UPLIFT OF THE MASSES
Our masses are very ignorant about secular things. Our masses are very good because poverty here is not a crime. Our masses aie not violent. Many times I was near being mobbed in America and England, only on account of my dress. But I never heard of such a thing m India as a man being mobbed because of peculiar dress. In every other respect, our’ masses are much more civilized than the European masses. Experience teaches me that they are not dense, that they are not slow, that they are as eager and thirsty for information as any race under the sun.
Those uncared for lower classes of India – the peasants and weavers and the rest who have been conquered by foreigners and are looked down upon by their own people, – it is they who from time immemorial have been working silently, without even getting the remuneration of their labours ! The peasant, the shoemaker, the sweeper, and such other lower classes of India have much greater capacity for work and self-reliance than you. They have been silently
working through long ages, and producing the .entire wealth of the land, without a word of complaint.
Never mind if they have not read a few books like you, – if they have not acquired your tailor-made civilization. What do these matter ? But they are the backbone of a nation in all countries. If these lower classes stop work, where will you get your food, clothing from ? If the sweepers of Calcutta stop work for a day, it creates a panic ; and if they strike for three days, the whole town will be depopulated by the outbreak of epidemics. If the labourers stop work, your supply of food and clothes also stops. And you regard them as low-class people and vaunt about your own culture !
Ye labouring classes of India, as a result of your silent, constant labours Babylon, Persia, Alexandria, Greece, Rome. Venice, Genoa,
Baghdad, Samarkand, Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Holland and England have successively attained supremacy and eminence : And you ?
– Well, who cares to think of you P Those whose heart’s blood has contributed to all the progress that has been made m the world, – well, who cares to prahe them ? The world-conquering heroes of spirituality, war and poetry are in the eyes of all, and they have received the homage of mankind ; but where nobody looks, no one gives a word of encouragement, where everybody hates – that living amid such circumstances and displaying boundless patience, infinite love and dauntless practicality, our proletariat are doing their duty in their homes day and night, without the slightest murmur, – well, is there no heroism in this ? Many turn out to be heroes, when they have got some great task to perform. Even a coward easily gives up his life, and the most selfish man behaves disinterestedly, when there is a multitude to cheer them on ; but blessed indeed is he who manifests the same unselfish-ness, and devotion to duty in the smallest ol acts, unnoticed by all, – and it is you who are actually doing this, ye ever-trampled labouring classes of India ! I bow to you.
Their Present Condition and Its Cause
Whether the leadership of society be in the hands of those who monopolise learning, or wield the power of riches or arms, the source of its power is always the subject masses. By so much as the class in power severs itself from this source, by so much is it sure to become weak. But such is the strange irony of fate, such is the queer working of muya, that they from whom this power is directly or indirectly drawn, by fair means or foul, – by deceit, stratagem, force, or by voluntary gift, – they soon cease to be taken into account by the leading class.
In this country of ours, the very birth-place of the Vedanta, our masses have been hypnotised for ages. To touch them is pollution ; to sit with them is pollution ! Hopeless they were born ; hopeless they must remain ! ‘And the result is that they have been sinking, sinking, sinking, and have come to the last stage to which a human being can come. For what country is there in the world where man has to sleep with the cattle ? And for this, blame nobody else, do not commit the mistake of the ignorant. The effect is here and the cause is here too. We are to blame. Stand up, be bold, and take the blame on your own shoulders. Do not go about throwing mud at others ; for all the’faults you suffer from you are the sole and the only cause.
Our aristocratic ancestors went on treading the common masses of our country under foot, till they became helpless, till under this torment the poor, poor people nearly forgot that they were human beings. They have been compelled to be merely hewers of wood and drawers of water. The poor, the low, the sinner in India have no friends, no help, – ¦ they cannot rise, try however they may. They sink lower and lower everyday, they feel the blows showered upon them by a cruel society, and they do not know whence the blow comes. They have forgotten that they too are men. And the result is slavery.
Thoughtful people within the last few years have seen it, but unfortunately laid it at the door of the Hindu religion, and to them, the only way of bettering is by crushing this grandest religion of the world. Hear me, I have discovered the secret through the grace of the Lord. Religion is not at fault. On the other hand, your religion teaches you that every being is only your own self multiplied. But it was the want of practical application, the want of sympathy – the want of heart. The Lord once more came to you as Buddha and taught you how to feel, how to sympathise with the poor, the miserable, the sinner, but you heard Him not. ‘And just as the Jews denied the Lord Jesus and are since that day wandering over the world as homeless beggars, tyrannised over by everybody, so you are bond-slaves to any nation that thinks it worth while to rule over you. ‘Ah tyrants ! you do not know that the obverse is tyranny, and the reverse, slavery. The slave and the tyrant are synonymous.
No religion on earth preaches the dignity ol humanity in such a lofty strain as Hinduism, and no religion on earth treads upon the necks ol the poor and the low in such a fashion as Hinduism. The Lord has shown me that religion is not at fault, but it is the Pharisees and the Sadducees in Hinduism, hypocrites, who invent
all sorts of engines of tyranny. Who reduced the bhangis and the pariahs to their present degraded condition ? Heartlessness in our behaviour and at the same time preaching wonderful Advaitism – is it not adding insult to injury ? You have the greatest religion which the world ever saw, and you feed the masses with stuff and nonsense. You have the perennial fountain flowing, and you give them ditch-water. Your graduate would not touch a low-caste man, but is ready to get out of him the money for his education.
Its Remedy and Our Responsibility Engrossed in the struggle for existence they had not the opportunity for the awakening of knowledge. They have worked so long uniformly like machines guided by human intelligence, and the clever educated section have taken the substantial part of the fruits of their labour. In every country this has been the case. But times have changed. The lower classes are gradually awakening to this fact and making a united front against this, determined to exact their legitimate dues. The masses of Europe and America have been the first to awaken and have already begun to fight. Signs of the awakening have shown themselves in India too, as is evident from the number of strikes among the lower classes nowadays. The upper classes will, no longer be able to repress the lower, try they ever so much. The well-being of the higher classes now lies in helping the lower to get their legitimate rights.
There are possibilities, opportunities and hope for every individual in this country (i.c., America). To-day he is poor, to-morrow he may become rich and learned and respected. Here every one is anxious to help the poor. In India there is a howling cry that we are very poor, but how many charitable associations are there for the well-being of the poor ? How many people really weep for the sorrows and sufferings of the millions of poor in India ? Are we men ? What are we doing for their livelihood, for their improvement ? We do not touch them, we avoid their company ! Are we men ?
Travelling through many cities of Europe and observing in them the comforts and education of even the poor people, there was brought to my mind the state of our own poor people and I used to shed tears. What made the difference ? Education was the answer I got. Through education, faith in one’s own self, and through faith in one’s own self the inherent Brahman is waking up in them, while the Brahman in us is gradually becoming dormant.
In New York I used to observe the Irish colonists come, – down-trodden, haggard-look
ing, destitute of all possessions at home, penniless and wooden-headed, – with their only belongings, a stick and a bundle of rags hanging at the end of it, fright in their steps, alarm in their eyes. A different spectacle in six months, – the man walks upright, his.attire is changed. In his eyes and steps there is no more sign of fright. What is the cause ? Our Vedanta says that that Irishman was kept surrounded by contempt in his own country – the whole of nature was telling him with one voice, – “Pat, you have no more hope, you are born a slave and ¦will remain so.” Having been thus told from his birth, Pat believed in it and hypnotised himself that he was very low, and the Brahman in him shrank away. While no sooner had he landed in America than he heard the shout going up on all sides, – “Pat, you are a man as we are, it is man who has done all, a man like you and me can do everything : have courage !” Pat raised his head and saw that it was so, the Brahman within woke up nature herself spoke, as it were, – ” Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached. ” (Katha Up. 1.3 4.)
From the day when education and culture, etc., began to spread gradually from patricians to plebeians, grew the distinction between the modern civilization as of Western countries, and the ancient civilization as of India, Egypt, Rome,
etc. I see it before my eyes, a nation is advanced in proportion as education and intelligence spread among the masses. The chief cause of India’s ruin has been the monopolising of the whole education and intelligence of the land, by dint of pride and royal authority, among a handful of men. If we are to rise again, we shall have to do it in the same way, that is. by spreading education among the masses. The remedy now is the spread of education. My idea is to bring to the door of the meanest, the poorest, the noble ideas that the human race has developed both in and out of India, and let them think for themselves.
Who will bring the light to them – who mil travel from door to door bringing education to them ? Let these people be your God – think of them, work for them, pray for them incessantly – the Lord will show you the way. Him I call a rnuhdtman (great soul) whose heart bleeds for the poor, otherwise he is a durdtman (wicked soul). Let us unite our wills in continued prayer for their good. We may die unknown, unpitied, unbewailed, without accomplishing anything, – but not one thought will be lost. It will take effect, sooner or later. My heart is too full to express my feeling ; you know it, you can imagine it. So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor, who having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them ! I call those men who strut about in their finery, having got all their money by grinding the poor, wretches, so long as they do not do anything for those two hundred millions who are now no better than hungry savages !
We have to give them secular education. We have to follow the plan laid down by our ancestors, that is, to bring all the ideals slowly down among the masses. Raise them slowly up, raise them to equality. Impart even secular knowledge through religion.
Your duty at present is to go from one part of the country to another, from village to village, and make the people understand that mere sitting about idly won’t do any more. Make them understand their real condition and say, “‘0 ye brothers, all arise! Awake! How much longer would you remain asleep ! ” Go and advise them how to improve their own condition, and make them comprehend the sublime truths of the shdstras, by presenting them in a lucid and popular way. So long the Brahmanas have monopolised religion ; but since they cannot hold their ground against the strong tide of time, go and take steps so that one and all in the land may get that religion. Impress upon their minds that they have the same right to religion as the
Brahmanas. Initiate all, even down to the chanddlas, in these fiery mantras. ‘Also instruct them in simple words, about the necessities of life, and in trade, commerce, agriculture, etc.
Preach the idea of elevating the masses by means of a central college, and bringing education as well as religion to the door of the poor by means of missionaries trained in this college. Suppose some disinterested sannydsins, bent on doing good to others, go from village to village, disseminating education, and seeking in various ways to better the condition of all down to the chandala, through oral teaching, and by means of maps, cameras, globes and such other accessories, – can’t that bring forth good in time ? If the mountain does not come to Mahomet, Mahomet must go to the mountain. The poor are too poor to come to schools and pathsalas.
Remember that the nation lives in the cottage. But, alas ! nobody ever did anything for them. Our modern reformers are very busy about widow remarriage. Of course, I am a sympathiser in every reform, but the fate of a nation does not depend upon the number of husbands their widows get, but upon the condition of the masses. Can you raise them ? Can you give them Backtheir lost individuality without making them lose their innate spiritual nature ? Can you become an Occidental of occidentals in your spirit of equality, freedom, working energy, and at the same time a Hindu to the very backbone in religious culture and instincts ? This is to be done and we will do it.