Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, popularly known as “Rajaji” or ‘CR” was a great patriot, astute politician, incisive thinker, great visionary and one of the greatest statesmen of all time. He was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, hailed as conscience- keeper of the Mahatma. As an ardent freedom-fighter, as Chief Minister of Madras, as Governor of West Bengal, as Home Minister of India and as the first Indian Governor General of India, he rendered yeoman service to the nation and left an indelible impression on our contemporary life.
Rajaji was closely associated with Kulapati Munshiji and he was among the distinguished founder members of the Bhavan. The Bhavan had the privilege of publishing 18 books authored (see page ii) by him so far, the copyright of which he gifted to the Bhavan.
All of Rajaji’s works, especially on Marcus Aurelius, the Bhagavad-Gita Gitd and -Upanishads are popular. In Mahabharata, he was displayed his inimitable flair for story-telling and applying the moral of stories to the needs of modern times. In the book Ramayana, Rajaji captured for us the pathos and beauty of Valmiki’s magic in an inimitable manner. Written in homely style, the work was striking in its originality and beauty of expression. A fitting successor to Mahabharata.
The present book Hinduism is an expansion of the author’s Vedanta and should be of special and even topical interest to scholars and statesmen of all countries. The troubles and difficulties of the present world can be overcome only by a more constructive examination and appreciation of the moral and philosophical background of the faiths and practices that have hitherto kept it in order and moving towards progress instead of self-destruction. The thesis of the book should put heart into those who are fighting the global battle for civilization governed by Moral Order.
Rajaji passed away in 1972 at the age of 94.
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan—that Institute of Indian Culture in Bombay—needed a Book University, a series of books which, if read, would serve the purpose of providing higher education. Particular emphasis, however, was to be put on such literature as revealed the deeper impulsions of India. As a first step, it was decided to bring out in English 100 books, 50 of which were to be taken in hand almost at once. Each book was to contain from 200 to 250 pages.
It is our intention to publish the books we select, not only in English, but also in the following Indian languages:
Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. This scheme, involving the publication of 900 volumes, requires ample funds and an all-India organisation. The Bhavan is exerting its utmost to supply them.
The objectives for which the Bhavan stands are the reintegration of the Indian culture in the light of modem know- (edge and to suit our present-day needs and the resuscitation of its fundamental values in their pristine vigour.
Let me make our goal more explicit: We seek the dignity of man, which necessarily implies the creation of social conditions which would allow him freedom to evolve along the lines of his own temperament and capacities; we seek the harmony of individual efforts and social relations, not in any makeshift way, but within the frame-work of the Moral Order; we seek the creative sit of life, by the alchemy of which human limitations are progressively transmuted, so that man may become the instrument of God and is able to see Him in all and all in Him.
The world, we feel, is too much with us. Nothing would uplift or inspire us so much as the beauty and aspiration which such books can teach.
In this series, therefore, the literature of India, ancient and modern, will be published in a form easily accessible to all. Books in other literature of the world, if they illustrate the principles we stand for, will also be included.
This common pool of literature, it is hoped, will enable the reader, eastern or western, to understand and appreciate currents of world thought, as also the movements of the mind in India; which, though they flow through different linguistic channels, have a common urge and aspiration.
Fittingly, the Book University’s first venture is the Mahabharata, summarised by one of the greatest living Indians, C. Rajagopalachari; the second work is on a section of it, the Gita. by H. V. Dvatia, an eminent jurist and a student of philosophy. Centuries ago, it was proclaimed of the Mahabharata: “What is not in it, is nowhere.” After twenty- five Centuries, we can use the same words about it. lie who knows it not, knows not the heights and depths of the soul; he misses the trials and tragedy and the beauty and grandeur of life.
The Mahabharata is not a mere epic; it is a romance, telling the tale of heroic men and women, and of some who were divine; it is a whole literature in itself, containing a code of life, a philosophy of social and ethical relations, and speculative thought on human problems that is hard to rival; but, above all, it has for its core the Gift,, which is, as the world is beginning to find out, the noblest of scriptures and the grandest of sagas. in which the climax is reached in the wondrous Apocalypse in the Eleventh Canto.
Through such books alone the harmonies underlying true culture, I am Convinced, will one day reconcile the disorders of modem life.
I thank all those who have helped to make this new branch of the Bhavan’s activity successful.
WHETHER the claim made in the introductory chapter that Vedanta can create a conscience for social obligations is accepted or not, this book will have served its purpose if it gives to those who read it a clear idea of the philosophy of the Hindus and the way of life flowing from it. Hinduism has been the subject of study by’ quite a number of earnest men from foreign lands. Some, repelled by features of the social structure still in existence among Hindus, have condemned Hindu philosophy itself as worthless. Others have found great and rare things in it, but it trying to give expression to what they admire, they confuse and mystify their readers and leave them sceptical. This is only what may be expected, for while difficulties of language and idiom can be overcome by patient scholarship, the complex product of the gradual synthesis of philosophy and social evolution, that is to say, of the eternal with the ephemeral, which has taken place through millennia and which reflects vicissitudes of a chequered history, is not easy for a foreigner to understand or explain. It is hoped that this book will be found to present in a brief and fairly understandable form the elements of Hindu faith and ethics, a knowledge of which will enable one to grasp the ethos of India.
Half the population of the world lives in Asia and professes allegiance to religious and moral ideas that undoubtedly originated in India. Sir Henry Maine has stated that barring the blind forces of nature, there was nothing that lived and moved in the world which was not Hellenic in origin. This may be true, but it must be remembered that Hellenic thought owes a good deal to India. Philosophic speculation had well advanced in India before the time of Socrates. The conceptions of Indian seers travelled to Greece and could not have failed to make their impression on Hellenic thought Even from the point of view of the mere scholar, it would be helpful to have a clear knowledge of the basic elements of Hindu religion and philosophy.
India has her importance in the world, and knowledge of the basic elements of India’s culture would enable people to understand her better. The Government of India is secular in the sense that the State does not support one religion or another but is firmly pledged to impartiality towards people of all faiths. But this does not mean that the people of India have given up the spiritual and moral doctrines in which they have been brought up. which form the basis of all their culture and which qualify and shape all future additions to that culture. This book deals with the spiritual and ethical doctrines that have given to India its way of life.
Names of gods do not make religion any more than the names of men and women make up their personality. Names are originally given and used without any idea .of comparison a contrast with other names. They are handed
down by tradition. Custom gathers fragrances and associations around them that are not Perceived by any but those who have for generaG5 been brought up in the use of those names. Each name by which the Most High is known is hallowed by the ecstatic religious ejcperien of seekers, and gathers round itself the light and fragrance and the healing strength born of the rapturoos adoration of genera. Lions that have sought and found Him. Whether it be Gail, Jehovah, Bhagwan Jshwar, Allah, Han, Siva or Narayana it is the same Being that in vague manner is recalled by every devotee when he utters the name which he has been brought up to associate with the mystery of the universe and the urge of worship. To an outsider or unbeliever the most exhaustive collection of such names can bring no help to understanding.
The writer must make it clear at the very outset that he does not profess to prove anything but seeks to present the body of faith called Vedanta to those who are not familiar with it. It is his belief that while agnosticism or scepticism may do no harm and on the contrary may do much good to the minds of an enlightened few that find satisfaction in it, in the mass, scepticism inevitably and steadily leads to positive denial. A divorce between action and moral responsibility follows. This is not good either for the present or for the future generatj5 It is the writer’s conviction that Vedanta is a faith as suitable for modem times as it was for ancient India, and more especially so, as the world is now fully and irreplaceably permeated by the discipline and knowledge that have come to stay through science and are bound to grow as time advances.
Mahatma Gandhi has made IL clear that he disapproved of seeking to convert people from one religion to another. Conversion would mean asking them to give up the use of names, symbols and rituals in which they were brought up (roan childhood and inducing them to adopt a new set of names, symbols and rituals, At the same lime, people who follow one religion should understand the other religions professed by their fellow citizens. Most certainly, at least the religion of the vast bulk of our people which necessarily influences the life of the nation, should be understood by those who have been following other faiths. Integration does not mean the giving up of any creed or customs or the adoption of those & others but consists in all round sympathetic understanding:
If we desire the sincere cooperation of people following other religions than Hinduism, we must make them also understand Hinduism. Ultimately all religions, all the ways adopted by men and women to offer obeisance and adorn- Lion to the Most High are the same.
As all the waters falling as rain from the sky ultimately reach the ocean, so does reverent obeisance paid to whatever God ultimately reach Kesava.
There are differences in forms and rituals. A knowledge of Hinduism will make Hindus better Hindus, and Christians better Christians, Muslims better Muslims, and all of us better citizens in a consolidated nation.
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