Books Indians Should Read- 13 (Post.8493)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8493

Date uploaded in London – – – 12 August 2020   

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Books Indians Should Read- 13                         Chapter 5 – Part 1                               R.Nanjappa


Busts of Greek philosophers.

Hindus are by nature philosophical and religious. Saints and singers, wandering minstrels,

men of God have over the centuries brought the wisdom of the ages to the doorsteps of the

common man. Even the unlettered peasant was familiar with the basic Hindu philosophical

ideas. Local proverbs in the myriad native tongues contain and convey wisdom that no

educated pundit or modern scholar can clothe in easy language.

Nearly two centuries of imitative westernised education, ill-conceived reform movements,

ill-tempered leftist propaganda and modern secular fashions have been attempting to change

this basic disposition. They even appear to have succeeded in their efforts to a large extent  

among the modern generation. But the older generation, and those with their family traditions

still in tact, even if distorted in form and diluted in content, are still holding on to their

heritage of religious sentiment and philosophical reflection.

Religion and philosophy

But what exactly do we mean by ‘philosophy’ and ‘religion’? We simply have in mind the

basic idea that there is a Power which runs the world, and we have to order our life in

accordance with it.  The belief is philosophy, its practice is religion. This is reflected as a

general attitude to life as a whole.The different religious sects merely represent various

interpretations of this position, giving rise to differing theologies. We may consign  

all academic controversies to the dung heap. But the practical discipline they enforce

is to a large extent uniform across sects! If we examine closely, practical religion is

contained in the Yama and Niyama prescribed under Yoga, whatever may be the sect

people follow. 

Popular religion encourages people to look upon a personal God as a present help in need,

and as remedy for all ills. People look up to God for fulfilment of desires. This attitude looks

upon God as dispenser of personal destinies. Theistic Hindu sects regard God as Mother,

Father, Child, Friend, Beloved, Master, etc  This attitude is effective, and this belief works-

as people experience in their day to day lives.

Scientific  attitude

Those who consider themselves  ‘philosophical’  and so above the common run may believe

in a Higher Power, but not necessarily that It takes an interest in or interferes with individual

situations. This is also the attitude of great scientists like Einstein who are not atheists or

agnostics, but do not think of God as a person. Einstein said:

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious……

It was the experience of mystery….that engendered religion.

A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions

of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most

primitive forms are accessible to our minds – it is this knowledge and this

emotion that constitute true religiosity; in this sense, and in this alone,

I am a deeply religious man.

My comprehension of God comes from the deeply felt conviction of a superior

 intelligence that reveals itself in the knowable world. In common terms one

can describe it as “pantheistic” (Spinoza)

I am not an atheist.

[From: The Quotable Einstein. Princeton University Press, 2005]

{ Pantheism here is the position where “God becomes the Absolute, and Nature and Self

are but his manifestations.This is pantheism, and the view-point of Spinoza-” John Dewey}

While arguments rage on either side, we can see that there is no contradiction in these a

ttitudes. Different attitudes suit different temperaments.  The basic question is how we

conduct our day to day life in the light of our religious or philosophical belief. Arguments

do not decide questions of life.

Variety, conflict , confusion

It is here that  we come across bewildering variety, conflicting advice and confusion. And not

unoften, solid hypocrisy. Often, belief and behaviour are seen in conflict. Religion is reduced

to ritualism, or magic tricks,while philosophical attitude degenerates into plain cynicism,

learned agnosticism, or  nihilism. 
While Hinduism is full of scriptures, it is difficult to point to one authoritative source of

practical conduct which is suitable for modern times. The Bhagavad Gita alone fills the

bill admirably,  but that too is subject to numerous interpretations.


In such circumstances, I have found this book to be eminently practical and immensely


                                                           ****                 to be continued

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