Sitanath Tattvabhushan.

The philosophy of Brahmaism, expounded with reference to its history : lectures delivered before the Theological Society, Calcutta, in 1906-1907 online

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Online LibrarySitanath TattvabhushanThe philosophy of Brahmaism, expounded with reference to its history : lectures delivered before the Theological Society, Calcutta, in 1906-1907 → online text (page 5 of 23)
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there is a way, I say, of getting truths from God
which dispenses with all tests and proofs of truths
otherwise obtained. Science and Philosophy proceed
upon well-recognised methods and subject their
acquisitions to tests open to all cultured intellects.
Even truths professing to be intuitive and funda-
mental are subject to analysis and deduction. But

' faith ' and ' inspiration ' of the Brahmas of
the Sen ami Mazuindar type spurn these tardy and
tedious methods and place us in possession of all
that we either wish or need to believe of God and
things spiritual in the easiest and most direct
manner possible. Far be it from me to say any-
thing against inspiration .and revelation. I am a
firai believer in these processes. But I do not
the obvious fact, as Mr. Mazuindar and his

ids seem constantly to do, that all revelation

s place through some faculty or other of the

human mind call it by any name you please, that

all human faculties are fallible, and that, therefore,

of all are subject to the tests and

iods of universal science, and have no objective
value unless, by subjection to such tests, they can

:ucml themselves to the enlightened intellect

of the race. This healthy rationalism, which 1 1

isis of the Brnhma movement,


and to which all churches and sects are gradually
corning, is repudiated and condemned by Mr.
Mazumdar and those who think with him. This
is what I call their supernaturalism. It pervades
all Mr. Mazumdar's writings. It makes him
curiously enough afraid of free-thought in the
truest sense and leads him to attach an undue
importance to ' human centres,' ' an inspired
apostolate ' and the like." Now, it is not merely in
the writings of Mr. Mazumdar and his colleagues that
this modified supernaturalism is to be seen, though
it more clearly and more frequently comes out in
their utterances than in those of others. The tend-
ency is common to all sections of the Brahma Samaj.
Its evils appear most glaringly, indeed, when those
believing themselves to have got direct inspiration
from God claim the right of their ' inspiration ' to be
recognised and received by others even though it may
be clearly opposed to the dictates of Reason and
Conscience. But even when this prophetic a*nd
dictatorial attitude is not taken up, the harm done
by the mere appeal to faith and inspiration,
habitual with many Brahma preachers, is not less
serious and is even more insidious on account of its
more indirect form. Such teaching inevitably leads
people to rely blindly upon the authority of particular
Brahma leaders or upon the general body of opinions
current in the Samaj. It would hardly be too much
to say, that with many Brahmas, the teachings of
Maharshi Devendranath Thakur and Brahmananda
Kesavchandra Sen occupy pretty nearly the same


authoritative position as the Christian scriptures do
with orthodox Christians or the Koran with orthodox
Musalmans ; and that with many others, not so
faithfully devoted to particular teachers, the received
body of opinions in their communities does the same.
Almost as indolently as believers in external book
revelations, the Brahmas in question lean upon the
above teachings or opinions and think they can safely
dispense with free-thought on the great problems of
religion. One cause that has greatly contributed to
this blind and indolent dependence on authority is
no doubt the doctrine of Intuition taught by the
Maharshi and the Brahmananda. I briefly stated
and criticised this doctrine in my first lecture and
reserved it for detailed treatment in another. That
will be my third lecture. I need hardly say that I
am not fundamentally opposed to the doctrine of
Intuition. I object only to some of the forms it has
assumed.. Here, in connection with our present
question, I must controvert one aspect of the doctrine
as it is presented by Babu Kesavchandra Sen. In
all his utterances Mr. Sen habitually disparages

-on and extols Inspiration, as if the two were
mutually opposed or at any rate related as lower and
higher, earthly and heavenly. His disparagement
of Hcaaon is shared by some of his opponents.

. , in common with him, represent Reason as

human and muvliiiblo, and Faith or Inspiration as

divim and reliable. This distinction dates as early

' ' i . Hen's first tracts on P.iMhmuisMi ;

and though latterly he sometimes spoke of his New


Dispensation as the harmony of Science and Beligion,
of Faith and Reason, and so on,the general tendency of
his teachings is distinctly one of distrust of scientific
and logical methods in teaching religion and of an
undue reliance on prophetic and apostolic authority.
In one of the tracts referred to that on Eevelation,
the impressions received from Nature and the infer-
ences drawn by the reasoning faculty are set down as
earthly and unreliable, and the intuitive consciousness
alone is set up as the organ of revelation from God.
I think this doctrine fairly represents the opinion of
those I have been speaking of. Now, I consider this
view of our powers of knowing to be fundamentally
erroneous, and the result of that deistic separation of
Nature and man from God which still dominates the
thoughts of some people, though both science and
philosophy have disproved it and are disproving it
every day. God is immanent in Nature and man,
and all truths are directly from him. Our senses and
our intellect, as well as our intuitive consciousness, are
under his constant inspiration, so that it is as impossi-
ble for us to see, hear'and understand as to intuit with-
out the direct help of him, 'dhlyo yo nah praclwdaydt,'
who inspires our understandings. Nor are our senses
and our intellect less reliable than our intuitive faculty.
A common fallibility a liability to error attaches
to all our powers intuitive and ratiocinative. Our
senses delude us, if we are hasty and careless. We
mistake our fancies and our inherited beliefs for in-
taitions, if we neglect to apply the proper tests to
them. Our intellect draws false inferences, if we have


a loose hold of the laws of thought. No aspect of our
nature enjoys an immunity from error ; and if this
immunity from error makes an organ divine, the
instrument of God, none of our faculties are divine,
the intuitive as little as the ratiocinative. To extol
the former as the only source of revelation is, therefore,
a grave error, and betrays a superficial acquaintance
with the nature of our cognitive powers. On the
other hand, some people unduly disparage the reason-
ing faculty. They seem to think that there is nothing
fixed in reasoning ; that reasoned doctrines or
systems of doctrines, whether scientific or religi-
ous, may indefinitely change; that one reasoner
or school of reasoners can, with nothing more than
greater ingenuity, overthrow what another has built
with much care and labour. But nothing can be a
greater error than this. The progress of the sciences,
the systems of proved truths presented by them in
almost all^departments of thought, show the puerility
of this view of Reason. People with any pretension
to education should see that the fundamental laws
of thought, the rules for finding out the valid moods
aii-l figures of syllogism and the canons of inductive
inference are as fixed as anything can be, and are not
changeable by the whims, caprices and sophistries of
ifi<jor religious sectaries. The reasoning
faculty is, therefore, as divine as the intuitive, if there
i all such a division between our cognitive
powers; and if the latter is a source of inspiration,
so is th( One reason why a distinction is

n the two, as organs of knowledge, is that


the intuitive faculty is, like animal instincts, regard-
ed as a perfect organ from the very beginning
an unerring guide to the knowledge of God and
things connected with the spiritual life ; whereas the
reasoning faculty is supposed to be, as it really is,
something which grows by culture and which knows
its objects by long and slow processes of growth. It
seems to be consistent with the Divine wisdom and
goodness and the dignity of religion, that man should
be endowed with the power of knowing God and
all other things that relate to his spiritual growth
irrespectively of the knowledge and education ac-
quired by him, that the thoughtless and the illiterate
should, as much as the erudite and the thought-
ful, be in possession of the truths that pertain to their
salvation. But we must look facts in the face and
not construe the real world according to preconceived

notions, however pleasant they may seem to us.

Facts, then, show that there is no such rcfyal road to
true religion as the theorists I speak of take for
granted. It is found that in barbarians and in the
illiterate among civilized nations, the intuitive
as much as the reasoning faculty is clouded and
unreliable as a guide. Intuition in them reflects the
image of God and other spiritual realities as dimly
and distortedly as their uncultured Reason does the
face of Nature and Society. The fact is, our intui-
tions take at least as much time to come out in their
$rue character as unalloyed and universal truths
as the higher discoveries of science to announce


themselves as such. I think that, as being deeper and
more recondite, they take much more time to come into
clear consciousness than the latter. And there seems
to be nothing inconsistent with God's wisdom and
goodness in this. As in Biology, the higher organ-
isms are found to take more time to attain their full
growth, so in the evolution of mind it seems quite
consistent with the Divine economy that the higher
the faculty the slower should be its process of deve-

~\\'c thus see that for those who have passed the
childhood of their souls and in whom the critical
faculty has been awakened, there is no external
authority to depend upon, either in the shape of
supematurally inspired prophets or supernaturally
revealed scriptures or even teachers professing to
have received revelations through their intuitive
consciousness, far less in 'the shape of opinions
accepted by the great majority of their own commu-
nities or even the majority of the human race. To
such men thought must be absolutely free free from
the trammels of all powers external to itself. They
may study, and they must study if they are wise, the
treasured acquisitions of those who have preceded
them and thot of their contemporaries; but as in
their moral, so in their intellectual lives, they must

nl themselves as a law unto themselves. As

they should consider it to be nothing short of slavery

and inconsistent with the dignity of their souls as

moral beings to be used as mere instruments and not



as free agents for promoting the good of others, so
should they consider it to be beneath their dignity as
rational beings to be blindly guided by prophets or
scriptures or the mere voice of the majority. It is
not open to them to accept anything as true that
their own souls do not perceive as such. They need
not mind the taunt levelled against them by the
blind followers of Tradition, that their religion is only
a conjugation of the verb to think only what I think,
we think, you think, he thinks and they think. If
Brahinaism were really nothing better than this, it
would still be the highest truth attainable by us.
There can be no higher authority to a man than his
own sense of the true and the right. One cannot
transcend one's own nature any more than one can
jump out of one's own shadow. But we know that
thought, in its pure and ultimate nature, is not a
private property. It is not particular : it is universal.
It is not contingent and' changeable: it is- necessary
and eternal. It is not subjective : it is objective. It
is not merely ideal : it is the true image, or rather the
direct manifestation, of Reality. It is not merely
human, it is Divine ; for it is the light of God's own
countenance in the soul of man. But we must wait
for further discussion to be fully convinced of the
truth of these statements.

But if neither prophets nor scriptures nor the
general sense of our race can be our authorities in
ihe proper and primary sense of the term, they may
be, and must be, accepted as our authorities in the


sense of guides, teachers and helps. The child's
progress in knowledge and moral experience depends,
as we have seen, on his following his elders and
teachers. A child prematurely breaking loose from
the golden chains that bind him to his nurses and
guides can bring nothing but danger upon him.
One of the most repulsive and dangerous objects in
Nature is a stripling that, either from misfortune
or a vicious system of training, has not learnt the
lessons of obedience and reverence. Much of what
is true of such a young person applies to the mature
man who forgets to learn, revere and obey. The
grown-up and awakened man's obedience and subordi-
nation are, indeed, different from those required of
the child. In the latter they are blind and often
constrained : in the former, they are opened-eyed
and free. But there is the common element of guid-
ance and dependence in both the phenomena. In
both casas there is the * sense of a vast fund
of treasured experience to be appropriated. Neither
the child nor the mature man has to begin
quite afresh and gain everything by mere personal
labour without capital. It is very necessary
that we should fully understand what this means
and detenu ine our conduct accordingly; or we shall
bring upon us tXl the evils that wild and unchecked
has caused in all ages. As I say in the
second essay of my Hindu Ttwism: "An individual
is not merely the result of other individuals, of those
that have gone before him- In every individual there
is something original which cannot be explained by a


mere reference to his past history to his natural and
spiritual ancestry. Every individual, indeed, conies
with a fund of inheritance, but he also adds something
to that fund. This addition constitutes his originality.
The condition, however, of this addition is the
individual's participation in the treasured experience
of his ancestors. This participation forms the
ground, as it were, on which the individual stands, as
well as the strength that enables him to wori, in the
field of experience which opens before him on his
coming into the world. To every individual, Nature
unfolds a realm of thought which she invites him to
conquer and take possession of. It is, at his birth,
an unappropriated treasure to him ; and its appro-
priation is, in a real sense, a new experience to him,
an experience that cannot be resolved into things
inherited from his ancestors. To bring these things
under his mind's sway constitutes that new ex-
perience. In this expel ience, his progress may be
greater than that of his ancestors, both quantitatively
and qualitatively. He may know many things more
than they did, and know them more correctly than
they. There may be evolved in him a set of emotions
and activities not experienced by them ; and these may
be much higher and better than theirs, carrying him
much nearer than them to the goal that Keason sets
before the human mind. There is thus a wide field
left for the free play of thought. The mind of man
is not necessarily tied down to the errors and foibles
oi his fathers. He is meant for progress, and pro-
gress implies freedom. But this freedom is based


on due subjection to authority (in the sense just
explained). Progress is determined by the extent to
which, and the way in which, the treasured experi-
ence of the past has been utilized and assimilated.
He who has not learnt what the past has to teach
him, strives in vain to leave the past behind. He
must serve his apprenticeship in full before he is
enabled to strike out a new line for himself. It is
only by obtaining a full possession of the treasures
that the experience of the past has left for us only
by patiently learning the lesson it has to teach, that
we can rise above it and see things which it did not
see, and do things it did not do. " Elsewhere,
in speaking specially of the importance of studying
the ancient Theistic literature of our own country,
I have said what will bear repetition on the present
occasion. " Modern Indian Theists," I say, " commit
one of the greatest blunders possible when they think,
as some seem to do, that they can ignore the Theism
that has come down from their ancestors, ignore
its literature, its systems of doctrine and discipline,
ami yet build up a Theism of their own, a purer and
nobler one, by their individual thoughts and spiritual
endeavours, and effect their and their country's
ition by means of it. It is the same blunder as
of a sciolist endeavouring to build up a system
of science without acquainting himself with the
refis science has made up to this time, or that of
a rich man's son refusing to use the stored up wealth
of his ancestors and striving to be rich through
innumerable privations and difficulties." It is deeply


to be regretted that so little attention is paid to these
truths by those who ought to know better, and that
the study of religious and philosophical literature is so
much at a discount in the Brdhma Sarnaj. The
idea that no prophets or scriptures are to be blindly
accepted, but that truths are to be directly known by
every one for himself, seems to have given rise to an
impression in many a Brahma's mind, that no
external help is to be taken in knowing truth ;
whereas it ought to produce the very opposite
idea that every available help from every quarter
is to be taken to turn the thoughts inward to reach
the deepest, the most ultimate and the most far-
reaching principles lying at the root of our nature,
to sharpen our reasoning powers so as to enable
them to detect the subtlest fallacies, to awaken the
kindliest sympathies hidden in our hearts for all our
fellow creatures, so that we may be enabled to form
some idea in our minds of the Infinite Love ^hat
encircles us, and to strengthen our wills and prepare
them for those heroic struggles and self-denying
labours which conscience sets before us as the way
to the realisation of our ideals. All who help us to
know God and our duties as the children of God, whe-
ther they are philosophers, scientists, theologians,
historians, poets or novelists, are our prophets ; and all
books that help us in the same way, whatever may
be the subject they treat of, are sacred books to us,
whether the ignorant and the thoughtless call them so
or not. As religious men, all scriptures specially
so called are our scriptures. AsTheiste, all theistic


literature, Indian or foreign, is our literature. As
Hindu Theists, the spiritual children and successors
of the Rishis, the Upanishads and the whole body of
Hindu sdstras expounding, amplifying or correcting
their teachings, are our sdstras in a special sense.
May God enable us to learn humbly and reverently
from all the blessed dispensations that he has vouch-
safed for our tuition and guidance, and yet be always
free in the glorious freedom that belongs to his
children !


Brahmic Doctrine of Intuition


Brahmic Doctrine of Intuition

As promised in my first two lectures, I shall
give in this a critical explanation of the Brahmic
Doctrine of Intuition briefly stated in my pre-
vious lectures. I have told you in my second
lecture that I consider the doctrine of Intuition, as
taught by the Maharshi and the Brahmananda,
and as it is held by the generality of Brahmas, as
substantially true. But the form in which I hold
it is so different from the prevalent form, that the
identity between the two can be recognised only by
a close observer. My system of metaphysics is
very different from that taught by our chief
leaders ; and I must, in the course of these lectures,
expound It bit by bit. I might proceed to expound
it at once and, having done so, show the difference
between it and that which is current ; but in that
case it would be difficult for many of my hearers to
follow me. The better method would be, for me to
take for granted much of the received doctrine as true,
and criticise only a few points at a time. At the
end I hope to'show the whole of our recent gains
in the philosophy of Bnihmaism and the various
points in which the new doctrine differs from the
old. To illustrate what I mean, I may say that I
differ in toto from the doctrine implied in the teach-
ings of all our great leaders, that we have different


faculties for knowing different classes of objects.
It is commonly thought that we know certain
things by our senses, certain things by the under-
standing, certain things by conscience and certain
other things by spiritual intuition, and so on, the
number of faculties differing in different forms of
the theory. Now, my theory is that the act of
knowing is indivisible, that, just as the mind is
one, so is its power of knowing one, and its object
also one. I think that in every act of knowing the
whole mind is engaged, and it knows only one thing,
one indivisible object, namely God. Sense, under-
standing and reason I hold to be, not different
faculties of the mind cognisant with different things,
but only different forms or aspects in which the
same object appears to us. In what we call sensu-
ous perception, logical understanding and reason or
spiritual intuition, the same object, God, I hold,
appears to us in a m'ore or less complex form.
Now, I know very well how startling such a view
will seem to many. But I think it can neverthe-
less be made intelligible and acceptable to them.
This, however, will require a good deal of preliminary
discussion and much fine analysis of thoughts and
things. I mean not to undertake all this at the
present stage of our progress. I shall, as 1 have
already said, take for granted the substantial truth
of the received theory of knowledge. I shall consider
myself as occupying broadly the same standpoint
with those whom I criticise, and employ the same
philosophical terminology that they use. I shall


take for granted that we have a faculty of intuiting
fundamental truths and confine myself to the
question of the tests by which such truths are to be
recognised. By thus keeping myself in touch with
the doctrinal history of the Brahma Samaj, and using
the current terminology of Brahmaism, I hope to
attain my main object more successfully than by the
more exact but less practical method mentioned

First of all, then, I shall read to you one or two
extracts from Babu Kesavchandra Sen's tract on the
" Basis of Brahmaism," in which you will find a
clear statement of the doctrine of Intuition as
taught by him. Mr. Sen says : " Intuition denotes
those cognitions which our nature immediately
apprehends those truths which we perceive in-
dependently of reflection :" Again " To take the
simplest case, tell me how yqu get at the knowledge
of Self. Is not this an immediate and spontaneous
cognition ? Do you arrive at it through any logical
formula? Tell me likewise how you come to know
the reality of the external world. Is it not true that
logic can never give you this knowledge? When you
see a rose, all that you are conscious of is the
sensation of that rose ; but how could you, even if
all the principles of logic were pressed to your
service, infer from that sensation the existence of
a real rose outside ? Is not the reality of external
objects immediately cognizable by all men? Tell me
also whence comes your belief that every object is' a


substance, if nothing can be known of it through
the senses beyond a number of qualities. How do
you know that every effect has a cause ? It is need-
less to multiply instances; those already adduced
will, I hope, convince you that some of our cogni-
tions are not the results of reflection." Mr. Sen then
proceeds to enumerate the marks or characteristics
of intuitive truths. " The first mark of intuition
is," he says, "immediacy. Intuitive truth is directly
cognizable ; it is seen face to face ; it is perceptible,
if I may apply the word to spiritual objects. Cause,
substance, power, infinite, duty, are all immediately
apprehensible : no reflection can give us these ideas.
Hence some philosophers have applied the term

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Online LibrarySitanath TattvabhushanThe philosophy of Brahmaism, expounded with reference to its history : lectures delivered before the Theological Society, Calcutta, in 1906-1907 → online text (page 5 of 23)