HINDU IDEALS AND THEIR PRESERVATION*
*A lecture delivered by Mr. Myron H. Phelps, B. A., LL.B. of New York, at the Hindu College Hall, Jaffna, on February 28th. It has been specially sent to us by the Lecturer for publication, and we do so with immense pleasure. - Ed. L.T.
Mr. Chairman, Gentlemen, Friends!
It is with much satisfaction that I rise to address a large and representative audience of Hindus such as this; for I feel sure that we shall find common ground - that, in fact, our views and sentiments are in the main the same. I was born as far from here as it is possible to get on this terrestrial globe, but this fact seems only to indicate the truth of the saying that space does not in fact separate, for in feeling, sentiment and sympathy I believe that I am as much a Hindu as any of you. Indeed, before I have completed this address you may think me more so - too much, in fact.
Well, this fellow-feeling of mine is the result of more than twenty years' study of your sacred books and association with such of your spiritually-minded men as I could reach. These have conferred upon me, as I will more fully explain later on, all that I chiefly value in my life, and have caused me to recognize a debt to India which I would gladly make any effort to repay. It is to give expression to, and to indicate to you, this fellow-feeling, that I have adopted your dress while among you.
A nation may best be judged by its ideals. They represent the goal of aspiration for its people, and the limit of their possible achievement. Their actual condition at any time will be measures by the extent to which their ideals find expression in their lives.
The ideals of the Indian people are noble and beautiful - the loftiest in the world. They are spiritual. They are embodied in the religion of your fathers, that soul-inspiring path to God which has no equal among men.
These precious ideals are threatened with destruction by Western influences.
The West is no spiritual. It is material - almost a desert of sensuousness and intellectuality. But in this, its field of activity, the West is strong and proud of its strength; masterful, brilliant. The danger is that it may dazzle you and induce you to adopt its ways.
Let us then consider, -
First, What the Indian ideals are,
Second, What the Western life, by which they are threatened, in fact, is,
Third, How the danger which threatens may be averted.
I will mention first your sublime ideal of Renunciation. Other people have followed the path of Desire, of Attachment. Your ancestors first learned, and first taught, that to gain God the world must be discarded. Say the Upanishads, "not by wealth, not by offspring, by renunciation alone, Immortality is to be gained".
And let me not be misunderstood. The renunciation which I mean is not running to the jungle, adopting the Sanyasin's robe, or deserting the duties of the world. It consists in this - while performing to the uttermost the duties of life, holding the mind and heart detached, always remembering that the spirit is free and stands apart; seeking no results, but performing action as duty, for its own sake; realizing the great fact that it is not I, but the Lord, Who is the actor. "He is the Constant Renouncer (Nitya Sannyasi), Who neither likes nor dislikes", says the Blessed Bhagavan.
Such renunciation belongs to India alone.
Secondly, what it your ancestral ideal of success in Life? It is not honour among men, nor wealth, nor enjoyment, but Progress towards God. That life is held to have succeeded which carries a man nearer to that Supreme Goal than the last; that life has failed which leaves him further from it.
No other people in the world of whom we know has measured success in life by this kind of Progress.
Then, thirdly, your ideal of supreme success, supreme happiness, supreme achievement, what is it? - Gratification of the senses, or the intellect? Great wealth, honour, or distinction? Far from it. It is Union with the Supreme.
Then the Indian ideal of action. Your sages declare it to be action which is in accordance with Dharma; that is, action which is appropriate to the character of and acceptable to God. It is action squared to the rule of conduct declared by holy men.
In the conduct of life, among your ideals are,
Simplicity; reducing your wants to a minimum and adjusting them so far as possible to what each man can do for himself, in order that there may be more time for worshipping the Lord.
Neighbourly Love. Your neighbour is also to be worshipped. Relations among men should be so adjusted and maintained that love may grow in the heart. The purpose of life is the development of love. Hence the Hindu conception of Law, as a set of rules for the conduct of life which will best develop love in the heart; and the Hindu conception of Justice, as doing unto others as you would that they should do unto you - a norm of action ingrained in your civilization, ages before it was declared by Christ.
And Peace: where but in India shall we find the ideal of Peace? Santi, Santi, Santi, Peace, Peace, Peace, is a refrain which echoes alike from the temple, the palace and the cottage, for you well know that in peace and quiet only can the path to God be found.
Another of your ancestral ideals in the conduct of life is divorce from sensuousness. Your sages knew that gratification of the senses must be restrained - that sense - gratification chokes love for God, love for the neighbour, kills the spirit. The West does not know this, or has forgotten it.
A distinguished English barrister, Sergeant Ballantyne, was brought to India to defend a Maharajah accused of murder. He travelled all over India, and afterwards was heard to remark that none of the languages of India contained a word for "comfort", nor had he found the article. Your people know that too much attention to the comforts of the body leads one away from the Lord.
Giving, generosity, unselfishness, is another of your ideals. Your sacred books say that others must be realized, that there is no other road to salvation. By the suppression of one's self, love must be nurtured. One of your wise men has said "The practice of giving suppresses the proclivity of the mind and hand to receive, and is the direct road to renunciation."
"There are two tendencies in living - that in which giving is habitual, and its opposite. The consciousness becomes trained in one direction or the other. The habit of giving may be practised until receiving is a desecration".
And it is well to note that according to your sacred books, giving does not result in worldly loss. The bounties of the Devas come to those who give. Rain does not fall because men's hearts become dry. Whole communities are wiped out because they have no moisture of love in the heart. It has been said:-
"Whenever you see men congregated and prosperous, be sure that if you examine, you will find some among them who are true lovers of the Lord and of men. A city may be preserved because of a few generous people. A country having such men is punya bhumi."
Gentlemen, the contemplation of such ideals as these ennobles the soul. They breathe inspiration. They stimulate aspiration. They are like heaven-wafted mountain air - pure, invigorating, stimulating.
These ideals and others like them are claimed by all India. Nowhere else in the world will such ideals be found. They are the soul of your literature and religion. They are your most precious and splendid possession; your noblest heritage, embodied in the lives of your ancestors.
Let Western influences mould the minds of your children, and these ideals will disappear. In what are but a few years in the life of a nation, they will be forgotten.
And what will take their place? What can take their place, but the aims, the modes of life, of the West? I do not say ideals, for they are not ideals - they are not worthy to be so named.
We must now turn to that picture. Yet, being a Westerner, why should I tell you things that do not reflect credit upon the West? I do so because these are things which you have a right to know, and because there is a higher loyalty than loyalty to country, or to locality. There is loyalty to truth, to God and to our brother man.
You have the right to know two things - first, what is the true nature of that social structure which demands your allegiance and which threatens to supplant your own?
Second, what has this much-vaunted Christian Church, which invites you so urgently to her fold, accomplished in her own land?
As to the first of the Indian ideals which we have considered, Renunciation or non-Attachment, no such thing is known in the West. It was taught by Christ, but has been completely forgotten. The worker in the West looks first and always to the results to be accomplished. By them all action is measured and valued. The actor does not stand separate from the action, nor has he any thought of the freedom and independence of the spirit. He is wrapped up in the action and the anticipated results. It is the sort of action which leads to endless rebirth.
Success in life in the West is esteemed to be the achievement of wealth, honour, social position, distinction; the Highest Happiness is found in gratification of the senses, the tastes and the intellect, in palaces, yachts, motor-cars, flying-machines; in art, literature and sport, one much-sought-form of which is the killing of animals and birds. Progress towards God, Spiritual Growth, Union with the Supreme, have no place here.
Instead of action according to Dharma, each man in the West aims to act according to his desire. Personal will is pushed to the uttermost. The check is not God's Will, but not getting found out. It is discovery that is the crime.
Instead of simplicity, we find in the West an ever-increasing complexity. Year by year the burden of things increases. More and more numerous become the number of these considered necessary to living. The burden of possessions has become well-nigh insupportable. Life is crushed out. Of course little time is left for worship, or for the consideration of spiritual things.
I fear that you have already suffered seriously in this respect from the influence of the West. The apparel of the people I meet is largely European - and so is the furniture of your houses. Your horses and carriages are for the most part imported. Even this hall, in this Hindu seat of learning, has European furniture. I think this is all a most lamentable mistake. Your ancestral appointments were more fitting, in every way better. How much more attractive and harmonious to the surroundings were the mats spread on the ground in the school houses in which I have been speaking, than these benches and chairs! Why should you change, even were the change to your advantage, instead of to your detriment, as it is? The dignity of your race should be upheld. European influence is but a thing of yesterday in the life of India, and will soon be a dream of the past.
But the important practical fact is that the cost of living is increasing. I am told that it is fourfold what it would be, had the simple habits of your ancestors been maintained. It follows that the time you can give to the real things of life is in like measure abridged.
Yet notwithstanding the increased cost of your living your ancestors led a more rational life, and I think you will admit that they were happier, than you. They certainly had a greater control over their time and therefore of their lives; they were more free.
This should give you pause. It is a most serious reflection. Complexity is the great burden of Western life. I strongly counsel you to avoid it.
For Neighbourly Love as a rule of life, the West has substituted competition - keen, cruel, destructive. That means, not taking a fair return for your labour or your goods - not being satisfied with a fair profit, but getting all you can, whether your neighbour lives or starves. Competition is that treatment of others which will aggrandize you most, at their expense. It destroys love. It is worse than war. It results in horrible poverty.
It is said that one third of the population of England are wretchedly poor, in a state of actual suffering from poverty. I was in London last October. The nights were cold and wet, and 1500 to 2000 homeless people spent each night on the street called the Thames Embankment, shelter less and numb with cold. It was simply heart-rending.
In the provinces of England the condition is said to be still worse. Great numbers of people are huddled into factories, where they lead mechanical, dreary, unhealthy lives. The operations in many of these factories permit the escape into the atmosphere of chemical fumes poisonous to life, by which all vegetation is destroyed for miles about. But people continue to live there, though they become prematurely old, toothless and bald. Last June, when the Imperial Press Conference was held in London, the assembled Editors were taken on a tour all through the United Kingdom; and one of them wrote to his paper in Canada, that the most impressive fact encountered on the whole journey was the lines and masses of gaunt, hollow, hopeless faces which lined the streets of the manufacturing towns - the haunting hopelessness of those faces he should never forget.
Peace is not sought by the West, but avoided. There, excitement novelty, is the soul of life. It is sought in politics, in sports and games, in balls and entertainments, in theatres, operas and music halls, in sensational journalism, in horse races, in fast travel, by train, motor-car and flying-machine. Since the time of St. Paul and the Athenians of old, the men of the West have ever been alert to "see or hear some new thing".
Instead of your ideal of non-sensuousness, the West eagerly seeks sense-gratification, in feasting, wine and strong drink, women, fast horses, fast means of travel, and all the innumerable comforts and luxuries of Western life. It has been aptly said that in the West "civilization" and "comfort" mean the same thing.
Even its priests, its ministers, its spiritual men, live luxuriously. Many a clergyman spends upon himself and his family a sum equivalent to 15,000, 20,000, 30,000 rupees, each year, paid to him for his services as minister of the Gospel. Nothing can better indicate to you than this, how far asunder are the Eastern and Western conceptions of spirituality.
From this blindness to the dangers of sensuousness has arisen the curse of drunkenness, which having come to Ceylon and India in the train of Western civilization, is now blighting and destroying your people.
I rejoice that I can ascribe generosity to the West. That virtue it has, and it means much. Splendid sums are given to education; there are magnificent public charities.
Industrial Development is much heard of as an aim of Western life. It is a function of properly ordered industry to minister to the growth of spirituality - to train and sharpen the mind so that it may at length become a proper instrument for the unveiling of the spirit. BUt this, the real purpose of industry, has never been learned in the West, and Industrial Development has taken a direction which wholly ignores and suppresses this true function of work. Men are cooped up in factories, thousands in a single building. They are made into machines. A man may spend his life in fashioning the points of pins. Their souls are stifled, their minds dwarfed. And all this soul-destruction is for what? To multiply objects of sense enjoyment.
Finally, the great Shibboleth of the West is Progress. Progress towards what? No one knows. It is concerned with the multiplication of forms of matter - the subdivision and refashioning of Prakriti, of which the changes are endless. There is Scientific Progress, Political Progress, Social Progress. But as to Progress towards God, it is not so much as heard of. Here too, as in all else which characterizes the West, the ultimate object of effort is the comfort and convenience of the body and the diversion of the mind.
So the chief features of Western life - those which characterize it - may be summed up as -
Pursuit of excitement, sensationalism,
Pursuit of wealth, social position and distinction in the state,
Pursuit of gratification of the senses,
Pursuit of those pleasures which minister to the more refined tastes and the intellect, in the fields of literature, scholarship and the arts.
And in these pursuits the "rule of the game" is competition - self-aggrandisement, without attention to the sufferings caused thereby to one's neighbour.
So it is, in its broad aspects, a civilization without a God, without a religion.
I do not mean to say one will not find in the West good men - spiritual men. There are many of them - some in the Churches, but more outside of the Churches. There are many groups and associations of men and women intent on spiritual growth. There are lovable traits of character and life which, did time permit, I would gladly picture to you. For instance, there is the American university life, which for quiet, repose, dignity and artistic charm, is almost ideal. But these exceptions only emphasize the main proposition which I have advanced. The social, civic, public life - the life of the masses of men - goes on just as it would go on if men had actual knowledge that there was no God. Probably at least three-fourths of the men of America - I speak of America because I know it best - I think other parts of the West are much like it in this respect - go through the business and pleasures of the day, from the time they rise in the morning until they retire at night, without a single thought of God or spiritual things. The Churches have become for the most part mere social clubs, where men go to meet their friends and acquaintances. "Religion" is put on and discarded with Sunday clothes.
It is true that Christianity teaches better things than these; but it is powerless to guide or control men. Why is that? I ask you to attend carefully to my answer to this question, for I think it lies at the foundation of all the differences between the East and West, and is most important to be clearly grasped and always kept in mind. It is because Christianity is practically, at present, a dead, or dormant, religion. By that I mean this Christianity was founded 2000 years ago by wise and spiritual men - men precisely like the jivan-muktas or sages now, and always in the past, to be found in India. Jesus and Paul and John, being men of true spiritual discernment, taught the highest truth. Their words were recorded, and constitute the new Testament of the Christians. But those wise teachers have not had a line of successors. It is hundreds and hundreds of years since there was in the Christian Church a teacher who had direct knowledge of God and spiritual things. Thus the Church has forgotten the meaning of its Bible, and has no living witnesses to interpret it. So men have been forced since ancient times to depend upon the mind for discovering the meaning of the words of Jesus - a task which the mind without spiritual illumination is inadequate to fulfil. It is the nature of the mind to diverge and multiply. Thus many interpretations of the Christian scriptures have arisen. More than 200 different sects have a following in the West, each advancing its own view of the meaning of the Bible. And these interpretations are not only various, but, being divorced from truth. They make no appeal to the reason of man; and hence the common demand of Christian preachers that their doctrines be accepted not on grounds of reason and judgment, but of "faith".
The consequence is that few thinking or educated men are believers. Their confidence is made difficult by this divergence of interpretation, and they are repelled by the repugnance to reason of many of the doctrines advanced.
Therefore it is that religion has no hold on the people of the West.
It is otherwise among you. In India have always been found, as there are today, many men of spiritual knowledge, jivan-muktas, knowers of God. These Living Witnesses have instructed your ancestors, as they today instruct those of you who seek them, in the true meanings of religion and the sacred books. Therefore, in India, religion is alive, is respected by men, and moulds their lives.
The facts that I have been telling you are very vivid to me, because they have formed a part of my personal experience. Until I was more than thirty years of age, religion had no meaning for me. I never was a Christian, although raised and educated amid the most orthodox Christian surroundings. I never could believe the things the Churches asked me to believe, and I should no doubt have been a godless man today, but that in my thirty-second year Hindu thought and religion was opened to me. I found here an exposition of the relations of God, the universe and man, which appealed to my reason. The more I studied this exposition, the more satisfactory I found it. From that time I have never ceased to study your sacred books and seek your spiritual teachers, and to them I owe all of real value that life has brought me. You now see why I am so earnest in telling you these things, though some of them do not redound to the credit of the land of my birth. Religion - the preservation on the earth of lofty and spiritual ideals - is dearer to me than a thousand Americas.
Look, then, on this picture and on that. On the one side these noble and spiritual ideals; dearer than wealth - dearer than life itself; leading directly and luminously to the foot stool of the Almighty.
On the other side a waste of arid materialism.
Shall these ideals be submerged by this avalanche of sensuousness and intellectuality?
This Christian Church which is pressing you so hard - luring you with offers of almost free education for your children - ask it what it has accomplished in its own land? Ask it to explain the empty Churches, the dearth of spirituality, the carnival of sensuousness, prevalent in the West. Would it plunge India and Ceylon into this gulf?
No Gentlemen; Westerners are not the men to consult about religion. They are excellent authorities on stocks and bonds and railways and motor-cars and flying machines. But don't ask them about religion, or take their advice. On that subject they are ignorant.
I am told that great changes have occurred in Jaffna of recent years: that fifty years ago there were here probably a thousand pandits, men learned in your sacred books, while now the number can almost be counted on the fingers, that at that time there were Hindu schools for primary and higher education in every village, while now there are hardly a hundred in the entire district. I am told that your boys often leave school taught to read, write and speak well the English language, but not Tamil; that many of your educated men do not know Tamil as a literary language; that leading men among you can be eloquent in English but not in Tamil. I am told that the ancient simplicity of your life is departing, - in a word, that you are becoming denationalized. I have talked with some of the greatest living Indians upon the subject, and I have found that they regard the situation with alarm.
"The coming of Western nations into our country", I am told by one of these, "is changing India. They bring with them their selfish mercantile principles, their worship of manners and wealth, and, as a consequence, the religious simplicity and the beautiful devotion to God and neighbour that prevailed among us are in danger. It is the wedge of selfishness and sensuousness that, entering in our midst, will destroy us if we do not take care".
In this Kali-Yuga it is easy to descend, - the tendency is everywhere downwards. Your books say that in this age spirituality may be extinguished, even in India; that the Vedas themselves may disappear.
And you much to content with. The Missionaries have been very subtle - very adroit. Finding it impossible to convert you, they attack your society through your children; and if you continue to give them your children for education, they will certainly succeed. Humanly speaking, there is no hope for you.
It is a matter of easy demonstration. They are now educating at least three-fourths of the children of this district. Is it not certain that these children, though they may for the most part remain nominal Hindus, will become acquiescent in the Christian Church - more ready even than you to send their children to Mission schools? And can anything be more probable than that their children and grand-children will become, first nominal and then genuine members of the Christian community?
I think beyond question that unless you arouse yourselves, Hindu civilization and religion in Jaffna are doomed. I doubt whether India is not at present seriously threatened; but your numbers and resources are too small to stand against these onslaughts without the greatest vigilance.
I have appealed to you as citizens, as members of society - to preserve your institutions. I shall now appeal to you as parents, to preserve your children.
By permitting the Missionaries to educate your children, you are not only allowing them to remain in ignorance of your institutions and your religion, you are acquiescing in the injection into their minds of disrespect and prejudice against these. Let me give you a conspicuous instance of how this occurs.
Western Scholars have evolved a theory which traces the origin of Indian civilization, and of the Aryan race, to Central Asia. Everybody acquiesces in this theory, and therefore everybody believes it. Probably it is taught in this very institution. Let us consider it a moment.
One would expect that when the history of a people was in question, the traditions, and literature of that people would be the first sources of information on the subject sought. But though you have the oldest civilization and literature in the world, and records which purport to recite your history for many hundreds of thousands of years, the orientalists do not pay you this compliment. Your books do not anywhere mention or suggest any other dwelling place for Indians than India. Their evidence is unanimously and distinctly to the contrary. For instance, Rama flourished in India and conquered Ceylon in Treta-Yuga, not far from a million years ago. But the orientalists do not vouchsafe your books or your traditions, the slightest consideration. They proceed to construct a theory of their own, which they introduce by remarks of this kind - from one of their principal books, Muir's Sanskrit Texts.
"I must begin", says this scholar, "with a candid admission that, so far as I know, none of the Sanskrit books, not even the most ancient, contains any distinct reference to the foreign origin of the Indians."
The theory is, as I have said, that the Aryans came to India from Central Asia. At first 1000 years or so B.C. was considered early enough for this migration. Now, I believe, they have gotten the date back 5,000 or 6,000 years earlier than that.
On what do they base this theory? I will give you samples of their principal arguments, and beg you to note well their character.
There are many names in the Rig Veda, some of which are thought to denote Indian rivers. Now, they say, the Ganges is mentioned in the Rig Veda but once, and towards the end. But the Indus, or Sindhu, is mentioned early and often. This shows that your ancestors during most of the time of the composition of the Rig Veda hymns, were dwelling near the Indus, that is, in the Punjab and Afghanistan, and did not reach the Ganges until the later hymns were composed.
Very good; but when we look into the meaning of "Sindhu", what do we find?
First, that it is a name of Chandra, the presiding Devata of the moon.
Second, that is a name for the ocean.
Third, that it is used to denote any great confluence of waters, and finally (Sankaracharya, in the Bhashya-Hridaya), that it is another name for the Ganges itself!
Having adopted the theory, the Orientalists proceed to build up by interpreting everything to support it. For instance, the Rig Veda mentions the "Sarayu". There is a river of that name in Oudh, falling into the Ganges below Benares. This river is too far South to fit their theory. So they say - I quote one of their leading men, Lassen - "Perhaps it is an affluent of the Sarasvati (a river of the Punjab); in any case, it is to be distinguished from the well-known affluent of the Ganges".
Well this, Mr. Chairman, is calculated to make a lawyer smile. We know how cases are built up. But perhaps I should not disclose the secrets of the profession.
Then as to writing. Their theory requires them to make you illiterate in ancient times, for otherwise how can the silence of your literature on this important subject be explained? Your books must be more recent then these events, if the theory is to stand.
"An illiterate people", says A.W. Schlegel, "ignorant of writing, which has adopted a stationary home after long and arduous migration, might, after a few centuries, easily lose all recollection of its change of habitation"
So they say that, in as much as they can find no proof to the contrary, your ancestors could not write more than 2300 or 2400 years ago. But they cannot deny that you were a great people, with abundant commerce. Megasthenes shows that even Solomon got merchandise from India. How was your business conducted without writing? Because no records are found, is a very slender basis on which to deny the knowledge of writing to a great, civilized and commercial people.
I cannot continue this subject for want of time, but the examples I have given are sufficient to illustrate the flimsiness of the arguments of the Orientalists. These theories are the merest and most random speculations, and impudent speculations at that. But the point with which we are now concerned, is the utter disregard and disrespect with which they treat your traditions and the effect which such treatment, endorsed by their teachers, necessarily has upon the minds of your children.
Then as to the study of History. In the Mission schools your children learn next to nothing of the history of Ceylon and India, and that notwithstanding that in the Mahavamsa, you have one of the oldest and most authentic histories in the world. They learn nothing of your great men - of the heroes and moral exemplars of your past. They learn of Rome, Europe, England - of Caesar, Napoleon, nelson, Wellington, Cromwell. How are they benefited by this? They learn how on repeated occasions a handful of valiant Englishmen put to flight vast numbers of the "natives" of your country. Are they likely to gain respect for their ancestors from such tales?
So all through Literature and Science. These seemingly "exact" sciences, these instruments and methods of "precision" seem so unassailable, so unquestionable, that your children are paralyzed. They have not a word to say in defence of their ancestral traditions. They are out of court at once.
But is they had studied your books first, their hearts would have been won by their beauty; and they would have suspected the wisdom of spending all one's life and energy in measuring and classifying prakriti, the ever-changing; the absurdity, for instance, of building up a science of the nervous system and calling it Psychology.
If you say - our children must have Western learning in order that they may have the increased earning capacity which it confers - I reply - It is not Western learning, but the influences under which it is imparted, that are dangerous. If you teach your children yourselves, you may teach them what you will.
To the child educated under foreign, i.e. Missionary, influences, the whole of the Hindu religion becomes unreal and shadowy. Though he may maintain his nominal allegiance to it, its compelling force is gone; his religion is practically lost. No misfortune in life can be so great as that. For the sanction of the lost religion is replaced by no other effective sanction. As adopted religion can never mould the character as the religion of one's fathers. In most cases a moral death, more to be deplored than physical death, results. The life is wrecked - the purpose of life is wholly missed. But I need not dwell upon this unpleasant subject. You know well the hypocrisy of life which generally follows upon so-called "conversions" among you: you know the shockingly common moral degradation of "native" converts to Christianity. I know it from my own experience, years ago, in this island, and all men of experience in the East who are free from self-interest, testify to it.
I have known many young Indians in just this position. Their lives were spiritually wrecked; whereas they only needed a fair start, a preliminary grounding in their ancestral learning, to have carried them safely past this danger.
The injury to your girls is a still greater misfortune. They will govern your families, they will train your grandchildren.
If you fully grasped the deadly character of the probable result, I think you would prefer for your child the funeral pyre to the Mission school.
Yet I wish by no means to be understood as speaking against the character of the Missionaries. I think that most of them are sincere and kindly men, who wish you well. But as a class they are very ignorant on the subject of religion. They have not studied Hinduism. They do not know its grandeur. They do not know that religions are all one in origin - all equally paths to God. They do not know that the religion of Jesus, as he propounded it, is the same as that of the Aryan Rishis. They do not realize the terrible responsibility of unsettling the religious convictions of a human soul. If they did, they would flee from it as from a conflagration.
Much of the money also which is given in America to support these mission schools, is given from the best of motives. The givers really believe that they are doing you great good, and make genuine sacrifices in parting with their money. But it is not all given in this spirit. Great sums are given for this purpose by wealthy men whose object is to gain a reputation for generosity. And much of it is given from a still unworthy motive - because such gifts are thought to bring commercial returns. many of you have heard of John D. Rockefaller, the Standard Oil magnate, the wealthiest man in the world. He gives vast sums to foreign Missions. Several years ago I read in a New York daily paper an interview with his secretary, Mr. Gates, in which that gentleman said that Mr. Rockefeller's donations to foreign Missions are found to be an excellent investment, in that they lead to the increase of business transactions with the peoples among whom the missions are located.
Do not overlook the kindly motives which have prompted many Missionaries and supporters of Missions. But do not let your gratitude obscure your duty to God and to your children - your duty to transmit to them the spiritual heritage which you have received from your ancestors, and which they may rightfully claim from you.
Since I prepared this address, some school statistics have been furnished me. The Christian population of the district is less than one-tenth of the whole - more than nine-tenths are Hindu; but out of a total of 400 schools, 300 are Mission schools. Having legitimately but one-tenth of the children, the Mission schools are educating three-fourths of the children of the district.
Still further, but about half the hundred Hindu schools are aided by Government, while almost all of other schools are aided schools. Therefore of the public money, chiefly collected from taxes on Hindu property, spent for education in this district, only one-eighth goes to give Hindu education to Hindu children, while seven-eighths are devoted, for the most part, not to giving your children a beneficial education, but to leading them by a short road to moral and spiritual ruin.
A very conservative estimate puts the number of pupils at 50 for each school. There are then at least 20,000 children in the schools of the district, and doubtless many more.
Assuming that there are as many as 2000 Christian children, the Mission schools are educating at least 13,000 Hindu children in this district. For higher education there are in this district six girls' boarding schools, all Missionary, and six boys' colleges, of which but two are Hindu.
Is not this most an alarming situation? Can you regard it with any sort of equanimity? It clearly calls for the most energetic and unmeasured efforts on your part. Be assured that in their contest for your children the Missionaries will never relax their exertions. Their livelihood, the very existence of their establishments. depends upon holding your children. 13,000 Hindu children in the Mission schools of Jaffna - what an appeal can be made in America for money on that statement! It is worth to them many lacs of rupees every year. So they will fight you hard. If they see that you are in earnest about building up your schools, they will probably offer you absolutely free education. But their education would cost you dear, even did they pay you untold sums to accept it. This is a matter far above all money values.
Can you disentangle yourselves from these toils? Certainly you can, if you put forth sufficient effort. Lose no time in rescuing your children from the Mission schools. Educate them yourselves. Are your present schools insufficient? Create new schools. Resolve that whatever is necessary shall be done. If necessary to accomplish it, impoverish yourselves. What is money in comparison? If you lack money, simplify your lives. Discard expensive European habits. Return to the simple ways of your fathers.
As an example of the crying needs of education among you, look at this College, in the hall of which we are tonight. It is really the only dependence of your boys for higher education; and yet how precarious is its condition. Without a general fund, if for any cause the Government grant were delayed or withheld, it would be in great difficulties. It has no library. A College without a library! No chemical or physical laboratory, no play-ground. And because of this lack of equipment the Madras University will not affiliate it.
If there is still time, I wish to close by reading a passage written by that great Indian, the Swami Vivekananda. As your Chairman has said, I knew him. I first saw him at the Chicago Parliament of Religions in 1893. I shall never forget his handsome and brilliant face and his fine form, most impressively set out by his orange robe and turban. When he first spoke, before many thousands of people in the great auditorium, he took that vast audience by storm.
I saw him frequently in New York between 1893 and 1896. For a while he was a guest at my house.
The education of his people was very near his heart. We had many talks about it.
The passage I am about to read is in a manner a part of his legacy to India. It is from a manuscript found among his papers. He had commenced a book, "India's Message to the World", of the preface of which these words form a part. I read them because of the splendid ideal of India which they embody - that they may sink into your hearts, and remain there long after what I have said is forgotten.
"What a land is India! Whosoever stands on this sacred land, alien or a child of the soil, feels, unless his soul is degraded to the level of brute animals, himself surrounded by the living thoughts of earth's best and purest sons, working to raise the animal to the Divine, through centuries whose beginning history fails to trace. The very air is full of the pulsations of spirituality. This land is sacred to philosophy, to ethics and spirituality, to all that tends to give respite to man in his incessant struggle for the preservation of the animal, to all training that makes man throw off the garment of brutality and stand revealed as the Spirit immortal, the birth less, the deathless, the ever-blessed, - the land where the cup of pleasure was full and fuller has been the cup of misery, till here first of all man found out that it was all vanity; till here first of all he broke through the fetters of delusion, in the prime of youth, in the lap of luxury, in the height of glory and plentitude of power Here in this ocean of humanity, amidst the sharp interaction of strong currents of pleasure and pain, of strength and weakness, of wealth and poverty, of joy and sorrow, of smile and tear, of life and death, in the melting rhythm of eternal peace and calm less, arose the throne of renunciation. Here in this land, the great problems of life and death, of the thirst for life and the vain mad struggle to preserve it only resulting in accumulation of woes, were first grapples with and solved - solved as never they were before and never will be hereafter, for here, here alone, was discovered that even life itself is an evil, the shadow only of the real. This is the land where alone religion has been practical and real, and where alone men and women have plunged boldly in to realize the goal, just as in other lands they rush madly on to realize the pleasures of life by robbing their weaker brethren. Here and here alone the human heart expanded till it included not only man but birds, beasts and plants; from the highest gods to grains of sand, the highest and lowest all find a place in the heart of man, grown great, infinite. And here alone the human soul studied the universe as one unbroken unity whose every pulse was his own pulse.
We hear much about the degradation of India. There was a time when I also believed in it. But today, standing on the vantage - ground of experience, with eyes cleared on obstructive predispositions, and, above all, the highly coloured pictures of the countries beyond the seas toned down to their proper shade and light by actual contact, I confess in all humility that I was wrong. Thou blessed land of the Aryas, thou were never degraded. Sceptres have been broken and thrown away, the bull of power has rolled from hand to hand, but in India courts and kings always touched only a few, and the vast mass of the people have been left to pursue its own inevitable course, the current of national life flowing at times slower and half-conscious, at others stronger and awakened. I stand in awe before the unbroken procession of scores of shining centuries, with here and there a dim link in the chain but flaring up with added brilliance in the next. There she is, walking with her own majestic steps, my motherland, to fulfil her glorious destiny; which no power on earth or heaven can check - the regeneration of man, the brute into man, the God.
Aye, a glorious destiny, my brethren, for as old as the days of the Upanishads we have thrown the challenge into the world "Not by wealth, not by progeny, but by renunciation alone immortality is reached." Race after race has taken the challenge up and tried to their uttermost to solve the world-riddle on the plane of desires. They have all failed in the past, - the elder have gone down under the weight of wickedness and misery, which lust for power and gold brings in its train, and the younger are tottering to their fall. The question has yet to be decided by them whether peace will survive or war, whether patience will survive or non-forbearance, whether goodness will survive or wickedness, whether muscle will survive or brain, whether worldliness will survive or spirituality. We have solved our problem ages ago, and held on to the solution through good fortune or evil, and mean to hold on to it till the end of time. Our solution is unworldliness - renunciation.
This is the theme of Indian life-work, the burden of her eternal songs, the backbone of her existence, the foundation of her being, the raison d'etre of her very existence - the spiritualisation of the human race."
M. H. P