In this series of articles, we are introducing the book ‘How I Became Hindu’ by Shri Sita Ram Goel, to readers old and new. Late SR Goel is one of the leading intellectuals & writers of Independent Bharat, whose work was subsequently marginalised & suppressed by the left-leaning academic establishment. We are grateful to VoiceOfDharma.org for making this treasure trove of books/articles available for the common public.
8. Return To My Spiritual Home
I had to leave Calcutta for good and return to Delhi on account of my health. I had spent twelve long years in that great and stormy centre of Bengali culture and politics. I had participated in Calcutta’s politics in a way. It was my misfortune that I did not drink equally deep at the fount of Bengali culture which had, in the recent past, become synonymous with Bharat’s reawakening to her innermost soul.
Bengal herself was turning away from that great heritage and towards an imported ideology which was leading her towards spiritual desolation.
But I did make a lasting contact with Bengali literature which I consider to be one of the greatest literatures of the world, leave alone Bharat. I thought that while Gurudeva Rabindranath was the greatest poet of modem times, Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyaya could rub shoulders with any great novelist the world had known.
And I was greatly drawn towards Vaishnava and Baul poets whose padavali kirtana (songs centred round Sri Krishna) and mystic muse were still a living tradition in Bengal. I had the privilege to attend some sessions of these singers of the soul’s striving towards divinity.
My new job in Delhi gave me a lot of leisure. I could read and think and take stock of my situation as I took long walks along the lonely avenues of New Delhi. But what mattered most was that I could now spend all my evenings with Ram Swarup. I could see that his seeking had taken a decisive turn towards a deeper direction. He was as awake to the social, political and cultural scene in Bharat as ever before.
But this vigil had now acquired an entirely new dimension. Political, social and cultural movements were no more clashes or congregations of external forces and intellectual ideas; they had become projections of psychic situations in which the members of a society chose to stay. His judgments had now acquired a depth which I frequently found it difficult to fathom.
Ram Swarup was now spending long hours sitting in meditation. His talks now centred round the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Gita, the Mahabharata, and the Buddha. He invited me to sit in meditation with him sometimes. I tried off and on. But I was too restless to sit in a single pose for long, close my eyes to the outer world, and peep into the void in search of some new perceptions. I had a strong urge to write and pour myself out in strong comments on the current political situation. But who was there to publish what I wrote?
It was at this time that Shri K.R. Malkani, the soft spoken and ever smiling editor of the Organiser, extended the hospitality of his weekly to me. I wrote more or less regularly in the Organiser for several years. One of my long series was devoted to a political biography of Pandit Nehru which ultimately cost me my job.
Some friends frowned upon my writing for the Organiser. My invariable reply was that one paid court at the portals of the so called prestigious papers only if one had nothing to say and if one’s only aspiration was for a fat cheque. I found Shri Malkani a very conscientious editor. He never crossed a ‘t’ or dotted an ‘i’ of whatever I wrote, without consulting me.
Another great man I met in Delhi at this time was Shri Gurudatta, the noted Hindi novelist and exponent of Hindu culture. It was rather timidly and in a casual tone that I mentioned to him a novel which I had finished. His response was instantaneous and very warm hearted. He invited me to write whatever I felt like and assured me that he would see to it that it was published.
He kept his promise, even though I eventually involved his publisher in some losses. But what fascinated me was the tender human being hiding behind that tough exterior. He was my senior by more than twenty years. He had been a vigilant witness to a long cultural and political history since the twenties of this century. He had also developed a systematic critique of events and personalities in his own ideological perspective.
But I never saw him impose the weight of his years or his wisdom on others. I always found him ready to change his own judgment if he felt convinced by an opposite statement of facts or logic. His capacity to become young with the younger generation was simply marvellous.
I was using my spare time during these 3-4 years to brush up my Sanskrit. I made quite a headway because I relinquished the aid of Hindi or English translations and broke through some very tough texts with the help of Sanskrit commentaries alone. At last I was able to read the Mahabharata in its original language, the Girvana Bharati. The 4 volume text published by the Gita Press came in quite handy. It was an experience unparalleled in the whole of my studies so far.
In the long evenings I spent with Ram Swarup I compared with him my notes on the Mahabharata. But Ram Swarup’s way of looking at the Mahabharata was quite different. He related it directly to the Vedas. He expounded how the mighty characters of this great epic embodied and made living the spiritual vision of the Vedic seers.
What fascinated me still more was Ram Swarup’s exposition of Dharma as enunciated in the Mahabharata. To me, Dharma had always been a matter of moral norms, external rules and regulations, do’s and don’ts, enforced on life by an act of will. Now I was made to see Dharma as a multi dimensional movement of man’s inner law of being, his psychic evolution, his spiritual growth, and his spontaneous building of an outer life for himself and the community in which lie lived.
The next thing I did was to read and re-read the major works of Sri Aurobindo and discuss his message with Ram Swarup, day after day. Sri Aurobindo would have remained an abstract philosopher for me in spite of all his writings on Yoga, had not Ram Swarup explained to me how this seer was the greatest exponent of the Vedic vision in our times.
Sri Aurobindo’s message, he told me, was in essence the same old Vedic message, namely, that we ire Gods in our innermost being and should live the life of Gods on this earth. He made me see what Sri Aurobindo meant by the physical, the vital, the mental, and the psychic. He related these terms to the theory of the five kosas in the Upanishads.
But Sri Aurobindo was not an exponent of Vedic spirituality alone. He was also a poet, a connoisseur, a statesman, and a superb sociologist. His Human Cycle was an interpretation of history which placed man’s striving for spiritual perfection in his inner as well as outer life as the prime mover of the world matrix.
His Foundations of Bharatiya Culture made me see for the first time that our multifaceted heritage of great spirituality, art, architecture, literature, social principles, and political forms sprang from and revolved round a single centre. That centre was Sanatana Dharma which was the very soul of Bharat. Sri Aurobindo had made it very clear in his Uttarpara Speech that Bharat rose with the rise of Sanatana Dharma and would die if Sanatana Dharma was allowed to die.
Another great writer who led me on It this stage was Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. I had read all his novels but had never been able to understand why he had been honoured is a rishi. I myself was a novelist and had already written several humane stories. I thought that a novelist dealt with the dimensions of human character and mapped the heights it could scale and the depths to which it could sink.
Why should we foist the title of a rishi on this poor fellow? That way rishis will be available a dime a dozen. My doubts about Bankim Chandra being a rishi were removed when I read the second volume of his Collected Works in Bengali. His insights into the innermost core of Hindu culture were a revelation. His Ramayaner Alochona made me see the monstrosities of modern Indology, more than ever before. I immediately translated this masterpiece into Hindi.
In my earlier days I had read the biography of Sri Ramakrishna written by Romain Rolland. I had read the talk which Vivekananda had delivered long ago about “My Master”. I had visited Sri Ramakrishna’s room at Dakshineshwar. I had also seen a Bengali film on his life. But what brought me into an intimate and living contact with this great mystic and bhakta and shakta and advaitin, was his Kathamrita.
He had not used a single abstraction nor discussed any of the problems which pass as philosophy. His talks embodied expressions of a concrete consciousness which had dropped every trace of the dirt and dross and inertia which characterise what is known as normal human consciousness.
The metaphors which sprang spontaneously from this purified consciousness were matchless in their aptness and illumined in a few words the knotted problems which many voluminous works had failed to solve. I was now having my first intimations of immortality towards which Kabir and Nanak and Sri Garibdas had inclined me earlier.
The final breakthrough came with the publication of Ram Swarup’s long article, “Buddhism vis-a-vis Hinduism,” in the Organiser sometime in 1959. The Buddha’s parable of the man struck by an arrow and refusing medical aid until a number of his intellectual questions and curiosities were satisfied, struck me in my solar plexus as it were.
I had spent a lifetime revelling in intellectual exercises. What was the nature of the Universe? What was man’s place in it? Was there a God? Had he created this Cosmos? Why had he made such a mess of it? What was the goal of human life? Was man free to pursue that goal? Or was he predetermined or predestined or fated for a particular goal by forces beyond his control? And so on and so forth, it was an endless cerebration.
The Buddha had described it as Drishti kantara, the desert of seeking. Sri Ramakrishna had also ridiculed the salt doll of an intellect which had gone out to fathom the great ocean but got dissolved at the very first dip.
I was now sure that the quality of questions I raised was controlled by the quality of my consciousness. Ram Swarup told me that what we called the normal human consciousness hid to be made passive before one could establish contact with another consciousness which held the key to the proper questions and the proper answers. Wrestling with and stirring up the normal consciousness with ill sorts of questions and curiosities was the surest way to block the way of a purer and higher consciousness which was always waiting on the threshold.
I now requested Ram Swarup to initiate me into the art of meditation. He told me that no very elaborate art was involved. I could sit and meditate with him, whenever I liked, wait and watch, go within myself as far as I could manage at any time, dwell on whatever good thoughts got revealed, and the rest would follow. I acted upon his simple instructions with some measure of scepticism in my mind. But in the next few days I could see some results which encouraged me for a further endeavour.
One day I meditated on Ahimsa which had remained an abstract concept for me so far. After a while I found myself begging forgiveness from all those whom I had hurt by word or deed, or towards whom I had harboured any ill will. It was not an exercise in generalities. Person after person rose in my memory, going back into the distant past, and I bowed in repentance before each one of them.
Finally, I begged forgiveness from Stalin against whom I had written so much and upon whom I had hurled so many brickbats. The bitterness which had poisoned my life over the long years was swept off my mind in a sudden relaxation of nerves. I felt as if a thousand thorns which tormented my flesh had been taken out by a master physician without causing the slightest pain. I was in need of no greater assurance that this was the way on which I should walk.
One day, I told Ram Swarup how I, had never been able to accept the Devi either as Saraswati or as Lakshmi or as Durga or as Kali. He smiled and asked me to meditate on the Devi that day. I tried my best in my own way. Nothing happened for some time. Nothing came my way. My mind was a big blank.
But in the next moment the void was filled with a sense of some great presence. I did not see any concrete image. No words were whispered in my cars. Yet the rigidity of a lifetime broke down and disappeared. The Great Mother was beckoning her lost child to go and sit in her lap and feel safe from all fears. We had a gramophone record of Dr. Govind Gopal Mukhopadhyaya’s sonorous stun to the Devi. As I played it, I prayed to Her.
There were many more meditations. My progress was not fast; nor did I go far. But I now felt sure that this was the method by which I could rediscover for myself the great truths of which the ancients had spoken in Hindu scriptures. It was not the end of my seeking, which had only started in right earnest. But it was surely the end of my wandering in search of a shore where I could safely anchor my soul, and take stock of my situation.
Ram Swarup warned me very strongly against letting my reflective reason go to sleep under the soporific of inner experience, however deep or steep. This was the trap, he said, into which many a practitioner had fallen and felt sure that they had found the final truth, even when they were far away from the goal.
The tragedy of Semitic prophets, particularly Moses and Muhammad, was still greater. They had no inkling of the yogic method of deepening, enlarging, and purging the human consciousness of its inherent impurities. They passed under the spell of some external though passionate idea, internalised it by a constant and fanatic preoccupation with it, confused the voice of this idea with the voice of God, and ended by claiming a monopoly of truth for themselves and a monopoly of virtue for their followers.
Jesus Christ was not a Semitic prophet in this sense. He was a mystic and a spiritual seeker. But his universal message was soon eclipsed by the exclusive theology of Paul and other founding fathers of the Christian Church. They were also seized by an external though passionate idea.
The soul’s hunger for absolute Truth, absolute Goodness, absolute Beauty and absolute Power, I was told, was like the body’s hunger for wholesome food and drink. And that which satisfied this hunger of the human soul, fully and finally, was Sanatana Dharma, true for all times and climes.
A votary of Sanatana Dharma did not need an arbitrary exercise of will to put blind faith in a supernatural revelation laid down in a single scripture. He did not need the intermediacy of an historical prophet nor the help of an organised church to attain salvation. Sanatana Dharma called upon its votary to explore his own self in the first instance and see for himself the truths expounded in sacred scriptures. Prophets and churches and scriptures could be aids but never the substitutes for self exploration, self purification, and self transcendence.
I had come back at last, come back to my spiritual home from which I had wandered away in self forgetfulness. But this coming back was no atavistic act. On the contrary, it was a reawakening to my ancestral heritage which was waiting all along for me to lay my claim on its largesses. It was also the heritage of all mankind as proved by the seers, sages and mystics of many a time and clime. It spoke in different languages to different people.
To me it spoke in the language of Hindu spirituality and Hindu culture at their highest. I could not resist its call. I became a Hindu.
(To be continued…)
Book: How I Became Hindu
Author: Sita Ram Goel
Published by: Voice of India
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