Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, popularly known as "Rajaji" or "C.R.", was a great patriot, astute politician, incisive thinker, and one of the greatest statesmen. A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, he was an ardent freedom-fighter. In his capacity successively as Chief Minister of Madras, Governor of West Bengal, Home Minister and the first Indian Governor-General of India he rendered yeoman service to the country and left an indelible impress 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 (see page ii) by him so far, the copyright of which the gifted to the Bhavan.
Rajaji's books on Marcus Aurelius, the Bhagavad Gita and Tirukkural, are popular. In Mahabharata he displays his inimitable flair for story-telling and applying the moral of stories to the needs of modern times. In Ramayana he captures for us the pathos and beauty of Valmiki's magic in an inimitable manner.
In the Upanishads, Sri Rajaji presents the grandeur of the ancient wisdom of the great Seers of Bharatvarsha.
Rajaji passed away in 1972 at the age of 94.
The Bharatiya Vidya Baa 'an- -that Institute of Indian Cul- ture 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 nand 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 re- integration of Indian culture in the light of modern know- ledge 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 aflow 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 art of life, by the alchemy of which human limitations are pro- gressively transmuted, so that man may become the instru- ment 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 literatures 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 Maha- bharata, summarised by one of the greatest living Indians, C. Rajagopalachari: the second work is on a section of it, the Gita by H. V. Divatia, an eminent jurist and a student of philosophy. Centuries ago, it was proclaimed of the Maha- bkarata: "What is not in it, is nowhere." After renty-five centuries, we can use the same words about i. He who knows it not,.,knows not the heights and depths of the soul; he misses the tnals 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 Gita, 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 recoricile the disorders of modem life.
I thank all those who have helped to make this new branch of the Bhavan's activity successful.
IN the Upanishads, we have a scripture which, among all the holy scriptures of the world, displays the most scientific spirit in connection with spiri- tual enquiry. The sages, whose thoughts and teachings we read in the Upanishads, seem to be as much inspired by constructive doubt as the most modem men of science. Their questions and answers indicate that they lived. in an age when, alongside of conformism and the rigid mainte- nanoe of old practices, men thirsted' for Truth and the atmosphere was charged with the boldest free- thought: Satyamevajayate nanrtam satyenapantha vitato devayanah.
The conformism that prevails in our own midst today, in spite of so much science and free- thought, does. not confuse us. We are familiar with it and we find no difficulty in appraising and evaluating in their true measure both the conflicting elements, orthodox practice as well as the prevailing scepticism, But the conformism of some thousands of years ago is a very different thing. We understand it much less, if at all, and it, therefore, blurs the picture. We may fail for this reason rightly to appreciate the spirit of enquiry which dominated the mind and lives of the sages whose teachings are recorded in the Upanishads, and which is reflected in every line of this great scripture of India.
If we learn to make due allowance for the time-interval, and have enlightenment and elasticity of mind enough to be able to use and profit by a holy book with invaluable hoary associations, without having to get the text actually expurgated and revised in order to exclude the irrelevancies and the " mere background of a bygone age, we can- not have a better book of religion for modem times than the Upanishads. The 'spacious imagination, the majestic sweep of thought and the almost reck- less spirit -of exploration with which, urged by the compelling thirst for Truth, the Upanishad teachers and pupils dig into the Open Secret of the Uni- verse, make this most ancient among the world's holy books still the most modem and most satisfying.
It is probable that the Upanishads were originally composed .somewhat as notes of Ieetures, intended to assist the pupil's memory in subsequent reflection. They were not composed as text-books of philosophy to serve by themselves, as books are now written. Notes in our days would be short indicative phrases written to dictation or taken down by the students themselves. But, in the old days, they took the shape of verses to be memorized, as writing played a lesser part in learning than it does now. Placed before us today in the shape of printed matter, with title-page, contents and index all complete, the Upanishads perplex us in many places with their seeming simplicity of language, covering thoughts that are far from clear. Isolated from teacher and without personal expansion and explanation, these compositions confuse us with antithesis and epigram and the use of the same word in varying senses, a style which we should have particularly avoided when discussing difficult problems. All this is, however, understandable if we remember that they were not books to displace teacher but. were notes to standardize teaching and to help memory.
Apart from the difficulty arising out of the form, and the difference of purpose of the composition from that of modem books, the distance that divides us from the day when these thoughts were propounded makes the greatest difficulty. The reflections were necessarily hung on to the life, beliefs and manners of those ancient times. To understand the meaning and the point of what was said by men of a long past age, we have to get back to the circumstances of that age, a task of great difficulty even for the most imaginative among us.
Beliefs and practices that are to us Obviously childish formed the large and main background of life in those days, and the reflections of the best and wisest men of those days, which necessarily referred to and were set on the background of their own daily .life, have to be interpreted by us, eliminating that background. What was very real and serious to them is to us childish, untenable and of no consequence, so that even the reflections there- On become un-understandable, The process of seeing a picture apart from the background is not easy. We are apt to lose ourselves in the reactions produced in our modern minds by the beliefs and practices referred to, and fail to grasp the essential amidst the distractions of the incidental.
In studying the U panishads, we come against repeated references to ceremonials, sacrifices and the worship of gods and discussions as to their efficacy, which confuse the deeper and predominant enquiry. The position becomes to the Hindu readers worse still on account of the formal persistence in Hinduism even now of the shell of those beliefs and practices, To interpret and evaluate the substance of the Upanishads, we need a powerful imagination and an intellectual elasticity that can jump over- the tremendous space that divides the beliefs, aspirations and psychologies of modem life from those of a long-past age. A study of the full text of the longer Upanishads would be the best means of comprehending the mind of the fathers of Hinduism. But at the same time, the difficulties pointed out above reach the greatest dimensions in these longer U panishads. In making the selections for the following chapters, an attempt has been made to reduce these difficulties to the minimum without prejudice to the main purpose of Presenting an adequate idea of the U panishad-content.
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