Once two youths came to me. Theywere writing dissertation on Botany. They were thoroughly conversant with modern science. They had curiosity to know something about the ancient lore of India but they could not get an opportunity to move ahead in its pursuit due to ore obstacle. In the course of the conversation, they gave vent to their ideas. They said, “Indian religions have laid over emphasis on the necessity of man’s indifference to worldly attachment or abstinence from work. This is why Indians have been left far behind in the race of the age. We are lagging behind in almost all the spheres of development i.e. social, economical and scientific. Our fatalistic tendency has deprived us of the spirit of manliness. We are dull and inactive. The common man of India thinks that whatever is destined to happen cannot be averted. Despite all efforts, we shall never achieve a thing unless it has been ordained by fate.”
As they discussed religion and the doctrine of KARMAS, they displayed their aversion to the fatalistic tendency of Indians. I listened to their views patiently. When they had concluded, I said, “Brothers ! what you are saying is correct. Indians have made little or no progress in the field of social development. If you try to ascribe the blame to the door of vairagya (feeling of indifference towards worldly attachment) you may do so. But the truth is that it is not our drift towards the philosophy of vairagya that is to blame but it is its one-sided view which is responsible for the ills prevalent in our country.
“In my opinion the Indian way of life is a balanced way of life. It lays stress on the consonance of the four principal objects of life: Kama (desire for sensual enjoyments). Arth (attainment of wealth or riches). Dharma (religion) Moksha (final emancipation).
“Kama is man’s fundamental tendency. Its realization depends on the attainment of worldy prosperity. Moksha is man’s ultimate end. It can be attained through Dharma. Social life depends on Kama and Arth, therefore, society cannot overlook them. The uncontrollable Kama and Arth cannot be brought under discipline unless one develops and practises the ideals of Moksha and Dharma. Hence they cannot be ignored.
“The ancient sociologists of India have always given thought to the bounds of Kama and Arth. They are of the opinion that a man must not devote himself excessively to the pursuit of any one of the three ends-Kama, Arth and Dharma. Excessive indulgence in Kama does harm to Arth and Dharma. Devotion to Arth in excess does harm to Kama and Dharma and excessive devotion to Dharma does harm to Kama and Arth. Hence a man should pursue these ends in a balanced manner. He should devote himself to Kama only to the extent that this action of his does not result in the suppression of Dharma and Arth. This is an all-rouud view of society. Is it a hindrance in the path of the progress of society?”
Having thus stated my views I studied its reaction on their faces. It seemed to me as I had poured cold water upon the boiling milk, Their indignation against Indian philosophy stemmed from their observation of some social and religious practices stressing one side of life. They were ignorant of the all-round view propounded by Indian sociologists.
They asked in a tone of eagerness, “Does our way of life not emphasize vairagya solitarily.
“It does emphasize it but it is meant only for those who have renounced society and preferred to lead an ascetic life. In the case of social beings, there has been limited stress on the value of vairagya,” clarified.
“Why has there been such stress on onesided view of life?” they asked.
“The current of thought of the Indian people during the last two centuries has been highly affected by our subservience to the Britishers. Their stream of wide thinking has flowed by fits and starts. It was during this period that the one-sided view of life gained strength. It is hoped that the all-round view of life will grow widely once again,” I explained.
“Has over-emphasis on one-sided view of life not done any harm to us?” they asked.
“It has certainly done great harm to us. Over-emphasis on a particular point and action has led many intellectuals to think that religion is unnecessary,” I replied.
“Is religion necessary for every individual?” they asked.
“In my view it is not only necessary but it is a must for all,” I replied.
“If acquisition of wealth and sensual enjoyment can be necessary, why can it not be so in the case of religion? Religion is needed because the evils caused by over-devotion to Kama and Arth cannot be cured without it. Can you believe that social life will be able to preserve itself without non-violence and friendship? Religion is nothing but observance of non-violence and truth in life. What else can one think of religion? A society depending solitarily on wealth and sensual enjoyment and its way of life cannot escape mental tension.
I did not try to impose any views on them even then. I found that the idea of a balanced way of life was their own.