Indian Advaita Vedantist Philosopher, Writer and Politician, Vice President and later President of India
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, fully Sir or Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Indian Advaita Vedantist Philosopher, Writer and Politician, Vice President and later President of India
The vedAnta meant originally the upaniShads, though the word is now used for the system of philosophy based on the upaniShads. Literally, vedAnta means the end of the Veda, vedasya antaH, the conclusion as well as the goal of the Vedas. The upaniShads are the concluding portions of the Vedas. Chronologically they come at the end of the Vedic period. As the upaniShads contain abstruse and difficult discussions of ultimate philosophical problems, they were taught to the pupils at about the end of their course. When we have Vedic recitations as religious exercises, the end of these recitals is generally from the upaniShads. The chief reason why the upaniShads are called the end of the Veda is that they represent the central aim and meaning of the teaching of the Veda.
We become more religious in proportion to our readiness to doubt and not our willingness to believe.
The Vedas were composed by the seers when they were in a state of inspiration. He who inspires them is God.
We can see objects without the medium of the senses and discern relations spontaneously without building them up laboriously. In other words, we can discern every kind of reality directly.
The violent extermination of Buddhism in India is legendary. Buddhism grew weaker as it spread wider. The spirit of compromise which breathed in the Xllth Edict of Ashoka that there should be no praising of one's sect and decrying of other sects but on the contrary a rendering of honor to other sects for whatever cause honor may be due to them was its strength and weakness. It accommodated too much. Divinities and heavens slipped into Buddhism from other creedswith the spread of the religion.
We cannot attain purity, we cannot gain our goal of truth, unless we walk in the path of virtue. The Asoka's wheel represents to us the wheel of the Law, the wheel Dharma. Truth can be gained only by the pursuit of the path of Dharma, by the practice of virtue. Truth,?Satya, Dharma ?Virtue, these ought to be the controlling principles of all those who work under this Flag. It also tells us that the Dharma is something which is perpetually moving. If this country has suffered in the recent past, it is due to our resistance to change. There are ever so many challenges hurled at us and if we have not got the courage and the strength to move along with the times, we will be left behind. There are ever so many institutions which are worked into our social fabric like caste and untouchability. Unless these things are scrapped we cannot say that we either seek truth or practice virtue. This wheel which is a rotating thing, which is a perpetually revolving thing, indicates to us that there is death in stagnation.
The word 'upaniShad' is derived from upa (near), ni (down) and sad (to sit), i.e., sitting down near. Groups of pupils sit near the teacher to learn from him the secret doctrine. In the quietude of forest hermitages the upaniShad thinkers pondered on the problems of the deepest concern and communicated their knowledge to fit pupils near them. The seers adopt a certain reticence in communicating the truth. They wish to be satisfied that their pupils are spiritually and not carnally minded.
We do not want a new religion, but we need a new enlarged understanding of the old religions.
There is a danger in giving only carefully chosen extracts. We are likely to give what is easy to read and omit what is difficult, or give what is agreeable to our views and omit what is disagreeable. It is wise to study the upaniShads as a whole, their striking insights as well as their commonplace assumptions. Only such a study will be historically valuable. I have therefore given in full the classical upaniShads, those commented on or mentioned by shankara. The other upaniShads are of a later date and are sectarian in character. They represent the popular gods, Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, as manifestations of the Supreme Reality. They are not parts of the original Veda, are of much later origin and are not therefore as authoritative as the classical upaniShads. If they are all to be included, it would be difficult to find a Publisher for so immense a work.
We have had in our country peaceful co-existence of different religion. It is not mere passive co-existence but an active fellowship, a close inter-relation of the best of different religions. Co-existence is the first step and fraternity is the goal.
There is life in movement. Our Dharma is Sanatana, eternal, not in the sense that it is a fixed deposit but in the sense that it is perpetually changing. Its uninterrupted continuity is its Sanatana character. So even with regard to our social conditions it is essential for us to move forward.
We have spiritual facts and their interpretations by which they are communicated to others, sruti or what is heard, and sm?ti or what is remembered. ?a?karaequates them with pratyak?a or intuition and anumana or inference. It is the distinction between immediacy and thought. Intuitions abide, while interpretations change.
There is no more inspiring task for the student of Indian thought than to set forth some phases of its spiritual wisdom and bring them to bear on our own life. Let us, in the words of Socrates, 'turn over together the treasures that wise men have left us, glad if in so doing we make friends with one another.'
We invent by intuition, though we prove by logic.
'These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands; they are not original with me. If they are not yours as much as mine, they are nothing or next to nothing', said Walt Whitman. The upaniShads deal with questions which arise when men begin to reflect seriously and attempt answers to them which are not very different, except in their approach and emphasis from what we are now inclined to accept. This does not mean that the message of upaniShads which is as true today as ever, commits us to the different hypotheses about the structure of the world and the physiology of man. We must make a distinction between the message of the upaniShads and their mythology. The latter is liable to correction by advances in science. Even this mythology becomes intelligible if we place ourselves as far as possible at the viewpoint of those who conceived it. Those parts of the upaniShads which seem to us today to be trivial, tedious and almost unmeaning, should have had value and significance at the time they were composed.
We must recognize that violence is an unfortunate breach of community, and devise other ways of establishing satisfactory relationship.
Those who condemn Indian culture as useless are ignorant of it, while those who commend it as perfect are ignorant of any other.
We must respect our own dignity as rational beings and thus diminish the power of fraud. It is better to be free than be a slave, better to know than to be ignorant. It is reason that helps us to reject what is falsely taught and believed about God, that He is a detective officer or a capricious despot or a glorified schoolmaster. It is essential that we should subject religious beliefs to the scrutiny of reason.
Though the world has changed considerably in its outward material aspect, means of communication, scientific inventions, etc., there has not been any great change in its inner spiritual side. The old forces of hunger and love, and the simple joys and fears of the heart, belong to the permanent stuff of human nature. The true interests of humanity, the deep passions of religion, and the great problems of philosophy, have not been superseded as material things have been. Indian thought is a chapter of the history of the human mind, full of vital meaning for us. The ideas of great thinkers are never obsolete. They animate the progress that seems to kill them. The most ancient fancies sometimes startle us by their strikingly modern character, for insight does not depend on modernity.
We today live in a society which is giving way to the inexhorable claim of a new order. We cannot stay the advance of time. If we clasp to our heart something that is past, if we cling to something that is defunct, we will be left behind.
To all appearance this is a mere accident. But when I look at the series of accidents that have shaped my life, I am persuaded that there is more in this life than meets the eye. Life is not a mere chain of physical causes and effects. Chance seems to form the surface of reality, but deep down other forces are at work. If the universe is a living one, if it is spiritually alive, nothing in it is merely accidental. The moving finger writes and having writ moves on.
Wherever men love reason, shun darkness, turn over towards light, praise virtue; despise meanness, hate vulgarity, kindle sheer beauty, wherever minds are sensitive, hearts generous, spirits free, there is your country. Let us adopt that loyalty to humanity instead of a sectional devotion to one part of the human race.
The upaniShads describe to us the life of spirit, the same yesterday, to-day and forever. But our apprehensions of the life of spirit, the symbols by which we express it, change with time. All systems of orthodox Indian thought accept the authoritativeness of the Vedas, but give themselves freedom in their interpretation. This variety of interpretation is made possible by the fact that the upaniShads are not the thoughts of a single philosopher or a school of philosophers who follow a single tradition. They are the teachings of thinkers who were interested in different aspects of the philosophical problem, and therefore offer solutions of problems which vary in their interest and emphasis. There is thus a certain amount of fluidity in their thought which has been utilized for the development of different philosophical systems. Out of the wealth of suggestions and speculations contained in them, different thinkers choose elements for the construction of their own systems, not infrequently even through a straining of the texts. Though the upaniShads do not work out a logically coherent system of metaphysics, they give us a few fundamental doctrines which stand out as the essential teaching of the early upaniShads. These are recapitulated in the brahma sUtra.
To be ignorant is not the special prerogative of man; to know that he is ignorant is his special privilege.
While no tradition coincides with experience, every tradition is essentially unique and valuable. While all traditions are of value, none is finally binding.