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....
Savitri: By Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Price: Rs. 20.
Amongst the works of Sri Aurobindo, Savitriranks next only to the Life Divine. Life Divine serves as a rational exposition of the metaphysics of Integral Yoga while Savitriis a detailed delineation of the course of the yoga in the inner life of Sri Aurobindo himself.
This grand epic poem cast in twelve books comprising of over 23,000 lines in blank verse, deals with the old story in the Mahabharata, but with what a difference! The childless King Ashwapati does penance and with the grace of Brahma gets a female child. He names her Savitri and rears her as he would a son. When she attains the marriageable age, ‘she is asked to look around and choose for herself a husband.’ She pitches upon Satyavan, the son of the blind King Dyumatsena living in exile in the forests. Knowing full well through Narada that Satyavan is going to die in a year’s time, Savitri, unwavering in her choice, marries Satyavan and lives with her husband in the forest. On the fateful day, the Lord of Death takes the life of Satyavan. Savitri follows him, skilfully argues with him and finally extricates her husband’s life from the jaws of Death. This is the old legend. This becomes a living symbol in the alchemy of Sri Aurobindo’s poetry, a symbol of the conquest of immortality for the mortal man by the descent of the Supramental Force on earth.
Sat is what exists. That which exists is the Truth. Satyam.One who possesses the Truth is Satyavan, the representative man who has the Truth-substance in him. He is the son of Dyumatsena, the lord of the luminous regiment who has temporarily lost his eye-sight, his sense of luminous perception. Aswapati is the Master of horses, horse denoting the speeding life force, full of plenitude. Aswapati is the Master of Life who is ever speeding up on the ascent to the Godhead, the untiring traveller of the worlds aspiring for the descent of the Divine Sakti in him. In response, Savitri is born in him as his off-spring, the Sakti of Savita, the Solar Godhead of Supramental creation. The Divine Mother condescends to descend on earth and be born in the aspiring man. By her love, she makes the man of Truth her own, freeing him frommortality. Thus, Sri Aurobindo sees in the legend, also a symbol indicating the advent of a new world where man will realise his supramental potentialities and where death will no longer be the natural law oflife.
We understand that right from the days Sri Aurobindo was in Baroda till almost the end when he cast his earthly body, he was engaged in writing the work. To say that he wrote the poem Savitriis a very poor and bad way of expressing the fact. We gather that the whole Savitri, line by line, ensemble,was in his consciousness and he just recorded what he saw in his inner vision. He did not, write in the ordinary sense of the term, making use of his prolific mind, his profound scholarship in the classical languages of the world. His poetry is overhead poetry. Sri Aurobindo classifies the regions above the mind, over the head so to say, as Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuition and Overmind. Overmind is the highest plane man has so far known and it isthe abode of all those whom we call as gods and goddesses. Still above is the Supermind and the aim of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga is to bring down this Supermind and establish it as a ruling principle in the earth consciousness. And the poetry of Savitriis throughout from the High Supernals. Also, it is a mistake to think that Sri Aurobindo began the poem in his Baroda days and finished it towards the end of his earthly tenure. Quite early in his ‘poetic career Sri Aurobindo had envisaged and composed the poem in full. But in the light of his inner Yogic experiences, we understand, he went on till the end elaborating and changing the various cantos as he considered Savitrias a long saga of his Sadhana. It is recorded that when somebody asked him how he could be going on changing and elaborating the lines if they all had originally come from Above. Sri Aurobindo replied that the changes also came, from, Above.
Here in this grand epic poem, one finds the key to Vedic Symbolism and Mysticism. Here one understands the subtle distinctions between the various states of Brahman as proclaimed in the Upanishads. Here one finds the marvel of the Tantra Shastra unravelled, the potent worship of the Mother Goddess, authentic description of the subtle centres of consciousness in the human body, the ascent of the pent-up energy, the coiled Kundalini Sakti. Here one gets the fruits of the various Yogas, attains knowledge about all the sciences known to man. Yea, all the sciences, as the poem excludes nothing in its integral sweep. Similes and illustrations are not only from accepted poetical repertoires but also from mathematics, commerce, sports, geography, atomic theory, space travel, etc. The poem is indeed a veritable treasure-house to the seeker of knowledge in every walk of life.
This epoch-making epic should not be read like any other poetry. Every word here is potent like a Mantra. The best way is not to make an effort with the mind to understand but simply to open oneself to the vibrations of the lines and to wait. The understanding slowly dawns. One may not even understand what one has understood. It does not matter. The dawn has come, the revelation has begun;
slowly the veil of night will be lifted and all will be light.
The Chariot of Jagannatha: By Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Price: Rs. 1.50.
The book under review is a translation in elegant English by Arabina Basu of five pieces from the early writings of Sri Aurobindo in Bengali.
The first piece “The Chariot of Jagannatha” (the book bears its title) discusses about an Ideal Society which is a vehicle of the Divine with its four wheels of unity, freedom, knowledge and power. The second piece is a brilliant exposition of the Aryan Ideal and the Three Gunas. Sri Aurobindo says that what is necessary is the renunciation of Tamas, the control of Rajas and the manifestation of Sattwa which is indeed the hope of the country. The third article enshrines a glorious tribute to Hirobumi Ito who died a martyr in the cause of Japan. The next one is a touching episode of the encounter between Vasishta and Viswamitra illustrating the Ideal of Forgiveness. The last piece “A Dream” stands testimony to Sri Aurobindo’s consummate art of story-telling, his subtle irony and his sparkling humour.
The whole book provides delectable fare.
The Yoga of Sri Aurobindo (Part Eleven): By Sri Nolini Kanta Gupta. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Price: Rs. 3.50.
Simple, elegant and thought-provoking, Sri Nolini Kanta Gupta’s articles written in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga have always been welcomed as solid contribution to Aurobindonian literature. Eleventh in the series, the book under review containing interesting articles, throws a flood of light on the future possibilities of the human body. The adventure of the cosmonauts in space is a pointer, the author says, to the way for a new adaptation and disposition for the body. “The human body itself will acquire new dispositions forced by outer circumstances, the newly developing environment and impelled by the inner stress of the descending consciousness with its formative power.” The human body is moving towards freedom and buoyancy, a new self-law. And when the very substance of the material body is changed into its immortal essence by the Supreme Grace, even immortality of the body can be brought about.
In the article on ‘The Triple Cord’, following the general English usage, the author talks of the cutting of the cord. ‘Loosening the cords’ (as per the Vedic word ‘Stathava’) would be more appropriate, as the transformation of the three constituent parts of human nature is intended and not their annihilation. The Upanishads speak about the release of all knots, Sarvagranthinam vipramokshah and make the distinction between bhidto divide and chidto cut in bhidyate hridaya granthih chidyante sarvasamsayah. Sri Aurobindo also talks of the unwinding of the triple cord. (Savitri1.5)
Talks with Sri Aurobindo (Part II): By Nirodbaran. Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry. Price: Rs. 10.
The random conversations his attendants had with Sri Aurobindo almost daily for three months between December 1939 and February 1940 are collected and presented here as they occurred, in this volume by Sri Nirodbaran. One here gets a rare insight of Sri Aurobindo’s varied interests and his essential humanism. Art, literature, poetry, philosophy, politics, religion, sociology–all are discussed and the reader is charmed with Sri Aurobindo’s scintillating humour, his ready repartee, his disarming simplicity and his amazing assessment of men and matters. At times the questioners in their enthusiasm want a categorical pronouncement or a forthright assessment from the Master and Sri Aurobindo, without causing any offence parries them with his ready wit and gets away with his non-committal answers.
Let us illustrate the Master’s views on some present-day problems. About using one’s own language, Sri Aurobindo says: “In England even, it was not always easy. The word ‘telegraph,’ for instance, was not at all easy at the beginning. By constant use words become familiar. So there is no reason why one shouldn’t have one’s own language.” And on birth-control:
Under present economic conditions it is better, I think, to adopt birth-control.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, since most people can’t exercise restraint.
Altogether, a book of absorbing interest.
This is a commentary on Sri Aurobindo’s poems ‘Thought the Paraclete,’ ‘Rose of God’ and the first canto of ‘Savitri,’ the Symbol of Dawn. It is very difficult to write on Sri Aurobindo and more so on his poems. For, Sri Aurobindo is not a poet in the ordinary sense of the term. He belongs to the heirarchy of Vedic Rishis who are acclaimed as Seer-poets, hearers of Truth, Kavayah Satyasrutah. His poetry flows in pristine purity direct from overmental realms and is an exposition in the ordinary poetic garb of his profound spiritual experiences. Naturally if his poetry is comprehended only by the mind and reason of the reader according to conventional standards of appreciation, it is bound to be obscure and to make no sense. As Sri Aurobindo himself remarks: “If there is any obscurity in a truly mystic poem, it is because the poet tries to express faithfully his extraordinary vision, what he has inwardly seen. Others may find difficulty in understanding it, but it is not consciously written with a view to make it unintelligible. It is not a laboured work. On the contrary, if one tries to make it easily intelligible it becomes laboured.”
The pieces chosen here by Sri Krishna Sarma are profoundly mystic and his rare insight and clarity of thought have gone a long way in making the commentary really helpful. As rightly pointed out by SriSarma, the colour scheme in ‘Thought the Paraclete’ and the ‘Rose of God’ does not correspond to any physical colour scheme but to that seen in spiritual vision of the poet. Thought is the medium as well as the mediator between man and God and the poem ‘Thought the Paraclete’ describes its ascent in four stages while the ‘Rose of God’ invokes the descent of Divinity in the heart of man and its blossoming five-fold as Bliss, Light, Power, Life and Love. The first canto of the epic poem Savitri, the Symbol of Dawn deals symbolically with the new creation, the spiritual awakening.
The Prefatory Note, Introduction and the Stanza-wise explanation of the Symbol Dawn, all add to the value of the book. The lucid and well-authenticated commentary is a real aid to an earnest appreciation of Sri Aurobindo’s poems.
Evolution in Religion: A Study in Sri Aurobindo and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: By R. C Zaehner. Clarendon Press, London. Price: £ 1.90
Of the number of studies inspired by an apparent similarity between the vision of Sri Aurobindo regarding the future of Man and that of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the famous French Jesuit-paliontologist, Dr. Zaehner’s raised great expectations. He has sought to give a comparative study of spiritual evolution as developed by the two thinkers; but in trying to interpret it in terms of the two religions in which they were born, Hinduism and Christianity, the writer has missed the right direction, especially in the case of Sri Aurobindo.
Sri Aurobindo’s teaching centres round the evolution of Consciousness in Man, the unfoldment of the truth of his own being, without reference to any religion or creed. He sees the emergence of the Supermind, the principle of Knowledge-Will above the highest reaches of the mind, as the next goal of human evolution. To Teilhard de Chardin it is the establishment of a “Christ-Omega”–a kind of Buckian Cosmic Consciousness that is the crown of evolutionary labour. Dr. Zaehner fails to grasp the spirit of Sri Aurobindo’s approach and his dynamic yoga; he is inclined to accept Teilhard’s interpretation of the Catholic Church and its doctrines in terms of his own perception in the evolution of life on earth. He notes that, for Chardin, the Roman Catholic Church was the only possible centre of unity in the frame of which the collective salvation of mankind could one day be realised. Despite its petty-fogging legalism and a sacramental system that had so often degenerated into an almost mechanical device by which salvation might be obtained, the Roman Church with the supreme Pontiff as Vicar of Christ at its head was still the only possible focus of unity which, acting as the axis of evolution itself, could mould mankind together into a unified and forward thrusting collectivity destined ultimately to converge upon God as its true and predestined Centre.”
The book disappoints.
–M. P. PANDIT
Lights on the Upanishads: By T. V. Kapali Sastry. Dipti Publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry-2. Price: Rs. 4.
This is a fresh, critical and illuminating exposition of the main Vidyas of the Upanishads in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga and philosophy. Bhuma, Prana, Sandilya, Vaisvanara, Nachiketaagni and Madhu
Vidyas are discussed and described here. The stmbolic meanings of the words Aahara, Smriti, Sattva, Atman, Akasa, Prana, and Kratu, etc., are explained on a rational basis, and the aim and modus operandi of each Sadhana is given in a nutshell at the end of each chapter. Vaisvanara Vidya, for instance, “starts with the conception, faith and will to recognise the active presenee of the Vaisvanara atman, the Universal Purusha in each living being; it progresses by the extension in thought, feeling and action of the individual to others immediately around, to whomsoever he sees and comes in contact with in his interchange with the environment, and indeed to all beings, to the world at large. It culminates in the realisation of the individual completely freed from the bonds that chain him to the separate and finite living matter and so identified with the Universal Divine presence in himself, in all beings, in all worlds, that whatever he does is seen and felt as the doing of the Sole Self of the Universe and indeed one with the universal Purusha, when he eats the food, he eats the food in all words, in all beings and in all selves.” In short the learned and enlightened author proves that the Upanishads are not all metaphysical speculations but precious Manuals of Sadhana of ancient Rishis. We whole-hearted commend this book to all Sadhakas and Upanishadic scholars.
–B. KUTUMBA RAO
The Tales of India (Part Two): By Daulat Panday. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Price: Rs. 5.
About stories, one can make a safe generalization: there is nobody who does not like them. Some people like to read them and others prefer to listen to them; while most people would be glad to “see” them on the stage or the screen.
But it is children who are captivated most by stories. It is good that, of late, a number of books in story-form meant exclusively for children are being published.
A story almost always aims at teaching a moral overtly or covertly. While a sophisticated adult tends to hate this trend, the best way to teach a moral to an impressionable youngster is through an interesting and convincing story.
The present book describes a number of stories (obviously intended for children) and each story has a built-in moral. Many stories have a fairy-tale touch but that does not detract from their value. Even adults should find stories such as “Lilac Time” and “Make-Believe” rewarding for they teach how to cultivate a relaxed mood of mind and an optimistic outlook.
–K. V. SATYANARAYANA
Bhaja Govindam: By C. Rajagopalachari. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay-7. Price: Re. 1.
This is the second edition of Rajaji’s brief but brilliant exposition of the celebrated Bhaja Govindam of Adi Sankara. In the English garb of Rajaji’s original in Tamil, the book is sure to reach a wider public. To that extent the Bhavan’s enterprise must be welcomed.
Rajaji has always resisted the Advaitic stance in the interpretation of the text. We have his emphatic declaration even at the outset. He says in the introduction: ‘Some immature critics of Indian philosophy believe and say that the way of devotion is different from the way of knowledge...Knowledge which has become mature is spoken of as devotion. If it does not get transformed into devotion, such knowledge is useless tinsel. To hold and to say that jnaanaand bhakti, knowledge and devotion, are as different from each other as gold from baser metal is to expose one’s ignorance.’ If mature wisdom could be equated to jnaanaof Sankara’s doctrine of ultimate Realisation, certainly no need for any more difficulty in reconciling the meaning of the latter half of verse 24 of the text “Sarvaasminnapi Pasyaatmaanam, Sarvatrotsruja Bhedojnaanam” as ‘See yourself in all things. Give up this false sense of difference from other beings everywhere.’
The translator, whose English rendering of the Tamil is deserving of appreciation, gives the meaning ‘delusion’ to both ‘moha’ and ‘maaya’, which may appear as somewhat misleading.
Rajaji: The Lone Voice: By Prof. N. S. Venguswamy, P.O. Nellayi, Trichur District, Kerala. Price: Rs. 15.
We have here a very concise and accurate account of the period between the years 1940-1947, when the last stage of the Freedom Struggle was waged through a series of negotiations, in all of which Rajaji’s understanding of the situation and his constant attempts to secure some amount of agreement between the Congress and Mr. Jinna happened to sponsor the ultimate division of India into Bharat and Pakistan. In the course of events, the part played by Rajaji was conspicuously one of extreme difficulty. At many stages, he had to pursue steadfastly his own conviction of a proper solution to the unending discussions which seemed for some time to make the chances of India’s liberation from the British hands remotely achievable. At times he had to part from tried colleagues and co-workers, though unflinchingly he pursued his line of practical wisdom till he had to get even alienated from the idealists in the Congress camp.
In this book the author has shown vividly but with no bias towards any particular group, how the negotiations got thwarted by the too great adherence to Gandhi’s dream of an undivided India and the never conceding protagonists of a Muslim Nationality of India. The author has maintained an objectivity throughout, which sets the mark of attraction on this compilation. The printing leaves much to be desired.
Kamba Ramayanam: A Study: By V. V. S. Aiyar. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay-7. Price: Rs. 4.
Kamba Ramayanam has been acclaimed as of its own worth in poetic merit by many. The fact that Kamban who came after Valmiki had the benefit of the original in Sanskrit gets often submerged in the praises sung of his classic, par excellence. True, the Tamil poet shows a vast experience of life and a power of expression unequalled for its poetic beauty. His treatment of the story with necessary deviations and elaborations and his distinct contribution in the art of characterisation have made his book retain an individuality, all its own.
Enthusiasts like V. V. S. Aiyar have shown a total disregard of the fact that when an earlier poet produces a work, it is natural for later ones dealing with the same subject to bring out their contributions in making changes and additions which would enhance the original. No doubt, Kamban’s poetry is considered as by itself an original creation in spite of the Adi Kavya of Ramayana having earned unparalleled appreciation through the ages.
The author who had knowledge of both Sanskrit and Tamil and therefore could not be ignored as not possessing sufficient equipment to expatiate on the two great master poets, still fell a victim to a kind self-intoxication whenever he touched upon Kamban. He cannot liberate himself from a feeling that the architectonics of Kamban far outshine those of Valmiki. In a number of places he compares and contrasts the twopoets and makes out how the later poet’s production is ‘the grander poem.’ According to him he has convinced his readers of his impartiality in dealing with the two poets. But what strikes an unbiased reader of his book is that some of the situations and dialogues which he describes as a vast improvement on the earlier poet seem to be either a stretching of a sentiment to the extent of merging it with sentimentalism or an exaggeration which does not do justice to a correct aesthetic sense in appreciation of poetry.
On the whole one has to agree with the foreword writer, Sri K. Santanam, when he refers to the two later poets Tulasi Das and Kamban and says: ‘They are often considered superior to the original by their enthusiastic admirers. I do not subscribe to the view’.
One word about the printing also. It is a matter for regret how the Bhavan Series known for their high standard of printing and execution should have shown lack of their usual care in this publication.
The book contains fifteen substantial and informative studies, from the Tantras and the Veda. Text of the Nivids is added as an appendix. A study of “The Principles of Tantra” an outstanding work brings out the distinctive features of the Tantra. The Tantras are catholic and do not insist on Vedic and Vedantic lines of discipline for initiation. They are practical sciences. They declare the world is no illusion but an expression of Brahman. In short the Tantra is an encyclopaedic science and harmonises the Vedantic Monism and dualism. Significance and importance of a Guru, Nature of Mantra, Devas, Significance of idols and Worship are all briefly explained in this article. Study of Mahanirvana Tantra in addition to giving a summary of the text, and some important Mantras points out that wine and sex can be substituted by sugar, honey and milk, and meditation on the lotus feet of the Devi by weak-minded persons. A study of Dr. C. Suryanarayanamurthy’s “Lalita Sahasra Nama” reveals that leaders of Modern Physical Sciences are veering round to the view of our ancient seers that the ultimate Reality is of the nature of a consciousness, that is self-aware and self-active. It also gives an idea of the Sakta Philosophy and Srichakra. Nature and types of Gurus, requirements of a Sishya and classification of Dikshas are described in a study entitled “The Guru Sishya Tradition.” Process of Yoga Practice as described in the “Yoga Kundalini Upanishad” forms the subject matter of the next study. Process of meditation and the nature of Nadis as described in Uttara Gita are beautifully summed up in another study. Theory and Practice of Tibetan Tantric system are given in a nutshell in the study entitled “The Mandalas.” “Chakras in Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga” brings out the differences in the views of Sri Aurobindo and the traditional views. Purusha Sukta, interpreted from the viewpoint of Saivism is a valuable study. “Gayatri Upasana” another study explains the meaning of the Gayatrimantra Nivids is a study that we come across for the first time. Other essays are also equally informative and it is impossible to select a few from them. In short this book provides in a compressed and palatable form rich fare of knowledge in a predigested and easily assimilable manner.
–B. KUTUMBA RAO
Ethno-Musicology and India: By Sudhibhushan Bhattacharya. Indian Publications, Calcutta.
This is a study of Indian Music in its two broad divisions, viz., the cultivated and the uncultivated. The cultivated music has two well-known systems, viz., the North Indian and the South Indian classical styles of music. The uncultivated music is also divided into two parts, viz., tribal music and folk music. The present study is on the traditional music of the Indian tribes which has been designated as ‘primitive music.’
Such a study is of great importance to a study of the evolution of Indian culture, since tribal music may ultimately help us in reconstructing the history of development of Indian music itself. The author has shown on the authority of Matanga, an ancient Indian writer on Indian music, that the jungle folk of India at one time exercised great influence on the classical style of music.
In this book, the Indian tribal music, as a whole, has been compared with other major types of Indian music. In addition, there is also a brief discussion on the relation of music with society, culture and language. In other words, this book purports to set forth the knowledge that is necessary for study of ethno-musicology and India. Such a work is helpful not only to the students, but also to musicians and musicologists.
The author was particularly endowed mentally to undertake this work, which he has done as a theoretical study, on account of the knowledge and experience that he had, as a linguist-anthropologist, in addition to his early training in musicology.
The author has dearly traced the cultural evolution of a tribe and has shown that this is reflected in the change in its music, which gradually acquires more and more the features of folk music, starting from a primitive tribal base. Of particular interest is the author’s treatment of the subject of the result of the inter-mixture of higher culture, with the Indian tribes, leading to a gradual process of acculturation and approximation to the civilised life by the tribes. From this, he has derived the thesis that the gradual change in the music of Indian tribes has generally followed the line of development of the classical music of India. Apart from this, a detailed study, at a purely descriptive level, is also necessary, to understand the role played by them in the social groups and cultures that they represent.
The book is thus a pioneer and preliminary study, where the author with his deep knowledge and experience has contributed something new to the field of his study, and has suggested ways and means to tackle ethno-musicology in India meaningfully. It is hoped that the author will follow this first attempt, with further treatises on the evolution of ethno-musicology which is a comparatively new science in India.
The author has richly and meaningfully added to a new type of knowledge by admitting to our repertory, a new concept of music, viz., tribal music, which is very much distinguished from the classical music on the one hand, and folk music on the other.
–DR. N. RAMESAN
The Sound of Light (Experiencing the Transcendental): By Irine Starr. Philosophical Library, New York. Price: $ 4.95.
The volume under review is the sincere record of the spiritual experiences of an earnest mystic-minded seeker of the Divine not in medieval cloisters, nor in Himalayan heights but in the midst of the busy large metropolitan city. The record of the experience enumerated covers a period of seven years. It has been served to us under eight different heads, with a overture and a postlude. It is difficult to summarise the experience and to do so will take away the religious aroma of the work. The experience like all genuine mystic experience of the eastern seers and western savants is authentic and discloses the intimate relation between God and Man. The experience is self-certifying and universal.
–DR. P. NAGARAJA RAO
Indian Writing in English: By David McCutchion. Writers Workshop, Calcutta. Price: Rs. 12.
David McCutchion deals with contemporary Indian writing in English “as a puzzled, respectful and where necessary a critical observer” who is endowed with a shrewd, penetrating and dispassionate perception, “a trained literary taste that is not afraid to condemn and admire.” The author critically surveys poetry, fiction and criticism written by Indians during this century and pronounces his well-considered opinions which often make us pause and think. He is well aware of the hazards with which critical assessment of Indian writing in English is beset–the imperialist attitude of looking upon the Indian writer as a protege who has learnt his lesson well, the national pride which plumes itself over achievement. The attitude of regarding Indian writing in English “as a dog walking on its hind legs” shall be discouraged because great work can be produced in English but we should steer clear of complacency and self-indulgence.
In his review of Dr. Iyengar’s book “Indian Writing in English”, David McCutchion observes that “The patron saint ofthe book is Sri Aurobindo”, that the book is full of information covering a vast range of material and that it is more concerned with spiritual than with literary values, more with aura than with words. He characterises Sri Aurobindo’s poetry as the poetry of intoxication which is little concerned with critical discrimination and empirical reality. Sri Aurobindo has evolved a poetic style which owes much to Milton and Tennyson, but it is over mind poetry vague, abstract, long-winded lacking the emotional overtones which we invariably find when a poet proves axioms of philosophy on our pulses. David McCutchion asserts that he would sooner have a good solid pebble (a short poem like those of Lal) than a hollow mountain (like ‘Savitri’). This view may sound heretical but it is worthy of serious consideration.
Commenting upon the quest for Indianness in fiction he assigns a high place to Raja Rao and R. K. Narayan praising the latter for having shaped English into a very useful tool capable of concrete precision and subtle modulation of tone. He remarks that it is desirable for Indian writers to leave aside their conscious pursuit of Indianness. Referring to The Serpent and the Rope, he points out that it is not concerned with circumstantial reality, that there is very little story, it is a book of discursive enquiry rather than narration, it is devoid of social relations, psychological motivation, characterisation, judgment, a passion for the concrete, a movement towards a conclusion. He lays his finger on the sore spot when he says that the major fault of the book is its “philosophical garrulousness.”
All the essays included in this volume deserve critical study and careful consideration. No lover of Indian writing in English can afford to miss this book which offers perceptive praise as well as fastidious devaluation which we very much need for the proper evaluation of Indian writing in English which as David McCutchion rightly observes has dropped the compromising epithet Anglo-Indian and after briefly toying with Indo-Anglian now boldly asserts itself to be Indo-English. David McCutchion’s sympathies tend more towards the modernist trend marked by “deft precision of phrase, everyday subject matter, self-irony, distrust of passion, hatred of pretension” than Tennysonian and Romantic halo which surrounds the major part of Indo-English poetry.
– Dr. C. N. SASTRI
This is an authentic biography of Sri Haranath. This dwells on his Kashmir service period from 1893
A. D. to 1912 A. D. Many miracles and occult powers exhibited by Thakur Haranath; which cannot be explained by any scientist and which were observed, experienced and recorded by his devotees and contemporaries are fully described here. Many of his important letters which contain his advices and preachings are also published herein. The importance he attached to Love and Divine name is evident in every page of this book; and his message has every relevance to all generations. The compiler has done yeoman service to the devotees for whom this book is indeed a boon.
–B. KUTUMBA RAO
Freedom of the Press: Edited by Harold L. Nelson. Times of India Press, Bombay. Price Rs. 11.
This is a reprint of an American publication of the same name by Professor Harold L. Nelson, Director of the Journalism School of the University of Wisconsin. Freedom of the Press is a cherished ideal among all freedom loving peoples as without it there can be no real liberty for the people. “It is the vital life breath of all liberty.” Yet, nowhere has it been secured without prolonged struggle and the struggle for maintaining it is continuing one. High minded idealism and sacrifices as also bravado of persons who shot into undeserved fame have contributed to this struggle and the successes scored.
It is a notable fact that even in a country like the U. S. A., where Freedom of the Press is an article written into the Constitution, it is still the subject of an “unresolved controversy.” It has been “alternately defined by the courts (there), legislated by the Congress, condemned by indignant public officials and defended by liberal publishers.” The vast panorama of this “continuing dialogue over civil liberties” in America is the theme of this book.
The episodes which mark the changing phases of this concept, from the earliest times of American history to the Warren Commission of 1964 are presented here in a masterly manner with all the vividness of their drama and details of their occurrence. Two introductory pieces provide the historical ground taking the student from the Zenger trial and the libertarianism of Jefferson to the successive significant landmarks of the subsequent 150 years and more, since the Aliens Act of 1801. The compilation covers some 50 and odd documents, editorials, public statements or legal pronouncements by eminent editors, writers, statesmen and jurists; “reproduced without any change in spelling or punctuation or capitalisation.” They deal with such vital topics as the general principles of press freedom, limitations of the same by laws of libel, contempt, official secrecy, obscenity, public security, requirements of social responsibility and compromises necessitated by racial and social tensions or wartime exigencies. Excerpts from public documents and reports such as those of the Hutchins Commission, Warren Commission, etc., provide a wealth of authoritative reference and study material, with illuminating explanatory notes of each piece at the opening, to focus attention on the central point.
The book, of course, deals with issues which arose in America, but their lesson is for all freedom-loving people of the world. It is a laudable idea to have brought such a useful publication within reasonable reach of students of journalism and of public affairs in this country.
–A. K. VENKATESAN
Youth in Ferment: Edited by Dr. R. C. Gupta. Sterling Publishers (P) Ltd., Jullundur. Price: Rs. 15.
This volume is a compilation of papers and articles, presented at a Symposium held to analyse and identify the causative factors leading to a militant and aggressive stance of youth in their approach to the problems that confront them in their day-to-day life; and to find ways and means as to how best their surplus energies can be directed into fruitful channels without allowing them to deviate into mobocratic and anti-social activities.
The genesis of the unrest prevalent amongst youth (inclusive of students of 18-25 age range) as gleaned from the contributions made available by men from different walks of life can best be traced to:
(1) Fear of unemployment, (2) Socio-economic factors, (3) Overcrowding and resultant lack of rapport, between the teacher and the taught, (4) Defective education, (5) Exploitation of youth by political leaders, (6) Ethical impoverishment, (7) Materialistic outlook, (8) Non-awareness of social responsibility, (9) Devastating impact of sexy films, love-stories and light literature, (10) Hero worship and Personality cult that stifle independence of thought and action and foster a slave mentality and deny opportunities for collective thinking and collective decision, (11) Bureaucratic woodenness and unresponsive attitudes of the managements, (12) Conflict between traditionalism and modernism and (13) Language medium.
One may say that youth is by nature emotional, exuberant and adventurous. The quantitative expression of the discontent assumes, sometimes, formidable dimensions with a spree of violence, exceeding the bounds of decency and decorum. These animal incarnations of youth are due to defective education imparted at high school and collegiate levels, which merely aims at “Plead Knowledge” to the criminal neglect of moral and spiritual values fundamental to the coherence of society. The much-bruited Traditionalism, modernism, Materialistic outlook, Industrialism, and Generation-Gap take a bench and come nowhere in the picture so long as the value-fortitied minds and hearts of the youth are alert and sound, yielding no room to undesirable incursions of alien influence, exerted through destructive media of sexy films, cheap novels pandering to the lower nature of humanity and siren-voiced organs of mushroom political parties with eternal vigilance to fish in troubled waters.
The unrest of the youth is a corollary of intellectual unrest. New ideas emerge. New values surface. And distasteful changes may occur. But, by themselves, they cannot sweep the youth off their feet as long as they keep their poise, intellectual balance, exercise their judgment, discriminate between “good and bad” and be choosey in selection and adoption of what is thrown before them, by emergent social and political forces. Extra-curricular activities may go some way in killing the idle time of the youth. But it is only correct behaviour, right attitude, right outlook, if developed, that can rescue them from offending behaviour and irrational rigidities.
For those, who are interested to understand the youth problem in its true perspective, this slim Reader with its excellent get up is highly valuable.
–K. SUBBA RAO
Comtism in the Novels of George Eliot: By Thakur Guru Prasad. Hindustan Art College, 406 Fatehganj, Lucknow-1. Pages 220. Price Rs. 20
The ‘Title’ afore-mentioned, is a printed thesis prepared by Mr. Prasad for his Ph.D. It depicts elaborately the influence of Comtean thought on the novels of George Eliot.
A rational approach to the problems of the physical world, affiliation of the ‘Present’ to an extinguished ‘Past’, and anthropocentrism, constitute the Basic Scaffolding for the arresting structures of Comte’s Positivism.
His philosophy enunciates that knowledge is derived from observed facts and the varied phenomena or ‘sensa’ are governed by inexorable laws. And still more revolutionizing are his concepts, in the field of Sociology. A brief resume will be more enlightening. Civilisation progressed according to Law. History is not a tale of Dynasties and Events. It is a study of “Social Dynamics.” Life is collective and is conditioned by the environment. Man is the head of Nature’s economy. Unity inheres in diversity. All order is not static. It develops ultimately into progress. Love, is the corner-stone of ethical life. Ego or self-love broadens into “Altruism” or Meliorism. Politics should be subordinated to morals.
These concepts of Comte’s social philosophy, besides other solid virtues like monogamy, perpetual widowhood, respect for elders, subordination of individual to family are amply illustrated in the novels of Eliot.
It can be studied, for instance, from the evidence adduced that Adam Bede, Silas Mariner, Mill on the Flors, Felix Holt are each a “Comtean ware” to the hilt, which Eliot successfully peddled to the public of her times.
The book is well worth an effort to all readers not only interested in literature but in social philosophy too.
–K. SUBBA RAO
Sri Sankara Vijaya : By Anantananda Giri. Edited by Sri Veezhinathan, M. A., Ph. D., with an introduction by Dr. T. M. P, Mahadevan, M.A., Ph. D. Publishers: Centre of Advanced Study in Philosophy, University of Madras. Pages 208 plus 100. Price: Rs. 16.
This is a biography of Sri Sankara divided into 74 brief and fast moving chapters, written in a very simple and lucid Sanskrit. All the events in Sri Sankara’s life including that of the death of the King Amaruka and Sri Sankara’s entry by Yogic powers into his body, etc., are described here. The main tenets of about 47 cults and philosophies, the adherents of which were defeated in polemics and converted to his faith are vividly presented here. According to this text Sri Sankara in his last days consecrated the Srichakra in the shrine of Kamakshi, established a Matha in Kanchi, gave for Puja the Yogalinga to Sureswara belonging to the Indra Saraswati order, ordered him to preside over the institution of the Kamakoti Peetha and spent his last days at Kanchi in complete bliss. Dr. Mahadevan in his valuable introduction gives a gist of the contents of the text. Evidences textual and iconographical are produced herein in abundance to show that Sri Sankara spent his last days at Kanchi. “Sankara Vijaya Sara” of 82 pages in slokas found in the commentary named Dindima on Srimat Sankara Vijaya is added at the end. This is a valuable addition to the existing literature on Sri Sankara.
–B. KUTUMBA RAO
Gandhi and the American Scene. An Intellectual History and Inquiry: By C. Seshachari. Nachiketa Publications Ltd., 280. Sleater Road, Bombay-7. Price: Rs. 20.
The book was, originally, a Doctoral Dissertation. And the revised version takes a chapter on ‘Martin Luther King’ an apostle of non-violence, in reparation, so to say, of an inadequacy.
The first part “The Image” presents the reader with an enlightened apercu of biographical-cum-political life of M. K. Gandhi with special reference to his impact on American thought.
The second part “The Way” elaborates the anatomy of non-violence, its technique and the reservations that Reinhold Niebuhr, Louis Fischer, Vincent Sheean and other American intellectuals had about the relevance, and efficacy of this potent weapon.
The art of wielding the tool of Satyagraha was primarily perfected in South Africa. Later in India, as a master-skilled hand, Gandhi used it to shake the foundation of British Imperialism.
“Champaran” was the first ‘score’ of Mahatma, the adept technician, in the political game. And subsequently his long innings cover “Chaurichaura, Jalianwallabagh, Khilafat movement, Rowlatt measures” till it eventuates in a grand slam–the achievement of Independence for India.
The American interest in “Bharat” stems from access to Edwin Arnold’s “Song Celestial” and “Light of Asia.” Next the political struggle of Mahatma, the half-naked fakir, made them turn their eyes towards India.
The American church made him merely a “Pacifist.” Reinhald Niebuhr knows his virtues in non-violence. His “Chelas” Louis Fischer and Vincent Sheean too had their own doubts of it. Reinhold Niebuhr says that “Love” uses coercion and power, to achieve the ends of justice and it is inefficacious in the settlement of inter-state problems.
The “Ethical” and not “Non-violent Gandhi” becomes the choice of Louis Fischer. But his weaknesses aside, Gandhi is his “Beacon.” The blinding glare of communism drives him to seek the softer tints of “Osram” of Gandhism. Vincent Sheean is a similar convert. The gross physical and materialistic slant, given to life, revolts him and he journeys to Gandhiji to seek truth and find self-fulfilment.
Gandhiji made “Men” (to quote E. D. Nixon) of Indians and made them what they politically wanted to be. To millions of Americans he had been once a “cartoon” a “laughing stock”, an “anachronism” and an “enigma”
But his martyrdom transformed him into a symbol of the idea of non-violence and a hope of “better and saner way of life.” This image survives for ever in the minds of humanity at large including Americans.
The book is a fine contribution to Gandhi literature and a covetable volume to Gandhian devotees.
–K. SUBBA RAO