K Subba Rau.

Convocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras online

. (page 27 of 66)
Online LibraryK Subba RauConvocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras → online text (page 27 of 66)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the West was in some respects also more direct and immediate.
His mind, too, was more open to the influences which played upon
it, more receptive of the new spirit which was being breathed
into it. Perhaps we have suffered in this loss of the students'
receptivity, and it may be possible for a greater number to pass
through the regular paths of a University education without
corning into contact with its higher spirit, If there has been a
loss in this respect, it is a loss most real, for it touches that
which is most vital in intellectual influence. What has made the
influences of Universities so potent ? It is not that they sepa-
rate so many chosen minds from the meaner influences of the

1890. Rev. D. Mackichan. 235

world, that they may infuse into them the higher life of which
they are the living channels. Does not every true student recall
to mind that lofty abandon which placed him in contact with the
genius low the spirit of his alma mater, and, how with mind sur-
rendered to its higher influences, he was raised by it to a new
and loftier plane. It matters little what a University may gain
if it loses this higher power. It is easier to possess it and to
wield it amid the awakening impulse of a new epoch, and it can
be continuously maintained when these movements have grown
into the every-day conditions only by a continuous elevation of
the intellectual ideal. I believe that the time has now fully
come for carrying into effect what may now reasonably be expect-
ed as the fruit of a thirty years' development. Now that the
claims of general education have so far been met, the University
should feel itself free to work out within its own peculiar sphere
its own higher ideal. This conviction working strongly and
independently in many minds has brought us face to face with one
of the most important of those University problems which have
engaged our attention during the past year. I refer to the readjust-
ment of the curriculum in Arts. This is a subject on which I
feel the deepest interest, and I ask your indulgence, gentlemen,
while I urge the importance of worthily completing the pro-
gramme of reform upon which you have entered. I am one o
those who cordially welcome the resolution to extend the period
of study. I know that this resolution does not commend itself to
those who regard it as only placing a new obstacle in the path of
those who are struggling to attain the University degree, but the
grounds on which this complaint is based are in most cases
utterly unacademic, and cannot claim a hearing within these walls.
It is not the main function of a University to facilitate the attain-
ment of a degree, but to uphold the standard of intellectual cul-
ture and to improve the methods by which that standard may be
reached. Now the change which has so strongly recommended
itself to the Senate has sprung from a conviction that both
the standard and the method of study called for revision. On
the one hand the constitution of the curriculum in respect of the
general distribution of the subjects of study and the position
occupied by certain of them, and on the other, the time allowed
for study, demanded re-consideration. The life of a student with
the shadow of an annual examination overhanging it invited our
sympathy, and it was felt that if we would raise the tone of Uni-
versity education by redeeming it from the charge of being
simply a pursuit of examinations and making it in reality a scho-
larly pursuit of knowledge, the time allowed for the study of the
higher and more important subjects must be extended so that

236 University of Bombay.

not in the stifling atmosphere of preparation for examination,
but in the cooler, calmer air of academic contemplation, our stu-
dents should pursue a higher aim.

Youth should be awed, religiously possessed

With a conviction of the power that waits

On knowledge, when sincerely sought and prized

For its own sake : on glory and on praise

If but by labour won, and fit to endure

Another evil inherent in any such system of study is the de-
struction of independent original thinking. In an overcrowded
curriculum the aim of the student is apt to be reduced simply to the
mastering of a given number of ideas and opinions in the most con-
venient manner and the briefest possible time. What teacher of
our youth has not felt this, has not seen it in the apathy which
suddenly falls upon a class when he is led to enter into what may
often be the most interesting and most fruitful parts of a subject,
the secret of which is only revealed when he learns that tradition
has settled that such lines of inquiry do not lie within the area of
profitable study ? I look forward hopefully to the relief which is
now promised from some of these depressing influences, and I anti-
cipate among its results a higher mode of study, the awakening of
truer aims, and the deepening of the intellectual culture which is
associated with this University. For what are we to understand
by the general culture which it is the aim of the University to
impart ? It does not mean that a student should go forth merely
with a set of opinions or ideas, quickly accumulated, upon a
large variety of questions. He cannot hope to master all the
problems of human knowledge in a three years' course, nor in
one of four ; but this at least we are entitled to expect that he
shall have learned what many of those problems are, that he
shall have learned to look at them from many sides, and shall
have some grasp of the principles which must be applied for
their solution as they present themselves amid the varied ex-
periences of after-life. The University has simply introduced
him to fields of study which it will be his life-work to cultivate.
In the principles which it has inculcated and in the habit of
mind which it has engendered it has placed in his hands the
instruments, but the work in great part lies before him. If he
goes forth simply with a set of ideas rapidly and imperfectly
assimilated his after-life will be unfruitful ; but if he enters life
with a mind trained to think, to examine, to realize the mutual
bearings of the many objects of his thinking, then the founda-
tions of a University culture have been well and truly laid. To
use the words of one who was himself so thoroughly imbued
with the University spirit : " A habit of mind is formed which

1890. Rev. D. Mackichan. 237'

lasts through life, of which the attributes are freedom, equitable-
ness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom." It must be admitted
that fche habits which a system of rapid acquirement of ideas for
the ends of an examination engenders are very different from
these. The philosophical habit of mind is entirely absent one-
sided judgments, crude opinions make up the intellectual furni-
ture of such undisciplined minds, and all the worst features of a
superficial and unsubstantial education are certain sooner or
later to develop themselves. It is no part of the aim of Univer-
sity culture as thus conceived to stimulate any particular study
at the expense of others equally important in the general scheme.
Specializing is a feature of our time in all departments of life,
but it seems to me that in education there is much danger in its
Danger of premature introduction. To a certain extent the
premature spe- special capacities of different minds must be recog-
nised in any completed system, but it has been
found possible to introduce specialization of study with real
success only in Universities which have seen a high develop-
ment, and which rest upon the anciently laid foundations of
a wide culture in the life of the nation. "A single study
is apt to tinge the spirit with a single colour ; whilst ex-
pansive knowledge irradiates it from many studies with the
many-coloured hues of thought till they kindle by their assem-
blage, and blend and melt into the white light of inspiration."
These are words spoken by one of our poets who was also a Uni-
versity reformer ; they express well the true academic idea. The
peculiarity in the mental acquisition of the true student is that he
has learnt to regard the realm of truth as one, and refuses to know
anything in its isolation from other branches of knowledge. From
this has come the philosophic breadth of men of true University
culture, who have enjoyed the benefits of that illumination which
has reached them in reflection from the many-sided body of truth.
It has saved them from a narrowness, one-sidedness of thought
from which their contemporaries of equal or greater distinc-
tion have not been free. There is only one department in which
attempts at reform have apparently failed, and to these I shall
only refer in order to point out that the failure is apparent only.
I refer to the Medical curriculum and the Medical degree. It
.ought to be regarded as a token of the high position which medi-
cal science has attained in the College of this Presidency, a
result so largely due to the scientific abilities of those who have
guided that education, and of whom frequent mention has been
made in this place, that it has awakened a desire in the minds
of its graduates to see the Medical degree placed on a better
footing and brought more into line with that of the older Univer-

238 University of Bombay.

si ties-, With these aspirations I most thoroughly sympathise,
but I would remind those who put forward the claim to a new
designation that their proposal will gain a readier assent if it in-
clude also the demand for a higher scientific culture in those who
shall obtain the higher denomination. At a time when the
means of scientific instruction in the Medical College have been
improved to so high a degree of efficiency (we welcome with
satisfaction to the membership of the Senate to-night some of the
Professors on its staff, gentlemen of high academic distinction)
any proposal that does not contemplate some elevation of the
standard of scientific requirement must be regarded as out of
harmony with the progressive spirit of the time. There is
perhaps no profession in which the same designation is sus-
ceptible of a greater variety of meaning, and in expressing my
hearty sympathy with the aims of the medical graduates of the
University, I venture to hope that the meaning which they will
seek to attach to the degree which they desire the University to
institute will be worthy of the high position of their College as
one of the foremost medical schools in India, and of the progres-
sive character of the science which they represent. I cannot
close this review of the past academical year without alluding to
the new departure that has been made in the recently instituted
diploma in Agriculture. In the comprehensive scheme which
our learned Chancellor placed before you a year ago, the institu-
tion of a Degree in Agriculture was included in the enumeration
of our needs. The diploma which has recently been instituted
may be regarded as the first instalment of the fulfilment of that
programme. The discussion of this question, gentlemen, is fresh
in the recollection of most of you, and I shall not traverse ground
that has been so recently gone over. With much that was said
with reference to the aims of University education by those who
opposed this addition to the recognised studies I must thoroughly
concur, and I would remind them that the scheme now sanctioned
leaves that doctrine intact. No degree in Agriculture has yet
been instituted, and it is not likely that any proposal to institute
a degree will come before us that does not satisfy the high
requirements which they have rightly insisted upon. The form
in which the recognition has been granted has been purposely
selected to prevent any such result. I think I am not misinterpret-
ing the general feeling of the Senate when I say that until Agri-
culture is prepared to take its place in the science curriculum of
the University, and to satisfy its full requirements it cannot
expect the recognition to which it will naturally aspire. Its future
as a department of University study will depend on the develop-
ment of scientific agricultural instruction to a position in which

1890. Rev. D. Mackichan. 239

it can fitly rank with the other sciences to which this Univer-
sity has given its complete recognition. Having thus made
clear the nature and extent of the Senate's action, I would ask
you to allow me to add a brief word on the general question.
If the condition which I have above stated be insisted upon, it
appears to me that such an extension of the scope of our Uni-
versity studies is both natural and desirable. The question is

not to be settled by any arbitrary definition of the
a Universit 1 f * erm University, and a corresponding limitation of

its sphere. Fortunately the best authorities are
not agreed as to the origin of the term, and it has been left
to history to settle the definition from age to age. The term
University has been defining itself, and the definition has
taken its colour from the intellectual surroundings of each age,
and, I might add, of each nation. The mediasval conception
of the University held sway for a period of unexpected duration.
But the spirit of the age proved too powerful for this con-
ception, and one after another the most conservative Univer-
sities have been compelled to surrender it. In Germany the
liberalising influence has been long at work, and the German
Universities owe their present power to the degree in which
they have been able to adapt themselves to changing conditions.
Local influences, too, have been at work, and subjects of
academic study find a place in one University denied to them in
another, because the life of which they are the intellectual
development does not everywhere present the same features.
And who is prepared to maintain that the Universities of India
should not develop along lines that may, in some measure, be
peculiar to themselves ? If the life of the nation requires it, so
long as Universities are in touch with that life they will be
bound to respond to this demand. A recent writer has well
said : " The University may be described as the higher know-
ledge of the nation, concentrated and organized for the purposes
of extension and communication with a view to the perfecting of
the truth and the better formation of men. So considered it
must be a living and ever-augmenting body growth in the
sciences taught and in the faculties teaching them is necessary
to its very idea. The moment that a University circumscribes
the field of knowledge, and says the circle is complete, and no new
science can be added or old displaced, it has ceased to be a Univer-
sity and become a mere mill, grinding out arid conventionalisms
and barren forumlao good for no human spirit." The develop-
ment of scientific instruction in our University is a subject to
which increased attention will have to be devoted. About ten
years ago a sudden start, almost a revolution, was achieved.

240 University of Bombay.

But our subsequent progress in the new direction lias not been
commensurate with our plans and expectations. Whether it be due
to a want of the means of instruction or to the national preference
for a literary curriculum, the degree in science still fails to attract
a large proportion of our students. It is a matter for regret that
this department of our University studies is not more enthusi-
astically cultivated. I am one of those who thought, and still
think, that scientific culture is destined to exert a healthful
influence upon the mind of India. It was a favourite idea of
Lord Bacon and of his time, that particular studies were fitted
to strengthen and correct different minds, according to their
special habits and peculiarities. I believe that there is an im-
portant truth in this old conception, and that the inherited ten-
dencies of the Indian mind will find their complement and
corrective in the sciences of observation and experiment. In the
analysis of thought, in the contemplation of ideas in themselves,
and in relation to other ideas, the Indian mind has attained a
high development ; but this idealizing tendency has led it farther
and farther away from the sphere of the actual and the real. Its
grasp of objective truth has been weakened, and those elements
of intellectual character which are conditioned by it are less pro-
minent. Experiment and observation, contact with facts and
laws independent of our subjectivity, and marked by all
the features of a commanding reality, are calculated to cor-
rect this one-sidedness, to awaken deeper convictions with
regard to the absoluteness of truth and with this strength-
ened love of truth and reverence for truth to help forward
the development of the moral and higher side of man's intellectual
life. The manifold activities of the past year have led me to
speak in detail, and, I fear, at too great length, upon the various
departments of our academic life.

And now, looking upon them as a whole, I would ask your
further indulgence while I allude briefly to one
aspect of our University life in which I think we
are all deeply conscious of our failure. I have already emphasised
what I consider to be the specific character of University educa-
tion, namely, the comprehensive view of knowledge which it
places before its true followers, its antipathy to all one-sidedness
and incompleteness, its constant effort to gather the vast variety
of human knowledge into a unity born of that higher spirit which
it is its great mission to inspire. But the conditions under which
University education is pursued among us are most unfavourable
to the realization of this idea. The student in Arts moves on
his separate way, having little communion with his brother-

1890. Rev. D. Mackichan. 241

student in Medicine, and still less perhaps with his fellow-under-
graduates in Engineering. In each department knowledge is
pursued as if the others had no existence, and thus one of the
great liberalizing influences of University life is absent. It is
this which should distinguish University culture from mere pro-
fessional training, and this we have not in any true sense as a
constant element in the influence of the University. Is there not
wanting something in our organization which would help to unite
the lives of all our undergraduates by some bond of common
responsibility and common interest ? On an occasion like the
present we realize for a brief season something of what this fellow-
ship means, and the University has for its students something
of the influence of a felt reality. But how to make this influence
a continuous influence in the life of our graduates and under-
graduates, how to develop that sense of responsibility which
attaches to membership in such an intellectual communion, is a
problem to which as a University we have yet to address ourselves.
I do not believe that we shall ever be able to reap the best fruits
of a University culture until this consciousness of organic union
has been established, and all are made to feel that they have an
interest wider than that of their individual College, wider than
that of the Faculty under which they are enrolled. I need not
tell you how potent for good is the working of a sympathy thus
widened and elevated, and how especially important in this land,
unhappily too familiar with separation, is everything which
tends to unite and harmonize. Without propounding any
plan I place this subject before you in the hope that the con-
sciousness of our need once truly awakened may lead to some
earnest effort to supply it ; nor with a rising culture, with well
chosen and well-sifted materials to work upon, is it too much to
expect that this hope will be in some measure realized. But the
realization of the hope and of all the hopes which have been
breathed on your behalf from this chair will depend on the
degree in which you, the graduates and undergraduates of this
University, realize the responsiblities of the favoured position in
which you stand. To some of you this occasion re-awakens the
memory of the intellectual struggles of a bygone day ; others we
have just welcomed to their well-won honours, while yet others
of you as you look forward along the course on which you have
entered, feel your aspiration quickened by their example and
achievement. On all of you, as representing the educated men
and women of Western India, let me press the thought which
is uppermost in my own heart to-day, of the high tasks, the
solemn responsibilities which are laid upon you. The new birth of
a nation cannot be accomplished without sacrifice and suffering,

242 University of Bombay.

and you who ought to be in the van of your people's life
will be called, if you are found worthy, to suffer and to sacrifice
most. The conflicts of those who have been the heralds of a new
illumination in every age have been many, even when their lot
has been cast amongst those in whose minds the same light has
been secretly diffusing itself ; much greater may you expect them
to be when the light in which you profess to walk is that which
has reached you through your contact with the life and culture
of another nation, while as yet the great masses of your country-
men are untouched by it. Of the antagonisms of thought and
life which must spring from these conditions many of you have
had experience. Some of you have sought to become the inter-
preters of these higher ideas to your countrymen, and are striving
in the spirit of true enlightenment to remove by example and
influence that which is repugnant to your highest convictions of
truth and duty. But to how many does the presence of these
special trials prove a temptation, a ground for standing aloof from
all earnest effort to grapple with existing evils ? As intellectual
culture in its truest forms is the most broadening of influences,
so in its spurious forms it has often proved most narrowing. The
man of intellect may live within a world of his own furnishing ;
his intellectual resources may build up a barrier between him
and the outlying suffering world, instead of a wide channel for
the outflowing of a rich and varied sympathy. And so you may
use the culture which you here acquire. You may think of it
selfishly as it increases the field of your enjoyments, as it opens
up to you the prospect of personal success, or you may think of
it as of all your material and spiritual possessions, as a sacred
trust bestowed upon you for the good of your people and country.
If you thus regard it you will not fear the temptation which lies
so near, to isolate yourselves in selfish satisfaction from the
ignorance and darkness which surrounds you ; rather will you
feel that your education has placed at your disposal the know-
ledge by which this ignorance may be helped, the light which
may lessen this darkness. And surely there is no lack of high
enterprise to tempt the nobler spirits among you. If the condi-
tion of your country presents to the enlightened men among you
a path strewn with so many difficulties and trials, it is on this
account all the richer in noble opportunity. You do not need to
travel beyond your own homes, or beyond the circle of your
daily social life, to find a vocation worthy of the high position to
which your education has raised you. Do not stand aloof from
tasks so sacred and so holy, however much the doing of them may
bring you of the scorn and contempt of the selfish and uneducated
among you and around you. Examples are not wanting among

1890. Lord Reay. 243

you of those who have felt the power of this supreme obligation.
Ask them and they will tell you with one voice that in this the
highest use of the education which they have gained as students
of the University, they have reaped its richest fruit and its best
reward. The performance of tasks such as these will be the best ful-
filment of the charge which has been delivered to you as you stood
here to receive your degrees, " that ever in your life and conver-
sation you show yourselves worthy of the same." It is a divine
law which has attached these high obligations to the privileges
which it is the function of this University to bestow. Go forth,
then, upon your life's career, resolved to obey it and thus to grow

Not alone in power
And knowledge, but by year and honr,
In reverence and in charity.

The Chancellor then addressed the Senate as follows :
Mr. Vice-Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to
plead not guilty to the indictment which the Vice-Chancellor
has at the beginning of his suggestive and admirable address
preferred against me. The Vice- Chancellor has accused me of

Online LibraryK Subba RauConvocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras → online text (page 27 of 66)