Illumined Seers and Heroes (18 January 2004, ICPR Delhi) - Audio

I feel sincerely grateful that this consultation seminar has come to be organised and so many eminent educationists, thinkers and scholars have assembled here to give us the benefit of their advice relating to the purpose of this seminar.

As you know ICPR has undertaken a major program of developing in our country the theme of philosophy of value oriented education. We had a major conference on this subject two years ago. We have published a volume containing the proceedings of that conference. Thereafter we had seminars relating to art, poetics, nationalism and other similar subjects.

These seminars are focussed on what may be called an attempt to develop materials that will be relevant to applied philosophy of value oriented education and in this field we have a feeling that nothing can stimulate value oriented education as a study of inspiring biographies, autobiographies and accounts of great events which gave us insights into the greatness of the characters who shaped those events.

In this connection we are making an effort to study the situation that obtains in our country in regard to the literature that is available in connection with biographies, autobiographies and great events for the younger generation in the country. In this search some information has been collected and just now Saritaji has given you a list but that is just a fringe.

Hence we thought of organising this national consultation seminar so that the participants who have wide knowledge and experience in this field can give us the information and also advice as to how and with whose help we can promote the task of writing monographs on themes relating to those great men and women who have shaped our country and enriched India’s great heritage.

This seminar is not merely to collect or exchange information but also to contemplate on certain concepts on which we need greater clarity. Why for instance we have spoken of illumination and the related question is what is illumination.

The reason of why we have spoken of illumined seers in our seminar is that nothing is as purifying as knowledge. This is a famous sentence from Bhagavad Gita. That nothing inspires purity as accounts of those who have pursued knowledge and enriched the store of knowledge. Illumination is we might say one of those uplifting forces that can liberate us from the slavery to impulses, passions and a number of emotions that keep us tied down to narrow and injuirous interests.

Along with illumination there are also two other forces which serve the same or similar purpose. These are the uplifting forces and examples of heroism and harmony. Even to hear of heroism inspires the development of qualities of courage, fearlessness and self-sacrifice.

Similarly there is nothing as satisfying as the experience of harmony in the collective life. And there have been a number of leaders in our country who have given examples through their own life to show how they have cultivated greater and greater integration of harmony in their own nature and how they have laboured selflessly to create harmony in the society.

As you know there are biographies and biographies, there are autobiographies and autobiographies and there are various accounts of events and anecdotes of men and women who have played a major role in creating or shaping important events. If however we have to do a real service to students and teachers, we have to develop in the country a cultivated sense of discrimation, so that the kind of studies of leaders that we offer to them bears a certain high quality and certain sublimity of inspiration. This is not in India a question of quality and style but also of height and greatness and of the substance of the themes that are presented.

It is therefore necessary that there should be forums where discussions are held on these aspects of literature. And it is in this context that I would like to devote this inaugural address and reflect on three terms which I have just mentioned, namely illumination, heroism and harmony. These reflections are only elementary and I would like philosophers and educationists to come forward to provide mature reflections so that we can speak of these three uplifting forces to our students and teachers more meaningfully and thereby enable them to discriminate in the literature presented to them which constitute the quintessential ingredients of these three uplifting forces.

The first question is as to what we mean by illumination. I believe that all of us have had varying degrees of experience in which we have felt some kind of inner joy that burst forth upon us on account of clarity that dawns upon us.

[Illumination] is an indispensable element in which the object of inquiry shines out in our consciousness as understood or even comprehended, but clarities are of varying degrees and of various kinds. At higher levels of clarities we feel that something essentially is understood, or else the significance of substance and life movements are seized, understood and comprehended. There are still other clarities in which we feel that our inner eyes have been opened and the resultant experience is not only of a seizing or understanding or comprehending but even of holding and possessing in our own being the meaning and value and even the widening scope of the subject in question.

At still deeper levels we or feel the opening of wide horizons or feel as though we are flying at high altitudes, or else touch in experience the depth and depth of meaning and value. In one of the bold images of the Veda we have the description of Vishnu as the eye that is spread over the whole sky.

In all these higher experiences of clarities we have some kind of ignition of inner light. We might say that illumination is basically the experience of ignition of inner light in which meaning and value of substance in life movements are seized, understood, comprehended, held and possessed. And this illumination imparts to us a great sense of repose, intense peace and harmony of being, and often this determination goes further and it stimulates and inspires guided action and application.

At still higher levels. Illumination bursts forth in creativity of higher and higher orders, which culminates in joy, delight, and even ecstasy. Illumination is a great door that opens out upon wisdom. For wisdom is the right fruit of the ripeness and glory of synthesis and harmony, and this ripeness imparts to our consciousness a state of intense inwardness, manifesting insights into subjects, object, situations and events.

We may even say that wisdom too, has varying degrees of globality and transcendences, which from their higher eyes can look upon the movements of life with a certain mastery and capacity to deal with needed restraint and optimum expenditure of energy. Wisdom is also the capacity to discover the meanings of hints and clues, even in unsuspected corners and it can plummet into those depths from where the worlds came forth. Wisdom reveals unsuspected secrets and wisdom becomes the source in our personality for the development of unimaginable skills of art and craft and creativity and effectivity.

India has had the fortune of having produced a number of illumined seers, some of them of the highest order. We have with us the great names of Vashistha and Viswamitra, of Vamadeva and Atri. We also know some of the names that shine out of the Upanishads, Yagnavalkya and Janaka, Sanata Kumara and Narada. And we also have the great names of Valmiki and Vyasa. And even in modern times we have Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Aurobindo.

And they all point to us some glimpses into the operation of intuition, revelation, inspiration and illumination. How wonderful it would be if some of the accomplished authors of India were to undertake a task of producing the monographs on these illumined seers written in chaste and chiselled language and written with Insight and intimate sympathy so that our students and teachers come to learn some authentic account of these illumined seers.

It is true that we do not have any biographical or historically accurate information regarding many of these seers, but still we do have authentic texts of their writings, of their compositions, of their poems, which can provide some kind of inner understanding of the profundity and vastness of their vision and of their creative abilities. These writings constitute a precious heritage of our country, and we should enable our students to come into intimate contact with this heritage through the understanding of the great height of illumination which these seers had reached.

Coming to the subject of heroism we have to ask what exactly are the ingredients of this great force that has been generally exemplified throughout the long period of 5000 years of Indian history. We normally attribute the concept of heroism with the qualities that come into play in the battlefield. We do not normally take into account the courage and heroism of thinkers who are able to think boldly and with the spirit of innovation. We do not think normally of heroism that is involved in great adventures, adventures of discovery and invention, adventures of developing new forms of art, literature, or adventures which prepared in the past which are greatly opposed by contemporaries which ultimately lead people to achievements which at one time are unimagined or undreamt.

We may define heroism as the inspired force of self-giving and sacrifice in will that is applied to the quest, realisation and triumph of meaning and value against the resistance of limitations and obstacles by means of courage, battle and adventure. Just as Illumination is concerned with the cognitive faculty, even so heroism is connected with the faculty of volition. There is indeed a close connection between the faculty of cognition and faculty of volition, just as there is close connection of these faculties with the faculty of affection. The greater the illumination, the greater is heroism, the greater the heroism the greater is the possibility of arriving at higher altitudes of illumination and the greater heights of heroism and illumination prepare a more fertile soil for experience and expression of harmony.

There are degrees and heights of heroism which can be determined by the intensity, persistence and vastness of sacrifice. Again, heroism attains the highest state of greatness of refinement where it is guided by the highest wisdom and inspired by the sense of service to the ends of justice and harmony, and when the related tasks are executed with consummate skills.

India has been a land of heroes and heroics of various degrees and heroes of the highest degrees and of the highest kind. When you speak of Rama as a hero we do not think merely of a leader or a king who showed exemplary strength and skill and courage but we worship him because he showed exemplary equanimity under all circumstances most of which were highly adverse. We also think of him as the one who combined virtues in such a harmonious order where his entire character is imaged as a fully bloomed lotus where every petal beautifully is blended with other petals imparting inexpressible charm and beauty of the highest order.

But this is only one of the examples of heroism in India and we have hundreds and thousands. Unfortunately, our literature of heroic leaders is not as ample as it ought to have been. Take for instance, this hero of the Mahabharata in the Arjuna. I am very happy, Mrs. Sarita Saraf at the very beginning spoke of this particular example. My own reading is very limited and I have no right to complain, but I must confess that I have not found a single monograph in our country exclusively devoted to Arjuna and I will be greatly happy if learned authors assembled here could give me one or two inspiring accounts devoted centrally to Arjuna.

This is only a stray example that I have taken, but I would like to suggest that we should be able to make a list of heroic personalities that India has had and demand from the authors to give to our students and teachers well-written, well-chiselled accounts of these heroic personalities.

Finally, we may come to the subject of harmony. This is a word which is very difficult to define. Harmony is particularly related to the aspect of ananda, which is ontologically related to Sat and Chit and their unity, Sat may be regarded as an appropriate object of the process of illumination and Chit or Chit-Shakti may be regarded as an appropriate object of Will-Force, that is essential ingredient of heroism. And harmony can be regarded as an appropriate object of ananda.

Harmony is basically a matter of creativity and harmony is best expressed in poetry and in art and literature, architecture and various other artistic and performing arts. But harmony will not be limited only to artistic creativity which is manifested in familiar domains. Harmony can also be in the development of virtues, in the development of relationships, in the development of uniting various forces and expressions of matter, life, mind and spirit.

The saints of India, many of whom have not been poets or composers, but have any personality vibrated with the beauty and charm and gentleness that can be engendered only by a deep integration and harmony of faculties and powers. Fundamentally harmony is synthesis. Harmony is equilibrium. Harmony is perfection. It may be said that harmony is the progressive state and action of synthesis and equilibrium generated by creative forces of joy and beauty and delight that combines and unites knowledge and peace and stability with will and action and growth and development. Without harmony, we may venture to suggest, there is no perfection, even though there could be maximisation of one or more elements of our nature.

Finally, it may be said that when illumination and heroism join and engender relationships of mutuality and unity, each is perfected by the other and the creativity is endless.

Monographs on the theme of harmony are conspicuously small in number in our country. Again I would like to be enlightened by the authors and scholars who are here, and I would like to learn of the books and monographs that are available in our country, which illustrate the theme of harmony in its various aspects.

In the end, let me make a fervent appeal to the scholars and authors assembled here to be continuously related and associated with our Council of Philosophical Research and provide to this council information and instruction that can enable this council to contribute significantly to the presentation of the very best writings, compositions and monographs that illustrate illuminance seers, poets and leaders of India and the information regarding which will be transmitted for the use of students and teachers of the country.

Thank you.