Some time ago when I was reading through the first chapter of the autobiography of Bertrand Russell, the Nobel Prize winner, renowned mathematician, philosopher and literary giant, he seemed to me a natural product of the western tradition of materialistic thinking. In his autobiography, Russell referred to a particular incident which was both thought-provoking and extraordinary.
Russel was born in a very renowned and prestigious aristocratic family of Britain. His great grand-father had graced the post of the Prime Minister of the country. His father had also held the high political posts of the time. The family was also baptized in the traditional, religious and moral values, yet the liberated humanism was at the very core of their belief.
Now let us come to that incident. A teacher used to come at his home to teach Bertrand'selder brother. He was a bachelor. He could not get married because he was a patient of tuberculosis (TB). Bertrand'smother felt great compassion for the man. She thought: ?The poor fellow! He has been denied conjugal love and exotic physical pleasure. Do humanity and benevolence not require that he should be provided that physical satisfaction once in his life time??
Bertrand further writer: ?My respected mother, being overpowered by the genuine feelings of compassion and benevolence, slept with that man with the consent of my father. Though they established physical relationship once, they did not do so because of any passionate attraction between them. I came to know of this incident while leafing through the personal letters of my mother. It was also mentioned in those letters that she could hardly dream of any physical pleasure in the company of that sickly man and she got that either. Even then she surrendered herself physically to him out of compassion.?
After reading through this particular fragment of the autobiography of Bertrand Russell, I recalled immediately the life story of Shri Ram Krishna Paramhansa, the great spiritual guru of Swami Vivekananda. He was so much obsessed by the thought of ?mother-image? that he could, in his whole life, look at his better-half Ma Sharda just as the very incarnation of Kali, the goddess-mother. Swami Vivekananda had to face a great difficulty in convincing his western followers to believe in this story. It was almost unbelievable that no physical and lustful relationship could even exist with one'swife. Can we efface from our memory the great Indian tradition of Sita and that of Sati and Savitri? Similarly, we cannot remove from the chapter of Indian history the extraordinary legends of patriotism and sacrifice exemplifies by the self-immolating Rajput women to safeguard their modesty during atrocious Mogul period.
We witness, on the one hand, this unique moral idealism of the East, on the other, there is an extra-ordinary example of the so-called western morality and pseudo-humanism as described by Russell in his autobiography. The following quotable quote of Rudyard Kipling, the renowned English poet and journalist, seems to expose the western idealism in an ironical manner: ?East is East, West is West. And the twain shall never meet.?
(As translated from the Kutch Seep Kutch Moti- a collection of thought-provoking essays by Girish Chandra Mishra?)
(The writer can be contacted at 6/769, Vivekanand Puri, Civil Lines, Sitapur-261001.)