It was difficult for him to understand why our day-to-day dealings should have such a big gap of credibility despite the fact that our country is known for its religious heritage and innumerable temples, priests, preachers and saints.
He wanted me to provide an answer to the question. I was at a loss to think of a suitable reply for I did not want to undermine the greatness of our country nor did I want to belittle the importance of religion. But I wished to disabuse the people of the false idea that had concealed the reality.
“We have formed a notion that India is chiefly a religious country but we have never tried to examine the fect whether it is really so. India a land of many religious. It is here that great philosophies of religion have been allowed to prosper. It has a long and well-organised tradition of the doctrines of philosophy and logic . Here on this sacred land were born many great religions teachers. Almost all of them have talked of religion at length.
Our religious belief consists of two things: Worship and prayer (ii) purity in conduct, The people of India are inclined more towards rituals concerning worship and prayer than towards purity in deed and thought. The way of the worship and prayer is easy whereas the way of purifying thought and deed is difficult. If one’s purpose is solved by an easy approach, who will undertake to tread a difficult path?
I do not know whether I had given a correct answer to the question of that youth but I had given expression to my inner experience. I am thankful to the man who had accepted it as an answer to this question.
The young man put forward another point of his curiosity. He said, “What’s the reason behind the high standards of morality displayed by the people of other countries in their day. to day dealings?**
I have never been abroad. On the other hand he had just returned from abroad. I have not seen anything personally with my own eyes. I have only read and heard about it whereas he was an eye witness to many things happening there. I should have got the answer to that question from him but he wanted me to answer it. It was contrary to the way of the world but there are many things in our lives that go by contraries. So I began to give my answer.
I said “Religion is a matter of an individual belief. Society is based on the principle of loyalty to one an other. In India over-emphasis on religion prevented the growth of loyalty towards society or nation. Religion and society remained, more or less, the same. With the result that it gave rise to an individualistic tendency even in social life. As religion remained virtually dominated by rituals, it failed to inspire a sense of morality among people and the feeling of devotion towards society and nation did not get any opportunity develop. Hence the question of the promotion of moral and ethical values by it does not arise.
The words of the milkmaid were prompted by her deep devotion to her nation. Just as a creeper climbs up only with the help of something, development of morality depends upon faith and devotion. A man does not behave immorally towards his family because he is bound to it by sentiments of devotion. He is likely to employimmoral means in regard to the matters concerning his neighbour because he is bereft of the sense of attachment and a sense of devotion cannot grow in its absence.
The Indian sociologists did urge the people to widen the scope of their loyalty but it could not be developed. When we are confronted question that relates to family, we should ignore the voice of an individual. If the question concerns the interests of a village, we should not hesitate inignoring family and if it concerns our nation, we should ignore the interests of our village. This thinking embodies in it our effort to divert the course of our loyalty towards society. But the current of the individualistic stream did not allow it to succeed, A family is greater than an individual, a village is greater than a family and a nation is greater than a village. He who is faithful to his nation will naturally be faithful to his village and family. The man who is loyal exclusively to his family is unlikely to be loyal to his village and nation.”
My answer to his question was, rather, a sort of lecture but I was glad to note that it did not exhaust the patience of the questioner. Corroborating what I had said, he observed, “I fully agree with you in your view that if the scope of devotion is enlarged, immorality does not get an opportunity to creep into the dealings of a man. If the scope of devotion is limited, it helps immorality to grow. But the question is how a sense of loyalty to the nation can be developed.
It was difficult for me to reply to that question but however I tried to do so. I said, “A man realises that his own good is linked with the good of his family. It is because of this realisation that he considers the family as his own and is devoted to it.
“In absence of the realisation that ‘the good of my country is my own good’, a man can nither develop a sense of attachment nor a sense of loyalty towards his nation. How can a man be expected to be completely honest in his dealings towards a man or a group unless he has a sense of attachment or loyalty towards him or them?
The frontiers of loyalty or attachment will be widened as soon as a man realises what is good or bad for him.
“If it does not help my family to realise its objectives, it is not going to help me either’- is the spontaneous feeling which enables an individual to remain faithful to his family. Similarly, he should realise the truth that his own good is inevitably linked with the good of his own country. If it happens so a sense of loyalty towards one’s nation will develop naturally.”
The questioner tried again to carry the discussion further as he still found his problem unresolved. The problem that still puzzled him was how a man could be made to realise that his welfare was dependent upon the welfare of the nation.
My eyes alighted on the hands of the watch. The time fixed for the discussion was over. I expressed my inability to answer his question and it brought our discussion to an abrupt end.