THE PHILOSOPHY OF KARMA.*
[* A paper read before the 5th conference of Saiva Siddhanta Maha Samajam at Ramnad in December 1910, by A. Govindacharya Svamin, M.F.A.S., M.R.S.A. ETC. – Ed. S.D.]
Karma is act. The whole creation is a mighty stupendous act. The word Creator itself comes from kri: to do. Act then proceeds from the Creator. Man is pro-creator or an agent or actor after the Creator. The Primal Creator is the cause, the of the Upanishads. This is Brahman.
Before we proceed, shall we say we shall take this Brahman as an axiomatic truth? and that if His existence is not demonstrable by means of Perception and Inference, we must have recourse to Revelations? All our arguments on Karma more or less shall have to depend upon our authorities: the Scriptures or Vedas or Sanatana-Dharma; and they will only appeal to those who believe in it, as said in the opening verse.
By our own ratiocination, we may conceive Brahman or the Infinite as in immediate touch with us. If you take the dravya (substance) space or time, and try to set limits to either of them in imagination, the mind immediately inquires: what is beyond those walls of limits imagination might so impose? The answer is, there must be a Beyond; again another, and another and so on, it leads to Infinity without stopping. In our Vedantic terminology, this conception of the Infinite is called kala-pariccheda-rahita and desa-pariccheda-rahita; and there is in addition the vastu-pariccheda-rahita, or limits not assignable by any other known object on the Infinite; for it is only a Finite that limits a Finite. The mind again knows that any object contoured by the mind, cannot ipso facto be the Infinite. Leave one object and take another; Brahman cannot be that again. Brahman being thus conceived as the Infinite, it is again the Absolute which with Infinite gives the idea of the Pan-theos or the out-pervading and Im-pervading Godhood, the Narayana-ic conception.
Instead, however, of every individual mind reasoning out Brahman or Parabrahman in this manner, Revelations whether they be considered as Revelations of a God, or Revelations emanating from the depths of consciousness of God-inspired men, help us to these conceptions, as truths discovered by a long and laborious process of thought, be they of God or of Godly souls,- saints and sages.
But while Revelations possess the value as shown above, Perception and Ratiocination are not at the same time denuded of their true worth in supporting revelation truth. Hence Manu says:-
The Revelation itself e.g. 'tad vijinasasva, tad Brahma' [Taittir. Up.] prompts reason to search Brahman.
Such then are the relative values of the several Means or instruments of Knowledge or Evidence placed at our disposal for cognition of cosmic categories.
Let us then take Brahman as a necessary (a priori) postulate for our deliberations on Karma. Revelations tell us that Brahman is: i.e., He exists, He is the Will and He is Infinite. Out of this Will there came forth the act (for the Will is the potentiality of act). This Brahman (Creator) willed "let me become many" ( [Chh-up 6-2-3)).
All creative act is thus preceded by Sankalpa or Will. Thus will and act may be said to be the avyakta and vyakta modes of the same Principle. Act is Will manifested, and Will is Act unmanifested. They are the potential and the kinetic states of the One Eternal Energy-the Brahman.
Now take any periodical creation. Periodical means a time-limit. Was there a time then when any act, like say, creation began? Other religions such as Christianity say that creation began in time, so that before that time there must have been no act or creation. But our Vedanta philosophy link in the chains of which, called a creation, has time-limits covering a certain interval which begins with what is called an act of sarga or Differentiation and ending with what is called an act of prati-sarga or Integration. Before and beyond such periodical limits, there is necessarily the expanse of the Infinite. Every act therefore is not a spontaneous event, but is an effect preceded by an inevitable Cause, a Law expressed by modern scientific language, as that of the correlation of forces, a law known to our philosophers viz., that there can be no effect without a cause – Hence our Revelations declare. i.e., When a creative act became manifest, it had its germs in the consummated product of the creative act prior to it. As before, so now, as now, so again.
Hence Karma or act or its avyakta or indiscrete state called Will, is a fact co-terminus with Brahman itself. That is, once when Brahman is admitted as the Infinite, Eternal or Ever-Existent, it's will is ipso facto ever-existent with It, and therefore Karma or act, its counterpart is a never-ceasing function of Divinity. This is the subject so well handled by Krishnadvaipayana-Vyasa in the Brahma-Sutra:
Now comes the Karma or act of man or the pro-creator as we have called him, or a creator working after the patterns or models readily provided for him by a Superior Power, a Superior Agent, the Universal Creator or Brahman or Parabrahman. Now unless man existed, or rather Individual soul existed, as a verity conceived as an entity distinct from the Universal Soul or Parabrahman, no individual Karma as differentiated from the Universal Karma of Brahman is possible of consideration. Hence then comes the necessity for predicating a category, called soul, a necessary postulate of existence, which is to be held answerable for all its own circumscribed or limited acts. Our Vedanta tells us again that the act of a soul emanates from its own will; but both its will and act are contingent on Brahman's will and act. The Individual soul is endowed with a will, which is free, but within circumscribed limits. This power of the will is a delegated power, or what is called within the limits of which the soul is free, and from this limited freedom comes the limited responsibility for its acts.
Western philosophy dissects the mind into Intellect, Will or Conation and Emotion. But our wide generic term for all these faculties considered together is consciousness or cognition (awareness). It is consciousness that moulds itself into any of these forms. And this consciousness is in every atom of the cosmos. Says the Vishnu-purana, for example, only that this consciousness exists in different degrees, not different kinds: i.e. in all the several kingdoms of nature, the mineral, the vegetable, the animal, the human, the superhuman and Divine, perfection of Consciousness being predicable of the last alone. Apply to this the thoughts embodied in the recent discoveries of Dr. Bose, viz of the so-thought of non-living metals possessing consciousness and responding to stimulus, like any other so-called living thing.
The series in the manifestations of consciousness culminating in Karma or act, are briefly explained by our Acharyas in a verse:-
Now this verse gives also the relation between Individual Karma and Universal Karma, or the Karma or act of the Individual as related to the Universal. For a moment take it also as a postulate that inasmuch as Parabrahma is Infinite, His Will co-terminus with him; and time is another Verity, infinite also in its nature, the soul is also co-terminus with Brahman. Now than at any point of time, we have the Individual with a will pregnant with a fund of Karma, all by virtue of being a grant or delegation made to him by Brahman; and that within the limits of delegacy, the Individual is free. What he does according to the above verse is that he is first conscious, he then wills to cat, and thirdly puts forth a tangible effort, the act. It is a recognised concatenation of causes and effects with our Vedantins that Kartritva, or the being an agent or actor can only follow from Jnatritva, the being conscious and willing to act, and that from Kartritva necessarily emanates the bhoktritva or the being the enjoyer; or in other words the reaper of the consequences, good or bad, of his act.
Now the relation of the Individual to the Universal in Karma or act is this, that whereas the former wishes to experience the fruits of his act, the latter does not; Parabrahman according to the above verse watches the acts of the Individual, rewards him for good acts, and punishes him for bad acts. Being the Rewarder, He is not therefore the Experiencer. He is simply and pre-eminently the Watcher, as beautifully allegorised in one of our Upanishats:-
This is a parable viz., of two birds perched eternally together upon the mysterious tree of life; the one bird the Jivatman picks the fruit of the tree by desire for tasting it and therefore takes the consequence whether it doth taste sweet or bitter; whereas the other bird the Paramatman has no desire but simply witnesseth and watcheth the other, and is thus ever shining.
Hence Parabrahman or Paramatman is free from any indictment of partially and ruthlessness that can be levelled against Him inasmuch as the Individual has his own Karma or act for which he becomes individually accountable; and this question is ably handled again by Sri Vyasa in his Brahma Sutra: i.e., In Parabrahman or God, partiality and cruelty do not abide, for there is the Individual's own Karma or act which binds him and which is the real cause of all the diversities and apparent injustices, miseries &c., we humanity are accustomed to parley about.
Now then this Karma or act, or Individual Karma is also beginning less, for Parabrahman is beginning less, His will is co-terminus with Him, the soul is beginning less, hence its own will, and hence the act or Karma which ariseth out of that will is also beginning less; and time of course as we have shown is beginning less.
Men often ask, when did Karma begin? But the answer to them for all time is that this question is a logical contradiction in view of the eternal facts above stated.
Now comes the question:- What are good acts for which souls are rewarded, and what are the bad acts for which souls are punished? What is the determinant? Or who is the Judge to discern as to what is good karma and what bad? Here again we are obliged to resort to our Sastras, or the Vidhi-nishedh-atmakam Sastram, or a ready Code, call it Revelations or not, which points out to us what is good and what is bad. Here is provided again the occasion for the consideration of all Karmas pertaining to the Varnas and Asramas, of Hinduism. The Karmas are divided again as Nitya, Naimittika and Kamya; and again there is the broad division of Karmas into Samanya and Visesha. The Samanya dharmas or karmas are for all mankind, in the Viseshas are comprised the Varna and Asrama Dharmas.
The very term Visesha means that which is special, not general. The speciality comes from the several tendencies, temperaments and tastes, which men inherit. And in this inheritance, heredity plays a large part. Men are wont in this age to disregard or undervalue this factor. But science and theosophy are both coming to recognise the great fact of atavism which determines men's births and dooms. The great question of Chaturvarnya that is at present being so warmly discussed in our country, can never with impunity ignore this factor. Granting for a moment that it is a negligible factor, there need be no unseemly fight about the Samskaras or Sacraments pertaining to this caste or that caste or a scramble by one caste for this or that Samskara or Sacrament imposed on another by tradition, and as if that confers on one any enviable distinction, prestige or privilege. Introduce if you please at once the class system as obtains in Western lands and be happy if that measure really confers happiness, but those who have witnessed the Western society under the class system as for instance our England and America-returned brothers, have, judging from their utterances, no good account unfortunately to give to us of that system. Comparing the one with the other, both native as well as foreign opinion is, strange to say, veering round to favour our caste-system. For an example of foreign opinion read what Abbe Dubois, Havell, Monier Williams, Sir Henry Cotton, W.H. Hunter, Marquis de la Mazalier, Sister Nivedita and others have expressed, and also watch the anxiety of our foreign-returned brothers to get back into their own fold. Mrs. Annie Besant's oft-repeated wish to be born as a Brahman in her next birth is significant as having a bearing on the caste question, thought to all intents and purposes, she is in spirit Brahman, and she can afford to wait for the Samskaras or Sacraments which our Sastras reserve for particularly produced bodies, the Pakajas, as the technical term goes. That this question is being discussed in all its bearings just now all over our country, especially in its relation to sea-voyage, is a matter for congratulation. Long ago did we express our opinion that Parishads should be constituted and new Nibandhanas or Nirnayas according to the spirit and requirements of the age brought into vogue and to this natural work the recognized pontificates of our country should earnestly set to work shaking off their lethargy for the nonce. To return from the digression. All these Karmas or Dharmas, be they samanya, general, or Visesha, special or particularised, are acts prescribed which in some form or other mankind is impelled to do under eternal physical and moral laws.
All the Karmas or acts to be done, each according to his position or status in life, status in society, and in relation to the result which he wishes to achieve, all come under good or vidhi Karmas. The bad or the nishedas are totally eschewed by their very nature and do not therefore at all enter into our deliberations here. For it is written:-
In order to elucidate our subject further, we have here only to consider the good Karmas, viz; those enjoined by the Sastras such as:
We shall only broadly again consider the two great divisions of the good Karmas viz the Pravritti and the Nivritti. Pravritti means embarking for, and Nivritti means debarking from. In other words, Pravritti Karmas may be called the interested acts, and Nivritti Karmas the disinterested acts. The interested acts bind the man or soul to its interests, (i.e.,) results. This lands it into a state called Samsara or bondage or formal existence; whereas the disinterested acts free it from bondage, and lead it to moksha or redemption, or what may be called spiritual existence, the antimonial to the formal.
Now as explained before, Will leads to Act, and Act to manifest itself requires a vehicle or medium. Act manifest able by a medium and in a sensible manner requires an organized structure which in our case is what is called body with senses and all. Now the body that we may at any moment happen to possess is the resultant of a long evolution; and to evolution then belongs our doctrine of many births, or re-births or re-incarnations. Here is evident the nexus between Karma and Janma.
Pravritti or interested acts must bring on experience or enjoyment; and enjoyment of the results of acts is only possible by a three-fold objectivity. This threefoldness is Bhogya Bhogopakarana and Bhogasthana. Bhogyas are the objects of enjoyments; bhogopakaranas are the instruments of enjoyment, which are this body, its senses &c., bhogasthanas are the localities where objects are enjoyed. This triad is of the material or formal evolution as contra-distinguished from the spiritual. Here we come to the conception of matter, a Postulate or Verity without a consciousness of its own, but is that which is capable of being fashioned out into myriads of wonderful objects for the enjoyment of a conscious entity. The conscious entity is the spiritual entity or the soul, and the unconscious the material non-ego. They are also designated by the terms the self and the non-self or atma and anatma, the subject and the object, the pratyak and parak, the Jnata and the Jneya, the knower and the known, and so forth. Once more we are here driven to seek enlightenment from Revelations which tell us that the material entity as well as the spiritual entity are both beginning less:-
We have then, a Trinity of eternals, but mark that two of them, soul and matter periodically emerge into manifestation and merge into unmanifestation, whereas no such things is, en hypothese predicable of the Parabrahman. We have thus a Parabrahman or Paramatman, the great universal Actor but whose act is disinterested; a Jivatman, the conditional actor whose interested acts fix him to the fruits of those acts, pleasurable or painful, and bind him therefore to matter, which takes the organized form of a body and a big body as it were in the form of the objective universe. A hedonist may here humorously hint in the manner of the Asura in Gita [xvi-8] i.e., that this body is no more than the product brought about by the sexual union of a father and a mother; but our quick retort to this hint is that that union itself is a Karma or an act for the happening of which, many prior causes conspire, which are quite in the domain of the unconscious as far as the couple's understanding reaches. To return, interested act or Karma begets fruit. The enjoyment of that fruit is through material objects, for which an organized body is the primary requisite. The shaping of this body is in the hands of the Lord, as He is the Watcher and Rewarder as shown in the opening paras. This question Sri Vyasa considers in the Brahma Sutra [iii-2. 37]
The Sankhyan dualism denies boldly that any Superior Lord is at all required in the Scheme of the Kosmos; for Karma "Works" may determine all results. This is also the ground taken by the Purva-Munamsakas. But according to Vedanta, Karma is jada or achetana, i.e., lifeless; again its dictum is that the soul which performs the Karma finds its own efforts insufficient for salvation. Hence Brahman or a Superior Lord becomes a necessary postulate, and it is He who grants the fruits of acts. Hence as Sri Vyasa lays down.
Thus then, the more interested the acts are that a soul performs, the more will it be associated with matter, but the more those acts are of a disinterested character, the more is it severed from such company on the one hand, and on the other hand the more near does it approach the Lord, Parabrahman, the Pure Spirit. Matter or Prakriti is called avyakta and Sri Krishna says:
Those who are attached to avyakta reap suffering, but those who seek Me are delivered.
There is then such a division made in Sastras as Pravritti karmas and Nivritti karmas whose nature has been shown; but the Pravritti karmas also partake of the nature of Nivritti karmas, the same Sastras again tells us, if only there be a change in the motive thereof. Finally it amounts to this that Pravritti karmas done as duty, or as Worship of God, are no more so but become Nivritti. For example it is written in the Bhagavat-gita: [iii-9] That act binds which is not of the character of Yajna or Worship. This is the burthen of the celestial song or the "Philosophy of Karma" taught in the Gita; and it is again the topic discussed by what is known as the of the Purva-Mimamsakas.
Pravritti as such is thus the inexorable Law of Necessity, but Nivritti, or Pravritti in its changed aspect of Nivritti, is also by parity of reasoning the inexorable Law of Freedom.
Parenthetically we may observe that many understand the Gita as a Philosophy of Quietism or entire cessation from work; and this opinion has a tendency to lead man to indolence and helplessness and fosters the notion of a blind dependency on deity. But that the teachings are quite the reverse may be shown by many large citations. It is enough for me however to draw attention to only one passage here, where Sri Krishna says in his Vibhuti-Vistara Chapter: i.e., 'All that is known as strenuous effort in many is myself'. The lazy man then who does not put the God given body and mind to the use they are intended for is not a Bhakta indeed. He can certainly not be a godly man. Sure he displeases Krishna the Teacher and Master; and when the Master is displeased, one may well fancy what the consequences of that displeasure may be.
Well then, we have come to the Nivritti Dharmas, or Nivritti Karmas, in this two-fold characteristics; viz., Nivrittis definitely so known and enjoined in the Sastras as such and Nivrittis which Pravrittis become by a change in the motif. The ultimate of this Nivritti Karma is Divine-Worship. Divine-worship is the acme of all moral virtues. If the verses be read beginning from
in the Gita [xiii], the ultimate or culmination of all karma is pointed out to us as:
This leads us to a consideration of Worship, for worship is the highest Nivritti-Karma for a soul, if he is Mumukshu, i.e., he who wishes to dissociate himself from matter and reach Spirit, i.e., the universal Spirit, Parabrahman. Now, worship is not only a science, but is an art as well, and has much rationale about it.
According to the psychological datum or fact Worship must first be born in the mind and ripen in the heart of the person. The exuberance of this mental-hearty worship finds its expression in speech, and this worship by speech is further enhanced in effect by the bodily deed. Man is thus a triply constituted being: of mind, speech, and deed; and all these several organs desire to unite in worship, and this united desire cannot be confined to the one or the other partner of the union without detriment to the general interests of all. Worship mental, is no doubt the dominant factor; but the verbal and the manual are accessories and are very faithful servants quite deserving of impressment into the service of worship.
The service of Worship depends on the fundamental belief in the triad of Postulates, viz., the Worshipper,-soul,-the Worshipped,-God or Parabrahman,-and Worship, the highest nivritti-karma or transaction subsisting between the two, Worshipper and Worshipped. Worship by definition depends again on two fundamentals, viz., that the Worshipped ought to be a Personal or Saguna God, endowed with as many auspicious attributes as only the Infinite can be so endowed, the 2nd fundamental being that that worship is for the interests of the soul, for if worship leads to salvation that salvation is for the soul and not for the body with which the soul happens to be temporarily associated. The body is corrupt and has apparently, apart from its informing soul, no craving for salvation. Hence the idea of salvation is only for the soul who believes in itself (i.e., soul) as a distinct entity from the body with which it may be, though in such intimate, union. The Science of worship then depends on these basic principles. It has no existence for him who has no faith in those principles. To the believer or the convinced of these four fundamentals, there is the Science of worship, which is an act of the highest devotion of the mind and heart, which is an act of the highest devotion of the mind and heart, aided by speech and deed. The Science consists in that the soul has a desire to extricate itself out of the trammels of matter or bondage known as samsara, and reach a state of bliss and blessedness of an everlasting nature; in other words, join Parabrahman.
Whether when the soul reaches Brahman, both merge; whether it be the soul that mergeth in Brahman or Brahman mergeth in the soul; whether it be that in this merging the soul vanisheth, or Brahmanhood be usurped by the soul, are matters which need not now distract us. The end of it all may be Kevaladvaita
Suddhadvaita, Visuddhadvaita or any other species of Advaita, conceived by man. But instead of wasting the small but precious term of life in wrangling about these subtleties and racking the brain about metaphysics, time is better employed by letting the heart quietly speak to the soul. If the heart melts into worship, let no metaphysics sin in restraining it. Brain speculation has certainly its own value, but if it runs riot and kills love between man and man and man and God, it ought anon to be cubed. There is a solidarity in humanity which the heart bespeaketh, whichsoever sort be the Advaita one may profess; we are all agreed in that the One Brahman is So says the Sruti In giving liberty to the mind, let the heart not get strangled. In allowing the heart to well up in emotion, let not mind again be enslaved. Let the two work harmoniously together. Philosophy comes of the one, but religion comes of the other, and it has been a trite saying with us all that the one is the handmaid of the other. If the soul is weary of embodied existence and wishes to give it up and gain a spiritual or Godly existence, the Way or the Science of worship is this; but is not for that soul which is self-satisfied, which in philosophical language is the state of kaivalya or the State Isolate, or isolate from God.
Now comes the Art of worship. Mere science or a theory of Science is dry and is of little practical value to mankind. All our worldly concerns become a success only by virtue of its practicality. He is a man of mere theories, not a practical, utilitarian man, you would say and dismiss him perhaps summarily as a visionary. But when theory is applied to practice, mankind welcomes it.
Apply this principle to the Science or Theory of worship. The practicality of any science consists in its art. The many practical Institutions we find on earth, the Churches, the Mosques, the Temples, the Behrams and so forth are but illustrations of man's instinct of worship reduced to, and finding expression in, art. Worship, we said, is threefold, mental, verbal, manual. If the mere Science satisfies the mental, Art is wanted to satisfy the cravings of the verbal and the manual. The art of speech displays itself in literature and poetry, the art manual expresses itself in painting and sculpture. Out of the exuberance and ebullition of a soul's love for its divine Lord, Father, Mother, Spouse and what not, Art takes its rise, and expresses itself in praise and not satisfied with that, accompanies it with gesture. No spiritual statesman should therefore forget these fundamental conditions of the art of worship, when he is called upon to minister to the worshipping instincts of man over whom he may for the time being be called to rule. Abuses do certainly creep in, but such abuses are to be found in all departments of human concerns. The wise statesman's duty is therefore to try to remove the abuses, but never to destroy the Institution itself. The wise gardener applies the shears to the overgrowth, not to the root. The wise barber shaves the hair, never skins the scarp. The wise statesman spiritual, then, comes to fulfil, not to destroy.
Now in the same way that mind, speech and body unite in worship, the larger man, - mankind – wishes to congregate for communal worship. This instinct cannot be met but by Temples and such other popular Institutions and soul-inspiring rituals, connected therewith. Temples are wanted; dispensing with them altogether would be a national catastrophe. The Institute is necessary, but how to have one in all its requisites of purity and beautiful art, how to effect reforms in ritual and management and where to apply remedies in the existing, perhaps out of date, organism and function, is what must form the most anxious, arduous as well as delicate care of a ruler over men, ruler not over their persons, but over their minds and hearts as well, - ruler not only over their material, but over their spiritual well-being.
Mental or Spiritual worship is the dominant indeed, without which the verbal and the manual are useless and lifeless, but with which, as the scientific, they constitute the art which gives it all the Beauty of Name and Form, the naming coming from the Speech and the Forming coming from the Deed. The Science is but the kernel, whereas the Art is all the beautiful demonstration clustering round it. The Art of worship is so to say the Vibhava or Vaibhava of the Science, in the relation of the beautiful phenomena of the universe to its central Noumnon or the substratum of the sum of existence, called God. If a father celebrates the marriage of his son or daughter, the mere science of it consists in repeating a few Vedic mantras. This is done in no time, but you find men actually not satisfied with this dry and grey 10 minute's formality. They wish to enhance the effect of the event by grand demonstrations, and demonstrations on a large scale. They begin with their ever green pandal before their mansions, and go through a series of fetes and parties, for 5 days and 10 days and a month together, finishing up with processions and illuminations and what not. Supposing then a man is found who loves his Lord God more than his son or daughter? What all will he not do for his Lord! Consider for a moment. The spiritual statesman had better take care therefore how he may manoeuvre with the delicate question concerning the cravings of the human heart. The secrets of the human heart, a connoisseur alone kens. The outbursts of the heart in thought and speech are never a theme for his suppression or repression, but is a constant psychological problem to direct, and divert, if need be, into useful channels. If an oppressor takes the field in this respect, he becomes unblessed by unblessing the instincts of the oppressed. Man, he must know, is never satisfied with vacuities and abstractions. As he is constituted, he wants discretes (vyakta) and concretes. A wise statesman spiritual therefore knows how tactfully to minister to these promptings of the human heart.
We have shown in what the Science and Art of worship consists. But what is the rationale of worship? In this act of worship what part do Images play? What are Images, again, are they dead or living? This question depends upon some fundamental ideas. The 1st idea is that of God and his Over-pervasive and Im-pervasive character. His Pervasion again, our Scriptures say, is of two sorts, pervasion for the performance of the function of sustaining being. This is called The other kind is pervasion or Divine Presence, for the sake of the Worshipper, in any object the worshipper may lovingly choose. This is called Samanya is general, and Visesha is special, manifestation of the Deity or the Divine. This is beautifully expressed by an allegory:-
i.e., "The general presence of God is like the heat, latent in a piece of wood; whereas His special presence is like the visible fire of a heated iron ball." To those who believe in Krishna, and therefore in the Gita passage:-
from which it is clear that though Krishna's body was made of divine or Spiritual stuff, He chose out of His own condescension to descend on earth and make that body visible to material eyes. If this is believable, then the other is not difficult of belief, viz., the special presence of divinity in a stock or stone or in flesh or bone, or any substance in creation. But to those who discard such Pramanas or authorities, the argument possesses no value. This was the hypothesis on which the opening verse of this paper started.
It may, we say enpassant, here be suggested that Krishna's or Rama's are after all mythical personages. But what we say is, mythical or no, they have come to live with us permanently, and have struck a deep root in our hearts and have taken such a sentimental possession of the popular imagination, that it seems useful to foster that national spirit abiding with us. If these traditional bequests are worth having and harbouring, then we must have them; but if not, their worthlessness or their unworthiness, as the case may be, has to be conclusively demonstrated to the consciousness of the Hindus before they can altogether be ostracised from the country.
Granting Images then, or Idols as some may prefer to name them, we say, we do not worship the mere idol, but the Idea embodied by it and underlying it. Ours is Devataradhana, not Vigraharadhana as the missionary, is pleased to stricture it. And then even the External Symbol, the Idol is not a meaningless form to us. For the Idol to us is the miniature of the Infinite. As our mind is not capable or capacious enough to grasp the infinite within its small compass, and craves yet for the very Infinite to be presented to it in finite forms for convenience of worship, the significant symbols are granted. Our Image is a miniature embodiment of cosmic truths. Here is a beautiful verse to the point:
Hence we had better not do away with the Idols that are warrants of religion. If you calmly think over the matter, the universe is full of Idols; and there is no such thing as an abstraction. Philosophers may think mental worship is sufficient, and that worship need not therefore be a concrete affair. But both these positions are untenable in the face of our experience. Let any philosopher appeal to his own Conscience as to what his mental abstract worship is, and he will find it a mere negation. Besides what may be good and sufficient for a philosopher – and after all philosophers are very few – is not sufficient to meet the wants of the populace, and in his attempts to make everyone a philosopher instead of trying to be a real philosopher by being able to accommodate himself to many minds and many hearts which think differently from him, we are afraid he will fail; and again if he cares for himself, and is either antagonistic or indifferent to larger interests, he becomes selfish. That is a real philosopher who knows how not to tamper with, and at the same time how to be able to minister to, the secret as well as sacred wants of many men. Certainly there are essentials, but they are mere essentials. But externals are also a necessity of our existence. For instance fancy what would be the essential monarch and what his essential work would be, if he had not his external faithful servants to attend upon him and him in his work? So do speech and deed stand to thought. Essentials are indeed agreed upon on all hands, but in the very nature of our constitution, in the nature of how the world round us is constituted, we dare not despise with the externals
Again our Temples and Idols and all such Institutions are our strongholds of memorial, viz of our philosophy and religion, which after all are those which survive the human monuments of ephemeral interest. With their destruction and disappearance, a nation is eradicated, and a race is extinguished. The Temples etc., are again our only embodiments of hoary palaeontology and living transmitters of tradition and cherished associations. There is so much national sentiment again nestling round them. It is the one abode which in sorrow it seeks as its refuge. Again, when in these days it has become the fashion with men to daily raise statutes to men, standing statues of our gods ought, I think, to be allowed to remain intact. I should stay the hand of the vandal and the iconoclast before he may succeed entirely to raze our national institutions by means fair or foul, and before our Rama's and Krishna's are regarded as devils possessing men, not as God descended on earth. This is the fact of Incarnation which other nations also admit. Believe in it or not as you may please, there is no reason for hate or ire against allowing their statues, as statues of heroes at least, to remain and gladden the heart of the nations? Even a Mr. Hooper of New York lecturing on Bahaism has the good sense to know and to state that Krishna is not a myth, not a mere hero, but God manifest as the Logos (see 4 and 7 of his lecture delivered on the 6th April 1907 in the rooms of the Bengal Social Club). Are Hindus now trying to deny a thing which even an outlandish Theosophy has found many reasons to admit? Let the avatara, be of God, or demigod, hero or saint, and yet it "quickeneth the flagging currents of holiness and righteousness from age to age." We must now sum up.
Creation is a great Karma or act and man is given a small though responsible share in it. And his act is either reward-bearing or redemption-bearing. The purpose of creation is salvation for all in the End; and this becomes the Nivritti-Karma or Dharma, when done without motive. At the crest of all Nivritti-Karma stands worship. If Karma is beginning less from its pravritti aspect, its fruit is endless from its Nivritti aspect. For Karma now partakes of the nature of Divine worship, which is Service to God, endless, for moksha or final deliverance is by hypothesis endless. The Pravritti-Karma has pradhvams-abhava, but the Nivritti-Karma has prag-abhava only and becomes Nitya when once its destiny is reached.
The organized body that is given to us in the scheme of creation is intended for worship and for no other purpose. It is to be so used, not abused. So says a holy verse:-
This wonderful body with its wonderful mechanism is given to man for offering it to Him who gave it. So exclaims a Vedic Sage in the Taittiriya Samhita "O body! I wear thee that I may please Him with thee. The body then has got a pravritti aspect as well as a nivritti aspect of Karma. Let men profit by it. One of our acharyas had beautifully embodied the foregoing thoughts in two verses which I simply repeat and stop:-