If there is any land on this earth that can lay claim to be the blessed punya bhumi (holy land), to be the land to which all souls on this earth must come to account for karma, the land to which every soul that is wending its way God-ward must come to attain its last home, the land where humanity has attained its highest towards gentleness, towards generosity, towards purity, towards calmness, above all, the land of introspection and of spirituality, – it is India. This is the ancient land where wisdom made its home before it went into any other country, the same India whose influx of spirituality is represented, as it were, on the material plane, by rolling rivers like oceans, where the eternal Himalayas, rising tier above tier with their snow-caps, look as it were into the very mysteries of heaven. Here is the same India whose soil has been trodden by the feet of the greatest sages that ever lived. Here first sprang up inquiries into the nature of man, and into the internal world. Here first arose the doctrines of the immortality of the soul, the existence of a supervising God, an immanent God in Nature and in man, and here the highest ideals of religion and philosophy have attained their culminating points.
Our sacred motherland is a land of religion and philosophy – the birthplace of spiritual giants – the land of renunciation, where and where alone, from the most ancient to the most modern times, there has been the highest ideal of life open to man. This is the motherland of philosophy, of spirituality, and of ethics, of sweetness, gentleness, and love. These still exist, and my experience of the world leads me to stand on firm ground, and make the bold statement, that India is still the first and foremost of all the nations of the world in these respects.
It is the same India which has withstood the shocks of centuries, of hundreds of foreign invasions, of hundreds of upheavals of manners and customs. It is the same land which stands firmer than any rock in the world, with its undying vigour, indestructible life. Its life is of the same nature as the Soul, without beginning and without end, immortal, and we are the children of such a country. Here activity prevailed when even Greece did not exist, when Rome was not thought of, when the very fathers of the modern Europeans lived in the forests and painted themselves blue. Even earlier, when history has no record, and tradition dares not peer into the gloom of that intense past, even from then until now, ideas after ideas have marched out from her, but every word has been spoken with a blessing behind it and peace before it. Study the history of the whole world, and you will see that every high ideal you meet with anywhere had its origin in India. From time immemorial India has been the mine of precious ideas to human society; giving birth to high ideas herself, she has freely distributed them broadcast over the whole world. Religious researches disclose to us the fact, that there is not a country possessing a good ethical code but has borrowed something of it from us, and there is not one religion possessing good ideas of immortality of the soul but has derived it directly or indirectly from us. This is the land from whence, like the tidal waves, spirituality and philosophy have again and again rushed out and deluged the world, and this is the land from whence once more such tides must proceed in order to bring life and vigour into the decaying races of mankind.
The debt which the world owes to our motherland is immense. Taking country with country, there is not one race on this earth (o which the world owes so much as to the patient Hindu, the mild Hindu. Like the gentle dew that falls unseen and unheard, and yet brings into blossom the fairest of roses, has been the contribution of India to the thought of the world. Silent, unperceived, yet omnipotent in its effect, it has revolutionized the thought of the world, yet nobody knows when it did so.
In ancient times and in modern times, great ideas have emanated from strong and great races. In ancient and modern times, wonderful ideas have been carried forward from one race to another. In ancient and modern times, seeds of great truth and power have been cast abroad by the advancing tides of national life, but mark you, it has been always with the blast of war trumpets, and with the march of embattled cohorts. Each idea had to be soaked in a deluge of blood ; each idea had to wade through the blood of millions of our fellow-beings; each word of power had to be followed by the groans of millions, by the wails of orphans, by the tears of widows. This, in the main, other nations have taught; but India has for thousands of years peacefully existed.
They (the Western people) talk a great deal of the new theories about the survival of the fittest, and they think that it is the strength of the muscles which is the fittest to survive. If that were true, any one of the. aggressively known old world nations would have lived in glory to-day, and we, the weak Hindus, who never conquered even one other race or nation ought to have died out, yet we live here three hundred millions strong! We, of all nations of the world, have never been a conquering race, and that blessing is on our head, and therefore we live.
Vanished from off the face of the earth, with not even a tale left behind to tell, gone is that ancient land of the Greeks. There was a time when the Roman Eagle floated over everything worth having in this world; everywhere Rome’s power was felt and pressed on the head of humanity; the earth trembled at the name of Rome. But the Capitoline Hill is a mass of ruins, the spider weaves its web where the Caesars ruled. There have been other nations equally glorious that have come and gone, living a few hours of exultant and of exuberant dominance, and of a wicked national life, and then vanishing like ripples on the face of the waters. Thus have these nations made their mark on the face of humanity. But we live; and if Manu came back to-day -he would not be bewildered, and would not find himself in a foreign land. The same laws are here, laws adjusted and thought out through thousands and thousands of years; customs, the outcome of the acumen of ages and the experience of centuries, that seem to be eternal; and as the days go by, as blow after blow of misfortune has been delivered upon them, they seem to have served one purpose only, that of making them stronger and more constant.
Did you ever hear of a country, where the greatest kings tried to trace their descent, not to kings, not to robber-barons living in old castles, who plundered poor travellers, but to semi-naked sages who lived in the forest ? . . . This is the land. I am one of the proudest men ever bom, but let me tell you frankly, it is not for myself, but on account of my ancestry. The more I have studied the past, the more I have looked back, more and more has this pride come to me, and it has given me the strength and courage of conviction, raised me up from the dust of the earth, and set me working out that great plan laid out by those great ancestors of ours. Children of those ancient Aryans, through the grace of the Lord may you have the same pride, may that faith in your ancestors come into your blood, may it become a part and parcel of your lives, may it work towards the salvation of the world ! Here is the life-giving water with which must be quenched the burning fire of materialism which is burning the core of the hearts of millions, in other lands.
Her Life Centre
Each nation lias its own part to play, and naturally, each nation has its own peculiarity and individuality, with which it is born. Each represents, as it were, one peculiar note in this harmony of nations, and this is its very life, its vitality. In it is the backbone, the foundation, and the bed-rock of the national life. In one nation political power is its vitality, as in England. Artistic life in another, and so on. I have seen that I cannot preach even religion to Americans without showing them its practical effect on social life. I could not preach religion in England without showing the wonderful political changes the Vedanta would bring.
Here in this blessed land, the foundation, the backbone, the life-centre is religion and religion alone. In India, religious life forms the centre, the keynote of the whole music of national life. Let others talk of politics, of the glory of acquisition of immense wealth poured in by trade, of the power and spread of commercialism, of the glorious fountain of physical liberty, but these the Hindu mind does not understand and does not want to understand. Touch him on spirituality, on religion, on God, on the soul, on the Infinite, on spiritual freedom, and I assure you, the lowest peasant in India is better informed on these subjects than many a so-called philosopher in other lands.
So, in India, social reform has to be preached by showing how much more spiritual a life the new system will bring; and politics has to be preached by showing how much it will improve the one thing that the nation wants – its spirituality. Every man has to make his own choice ; so has every nation.
We made our choice ages ago and we must abide by it. And, after all, it is not such a bad choice. Is it such a bad choice in this world to think, not of matter but of spirit, not of man but of God ? That intense faith in another world, that intense hatred for this world, that intense power of renunciation, that intense ‘faith in God, that intense faith in the immortal soul, is in you. I challenge anyone to give it up. You cannot. You may try to impose upon me by becoming materialists, by talking materialism for a few months, but I know what you are; if I take you by the hand, Backyou come as good theists as ever were born. How can you change your nature ? Your talks of politics, of social regeneration, your talks of money-making, and commercialism – all these will roll off like water from a duck’s back.
For good or for evil, our vitality is concentrated in our religion. You cannot change it.
You cannot destroy it and put in its place another. You cannot transplant a large growing tree from one soil to another and make it immediately take root there. For good or for evil, the religious ideal has been flowing into India for thousands of years; for good or for evil, the Indian atmosphere has been filled with ideals of religion for shining scores of centuries; for good or for evil, we have been born and brought up in the very midst of these ideals of religion, till it has entered into our very blood, and tingled with every drop in our veins, and has become one with our constitution, become the very vitality of oui’ lives. Can you give such religion up without the rousing of the same energy in reaction, without filling the channel which that mighty river has cut out for itself in the course of thousands of years ? Do you want that the Ganges should go Backto its icy bed and begin a new course ? Even if that were possible, it would be impossible for this country to give up her characteristic courage of religious life and take up for herself a new career of politics or something else. You can only work under the law of least resistance, and this religious l:ne is the line of least resistance in India. This is the fine of life, this is the line of growth, and this is the line of well-being in India – to follow the track of religion.
If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality, the direction which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, that nation dies, if it succeeds in the attempt. And, therefore, if you succeed in the attempt to throw off your religion and take up either politics or
society, or any other thing as your centre, as the vitality of your national life, the result will be, that you will become extinct. Give it up and you die; death will be the only result, annihilation the only effect, the moment you step beyond that life-current. Religion and religion alone is the life of India, and when that goes India will die, in spite of politics, in spite of social reforms, in spite of Kuvera’s wealth poured upon the head of every one of her children. I do not mean to say that other things are not necessary. I do not mean to say that political or social improvements are not necessary, but what I mean is this, and I want you to bear it in mind, that they are secondary here, and that religion is primary.
When the life-blood is strong and pure no disease germ can live in that body. Our lifeblood is spirituality. If it flows clear, if it flows strong and pure and vigorous, everything is right; political, social, any other material defects, ever the poverty of the land, will all be cured if that blood is pure.
To take a simile from modern medicine, we know that there must be two causes to produce a disease, some poison germ outside, and the state of the body. Until the body is in a state to admit the germs, until the body is degraded to a lower vitality so that the germs may enter and thrive and multiply, there is no power in any germ in the world to produce a disease in the body. In fact, millions of germs are continually passing through everyone’s body ; but so long as it is vigorous it never is conscious of them. It is only when the body is weak that these germs take possession of it and produce disease. Just so with the national life. It is when the national body is weak that all sorts of disease germs, in the political state of the race or in its social state, in its educational or intellectual state, crowd into the system and produce disease.
To remedy it, therefore, we must go to the root of this disease and cleanse the blood of all impurities. The one tendency will be to strengthen the man, to make the blood pure, the body vigorous, so that it will be able to resist and throw off all external poisons. We have seen that our vigour, our strength, nay, our national life is in our religion. That is the life of our race and that must be strengthened,
You have withstood the shocks of centuries simply because you took great care of it, you sacrificed everything else for it. Your forefathers underwent everything boldly, even death itself, but preserved their religion. Temple after temple was broken down by the foreign conqueror, but no sooner had the wave passed than the spire of the temple rose up again. Some of these old temples of Southern India, and those like: Somenath of Gujerat, will teach you volumes of wisdom, will give you a keener insight into the history of the race than any amount of books. Mark how these temples bear the marks of a hundred attacks and a hundred regenerations, continually destroyed and continually springing up out of the ruins, rejuvenated and strong as ever! That is the national mind, that is the national life-current. Follow it and it leads to glory.
The Indian mind is first religious, then anything else. So this is to be strengthened. You must make all and everything work through that vitality of your religion. Let all your nerves vibrate through the backbone of your religion. The national ideals of India are renunciation and service. Intensify her in those channels, and the rest will take care of itself. The banner of the spiritual cannot be raised too high in this country. In it alone is salvation.
The Indian nation cannot be killed. Deathless it stands, and it will stand so long as that spirit shall remain as the background, so long as her people do not give up their spirituality. Beggars they may remain, poor and poverty-stricken ; dirt and squalor may surround them perhaps throughout all time, but let them not give up their God, let them not forget that they are the children of the sages.
Why did not this Hindu race die out, in the face of so many troubles and tumults of a thousand years ? If our customs and manners arc so very bad, how is it that we have not been effaced from the face of the earth by this time ? Have the various foreign conquerors spared any pains to crush us out ? Why, then, were not the Hindus blotted out of existence, as happened with men in other countries which are uncivilized ? Why was not India depopulated and turned into a wilderness ? Why, then, foreigners would have lost no time to come and settle in India, and till her fertile lands in the same way as they did and are still doing in America, Australia and Africa ? First understand that India has strength as well, has a substantial reality of her own yet. Furthermore, understand that India is still living, because she has her own quota yet to give to the general store of the world’s civilization.
Within every man, there is an idea ; the external man is only the outward manifestation, the mere language of this idea within. Likewise, every nation has a corresponding national idea. This idea is working for the world and is necessary for its preservation. The day when the necessity of an idea as an element for the preservation of the world is over, that very day the receptacle of that idea, whether it be an individual or a nation, will meet destruction. The reason that we Indians are still living, in spite of so much misery, distress, poverty and oppression from within and without is that we have a national idea, which is yet necessary for the preservation of the world.
Each race has a peculiar bent, each race has a peculiar raison d’etre, each race has a peculiar mission to fulfil in the life of the world. Each race has to make its own result, to fulfil its own mission. Political greatness or military powci was never the mission of our race ; it never was. and, mark my words, it never will be. But there has been the other mission given to us, which is to conserve, to preserve, to accumulate, as it were, into a dynamo, all the spiritual energy of the race, and that concentrated energy is to pour forth in a deluge on the world, whenever circumstances are propitious.
Sceptres have been broken and thrown away, the ball of power has passed from hand to hand ; but in India, courts and kings always touched only a few ; the vast mass of the people, from the highest to the lowest, has been left to pursue its own inevitable course, the current of national life flowing at times slow and half-conscious, at others, strong 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, only to flare up with added brilliance in the next, and there she is walking with her own majestic steps, – my motherland, – to fulfil her glorious destiny, which no power on earth or in heaven can check – the regeneration of man the brute into man the God.
Aye, a glorious destiny, my brethren, for as far Backas the days of the Upanishads we have thrown the challenge to the world – ‘Na dhanena fia prajaya tyagenaike amritatwamanashuh – not by wealth, not by progeny, but by renunciation alone immortality is reached.’ Race after race has taken the challenge up, and tried their utmost to solve the world-riddle on the plane of desires. They have all failed in the past, – the old ones have become extinct under the weight of wickedness and misery, which lust for power and gold brings in its train, and the new ones are tottering to their fall. The question has yet to be decided 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 it through good or evil fortune, 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 hei existence, the foundation of her being, the misou d’etre of her very existence – the spiritualization of the human race. In this her life-course she has never deviated, whether the Tartar ruled or the Turk, whether the Moghul ruled or the English.
For a complete civilization the world is waiting, waiting for the treasures to come out ol India, waiting for the marvellous spiritual inheritance of the race, which, through decades of degradation and misery, the nation has still clutched to her breast. The world is waiting for that treasure ; little do you know how much of hunger and of thirst there is outside of India for these wonderful treasures of our forefathers. We talk here, we quarrel with each other, we laugh at and ridicule everything holy. Little do we understand the heart-pangs of millions waiting outside the walls, stretching forth their hands for a little sip of that nectar which our forefathers have preserved in this land of India.
Whether you believe in spirituality or not, for the sake of the national life, you have to get a hold on spirituality and keep to it. Then stretch the other hand out and gain all you can from other races, but everything must be subordinated to that one ideal of life ; and out of that a wonderful, glorious, future India will come – I am sure it is coming – a greater India than ever was. Sages will spring up greater than all the ancient sages, and your ancestors will not only be satisfied, but I am sure, they will be proud, from their positions in other worlds, to look down upon their descendants, so glorious, and so great. Let us all work hard, my brethren, this is no time for sleep. On our work depends the coming of the India of the future. She is there ready waiting. She is only sleeping. Arise, and awake and see her seated here, on her eternal throne, rejuvenated, more glorious than she ever was – this motherland of ours.
A mighty tree produces a beautiful ripe fruit. That fruit falls on the ground, it decays and rots, and out of that decay springs the root and the
future tree, perhaps mightier than the first one, This period of decay through which we have passed was all the more necessary. Out of this decay is coming the India of the future ; it is sprouting, its first leaves are already out, and a mighty, gigantic tree is here, already beginning to appear.
The longest night seems to be passing away, the sorest trouble seems to be coming to an end at last, the seeming corpse appears to be awaking, and a voice is coming to us, – away back where history and even tradition fails to peep into the gloom of the past, coming down from there, reflected, as it were, from peak to peak of the infinite Himalaya of knowledge, and of love, and of work, ‘India, this motherland of ours’, – a voice is coming unto us, gentle, firm, and yet unmistakable in its utterances, and is gaining volume as days pass by, and behold, the sleeper is awakening! Like a breeze from the Himalayas, it is bringing life into the almost dead bones and muscles, the lethargy is passing away, and only the blind cannot see, or the perverted will not see that she is awakening, this motherland of ours, from her deep long sleep. None can resist her any more ; never is she going to sleep any more; no outward powers can hold her Backany more ; for the infinite giant is rising to her feet.
Up, up, the long night is passing, the day is approaching, the wave has risen, nothing will be able to resist its tidal fury. Believe, believe, the decree has gone forth, the fiat of the Lord has gone forth – India must rise, the masses and the poor are to be made happy. Rejoice! The flood of spirituality has risen. I see it is rolling over the land resistless, boundless, all-absorbing. Every man to the fore, every good will be added to its forces, every hand will smooth its way, and glory be unto the Lord !