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Vedanta - A Living Philosophy of Life
C. Rajagopalachari
(Published in 1971 Annual Number)
Absolute happiness can result only from liberation and it follows therefore that spiritual enlightenment alone, which frees the soul from all illusion, can liberate the soul by breaking the bond of karma, the unending chain of work and results, and unite it again to the Supreme Being, which is moksha (liberation). All culture in India has been rooted in Vedanta. Whatever courage, heroism, self-sacrifice or greatness is to be found in our history or seen in our people, has sprung from Vedanta which is in our blood and tradition. Vedanta is ndoubtedly a living philosophy of life in India, a part of the mental structure of our people.
The people of India get it not from a study of books but from tradition. It is in the air, so to say, of India and Asia. The foreigner has to get it from books and he necessarily sees so much subtlety in it that he may well swear that it is impossible that such a doctrine could ever be the actual cultural basis or living spiritual principle of the daily life of any people of modern times. Yet this is the fact in India. The greatness of Gandhiji and the strength of his movement were entirely derived from and rooted in Vedanta. However much foreign civilization and new aspirations might have affected the people of India, this spiritual nutriment has not dried up or decayed or changed. The lives of the rich as well as of the poor, of the leisured classes as of the peasants and labourers, of the illiterate and not only of the learned, are in varying measure sweetened by the pervasive fragrance of this Indian philosophy.
Paradoxical as it may seem, even communities born to avocations deemed dishonest and disreputable have evolved a code of honour of their own, and are Vedantins to the extent of sincerely respecting it. This curious moral enclave in sinful lives touches the heart, and makes a great pity of what is doubtless just a matter for sheer reprobation.
The Upanishads are quite large in number, but about twelve may be called the principal Upanishads and they are now available in collected book form with fairly accurate translations. It would be a mistake to expect ancient works to be like the books of our times.
The principal Upanishads were written thousands of years ago—scholars are not certain about the exact time. In India, as in the rest of the world, the environment and the lives and habits of men were all very different then from what they are today. We may not forget or overlook this difference in attempting to understand and interpret the Upanishads or for that matter any book of ancient times. To interpret and judge things written more than three thousand years ago in the light of today and bring to bear on them modern doubts, discoveries and controversies would be utterly stupid.


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