Dr. Tagore's Reply

Rabindranath in Gujarat (1920)
(from: The Report of the Sixth Gujarati
Sahitya Parishad-1920 (pub.1923))

[This is the full text of a lecture given by Rabindranath Tagore on April 2, 1920 at the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad, as a reply to their felicitation of the poet. It was published three years later as "Dr. Tagore's Reply" in Chhaththi Gujarati Sahitya Parishadano Report - 1920 (`Report of the Sixth Gujarati Sahitya Parishad - 1920'; pub.1923; Pp. 112-132).

While a revised version of this lecture has been later published and is included as "Construction Versus Creation" in "The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore" (Ed. Sisir Kumar Das), the full text of this lecture has so far been effectively forgotten. See the accompanying article,A Poet's Dream: Discovery of Tagore Texts by Mr. Shailesh Parekh on the "discovery" of this and another essay, Man the Artist, which has not been included in any form in any of the standard collections at all, to our knowledge.

The segments of "Dr. Tagore's Reply" that have been omitted in `Construction versus Creation' have been shown in italics. The nature of revision is mostly in the form of deletion of phrases and sometimes whole paragraphs. In very few instances some words have been substituted with others--these will not be apparent from what is produced below. Spelling convention for words like `civilization' (as opposed to `civilisation') is different too. We hope this earlier version will be of interest to all generally, and specially to Tagore scholars.]

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Construction is for a purpose, it expresses our wants; but creation is for itself, it expresses our very being. We make a vessel because water has to be fetched. It must answer the question why. But when we take infinite trouble to give it a beautiful form, no reason has to be assigned. It is something which is ultimate; it is for the realization of our own spirit which is free, which is glad. If, in the works of our life, needs make themselves too domineering, purposes too obtrusive, if something of our complete humanity is not expressed at the same time, then these works become ugly and unspiritual.

In love, in goodness, man himself is revealed; these express no want in him; they show the fulness of his nature which flows out of himself and therefore they are purely creative. They are ultimate - therefore, in our judgment of man's civilization, they give us true criterion of perfection.

Man's highest creation is his society. It has its innumer­able conveniences for him, but its true worth is in the highest expression of himself which he finds in it. Therefore it is in its ideal perfection that society is of ultimate value to man. For it is a world where he finds himself revealed in his greatness where his true nature has the best freedom of manifestation.

But through pressure of need, allurement of temptations, or tyranny of circumstances it may prove to be opposite. His society may conspire to rob man of his freedom of con­science reducing him to an automaton or of his freedom of intellect forcibly keeping him foolish and feeble in his ideas and practices, or of his freedom of humanity turning him to an appliance for the production of power and things, when this happens it is the most terrible of all disasters for man. For freedom of creation in which he continually finds himself, not as a slave, not as a machine, not as an infant without growth, remaining forever stunted, but as the son of the im­mortal whose nature is in the joy of endless self-giving.

Creation is the revelation of truth through the rhythm of forms. It has a dualism consisting of the expression and the material. Of these two wedded companions the material must keep in the back-ground and continually offer itself as a sacrifice to its absolute loyalty to the expression. And this is true for all things, whether in our individual life or in our society.

When the material makes itself too aggressive and furiously multiplies it into unmeaning voluminousness, then the harmony of creation is disturbed and truth is obscured. If the lamp takes a perverse pride in displaying its oil, then the light remains unrevealed. The material must know that it has no idea of completeness in itself, that it must not hold out temptations to decoy men under its destination away from their creative activities.

The laws of grammar are necessary for the construction of a poem, but the readers must not be made conscious of their constant dictatorship. In classical India we have a Sanskrit poem in which all the complex grammatical rules are deliberately illustrated. This gives continual shocks of delight to a class of readers who, even in work of art, seek some tangible proof of power almost physical in its manifestations. This proves that by special cultivation a kind of mentality can be produced which is strangely capable of taking delight in contemplating the mere spectacle of power manipulating materials, forgetting that materials are not the truth. And these people of an athletic habit of mind encourage artists to sacrifice art to the vanity of performance, simplicity of truth to the antics of cleverness.

What is the truth of the world? Its truth is not the mass of materials, but their universal relatedness. A drop of water is not a particular assortment of elements, it is their mutuality. In fact matter, as a mass, is an abstraction to us; we know it by a betrayal of secret through science. We do not directly perceive it. We see a flower, but not matter. Matter in a laboratory has its use but no expression. This expression alone is creation; it is an end in itself. So also does our civilization find its completeness when it expresses humanity, not when it displays its power to amass materials.

I have said that the truth of this world is in its law of relatedness, that is to say, the law of keeping step together. For the world is a movement, and this movement must not be retarded in any of its parts by a break of cadence. The world of men is suffering the agony of pain, because its movements are not in harmony with one another, because the relationship of races has not yet been established in a balance of beauty and goodness. This balance cannot be maintained by external regulation. It is a dance which must have music to regulate it. This great music is lacking in the historical meeting of man which has taken place in the present age, and all its movements in their discongruity are creating complexities of pain.

We know of an instance in our own history of India when a great personality struck up in his life and voice the key-note of the solemn music of man-love for all creatures. And that music crossed the sea and the mountain and the desert, and races belonging to different climes and habits and languages were drawn together, not in a clash of arms or in the conflict of exploitation but in co-operation of life, in amity and peace. This was a creation. The great rhythm of this symphony was in the very heart of the world. This rhythm is what metre is to a poem, not a mere enclosure for keeping ideas from running off in disorder, but a vitalizing force, making them indivisible in a unity of creation.

When humanity lacks this music of soul, then society becomes a mechanical arrangement of compartments, of political and social classifications. Such a machine is a mere aping of creation, and not having unity at its heart it enforces it in its outer structure for mere convenience. In it the life that grows and feels is hurt, and either is crushed into insensibility or breaks out in constant convulsions.

The vital harmony is lacking to-day in unity of man, for the formalness of law and regulation has displaced the living ideal of personality from human affairs, and science has taken the office of religion in man’s greatest creative work, his civilisation.

This diversion of man’s energy to the outside is producing an enormous quantity of materials which may give rise in us to the pride of power but not the joy of life. The hugeness of things is everyday overawing the greatness of man, and the gap between matter and life is growing wider. For when things become too many, they refuse to be completely assimilated to life, thus becoming its most dangerous rival, as is an excessively large pile of fuel to the fire.

Expression belongs to a different plane from that of its material. Our physical body has its elaborate mechanism for its various vital needs. Yet the wholeness of our body, where it is an expression, where it is one with our personality, is absolutely different in its aspect and meaning from the muscular, vascular or nervous system, and it keeps its veil strictly drawn. The physiological mechanism as an organ of efficiency carefully exacts from its means and methods their full equivalents in results. But the body is more than this mechanism, it is divine. An exhaustive list of all its functions fails to give us its definiteness. It is a creation and not a mere construction, rising far above its purposes and composition. Creation is infinitely in excess of all measurements, it is the immaterial in matter. Therefore there is no harm in calling it Maya, if by Maya is meant unreality in a special sense. For it transcends the real, it represents truth.

In the Vedas, one of the names by which God has been addressed is “Avih”, meaning He whose nature is to manifest himself. According to this epithet creation is not for God’s display of power and wealth, it is an endless activity of his own freedom of nature, it is an end in itself. This is the character of all works of art.

The giant forces of the world, centripetal and centrifugal, are kept out of our direct recognition; they are the day labourers not admitted in the audience hall of creation. But light and sound come to us in their gay dresses as troubadores singing serenades before the windows of our senses. What is constantly before us claiming our attention is not the anatomy of the world but its countenance; there is the ring-dance of seasons; the elusive play of lights and shadows, of wind and water; the many coloured wings of erratic life flit­tering between birth and death. The importance of these is not in their bulk or weight, but in their having a language for us in the cadence of their movements in the evanescent modes of their colours. They teach us that the greatest fact of our life is our sympathy with this world where it touch­es our feelings and imagination, in short our dealings with it as a work of art.

In all art every display of power is vulgar, and a true artist is humble in his creation. He despises making a show of material in his work and a parade of the difficulties of its process. For the power which accumulates things and mani­pulates them is fundamentally different from the power which transmutes them into the perfection of a creative unity.

And God is humble in His creation. He does not keep His muscles bared, nor does He go out of His way to attract our attention to His store of things or account-book of their cost. He gives out Himself in the abundance of His nature.

In this we find the key to the meaning of the instinct which is so deep in our will - the love of freedom. It is nothing but our desire to manifest our self in the highest possible degree of perfection. This is thwarted when some passion like that of greed, whether from within ourselves or from the outside, forcibly turns us into a mere instrument of its satis­faction robbing us of the freedom necessary for the wholeness of the man in us; or when some society in distrust of life's own vigour takes away the freedom of self-expression from its members, reducing them to mechanical toys which eternal­ly repeat some mockery of life's movement according to dead formulas kept stored from a decaying past.

It is the final object of man to prove his similarity of nature with God by his fulness of truth, by his creativeness. Whatever be does solely in obedience to natural law, goaded by hunger or other compulsions, he feels at heart to be alien to his own nature. He somehow feels a shame about their evidence in his life and tries to put a cover over it, some cover fashioned by his own creative mind.

For instance, in his necessity for eating there is no difference between man and other creatures, yet he seems unwilling fully to acknowledge this and consequently tries to hide away the hunger element from his meals till it is almost lost to sight. He takes endless care to make his food ornamental and likewise the vessel out of which he takes it. And so with regulations and designs of his own make he sets up an elaborate pretension that he is not busy satisfying any legitimate need of the physiological nature.

This is the process by which the unnecessary has assum­ed an enormously greater proportion than the necessary in our civilization. In its own turn it begets the danger of burdening us with fixed necessities of habit which have not the sanction of nature nor that of our creative freedom but get merely piled up into a refuse heap of conventionality. All the same, in spite of such danger of aberration, it must be admit­ted that this necessity of the unnecessary belongs to that creative energy of expression by which only do we wish to be recognised. For us the toil must be left at the bottom and light must burn above it - the light of festival, the light of worship in all our concern; so that even in the taking of our food it must be made evident that we are social, that our love, beauty and cleanliness are even stronger than our nor­mal craving for eatables.

In a similar manner, the love of man and woman, turbulently strong as it is, has not been relegated to the dark cel­lar underground, but has been made to break out in a flame of beauty becoming in its best expression symbolical of the spiritual truth in man which is his kinship of love with the infinite.

It may be said that as life is a growth it cannot have a completeness of expression and, therefore, its only true expres­sion is vigour. As intensity of passion leading to a variety of emotional experiences, and adventures of mind giving rise to a wealth of power and production constitute what they call living, vigour of feeling and intellect is no doubt a great as­set of life. But life, merely taken as a force, is elemental, it is not human. It has its use like steam and electricity but there is no ideal of perfection in it. Those who make such life an object of their worship lose all pity for the personal man and have no compunction in sacrificing individuals to their blind infatuation for power and experiences. And I re­peat it once again that life can only become an end in itself when it is a creation, just as the elements that go to the composition of a flower are fulfilled only when they are a flower.

Growth there must be in life. But growth does not mean an enlargement through additions. Things, such as masonry-structure, which have to be constructed by a gradual building up of materials, do not show their perfection until they are completed. But living things start with their wholeness from the beginning of their growth. Life is a continual process of synthesis. A child is complete in itself; it does not wait for the perfection of its lovability till it has come to the end of its childhood. The enjoyment of a song begins from the begin­ning of the singing and continually follows its course to the end. But the man whose sole concern is the acquisition of power or material deals with a task which is cursed with eternal incompleteness. For things find no meaning in them­selves when their magnitude consists solely of accumulated bulk. They acquire truth only when they are assimilated to a living idea. This assimilation becomes impossible so long as the passion for acquisition occupies all our mind, when there is no large leisure for life force to pursue its own great work of self-creation.

I have said that man disowns his hunger lest it should get dominance in his life, shaping that life in its own measure; for we hate to be recognised in that shape. All our passions have their force of attraction, and when favourably placed, they at once group round themselves their cognate powers and materials. Therefore, if any passion is allowed to become tyrannically dominant, it forcibly banishes its country influences from our life, making our world so consistently homogeneous that all conflicts of conscience are allayed and we forget that this world cannot be final. In his world of hunger man, the creator, has but narrow scope and feeble op­portunities, so that lie is easily defeated, degraded, and kept in chains to serve a master who has not the right of a master.

Such changes of dynasty occasionally happen in our ci­vilization without our being fully aware of the fact. Some of our passions, after having for a long time their nutrition strictly regulated, suddenly get access to an unlimited supply of food, and by the sheer brute strength so gained lure man's mind back to his primitive nature. This frightfully simplifies life by cutting away its best part and gives man a sudden freedom of energy by such mutilation. An example of this has become so gigantically universal nowadays that we hesitate to apply to it the standard of judgment which belongs to our higher life. For, when a usurper occupies the throne, he takes every care by menace and threat to take away the right to judge him, and by offer of temptation - the desire.

There was a time when commerce was restricted to a narrow circle in society, and was meek enough to acknow­ledge its limitations. In spite of its usefulness men treated it with condescension, even with disrespect. It was because man tried to maintain an imperious aloofness from all exacting needs, and, while accepting their services, he refused to do ho­mage to them. I believe and hope that in the range of all literature and art there is no single instance of a monied man being glorified for the mere sake of his money. Our Laxmi is not the Goddess of the cash balance in the bank, she is the symbol of that ideal plenitude which is never dissociated from goodness and beauty. On the other hand the Yaksha Kuber, who represents affluence in all its smug comfort and tawdriness, is depicted in our ancient art as a corpulent creator with features thickly opaque to the light of idealism.

But in recent centuries has come a devastating change in our mentality with regard to the acquisition of money. We not only pursue it but bend our knees to it. For us its call has become the loudest of all voices reaching even the sanctuaries of our temples. That it should be allowed a sufficiently large place in society there can be no question, but it becomes an outrage when it occupies these seats which are specially reserved for the immortals, by bribing us, by tampering with our moral pride, by recruiting the best strength of society on its side in a traitor's campaign against human ideals, disguis­ing with the help of pageantry and pomp its innate insigni­ficance.

Such a state has come to pass because, with the help of science, the possibility of profit has suddenly become immoderate. The whole of human society throughout its length and breadth has felt the gravitational pull of giant planet of greed with its concentric rings of innumerable satellites. It has car­ried to our society a distinct deviation from its moral orbit, its mental balance being upset and its aspirations brought down to the dust. This is why never before in our history have our best instincts and endeavours been so openly flouted as a sickness of a rickety sentimentalism. And what is becom­ing a constant source of disaster for humanity is the inces­sant hypnotism of money being freed from all barriers in the way of its secret action upon the mind. It manufactures opi­nions, it navigates newspapers through tortuous channels of suppression of truth and its exaggeration, it pulls most of the strings of politics, it secretly maintains all kinds of slavery under all varieties of mask. In former times the intellectual and spiritual powers of this earth upheld their dignity of in­dependence and were not giddily soaked in the tides of the money-market. But as in the fatal stage of disease, the influ­ence of money has got into our brain and affected our heart.

Any impetuosity of passion that tends to overwhelm our social equilibrium not only produces moral callousness but de­stroys our reverence for beauty. The truth of this was made evident to us when I set out from Calcutta on my voyage to Japan. The first thing that shocked me with a sense of personal injury was the sight of the ruthless intrusion of facto­ries on both banks of the Ganges, where they are most un­becoming in their brazen-faced effrontery. The blow which it gave to me was owing to the precious memory of the days of my boyhood when the scenery of this river was the only great thing near my birth place reminding me of the existence of a world made by God's own hands. You all know that Calcutta is an upstart town with no depth of sentiment in her face or in her manner. It may truly be said about its genesis, that in the beginning there was the spirit of the shop which uttered through its megaphone, "Let there be the office,” and there was Calcutta. She brought with her no dowry of distinctions, no majesty of a noble or romantic origin. She never gathered round her any great historical associations - annals of brave sufferings, or memory of mighty deeds done. The only thing, which gave her the sacred bap­tism of beauty was the river which carried the voice of .the Genius of our race from an immortal past singing of its aspi­ration of the boundless. I was fortunate enough to be born be­fore the smoke belching Iron Dragon had devoured the great­er part of the life on its banks; when the landing stairs des­cending into its water, caressed by its tide, appeared to me like the loving arms of the villages clinging to it; when Cal­cutta with her tilted up nose and stony stare had not com­pletely disowned her foster-mother-rural paramour - the spirit of the ledger, bound in dead leather.

I am afraid my complaint will evoke a feeling of pitying amusement, in the minds of all sober people when these words may reach them. Even the most timid and prudent of them will hardly feel nervous on account of me and these words of mine, but some of them may even make allowances in my case mild enough to be occasionally enjoyable. To condemn the impair­ing of the beauty of a river bank and to overlook the sub­stantial fact of the production of a prodigious quantity of gunny bags will sound too exquisitely unpractical to be able to cause any serious harm.

But as an instance of the contrast of the different ideal of a different age as incarnated in the form of a town, the memory of my last visit to Benares comes to my mind. What impressed me most deeply while I was there was the mother-call of the river Ganges which ever filled the atmosphere with an `unheard, melody,' attracting the whole population to its bosom every hour of the day. I am proud of the fact that India has felt a most profound love for this river which nour­ished her civilization on its banks, guiding its course from the majestic silence of the Himalayas to the sea with its my­riad voices of solitude. This feeling of love is different in a great measure from the modern sentiment of patriotism. It is not too definitely associated with a particular geography or a limited series of political events. It represents the sub-consci­ous memory of a whole country of her ages of endeavour after spiritual emancipation. Love of this river which has be­come one with the love of the best in man has given rise to this town as an expression of our reverence. We, in connec­tion with this city, think of the substitution of factories in place of its buildings even, should such a change tempt us with the chance of a perfect bacchanalia of gunny bag production!

But even as I say it I know for certain that there are people belonging to the modern civilization who will be only too glad, if opportunity be given to them, to accept my chal­lenge, and gravely proceed in a cold blooded sobriety of cal­culation to perpetrate such an outrage. Have we not seen men of the same class making it a grievance not to be allow­ed to kill peacocks sacred to us for their beauty? Is not the systematic cultivation of such grossness at the root of the most shameless vandalism at Peking during the Boxer rising, and that in the late 'European War'! The pity is that when in the centre of our activities we acknowledge, by some civi­lized name, the supremacy of wanton destructiveness or pro­ductiveness less wanton, it shuts out all the light of our soul and in that darkness hides our conscience and all conscious­ness of shame.

The perturbed spirit of the question will never more cease to haunt our minds,-“But what about our gunny bags?” Sentiments are fine but gunny bags are indispensable. I admit it and am willing to allow them a place in society (but in strictly modest moderation), if my opponent will only admit that even gunny bags should have their limits and acknow­ledge the full worth of man who needs leisure and space for his joy and worship, and his home of wholesome privacy and association of chaste love with mutual service. But if this concession to humanity be denied or curtailed, and if profit and production are allowed to run amuck, they play havoc with our love of beauty, of truth, of justice and with our love for our fellow-beings; and the cultivators of jute who live on the brink of an everlasting famine in the dark shades of pro­fit making machinery are combined against, driven to despair and to the lingering death-pang of starvation by those who earn cent per cent profit and wallow in the infamy of their wealth. That man is brave, that he is social, that he is reli­gious, that he is the seeker of the unknown; these have some aspect of the complete in them, but that he is a manufactur­er of gunny bags and other articles has not in itself any idea of an organic wholeness. Therefore this inanimate fragmentariness of utility should never forget its fractional character, its subordinate position in human affairs: it must not be per­mitted to occupy more than its legitimate place and powers in society, nor to have the liberty to desecrate the poetry of life to deaden our sensitiveness to ideals, bragging of our coarseness as a sign of virility, bespattering with the mud of mockery our spiritual nature, our special inheritance from a long history of self-control. That would be like allowing a rugged boulder to sneer at and browbeat the living perfection of a flower.

We have our out-offices in the back yard of our houses. And because they disturb the unity of the idea, which is our home, we keep a line of separateness between the outside help bought with money and services of kinship, between necessity and sentiment. But the home gives way to the office if the necessity becomes overwhelming. This has made our modern civilization all out-offices to which home is an adjunct. Modern civiliza­tion has become Shudra in its character.

For the name Shudra symbolizes one who is merely useful, in whom the man who is above usefulness is not recognized. The word Shudra denotes a classification which includes all named machines who have lost the decency of humanity, be their works manual or intellectual. They are like a walking stomach, or brain, and we feel, in pity, urged to call on God and cry over them up for mercy's sake to make them into a man. When man took this initiation of ideals he did not give success a place of distinction; and even in war he held the ideal of honour above that of success. But success which is Shudra, and whose dwelling is in the office has arrogantly come into the front. And if through its incessant touch of defilement we contract the ugly habit of deriding sentiments in our favour of materials then the slave dynasty will be con­firmed for ever.

This is the root of the struggle of the present age. Man is refusing to accept for good his position as Shudra, and our civilization is feeling ashamed of the degradation imposed upon it by the lust of power and money.

In the old time when commerce was a member of the normal life of man, there ruled the spirit of Laxmi who with her divine touch of humanity saved wealth from the unseem­liness of rampant individualism, mean both in motive and method. Venice had very little that was deformed and dis­cordant; Samarkand and Bokhara had in them the richness of human associations. When in the Sanskrit poem Meghduta we follow the path of Cloud Messenger and in imagination pass over the old world towns mentioned in it, with their beautiful towns - Vidisha, Avanti, Ujjaini, they make them live in our hearts. We feel that the poet in citing them was giving voice to his lingering delight of a remembrance; we instinct­ively know that these towns expressed more than anything also the love and hope of man, treasuring some of the splendor of his soul in their houses and temples with their auspicious decoration daily done by women, and even in the picturesque bantering that went on in their market places. We can imagine what Delhi and Agra must have been in the time to which they belonged. They manifested in their development some creatively human aspect of a great empire. Whatever might have been its character, even in their decay they still retain their magnificence which was the true product of the self respect of man.

Then think of Calcutta, which on one side has its squalid congeries of clerks clinging to the meagre and precarious livelihood short of all margin for beauty and joy accorded to them in a niggardly spirit of utilitarianism, and on the other its pompously formal rows o£ buildings sheltering a nomadic swarm of money-mongers; with no human link between them, with no common sharing of social amenities. This is the hideousness of the modern commerce - that it does not stimulate men into a healthy and normal activity of production but organises and makes use of them by mixing and mangl­ing their minds; that it is shabbily parsimonious in all that is connected with human life and extravagant in all that tends to the multiplying of market wares.

I do not for a moment mean to imply that in any parti­cular period of their history men were free from the dis­turbances of their lower passions. Selfishness ever had its share in their Government and trade. Yet there was a struggle for maintaining a balance of forces in our society, and our passions with their rude strength cherished no delusions about their own rank and value, and contrived no clever devices to hoodwink our moral nature. For in those days our intellect was not so tempted to put its weight into the balance on the side of over-greed.

But now our passion for power and money has no equal in the field. It has not only science for its ally, but also other forces that have some semblance of religion, such as nation-worship and the idealising of self-interest. Its methods are far-reaching and sure, and like the claws in a tiger's paw are softly sheathed. Its massacres are invisible because they are fundamental, attacking the very roots of life. Its plunder is ruthless behind a scientific system of screens, which have the formal appearance of openness and responsibility to enquiries. Its methods of whitewashing its stains keeps the respectability unblemished. It makes a liberal use of falsehoods, its diplo­macy only feeling embarrassed when their evidence is un­earthed by others of the trade; and it has an unscrupulous system of propaganda for wide-spread misrepresentation. It works up the crowd psychology through regulated hypnotic doses at repeated intervals, administered in bottles with moral labels upon them of soothing colours. In fact, man has been able to make his pursuit of power easier to-day by his art of mitigating the obstructive forces that come from the upper region of his humanity. With his cult of power, his idolatry of money, he has, in a great measure reverted to his primi­tive barbarism whose path is lit up by the lurid light of intellect. For, as I have hinted before, barbarism is the simplicity of a superficial life. It may be bewildering in its surface adornments and complexities but it lacks the ideal to impart to it the depth of sentiment.

We all know that when at first a people became clearly aware of its oneness, it expressed it in some symbolism of divinity. This means that it felt some indefinable touch of the supreme personality in the heart of its social existence, which could claim for its sake the loyalty of love even when this love was fraught with danger. This personality was held to be divine, because through it we felt an emancipation from the too narrow bonds of self, and urged by its call we could rise above the fear of death and resist the downward pull of personal gain. Through it we reached a plane of existence totally different from that to which we had been accustomed. It was our translation to the moral plane of OUGHT from the physical plane of IS. This great feeling of the person in the centre of our social unity brought its members together, into a profound intimacy of relationship, and this sense of personality broke out in an amazing outburst of creative energy.

But science is producing a habit of mind which is ever weakening in us this spiritual standpoint of truth that has its foundation in our sense of a person at the ultimate and innermost reality of existence. Science has its true sphere in analysing this world as a construction just as a grammarian has his legitimate mission in analysing the syntax of a poem. But the world as a creation is not a construction: it is also more than its syntax. It is a poem, which we are apt to forget when, by exclusive attention, grammar takes complete posses­sion of our mind.

Upon the loss of the sense of a universal personality, which is religion, the reign of the machine and of method has been firmly established. It is the simplification of man by jetti­soning a great part of his treasure, spiritually speaking he has been made a homeless tramp, getting a freedom which is negative because superficial. Its concentrated hurt had been felt by all the world in the late war. Freed from the bond of spiritual relationship as the medium of the brotherhood of man, the different sections of society are continually being resolved into their elemental character of forces. Labour is a force and also capital, so are the Government and the people; the man and the woman. It is said that when the forces lying latent even in a handful of dust are liberated from their bond of unity, which is their bond of creation, they can lift St. Paul's Cathedral to the height of a mountain. Such disfranchised forces roving as irresponsible freebooters may be useful to us for certain purposes, but St. Paul's Cathedral is, generally speaking, better for us standing secure on its foundation than shattered into pieces and scattered in the void. To own the secret of mastering these forces is a proud fact for us but the power of self-control and self-sacrifice within is a truer subject of exultation for mankind. The genii of the Arabian Nights may have their lure and fascination for us, but God is infinitely more precious for imparting to our society its spiritual power of creation. But these genii are abroad everywhere, and even after their death-dance in the late war, incantations addressed to them are secretly being muttered, and their red-robed devotees are still getting ready to play tricks upon humanity by suddenly spiriting it away to some hill top of desolation. The thunder-clouds of revolution which are ominously gathering, flashing their angry teeth and grow­ling out their throat are the outcome of a long process of separation of human personality from human power reducing men into a ghost of abstraction.

Modern science has outwardly brought all mankind close together. The situation requires the spiritual realization of some great truth of relationship to have human societies from constant conflict of interest and friction of pride. The people who are mere forces when not organically united must prove their humanity by some creative transfusion. This is not a mere problem of construction and therefore does not chiefly fall within the province of science which deals merely with discovery and invention and not with creation. The outer bonds of telegraph wires and railway lines have helped men all the more efficiently to tear one another to pieces and to rob their weaker fellow beings of food, of freedom, and of self-respect. Must the sword continue to rule for ever and not the sceptre, and must science after her great achievement of mastering the geography of the earth remain at the head of the administration? Can she establish peace and unity in this world of diverse races? Has it not been sufficiently proved that her material law of ruthless skillfulness can only com­mandeer the genii of power for her agents but cannot con­jure up that spirit of creation which is the love of God and man? And yet science does not show any sign of vacating her seat in favour of humanity or submit to any curtailment of her jurisdiction after her own proper work has been finished. The powerful races who have the scientific mind and method and machinery have taken upon themselves the immense responsibility of the present age. They have lustily set revolving the innumerable wheels of their engines for moulding alien races like ourselves which can not be wholly for our own benefit. And yet they are surpris­ed with a vehemence of anger when we are hurt. We com­plain not of their law and Government, which are scientifically efficient, but of the desolating deadliness of their machine do­mination. These people in their dealings with subject races all over the world forget that science and law are not a perfect medium for human communication. They refuse to acknowledge what an ordeal it can be for human beings meekly to have to receive gifts from animated pigeon-holes or condescension from a steam-engine of the latest type. We feel the withering fierceness of the spirit of modern civilization all the more because it beats directly against our human sensibility not affording to us for its medium even a rarefied atmosphere of kinship to temper it with sympathy. And it is we of the Eastern hemisphere who have the right of suffering to say that those who represent this great age of great opportunities are furi­ously building their doom by their renouncement of the divine ideal of personality, for the ultimate truth in man is not in his intellect or in his material wealth, it is in his imagination of sympathy, in his illumination of heart, in his activities of self-sacrifice, in his capacity for extending love far and wide across all barriers of caste and colour, in his realizing this world not as a storehouse of mechanical power but as a habitation of man's soul with its eternal music of beauty and its inner light of a divine presence.

Before I finish my lecture I must, to be fair, express with all humility and sorrow our shame for our own failure in India to justify the trust placed upon us by Providence. Men of various races came to this country and the only thing we could think of in order to accommodate them was to make elaborately permanent the walls of our social compartments. We are tenaciously proud of their exclusiveness. We make it a matter for boast that in this world only our own society has come to a dead finality in the classification of its living members. Yet in our political agitations we conveniently try to forget that any unnaturalness in the relationship of the governors and the governed which humiliates us is also a wrong classification when it is sought to be artificially fixed for ever under a threat of persecution. In the time of its fullest vigour of vitality when India produced its harvest of immortal thoughts its men had the fearless spirit of the seek­ers of truth. The great epic of our national soul - the Mahabharata gives us a wonderful vision of a seething life, full of the freedom of enquiries and experiments, of shifting points of view, of the boldly claimed prerogative of men in using er­rors as stepping stones to truth. Then came the age of Bud­dha, who stirred up, in our country, humanity to its utter­most depth, and the freedom of mind which it produced ex­pressed itself in a wealth of creation in all departments of life, ever flowing in its richness the continent of Asia. With the ebb of life in India the age of creation died away. It hardened into an age of inert construction when the orga­nic unit of variedness gave way to that conventional division of classification, which proves its artificiality by its inexorable exclusiveness. Life has its inequalities, I admit, but they are natural and are in harmony with our vitality. The head keeps its difference from the feet not through some external arrangement or conspiracy of coercion. If the body is compel­led to turn, the head never changes its position into that of feet. But have our social classifications the inevitableness of an organic truth? If we have the hardihood to say so then how can we blame an alien people for subjecting us to a poli­tical classification, which they are tempted to believe as eter­nal? By squeezing human beings in the grip of an inelastic rigidity and forcibly holding them fixed we have ignored the law of change, the law of growth, the law of life, which is God's law of creation. We have reduced living soul into a permanence of passivity, making incapable of moulding circum­stances into the shape of their own design and mastering their own destiny. Borrowing our own ideal of life from a dark period of our degeneracy, smothering our sensitiveness of soul under the immovable weight of a remote past we have set up an elaborate ceremonial of cage worship and plucked all the feathers from the wings of the living spirit of our people till it has become dependent for the welfare upon the charity of those fortunate nations who are on their pilgrimage to the future, in all the pride of their freedom of initiative. And, for us, the punishment has been terrible with the centuries of degradation and insult, with the amorphousness of our national unity, the incoherence of our power and purpose, with our ever-growing helplessness to stem the tide of disaster from outside and unreasoning self-obstruction from internal sources. Our stupefaction has become so absolute that we do not even realise that this age-long persistency of misfortune cannot be for us a mere accident of history, removable only by another accident from outside. Unless we have a true faith in freedom, knowing it to be creative, manfully taking all the risks, we not only shall not have the right to claim freedom in politics as a favour from others but shall also lack the power to maintain it with all our strength. For that would be like assigning the service of God to a confirmed atheist in belief and practice. And men who contemptuously treat their own brothers as eternal babies never to be trusted in the most insignificant details of their personal life, coercing them at every step by the cruel threat of persistent persecution into following a blind lane leading to nowhere, driving a number of them into the ditch of hypocrisy or the strength of moral perversion will fail ever again to rise to the height of the severe responsi­bility to hold a just freedom in politics and fight for its cause.

This great world where it is a creation, an expression of the infinite, where its morning sings of joy to the newly awakened life and its ensuing stars sing of peace to the life weary and worn, sinking to its rest, has its call for us. It is ever claiming from us co-operation with God, reminding us of our divine nature which can only find itself in freedom of spirit, freedom of higher opportunities, freedom from fear, from greed, freedom from self in a creative overflow of renuncia­tion. Let us respond to this claim and make our crea­tion worthy of eternity and be worthy of it, let us wipe off from our hearts the accumulating traditions of hatred, of con­tempt for men whom we have done our best to make and keep contemptible, and of that hardness of pride which makes us liable wrongly to judge others, and carelessly to inflict in­jury upon them. Let us join our voice to that of our fore­fathers who realised and said, "Nothing is greater than the Person, he is supreme, he is our ultimate object," and make that prayer our own, the prayer for that unity which can only come from love and goodness.

He, who is one, and without caste and colour,
Who with his manifold power provides people of all colours
     with what are their intrinsic needs;
Who is in the beginning and in the end of all, the shining one,
Let him unite us with the wisdom, which is good.

Published May 7, 2003

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