INDIAN COUNCIL OF PHILOSOPHICAL RESEARCH
in association with
Illumined Seers, Poets And Leaders
18TH JANUARY 2004
I feel sincerely grateful that this Consultation Seminar has come to be organised and that 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, Indian Council of Philosophical Research has undertaken a major programme of developing in our country the theme of Philosophy of Value-oriented Education. We have had a major conference on this subject two years ago and 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 were 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 domain, we have been feeling that nothing can stimulate value-oriented education as the 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, but it 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 in regard to which we need greater clarity. Why, for instance, have we spoken of illumination? And the related question is: What is illumination?
The reason as to why we have spoken of illumined seers in our seminar is that nothing is as purifying as knowledge, and 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 which keep us tied down to narrow and injurious 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 the 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 we know, there are biographies and biographies, there are autobiographies and autobiographies, and there are various accounts of events and anecdotes, and 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 discrimination so that the kind of the studies of leaders that we offer to them bears a certain high quality and certain sublimity of inspiration. This is not merely a question of quality and style but also of the height and greatness 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 should 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 should like philosophers and educationists to come forward to provide maturer 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 bursts upon us on account of clarity that dawns upon us. This clarity may be regarded as 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 essential 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 seizing, 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 feel the opening of wide horizons or feel as though we have climbed high altitudes or else touched and experienced the depths and depths 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 experience 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 and life-movements are seized, understood, comprehended, held and possessed. And this illumination imparts to us a great sense of repose, intense peace of harmony of being. And often this illumination goes farther 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 ripe fruit of the splendour and glory of synthesis and harmony, and this ripeness imparts to our consciousness a state of intense inwardness, penetrating insights into subjects, objects, situations, and events. We may even say that wisdom, too, has varying degrees of globality and transcendences, which from their higher heights 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 strike plummets into those depths from where new knowledge can spring forth. Wisdom thus reveals unsuspected secrets, and wisdom becomes a source in our personality for the development of unimagined 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 great names of Vasistha and Vishwamitra, of Vāmadeva and Atri, we also know some of the names that shine out of the Upanishads – Yājñavalkya and Janaka, Sanatkumara and Nārada, and we have also the great names of Vālmiki and Vyāsa and even in modern times, we have Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Aurobindo, ‒ and they all provide to us some glimpses into the operations of intuition, revelation, inspiration and illumination. How wonderful it would be if some of the accomplished authors of India undertake a task of producing a monograph 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 great 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. They 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 great heights of illumination which these seers had reached.
Coming to the subject of heroism, we may ask as to what exactly are the ingredients of this great force that has been greatly exemplified throughout the long period of five thousand years of Indian history. We normally attribute the concept of heroism with the qualities that come into play in 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 normally think of heroism that is involved in great adventures, ‒ adventures of discovery and invention, adventures of developing new forms of art, literature, or adventures that prepare new paths which are greatly opposed by contemporaries and they nonetheless lead people to the achievements which are at one time unimagined or undreamt. We may define heroism as 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 centrally connected with the faculty of volition. There is, indeed, 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 in 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 highest states of greatness of refinement when 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 heroines of varying degrees and even of the highest degrees and of the highest kind. When we 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 full-blown lotus where every petal beautifully 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 example, the central hero of the Mahabharata, namely, Arjuna. My own reading is very limited, and I have no right to complain, but I must confess that I have not found any monograph of Arjuna. I would be greatly happy if the learned authors assembled here could give me one or two examples of well written and inspiring accounts devoted centrally to Arjuna. This is only a stray example that I have taken. But I should 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 and inspiring accounts of these heroic personalities.
Finally, we may come to the subject of harmony. This is the 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 can be regarded as an appropriate object of will-force that is the essential ingredient of heroism. And harmony can be regarded as an appropriate object and appropriate expression of ananda. Harmony is basically a matter of creativity, and harmony is best expressed in poetry and in art, and in literature, architecture,
and various other plastic and performing arts. But harmony need 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 and 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 their very 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 a 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 should 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 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 illumined seers, poets and leaders of India, and the information regarding which will be transmitted for the use of students and teachers of the country.