Discontent of the
The contemporary man may resolve to explore. He may turn to the dialogues of Plato, learn and endure the Cartesian doubt, and marvel at the magnificence of Spinoza and Leibnitz. He may witness the conflict between Galileo and God, sharpen his intellect on the whetstone of materialism, pursue zealously the dispassionate inquiries of science, probe the 'fourth' dimension, examine evolution and mutation, and dream of a new physics, a new biology and a new psychology.
He may hear the categorical imperative, practise the austerities of morals, and knock at the doors of churches, temples and mosques. He may endeavour to set his feet on the paths of spiritual experience. He may imitate or live with Agni, Indra, Shiva, Krishna and Christ, sit at the feet of Agastya, Yajnavalkya, Aruni and Buddha, laugh with the sanyasin at the snaring net of Maya and meditate with Shankara on the reality of the Brahman, and yet yearn with Chaitanya for divine love and ecstasy.
He may do all this and yet find that he has no answer to his deeper quest and longing, which is still inarticulate and uncertain.
He may wish to engage in further study.
He may study history, politics, sociology and economics, and come to ask what defects in the past civilizations have led mankind to the confusion in which it has got engulfed, and how it can build a new glory that cannot fade.
Indeed, as he might review the sum of the past human endeavour, he would find that this past was fashioned overwhelmingly under the influence of the denial of the materialist on the one hand, and of the refusal of the ascetic on the other. Both had their full play in the course of man's history; both proved their utility, but both have finally shown their bankruptcy. It would become clear that no meaningful world can built if the ultimate stuff to which everything returns is the unconscious, insensitive, neutral and indifferent Matter, or else, if Matter and the world built on it were an illusion, they would be rejected as nought by the sole existent Spirit.
It is true, he may find that a number of religions, spiritual philosophies and systems of Yoga have attempted to build some meaningful realationship between the material world and God, whether conceived in deistic, pantheistic, theistic or in some primitive or ultra-modern terms. But all of them stumble when they come to pronounce the real meaning of Matter, precisely when they come to answer questions as to whether it is ultimately acceptable to God. Even the most catholic teachings which preach universal love for men and creatures and plants and all creation, have declared that Matter is not a fit robe for the Spirit; that it is, after all, to be discarded. They have, therefore, asked their adherents to prepare themselves for the life after death, for the Day of Judgement, for some paradise, some supra-terrestrial abode of God or of gods, vaikuntha.
Their concern for material life turns out ultimately to be a temporary compromise, at the most as a school for the 'fallen' soul to be chastened and trained, even under the threat of some eternal punishment, to enable it to return to its original source. None of them explains how the soul, originating from the divine source, or eternally a portion of the Divine, could 'fall' by some mistake or temptation or why, itself being, pure, any chastisement or training is needed at all. If the soul is pure
and if it has accepted the material world, it must be with some luminous understanding and for some noble or meaningful purpose. It cannot be merely to become capable of returning as soon as possible to its original home, which, in that case, it need not have left at all.
There must then be some deeper relationship between the soul and the earth, between Spirit and Matter. But this has not been admitted. Matter is seen either as a tomb of the soul or as a temporary instrument to be utilized for a release in some supra-terrestrial or supra-cosmic existence or non-existence, nirvana.
The result of these views on the earth cannot be substantially different from that of the exclusive refusal of the ascetic or of the denial of the materialist. It is then not surprising that even though they have played a great role in history and have even inspired some of the great cultures in which earthly life came to be developed to a high degree of excellence, most of these ultimately fell and collapsed, and even the rare ones, like the Indian culture, which did not meet that disastrous fate, have been suffering from serious maladies and are on the borderline of life and death, needing some radical cure.