet voice upon the weak, the miserable, and the down-trodden of all races, all creeds, and all sects, to stand on their feet and be free ; freedom, physical freedom, mental freedom, and spiritual freedom are the watchwords of the Upanishads.
If there is one word that you find coming out like a bomb from the Upanishads bursting like a bomb-shell upon masses of ignorance, it is the word, fearlessness. And the only religion that ought to be taught, is the religion of fearlessness. Arise, awake ! Awake from this hypnotism of weakness. None is really weak ; the soul is infinite, omnipotent, and omniscient. Stand up, assert yourself, proclaim the God within you, do not deny Him! Too much of inactivity, too much of weakness, too much of hypnotism, has been and is upon our race. O ye modern Hindus, de-hypnotise yourselves. Teach yourselves, teach everyone his real nature, call upon the sleeping soul and see how it awakes. Power will come, glory will come, goodness will come, purity will come, and every thing that is excellent will come when this sleeping soul is roused to self-conscious activity.
Ever tell yourself—“I am He.” These are the words that will burn up the dross that is in the mind, words that will bring out the tremendous energy which is within you already, the infinite power which is sleeping in your heart.
All the social upheavalists, at least the leaders of them, are trying to find that all their communistic or equalising theories must have a spiritual basis, and that spiritual basis is Vedanta only. No amount of force or government, or legislative cruelty will change the conditions of a race, but it is spiritual culture and ethical culture alone that can change wrong racial tendencies for the better. Go back, go back to old age, when there was strength and vitality. Be strong once more, drink deep of the fountain of yore, and that is the only condition of life in India.
Social Reform—Its Method
Platform speeches have been made by the thousand, denunciations in volumes after volumes have been hurled upon the devoted head of the Hindu race and its civilization, and yet no good practical result has been achieved ; and where is the reason for that ? The reason is not hard to find. It is in the denunciation itself. Denunciation is not at all the way to do good.
Have no word of condemnation, even for the most superstitious and the most irrational of its institutions, for they also must have served some good in the past. Remember always, that there is not in the world any other country whose institutions are really better in their aims and objects than the institutions of this land. Even those customs that are now appearing to be positive evils, have been positively life-giving in time past, and if we have to remove these, we must not do so with curses, but with blessings and gratitude for the glorious work these customs have done for the preservation of our race.
I do not believe in reform; I believe in growth. I do not dare to put myself in the position of God and dictate to our society, “This way thou shouldst move and not that.” My ideal is growth, expansion, development on national lines. Each individual has to work out his own salvation ; there is no other way, and so also nations. Until higher institutions have been evolved any attempt to break the old ones will be disastrous. Growth is always gradual. Take man where he stands and from thence give him a lift.
I am sorry to say that most of our modern reform-movements have been inconsiderate imitations of Western means and methods of work, and that surely will not do for India. All the reformers in India made the serious mistake of holding religion accountable for all the horrors of priestcraft and degeneration, and went forthwith to pull down the indestructible structure, and what was the result'? Failure!
You must go down to the basis of the thing, to the very root of the matter. That is what I call radical reform. Put the fire there and let it burn upwards and make an Indian nation. My method of treatment is to take out by the roots the very causes of the disease and not keep them merely suppressed.
All healthy social changes are the manifestations of the spiritual forces working within, and if these are strong and well adjusted, society will arrange itself accordingly. Meddle not with so-called social reform for there cannot be any reform without spiritual reform first.
We do stand in need of social reform. At times great men would evolve new ideas of progress, and kings would give them the sanction of law. Thus social improvements had been in the past made in India, and in modern times to effect such progressive reforms, we will have first to build up such an authoritative power. Kings having gone, the power is the people’s. We have, therefore, to wait till the people are educated, till they understand their needs and are ready and able to solve their problems. The tyranny of the minority is the worst tyranny in the world. Therefore, instead of frittering away our energies on ideal reforms, which will never become practical, we had better go to the root ot ,he evil and make a legislative body, that is to say, educate our people so that they may be able to solve their own problems. Until that is done all these ideal reforms will remain ideals only. The new order of things is the salvation of the people by the people, and it takes time to make it workable, especially in India, which has always in the past been governed by kings.
If you wish to be a true reformer three things are necessary. The first to feel; do you really feel for your brothers ? Do you really feel that there is so much misery in the world, so much ignorance and superstition ? Do you really feel that men are your brothers ? Does this idea come into your whole being ? Does it run with your blood ? Does it tingle in your veins ? Does it course through every nerve and filament of your body ? Are you full of that idea of sympathy? If you are, that is only the first step. You must think next if you have found any remedy. The old ideas may be all superstition — but in and round these masses of superstition are nuggets of gold and truth. Have you discovered the means by which to keep that gold alone, without any of the dross ? One more thing is necessary. What is your motive ? Are you sure that you are not actuated by greed of gold, by thirst for fame or power ?