Fabrics of Civilisations Aryan and European

The European civilisation may be likened to a piece of cloth, of which these are the materials : its loom is a vast temperate hilly country on the sea-shore; its cotton, a strong warlike mongrel race formed by the intermixture of various races; its warp is warfare, in defence of one’s self and one’s religion.  The one who wields the sword is great, and the one who cannot, gives up his independence and lives under the protection of some warrior’s sword.  Its woof is commerce.  The means to this civilisation is sword; its auxiliary —courage and strength; its aim — enjoyment here and hereafter.

And how is it with us?  The Aryans are lovers of peace, cultivators of the soil, and are quite happy and contented if they can only rear their families undisturbed.  In such a life they have ample leisure, and therefore greater opportunity of being thoughtful and civilized. Our King Janaka tilled the soil with his own hands, and he was the greatest of the knowers of Truth, of his time.  With us, Rishis, Munis, and Yogis have been born from the very beginning; they have known from the first that the world is a chimera.  Plunder and fight as you may, the enjoyment that you are seeking is only in peace; and peace, in the renunciation of physical pleasures.  Enjoyment lies not in physical development, but in the culture of the mind and the intellect.  It was the knowers who reclaimed the jungles for cultivation.

Then, over that cleared plot of land was built the Vedic altar; in that pure sky of Bharata, up rose the sacred smoke of Yajnas; in that air breathing peace, the Vedic Mantras echoed and re-echoed—and cattle and other beasts grazed without any fear of danger.  The place of the sword was assigned at the feet of learning and Dharma.  Its only work was to protect Dharma and save the lives of men and cattle.  The hero was the protector of the weak in danger—the Kshatriya.  Ruling over the plough and the sword was Dharma, the protector of all.  He is the King of kings; he is ever-awake even while the world sleeps.  Everyone was free under the protection of Dharma.

And what your European Pundits say about the Aryan’s swooping down from some foreign land, snatching away the land of the aborigines and settling in India by exterminating them, is all pure nonsense, foolish talk ! strange, that our Indian scholars, too, say amen to them; and all these monstrous lies are being taught to our boys ! This is very bad indeed.

I am an ignoramus myself; I do not pretend to any scholarship; but with the little that I understand, I strongly protested against these ideas at the Paris Congress.  I have been talking with the Indian and European savants on the subject, and hope to raise many objections to this theory in detail, when time permits.  And this is say to you, to our Pundits, also—you are learned men, hunt up your old books and scriptures, please, and draw your own conclusions.

Wherever the Europeans find an opportunity, they exterminate the aborigines and settle down in ease and comfort on their lands; and therefore they think the Aryans must have done the same!  The Westerns would be considered wretched vagabonds if they lived in and so they have to run wildly about the world seeking how they can feed upon the fat of the land of others, by spoliation and slaughter; and therefore they conclude the Aryans must have done the same ! But where is your proof?  Guess-work?  Then keep your fanciful guesses to yourselves!

In what Veda, in what Sukta, do you find that the Aryans came into India from a foreign country?  Where do you get the idea that they slaughtered the wild aborigines? What do you gain by talking such nonsense?  Vain has been your study of the Ramayana; why manufacture a big fine story out of it?

Well, what is the Ramayana?  The conquest of the savage aborigines of Southern India by the Aryans! Indeed! Ramachandra is a civilized Aryan king, and with whom is the fighting?  With King Ravana of Lanka.  Just read the Ramayana, and you will find that Ravana was rather more and not less civilized than Ramachandra.  The Civilisation of Lanka was rather higher, and surely not lower, than that of Ayodhya.  And then, when were these Vanaras (monkeys) and other Southern Indians conquered?  They were all, on the other hand Ramachandra’s friends and allies.  Say which kingdoms of Vali and Guhaka were annexed by Ramachandra?…..

The loom of the fabric of Aryan civilization

The loom of the fabric of Aryan civilisation is a vast, warm, level country, interspersed with broad, navigable rivers.  The cotton of this cloth is composed of highly civilized, and barbarian tribes, mostly Aryan.  Its warp is Varnashramachara2, and its woof, the conquest of strife and competition in nature.

And may I ask you, Europeans, what country you have ever raised to better conditions?  Wherever you have found weaker races, you have exterminated them by the roots, as it were.  You have settled on their lands, and they are gone forever.  What is the history of your America, your Australia, and New Zealand, your Pacific Islands and South Africa?  Where are those aboriginal races there today?  They are all exterminated, you have killed them outright, as if they were wild beasts.  It is only where you have not the power to do so, and there only, that other nations are still alive.

But India has never done that.  The Aryans were kind and generous; and in their hearts, which were large and unbounded as the ocean, and in their brains gifted with superhuman genius, all these ephemeral and apparently pleasant but virtually beastly processes, never found a place.  And I ask you, fools of my own country, would there have been this institution of Varnashrama, if the Aryans had exterminated the aborigines in order to settle on their lands?

The object of the peoples of Europe is to exterminate all in order to live themselves.  The aim of the Aryans is to raise all up to their own level, nay, even to a higher level than themselves.  The means of Europeans civilisation is the sword; of the Aryans, the division into different Varnas.  This system of division into different Varnas is the stepping-stone to civilisation, making one rise higher and higher in proportion to one’s learning and culture.  In Europe, it is everywhere victory to the strong, and death to the weak.  In the land of Bharata, every social rule is for the protection of the weak.

Strive for Self-Reliance

The disciple has come to the Math this morning. As soon as he stood after touching the feet of Swamiji, Swamiji said, “What’s the use of your continuing in service any more? Why not go in for some business?” 

Disciple: What shall I do, then?
Swamiji: Why, if you want to live the life of a worldly man and have a desire for earning money, then go over to America. I shall give you directions for business. You will find that in five years you will get together a lot of money.

Disciple: What business shall I go in for? And where am I to get the money from?
Swamiji: What nonsense are you talking? Within you lies indomitable power. Only thinking, “I am nothing, I am nothing”, you have become powerless. Why, you alone! The whole race has become so. Go round the world once, and you will find how vigorously the life-current of other nations is flowing. And what are you doing? Even after learning so much, you go about the doors of others, crying, “Give me employment”. Trampled under others’ feet doing slavery for others, are you men any more? You are not worth a pin’s head! 
In this fertile country with abundant water-supply, where nature produces wealth and harvest a thousand times more than in others, you have no food for your stomach, no clothes to cover your body! In this country of abundance, the produce of which has been the cause of the spread of civilisation in other countries, you are reduced to such straits! Your condition is even worse than that of a dog. A nation that cannot provide for its simple food and clothing, which always depends on others for its subsistence — what is there for it to vaunt about? Throw your religious observances overboard for the present and be first prepared for the struggle for existence.
People of foreign countries are turning out such golden results from the raw materials produced in your country, and you, like asses of burden, are only carrying their load. The people of foreign countries import Indian raw goods, manufacture various commodities by bringing their intelligence to bear upon them, and become great; whereas you have locked up your intelligence, thrown away your inherited wealth to others, and roam about crying piteously for food.

Disciple: In what way, sir, can the means of subsistence be procured?
Swamiji: Why, the means are in your hands. You blindfold your eyes, and said, “I am blind and can see nothing.” Tear off the folds from your eyes and you will see the whole world lighted by the rays of the midday sun. If you cannot procure money, go to foreign countries, working your passage as a Lascar. 
Take Indian cloth, towels, bamboo-work, and other indigenous products, and peddle in the streets of Europe and America; you will find how greatly Indian products are appreciated in foreign markets even now. In America I found, some Mohammedans of the Hooghly district had grown rich by peddling Indian commodities in this way. Take, for example, such excellent fabric as the Varanasi-made Saris of India, the like of which are not produced anywhere else in the world. Go to America with this cloth. Have gowns made out of this fabric and sell them, and you will see how much you earn.

Disciple: Sir, why will they wear gowns made of the Saris of Varanasi? I have heard that clothes designed diversely are not to the taste of the ladies in those countries.
Swamiji: Whether they will receive or not, I shall look to that. It is for you to exert yourself and go over there. I have many friends in that country, to whom I shall introduce you. At first I shall request them to take this cloth up among themselves. Then you will find many will follow suit, and at last you won’t be able to keep the supply up to the enormous demand.

Disciple: Where shall I get the capital for the business?
Swamiji: I shall somehow give you a start; for the rest you must depend on your own exertions. “If you die, you get to heaven; and if you win, you enjoy the earth” (Gita). Even if you die in this attempt, well and good, many will take up the work, following your example. And if you succeed, you will live a life of great opulence.

Disciple: Yes, sir, so it is. But I cannot muster sufficient courage.
Swamiji: That is what I say, my son, you have no Shraddha—no faith in yourselves. What will you achieve? You will have neither material nor spiritual advancement. Either put forth your energy in the way I have suggested and be successful in life, or give up all and take to the path we have chosen.
In the West I have found that those who are in the employment of others have their seats fixed in the back rows in the Parliament, while the front seats are reserved for those who have made themselves famous by self-exertion, or education, or intelligence. In Western countries there is no botheration of caste. Those on whom Fortune smiles for their industry and exertion are alone regarded as leaders of the country and the controllers of its destiny.
Whereas in your country, you are simply vaunting your superiority in caste, till at last you cannot even get a morsel of food! You have not the capacity to manufacture a needle! , and you dare to criticise the English! Fools! Sit at their feet and learn from them the arts, industries, and the practicality necessary for the struggle for existence. You will be esteemed once more when you will become fit. Then they too will pay heed to your words. Without the necessary preparation, what will mere shouting in the Congress avail?

Disciple: But, sir, all the educated men of the country have joined it.
Swamiji: Well, you consider a man as educated if only he can pass some examinations and deliver good lectures. The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion — is it worth the name? 
Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own (feet). The education that you are receiving now in schools and colleges is only making you a race of dyspeptics. You are working like machines merely, and living a jelly-fish existence.
Modern education has changed your fashion, but new avenues of wealth lie yet undiscovered for want of the inventive genius. 
Therefore I say, set yourselves to the task of spreading education among the masses. Tell them and make them understand, “You are our brothers — a part and parcel of our bodies, and we love you and never hate you.” If they receive this sympathy from you, their enthusiasm for work will be increased a hundredfold. Kindle their knowledge with the help of modern science. Teach them history, geography, science, literature, and along with these the profound truths of religion. In exchange for that teaching, the poverty of the teachers will also disappear. By mutual exchange both parties will become friendly to each other.

Disciple: But, sir, with the spread of learning among them, they too will in course of time have fertile brains but become idle and inactive like us and live on the fruits of the labour of the next lower classes.
Swamiji: Why shall it be so? Even with the awakening of knowledge, the potter will remain a potter, the fisherman a fisherman, the peasant a peasant. Why should they leave their hereditary calling? “  -Don’t give up the work to which you were born, even if it be attended with defects.” If they are taught in this way, why should they give up their respective callings? Rather they will apply their knowledge to the better performance of the work to which they have been born. A number of geniuses are sure to arise from among them in the course of time. You (the higher classes) will take these into your own fold. 
After such conversation Swamiji, addressing the disciple,    said: Let these subjects drop now — come, tell me what you have decided. Do something, whatever it be. Either go in for some business, or like us come to the path of real Sannyasa, for one’s own liberation and for the good of the world. Sacrifice your life for the good of others and go round to the doors of people carrying this message of fearlessness - Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached.”

Compiled from ‘Rousing Call to Hindu Nation’ & ‘In Conversation with Swami Vivekananda’, Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan Trust, Chennai.