Gandhiji's Ten Questions
As published in The Harmonist (Sree Sajjanatoshani)
Edited by Paramahamsa Paribrajakacharyya Sri Srimad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Maharaj
- Define untouchability according to the Shastras.
- Can the definition of the untouchables given in the Shastras be applied to the so-called untouchables of the present day?
- What are the restrictions imposed by the Shastras on the untouchables?
- Can an individual be free from untouchability in his own life time?
- What are the injunctions of the Shastras regarding the behaviour of the touchables towards the untouchbles?
- Under what circumstances will the Shastras permit temple entry by untouchables?
- What are the Shastras?
- How is the authoritativeness of the Shastras to be proved?
- How are the differences arising over the definitions or interpretations of the Shastras to be decided?
- What are your conclusions?
In various texts of the spiritual Smritis, which contain the regulations that apply to the external conduct of persons desirous of attaining the life of service of Godhead, all intimate association with persons, who are openly hostile to the Scriptures or who neglect to obey the injunctions of the Shastras commanding all persons to lead the pure (svattika) life prescribed for the Brahmanas and their dependants, is categorically forbidden. This prohibition does not include association that is strictly necessary for secular purposes in conformity with the spiritual end. Nor does it imply that any person is to be looked down upon or disrespected. Intimate association is defined as consisting of giving and taking presents, eating and feeding, hearing and telling secrets. Gandhiji has consciously or unconsciously borrowed the idea of non-violent non-co-operation from these very texts of the Shastras but with this all-important difference that the Shastras reserve its application solely to the spiritual purpose. There are also Smritis for the regulation of purely secular affairs which also contain taboos and restrictions which are the outcome of racial, cultural or historical causes. But the spiritual Smritis subordinate all such interests to the spiritual purpose.
In regard to the performance of archana or ritualistic worship the spiritual Smritis also prescribe sundry restrictions. The Archa (Icon) must not be worshipped by a non-Brahmana i.e., by anyone who has no real knowledge of Godhead. Such knowledge is available to all persons who are prepared to submit to the necessary training enjoined by the spiritual Smritis upon the novice under the unconditional direction of the bonafide spiritual guide (sat guru). For the same reason those who have no real faith in the spiritual nature of the worshippers or the Archa are forbidden to have a sight of the Icon. The worshipper may permit any one to have a sight of the Archa who has any real faith or, at the rate, who is not deliberately opposed to the Archa, the authority of the Scriptures and of the Brahmanas. This has its bearing on the issue of temple entry by untouchables and touchables alike, although not in the sense in which the question now-a-days presents itself to the mercenary priests on the hand and the demos, empiricists and social and political reformers on the other. But the reform of the present abnormal state of affairs in the temples is not likely to be expedited by the practical abolition of the Shastric institution by the acceptance of any proposal in the form in which it is likely to emanate from the leaders of the demos. The saner course would be allow sufficient time for the people to ponder over the real meaning of the mode of worship of Godhead by the method of archana revealed by the Shastras by trying to enlist for the cause all the resources of dispassionate judgment of the best minds. The Harmonist has been trying to place the issue before the whole world through the medium of the English language in a rationalistic form within the narrow limits that the method is at all applicable to the Absolute.
The so-called untouchables of the present day are groups of people who lie on the fridge of the orthodox Hindu society as the result of cultural and historical causes. It is a matter for the consideration of the nation whether it is time to admit them on a footing of social equality on the ground that the causes of keeping aloof from them have ceased to exist. It is a mistake to confound the regulations of the secular smiritis for religious sanction. But the gulf between secular and spiritual is never bridged over by overlooking or explaining away its existence as has been attempted by the empiric philosophers in this country and elsewhere. The point of view of the Indian Philosophers is so far admissible that no secular arrangement should be acceptable to the race that is opposed to its spiritual requirements. The theistic interpreters of the Vedanta from Sree Ramanuja onwards have provided the real philosophical background of the ritualistic worship enjoined by the spiritual Shastras. The Career and Teaching of Lord Chaitanya complete the arch of transcendental philosophy that spans the otherwise impassable gulf separating this world from the realm of the Absolute.
The nature of the restrictions, which are imposed by the Shastras on one's intercourse with the opponents of the Shastras, may be described as non-violent spiritual non-co-operation in every affair. All intimate mixing with such people for any purpose whatever must be avoided on principle. But this is to be done in such a way as not to hurt the worldly susceptibilities of any person or group. All worldly honor is to be paid where it is due by the standard of conduct established by general usage and legislation or is approved by the political guardians of secular society, unless it is found to be actually opposed to practices enjoined by the Shastras. In case there is actual Shastric ground for non-compliance the method of strictly non-violent non-co-operation should be followed by those who desire to obey the spirit of the Shastras. It may not be superfluous to add that spiritual living is impossible unless one is prepared to conduct one-self as the inferior of all other entities. Those alone who are exclusive servants of the Absolute Truth, are really in a position to pay full honor to all entities. Non-co-operation with the vagaries of the mind and body is due to the most profound respect for and faith in the superiority of every entity to oneself. The mind and body are the external casings and the cause of all disruptive differences. It is their nature to lead the soul away from the path of service to that of unnatural domination. It is necessary to steer clear of the dangers of imperialism on the one hand as well as of neutrality or equality on the other, the last term denoting approximately the modern democratic ideal. The real principle to be adopted is one of unconditional reverence for all entities by the realization and exclusive practice of the whole time service of the Absolute Truth. All entities are properly and fully served by the exclusive service of the Absolute. Any secular institution that is opposed to the realization of this true end must be non-co-operated with in the spirit of perfect loyalty to the eternal interests of all entities. These genuine attitudes of unreserved service of all entities are implied in the whole-time spiritual service of the Absolute in the form of archana. There can be no 'untouchables' in this method.
Everyone is free to serve the Absolute. The body and mind counsel the soul who is inclined to be disloyal, to try to be master in his own right. The Absolute is the only Master and all souls are His eternal servants. The servants of one's Master are also one's masters in as much as they represent and carry out the wishes of the Master. It is possible for every person to attain to the eligibility of the Transcendental Service of the Absolute by candid and unreserved submissive listening to the words of the bonafide teacher of the Truth. Insincerity of disposition can alone prevent a person from recognizing the bonafide agent of the Absolute who is the proper teacher of the Truth.
The injunctions of the spiritual smritis regarding proper conduct towards the opponents of the Shastras have been codified in Sree Haribhaktivilas by Sree Gopalbhatta Goswami by command of Lord Sree Chaitanya. But they cannot be properly understood or practiced except by submitting to be enlightened regarding the nature of one's own self by a course of spiritual pupilage under the bona fide teacher of the Absolute. The ordinary restrictions to be observed towards atheists are in regard to the six kinds of intimate relationship viz., giving and taking presents, eating with and feeding another person and hearing and telling the secrets to one another. These together with the specific restrictions that relate to performance of the ritualistic worship of the Archa (Icon) are observed by the Vaishnavas in their behaviour towards all declared atheists.
Entry into the Temple of Vishnu is allowable only to the worshippers of Vishnu. Vishnu is not a name concocted by the imagination of men. The Transcendental Name of Vishnu is identical with Himself. Vishnu is the only Godhead, the Absolute Person. The worshipper of the Name, Form, Quality, Activity and Servitors of Vishnu are the only worshippers of Godhead. The spontaneous service of Vishnu is eternally open to all souls by the Grace of the Absolute. Those who do not wish to worship Vishnu are automatically expelled from the transcendental plane of His worship and find their congenial occupations on this mundane plane. They are able to practice these occupations by means of their physical bodies and minds which are given them for this purpose by the Deluding Potency of Vishnu. The worldly occupations consist of the endeavor for supplying the wants of the body and mind by the method of open and concealed hostility to the similar bodies and minds of other entities. It is this pre-occupation with the malicious activities of the mundane plane that prevents the conditioned soul from entertaining any effective desire for attaining to the knowledge of the real state of things. The Temple of Vishnu is no Entity of the mundane plane and is inaccessible to the conditioned soul whether touchable or untouchable. The Archa of Vishnu. The Temple of Vishnu, the worshipper of Vishnu, the worship of Vishnu are all transcendental entities. Vishnu alone can admit the soul to the presence of these entities. The method by which the service of Vishnu is attainable by conditioned souls is made known to the people of this world by the transcendental agents of Vishnu who are the only real teachers of the eternal function of all souls revealed by the spiritual Scriptures. Those who are disposed to listen to the words of the bona fide teachers of the Absolute with faith and submission may be led thereby to submit to be enlightened by actually undergoing the necessary course of spiritual pupilage under the unconditional direction of the bonafide spiritual guide (Sat Guru). Only these persons, who are imparted diksha i.e spiritual enlightenment by the bona fide spiritual guide, become thereby eligible under his continuing direction to entry into the Temple of Vishnu for the purpose of worship. His worship is open to all persons on the above conditions. The Scriptures forbid the separate worship of the other gods, who are servants of Vishnu, as being derogatory to the dignity of the worship of Vishnu, the sole Object of all worship. The other gods should be honored as servants of Vishnu, but must not be worshipped as Godhead.
The Shastras are of various kinds. The spiritual Shastras are the only revealed Scriptures. They are Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas, the Mahabharata, the original Ramayana, the Pancharatra and all works that follow them. All other books are not only not Shastras but constitute the positive wrong track. The Shastra is so-called because He cannot be challenged, being the revealed Word of Godhead. He can be understood only by the method of obeying the real meaning of the injunctions to be learnt from the bona fide teacher by the method that is laid down in the Shastras. The empiric study and teaching of the spiritual Shastras by those who suppose them to be on a par with books written by empiricists, are strictly forbidden by the Shastras.
The authoritativeness of the Shastras cannot be proved by the empiric method in which the consensus of the testimony of the senses is assumed to establish the truth of a proposition regarding any mundane occurrence. The Absolute is located beyond the scope of the human senses and so the testimony of the senses, on which the empiricists rely, is not available for finding the Absolute. The Absolute reveals Himself to the senses of the soul by counteracting the opposition of the superimposed preventing apparatus of the physical senses. The Transcendental Sound appearing on the lips of His devotee has power of making Himself heard by the ear of the soul. Those persons who are privileged to hear the Transcendental Sound alone possess the knowledge of the Reality which is the only true knowledge. These persons are able to convey the Truth to conditioned souls by the process of oral communication. The Shastras, which are symbolized records of the Transcendental Sound, are not intelligible till the contents are heard in the form of articulated sound from the lips of self-realized souls. This is the one process of the Descent of the Absolute to this mundane plane. This process is part of the Vedic Revelation. There is no other method for approaching the Absolute. This negative testimony to the authoritative character of the Scriptural Records is in keeping with the requirements of empiric judgment. To this is to be added the positive testimony of a long series of self-realized souls who have attained spiritual enlightenment by following the Scriptural method. The more one devotes his unbiased attention to the arguments and recorded experience of this large number of pure souls the balance of probability is discovered to lie towards convinced faith in the authoritative character of the Scriptures and their being identical with the Word Who is God. It is only by submissive enquiry for the purpose of offering one's unconditional and exclusive service to the Absolute and to nothing else that the Mercy of the Absolute requires to be solicited. Empiric arrogance is akin to the ridiculous , immoral, ungrateful, irrational attitude of the grain of sand on the sea-shore aspiring to carry in its pores the great ocean whose tiny constituents it is. It is lack of humility before the Absolute that is responsible for our being saddled with the paraphernalia of the conditioned state for the elaborate display of our self-elected folly. The Shastras are identical with the Master and reserve the right of being not exposed to the limited mentality of man if He is approached by the challenging empiric mood. Godhead is Autocrat and His Authority is above all challenge. His Own Word is His sole testimony. Spiritual enlightenment is a matter of Grace, not of right. To realize that this must be so is the only proof of the possession of real sincerity of disposition. But such disposition towards the Absolute is also the gift of the causeless Mercy of the Absolute Himself.
There are no disruptive differences on the spiritual plane where the Absolute is eternally self-manifest to the uneclipsed cognition of the infinity of His servitors. Those interpretations that deviate from the line of vision of the Absolute produce discord and multiply differences only among those who are wanting in real sincerity of the unconditional serving disposition. The only way in which the doubts and difficulties of a conditioned soul may be removed is patient and loyal solicitation of the causeless Mercy of the Absolute for removing one's duplicity and irrational arrogance. The Word of the Teacher of the Absolute Truth is truer that the Earth and the Heavens and has to be received as such if His true meaning is to be realized. This is the teaching of all the revealed Scriptures. Worldly knowledge is not a help but is often a positive hindrances in the quest of the Absolute. Neither is the Absolute to be found by discarding the right use of one's cognitive faculty. No referendum to any number of unenlightened souls can help a person or community to obtain the sight of Godhead.
The Absolute cannot be known by any methods of aspiring endeavor that are familiar to philosophers and scientists who meddle with physical Nature. The only method is to wait for the Agent of the Absolute to take the initiative and to pray to be able to recognize him when he actually does appear on this mundane plane. The Agent of the Absolute can alone remove our ignorance of the Truth. Who is eternally revealed to this world by the spiritual Shastras in the Form of the Transcendental Word. The agent of the Absolute will announce himself to whom-so-ever the Absolute is pleased causelessly to manifest Himself. Those who do not obtain His Mercy are the only unfortunate persons. But those who are prepared to hope and wait for the Pleasure of the Absolute are well advised and will one day obtain His causeless Mercy as promised by the Shastras. External appearances are always deceptive and the Agent of the Absolute is likely to appear in the form that is least likely to appeal to the judgment of conditioned souls. It is necessary to keep the mind fully open to be enabled to recognize the Agent of the Absolute under whatever external form he may choose to manifest his appearance to our erring vision. Till one has been actually favored by the Mercy of the Absolute one must abstain from setting up as a preacher of the Truth.