Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Impressions of an American Tour

S. V. Ramamurty

I visited U. S. A. in March to May this year. My previous visit was a dozen years ago. The tempo of life has much quickened. I started in Delhi at 3-30 A. M. and reached New York at 8-30 P. M. on the same date. The Jet Liner I travelled by moved so quietly that I hardly felt the motion. It flew at a height of 25,000 feet over Asia and Europe and 35,000 feet over the Atlantic. It moved at the rate of 350 to 600 miles per hour. In New York as in other big towns of U. S. A. the motor traffic in the streets is so crowded that it is difficult to park a car where you stop. People who cross streets do so with fear in their eyes, looking along the street. There are electric signs on the streets telling when to cross and when not, when your car may go long and when stop. It requires, however, alert co-operation on the part of all to have this system working without accidents. One needs to act on the signals with some discretion lest some car-drivers do not obey the signals. Still, one gets accustomed to the heightened tempo of life in cities; and when once you do so, life moves smoothly. Less than 50 miles an hour on the road is slow motion for a car.

Economic development has been rapidly progressing. Rural areas are left by people to live in towns. People who work in towns often live 20 or 30 miles off, coming to work and returning each day, for almost every worker has a car. Cars as a rule are big and fast. Some town-dwellers keep a small plot of land round their house in the country, for recreation or growing vegetables for their own use. Agriculture is practised by hardly a tenth of the population. The rest live by industry, trade or professions. There is high production, wide distribution, and mass consumption. All the changes which Professor Rostov predicted of economic development at the summit have been reached in U. S. A.! Professor Rostov’s question–“What next?”–is a question that is relevant to the American situation.

I went to U. S. A. with the purpose of studying both agriculture and culture. The density of population in U. S. A. is 60 per square mile. The holding of a farmer is on the average 100 acres. There are farms which are smaller as well as farms which are much larger. It is the large farms, held perhaps by a tenth of the farming families, that produce the surplus for internal distribution and for export. Cotton, tobacco, wheat and soya beans are crops which markedly provide for exports. In wheat, about 6 to 8% of the crop is available for export to under-developed countries after the needs of internal consumption and assured markets are met. While, on the one hand, the Federal and State Governments stimulate increase of productivity of land, there is need also to control total production: lest prices should slump. Till 1920, agriculture in U.S.A. used only horse and mule power. It was by 1920 that U.S.A. became a creditor country. Between 1920 and 1940, the use of oil and electric power as well as provision of tractors and other agricultural machinery developed. There was a slump in 1930 with increased production. But the 2nd World War gave markets by 1940, and later the Korean War added to external demand by 1950. Attention has now to be given to price support as well as control of production through subsidies for maintaining a floor price and arrangements to restrict cultivated area and keeping excess land fallow. These arrangements do not work altogether smoothly. If the area for wheat or corn is restricted, and price support is given for the crop on the restricted area, farmers with the aid of agricultural science produce more on that area itself, and the arrangements for balancing production and demand tend to get upset. In the near future, when under-developed countries become self- sufficient in food, namely, countries such as India which hopes to grow all the food it needs in the next five years, American agriculture will run the danger of excessive production and consequent decline in prices. This is a danger of which American authorities are conscious.

This economic development in U. S. A. is largely based on scientific research apart from the large natural resources of U. S. A. and the energy of the people who are bent on getting from agriculture as well as industry all the profit they can obtain. A materialistic attitude to life has reached large proportions. To some 90% of the people, the objectives of life are very largely materialistic. In T. V. shows, each day, the amenities of food, clothing and house furniture are advertised with almost religious emotion. This gives an outsider the impression that life in U. S. A. is almost wholly materialistic.

A change is, however, taking place below the surface of life. I found people everywhere in U. S. A. to be kindly, helpful and pleasant. Such cordiality and consideration for neighbours is itself a sign of spiritual quality. While at the bottom of social life as well as at the top there is a tough materialism, the large body of the social structure is healthy and human. Among an important minority of the intellectuals, a reaction against materialism and an urge towards spiritual values has set in. This is like the leaven that leaveneth bread, and may in time change the cultural character in U.S.A. Almost all the scientists and administrators in agriculture were found by me to be interested in spirit and spiritual values. Biologists as well as agriculturists come nearer to understanding spirit than pure physicists. I met several Professors of Science and Philosophy in Universities. With very few exceptions, they were attracted to the ideas I expressed for the reconciliation of science and philosophy, of matter and spirit. I found that this change had taken place in the last 5 years. The cause of the change was the atom bomb and the Russian Sputnik. The fear of the atom bomb has become widespread. In one leading paper I read that 70 million Americans could be killed in 4 minutes. Such anticipations naturally produce disturbance of mind and spirit. I spoke at the University of New Mexico to the Philosophy Club. Some 30 or 40 young men and Women students of the age of 20 or 22 were present. I expected that these young people would not be interested in my thesis of integrating spirit with science. I found to my surprise that they were very interested. After an hour’s talk and answering questions, these young people told me that my talk was very stimulating and that they thought it was a privilege to have heard me. They took me for drinks and for an hour’s further talk. I said at the International Institute of Education that I was surprised at this interest of these young people in my thesis. The young woman who was the assistant in charge there asked why I was surprised. She said, “It is we young people that are interested; it is we that have to pay the piper; it is we that have to bear deformed children.” The development of the atom bomb puzzles Americans. They feel that all the energy and expenditure which are used for science seem to be leading science to human danger instead of human progress. They hunger for an alternative target to materialism.

Again, a year or two ago, Americans felt that they had freedom of spirit, free enterprise and developed science and technology, but they found that the Russians, with no belief in spirit, could develop science of the same scope and quality as they. They are puzzled where the missing gap is.

Americans, while avoiding spirit in science, do believe in spirit religion. Religion has position in American Universities which it is not in Indian Universities. Churches do attract congregations on days. But the difference between spirit as believed in America and in India is that the former is transcendent while the latter immanent. Dr. A. N. Whitehead said in his “Adventures of Ideas’’ that the fundamental schism in humanity is between Aryan to whom Law is immanent and the Semitic to whom Law is transcendent. In the West, there is a clash between their Aryan blood to which spirit is immanent and their Semitic religion, Christianity, to which spirit is transcendent. In Roman Catholicism, spirit is immanent in man but not in all the Universe as in Vedanta. Scientific institutions in the West have an unseen inscription at their front, viz, “Spirit is prohibited from entering Science”. But in India, the statement of Pandit Nehru that “spirit is the inner base of every thing that exists” marks the understanding of reality. Spirit, on this view, is the nucleus of the atom of matter, of the mind of man, of every living organism and indeed every thing with the quality of unity. If science is to develop in India, its motto would be the statement of Pandit Nehru. And integrated research into physics, psychology, biology, astronomy, philosophy, ethics and mathematics would be the objective of an Indian science of spirit.

It is such an effort and such an objective that I presented in my thesis before American intellectuals, and the eagerness with which they were attracted to it has much surprised me. Professor Hlavaty, in charge of the Department of Mathematics in Indiana University, summed up the reaction in the following words: “Science has recently begun to feel its limitations but is unable to overcome them. India with her spiritual experience has the obligation of helping science to overcome its limitations.” I said India accepted the obligation. I am considering how this obligation can be implemented. Before I met Professor Hlavaty, I said that science in U. S. A. was like a frog in the well which ignored the world beyond the wall of the well. But now I feel that science in U. S. A. is like a chicken in the shell which is trying to peck out its way. It will do so even by itself, but with delay and casualties. With help from the outside, as from an incubator, the chicken will came out more surely and efficiently. Professor Morgenau of Yale University said he accepted this analogy.

In return for American aid to India, with 17 million tons of wheat agreed to be given recently, with all the scientific know-how and methods of organisation which U. S. A. is helping us with, we in India surely have an obligation to give Indian aid to America along the line on which their need has been expressed. In the long history of India, starting even some 4000 years ago, India started with spiritual development as the Vedas and Vedanta, and built up a rich material civilization till, say, 1000 A. D. Then the two cultural streams of Islam and western Christianity came into clash with Indian culture. It has taken till a few years ago for India to recover her feet and her freedom of life. It is now to be hoped that the genes of life which India developed during her progress both in spirit and in matter will not only help her to develop once again but also help her to make a contribution to the world. When I told Professor Sinnot of Yale University what Professor Hlavaty of Indiana University told me, he agreed with the latter, but added that people thought that India had nothing to contribute. Indeed, most Indians are not aware that they have an inheritance of spiritual experience and values on which they can build further with the aid of the science they received from the West, while helping the West to expand and rectify the science which the West has developed but about which the West is feeling unhappy and puzzled. The time has come for India and the West to help each other. Neither is complete in itself. Together they may meet the crisis in humanity which has come on earth. Science is flowing into India. Philosophy neglected, and treated almost with contempt, in India may rise with a new vitality and vigour with the help of the very western science which it may help to renovate. The frontier of science is matter: with an ignored spirit beyond. The frontier of Indian philosophy is spirit: with matter beyond as maya. Man is now growing a new dimension from which he can look beyond both the frontiers of matter and spirit. Indeed in such a man the world may witness a new mutation of man who may survive destruction threatened by science without spirit, and stagnation caused by spirit without science.

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: