By M.S.N. Menon
What is in store for men? What do our scriptures say? They say not the same things. Time is cyclical to Hindus. It is linear to Semitic faiths. Religion speaks in pessimism. Science speaks in optimism. Darwin says: Life is evolving into higher and higher forms. First, life appears, then the mind, and then consciousness, one after the other?these have been the greatest miracles of nature. Many more miracles are expected. Man has a long way to go. The mystics agree. Sri Aurobindo says: Man is not final; he is only transitional. Beyond him awaits ?the divine race, the superman? with super-consciousness. Aurobindo predicts the progressive divination of the human race. Should we leave it all to evolution then? Ernest Renan says: Let us leave destiny to accomplish itself. But there is nothing inevitable about our future, says Dr S. Radhakrishnan. Freedom and necessity are in a close embrace, in a vital union, he says. So, we are free to act. We are not mere onlookers.
The Gita says: Ceaseless action is the lot of man! But men act differently. The West has chosen one way, the East has chosen another. Each has its merits. Each is unique. Each must be left free to seek its different ends. We must not force one way on the world. The West has chosen the path of ceaseless work, the East of contemplation. ?His manly vigour, his public spirit and private virtue represent one side of the human destiny,? says Max Mueller of the Western men. ?But naturally,? he says, ?there is another side of our nature, and possibly another destiny, open to man ? not the active, the combative and acquisitive, but the passive, the meditative and reflective.? And he pointed to India.
This reminds me of the story of Shiva and his two sons?Ganapati and Kartikeya. Shiva once wanted to know who of his two sons could make a round of the universe fastest. Kartikeya set out like a whirlwind and came back panting only to see Ganapati standing with Shiva. Asked why he did not go, Ganapati, the more intelligent of the two, said that he had already taken the round?but of his father. The West is like Kartikeya, exploring the outer world (the without of things) to know the Final Truth, and India is like Ganapati, exploring the inner universe (the within of things). The West thought that it was on the right track. Today it is wiser. Both are complementary. Alone, each is incomplete.
Life in India may be dreamy, unreal, impractical, Max Mueller concedes. But, he asserts, India may look upon European notions of life as short-sighted, fuzzy and, in the end, most impractical because it involves a sacrifice of life for the sake of life. That is why we should not exchange our history for the history of the West. Tagore says: ?We must seek for our own inheritance and with it buy our true place in the world.? An insatiable desire for more of the material things is at the root of the Western quest, the very thing the Buddha identified as the root cause of human misery. Aurobindo calls the commercial civilisation of the West ´monstrous? and ´asuric? (demonic). It condemns man to live by the sweat of his brow. We must not copy it. In fifty years of Independence, India has come to be recognised as a great power. What is it that motivates it so powerfully? Its long civilisation, its refined gene pool? India produces not only great beauties but also big brains. Thanks to our way of life. Thanks to the diversity that we have cultivated.