ESSENTIALS AND NON-ESSENTIALS.
AN APPEAL TO MY EDUCATED COUNTRYMEN.
We have now arrived at a stage when we should begin to revise our position in this world as a religious community and take stock of what we have done and of what we have left undone. It is necessary that such a course should be adopted in order that we may see thereby our needs and drawbacks and take such steps in the future as would enable us to avoid our errors in the past. On all sides we see nations rising into importance and with them their religious propaganda. It is not surprising to note the marvelous growth of the Anglo-Saxon race on either side of the Atlantic, - nay even in the Pacific seas also? Is it not equally surprising to note the progress of Christianity conterminous with the progress of the race? Have we not noticed in recent times Occumenical Councils held in England and America with a view to advance the cause of Christianity in the lands knows and unknown?
What do all these signify to us? They should teach us that no longer should we fold our hands, close our lips, shut our hearts, chain ourselves with artificial restrictions of our own making but should begin the fight of good faith anew with the help of any religious fire left burning in our hearts if thereby we can preserve everything good and lofty, soul elevating, life-saving in our religious system. The West not only preserves but also is desirous of imparting what it has to others. The East does not think of even preserving what it has. Much less should one expect it to impart its truths to others beyond its pale. Added to this there is always the evil tendency of forgetting the essentials and emphasizing the non-essentials. Hence the quarrel between two sects of the same system, e.g. the Tengalais and the Vadagalais. These unseemly squabbles only tend to lower the spirit of the race which has produced such noted worthies as Sankara and Ramanuja, Vachakar and Sambandar. These petty-fogging propensities only serve to cloud the real and exaggerate the importance of minor truths which for all practical purposes may be safely ignored. If only Hindu brethren are aware of the resemblances between their religious schemes as they appear to be familiar with the sectional differences, they would by this time have promoted concord and unity in their body corporate. It is high time for Educated Hindus to marshal themselves and fight the good fight of faith by striving to teach themselves and the masses around them lofty truths imbedded in the various schemes known as and included under the composite name of Hinduism. It is high time that the Educated Hindus should infuse fresh life into their seemingly or really moribund institutions by organizing associations, by starting expository journals, by suggesting to their ignorant brethren reforms which would tend to energize the community and contribute to its increasing good. Let the Vedantin of the Sankara school rally round his brethren around the prime doctrines of their faith which amounts to nothing less than absolute perfection. Let the Siva Siddhantin strive to gather into his fold all his brethren faltering and stray and furnish to them one sure watchword of his school – Sachidananda-Sivam. Let the Vaishnavite of the Vishistadvaita school appeal to their brethren in accents similar to those of Tirumangai and Ramanuja and proclaim to all the doctrine of Bakthi in God Narayana worshipped notably in the persons of Rama and Krishna. Let all these unite and worship forgetting their minor differences. Then will their faith acquire new power and send fresh shoots. Then will they be able to present a united front against the attacks of those who at present accuse them of division and dissention. Let all our brethren in short remember the essentials and forget the non-essentials.
We forget those features of Hindu religion which form the substance of the Hindu faith and emphasize those differences which after all constitute its shadow. If for instance the Vedantin recognizes in his Avidya, the anavamala of the Saiva Siddhantin and if the Saiva Siddhantin recognizes in his anavamala, the ahankara of the Vaishnavite, would not this recognition of unity amidst seeming diversity create real concord and fellowship and promote the cause of true faith in this land. If for instance the Vedantin finds in his Parabrahman, the Parabaram or Sachithanantha Sivam of the Saivite and if the Saivite recognizes in his Iswara the Narayana of the Vaishnavite, would not this identification promote peace and good will and contribute the unification and the revivification of the Indian races?
Why ignore the essentials and emphasize the non-essentials? Why strain at a gnat and swallow a camel? When ignorance and prejudice abound on all sides, when masses need guidance and control, when our own mathathipathis do not realize their awful responsibilities, when even our own educated brethren are luke-warm about their religion, is it not high time for some to rise and point out how Indian religions ought to be reformed and Indian societies ought to be re-organized so that great truths preached by poets and prophets may sink deep into the heart of every Hindu and bear abundant fruit in his life in this world and in the world to come. The time is come for each of us to do his own duty, for each of us to contribute his own quota towards the revival of real religious life in India. Our responsibilities are in proportion to our opportunities. Educated brethren should us their enlightenment for the edification and elevation of the masses. Let them teach that religion is not all form or ceremony and that they should rise from the ceremonial to the spiritual, from the exoteric to the esoteric. Let our educated brethren organize prayer-halls and public libraries so that the Hindu public may become familiar with the esoteric character of Hindu religious thought, so that the masses may become really devotional and cultivate independent spiritual life. May not our Matathipathis and Mahants spend their enormous wealth in building prayer-halls or Prarthana sabhas all over the country for the real improvement of the Hindu public. Could they not train our graduates and under-graduates for preaching for the masses? Could they not start papers towards elucidating Hindu religion? Could they not do these and thousand other things to create real religious life in India?
In the name of truth, in the name of righteousness, in the name of those who have fought the good fight of faith in this land and whose names are enshrined in our books as well as in our hearts, in the name of the masses of India who naturally look to the rich and the educated for guidance and help, I appeal, on behalf of South India in particular and India in general to, the rich especially to the Matathipathis and Darmakarthas and also to the educated especially the B.A.'s and M.A's of the Madras University; and my appeal is "Do your duty in reviving real religious life in India in ways best suited to your opportunities and capacities."
V. R. P.