Monday, August 18, 2014

Evolution and Continuation of Indian Art and Culture (Detailed Analysis)

The discovery of Indus civilization extended the knowledge of Indian history beyond the Vedic age both in material as well as spiritual realms. Indus civilization, commonly termed as pre-history, establish antiquity and continuity of Indian culture in the field of spiritual progress. India has no parallel in eternally grappling with such issues. And in this civilized exercise not one race or one region, but the entire population spread over the land has been ever active. Geographically speaking, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Gandhar to kamrupa there have been endeavors to unveil the truth without disconnecting Theology from Philosophy. Singing of hymns and laudations by Vedic seers was always coupled with the speculation that at the bottom, they manifested one primal Being.

The rise of Jainism and Buddhism, though materially affected the religious urge, yet in the course of their philosophic speculation to raise Theological issues came to establish some form of religious cult. The Vedic cult of sacrifice involving ceremonial cruelty invited protest which in turn gave birth to these religions. The protest was joined by Brahminical thinkers who came forward with allegorical interpretations on Vedic rituals. But more significantly, the metaphysical mind of India opposed the Vedic ritual evolving cruelty, to which the world owes the mystic monism of the Upanishads. The gods retained, but a subordinate and colourless form and Brahman emerged as towering reality, as the impersonal Absolute, though sometimes viewed with personal attributes. Despite an advent of counter reformation in later periods, the Vedic age enabled monotheism a brush with the Theory of Brahman. A monolatary amounting to monotheism was ushered in. Epics and Puranas testify to the process of groping of human mind for a reliable foundation of religious faith and social morality. Later on, when contact with foreign monotheistic creeds called for a reformation of her religious beliefs and practices, India found resurgence from within her rich spiritual heritage replenishing her moral fibre to reorientate her religious life towards establishing a more equitable social order.

There has been the most interesting inter-play between theology and metaphysics on Indian soil. Kashmir bestowed us the Trika philosophy in association with Shaivism. The Punjab gave us the Vedic hymns, as also superb Gandhar school of sculpture during Buddhist times. The heart of Aryavarata blessed us with ritualistic literature, the earlier Upanishads, the epics, and some of the older Puranas. Mithila became known for spiritual excellence of Janaka and Yajnavalkya. Magadha gave birth of two of the greatest sons of human civilization Mahavira and Buddha. Bengal offered us Chaitanya as also the later Tantras. Assam has likewise given us pure Vaishnavism and earlier, the magico-religious cults of the Tantrikas. The medieval Siddhas came from the eastern regions. Nepal offered a synthesis of Brahminical and Buddhist religions; also the schools of painters and braziers who with Tibetans gave form and shape to the multitudinous gods and goddesses of the Mahayan Pantheon. Orissa’s magnificent contribution has been celebrated monuments of Buddha, Shakta, Vanishnava and Saura religions. Orissa also excelled in its philosophical works supporting the theism of the Chaitanya School, and continuing the Buddhist tradition in a veiled manner in religious and social practices.

The Dravidian area of India gave the foremost commentaries on the Brahma-Sutra providing a Philosophic basis of religious belief. The area echoed highest religious lyricism both in Vaishnava and Shaiva branches of bhakti. The Vaishnava Alwars and the Shaiva Nayanars and numerous writers of Samhitas and Agamas poured religion in the heart of all with an ultimate outcome in orthodoxy’s recognition of vernacular hymns as acceptable offerings to the deity. Mostly free from dread of iconoclasm and at a great distance from alien political authority, the religious South transformed the whole country into a vast cathedral city with gorgeous temples and spectacular rites and the whole year into a round of festivals and pilgrimages. The sectarian bitterness which panchvata and Agamic conflict tended to produce, was toned down by the Smartas. The Lingayat cult in Karnataka evolved an alliance with Jainism of the South and attacked many items of the Orthodox Brahminical creed and custom. The Saints of Karnataka vied with the Tamil Shaiva and Vaishnava lyricists in their rapturous devotion to God. Maharashtra gave us Tukaram, Namdev and others whose devotional verses have illumined countless souls with their mystic light. Like the medieval mystics of North India – Kabir, Dadu, Ravidas, Nanak, Mirabai, Tulsidas and others – and like the Tamil Saints, they have affirmed that the removal of the barrier erected by the sacred Sanskrit inspired the religion to mitigate all boundaries of caste and convention and establish a new hierarchy in the spiritual field enriched by the waters of living faith. Early Bhagavatism, the redaction of the Shvetambara Jain canon and the consolidation of the solar cult have been distinctions of Gujarat and Kathiawad while Digambara Jain literature was consolidation and extension in the South, in Karnataka. The patronage so lavishly bestowed by different dynasties and individual rulers in different parts of the country to further the cause of this or that religion throughout the centuries has been the most precious treasure of human memory. We should also remember that Dayanand, the founder of the Arya Samaj, hailed from Gujarat, and found the most receptive audience in the Punjab, where like the Sikhs, the Arya Samajis so liberalized Hinduism that the challenge of Islam was effectively met in that area. Sind has given us the great sufi thinker of India.

Recent times have been most fertile in helping us to realize the cultural value of Rajasthan, Vindhya Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Hyderabad, the tribal areas of Assam, and the South Bihar. The remnants of archaic religious beliefs in the regions pre-date the Dravidians and also the pre-historic peoples of the different stone ages whose religious life is being painfully reconstructed with fragment of cull objects. In Rajasthan sites belonging to the Mohenjo-daro and Harappa civilization are being discovered. Even the dark areas were at one time illuminated by religious traditions with hoary antiquities of their own. One should not exclude from this landscape Sir Lanka which gave us the Pali Tripitaka and immortal Buddhist monuments. India has always been religious.

In the saga of this gigantic evolution different racial colours are difficult to be separated from each other. The Indus valley, the Aryan, the Dravidian, the Austric, the Scythian, the Greek, the Huna, the Iranian, the Mongolian and even the Semitic (Islamic and Christian) races have all pooled together their currents of religious thought to build up the mighty stream of Indian cultures. The greatest drama of coalescing by many races and cultures has been enacted on Indian soil. Her toleration gave shelter to all faiths. Her catholicity gave her an inner strength to absorb foreign elements with ease and extended her cultural hands of friendship to countries round about.

Latterly, she kept the foreigners out by stiffening the castes rules, and shut herself in by discontinuing religious missions to foreign land. The first restriction is being slowly removed now. But the second task of re-establishing cultural contacts abroad has yet to assume greater vigour. The bulk of the now tiny but highly intellectual, wealthy, enterprising charitable Parsi population of the world, following Zoroaster, has had its home in the western part of this country for over ten centuries. There is an ancient colony of Jews in Cochin. According to tradition St. Thomas, one of Christ’s twelve Apostles, came and planted the seed of Christianity in South India shortly after the passing away of Jesus. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, excepting a very small number of emigrants scattered in erstwhile British colonies, have no other home than India, which is the motherland of some hundred million Muslims (also including those of Pakistan). Needless to emphasise that India is the birth place of Buddhism and she contains all the first and earliest sacred places of that religion to which pilgrims have been coming year after year from all the Asian countries where Buddhism has spread. Laotzism, Confucianism and Shinto practically all merged into an amalgam with Buddhism in China and Japan. The gathering of all living religions in and around India has deepened and widened the horizons of her own culture.

The religiosity of India been the eternal wonder for mankind, not only because of composition and compilation of sacred texts and the rise of sects all over the country. The element of wonder also lies in visible symbols of religious value. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari the whole landscape is studded with sacred streams, famous places of pilgrimage, magnificent temples and confluences of big seasonal religious-cultural gatherings. If Prayag. Kashi and Kanchi are sacred to orthodox and heterodox sects, other like Hardwar and Rajgir are patronized by more than one sect ; still other like Puri, Ayodhya, Mathura, Ujjain, Shriranga, Tirupathi, Pandharpura, Dvarika, Nasik, Kamakhya, Bodhi Gaya, Sarnath, Pavapuri and Navadvipa are patronized generally by a single religious community.

There are four cardinal points illumined by four Dhams – Badrikashrama, Puri, Rameshwar and Dvarika and in or near them the four seats of Shankaracharya, which every pious Hindu aspires to visit at least once in his life. The religious unity of India lies in elimination of all geographical distinctions and distribution of places of pilgrimage all over the country. The Shakta is proud of his fifty one places of pilgrimage strewn all over from Hinglaj (Baluchistan) to Kamakhya and from Kashmir to Sri Lanka. Similarly, a Shaiv has his mount Kailash and temple of Pashupatinath beyond Indian boundaries, and within them, those of Amarnath and Kedarnath in the north, Rameshwaram in the south, Somanath in the west and Bhuvaneshwar in the east. The Vaishnava, too, can point to the seats of Badarinath in the north, Padmanabhasvamin at Trivandrum in the south, Puri in the east and Dvarika in the west.

It has been unique fortune of cultural India to have had her kings as great patrons of religion in more than one sense. Though the religious headship really belonged to the Brahmins, Kings not only encouraged and inspired scholars and religious seers to compose noble literature. They also summoned councils to settle religious disputes and fix the canon. Sometimes they look part in religious discussion themselves. In the Upanishads, they even present themselves as teachers of highest wisdom – Brahmvidya. Brahamins, too, approached them for spiritual enlightenment. The many copper plate grants bearing the royal insignia, often a religious symbol, found all over the country, testify to kings’ and rulers’ religious zeal and charitable disposition. Religious brotherhoods received liberal gifts from their hands. They built awe inspiring temples to house divine images and endowed them with suitable landgrants for maintenance and provision of scriptural instruction. Kings like Ashoka and Harsha had sincere faith in, and respect for, other religious creeds. Ashoka patronized Buddhism and helped in its spread far and wide. Imperial Guptas, the Chalukyas and the Cholas were responsible for Brahminism. Again, the Chalukyas of Gujarat and the Rashtrakuts of Malkhed extended princely support to Jainism. The Palas of Bengal and the Karas of Orissa supported Buddhism. The Sens of Bengal, the Eastern Gangas of Orissa, and the Hoysalas in South India patronized the Brahminical faith. Harsha promoted Buddhism.

Religion as culture survives in the hearts of men, but religion as temple-cult depends on patronage. In the heart of the country, both in North and South India,every sect can point with pride to the innumerable caves and temples, images and statues, of unsurpassed splendour in religious architecture and sculpture, that bear testimony to the popular devotion to the gods, and to social and State support of religious institutions. There are huge and rich temples in South India, wonderful specimens of titanic architecture, each one of which can house and run a whole university of thousands of students. In the heyday of their glory, the income of temples went mainly to benefit people at large by way of promotion of education and help to the needy. Later, such practices gradually receded into the background mainly due to the descent of lineal succession in ownership of temples and places of religious worship.

Similarly, in the context of Sanskrit, the lesson was lost that language is spontaneous expression of thought and emotion and that therefore mantras in an archaic tongue may acquire a mystic hallow, but are unintelligible to most of those who utter them. A belief in the magical efficacy of Vedic mantras becoming an article of faith with Brahmin literature and Purva-Mimamsa Philosophy, was an inevitability under such circumstances. In this the Aryans of India erred indeed in the goodly company of the Zoroastrian, the Roman Catholic and the Mohammedan, all of whom repeat prayers in Zend, Latin and Arabic respectively without often understanding their meaning. The one purpose that this retention of old language really served was saving the Vedas from oblivion at a time when the human kind was the only tablet on which the Sruti was written. Classical Sanskrit, in later times, replaced the Vedic language. But when this Sanskrit became unintelligible to the masses, a similar indulgence was shown to the provincial language as vehicles of religious expression except in heterodox systems like Jainism and Buddhism. But these system, too, in later period tended toward Sanskrit. The mystic syllables and formulae of the esoteric Tantras, when divorced from their philosophical and religious setting, are a logical corollary to faith in force of the unintelligible spoken word, to which not only Brahminism, but also Jainism and Buddhism succumbed.

The rise of a sacerdotal caste has not been an unmixed blessing either. The Jews and Zoroastrians too had their priestly class, but in India the system acquired a rigidity unknown elsewhere. Though originally all the three higher castes, regarded as twice bonn dvija, possessed the right of access to the Vedas, in course of time the Brahmins monopolized this function in such a way that not only were the other two castes ousted from performing Vedic rites, but their attempt to regain their lost position, e.g., by Vishwamitra, was resented by the Brahmins. The Shudras were excluded altogether not only from religious field as ministrants, except for some insignificant functions but also from the study of philosophical disciplines which required, as a preliminary qualification, the study of the Vedas, which they were not entitled to undertake. Mixing of blood, however, could not be prevented altogether. But the caste of children born of miscegenation or intercaste union was higher or lower according to the mother’s relation to a lower or higher caste than that of the father.

The medieval mystics of India, who inveighed against caste and religious customs alike, had ample justification for their bitter attack on religious practices of the day. The contribution towards a purer conception of the deity and a better social organization cannot be over estimated. A living faith was brought to the door of the meanest by preachers often coming from submerged classes of Hindu society, and that too in the very citadel of orthodoxy, namely, Aryavarta, so highly extolled in the Manu Smriti. Islam brought not only a levelling but also a leavening influence in India, with its uncompromising monotheism and social equality of all adherents to the faith. Brahmanism had to put its house in order against the danger of Islam, and sects like Sikhism owe their inspiration as much to Islam as to Hindu sources.

Orthodoxy, however, reacted characteristically to this new situation by tightening social controls. But it ended in multiplicity of new religious vows only to turn the whole year into a round of rites and festivals. This served to make the common people more superstitious and yet, at the same time, more religious in a way. A solid achievement derived from this churning was an evolution of popular methods in religious instruction which in turn brought contents of learned books to the knowledge of the masses at large and certain high ideals of virtue constituting the priceless heritage of India, such as, the dutifulness of Rama; the chastity of Sita, Sati and Savitri; the brotherly love of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata heroes; the religious devotion of Dhruva and Prahlada; the truthfulness of Yudhishthira; the charity of Sibi, Karna and Harishchandra; and the achievement of Vishvamitra in re-establishing the principle of social eminence according to personal qualification.

No wonder, the Mahabharata came to be regarded as the fifth Veda: open to all alike; the puranas to be religiously recited; and in the South the popular devotional literature came to be known as the Tamil Veda. This evolution constantly reminds certain basic features in Indian culture which are of surpassing interest. In this land of religion, prophets never lacked an appreciative audience, nor freedom to express their views. The Parivrajkas (itinerant religious teachers) in Buddha’s time often belonged to non-Brahaminic castes. In medival times followers of Ramanand came from some of the lowest classes of society, even from outside the fold of Hinduism. Nevertheless, all classes of teachers got respectful hearing, though the message preached was often radically opposed to the accepted code of orthodoxy and cut at the root of Brahminical superimacy. Again, being an ethnological rather than a prophetic faith, the religion of the masses was never stereotyped which gave the adherents the freedom to pick and choose.

Was this evolution conductive to the best interest of communal spirituality? The painfully achieved gain of the Upanishadic height of spirituality was lost to the popular demand for crude faith and comfortable virtue, and was replaced by the resurgence of rank polytheism, or else by bickerings over the name of the one supreme god. For over a dozen centuries, popular ideas about religion were widely held, and the eternal universal, rational religion was deflected from the worshipful contemplation of the supreme universal self, embracing and including all individual selves, to the worship of innumerable trees, animals, and idols; and that wonderful scheme of a universal society, bases on the four Varnas (vocational classes) and four Ashramas (stages of life) was shifted from its true, scientific and psychological basis in the congenital vocational temperament and aptitude to the dubious but socially convenient one of rigid heredity.

The first glimpses of the Varna scheme we get in Rig-Vedic Rurusha Sukta, where the whole society is regarded as a Universal or Social Man, of whom society is a reflex, and the various vocational groups his different limbs. The mouth, or head of this collective social man or human races, according to the Purusha Sukta (R. U. X 90) was the Brahmin, his arms constituted the Kshatriya, his trunk was the Vaishya, his legs were represented by the Shudra. Such is the thousand headed, thousand eyed, thousand legged Social Man who spread over all the earth and ruled over all other living creature. This scheme was further elaborated in Manu Smiriti, the oldest Indian law book, whose injunctions are still followed by the Hindus, though in a very distorted form. The Manu Smiriti organizes the whole human race, keeping in view the concept of the Purasha Sukta, into four natural psycho-physical types (varnas) of human beings, and four natural stages (ashramas) in each individual life.

In other words, the basic components are: 

(a) the man of knowledge, of science, literature, thought and learning – Brahmin 
(b) the man of action, of valour –Kshatriya, 
(c) the man of desire, of acquisitive business enterprise – Vaishya, and 
(d) the man of little intelligence, uneducable beyond certain low limits, incapable of dealing with abstract ideas, fit for only manual labour – Shudra. And the four stages are those of  a student (brahmcharin), a householder (grithastha), a hermit (Vanprastha) and a monk (Sanyasin). Nietzsche, the famous philosopher and literature, has declared of Manu Smiriti as follows, in his ‘The Twilight of The Idols.’

“Such a law book as that of Manu sums up the experience, sagacity and experimental morals of long centuries, it comes to a final decision, it does not devise expedients any longer. At a certain point in the development of a nation, the book with the most penetrative insight pronounces that the experience according to which people are to live i.e. according to which they can live, has, at last, been decided upon. To draw up a law book like that of Manu means to permit a nation hence-forth to get the upper hand, to become perfect, to be ambitious of the highest art of living… The arrangement of the castes, the highest cardinal law, is only the sanction of a natural order, natural legality of the highest rank, over which no arbitrariness, no ‘modern idea’ holds sway. In every healthy society, three mutually conditioning types, differently gravitating physiologically, separate themselves, each type having its own hygiene, its own domain of labour, own special sentiment of perfection, own special superiority. Nature, and not Manu, separates those mainly intellectual, those mainly endowed with muscular and temperamental strength, and those distinguished neither for the one nor the other, the mediocre third class one from the other, the latter being the great number, the former the select individuals.”

Living through the four Varnas and four ashramas, the goal of life is achieved by adherence to four values: purushartha of dharma, artha, kama, and moksa. The goal is two-fold; abhyudaya and nihshreyas. The first goal consists of three values. If we put them in reverse order, we find sense joy, refined by wealth and regulated by law. The triple values are to be pursued in the first half of life i.e. in the first two stages of life. The next two stages are to be devoted to the fourth value i.e. moksa – deliverance from all sorrow, doubt and fear. This scheme of thing if life was known as Sanatan Dharma – a very practical religion not only in an other-wordly sense, but also very much mundane.

To quote Manu: “That which secures abhyudaya (prosperity) here, and nihshreyas (highest bliss) or moksa (deliverance from all fear) hereafter, is dharma. Some say dharma and artha (law-religion and wealth) are best; other, Kama (joy of the sense) and artha; others dharma only; yet other artha only. But the final truth is that abhyudaya consist in, and is achievable by all the three together. Supreme happiness, termed differently as nihshreyas, nirvana, moksa, mukti, etc. result from a realization of the identity of the individual self with the supreme universal self, of Jivatma with Paramataman, and therefore with all the countless individual selves.”

The neglect of such an integrated scheme of life is the mother of all ills in individual and social life. Veda-Vyas cried out in the agony of his heart, “I cry with arms uplifted, but none hearth! Artha and Kama result from dharma. Why then is it not followed”? (Mbh:X viii 5 62) But none listened and the Kauravas and the Pandavas and the Yadvas all came to destruction. Two world wars, of recent origin, each far more destructive than the Mahabharata war, have illustrated the same law. Grab, greed, hate and lust are followed by vast butcheries. But even those who feel not need to believe in a God or gods, an after-life, and the like agree that some laws, some code of conduct are indispensable for social life. Laws and code of conduct may differ from time to time and place to place, but without some curb on human vagaries and evil propensities, no decent and secure social life is possible. This in essence is the Sanatan (eternal) Dharma (way of life).

Now turning to its fundamental belief in the law of Karma which has been a cardinal tenet of Hinduism, one may like to agree with Confucian proposition that an intimate relationship is supposed exist between cosmic happenings and social phenomena. The law of Karma acts as an invisible and impersonal law of recompense and retribution. “As ye sow, even so must ye reap.” The recognition of an ultimate and eternal substratum of the world does not obviate the necessity of recognizing the fact of phenomenal existence. Birth and death, day and night, creation and destruction, evolution and involution, descent of spirit, mind into matter, and re-ascent therefrom, the will to live and the will to die- such are the form, method and manner of the world process. Out of his arises the important problem of rebirth or reincarnation and transmigration or metempsychosis of the soul. Once metaphysics accepts the position that soul (Jiva) is subject to ignorance and moral law, it follows that one belief of a few years on this earth can not exhaust the whole life-activity of the Jiva, or suffice for the realization of its oneness with the Eternal. It must have repeated incarnations strictly determined according to moral worth. Sanatan Dharma, Buddhism and Jainism all believe in the law of Karma. Jataka tales describe some five hundred previous births of the Buddha.

Sanatan Dharma makes it plain, however, that the consequences of sin as well as of merit become exhausted sooner or later according to the nature of that sin or merit and then souls return to earth with sub and supra-conscious memories to profit by lessons of past birth and advance or recede in varying degrees on the path of evolution. The ultimate objective is always liberation or cessation of embodiment through a spiritual illumination about the independence of the soul and its freedom from the bondage of matter at all times. To the fact of rebirth necessarily attaches the third great truth that as there is this physical world corresponding to our five sense and  waking state, there are other worlds corresponding to subtle senses and other states of consciousness. Through these our souls pass between death and rebirth in this world. When the soul comes to the human stage, the possibility of inquiry, as to the how and why of all we see around us, as to the meaning and purpose of life, arises.

But it is only after a soul has turned from descent to ascent, from extrovertness to introvertness that the urge for inquiry becomes stronger, until it becomes verily a matter of life and death to it to understand the how and why of all existence. In its anxious search, the soul passes through two stages and finds a solution of its harassing problems, and then attains peace in the third and last stage. In terms of knowledge these stages of inquiry constitute the three chief Darshana (views) – the Dvaita, Vishishtadvita and Advita. These three views correspond in Western phraseology, to deism, personalistic theism of concrete monism and absolute monism.

A corollary to the exploration of the how and why of the world process is the great question. What is the goal, the end and aim of life? The final aim, cherished by every human heart, is the return to that original state of perfection from which we have strayed. It is to gain the realization that all world-process is but play, lila, of oneself. Sooner or later this realization comes to every soul, after the experience of all sorts of joys and sorrows, sins and good deeds, and depths and hights of life, because all souls are identical in essence with the one supreme self. The outcome of this realization is freedom from all bondage, fear and sorrows, for there is no other entity apart from and other than the self.

It has been a hard-won victory for the human mind to have conceived of a spiritual universe. Some call this world process as chance, some call it God, some call it fate. The Shvetashvetara Upanishads gives a similar list of primal principles. But the best, dearest and nearest name for this supreme came to be known as “I”, self, Atman and Parmataman in Hindu religious though. All else may be doubted, but the fact of “I” can never be doubted by any one. And this “I am” – the universal principle of consciousness is eternal and infinite. As Devi Bhagavata says, “The cessation of this principle of consciousness have been, nor can ever be, witnessed by any one. For, if it is seen, then that witness himself remains as embodiment of that continuous consciousness.”

This leads to the essentials of the universality of religion. The Mahabharata propounds the golden rule thus: “Do not do to others what ye do not wish done to your-self; and wish for others too that ye desire and long for yourself. This is the whole of dharma, heed it well”. Jesus Christ enjoins upon his followers the same role in the positive form, “whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them”, and this he characterizes as “the whole of the law and the prophets”. Some six hundred years later, Mohammed instructed his followers in these words, “Noblest religion this – that then shouldst like for others what thou likes for thyself. And what thou feelest painful for thyself, hold that as painful for all others too”. Similar is the teachings given by Buddha, Mahavira and Confucious.

But why should a person act in accord with this golden rule? The answer to this question is not clearly and expressly given in the extant scriptures of any other religion that the Vedanta which proclaims: “Because all other selves are your own self”. As you do unto others, so shall it be done unto you. This is rationale of the law of Karma. The Sanatan Dharma has delineated three paths of Bakti, Jnan and Karma to reach the point of realization. To the same end Christianity proposes the way of work, of knowledge and of devotion; Islam suggests shariat, tariqat and haiqat; Buddhism preaches sheel, prajna and Samadhi; and in Jainism samyak charitra, samyak jnan and smyak darshan are offered to reach the goal of realization.

Again, a question arises. What do all these religious thoughts and expressions indicate? These similarities of belief and conduct serve to bring out into relief the basic identity of human equipment when at its best, the sameness of the religious urge all over the world, and the inherent desire to be at peace with one’s surroundings and live up to the highest ideals. Ignorance, infatuation and greed may blind us to the realities of a higher life, but they are removable by discipline, they are only temporary fetters which keep the potentially infinite human soul in bondage and untruth. Even the most primitive religion is designed to ennoble life, and it is only the mistaken notion of what constitutes true nobility that drags the primitives down. Enlightenment of the soul darkened by passion, ill will and false view is, therefore, a paramount necessity in spiritual redemption.

A distinctive feature of Indian religious thought has been self-negating side of life, the Nivriti Marg. Perhaps the colour has been laid a little too thick on this aspect but that is because plenty could be obtained by merely scratching the soil, and life was not so hard as it was, for instance, in Iran or Arabia or Palestine, where men had to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow. Where nature is all attraction and bounty, the danger of seduction is natural. Hence the constant warning to be alert and mindful of spiritual obligations.

The Semitic mind is preoccupied with the power aspect of God and hence the perpetual dread of offending Him and the need of intercession through prophets to make peace with God play such a large part in the Semitic religious consciousness. The Indian mind was latterly turned more inward and was, so to say, afraid of the blandishment of nature. It felt the greater need of self-discipline and indifference to the attractions of sense for realizing the inner self. It is these that gave the distinctive twist to the Indian religious mind resulting in the abnegation of the lower self and reliance on the higher self. Each man has been called upon to fight his lonely battle with the solicitation of the flesh and to conquer his lower self almost unaided. Buddhism, Jainism, Samkya, Yoga – all exhort the individual to be self-reliant in his stuge to avoid the bondage by evil action, and to resist the temptation of ev pleasurable heavenly existence, where the sense are regaled by agreeable er ments. There is no spiritual advancement in heaven as held by many typical theism.

The boldness of this creed of self-help has proved baffling to those who been brought up in the belief that at every step the helping hand of God is indisp able for the attainment of spiritual heights. For, when the Indian mind swung to the opposite side, it went beyond the personal aspect of the Divine and positiec impersonal Brahman that could be contemplated and realized, but not loved revered in the ordinary sense of these terms. This concept is equally enigmat western minds brought up in the tradition of an intensely personal God who dem obedience, worship and love from his devotees. From this absolutistic position Indian mind has drawn the logical conclusion that every where the universal co ousness is present, images not excepted, and that, therefore, all the earth is eq sacred all souls are identical in essence through their common identity Brahman.

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