Friday 31 August 2018

The Cities of Buddhism - 2


Let us suppose, however, that two thousand and more years have rolled away, and that we are back once more in that era which Dhauli was a fortified capital city. The elephant-heralded decree stands outside the gates, proclaiming in freshly-cut letters of the common tongue the name of that wise and just Emperor who binds himself and his people by a single body of law.

"I, King Piyadassi, in the twelfth year after my anointing, have obtained true enlightenment," the august edict begins. It goes on to express the royal distress at the imperialistic conquest of the province, in Ashoka's youth, and assures his people of his desire to mitigate this fundamental injustice of his rule by a readiness to give audience to any one of them, high or low, at any hour of the day or night. In further enumerates certain of the departments of public works which have been established by the new government, such as those of wells, roads, trees, and medicine. And it notes the appointment of public censors, or guardians of morality.

In his reference to the obtaining of "true enlightenment" Ashoka records himself a non-monstic disciple of the great monastic order of the day. Nearly three hundred years have elapsed since the passing of the Blessed One, and in the history of the Begging Friars whom He inaugurated there has been heretofore no event like this, of the receiving of the imperial penitent into the lay-ranks served by them. Their task of nation-making is slowly but surely going forward nevertheless. In the light of the Gospel of Nirvana the Aryan Faith is steadily defining and consolidating itself. The Vedic gods have dropped out of common reference. The religious ideas of the Upanishads are being democratised by the very labours of the Begging Friars in spreading those of Buddha, and are coming to regarded popularly as a recognised body of doctrine characteristic of the Aryan folk. Vague racial superstitions about snakes and trees and sacred springs are tending more and more to be intellectually organised and regimented round the central figure of Brahma, the creator and ordainer of Brahmanic thinkers.

Thus the higher philosophical conceptions of the higher race are being asserted as the outstanding peaks and summits of the Hinduistic faith, and the current notions of the populace are finding their place gradually in the body of that faith, coming by degrees into organic continuity with the lofty abstractions of the Upanishads. In other words, the making of Hinduism has begun.

The whole is fermented and energised by the memory of the Great Life, ended only three centruies agone, of which the yellow-clad brethren are earnest and token. Had Buddha founded a chruch, recognising social rites, receiving the new-born, solemnising marriage, and giving benediction to the passing soul, his personal teachings would have formed to this hour a distinguishable half-antagonistic strain in the organ-music of Hinduism. But he founded only an order. And its only function was to preach the Gospel and give individual souls the message of Nirvana. For marriage and blessing, men must go to the Brahmins: the sons of Buddha could not be maintainers of the social polity, since in his eyes it had been the social nexus itself which had constituted that World, that Maya, from which it was the mission of the Truth to set men free.


 ...Sister Nivedita - .From Footfalls of Indian History contd

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The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
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Thursday 30 August 2018

The Cities of Buddhism - 1

Accepting the theory that Buddhism was developed in India, not as a sect or church, but only as a religious order, founded by one of the greatest of the World-Gurus, we find ourselves compelled to account for the relations that would arise between the king or the populace, impressed by the memory of Buddha, and the order that followed in his succession and bore his name.

To do this, however, it is first necessary that we should have some determinate idea as to where, in the India of the Buddhist period, were the great centres of population. An Indian city, it has been well said, is a perishable thing, and it is easy to think of names which would justify the statement. No one who has seen the Dhauli Rock, for instance, seven miles away from Bhubaneshwar, can imagine that the edict it bears, fronted by the royal cognisance of the elephant head, was originally sculptured in the wild woods where it now stands. A glance is enough to tell us that the circular ditch which surrounds the fields below was once the moat of a city, backed and fortified by the Dhauli Hill itself, and that the edict-bearing rock stood at the southeastern corner of this city, where the high-road from the coast must have reached and entered the gates. This city of Dhauli was the capital, doubtless, of Kalinga, when Ashoka, in his military youth, conquered the province. In order to estimate its value and importance in the age to which it belonged, we must first restore to the mind's eye the ports of Tamralipti and Puri, deciding which of these two was the Liverpool of the Ashokan era. A theocratic institution such as pilgrimage is frequently a sort of precipitate from an old political condition, and almost always embodies elements of one sort or another which have grown up in a preceding age. Presumably, therefore, Puri was the great maritime centre of the pre-Christian centuries in Northern India; and if so, a road must have passed from it, through Dhauli, to Pataliputra in the north. By this road went and came the foreign trade between India and the East, and between the north and south. In the age of the Keshari kings of Orissa, not only had Dhauli itself given place to Bhubneshwar, but Puri perhaps b the same process, had been superseded by Tamralipti, the present Tamluk. It was at the second of these that Fa Hian in the fifth century embarked on his return voyage. Such a supersession of one port by another, however, would only be completed very gradually, and for it to happen at all, we should imagine that there must have been a road from one to the other along the coast. If only the covering sands could now be excavated along that line, there is no saying what discoveries might be made of buried temples and transitional cities. For a whole millennium in history would thus be brought to light.

On the great road from Dhauli to the north, again, there must have been some point at which a route branched off for Banaras, passing through Gaya and crossing the Punpun River, following in great part the same line by which Sher Shah's dak went later and the railway goes today.


...Sister Nivedita - .From Footfalls of Indian History contd
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The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
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Wednesday 29 August 2018

The History of India

At the same time, when these conditions are loyally recognised and accepted, we cannot doubt that the result will be a continual snatching of new morsels out of the night of prehistoric to be brought within the lighted circle of history. This will happen still more constantly if students will try to saturate themselves with the social habit of thought, that is to say, if they will accustom themselves to thinking of the human and psychological facts behind events. Only this habit can teach them when to postulate tribes and people for the individual names in ancient ballads, or when to read a war of migration and conquest for a battle. Only this can give them a sense of scale with which to measure the drift and tendency of the forces coming into play during certain epochs. To multiply here and divide there is very necessary, yet only to be done rightly by one who is accustomed to think sociologically.

The sociological habit is essential also if we would be in a position to gauge the relations of India to the incomers from beyond her border. Few people know that in the beginnings of human society woman was the head of the family, and not man. Queens, who seem to us now somthing of an anomaly, represent an institution older than that of kings. In certain nations the memory of this ancient time of mother-rule is still deeply ingrained. Others, like the Aryans, have long ago passed out of it. And some fragmentary communities in the world remain still more or less on the border line between the two. Only a grasp of that history will enable us to compute distances of time truly. How old a given institution is, it may be impossible to say in terms of years, but we can tell at a glance whether it is matriarchal or patriarchal, or by what combination of two societies it may have arisen. The thought of goddesses is older than that of gods, just as the idea of queens is prior to that of kings.

The history of common things and their influence on our customs is a study that follows naturally on that of human society. Much of this we can make out for ourselves. For instance, we can see that the ass must be older than the horse as a beast of burden. Once upon a time the world had no steeds, no carrier, save this useful if humble servant of man. Let us dream for a while of this. Let us study the present distribution of the donkey, and find out his name in various Aryan languages. All that the horse now is, as a figure in poetry, the ass must once have been. Noblest, fleetest, bravest, and nearest to man of all the four-footed kind, men would set no limit to their admiration for him. The goddess Shitala rides upon a donkey, because in that dim past out of which she comes, there were as yet no horses tamed by man. There was once no steed so royal as the milk-white ass, which is now relegated here to the use of dhobis, while numerous are the allusions to its use, and the glory thereof, in the older Jewish scriptures. The very fact that it appears in the account of the Royal Entrance, in the Christan story, points to the old association of splendour clinging longer to the name of the ass in Arab countries than elsewhere, and in harmony with this is the fact that it is widely distributed throughout Africa. After the horse was once tamed, men would never have taken the trouble necessary to reclaim the ass, and from this alone we may judge of its great antiquity. At the same time we may form an idea of the time and effort spent on the gradual domestication of wild animals, when we read the reiterated modern opinion that the zebra cannot be tamed. Primitive man would not so easily have given up the struggle. But then he would not so easily have given up the struggle. But then he would not either have expected so quick and profitable a result. In the story of the commonest things that lie about us we may, aided by the social imagination, trace out the tale of the far past.

Thus the mind comes to live in the historic atmosphere. It becomes ready to learn for itself from what it sees about it at home and on a journey. The search for stern truth is the best fruit of the best scientific training. But the truth is not necessarily melancholy, and Indian students will do most to help the growth of knowledge if they begin with the robust conviction that in the long tale of their Motherland there can be nothing to cause them anything but pride and reverence. What is truly interpreted cannot but redound to the vindication and encouragement of India and Indian people.

...Sister Nivedita - .From Footfalls of Indian History


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The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji

विवेकानन्द केन्द्र कन्याकुमारी (Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari)
Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra : http://www.vivekanandakendra.org
Read Article, Magazine, Book @ http://eshop.vivekanandakendra.org/e-granthalaya
Cell : +91-941-801-5995, Landline : +91-177-283-5995

. . . Are you Strong? Do you feel Strength? — for I know it is Truth alone that gives Strength. Strength is the medicine for the world's disease . . .
This is the great fact: "Strength is LIFE; Weakness is Death."
Follow us on   blog   twitter   youtube   facebook   g+   delicious   rss   Donate Online

Tuesday 28 August 2018

The History of India.....Sister Nivedita

This nightmare being disposed of, there is still another. The Indian mind can hardly help making questions of antiquity into partisan arguments. Perhaps this is natural; but in any case it is a great barrier to the popularising of real historical inquiry. The mind of the student ought to be absolutely open on the point of dates. If there is the least bias in favour of one direction or the other, it is just like a weight on one side of a balance. Fair measure does not come that way! As a matter of fact, the strictly historical period in India may be comparatively short, something less than thirty centuries, but there can be no difference of opinion as to the vast length of the total period of evolution.

The oldest problems of the world's history have their field of study here. Those sociological inquiries that lie behind all history must be pursued in India. History proper only emerges when a certain group of people becomes sufficiently consolidated to carry on common activities in a direction and with a motive that we may call political. Man, as the political animal, is the subject of history.

This is a stage that will be arrived at soonest by communities which are relatively small and compact and inhabit clearly defined geographical confines, on the frontiers of other populations not greatly unlike themselves in civilisation. Thus Egypt, Nineveh, and Babylon could not but arrive sooner than India on the historical stage in virtue of their very nearness to one another. But this does not necessarily mean that they could compete with her in actual age, or in the depth of the tendencies making for their evolution.

And in any case, while these are dead, India lives and develops still, responds still to all the living influences of the world about her, and sees before her, as the individual unit that her development has made her, a long vista of growth and perfection to be achieved. The art and architecture of Egypt date from four thousand years before the Christian era. Crete had a story almost as early. Who shall say what was the age of Babylon? But we must remember that when all these were already mature, India was still a-making. A long childhood, say the biologists, is the greatest proof of evolutionary advancement. Egypt, with her exceptional climate, made art and architecture the supreme expression of her national existence. India put her powers, perhaps as long ago, into the dreams and philosophy of die Upanishads. Cities would have crumbled into dust, temples and carvings would have succumbed in a few aeons to the ravages of time.

Human thought, written on the least permanent and most ephemeral of all materials, is nevertheless the most enduring of all the proofs of our antiquity. Who shall say that we have not chosen the better part? Every generation destroys the parchment of our record, and yet a million generations only make its truth the more assured. We can hardly dig so deep into die past as to come upon the time when in Egypt, or Greece, or Crete, or Babylon, the name of India had not already a definite sound and association. At the very dawn of history in Europe, her thought, and scholarship were already held in that respect which is akin to awe. His old tutor in the fourth century before Christ begs Alexander to bring him an Indian scholar!

There is no need for discontent in the Indian mind, if those activities of which the historic muse can take account, activities intertribal, international, political, began for her comparatively late'. India, alone of all the nations of antiquity, is still young, still growing, still keeping a firm hold upon her past, still reverently striving to weave her future. Are not these things glory enough for any single people?

                                                                                   

Monday 27 August 2018

History of India....Sister Nivedita

We must not be cowed too easily by proofs that such and such a cherished idea had a foreign or semi-foreign origin. In this world there is no such thing as real originality. Some mind more powerful than others breaks up common symbols into their elements and recombines these in an unexpected fashion. This is the whole of what we call originality. The proof of a mind's vigour lies in its ability to work upon the materials it meets with. What is true of persons is true in this respect of nations. Same achievements, because we do not know their history, appear unique, solitary, miraculous. In reality, civilisations like religion, are a web ; they are not statues or salon-pictures, great creation!, of individual genius.

If we could unveil the spectacle of the genesis of Greece, we should find links between common and uncommon in every department of her extraordinary output, and much that now seems unaccountable for its beauty or its boldness would then appear inevitable. The fact that Egypt, Assyria, and the East itself were all within hail, had more to do with the peculiar form taken by the Greek genius than we are now prepared to grant. If so, the actual glory of Hellenic culture lay in the distinctiveness of its touch, and the energy of its manipulation, of the materials that came its way. Perhaps above even these qualities was a certain faculty of discrimination and organisation in which it excelled.

But in any case the Greek race would not have produced the Greek civilisation in any other geographical or ethnological position than the one which they happened to occupy. The utmost that can be said in praise of any special people is that they have known how to give a strong impress of their own to those materials which the world of their time brought to their door. If this be the high watermark then of national achievement, what is there to be said for that of India? Has she, or has she not, a touch of her own that is unmistakable? Surely it was a knowledge of the answer that led us to this question. Even in decorative matters the thing that is Indian cannot be mistaken for the product of any other nationality. Who can fail to recognise the Indian, the Assyrian, die Egyptian, or the Chinese touch in, for example, the conventionalizing of a lotus? In form, in costume, in character, and above all, in thought, the thing that is Indian is unlike any un-Indian thing in the whole world. For the mind that tends to be depressed by the constant talk of Indian debts to foreign sources, the best medicine is a few minutes' quiet thought as to what India has done with it all. Take refuge for a moment in the Indian world that you see around you.

Think of your history. Is it claimed that some other people made Buddhism? Or that Shiva with his infinite renunciation was a dream of Europe? No: If India shared a certain fund of culture elements with other people, that is nothing to be unhappy about. The question is not, where did they come from? But what has she made out of them? Has India been equal to her opportunities at every period? Has she been strong enough to take all that she knew to be in the world at each given period, and assimilate it, and nationalise it in manner and use? No one in his senses would deny this of India. Therefore she has nothing of shame or mortification to fear from any inquiry into culture origins.

                                                                                   

Sunday 26 August 2018

The History of India.....Sister Nivedita

If India itself be the book of Indian history, it follows that travel is the true means of reading that history. The truth of this statement, especially while the published renderings of our history remain so inadequate and so distorted, ought never to be forgotten. Travel, as a mode of study, is of infinite importance. Yet it is not everything. It is quite possible to travel the world over and see nothing, or only what is not true. We see, after all, only what we are prepared to see. How to develop the mind of the taught, so that it shall see, not what its teacher has led it to expect, but the fact that actually passes before the eyes is the problem of all right scientific education. In history also, we want to be able to see, not the thing that would be pleasant, but the thing that is true. For this we have to go through a strenuous preparation.

With a few of the counters of the game, as it were, we take it for granted that one is already familiar. The great names of Indian history—Buddhism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Islam—mean something to one. Gradually each student makes for himself his own scale of signs by which to compare the degrees of this or that quality that interests him. He chooses his own episode, and begins to see it in its proper setting. Bihar, from its geographical and ethnological position, cannot fail to be one of the most complex and historically interesting provinces in India. In studying Bihar, then, we early learn the truth of the dictum of the late Purna Chandra Mukherji, and whenever we find a tamarind tree mentally substitute by way of experiment, a Bo or when we come across a rounded hillock with the grave of a Pir on the top, convert it into a Stupa, and make it a Buddhist centre. If we do this, and cultivate the habit of summing up our impressions, we shall be led to many wonderful and unexpected conclusions about the distribution of population at the, Mohammedan invasion, the strength and forms of Buddhism, and so on.

But one of the master-facts in Indian history, a fact borne in upon us more deeply with every hour of study, is that India is and always has been a synthesis. No amount of analysis, racial, lingual, or territorial, will ever amount in the sum to the study of India. Perhaps the axioms of Euclid are not axioms after all. Perhaps all the parts of a whole are not equal to the whole. At any rate, apart from and above, all the fragments which must be added together to make India, we have to recognize India herself, all-containing, all-dominating, moulding and shaping the destinies and the very nature of the elements out of which she is composed. The Indian people may be defective in the methods of mechanical organisation, but they have been lacking, as a people, in none of the essentials of organic synthesis. No Indian province has lived unto itself, pursuing its own development, following its own path, going its way unchallenged and alone. On the contrary, the same tides have swept the land from end to end. A single impulse has bound province to province at the same period, in architecture, in religion, in ethical striving. The provincial life has been rich and individual, yet over and above it all India has known how to constitute herself a unity, consciously possessed of common hopes and common loves. Thus in the pursuit of epochs and parts we must never forget the Mother and the Motherland, behind them all. In remembering her and turning to her, again and again we shall find the explanation that had baffled us, discover the link that we required.

....From Footfalls of Indian History...contd

                                                                                   

Saturday 25 August 2018

The History of India....Sister Nivedita

That the birth of Chaitanya took place on this very day of Holi-Puja, thus determining another of its associations, may seem to some of us an accident. But it was no accident that attempted to interpret the festival in terms of Krishna-worship. Some phase of Hinduism—to which, in the elaborateness of its civilisation, the thought of frank Eros-worship was as revolting and incomprehensible as now to ourselves—some such phase took into its consideration this festival, and decided to reinterpret each of its games and frolics in the light of the gambols of Krishna with the cowherds in the forest of Brindavana. The red powder of the spring-time thus became the blood of the demon Medhrasura slain by the Lord. It was natural that the young peasants, under the excitement of danger just escaped, should "blood" one another and should yearly thereafter burn the effigy of Medhrasura in celebration of their deliverance. We can almost hear the voices of those who made the ingenious suggestion!

In the Holi-Puja, then, as an instance, we can trace the efforts of some deliberately Hinduising power. This power, it is safe to suppose, is the same that has determined the sacred year as a whole. As a power it must have been ecclesiastical in character, yet must have lived under the aegis of a powerful throne. What throne was this? A very simple test is sufficient to answer. Those comparatively modern institutions which are more or less universal to the whole of India must have derived their original sanction from Pataliputra. Things which are deeply established, and yet peculiar to Bengal, must have emanated from Gour. One of the most important points, therefore, is to determine the geographical distribution of a given observance. In this tact lies the secret of its age.

Historical events as such have never been directly commemorated in India. Yet perhaps, had Guru Govind Singh in the Punjab or Ramdas of Maharashtra lived in the time of the empire of Gour, he would have obtained memorials at the hands of Bengali Hinduism. The fact that none of their age has done so shows that the calendar was complete before their time. Even Chaitanya, born in Bengal itself, and a true product of the genius of the people, is scarcely secure in the universal synthesis. His veneration, like that of Buddha, is overmuch confined to those who have surrendered to it altogether. But if in the intellectual sense we would fully understand Chaitanya himself, it is necessary again to study the history of India as a whole, and to realise in what ways he resembled, and in what differed from, other men of his age. What he shared with all India was the great mediaeval impulse of Vaishnavism which originated with Ramanuja and swept the country from end to end. That in which his Vaishnavism differed from that of the rest of India represents the characteristic ideas of Bengal under the strong individualizing influence of Gour and Vikrampur.

In all that lies around us then, we may, if our eyes are open, read the story of the past. The life we live today has been created for us by those who went before us, even as the line of sea-weed on the shore has been placed there by the waves of the tides now over, in their ebb and flow. The present is the wreckage of the past. India as she stands is only to be explained by the history of India. The future waits, for us to create it out of the materials left us by the past, aided by our own understanding of this our inheritance.

 ...from Footfalls of Indian History....continued..