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Chapter 2

The Human Value of Hinduism

Free Scientific Thought Applied to Religious Matters

We defend Hinduism, because it is India’s very self-expression; and we love India, because it is India.

But, along with the fact that it is the soul of a great nation, and a nation-building force, Hinduism is to be examined in the light of its human value. India is great to the eyes of the intelligent world, because of what she stands for.

It is the custom, nowadays, to say that India stands for “spirituality,” and to put an immense stress upon that word. It seems that, by doing so, one opposes India to “materialistic” Europe and America; and, as what is “material” is supposed to be inferior to what is “spiritual,” the consciousness of this opposition is a great consolation to many Indians. They seem to think that down-trodden India becomes less down-trodden, if only she can be proved superior to her present rulers, in one thing at least.

We think this is a blunder.

Even if we admit that the Indians are all saints and that their present rulers are all devils, this does


not change the condition of India. It only makes it still more shocking than it is, if more shocking can be, and therefore, is no consolation. But, in fact, the Indians as a whole, are not more “spiritual” than other people. There are giants of real spirituality, in present India, no doubt. But the average Hindus, when they boast of their “spirituality,” are not true to themselves. Nor are they doing justice to their country, and to their religion.

Hindu thought and culture (what is commonly called, Hindu religion), is, by no means, superior to other religions because of the famous spirituality that shines in the Hindu religious giants, saints and seers. Saints and seers, realised men, are to be found also among the followers of other religions. Are they greater or lesser in number? It is difficult to say. And it does not matter.

Hinduism is really superior to other religions, not for its spirituality, but for that still more precious thing it gives to its followers: a scientific outlook on religion and on life. Hindu spirituality is a consequence of that very outlook.

* * *

We consider it useless to oppose: India to the “West,” as “spiritualistic” opposed to “materialistic.” Hindu superiority lies elsewhere; not in the opposition of Hindu thought to European thought, but in the fact of its greater consistency than that of European thought, of its greater faithfulness to life, of greater harmony between life and it; in the universality of the Hindu’s scientific outlook,


compared to that of the Europeans.

From those very days the Europeans abandoned their various non-creedal Aryan cults to take to Christianity, inconsistency in life, and restlessness of mind, among those who, in Europe, think freely, have two main sources:

(1) The opposition of Christian religion, in its essence, to out and out nationalism.

(2) The opposition of Christian religion to free scientific thinking in all matters.

On the ground of nationalism, Europe has tried to solve the problem by a compromise, and tried to settle the compromise upon the authority of the Gospel: “Render unto Caeser the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God, the things which are God’s.” Church and State, religion and politics, must be separate.

Church and State can be separated, but religion and life cannot. And to many, at least, politics are nothing, if not an aspect of life. Nationalism is a concern of life, and one of the strongest ones. The Europeans may say that they are Christians as religious beings (as men, anxious about their salvation) and that, at the same time, nothing prevents them from being nationalists, as citizens of ephemeral countries of this world. It is easy to say; not so easy to live up to. For the Christians’ kingdom is not of this world, and circumstances are sure to turn up, in which the full-hearted service to one’s nation appears like the service of Mammon, opposed to that of God. It is written: one cannot serve both God and Mammon. A real Christian has to choose.

In fact, Europe has chosen Mammon, since long


ago. But she continues professing a nominal allegiance to God, allegiance which, to a devout Christian, must seem the most shocking, wherever nationalism is the strongest.

We have shown how Hindu India, owing to the very nature of her religion, is forever free from such an inconsistency.

* * *

On the ground of science, the clash with Christianity seems at first easier to avoid; we are, here, in a realm of thought, not of action, are we not? And thought is very subtle.

After many a struggle during those dark days, where to express one’s free thinking in all matters was to risk one’s life, Europe has come to a compromise neither better nor worse than the one referred to above. Like politics and religion, science also, and religion, reason and faith, must be separate.

No need of them quarrelling; let them just keep quiet, each one in its corner, each one in its compartment. In all “religious matters,” all what is concerned with one’s salvation, there is the authority, if not always of the Christian Church and Scriptures, at least of the Christian Scriptures, of the holy Bible. Read the Bible, and believe like a little child. Let your reasoning power aside, when you open the sacred book. Interpretation is a dangerous game; it can lead to many errors. Therefore, do not interpret; do not discuss, but accept, believe, and you will be saved.


That is, “in religious matters.” But in every sphere of worldly knowledge, in every branch of science, believe nothing at all on the authority of anyone. Believe not, but suspend your judgement, doubt. Doubt, and dispassionate curiosity, are at the origin of all scientific knowledge. Accept not, but experiment, examine, criticise, find out for yourself. No miraculous grace can inspire you with the knowledge of what water is made of; analyse it. Scientific knowledge is not to be given and accepted. It wants to be conquered.

The result? Either a modern European is an out and out “free thinker,” who does not trouble about religious matters at all, or else, he is a man who has established a separation, in his thought and life, between the “things of the world” and the “things of faith,” that is to say, a man who, however intelligent he may be, uses his reason and his experience in certain matters only, while in others (which are supposed to be vital), is contented with the authority of a book.

Christians will say that there is an experience of the truth of the Bible, in Christian life. We do not deny it. But it is not an experience that can be taught and transmitted, like a scientific one. It is no “proof” of Bible truth. Moreover, its possibility does not shut out the possibility of other equally sound religious “experiences,” in non-Christian lives. The “jealousy” of the Christian God, that is to say, the exclusive attitude of a faithful Christian towards all what, as a religious teaching, is proposed to mankind besides Christianity, is the thing which cannot but bring inconsistency, wherever Christian faith and


scientific thought are to be found together. The fact, often recalled, that many great scientists have been, at the same time, faithful Christians, does not lessen that inconsistency. Wherever arbitrary separations are set up, restlessness of mind sooner or later arises, with the growing consciousness of a “false position.” Life is one, in its complexity, and impossible to divide into compartments. The weakness of reasonable men who follow a creedal religion (whichever it may be; we took the case of Christianity merely as an instance), lies in the implicit denial of that fact. It is always possible to point out, either their want of true simple faith, either their wilful or unwilful absence of elementary criticism.

* * *

When we speak of the superiority of Hinduism as a “scientific” religion, we first put stress upon the absence, among the Hindus, of any sort of inconsistency due to the separation of the “things of this world” and the “things of the spirit.” No watertight compartments, here, one for “reason” and the other for “faith.” No “nature” and “super-nature,” to be dealt with in different ways. But one broad life, at different stages; one broad nature, with various aspects; one, and only one method of knowledge: experience.

The Hindus also say: believe nothing on mere authority, but experiment, realise; go through it “sadhana;” find out for yourself. Knowledge is not to be given to you by grace. It wants to be conquered.


But the difference is that this knowledge is not merely, the ordinarily called “scientific” knowledge, concerning the phenomena of matter; it is every knowledge, including the highest (or subtlest) knowledge of what is at the background of all phenomena, of all existence: the Absolute. In other words, every knowledge must be scientific, otherwise it is no knowledge at all.

As one can see, far from being opposed to so-called “materialistic” European thought, Hindu thought is exactly of the same nature. Thought, in fact, is neither European nor Indian, nor “materialistic” nor “spiritualistic;” it is thought, and no more, unless it is nothing. The superiority of the Hindus lies, not in the different nature of their thought, but in its consistent and universal application to all realms of life, including the realm of spiritual development, while European thought stops where begins, either blind religious faith, or else (more and more nowadays), systematical agnosticism.

A Hindu as well, can be an Agnostic (and many are, and always were, in all times). But his agnosticism is never systematical. He does not know, say, what is beyond the world revealed to him by his senses and by his intelligence. He has no experience of an “Absolute.” But he will not deny the possibility of having one. To the “sadhak,” who asserts “his” experience, he will not say: “It is nothing but imagination.” He possesses the real scientific mind, which is dogmatic about nothing, but open to everything.


* * *

That scientific character of Hinduism should be looked upon by the Hindus as their strength, not as a weakness, like some seem to believe. The man of one book and of one creed may be strong, for the time being; but in the long run, it is a strength (and the greatest of all strength) for a religion, to have no particular founder, no particular book, no particular creed, settled once forever; to be just a continuous flow of thought, in search of knowledge, on the basis of a continuously renewed experience.

While free thinking can (and does) injure the prestige of creedal religions, and will do so more and more; while different political and social creeds, whose international appeal is as great as that of any religion, nowadays, are daily detaching the faithful from their old Prophets and books, calling them to give allegiance to new ones, no force can ever break down such a religion as Hinduism. For Hinduism is, philosophically speaking, nothing else but infinitely various human thought itself, in continuous evolution. No end to the list of its prophets and seers, no end to the list of its books, until the end of mankind; but ever open possibilities to new experiences, and new expressions of truth.

No intelligent man would believe that all what can be said about such an apparently easily knowable thing as water, has been said once forever. Still, many people believe that all what is to be said about God, has been said, and that there is nothing to add to it. There are in Europe and America “scientists,” who accept this inconsistency. Scientists they may be; but their scientific attitude remains confined to a


narrow sphere of knowledge. A true Hindu, whether he knows even how to read and write or not, keeps (or, at least is expected to keep) a scientific attitude in every sphere of life. He keeps, wherever he may be, that smiling spirit of relativity, which was the ornament of the refined ones, in ancient Greece. Give him self-consciousness and self-assertion, and he will be like one of them.