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—C. F. Andrews
[Rev. C.F. Andrews was a great humanitarian in the truest sense of the Christ spirit and had an inborn mission in his heart to serve the cause of the poor. That is why he was called in India ‘Desh-Bandhu’—(The Brother of the Country). After obtaining his postgraduate degree from the Cambridge University and serving there as a professor of Religion, he continued to serve the poor and the labour. Thereafter he came to India in 1904 and joined as principal of Saint Stephens College, Delhi and afterwards as principal of the Military College. He came in contact with Ravindra Nath Tagore, lived in Shanti Niketan and worked in the Indian villages. Mr. Andrews went to South Africa and then to Fizi to serve the cause of the poor and down-trodden. To his credit are many writings which speak of his keen observation, straight-forward style and his unique way of expression. The present Introduction to the ‘In Woods of God-Realization’ is a pointer as to the way Mr. Andrews adopted for giving vent to his ideas and feelings in a frank way.]
I have great pleasure in complying with the request of the friends of the late Swami Rama Tirtha and writing a brief introduction to the series of lectures contained in this book. The name of Swami Rama is one which I have learnt to honour through residence in the Punjab where his chief influence was felt. Again and again I have seen faces lit up at the mention of his name, and men have told me how much they owed to him. He came at a time when a deep unsettlement was taking place in the minds of educated Indian students with regard to religious truth, and when the claims of the material world were becoming too absorbing. The training in Western Sciences, divorced as it is in Government institutions from religious culture, inevitably led to an indifference to religion altogether. After college days, the struggle for existence in the world has only too often left little or no opportunity for the cultivation of the inner nature, and a reputation for worldliness had gathered round educated life in the Punjab. The reputation is not altogether justified, for there have been most notable exceptions; but the dangers of the time of transition have been very great and the results serious.
Into such an atmosphere of getting and spending, Swami Rama’s unworldly spirit came with a message that commanded attention by its very contrast. No one could be long in his presence without feeling that the highest happiness in life was to be found, not in the things of the body, but in the things of the soul. It was not so much that anyone had taught him the truths he held so dear (though he would have been the first to acknowledge how much he owed to the kindly influences of the Forman Christian College where he was both a student and a Professor), but he seemed from his earliest childhood, to have grown up with an intense realization of spiritual realities and every instinct in his nature pressed him forward to the devout religious life. Many of those with whom I have conversed about him have told me of the innate power which he possessed, a power which moved them profoundly whenever they met and talked with him, a power which took their thoughts away from material things and made them feel, if only for a moment, the reality of spiritual experience.
The Lectures and Conversations which are now published for the first time, will show more clearly than any words of mine the secret of his great influence. There is a childlike simplicity in what he writes, and an overflowing joy and happiness, won through great self-discipline and suffering, which reveals a soul that is at peace within itself and has found a priceless gift that it desires to impart to others. There is a striking personality which makes itself manifest in his very language and mode of address. At the same time there is on every page a definite refusal to appeal to those lower motives that are ordinarily urged as making for success in life, and a determination to find in the soul itself, apart from outward circumstances, the secret of all true and lasting joy.
The Lectures unfortunately have not had the revision of the author himself. He would undoubtedly have altered much, and possibly abbreviated much. He would have corrected also the metrical form of some of his poems, which have clearly been put down on paper as the inspiration to write came to him, without any laboured correction. But while there is considerable loss to the reader on this account, there is also considerable gain; for what is lost in finish and correctness is gained in freshness and vitality. I cannot doubt that the friends of the author were right in tenderly and piously preserving every word of the manuscript before them. The readers will gladly make allowance for repetition and lack of finish, when the individuality of the Swami himself is brought so vividly before them by his manuscript notes. We seem to be talking with him, as we read, and he seems to be talking with us. We feel, the Swami himself still present in his words, and can almost picture him speaking.
If I were asked to point out what I considered to be the special qualities that appear in these writings, I should mention first and foremost the point I have already emphasised, namely, the unworldliness that is apparent on every page. Wealth, riches, worldly ambitions, luxuries—these are all laid aside without a murmur. The Swami’s own life had reached a calm haven, into which the stormy passions, that are roused by the acquisition of wealth and worldly honours, had never come. His inner life had been free from such things. He cannot even understand them. The child-nature seems to come out in him as he speaks of them. He smiles at them with an almost boyish laughter from his own retreat, or mocks at them with a gentle raillery. The laughter appears most of all in his poems.
In the second place I would mention his overflowing charity, his kindliness of spirit, which seems incapable of bitterness or malice. He is always trying to win men, not to drive them; to make the best of them, not to blame or scold them; to attract them by the power of his ideals, not to argue with them in useless and unsatisfying controversy. The bitter and rancorous spirit is absent and the kindly tolerant spirit prevails. This is especially noticeable when he is dealing with beliefs other than his one. Here he is always courteous and sympathetic. If he has any objection to make, he does it with an apology. Usually his attempt is to absorb and assimilate all that he can accept, especially when he is speaking of Christianity, and mould it into his own system of religious thought. In this respect he shows the truly catholic spirit, which is the opposite of bigotry. He has a large share of that charity which ‘thinketh no evil’ and ‘rejoiceth with the truth.’ I would like to add how deeply I feel that it was in accordance with this characteristic of Swami Rama, that his friends, in bringing out his works, have so kindly offered to me, a Christian missionary, the privilege of writing an introduction and have given me, while doing so, such liberty of self-expression and freedom of comment. It is my wish that I may fulfil this duty in the same catholic spirit.
The third feature that I should wish to notice in the life and writings of the Swami was his abounding joy. He was not in the least one of those gloomy ascetics, who, in choosing the path of renunciation, seem to have left behind them all joy and happiness. He knew what physical hardship and endurance meant in a way that few can have experienced. But this did not embitter him, or make his message one of harshness. On the contrary the very titles of his lectures are sufficient to give a picture of the character of his own mind. "Happiness within," "How to make your homes happy," such are the subjects that appeal to him, and his heart goes out in every word as he tries to make his message clear; it is the message of his own experience, not that of another’s. He is full of happiness himself which he wishes to give to the world, and he is never so happy as when happiness is his subject. It is this also which bubbles over in his poems, waking in others an echo of his own laughter. The outward setting of these poems, as I have already said, may often be crude and even grotesque, but the inner spirit may be caught by the sympathetic reader beneath the imperfect vehicle of expression. The message of this gay spirit, laughing at hardship and smiling at pain, is one that sad India sorely needs amid the despondency of so much of her present modern life.
This mention of his poems leads me on to the last feature of his life and writings which I would wish to mention. I do so with considerable diffidence, as it is quite possible that others may take a different view to my own. But what I could venture to say is briefly this, that I find in Swami Rama Tirtha’s poetic spirit, which lies behind his philosophy, the highest value of his written work. In this seems to lie the freshness, originality, contribution to the world of thought. His romantic love of Nature, strong in his life as in his death; his passion for sacrifice and renunciation; his eager thirst for reality and self-abandonment in search of truth; his joy and laughter of the Soul in the victory he had won—all these, and other qualities such as these, which make him break out into song, reveal the true poet behind the philosopher. It is to these qualities that my own heart goes out so warmly in response, and it is on these sides that I find by far the strongest attraction to the writer himself.
With the philosophy of the Advaita Vedanta, as it is often stated in the writings of Swami Rama, I confess I have only a faint and distant sympathy. Rightly or wrongly it seems to me all illegitimate short cut to the simplification of the problem of existence—a solution which has overlooked certain persistent facts of human experience. I am always conscious of obstinate and irreducible elements in the equation of God, the Soul, and the universe which the Advaita system itself does not seem seriously to take into account. I would refer for an instance in this book to the chapter on the "Prognosis and Diagnosis of Sin." While containing same valuable thoughts, these chapters appear to me to be altogether unsatisfying in their conclusions, intended as they are to form a final answer to the problems of the origin of evil and its elimination from the heart of man.
But on the other hand with the poetic spirit of Swami Rama, where his thought is still in solution and not crystallized into a formal logical system, I have a sympathy which is not faint but deep. Here I feel again on common ground, and my whole heart goes out to writer in his beautiful passages on renunciation as "the law of life eternal" or again in his intense and vivid appreciation of beauty in nature; or again, to mention only one more instance, in his ideal of married life. I experience in a measure the same sympathy when I read some of the poetry of the Upanishads, or certain passages from that greatest of all Hindu poems, the Bhagavad Gita. There also the note is struck, which is heard many times in Swami Rama’s writings, that only in the unruffled silence of the soul can the divine harmony of the universe be heard.
That blessed mood
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened :—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,
Until the breath of this corporal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.
I have quoted this passage of Wordsworth, as it appears to me very near akin to the heart of Swami Rama; and in his fervent love of Nature I can well imagine the author of these lectures during his later days of wandering among the Himalayan mountains echoing those still more famous lines which follow :—
I have learned
To look on Nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing often-times
The still, and music of humanity
Not harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth: of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half-create,
And what perceive.
I have not been afraid to quote such passages at full length, for it is, I believe, the poetry of the West rather than its philosophy or science—especially the poetry of that wonderful revolution period in English Literature, which gave birth to Wordsworth and Coleridge, Shelly and Keats—which comes nearest to the heart of India. In the same way, I venture to believe, it will be the poets of modern India, who are seeking to bring their deeply inherited spiritual instincts of the past into living touch with the new movements of the present, who will come nearest to the heart of the West. Among these poets of modern India I would reckon that remarkable company of religious leaders, who have appeared in different parts of the country during last century, among whom Swami Rama’s tender spirit once showed such early promise of fulfilment. From another side of Indian life I would mention, with a sense of personal gratitude and appreciation, that singularly delicate and beautiful flower, which blossoms in its season—the poetry of Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, whose life of gentle sympathy with the poor has been itself a poem.
In this approximation between India and the West there will remain much that Christian thought cannot finally accept. But there will be much, on the other hand, that will throw light on cherished Christian truths and give them a new setting. I cannot refrain, in this connection, from quoting a passage from Swami Rama’s Lectures, which may illustrate my meaning:—
"In the Lord’s Prayer," writes Swami Rama, "We say ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ and in another place we say ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’, Reconcile these statements; understand them thoroughly. The meaning of that Lord’s Prayer, when it was stated ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ is not that you should be craving, willing and wishing; not at all. That is not the meaning. The meaning of that was that even a king, an emperor, who is in no danger of not having his daily bread, even a prince who is sure that his daily bread is guaranteed to him, even he is to offer that prayer. If so, evidently ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ does not mean that they should put themselves in the begging mood, that they should ask for material prosperity; it does not mean that. That prayer meant that everybody, let him be a prince, a king, a monk, anybody, he is to look upon all these things around him, all the wealth and plenty, all the riches, all the beautiful and attractive objects, as not his, as not belonging to him, but as God’s, not mine, not mine. That does not mean begging, but that means renouncing; giving up; renouncing unto God. You know how unreasonable it is on the part of a king to offer that prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ if it be taken in its ordinary sense. How unreasonable! But it becomes reasonable enough when the king, while he is offering that prayer, puts himself into the mood where all the jewels in his treasury, all the riches in his house, the house itself, all these he renounces, as it were, he gives them up, he disclaims them. He breaks connection with them, so to say, and he stands apart from them. He is the monk of monks. He says this is God’s; this table, everything lying upon the table is His, not mine; I do not possess anything. Anything that comes to me, comes from my Beloved One."
Such a passage as this gives on the one hand, an example of Swami Rama’s style, that is so simple, so direct, so careless with regard to repetition, if only the meaning can be made clear, and on the other hand, it explains, what I have called the approximation of two different streams of human thought, issuing from two different springs. These in their conjunction should do very much indeed to fertilize the soil in which man’s life is sown.
We have, in India, between the Ganga and the Yamuna, a tract of country known as the Doab. Between these two waters lie the rich alluvial plains, which are ready for the seed. By means of cross channels, cut from one river to another, the whole country between the rivers can be irrigated. Thus an abundant harvest may be gathered year by year from the well-watered soil to satisfy the wants of mankind.
Eastern and Western conceptions of spiritual life are flowing forward today like two great rivers which come from different sources. We need those poet-thinkers, both in the West and in the East, who may be able to cut new channels from one river of human experience to another. In this way approximation may be made and the soil of human life enriched and its area enlarged.
Among the different intersecting channels of new thought which are being cut, two appear to me at the present time to be of special significance.
(1) From the one side, the approach made by the West towards the East in what Tennyson has called ‘the Higher Pantheism.’
The Sun, the Moon, the stars, the seas, the hills and the plains,
Are not these, O soul, the Vision of Him who reigns,
Is not the Vision He? Though He be not that which He seems,
Dreams are true while they last and do not we live in dreams?
The ideas, contained in these lines, are still more clearly stated in his later poem, entitled ‘The Ancient Sage’—
If thou wouldst hear the Nameless, and wilt dive
Into the Temple-cave of thine own Self.
There brooding by the central altar, thou
Mayest haply learn the Nameless has a voice,
By which thou wilt abide, if thou be wise,
As if thou knowest, though can’st not know;
For knowledge is the swallow on the lake
That sees and stirs the surface-shadow there,
But never yet hath dipt into the abysm,
The abysm of all abysms, beneath, within,
The blue of sky and sea, the green of earth,
And in the millionth of a grain
Which cleft and cleft again for ever more,
And ever vanishing, never vanishes,
To me, my son, more mystic than myself,
Or even than the Nameless is to me.
And when thou sendest thy free soul through heaven
Nor understandest bound nor boundlessness
Thou seest the Nameless of the hundred names,
And if the Nameless should withdraw from all,
Thy frailty counts most real, all thy world
Might vanish like thy shadow in the dark.
As we read this and other passages in modern English poetry, we feel as though we were back in the Upanishads, repeating Indian thoughts uttered centuries ago; and there can be little doubt that India is in a great measure, however indirectly, the source of their inspiration.
At the same time, it is noticeable that along with this conception of an all-pervading Divine nature, there has developed in the West even more clearly and distinctly in modern times the conception of eternally persisting human personality.
Dark is the world to these? Thy self art the reason why:
For is He not all but that, which has power to say ‘I am I’
There will always, therefore, so it appears to me, be a nearer approximation in the West to the school of Shri Ramanujacharya and the Vishishta Advaita than to the school of Shri Shankaracharya and the Advaita Vedanta itself.
Again in its negative aspect, the loss of personal identity or complete absorption, as the final end of the soul, is a conception from which the poets of the West shrink back with dread, rather than accept with satisfaction. This forms one of the main themes of one of the greatest spiritual poems of the last century, the "In Memoriam."
That each who seems a separate whole
Should move his rounds, and fusing all
The skirts of self again, should fall
Remerging in the general soul,
Is faith as vague as all unsweet.
Eternal form shall still divide
The eternal soul from all beside,
And I shall know him when we meet.
So the poet sings of his dead friend, and again in more passionate accents at the close,
Dear friend, far off, my lost desire
So far, so near, in woe and weal,
O loved the most, when most I feel
There is a lower and a higher;
Known and unknown; human, divine;
Sweet human hand and lips and eye;
Dear human friend, that cannot die,
Mine, mine, for ever, ever mine.
Thus the modern West today expresses the conviction which for century after century it has cherished, that love is eternal,
Love is and was my king and lord,
And will, be though as yet I keep
Within his court on earth, and sleep
Encompassed by his faithful guard
And hear at times a sentinel,
Who moves about from place to place,
And whispers to the worlds of space
In the deep night, that all is well.
It is again this central conviction of the eternity and ultimate reality of love, involving both personal union and personal distinction between subject and object, that forms the burden of the poetry of Browning, the most virile and forceful of modern English poets—
For Life, with all its yield of joy and woe
And hope and fear—believe the aged friend—
Is just our chance O’ the prize of learning love,
How love might be, hath been indeed, and is.
There is a certain danger in this emphasis on personality in its individual forms and it has led sometimes in the West both to self-assertion and to individualism of a selfish type. It may well be the case that it needs some balance and correction, and that the general trend of thought in the East, which seems to us, Westerners, so ‘impersonal’ and lacking in ‘individuality’ may be the true corrective needed. But one thing is certain. The West will never accept as finally satisfying any philosophy, which does not allow it to believe that love between human souls may be an eternal reality.
(2) From the side of the East, there is the approach made towards the West in what both Swami Vivekananda and Swami Rama Tirtha have called by the title of ‘Practical Vedanta,’ the approximation, that is to say, of the modern Advaita Vedanta to the spirit of Christian Philanthropy in its social and national applications. Here again the approach may well have its limits, and the social and national development of the East under the new Hindu impulse may differ both in kind and in degree from that of Europe under the Christian training of nearly two thousand years.
I do not wish to be understood to imply that the approximation in each case is conscious and deliberate. On the contrary, on both sides it appears to be almost unconscious and often unexpected, a mingling of two atmospheres that have drawn together (if I may be permitted to change my metaphor) rather than the conscious acceptance of any new definitions or formulae. Many on either side would even repudiate the fact that connection or approximation existed; but those who look beneath the surface, and have watched the trend of ideas both in the East and in the West, tell us clearly that such an intermingling is actually taking place, and with marked effects.
It is because Swami Rama Tirtha was so singularly fitted to make some of these advances towards approximation, and to interpret Indian thought to the West, that I hold this series of lectures to be of value to my own countrymen as well as to Indians themselves. I would wish to do all in my power to preserve the memory of Swami Rama fresh and green. Such a memory should be an inspiration both to those who knew and loved him and also to the younger student life of India which has grown up since he passed away. May this be the result of the publication of this book!
In conclusion, I would again thank in all sincerity and gratitude the friends of Swami Rama Tirtha who have so kindly requested me to join with them in introducing these lectures to the public. It is a mark of confidence which I deeply appreciate; and I trust that in any criticisms I have set down, in order to make clear my own position, I have not departed from that spirit of wide-hearted charity and kindness which was so marked a feature in the author of the book himself. I do not endorse the Swami’s views in many cases; as I have shown they differ widely from my own—but as an earnest effort after truth and as the expression of a singularly, loving and lovable spirit, I would wish them a wide perusal. May be Holy Spirit of Truth Himself lead us into all the Truth!
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