From the Concrete to the Abstract
Now just as the science of mathematics is after all nothing but the theoretic generalizing of the concrete facts of number and quantity, so is Religion the theory of life. Living is a Sadhana: true doctrine is its Jnana. Doctrine, without living behind it, is empty talk. Philosophy is not a formula: it is a state of mind. And a state of mind is only to be imparted by actual experience of definite concrete sequences.
If the Ashramas of the Mahabharata give us a true picture of those universities in which were first recorded the sublime truths of the Upanishads, then were Rishis of the forest-clearing age no lame or sterile Pharisees, mouthing great texts, saturated in scholastic learnedness. Throughout the Mahabharata we see the Rishi dwell with the son of his early manhood at his side. We hear the lowing of cattle. We watch the homely vigorous life of the college-farmstead, at once home of labour and of the highest thought. Buddha, also, when he preached the more excellent way, was not beholden to the monk-hood for his knowledge of life. He had hunted with the beast, and shot at a mark, and carried off the prizes of the world in open competition. There was a place for all this in his life as well as for the deep thought and realization that were to come after. It was this that gave to the realization its world-compelling power and depth.
Words remain words. It is experience that fructifies into knowledge. The power of religious realization is always directly proportionate to the depth of life that has been inwrought into it. All this is to show that youth is for work and struggle, not for meditation. Vedanta and Adwaita are not for children. Life must outrun knowing. Better for the schoolboy the gymnasium than the Pandit's abstruse comments. Better the sound of the battle-cry of life than the glib repetition of the texts.
Not that there should be no meditation, or no scripture! But contemplation and sacred theories should not be the characteristic occupation of early manhood. The man who is dreaming or praying when he ought to be observing, has his folly for his pains. The man to whom the words of the books stand in the place of the knowledge of truth itself, is no man, but a spouter-forth of texts.
We need to understand this in India at present. We have allowed ourselves, through long ages of peace and security, to become over-theocratized. We tend too much to measure manhood by the standards of the priest and the scholar, instead of rigorously criticizing these by the tests of men and citizens. Today, however, we have to reverse the process. Instead of a progressive Brabmanizing of all castes, we have deliberately to turn about and Kshatriyaize everyone, including the Brahmins. If to laugh be really, as the Swami Vivekananda said it was, "better than to pray," then to struggle or to toil is, equally, better than to quote scripture about struggling or toiling. Whatever may be the degree that we have attained in the poise of indifference, the imperatives of the Gita ring out the same for all of us.