- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 15 Dec 1921, p. 352-364
- Joshi, Prof. Samuel L., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Facts with regard to the past history of India, showing how the forces that worked in the history of the past have been largely responsible for the conditions that are prevailing there today. A kinship with India which may be traced far back into the dim ages of history. India's unique privilege of possessing the first literature of the Eurasian people; that literature couched in the language of the spirit. A brief discussion of Buddhism and Indian culture. Asian relations with Europe. The culture of India, built up on a purely spiritual basis. The British contact with India which begins a new epoch in their history. The original, purely commercial basis on that contact. The transformation of the economic life in India, as elsewhere, due to the industrial revolution. The two kinds of cities in India today. Mr. Gandhi as a symbol; what he represents. Gandhi's analysis of western civilization. A passage from a magazine from India which contains the views of Rabindranath Tagore, the intellectual aristocrat of Bengal, giving a different viewpoint from Gandhi as to western civilization. The ultimate destiny of India as the great problem confronting us today. Difficulties to be surmounted in order to give India a larger measure of self-government. Politics in India. Things in common between the people of Canada and the people of India. Imperial ties. The result of education among the leading people of India, now in a position to undertake responsible duties in the Empire. The lack of control over their own finances as one of the great causes of discontent in India today. The discontent seen today amongst the intellectual classes of India not so much a symptom of disloyalty to England as an index of an increasing vitality and of a greater desire for opportunities for the fuller expression of India's national life. India today struggling for a larger life, for the opportunity for a larger expression of that life. The speaker's feeling that the great bulk of the people of India do not want to be separated from the British Empire at all. The time now when the statesmen that are controlling the Indian Empire from the Indian office in London to show a larger spirit of liberality, and deal with the people of India in a more liberal spirit. A word with regard to the great importance that is being attached in India at the present moment to the development of an Indian Christianity.
- Date of Original
- 15 Dec 1921
- Language of Item
- Copyright Statement
- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
- Empire Club of CanadaEmail
Agency street/mail address
Fairmont Royal York Hotel
100 Front Street West, Floor H
Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3
- Full Text
- NEW FORCES IN OLD INDIA
AN ADDRESS BY PROF. SAMUEL L. JOSHI, M.A, PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN BARODA COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF BOMBAY
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
December 15, 1921
PRESIDENT MITCHELL: Today we have the pleasure again of hearing from India. The gentleman who is to speak to you, Prof. Joshi, is an authority on India, its history, and its present critical situation. I have much pleasure in calling upon Mr. Joshi to speak to you.PROF. SAMUEL L. JOSHI
Mr. Chairman, my Lord and Gentlemen,--It is a great pleasure to me to stand before you today as a humble representative of that part of the British Empire which is really apart from Canada. It is a part of the British Empire which is really much misunderstood by certain sections of the people-I am not talking of Canada, but even amongst the people of England who have a direct contact with the people of India; and I should like to put before you a few facts, first of all with regard to the past history of India, and to show how the forces that worked in the history of the past have been largely responsible for the conditions that are prevailing there today.
You are doubtless aware that the history of India goes back several thousand years, and that the ruling people of India today, those who are members of the leading castes of Hindoo society, are practically the remnants of that early immigration into India of the Indo-Germanic tribe that went into that country through the north-western part of the Himalayan mountains. It is true that we have been baked in the Indian sun for over 3,000 years, and therefore we have naturally been overtanned (laughter) but the ethnologists will tell you that although we appear to be different as far as the colour of the skin is concerned, the ethnic type of the people of India is quite different from the ethnic type of other Asiatic races, and that it is more closely affiliated with the Anglo-Saxon stock than any Asiatic people.
I should like to emphasize this point at this stage, because I think it is of profound importance in order to realize that although India is a sort of an adopted daughter in the Indian family, she is not altogether a child of total strangers; that there is fundamentally a kinship which may be traced far back into the dim ages of history.
Moreover, India has the unique privilege of possessing the first literature of the Eurasian people, and that literature was couched in the language of the spirit. The greatest religious literature of India, the Vedic hymns, which were composed by the early Indo-Eurasian Indians which were settled in those parts-those hymns strike you as being strangely familiar; and yet when you read the English translation of those Sanscrit hymns from the Vedas you will be struck by the similarity they bear to some of the Psalms of David-indicating in a very clear manner that the early civilization of the people of India was of a deeply spiritual nature. And it is a remarkable fact in history that although a great many of the ancient civilizations of the world have now crumbled into ruin and passed away, that China and India should be the only two ancient civilizations which have survived the shock of change and revolution through so many centuries.
There is another point in this connection that I would like to bring to your attention, and it is this--it was not a mere accident of history that all the great religious systems of the world were born in Asia. A great writer, Meredith Thomson, who is living now, in that remarkable book of his called "Asia and Europe" has, in its preface, made this remarkable statement, namely, that the struggle between Europe and Asia has been the binding thread of history; the trade between Europe and Asia is the foundation of all commerce, and the thought of Asia is the basis of all religion. And this is very clearly proved by the Hindoos in their essential conception of what is meant by culture. The Hindoo idea of culture is profoundly a spiritual idea. The man of culture is supposed to possess that knowledge which enables him to penetrate through the veil to the unrealities of this world, and realize God-consciousness in his soul, the idea being that the human soul is fundamentally a fragment of the universal soul; that the affairs of our earthly life and our fleshly desires spread around the soul a veil of unreality, and the man of culture alone is the man who has the knowledge to penetrate through that veil and realize the God-consciousness.
The people of India have looked upon the founder of Buddhism as the first man of culture-Buddha, the great founder of the Buddhist religion, that great missionary religion of those early days that evolved all those types of religious propaganda which were afterwards repeated in the development of the Christian religion itself, whether you take the mystic element or the monastic type of religion; no matter what phase of Christianity you may study today, there is not one of them for which we cannot find a parallel and an origin in the Buddhism of today. We have a number of enthusiastic Hindoo missionaries carrying the cause of Buddhism, in those days of antiquity, across the ocean to China, Japan, Korea, Manchuria, and even the frozen ocean of the North.
You will notice, therefore, that along with this concept of culture--namely, the idea of the individual possessing the knowledge to realize God-consciousness in his individual soul there came to be linked another aspect of culture, and that aspect was largely due to the spread of Buddhism throughout the Asiatic nations. That concept was that of the preacher to all Asiatic nations In those days Europe was more or less unknown to the people of India, and the only great person from Europe that they had known was Alexander the Great, who had come to conquer India and make it a part of his great Empire. Although he came to conquer, he was in his own turn conquered by the thought of India; and it has been remarked by a great many modern scholars that the philosophy of the people of Greece was largely tinctured by the ideas taken back to Greece by the followers of Alexander when they returned from India; and it has been said that a Hindoo physician was taken by Alexander to his court at Macedonia. Those are all things of ancient times, but they are all profound incidents as we look at the prospects of the twentieth century today.
So, with this two-fold aspect of culture, the Hindoos built up civilization on a purely spiritual basis-the Brahmin being the custodian of the spiritual side of life as well as the intellectual. But there came a period when, beside the religious growth, there arose a great outburst of religious activity, and in the sixteenth or seventeenth era there was a flood of writers in India almost as large as the flood of English literature in the days of Queen Elizabeth.
The great poet, Kalidasa, wrote the first Sanscrit play, which has been the forerunner of the greatest in the world; and Goethe is said to have put a copy of that play on his head and started to dance, and when the people wondered at his joy he said, "The last word on the perfection of drama has come to me, not from Europe, but from India." I simply mention these facts to show that the people of India stand on a different pedestal from the other people of Asiatic countries.
There have been a great many changes in the history of the past to which it would not be possible for me to refer in the short time before me. For instance, there was the great Mahommedan contact, which resulted in depriving the Hindoo women of their former liberty, and introducing such customs as early marriage, resulting in physical degeneracy to some extent. Then, the caste system of India has been largely a barrier in their social and political growth, because it introduced the element of division inside the nation.
But the British contact with India begins a new epoch. This contact was originally on a purely commercial basis. You all know the story of the East India Company, how it was formed, and how it started its trade with India, and how ultimately it lent itself to a political organization, and the power was transferred from the private corporation to the British Crown. Now, in this transition there are several points of great interest that we may notice. The time when the Battle of Waterloo was being fought in Europe was the time when great changes were taking place in the economic life of the world. That was the time when India's economic products were much in demand in American and European nations, and Venice was the great emporium of trade which distributed a great many Indian goods and much Indian merchandise.
As a result of the invention of the steam-engine, and the industrial revolution that came into England itself and into other European countries, the whole condition of economic life in India was completely transformed; and so, whereas formerly the people of India supported themselves to a very large extent by weaving their cotton cloth according to the primitive method, now this cotton-which was practically the only artistic product exported out of India-was taken to Lancashire and, there woven into cloth, brought back into India, and sold to the people of India. I am merely mentioning the fact which effected the transformation in the economic life of the country; with the result that a great many of the arts of the people of India died, one after another, and India became the coveted market for the manufacturers of England.
There is another point, also, to which I would like to draw your attention-that in the India of today there are two kinds of cities. There are the ancient historic cities of India, which had a different origin from the modern cities like Bombay and Calcutta which may be practically called English cities that have been built upon the modern industrial basis of national prosperity; but the old cities of India were originally capitals of old Indian native states where the Indian princes ruled and a great many of the leading artists of the country were patronized by the ruling princes, and art and commerce flourished in these ancient capitals of India. Modern cities like Bombay, however, are of a different type altogether. They represent the imitation of the industrialism of western countries, and the great Nationalist leader in India today, Mr. Gandhi, of whom you have doubtless heard, has started a great rational analysis of the whole structure of western civilization from his point of view, an analysis really of great importance to us today.
Mr. Gandhi is a man of interest to the people of the world, not necessarily because he is a great Nationalist leader and because of a great deal of unrest today, but because he symbolizes the voice of protest against the extreme materialism of the western peoples of Europe. That is why I think I should like to turn my attention for a while to Mr. Gandhi's analysis of western civilization as such.
Mr. Gandhi takes the case of Japan, the youngest member of the Asiatic family, and says that the people of western countries have now admitted her into the family of the great powers of the world because the standards of greatness recognized by western nations are purely physical standards. Japan has adopted the modern methods of destruction of human life; has built great warships; and therefore, because she is physically a menace to the world, she is recognized as a great power.--He says that these physical standards of greatness are the ruin of European nations, and he feels that the physical must give place to the ethical if western civilization is to endure.
Mr. Gandhi himself is not a Christian, but he is a great reader of the Bible. The only picture in his unfurnished room is Hoffman's Christ, and the one book that he reads with a great deal of earnestness is the New Testament, particularly the Sermon on the Mount; and he feels that western civilization is going away from Christ rather than approaching- Christian teaching; and as the gulf is widening, so also there is a season of universal unrest among the European nations; the industrial situations in the cities of Europe, he says, are merely an index of that unrest. Taking the industrial situation in European cities, he says the everlasting conflict between capital and labour, the discontent which is growing year by year because of the feeling that wealth is not being equitably distributed among the peoples of the world-those are problems not likely to be solved very easily in western countries; and he does not see any sense in the people of India borrowing the civilization in a blind sort of way without really analysing its value from the educational and ethical point of view.
With regard to the political side of European civilization, Mr. Gandhi feels that Machiavelli is the father of western civilization, and not Jesus Christ-and as you all know, Machiavelli was never overburdened with a sense of truth. (Laughter) Some of you probably may recall Sir Henry Wotton's definition of an ambassador in his quaint old seventeenth century dictionary, where he describes the ambassador as "An honest man sent to lie, abroad, for the good of his country." (Laughter)
Now, it is so easy for a man like Mr. Gandhi to become totally pessimistic with regard to the merits of western civilization that I should like to read to you a passage from a magazine I have just received from India which contains the views of Rabindranath Tagore, the intellectual aristocrat of Bengal, giving a different viewpoint altogether from Gandhi as to what he feels about western civilization. Tagore says
Quotation from "The Young Man of India", November, 1921. Page 519.
"I must not hesitate to acknowledge where Europe is great, for great she is without doubt. We cannot help loving her with all our heart, and paying her the best homage of our admiration-the Europe who, in her literature and art, pours out an inexhaustible cascade of beauty and truth, fertilizing all countries and all time; the Europe who, with a mind which is titanic in its untiring power, sweeping the height and the depth of the universe, won her homage to knowledge from the infinitely great and the infinitely small, applying all the resources of her great intellect and heart in healing the sick and alleviating those miseries of man which till now we were contented to accept in the .spirit of hopeless resignation; the Europe who is making the earth yield more fruit than seemed possible, coaxing and compelling the great forces of nature into man's service. Such true greatness must have its motives of power in spiritual strength. For only the spirit of men can defy all limitations, have faith in its ultimate success, throw its search-light beyond the limit of the apparent, gladly suffer martyrdom for effects which cannot be achieved in this life-time, and accept failure without acknowledging defeat.
"In the heart of Europe runs the purest stream of human love, love of justice, of spirit, of self-sacrifice for higher ideals. The Christian culture of the century has sunken deep in her life's core. In Europe we have seen noble minds who have ever stood up for the rights of man irrespective of colour and creed; who have braved calumny and insult from their own people in fighting for humanity's cause and rousing themselves against the mad orgies urged by militarism, against the rage for brutal retaliation or rapacity that sometimes takes possession of a whole people, who are always ready to make reparation for wrongs done in the past by their own nation, and vainly attempt to stem the tide of cowardly injustice that flows unchecked because resistance is weak and innocuous on the part of the injured. There are these knight-errants of modern Europe who have not lost their faith in the disinterested love of freedom, in the ideals which own no geographic boundaries of national self-seeking. Those are there to prove that the fountain-head of the water of everlasting life has not run dry in Europe, and from thence she will have repairal time after time. (Loud applause)
I feel that it is only fair that you should have before you two different views of western civilization, one from Mr. Gandhi, the ascetic, and the other from Rabindranath Tagore, the intellectual aristocrat of India. I do not know exactly where to find the truth between these two different views, and I believe there is much to be said on both sides. I believe there is a great deal of truth in Mr. Gandhi's searching analysis of modern civilization, and there is also a great deal of truth in the good things that Rabindranath Tagore detects behind the spirit of European civilization.
But the great problem that is confronting us today is the ultimate destiny of India. As I said to you before, India is the adopted daughter in the Anglo-Saxon Imperial family, and she feels that the time has come when she must be given the same privilege as natural-born children of the Anglo-Saxon mother; and the theory of adoption in India was introduced into Hindoo law as an exact substitute for one of a natural heir, that being the Hindoo feeling in regard to adoption, because India is naturally striving for a footing with the colonies of the British Empire. It is true there are difficulties, from the point of view of Great Britain as well as from the point of view of the people of India; but the difficulties are not of such an insurmountable nature as to hazard the experiment within the doors of the British Government itself, and we have to see what could be done to give a larger measure of self-government to the people of the country.
During the war came the great test for the people of India, and England was watching with great keenness whether India was going to show any signs of disaffection or disloyalty. Emissaries of the German government were busy in India trying to feel the pulse of the people, and even giving hints that the greatest opportunity for India had come to shake off her connection with Great Britain and to accept Germany in the stead of England. But the people of India, whether the extreme politicians, or the moderates, or the loyalists, have all stood firm and said that if they must have a foreign government it must be England and no other. (Loud applause)
The people of India are not blind to the traditions of national freedom which are the special prerogative of the Anglo-Saxon race. We are also grateful to Great Britain for having introduced us for the first time to the theory of western progress-a knowledge of the physical sciences; and the very fact that I am able to address this great gathering here this afternoon is largely due to the fact that the two gifts which England has given to India, and which can never be taken away by anyone, are the English language and the Christian religion. (Loud applause)
When the Indian National Congress of the people of India, the great political body, meets together, with delegates coming from different parts of that Empire, they have no language which they can use as a common medium of conversation, and they are compelled to use the English language; therefore the English language has become one of the languages of India, and I stand before you speaking a language which I am almost tempted to refer to as my mother tongue. (Applause) Therefore I want the people of Canada to realize that India is not so far distant in her mental standing as she may be geographically. There are a great many things in common between the people of Canada and the people of India; and the idealism of India is of great value to the people of the Anglo-Saxon race at the present time. I have given you a sample of that idealism in the quotation I have made from the writings of Rabindranath Tagore. We have had the image of the Imperialistic state, of life over-developed as a result of the great tide of imperial prosperity reaped by the human race in consequence of the powers of steam and electricity; and while we recognize the blessings of steam and electricity as having annihilated space and made all humanity feel its oneness, we realize that there are greater ties that must bind the people of India with the people of Canada. I have already spoken about the ethnic ties, and the old history of India, showing how ethnically we are more closely connected with Anglo-Saxon people than with any other Asiatic race.
I have now to speak to you about the imperial ties; and in this connection I may say that the growth that has been made in education among the leading people of India has really brought into existence a large number of men who are now in a position to undertake responsible duties in that Empire. It is true that primary education has not been pushed among the common people of India so far, and that there is a great deal of illiteracy, and this illiteracy is largely due to the fact that more money is not available out of the Indian revenue for the purposes of popular education. One of the great causes of discontent in India today is the fact that the people have no control over their own finances. I think you will all be agreed on this one point, that there is a great deal of force in the demand on the part of the educated people who want to have a voice in controlling their own finances. (Hear, hear)
When Lord Macaulay was laying down the foundation of the British University System in India many years ago he had prophesied, in the British House of Commons, that they were then laying the seeds of a great crop of people in oriental countries who would ultimately seek for themselves the same institutions of freedom which have been the prerogative of the Anglo-Saxon race. Lord Macaulay's prophetic words have come true, and the discontent that you see amongst the intellectual classes of India today is not so much a symptom of disloyalty to England, as an index of an increasing vitality and of a greater desire for opportunities for the fuller expression of India's national life.
If time had permitted me I might have shown how apart from the political and economical side of the case, from a purely cultural point of view it is of the highest importance that India should have larger freedom to develop her spiritual heritage of the past under present conditions, and be given a chance for a fresh utterance of her cultural power. Such utterance may be of great service to the world of today. We do not know in what way Providence is moving all the different members of the human family, and each nation has to bring its contribution towards the happiness of the human race as such. (Applause) If India, therefore, is struggling today for a larger life, and for the opportunity for a larger expression of that life, it is not because she wants to be separated from England-although many of our politicians are now making use of language which in their saner moments they would like to blot out. I feel that the great bulk of the people of India do not want to be separated from the British Empire at all. (Applause) But we do feel, especially those who have had a great deal of English education, that the time has come when the statesmen that are controlling the Indian Empire from the Indian office in London should show a larger spirit of liberality, and deal with the people of India in a more liberal spirit.
I would like to add a word with regard to the great importance that is being attached in India at the present moment to the development of an Indian Christianity. Christianity in India has laboured under very great difficulties. In the first place, it has come to India through European channels, and so an Englishman preaching Christianity to the Hindoo naturally presents Christ more as an Englishman than as an Asiatic; not that the Englishman is to blame, because he does so in the most unconscious manner and with the best of intentions. Moreover, the reproduction of the religious denominations of western countries, again, has given a great deal of alarm to the Christians of India, because Christianity in India has the appearance of a house divided against itself, and the Hindoo people look upon those divided forms of Christianity and say that this is really a reproduction of the caste system of the Hindoos themselves. So we have got to blot out this division in the Church in India as it exists today. (Applause)
A great many of the Bishops of the English Church are in full sympathy, therefore, with the work that is being carried on by some Christians of India in the direction of organizing an Independent Indian Church; and it is with that object in view that the Bishop of Bombay and some other friends have sent me to this country and to the United States to interest the people on this side of the Atlantic Ocean in the great work that Indian Christians themselves are struggling to do in the organization of an Indian Christianity, because that may be the ultimate outcome of the present situation in India. As between England and India there is no doubt that, apart from the interests of the British Empire, the Empire of Jesus Christ has a claim on the larger attention of every one of us here (applause); and when strong men meet strong men and cannot come to any rational ground of compromise you will find that invariably they will find the solution of their problem in the teachings of Jesus Christ. If we would only open our eyes and not be nervous about talking in a religious tone, but realize that the greatest realities of life are to be found in the teachings of Christ, and seek to extend those teachings to all the relations of life, I think that would be the only way for us to recover the key to lost happiness. (Applause) I feel that the Christians of India have a great work to do in bringing about a true compromise between the British Government on one side and the Hindoo and Mahommedan people on the other; therefore it is that I want to present to you the great importance of the work that we are struggling to do as Indian Christians in that Empire. (Loud applause)
PRESIDENT MITCHELL: In previous addresses on India we have had the commercial, the military, the legal and the educational points touched upon. Today we have the ethical, the esthetic, the cultural and the religious. I am sure I express the sentiments of this Club when I say to Professor Joshi that we are very much indebted to him for his address, that we are very much pleased and gratified, and that we wish him all success. (Hearty applause)BUSINESS MEETING
MR. FEATHERSTONHAUGH said that according to the constitution the Annual Meeting of the Club must be held on or before the 15th of December, and as this was quite impossible without the aid of the secretary, who was unable to be present, he therefore moved that this be considered the Annual Meeting, and that the said meeting be adjourned until a day set by the Commtitee.
MR. WILKINSON, Vice-President, seconded the motion, which was adopted unanimously.