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 Tagore and China 


 Sampson C. Shen

The relation between India and China has been unique in the history of the world. For thousands of years together, not a single conflict between two immediate neighboring countries is almost imconceivable, except the United States of America and Canada. More than that, instead of displaying brutal force, India and China exchanged their cultures and civilizations, religions and philosophies. Somebody may attribute this to the sky-pointing barriers of the Himalayas. But no explanation would be complete if it ignored the peaceloving nature of the two great peoples in the East, which is the real and fundamental reason underlying the fact. For aggression is the symbol of barbarism, which has long been cast away in these two nations; and without this brutal symbol, clash can never occur.

                But the great days when Fa Hien, Hsuan Tsang and I Tsing went to India and Kasyapa Matanga, Kumarajiva and Bodhidharma came to China did not last long. As we have seen before, after the Sung Dynasty, in China the Buddhist culture was hampered by the interposition of superstition and degenerating force; while its existence on the other side of the Himalayas had long been discontinued. Since the link of the two countries at that time chiefly depended upon Buddhism, so when Buddhism died out in India, the one nation was severed from the other. The political development in the later centuries further prevented close intercourse. Frankly speaking, very little was known about each other in any respect in the last six or seven hundred years. This old friendship was not resumed until 1924 when Gurudeva Tagore came to China.

                “The most memorable fact of human history is that of a path-opening, not for the clearing of a passage for machines or machine-guns, but for the helping the realization by races of their affinity of minds, their mutual obligations of a common humanity. Such a rare event did happen and the path was built between our people and Chinese in an age, when physical obstruction needed heroic personality to overcome it, and the mental barrier a moral power of uncommon magnitude. The two leading races of that age met, not as rivals on the battlefield, each claiming the right to be the sole tyrant on earth, but as noble friends glorying in their exchange of gifts. Then came a slow relapse into isolation, covering up the path with its accumulated dust of indifference. Today our old friends have beckoned to us again, generously helping us to retrace that ancient path, obliterated by the intertia of forgetful centuries and we rejoice.”

                These words were included in Tagore’s speech, ‘China and India,”but it may not be absurd if the Chinese had used then, just changing the word Chinese into Indian, to welcome him when he came to their country.

                Rabindranath came to China at the invitation of the Lecturer’s Association of Peiping, which was organized by various universities and colleges in that city, with the late Prof. Liang Chi-Chao as its president. Starting from that ancient city, he toured all the big cities in China to the extreme south, and wherever he went, he was cordially welcomed and anxiously askedto deliver speeches on Indian culture and civilization. During this visit, he negotiated with Chinese cultural leaders on exchange of scholars and professors.

According to the plan mapped out at that time. Pandit Vidhushekhara  Shastri and another scholar of Santiniketan were to be sent to Peiping to teach Sanskrit and to study the Chinese language. On the other hand, Liang Chi-chao and some others were to go to Santiniketan to help the institution in Chinese studies and to study Sanskrit. A lump sum of Rs. 20,000 had been donated by Seth J. K. Birla to the Visva-Bharati to build a special guest -house for the coming Chinese scholars. But due to the instability of the political situation in China, the scheme was unfortunately foiled.

                But his visit was not in vain. He made a deep impression upon the Chinese mind. He loved China and was loved by the Chinese. Since then, almost all of his works in English have been translated into Chinese, one after another. He came to China just when the latter was beginning her Renaissance and his visit certainly gave a great impetus to this new movement. His poems of “Stray Birds” and “The Crescent Moon” have created new styles of prosody in the new Chinese poetry. A Crescent Moon Society (for poetry) and a Crescent Moon magazine were started immediately after this event by the late Mr. Hsu Chih-mo and Dr. Hu Shih. Dr. Hu was later hailed by some Americans as the counterpart of Rabindranath in China.

                “As for the Poet’s ideal and hope to unite Asiatic cultures and to revive the Indian and Chinese cultural relationship,” a Chinese professor once said, “all of our Chinese scholars have the sincerest sympathy with him and our leading scholars and leaders have also cherished for long the same idea and are willing to co-strive for the common goal with joint endeavors. Now is the time for India and China to resume and strengthen their cultural relationship.”

                Actually, Tagore had been given a Chinese name, ‘Chu Cheng-tan”when he was in China.

                After that, he became an ardent lover of China and understood China better than any foreigner of that time. Prof. Y. S. Tan, who was teaching at Santiniketan remarked:

                “I found in the modern world two great savants who knew China and her people and culture best: one was Gurudeva, another is Bertrand Russell. But, after all, Russell is a Westerner and Gurudeva is an Easterner. A Westerner’s comprehension of an old eastern country like China and her people and culture anyhow cannot be so deep, so intense, real and genuine as that of an Easterner.”

                How true this statement is needs hardly to be verified by the following words with which Tagore expressed his profound understanding of the Chinese culture:

                “Can anything be more worthy of being cherished than the beautiful spirit of Chinese culture, that has made them love the things of this earth, clothe them with tender grace without turning them materialistic? They have instinctively grasped the secret of the rhythm of things -- not the secret of power that is in science, but the secret of expression. This is a great  gift, for God alone knows this secret. I envy them this gift and wish our people could share it with them”.

                Then the Sino-Indian Cultural Society came into existence in Nanking in the year 1933. The next year, Prof. Y. S. Tan was sent to India, and with the help extended by Tagore, set up the Indian headquarters of the Society in Santiniketan. Tagore, became its first president. Its charter stated: “The object of this Society shall be to study the Mind of India and China with a view to an interchange of their cultures and cultivation of friendship between the peoples of the two countries for the purpose of promoting peace and unity in the world.’ The program of the society include the following  items: Organizating Indian cultural delegations to go to China, and Chinese delegations to come to Indian for conducting research work, and delivering lectures on Indian and Chinese cultures; recommending Indian students to study in China and Chinese students to study in India; establishing an Indian Institute in China and a Chinese Hall in India; publishing book and journals embodying the result of researches; etc.

                At the time of the inauguration of the Society in Santiniketan, Tagore, as its first president, sent the following message to China:

“My  friends in China,

“The truth that we received when your pilgrims came to us in India, and ours to you, -- that is not lost even now.

“What a great pilgrimage was that! What a great time in history! It is our duty today to revive the heroic spirit of the pilgrimage following the ancient path which is not merely a geographical one, but the great historical path that was built across the difficult barries of race difference, and difference of language and tradition, reaching the spiritual home where man is in bonds of love and cooperation.” (April 23, 1934)

                In the last few years, the Society has done much for the revival of cultural intercourse between the two countries, its greatest achievement being the inauguration of the Cheena-Bhavana (China College), as a department of the Visva-Bharati (International University). Since then, Santiniketan has become the nucleus of Chinese studies in India with Rabindranath as its first and most enthusiatic patron.

                Chinese studies had been conducted in Visva-Bharati even before the appearance of Cheena-Bhavana. In 1922, there was Dr. Sylvain Levy, the eminent French Orientalist, coming of Santiniketan  from Europe to start the course of Chinese studies. When he left, the work was continued by Prof. G. Tucci, the Italian visiting professor. A little while later, the Visva-Bharati authorities formally organized Chinese studies under its research department Vidya-Bhavana, with Pandit Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya Shastri as its head.

                After Tagore’s visit to China, though Liang Chi-chao and others failed to come, time was ripening for the establishment of a separate department in Visva-Bharati to conduct Chinese studies. The first Chinese scholar holding regular classes in Santiniketan was a Mr. Lin, who stayed there for about two years. But the Cheena-Bhavana only came into being through the efforts of his successor, Prof. Y. S. Tan, who was also founder of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society, as already mentioned before.

Prof. Tan was editing a Chinese newspaper in Singapore when he met Tagore for the time in that colonial capital. Being a devoted Buddhist, he had long been interested in the resumption of cultural and religious communications between India and China. When he saw Rabindranath and learned of his attitude toward China, he found it the was a great chance and grasped it. He came to Santinifollowing year to teach Chinese, five students at first.

              Prof. Tan returned to China in 1931, preparing for the organization of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society, and stressing the importance of setting up the Cheena-Bhavana before the Chinese public. With his zealous endevor, he won the sympathy of both the offical and private circles, especially among the Buddhists, including such eminent  persons as H. E., Mr. Tai Chi-tao, President of the Examination Yuan and the Rev. Tai Hsu, President of the Chinese Buddhist Association.

                Prof. Tan returned to Santiniketan in 1934 to open the Indian centre of the Cultural Society and went to Nanking, the then capital of China. again in the latter part of the same year to raise funds and collect books for Cheena-Bhavana. These he brought over by sea when he came to India for the third time in 1936. The construction of the Chinese  Hall followed soon afterwards. On April, 14th 1937, which was the Bengali New Year Day, the Hall was formally inaugurated by Rabindranath personally.  Prof. Tan became its first Director.

                The object of the Cheena-Bhavana, which is the official name of the hall, was “to establish and promote cultural exchange between China and India, for which purpose it will provide facilities for Chinese  scholars to study Indian languges, religions and philosophies, -- as well as for Indian scholars to study the Chinese languates, religions and philosophies, Buddhism being regarded as the nucleus of all such studies.”

                Since then, Santinidetan has had a special significance to China, and any party going from China and India, private or official, should not fail to pay a visit to this ideal University of Gurudev Tagore’s. The Chinese Goodwill Mission headed by President Tai Chi-tao (which visited India some years before) and Cultural and Educational Mission headed by Vice-Minister Ku Yu-hsu (both in 1943) stayed in Santiniditan for a few days. The poet Hsu Chih-mo and artist Hsu Pe-on remained there for months.

                During President and Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s historical visti to India in 1942, Visva-Bharati was the only educational institution on their itinerary. Tagore, with his spirit of universal love, has established an ever-lasting friendship with the Chinese leaders and people. Though  his body has gone, his spirit is still linking Chinese and Indian together.

                Recently, through the efforts of Director Y. S. Tan, Prof. Wu Hsiao-ling, Pt. Vidhushekhar Shastri, Prof. Sujit kumar Mukhopadhyaya and others, the Cheena-Bhavana has attracted students not only from India and China, but also from Ceylon. Siam and Java. In 1944 Mr, Krishna Kink Sinha, an exstudent of that institution, was selected to go to Kunming in southwestern China to teach Indian language and culture. In view of its short history, what Cheena-Bhavana has achieved is not negligible and its future is promising. But it must be remembered that without the unreserved help given by the late Gurudev, there would have been no Cheena-Bhavana at all.

                Of late much interest has been aroused both in China and in India for the revival of Sino-Indian cultural collaboration and not a few things have been done in this direction, both officially and privately, such as the exchange of research scholars between the two countries, the establishment of scholarships by the Chinese Government in India for Indian students to study Chinese history and culture, the opening of departments of Indian languages in at least three universities in China, Sir S. Radhakrishnan’s visit to China at the invitation of the Chinese Govenment in 1945, and the exchange of missions of various subjects of science (notably, agricultural and medical). If one day the cultural relationship between our two countries can reach the same extent as in the glorious days when Buddhism entered China, let us not forget Gurudev, for he was the pioneer and the very symbol of this revival of international cultural collaboraion.



                Tagore’s “Religion of Man,” or the Poet’s Religion as her sometimes termed it himself, is actually the Religion of Love.  For among millions of creatures, only Man is capable of realizing, possessing and attaining Love, the Universal Love. We  get a clear idea of this Love from his view about the process of evolution. Being born at a time when science had already taken gigantic  strides, Rabindranath had the opportunity to observe its successes and failures and could make out of them a systematic theory of the Religion of Love.

                Regarding evolution, we can be sure that Tagore had never been satisfied with the theory of Darwin and Spencer, The world was there even before Man came, like the dancing of stars, flowing of rivers and roaring of thunder, but nobody  knew its mening. When life came to the world, the whole status changed. It was followed by a display of forces, yet there was no mening. Fortunately, “before the chapter ended, Man appeared and turned the course of this evolution from an indefinite march of physical aggrandizement to a freedom of a more subtle perfection. This has made possible his progress to become unlimited, This has made possible his progress to become unlimited, and has enabled him to realize the boundless in his power.” So the world becomes full of meaning only when Man feels unity with the Universe. Scientists can explain the dancing of stars and atoms, but not the sorrow and joy of Man. To find the mystery of these things, we must advance a little further.

                There are two different worlds now, one of meaningless forces, and another full of meaning. Of the forces, some you may reject, some you may accept. The display of them may be gigantic but may not satisfy you althogether. They are not what you want. They have no meaning. The appearance of Man changed the whole world. Man is the only creature who survives all others. Other creatures existed before men, but now only live in museums as skeletons.

                It is Man who gives new ideas to the world. It is Man who makes a particular use of events. Strings were there before men, but they are used on the viloin only after Man came into the world. And men make it musical only because of its deep significance in the world which was not perceived before men were born. There were many other beautiful things in the world before Man appeared, but they were not appreciated until the appearance of Man. That proves that evolution has not been developing purely on the biological lines indicated by Darwin or Spencer.

                Itis true that Man had the habit of adapatation to his environment, when he first came into the world, but he did not submit long to this. On the contrary, he made the environment follow him. Man’s evolution cannot be merely physical.He does not allow the environment to dominate. Man stands in an erect posture, as most animals cannot. Animals follow Darwin’s principle, but Man does not. In the progress of evolution, Man makes the physical circumstance submit to him. What Man does is to make the world subsidiary. In this way, Man exhibits the divine quality of evolution. If Man follows the process of evolution according to Darwin’s theory, he would not be better than animals. So here lies the difference:

                “The development of intelligence and physical power  is equally necessary in animals and men for their purposes of living; but what is unique in man is the development of his consciousness which gradually deepens and widens the realization of his immoral being, the perfect, the eternal.”

                Man has something besides this body of flesh and blood, while the beast has only a physical body. Man’s greater body is in the Universe. Man should make  use of this greater body. He can only live when he lives in the world. “My music is not in me,” as Tagore put it, “but let me sing together with the Sun, Moon and Stars. The music is of the whole universe. For you are not merely a man of this body; you are the Moon, the Sun, and all. When you go out, dance together with the whole world.” Man is not a man so long as he is limited to his body. Man cannot be separated from the Universe. Take him away from the world, and he is dead and the world also becomes meaningless. Therefore, Man is crying for union with the Universe.

                “Alas, I cannot stay in the house, and home has become no home to me, for the eternal Stranger calls, he is going along the road.

                “The sound of his footfall knocks at my breast; it Pains me!

                “The wind is up, the sea is moaning.

                “I leave all my cares and doubts to follow the homeless tide, for the Stranger calls me, he is going along the road." 

                “I am only waiting for love to give myself up at last into his hands. That is why it so late and why I have been guilty of suchomissions.

                “They come with their laws and their codes to bind me fast; but I evade them ever, for I am only waiting for love to give myself up at last into his hands.

                “People blame me and call me heedless; I doubt not they are right in their blame.

                “The market day is over and world is all done for the busy.

                “Those who came to call me in vain have gone back in anger. I am only waiting for love to give myself up into his hand.”

Thus Man finds his salvation in union with the world. He must go out and meet the “Stranger.”He must leave the limited home and plunge himself into the homeless world. Living together with the Universe, Man will never die. His personality cannot die. But he is one with it only when he comes to know how to love it. For then he must be able to feel freedom and unity. The Poet observed the difference between worldy pleasure and divine joy in the following passage:

                “We have pleasure in the fulfillment of our necessity, --but this pleasure is of a negative nature. For necessity is a bondage, the fulfillment of which frees us from it. But there comes its end. It is different with our delight in beauty. It is of a positive nature. In rhythm of harmony, whatever may be its reason, we find perfection. There we see not the substance, or the law, but some relationship of forms which has its harmony with our personality. From the bondage of mere lines and matter comes out that which is above all limitations -- it is the complete unity of relationship. We at once feel free from the tyranny of meaningness of isolated things -- they now give us somethingwhich is personal to our ownself. The revelation of unity in its passive perfection, which we find in nature, is beauty; the revelaion of unity in its active perfection, which we find in the spiritual world, is love. This is not in the rhythm of proportions, but in the rhythm of wills. The will, which is free, must seek for the realization of its harmony other wills which are also free, and in this is the significance of spiritual life. The infinite centre of personality, which radiates its joy by giving itself out in freedom, must creat other centres of freedom to unite with it in harmony. Beauty is the harmony realized in things which are bound by law. Love is the harmony realized in wills which are free.”

                For the clash between the ideal and the real is everywhere. The ideal is Love; the real is War, an inevitable result of human desires racing after worldly pleasure. Men are always thinking of this clash and great thinkers feel it most acutely. But until the condition of perfect Love is obtained, war will never stop. On the other hand, these clases also constantly remind Man of what he is able to do. So instead of rejecting these ideas, Man sticks to them, and gradually tries to raise the real to the level of the ideal. Thus Man goes ahead in spite of the pains the persent condition may give. Along with this fundamental tendency, his actions may be converted into some thing higher. But these actions may be converted into something higher. But these actions are real. Therefore the mainspring of human civilization cannot be separated from the real. Now, according to Darwin and Spencer, the adapted will live while the unadapted will  be wiped out. Yet in fact, the secret of evolution is the real craving of Man for a higher condition, but not for the reason which Darwin thought. Man becomes the Man of today because he is not determined by environment. Spiritual revolution, therefore, is suggested by Tagore in palce of Darawin’s physical evolution.

                Revolution means to adjust the real to the ideal but not by adapting oneself to the circumstance. Man becomes the man of today because of something  different from what Darawin preached. Darwin would like Man to go all fours. When Manstood in the erect posture, he did not gain any advantage at first. But he has no weapons of his own and he had to usre artificial instruments. Wasps have their stings, tigers their teeth. The fact that Man has to employ something which is not born with him is, according to Darwin, not advantageous at all. We can also imagine that at the very beginning, Man could not use his crude weapons adequately. But anyhow Man has risked and has been successful in handling them. That is why Man has succeeded in survivng.

                Human beings are capable of attaining a much higher position than their present one and they are never content with the situation of today. This human aspiration, to desire something higher, constitutes a sharp difference between Man and animals. When the immediate object of human desire is obtained, another object stands out and thus is developed an unending circle. This  discontent is the distinguishing and fundamental quality of Man. A man may get all kinds of worldly pleasure, but he will still not be content. Because these are not what he really wants.

                What is it then, that really craves? Love, Unity with the Universe. As the Poet put it, the ultimate end of man is “to find the One which is in him; which is his truth, which is his soul; the keywith which he opens the gate of the spiritual life, the heavenly kingdom. His desires are many, and madly they have the life and fulfillment. But that which is One in him is ever seeking for unity -- unity in knowledge, unity in love, unity in purposes of will; its highest joy is when it reaches the infinite one within its eternal unity.”

                The human desire for immortality is a good example, which can never be attained by scientific researches. Religious leaders and philosophers have solved the problem by identifying themselves with the Universe. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna told Arjuna to realize the world within his body and vice versa. Tagore told us “to be truly united in knowledge, love, and service with all beings, and thus to realise  one’s self in the all-pervading God.”For this is “the essence of goodness, and this is the keynote of the teachings of the Upanisads: Life is immense!” When life is immense, naturally, there will be no question of death. Man becomes immortal.

                From the foregoing paragraphs we have seen that the ultimate aim of the two great philosophers of the Orient is practically the same, Universal Love, to harmonize Man and the World, though the method which each employed to them emphasized the spiritual side of human civilization, which is in sharp contrast with the humanism of the West.

As Love isthus hailed as the paramount virtue of a human being, and the attainment of it is regarde as the ultimate  goal of Man, the question naturally arises: Is it residing in the human soul or does it have to be borrowed from outside? Different answers will have different results. For if it is born along with man, then everybody has the ability to achieve salvation; otherwise, only those who know how to get it from outside can do so. This involves speculations about human nature. In this connection, as well shall see, both Confucius and Tagore are of the opinionthat the quality of Universal Love is born with Man.

                Confucius himself said very little about HumanNature. It is mentioned once in the Analects. “By nature, near together; by practice, far apart.”Confucius meant that the nature of all men is almost the same, but he did not clearly define whethe r this nature is good or not. And this has been interpreted in three different ways:according to one school, Human Nature is good; according to another.it is bad; and a third school said it is neither good nor bad -- it is rather neutral. Before discussing these views, we may quote  another passage from the Analects:

                “The Master said, I for my part have never yet seen one who really cared for Love, nor one who really abhorred wickedness. One who really cared for Love would never let any other consideration come first. One who abhorredwickedness would be so constantly practising Love that wickedness would never have a chance to get a him. Has anyone ever managed to practise Love with his whole might even as long as the space of a single day? I think not. Yet I for my part have never seen anyone who gave up such an attempt, because he had not the strength to go on. It may well have happened, but I for my part have never seen it.”

                No doubt the Master meant that Universal Love is the supreme virtue and is difficult to be reached. But nobody has given up the attempt to reach it because of this difficulty. In other words, nobody believes it is impossible to get it. Certainly, this belief can only be established under the  hypothesis of a good Human Nature. This throws light on the statement, “By nature, near together; by practice, far apart.”Obviously, the meaning  of the Master is that Love is the basic Human Nature, which brings all human beings near together: but till now, in spite of frequent attempts, Man has not been able to practise it.

                This Confucianist theory of the goodness of human nature became manifest only after the appearance of Mencius, whose position in Confucianism is next only to that of the founder. We may conveniently put his arguments thus:

                First of all, Nature, like the organs of the human body, is born with Man and there is a general resemblace among all human beings. This Nature, however, maks a difference between man and the animals. Aristotle states in his Ethics that the appetites and desires are shared in common by man and , whereas that which differentiates man from animals is the fact that man possesses reason. Mencius  meant the same thing when he said: “The faculty of the mind is thinking.” A mind capable of reasoning is man’s special prerogative and is what Heaven has given to us. And what the mind likes is reason and righteousness. So Mencius said:

                “Thus all things which are the same in kind resemble one another. And why should we doubt this solely when we come to man? The Sage and ourselves are the samein kind. Therefore Lung Tzu said, ‘If a man make hempen sandals without knowing the feet (for whichthey are intended), yet I know he will not be making baskets of them.’For sandals are all lide one another because all men’s feet are like one another.

                “(The same way) with the mouths and flavors: all mouths have the same relishes. Yi Ya (a noted cook) only knew first what our mouths relish. Suppose that his mouth in its relish for flavors differed from that of other men, as is the case with dogs and horses which are not the samein kind with us, why should all men be found following Yi Ya in their relishes? In the matter of tastes the whole world models itself after Yi Ya: that is, the mouths of all men are like one another.

                “And so also is it with the ear. In the matter of sounds the whole world models itself after the music-master K’ung; that is , the ears of all men are like one another.

                “And so also is it with the eye. In the case of Tzu Tu (a man noted for his beauty), there is no man but who would  recognize that he was beautiful. Anyone who would not recognize that he was beautiful. Anyone who would not recognize the beautiful. Anyone who would not recognize the beauty of Tzu Tu must have no eyes.

                “Therefore I say: Men’s mouths agree in having the same relishes; their ears agree in enjoying the same sounds; their eyes agree in recognizing the same beauty. Shall their minds alone be without that which they similarly approves? What is it, then, of which they similarly approve? I say it is the principle of reason and of righteousness. The Sages only apprehended ahead of us what our minds mutually approve of. Therefore the principles of reason and righteousness are agreeable to our minds just as the flesh of grass-fed and grain-fed animals is agreeable to our mouth.”

                In the second Place, according to Menius, there are four beginnings, namely, these of Love, Righteousness, Propriety and Wisdom, which are unquestionably good and possessed by all men. If these four beginnings are allowed to reach their complete development in a man, he becomes a Sage. Aman’s lack of Love does not come from the fact that his nature is basically opposed to that if the man of Love, but simply that he has not allowed these four beginnings inherent in him to developfully. So Mencius said:

                “In its (human nature’s) reality, it is possible to be good. This is what I mean by saying that it is good. If men do what is not good, it is not the fault of their natural powere.

                “The feeling of commiseration belongs to all men: so does that of shame and dislike; that of reverence and respect; and that of right and wrong. The feeling of commiseration is Love: that of shame and dislike is Righteousness; that of reverence and respect is Propriety; and that of right and wrong is Wisdom. These are not fused into us from without. We originally are possessed of them. (We neglect them) simply because we lack reflection. Hence I say, ‘Seek and you will find them; neglect and you will lose them.’ (Men differ from one another)some twice as much as others, some five times as much, and some to an incalculable amount. It is because they cannot fully carry out their natural powers.”

Note the sentence, “It is possible to be good.” For what Mencius actually meant by saying that human nature is good, is that natures of all men have goodness, not that men’s natures are all entirely good. In another passage, the great Confucianist scholar said:

                “All men have a mind which cannot bear (to see the sufferings of ) others... If today men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress. This will not be as a way whereby  to gain the favor of the Child’s parents, nor whereby they may seek the praise of their neighbors and friends, nor that they are so because they dislike the reputation (of being unvirtuous).

                “From this case we mau perceive that he who lacks the feeling of commiseration is not a man; that he who lacks a feeling of shame and dislike is not a man; that he who lacks a feeling of modesty and of yielding is not a man; and that he who lacks a sense of right and wrong is not a man. The feeling of shame and dislike is the beginning  of Righteousness. The feeling of modesty and yielding is the beginning of Propriety. The sense of right and wrong is the beginning of Wisdom. Man has these four beginnings just as he has his four limbs. When, having these four beginnings, he says of himself that he is incapable (of developing them), he is injuring himself. And when he says of his sovereign that he is incapable, he is injuring his sovereign.

                “Since all men have these four beginnings in themselves, let them know to give them their full development and completion, and the result will be like fire that beings to burn, or of a spring which has begun to find vent. Let them have their complete development, and they will suffice to protect all within the four seas. Let them be denied that development, and they will not suffice to serve his parentswith.”

                When all men have a mind which cannot bear to see the sufferings of others, it means Man’s nature is good.

                Thirdly, all men have an intuitive knowledge and an intuitive ability. The epistemology of Mencius is practically a theory of knowledge a priori. That is why he said  that the four beginings, “are not fused into us from without. We originally are possessed of them.”Among these four beginnings, the feelings of commiseration, of shame and dislide, and of reverence and respect are real feelings while the so-called feeling of right and wrong is, in fact, some kind of knowledge. But Mencius himself might not have been conscious of this difference. It seems that he used the term of intuitive knowledge and intuitive ability to include the four beginnings, but there is still something more than these. He said:

                “The ability possessed by men without having been acquired by learning is intuitive ability, and the knowledge possessed by them without the exercise of thought is their intuitive knowledge. Children carried in arms all know to love their parents, and when they are grown a little, they all know to love their elder brothers. Filial affection for parents is the working of Love. Respect for elders is the working of Righteousness.”

                It is clear that this ability and this knowledge are brought together with Man when he is born, and so they are one with the Human Nature. If a man can retain this original quality even after he has grown up, then, he is naturally good and is regarded as a great man. Mencius said, “The great man is a man who has not lost the infant’s mind.” Thus it is proved that Human Nature is good.

                The chief contribution of the Sung School of Confucianism to the Chinese doctrine of human nature is to give a twofold interpretation to the term. It is clearly expounded by them that in certain contexts, the term refers to the “Original and Essential Nature,” while in others it refers to the”Physical Nature,” that is, to the Essential Nature as conditioned by the physical element. “Mencius in his assertion that Nature is goodspeaks of it only in respect of its origin,” said Chu Hsi, “making no reference to the physical nature.”Yet in reality, while the real nature is the Original and Essential Nature, with which man is endowed by Heaven, it is never found except in conjunction with its material vehicle, and therefore any account of the Nature which treats of the one apart from the other must be inadequate, if not positively erroneous.

                “Take light as an illustration, there must be some reflecting body, whether a mirror or a sheet of water, in order to have light. The light is the Nature; the mirror or water is the physical element; without the mirror or water the light is dispersed and lost.”

                This combination of the Essential Nature with its physical medium is termed the Physical Nature. It is to the inequalities in the physical element that the inequalities of virtue and vice, as well as the differences of species, are due; as in an old mirror which is marred by blemishes on its surface and so reflects the light unequally.

                It must not be supposed, however, that there are two natures, the Essential and the Physical. There is only one nature; that is the Essential Nature. The Physical Nature is still the Essential Nature, but conditioned by the physical element. The physical element in and by itself can never be termed the Nature. It is the necessary medium for the individualization of the immaterial element by which the Essential Nature comes to be; and as that medium it conditions, impedes, and even distorts, the manifestation of the Essential Nature. It is the Essential Nature, as it is thus affected, that is called the Physical Nature.

                This interpretation of the goodness of human nature is very similar to Tagore’s conception, though not exactly the same. According to the poet there is a dualism in human consciousness.

                “It is the dualisn in his consciousness of what is and what ought to be. In the animal that is lacking, its conflict is between what is and what is desired; whereas, in man, the conflict is between what is desired; whereas, in man, the conflict is between what is desired and what should be desired. What we share with animals; but what should be desired belongs to a life which is far beyond it.”

                Obviously, the “what is” is the physical nature and the “what ought to be”is the Essential Nature.

                Men do evil things because they do not realize the Universal Love which is the truth. They only know what is desired, but do not know what should be desired.

                But “we must come to an end in our evil doing, in our career of discord. For evil is not infinite, and discord cannot be an end in itself. Our will has freedom in order that it may find out that its true course is towards goodness and love. For goodness and love are infinite and only in the infinite is the perfect realization of freedom possible. So our will can be free, not towards the limitations  of our self, not where it is maya and negation, but towards the unlimited where is truth and love.... So in the freedom of our will, we have the same dualism of appearance and truth -- our self-will is only the appearance of freedom, and loveis the truth. When we try to make this appearance independent of trurth, then our attempt brings misery and proves its own futility in the end. Everything has this dualism of maya and satyam, appearance and truth. Words are maya where they are merely sounds and finite, they are satyam where they are ideas and infinite. Our self is maya where it is merely individual and finite, where it considers its separateness as absolute; it is satyam where it recognizes its self, in paramatman.”

                Here maya is the same material element in Chu Hsi’s theory while satyam is the real nature of human beings. The difference between a good man and a bad man in the ordinary saying is only due to the weaker or stronger appearance of maya. But satyam is always there, dwelling deep in the human soul. Whenever one realize its existence, one attains bliss and salvation.

                This satyam, when manifest in our daily life, becomes the moral nature. But the question will be asked, What is this moral  nature. But the question will be asked, what is this moral nature, or: What is goodness? Rabindranath’s answer is:

                “That when a man begins to have an extended Vision of his true self, when he realizes that he is much more than at present he seems to be, he begins to get conscious of his moral nature. Then he grows aware of that which he is yet, to be, and the state not yet experienced by him becomes more real than that under his direct experience.  Necessarily, his perspective of life changes, and his will takes the place of his wishes.”

                When a man reaches this status, he knows there is a life whose greater portion is out of his present reach, whose objects are not for the most part before our sight. He begins to distinguish between what he immediately desires and what is good. Thus the sense of goodness comes out of a truer view of his life, which is the connected view of the wholeness of the field of life, and which takes into a account not only what is present before us, but also what is not. And he feels for that life of his which is not yet existent, much more than for the life that is with him now. Then he is ready to sacrifice his present inclination for the unrealized future. In this he becomes great, for he realizes truth.

                There is a passage in Sadhana, which states almost exactly what Mencious said about human nature:

                “As he has a feeling for his future self which is outside his present consciousness, so he has a feeling for his greater self which is outside the limits of his personality. There is no man who has not this feeling to some extent, who has never sacrificed his selfish desire for the sake of some other person, who has never felt pleasure in undergoing some loss or trouble because it  pleasure in undergoing some loss or trouble because it pleases somebody else. It is a truth that man is not a detached being , that he has a universal aspect; and when he recognizes this, he becomes  great.”

                This universal aspect is peculiar to human beings. You cannot find it in other animals. A dog may lose its life when it comes to the resue of a man, but it only does so when this man is its master, who feeds it. So the dog does this, for its own interest. But man may incur losses or troubles by doing something good for somebody who is a stranger to him, for whom he has no responsibility, He does it spontaneously and disinterestedly. This is the manifestation of human nature. Tagore further explained it as follows:

                “For our moral faculty is the faculty by which we know that life is not made up of fragments, purposeless and discontinuous. This moral sense of man not only gives him the power to see that the self has a continuity in time, but it also enables him to see that he is not true when he is only restricted to his own self. He is more in truth than he is in fact. He truly belongs to individuals who are not included in his own individuality, and whom he is never even likely to know.”

                The word Dharma is also used by the poet-philosopher to interpret human nature.

                “The Sanskrit word Dharma,” he once remarked, “which is usually translated into English as ‘religion’ has a deeper meaning in our language. Dharma is the innermost nature, the essence, the implict truth, all things. Dharma is the ultimate purpose that is working in our self. When any wrong is done, we say that dharma is violated, meaning that the lie has been given to our true nature.”

                This dharma is the truth in us, but is inherent, not apparent. So much so that many people would mistake it and think that sihnfulness is the nature of man, and only by the special grace of God can a particular person be saved. Tagore here gives the growing up of a seed into a tree as an example. Actually the appearance of the seed contradicts its true nature. When we take it for chemical (or any other kind) of analysis, we only find in it carbon and protein and a good many other things, but not the slightest idea of a branching tree. We get to know it dharma only when the tree begins to take shape. And it is the same with human beings:

                “In the history of humanity we have known the living seed in us to sprout. We have seen the great purpose in us taking shape in the lives of our greatest men, and have felt certain that thought there are numerous individual lives that seem ineffectual, still it is not their dharma to remain barren; but it is for them to burst their cover and transform themselves into a vigorous spiritual shoot, growing up into the air and light, and branching out in all directions.”

                Realizing this dharma in himself and attaining the moral nature, a man is thus symbolically described by Tagore as having a second birth. This second birth takes place when he knows that what should be desired belongs to a life which is far beyond the present one. When a man is born, “he still retains a good many habits and instincts of his animal life: yet his true life is in the region of what ought to be. In this, though there is a continuation, yet there is also a conflict. Many things that are good for the one life are evil for the other.

                “This necessity of a fight with himself has introduced an element into man’s personality which is character. From the life of desird it guides man to the life of purpose. This life is the life of the moral world.... This is the world of man’s second birth, the extra-natural world, where the dualism of the animal life and the moral makes us conscious of our personality as man.” It may be noted that when the poet said an element is introduced into man’s personality, it does not mean that personaltiy is lacking in man and should be introduced from outside. Personality is dharma and is already there in man when he is born. The element  introduced has only the function of helping discover this inherent dharma so that he may come to realize it.

                Religion is merely man’s endeavor to cultivate and express those qualities which are inherent in the dharma, and to have faith in it.. Man begins his history withall the original promptings of his brute nature which helps him to fulfill those vital needs of his which are immediate. But deeper within him there is a current of tendencies which  runs in many ways in a contrary direction, the life current of universal humanity. Religion has its function in reconciling the contradiction, by subordinating the brute nature to what we consider as the truth of Man, that is , by subordinating the physical nature to the essential nature.

                But sometimes, “the contradiction between the two natures in us is so great that men have willingly sacrificed their vital needs and courted death in order to express their dharma, whichrepresents the truth of the Supreme Man.” In a word, Man becomes a man because he has this very dharma which is inborn and inherent. Though in many cases, it may be covered by different kinds of physical elements, yet it does not affect the fact that dharma is there, deep in the heart of everybody.     


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