(First talk by H H Swami Chinmayananda December 23, 1951)
A Hindu swami to talk. A Hindu temple for the background. A crowded hall of
Hindus audience, and the subject for discussion: "Let us be Hindus."
Strange! It sounds like a ridiculous paradox and a meaningless contradiction.
I can very well see that you are surprised at the audacity of this sadhu.
It has become a new fashion with the educated Hindu to turn up his nose and
sneer in contempt at the very mention of his religion in any discussion. Personally
I too belong in my sympathies to these critics of our religion. But when this
thoughtless team begins to declare we would benefit ourselves socially and nationally
by running away from our sacred religion, I pause to reconsider my own stand.
At the present state of moral, ethical, and cultural degradation in our country,
to totally dispose of religion would be making our dash to ruin the quicker.
However decadent our religion may be, it is far better than having none at all.
My proposal is that the wise thing would be for us to try and bring about a
renaissance of Hinduism so that under its greatness-proved through many centuries-we
may come to grow in to the very heights of culture and civilization that was
our in the historical past.
No doubt, in India Hinduism has come to mean nothing more than bundle of sacred
superstitions, or a certain way of dressing, cooking, eating, talking and so
on. Our gods have fallen to the mortal level of administration officers at whose
alters the faithful Hindu might pray and get special permits of the things he
desires; that is, if he pays the required fee to the priest!
This degradation is not the product of any accidental and sudden historical
upheaval. For two hundred years Hinduism has remained an encouragement of the
rich. Once upon a time, the learned philosophers were rightly the advisers of
the state. But then the quality of the adviser-class [Brahmana] and the ruler-class
[Kshatriya] deteriorated. By slowly putrefying themselves in the leprous warmth
of luxury and power, they have taken us to the regrettable stage in which we
find ourselves now. The general cry of the educated class is really against
this un-religion. However, it is only the thoughtless, uninformed leaders who
call this Hinduism.
Certainly, is Hinduism can breed for us only heartless lalas [shopkeepers],
corrupt babus [clerks], cowardly men, loveless masters, faithless servants;
if Hinduism can give us only a state of social living in which each man is put
against his brother; if Hinduism can give us only starvation, nakedness, and
destitution; if Hinduism can encourage us only to plunder, to loot, and to steal;
if Hinduism can preach to us only intolerance, fanaticism, hardheartedness,
and cruelty; then I too cry, "Down, Down"; with that Hinduism.
And yet the above is a realistic picture of the sad condition and plight into
which the Hindu people as a nation have allowed themselves to fall. This is
the tragic picture of the great Hindu disaster in present-day India.
But Hinduism is not this external show that we have learned to parade about
in our daily life. Hinduism is a science of perfection. There is in it an answer
to every individual, social, national, or international problem. But unfortunately
the religion, which we have come to follow blindly, is not the grand true Hinduism.
It is only the treacherous scheme thrust upon us sometime in the past by the
selfish, arrogant; power mad priest caste whose intention was to make us slaves
of their plans and our own passions. The present day Hindu ignoramuses prove
the tragic success of these religious saboteurs. With their guidance we overlook
the fundamental tenets in sacred scriptures that are the very backbone of Hinduism.
True Hinduism is the Sanatana Dharma [Eternal Truth] of the Upanishads.
The Upanishads declare in unmistakable terms that in reality, man-at the peak
of his achievement- is God himself. He is advised to live his day to day experiences
in life in such a systematic and scientific way that, hour by hour, consciously
cleansing himself of all the encrustation of imperfections that have gathered
to conceal the beauty and divinity of the true eternal personality in him. The
methods by which an individual can consciously purify and evolve by his self-effort
to regain the status of his True Nature are the content of Hinduism. Hinduism
in its vast amphitheater has preserved and worshiped, under the camouflage of
the heavy descriptions contained in the Puranas, shastras [scriptures], and
their commentaries of thousand different interpretations. This overgrowth has
so effectively come to conceal that real beauty and grandeur of the tiny Temple
of Truth that today the college-educated illiterates, in their ignorance of
the language and style of the ancient Sanskrit writers, miss the Temple amidst
its own festoons!
To inquire into the very textbooks of our religion with a view to knowing what
Hinduism has to teach and how its message can be used to serve us as we face
the problems of our daily life is the aim of the One Hundred Day's Upanishad
Jnana Yagna, which is now proposed to commence on December 31, 1951, here in
Religion becomes dead and ineffectual if the seekers are not ready to live
its ideals. For that matter is there any philosophy-political, social, or cultural-which
can take us to its promised land of success, without our following its principles
in our day-to-day living?
However great our culture might have been in the past, that dead glory, reported
in the pages of history books, is not going to help us in our present trails.
If the barbarous cavemen of the unexplored jungles want to become as civilized
as the men of modern nations, they cannot achieve this total revolution through
mere discourses, or even through an exhaustive study of the literature describing
the ways of modern civilized nations. They will have to know and then live the
civilized values of life. A mere knowledge of it will not help them. They can
claim the blessing of their knowledge only if they are ready to live what they
know. In order to live as civilized men, they will have to renounce completely
their ways of uncivilized thinking and acting.
In fact without renunciation no progress is ever possible. We must renounce
the thrills of our childhood games in order to grow to be young men of noble
actions. Again, unless we renounce our youthful spirit, we cannot come to the
reverence of old age.
Unless we are ready to renounce the low animal values of material life and
replace them with the noble values of the truly religious life, we cannot hope
to gain the blessings of religion. A study of a cookbook, however thorough it
might be will not satisfy our hunger. No matter how long we may meditate upon
and repeat the name of a medicine, we cannot get the cure we need until we actually
take the medicine. Similarly, the blessings of religion can be ours only when
we are ready to live the recommended values. To condemn unpracticed religion
is as meaningless as those cavemen sitting around their open fire and querulously
decrying advanced civilization.
During these one hundred days of the Upanishad Jnana Yagna, we shall be trying
to discover the eternal happiness and bliss that is the succulent essence of
all true religions. In the light of the principle of Truth declared in the Upanishads,
we shall be trying to get at the scientific significance of the various practices
that are considered part of our religion. In a spirit of communal living for
these one hundred days we shall come to discover the Science of Perfection,
the true essence of Hinduism.
Let us know what Hinduism is! Let us take an honest oath for ourselves, not
only for our own sake, but for the sake of the entire world: That we shall,
when once we are convinced of the validity of the Eternal Truth, try honestly
to live as consistently as possible the values advocated by this ancient and
Let us be Hindus, and thus build up a true Hindustan [home of the Hindu] people
with thousands of Shankara, hundreds of Buddhas, and dozens of Vivekanandas!